According to unconfirmed sources, Jewish settlers appeared in Pińczów in the 14th century. King Casimir the Great granted the local Jews a plot of land to erect a synagogue. Legend has it that a chair of Elijah, an indispensable accessory in the ritual of circumcision, was donated to the synagogue by a woman called Esterka. However, the first documented reference to Jews in Pińczów dates back to 1576.[1.1]
The town owners guaranteed Jews tolerance and economic freedom. In 1594, Zygmunt Myszkowski granted the Jewish community a wide range of privileges, including the right to buy plots of land for the purposes of erecting a synagogue, a house of prayer, and houses for the rabbi, cantor, and teacher.[1.2] The only restriction imposed on Jews was a ban on settling in Mirów, which at the time was an independent town (now a district of Pińczów).[1.3] The synagogue built between 1594–1609 has been preserved to the present day. It is a stone and brick building with a rectangular floor plan.[1.4] The women’s gallery was located above the vestibule. The prayer hall was covered with a barrel vault with lunettes. Polychrome paintings in the vestibule from the 17th century have survived to the present day. Even in the interwar period, the Late Renaissance synagogue was already considered a unique monument of synagogal architecture. Until 1939, the equipment of the synagogue included silverware and the so-called kisei shel Eliyahu – the aforementioned chair used in the ritual of circumcision.
Successive owners of Pińczów continued the policy of supporting the Jewish community. Stanisław Kazimierz Myszkowski granted new privileges to the local Jews, whose presence contributed to economic growth of the town. Jewish traders and merchants maintained commercial ties not only with Pomeranian towns but also such distant localities as Vienna. The positive attitude of the town owners towards Jews manifested itself in many ways. For example, Jews were given permission to establish new schools, expand cemeteries, and built new synagogues. They were also guaranteed peace during prayers; anybody who dared interrupt a service at the synagogue was severely punished.
Under the ownership of the Myszkowski family, Pińczów attracted both Jewish and Christian settlers. It became one of the biggest towns in the province and boasted one of the largest Jewish communities in the Kingdom of Poland. Pińczów was therefore selected as the seat of the Kraków-Sandomierz district administration. It also hosted three assemblies of the Council of Four Lands.
Józef Mrozik writes: “Neither the ‘Swedish Deluge’ nor the Northern War impeded the Pińczów Jews’ rise in importance and prestige in erstwhile Lesser Poland.”[1.5]
In 1682, the subsequent owner of Pińczów – Stanisław Kazimierz Myszkowski – granted the 429 local Jews the right to produce mead and distil vodka as well as to erect the second synagogue.[1.6] “The heirs of the town […] took them under their wing, granted them security and bestowed them with privileges.”[1.7]
The strong position enjoyed in the town by the Jewish community was reflected by the fact that the Council of Four Lands held its sessions in Pińczów in 1673, 1674, and 1681. In the years 1692–1764, the town was the seat of the district administration, and the rabbi became its de facto leader. The Jews paid 2,000 zlotys in poll tax in 1708 and 6,658 zlotys in 1736. Some researchers estimate that as many as 5,000 Jewish people lived in Pińczów at the time.[1.8] According to Józef Mrozik, in the late 17th century the Jews accounted for 52% of the total population.
In 1748, Pińczów boasted two brick and one wooden synagogue as well as several chadarim.[1.9] In 1769, a total of 155 houses in the town (44.4%) were owned by Jews. In 1789, the Jewish population comprised 1,879 people, constituting 61.1% of all residents. Notably, two farming colonies existed in the vicinity of Pińczów in the 18th century. They were founded by the Wielopolski family, who in 1729 had succeeded Margrave Józef Władysław Myszkowski as the town owners. Jews living in the colonies were involved in agriculture.
In 1830, the erstwhile heir of Pińczów Jan Szaniawski exempted “the Jews of Pińczów from some of the taxes, including the tax on the cemetery and on the approval of the rabbi, as well as relinquished his due tribute in the form of Christmas presents. He also granted them a plot of land to build a new cemetery, situated east of Mirów by the road to Busko.”[1.10]
In the mid-19th century, Pińczów was inhabited by 2,877 Jews, making up 70% of the total population. In 1848, the community owned two brick synagogues, a house of prayer, a hospital (doubling as an old people’s home), bathhouse, rabbi’s house, cattle and poultry kosher slaughterhouse, gravedigger’s house, and two cemeteries.[1.11] At the time of the January Uprising, 4,868 people lived in Pińczów, including 3,299 Jews (67.8%).
