First Jews appeared in Nakło before 1507. In 1515, a fire destroyed 21 Jewish houses and the local synagogue. In 1565, Jewish families owned four houses in the town and rented one more. After the 1515 fire, the authorities designated a special district for the Jewish population. Żydowska [Jewish] Street, close to Poznańska Street, was adjacent to the Market Square. A big wooden synagogue was erected on the nearby hill along with a beth midrash, a mikveh, and a ritual slaughterhouse. The Jewish cemetery was located outside the town, in the area of the village of Bielawy.
In 1578, 20 Jews from Nakło paid 12 złotys in poll tax. The same amount was paid in 1564. At the time, they owned five houses in the town. In 1628, there were 17 Jewish houses in Nakło and seven Jewish tenants. A synagogue operated in the town. Since 1601, Jewish settlement in the area was subject to restrictions.
The local Jewish population was decimated during the Swedish Deluge (1655–1660). Not even a single Jewish house survived. However, the survivors quickly rebuilt the community, settling in a newly designated Jewish quarter. By 1661, Nakło boasted 21 Jewish-owned houses and a synagogue.[1.1]
Subsequent wars ravaging the country in the second half of the 17th century and the early 18th century brought about the collapse of the Jewish community in Nakło and halted Jewish settlement in the region. In 1674, only four Jews remained in the town. However, their number soon began to grow, reaching 56 in 1756 and 77 (eight families: 17 men, 18 women, 23 sons, 11 daughters, and three servants) in 1773. A new wave of Jewish migration to the area of Nakło was triggered by the antisemitic policy of the Prussian state implemented in 1772, targeting primarily Polish Jews. As a result, the town experienced an influx of whole groups of Jews expelled from neighbouring towns. Stronger in numbers, the community started to dynamically develop.
The official statute of the Nakło kehilla was approved on 18 July 1834. In 1842, the community had 930 members, in 1856 – 1,056, and in 1871 – 982. The 1880s saw a downward trend in the community’s growth, caused by a wave of Jewish migration to the German interior and overseas. In 1896, the Nakło kehilla had 520 members, but by 1903, the number had fallen to 450, in 1905 – 432, in 1909 – 337, in 1907 – 336.
A new synagogue was built in Nakło in 1826. It burnt down in 1852 and was replaced in 1853 with a half-timbered building. The local Jewish cemetery was most probably founded in the 18th century. The oldest gravestone with a legible inscription dated back to 1808. In the 19th century, the area of the cemetery was expanded several times through the purchase of neighbouring parcels, and a funeral home with a mortuary were built at the site. After the cholera epidemic of 1831, deceased Jews were buried in a hastily established “cholera pit” situated near the Evangelical cemetery. In 1846, the burial site was fenced. The rabbis of Nakło were: Chenoch Henoch (d. 1851), Dr Bernhardt Friedman (until 1866), Dr Aron Cohn (until 1874), Dr Natan Porges (until 1878), Dr Gabriel Perlitz (since 1881).
Thanks to the efforts of Lewin Bärwald and Salomon Baschwitz, a Jewish elementary school was opened in Nakło in 1844. Beforehand, Jewish children from the town had been taking private lessons. In the years 1824–1844, Jews were allowed to attend the Evangelical school. The kehilla paid a yearly fee of 100 thalers for the permission. Teachers at the new Jewish elementary school were Heim David Galliner (from Września, worked between 1844–86), Isidor Rackwitz (1844–1845), Eduard Brock (1846–1889), G. Lisner (1853–56), Gotthelf (from Witków, 1857–1859), Moritz Stillmann (from Gośliny, 1860–1896), Jakob Peczkowski (from 1889). In the years 1844–1853, it was a two-grade facility. In 1853, a third grade was opened, but it was once again closed in 1886. Until the 1870s, the number of pupils had been on the rise. In 1844, the school had 130 students, and in 1867 – 220. At the end of the 19th century, however, the numbers began to diminish (1886 – 86, 1897 – 31, 1909 – 9). Thanks to the effort and skills of bookseller Leser Kollmann, the private Jewish school was eventually nationalised and became a fully-fledged secondary school.
The social and occupational structure of the Jewish population of Nakło can be described as typical. In 1834, Jews owned 41 houses in the town. There were 21 people holding trading permits, but active alongside them were also 37 merchants without licenses. The community boasted 43 craftsmen – mainly tailors and furriers as well as bakers, a whitesmith, a haberdasher, butchers, glaziers. The Jews of Nakło played an important role in the economic life of the town.
In 1890, Nakło’s Jewish residents owned 87 out of all 330 trading companies, artisan workshops, and industrial enterprises operating in the town. In 1905, 62 out of the 372 local businesses were Jewish-owned. Some of the most prominent figures associated with Nakło at the time included Dr. Hermann Bärwald, Prof. Dr Julius Schwalbe, Prof. Dr Abraham (Adolf) Buschke, Prof. Dr Martin Kallmann, and Leser Bärwald.
After 1920, Jews from the region started to migrate en masse to the German interior. That same year, Nakło had 162 Jewish residents, but this number had fallen to mere 21 people by 1923. The original Jewish population, however, started to be replaced in the mid-1920s by Jewish newcomers from inner regions of Poland. The relations between the local “German” Jews and the immigrants were tense, with many conflicts breaking out between the two groups.
Several of the largest companies from Nakło were owned by Jews. One of the town’s most successful entrepreneurs was Artur Leon Bärwald. He lived in the Free City of Dazing but settled in Nakło at the end of the 1930s. Bärwald ran numerous businesses all around Pomerania. He was the owner of the largest steam mill in Nakło (employing 36 workers) and a big steam sawmill at 15 Młyńska Street (employing between two and 36 workers). A private railway track ran straight to the mill. The Bärwald Company had been established in Nakło in 1830. The family most likely made its fortune in grain trade. In 1937, they owned several big grain warehouses at 13 Młyńska Street, 8 Kilińskiego Street, and 3 Sipora Street.
However, the biggest company in the area was owned by Oskar Robinson, originally hailing from the Galician town of Stryj (Stryi). In 1924, he moved to Bydgoszcz and established the “Export Bacon Oskar Robinson” company. He eventually settled in Nakło and spent most of his time in the town.
In 1927, he became the leaseholder of a local slaughterhouse, one of the biggest companies in Krajna Region. It employed some 250 to 335 people and continued to expand its export and production volume. In 1928, the plant produced 750 tonnes of bacon, and in 1932 – as many as 1,950 tonnes. Apart from bacon, the company also produced canned ham (155 tonnes in 1932) and packaged lard. Ca. 600 pigs and 100 cows were slaughtered daily at the production plant. In 1937, the company rendered a profit of about two million złotys. O. Robinson was notorious for his affinity for gambling; rumours had it that was spending large sums of money in casinos. He died of a heart attack in Vienna at the end of 1937. His inheritors transferred the domicile of the company to Poznań. Before the outbreak of World War II, they migrated to England, handing over control of the company in Nakło to Henry Safir from Bydgoszcz and Bela Koekenyessy from Hungary. The latter was a relative of Robinson’s.
Samuel Lipszyc’s sawmill operating at 44 Hallera Street was also an important production plant in Nakło. Lipszyc, who lived in Vilnius, bought it at the end of the 1930s and employed from three to 15 workers.
Many of Nakło’s Jewish inhabitants worked in the administrative structures of private companies, some made their living from managing capital, others from trading. The Jewish newcomers to the town were mainly petty merchants and craftsmen. There was one Jewish physician settled in Nakło, Josef Lewy. Another resident of the town was Leon Kałowski, a mill owner from Mrocza. Some of the more prominent merchants working in Nakło were Emil Aleksander, Abraham Dawny, Henriette Deutsch, Jadwiga Leszczyńska, Jakub Piechotka, two members of the Robinson family (Natan and Meta), Szczupak, Hermann Zobel, Manele Rosenberg, and Luksemburg. There were also rentiers – Leon Merten, N. Neumann, H. Rynarzewska, a locksmith – Herbert Neumann, and clerks – Dawid Sztybel and Weintraub.
In 1921, the kehilla ran an election to administrative bodies. The new community representatives were: Herman Sally, Leo Merten, Heymann Deutsch, Herman Fritz, and Josef Lewy, with deputies: Herman Aleksander, Aron Baer, Rebeka Bernstein. The board was composed of Artur Bärwald, Louis Eisack, and Alfred Schoen. By 1922, the only remaining kehilla officials were Marten, Lewy, and Bärwald; their deputies were Baer and Bernstein. In 1924, Josef Lewy became an informal head of the kehilla, not approved by the provincial authorities. He treated the existing community as a successor to the German kehilla, which found its reflection in the name used by the administration: “Deutsche Restgemeide Nakel” –the German Jewish Kehilla of Nakło. He was reluctant to accept the incoming Polish Jews into the community, obstructing their access to the synagogue. However, despite internal conflicts, the kehilla had a well-planned budget. The last elections before the merger with the community in Szubin were held on 28 January 1932. The elected officials were Josef Lewi, Leon Marten, Jakub Cohn, and deputies: Markus Katz, Julius Riesenburger, and Nathan Robinson. The new Jewish migrants to Nakło (who were “quietly” supported by the local Frydman and Schlesinger families) objected to the results, accusing the elected officials of a lack of piety (they did not attend the synagogue and were against employing a permanent shochet). However, the provincial authorities approved the new community administration on 16 August 1932. Fiszel Jungerlewi was appointed community shochet and cantor in September 1931, but he was dismissed by the new “German” board after the 1932 elections. He returned to his post in 1933 but was soon replaced by Srebrnik. In the 1920s, Jews wishing to keep kosher needed to go to Bydgoszcz. Until 1923, religious services were officiated by merchant Abram Markowicz doubling as assistant rabbi. He was later succeeded by Jakub Cohn. Since 1933, Efraim Sonnenschein, a rabbi from Bydgoszcz, commuted to Nakło four times a year.
In 1922, Nakło boasted a number of charitable organisations founded back in the 19th century, including the Jakub and Malka Henoch Foundation (est. 1876, it funded the organisation of religious ceremonies and purchase of accessories used for Jewish religious services), the Fromer Bärwald Foundation (est. 1874, it provided assistance to Jewish students), the Nathan and Joanna Avigdor (Iztziger) Foundation, the Lesser and Paulina Bärwald Foundation, and the Dawid and Jemma Itziger Foundation. All of these dealt with various charitable activities addressed to all local residents, regardless of their creed and ethnicity. The L. Bärwald Jubilee Foundation sponsored the purchase of clothes for the needy. However, many similar initiatives proved to be short lived and needed to dissolve due to lack of funds, among them the Hamburger Foundation and the Flatow Foundation – Rebeka Flatow. The preserved primary sources do not mention any Jewish organisations active in the town before the outbreak of World War I.
The community’s property included a synagogue (at 81/83 Hallera Street) with a plot purchased in 1891 and a shed in the yard; a multi-storied stone school building (20 Bydgoska Street) with two stables, a shed, and a single-storey building used as a flat; a residential building (since 1891); a fenced cemetery with an area of 6,000 square metres; a single-storey building located on the cemetery plot, with a barn, stable, and lavatories; meadows with a total area of 4 morgens; land with an area of 12 morgens donated by the Jakub and Malka Henoch Foundation; cash deposits from two other foundations amounting to 67,000 marks; and a war bond (37,000 marks). The equipment of the synagogue was quite valuable and stored at Leon Merten’s house for security reasons.
The 1920s were a peaceful period without any significant conflicts between the Christian and the Jewish population. The only complaint from the community was that children kicking ball in the square near the synagogue would at times break windows in the synagogue. In 1924 and 1925, a total of 26 such incidents took place, prompting the kehilla to secure the newly installed panes with wire mesh. On 17 August 1929, a rock was thrown through the window during a pre-noon service at the synagogue. In a letter to the local governor, the president of the board wrote: “The mischievous acts of the football players overstep the boundaries of mental endurance.” The community demanded that the culprits be punished and an assessment committee be delegated to the town to estimate losses. It also wanted the square to be returned to its former purpose – it once housed a municipal park.
In the 1930s, a boycott of Jewish companies was organised in Nakło. The merchants arriving to the market were rigorously screened and Jews were banned from setting up their stalls. On 12 April 1936, the merchants asked for the help of Senator [[bios:168|Mojżesz Schorr]]. On their behalf, he asked the Ministry of the Interior and the Poznań provincial governor to examine the case. Thanks to the senator’s intervention, the marketplace in Nakło was re-opened for merchants of all ethnicities.
On 3 September 1939, the Germans arrested a group of Jews and deported them to the prison in Wyrzysko. No information has been preserved as to what happened to at least four Jewish women sent there. The remaining Jewish residents of Nakło were killed in unspecified circumstances in the autumn of 1939, executed in Paterek and other sites. During exhumations carried out in Paterek in 1945, the bodies of Henrietta Deutsch and Harry Neumann were identified. The synagogue was set on fire in mid-September 1939. The Jewish cemetery was destroyed, with a municipal park set up at the site.[1.2].
- Heinrich R., Die Stadt Nakel und ihre Geschichte, Nakel 1910.
- Geppert I., “Dzieje Ziemi Nakielskiej aż do pierwszego rozbioru Polski,” in: Krajna i Nakło. Studia i rozprawy wydane z okazji pięćdziesięciolecia gimnazjum imienia Bolesława Krzywoustego w Nakle, Nakło 1926.
- Guldon Z., Wijaczka J., “Osadnictwo żydowskie w województwach poznańskim i kaliskim w XVI–XVII wieku,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1992, no. 2–3.
- Guldon Z., Wijaczka J., “Ludność żydowska w Wielkopolsce w drugiej połowie XVII wieku,” in: Żydzi w Wielkopolsce na przestrzeni dziejów, J. Topolski, K. Modelski (eds.), Poznań 1995.
- Heppner A., Herzberg I., Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden in den Posener Landen, Koschmin-Bromberg 1904–190.
- Jedlińska-Kawska A., “Aktywność gospodarcza ludności żydowskiej w województwie pomorskim w latach 1920-1939,” in: Demokracja i samorządność na Kujawach i Pomorzu w dobie nowożytnej, Z. Biegański, W. Jastrzębski (eds.), Bydgoszcz 2004.
- Kawski T., Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 1918 – 1942, Toruń 2007.
- Kawski T., Kujawsko-dobrzyńscy Żydzi w latach 1918-1950, Toruń 2006
- Kawski T., “Mniejszość żydowska na Krajnie w XIX i XX wieku,” in: Dziedzictwo kulturowe na Krajnie i Pałukach. Wybrane problemy z dziejów Krajny Nakielskiej, Nakło nad Notecią 2004.
- [1.1] Heinrich R., Die Stadt Nakel und ihre Geschichte, Nakel 1910, pp. 48, 61–63; Geppert I., “Dzieje Ziemi Nakielskiej aż do pierwszego rozbioru Polski,” in: Krajna i Nakło. Studia i rozprawy wydane z okazji pięćdziesięciolecia gimnazjum imienia Bolesława Krzywoustego w Nakle, Nakło 1926, pp. 106–107, 129; Guldon Z., Wijaczka J., “Osadnictwo żydowskie w województwach poznańskim i kaliskim w XVI–XVII wieku,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1992, no. 2–3, pp. 67–72; Guldon Z., Wijaczka J., “Ludność żydowska w Wielkopolsce w drugiej połowie XVII wieku,” in: Żydzi w Wielkopolsce na przestrzeni dziejów, J. Topolski, K. Modelski (eds.), Poznań 1995, pp. 25–27, 30; Janiszewska-Mincer B., “Od początków miasta do czasów rozbiorów,” in: Nakło nad Notecią, J. Danielewicz (ed.), Nakło 1990, p. 142.
- [1.2] Kawski T., “Mniejszość żydowska na Krajnie w XIX i XX wieku,” in: Dziedzictwo kulturowe na Krajnie i Pałukach. Wybrane problemy z dziejów Krajny Nakielskiej, Nakło nad Notecią 2004, pp. 217–245; Kawski T., Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 1918–1942, Toruń 2007, ss. 166–169; Kawski T., Kujawsko-dobrzyńscy Żydzi w latach 1918–1950, Toruń 2006, passim; Jedlińska-Kawska A., “Aktywność gospodarcza ludności żydowskiej w województwie pomorskim w latach 1920-1939,” in: Demokracja i samorządność na Kujawach i Pomorzu w dobie nowożytnej, Z. Biegański, W. Jastrzębski (eds.), Bydgoszcz 2004, ss. 219–248.