A great fire ravaged Pińczów in 1882, destroying almost all the houses located in the Market Square, including Icek Josek Rapoport’s bookstore established in 1859. Three more fires followed in 1899. The same year, Rapoport opened a printing house and bookstore at the Market Square.
Towards the end of the 19th century, a group of Hasidim settled in the town. The first local court was established by Chaim Miler Finkler.
After World War II, when Poland regained independence, Pińczów had 7,740 residents, including 4,324 Jews. J. Tambor writes: “In the interwar period, the Jews accounted for 60% of the population and lived in their own world with their own language, religion, and customs, a world of people with payot wearing kippot and kapotehs. The Jews lived in the area around the Market Square, along Krakowska Street, and around the synagogue.”[1.12]
The Jewish community was very diverse in terms of affluence. In 1918, as many as 37% members of the kehilla were considered poor and thus exempt from paying the community contribution. The census of 1921 showed that Pińczów had 7,749 inhabitants, among whom 3,418 were Polish and 4,324 Jewish. The majority lived in cramped, single-story buildings.
Most Jews from Pińczów made a living as craftsmen or store owners. The members of the intelligentsia included two doctors, a medical assistant, a dentist, teachers in religious schools, and printers.[1.13] The most affluent Jewish families in the town were the Rapaports, Rajts, Golds, Komiołs, Wajsmans, Rosenbergs, and Rottenbergs.[1.14] Engel Witel was a prominent landowner managing the Brzeźno estate. The right to use Polish Savings Bank cheques was held by Nuta Fajwel Eisenberg, Rafael Zalcberg, the People’s Bank, the Cooperative Bank, and the Cooperative Merchants’ Bank.[1.15] The local merchants and craftsmen could use the services of three banks: the Merchants’ Bank, the Cooperative Bank, and the People’s Bank. Jews were shareholders in all three institutions.
Several larger enterprises in Pińczów belonged to Jews. Among them were the printing houses of Icek Rapoport and Rafael Zalcberg, the tannery of Chaim David Rojt, the sparkling water factories of Josek Deutschberger, Josek Etfer, and David Fryd, and the mills of Mendel Gezuntheit and Henoch Szwugier. Jewish people also held a strong position in the local crafts, especially among shoe upper makers, cap makers, tailors, saddlers, carpenters, and cobblers. There were also some Jewish large-scale traders in textiles, cattle, wood, leatherware, horses, books, dairy, seeds, shoes, groceries, iron, and flowers.[1.16]
According to one of the accounts of life in Pińczów, Jewish trade operated as follows: “[…] the Jewish shops [were] cramped hovels stacked with shelves, boxes, and piles of goods of different sorts, from barrels of herring to petroleum and carriage lubricant. […] Yet, these shops had one advantage – you could buy everything there.”[1.17] The beer house run to Herszkowicz offered its patrons excellent goose meat with peas and pepper.
The cultural life of Pińczów was enriched by the activity of two well-known Jewish musicians, Zelmer Majer and Benjamin Jaźwic. In 1922, a library with a collection of 1,100 volumes was founded in the town by the “Tarbut” Jewish Educational-Cultural Association.
In the years 1918–1939, most Jews of Pińczów lived at the Market Square, Niepodległości Square and in the streets Złota, Krakowska, and Buska.
In 1924, Pińczów was regarded by the central authorities as a large kehilla. The community board was composed of Dr. Josek Feliks, Chaim Rojt, Icek Kalb, Szloma Baruch Grinfeld, Icek Rapaport, Nuta Nisenberg, Leser Kreinraich, Mordka Gold, Szapsia Rapaport, Chaim Mordka Orbach, Szymon Wajc, Lejbuś Gold, Abram Zochen Rozenblum, Zelik Awner, Szaja Brauner, Zelig Rodel, and Nisen Melnik.[1.18]
As it transpires from preserved files from 1925, the kehilla board expected to collect revenue of 37,625 zlotys, including 6,075 zlotys from community contributions, 300 zlotys from the sale of sitting spots in the synagogue, 1,000 zlotys from selling burial plots, 300 zlotys from marriage fees, and 200 zlotys from births. The remainder was to come from slaughter. However, the actual revenue came up to mere 28,173 zlotys.[1.19]. The slaughterhouse butchered a total of 7,000 heads of cattle, 3,200 heads of calves, 25,000 geese, and 15,000 hens. Some of the meat was sold outside Pińczów, mainly in Kraków and Silesia.
In a preserved district inspection report, the auditor lists two synagogues, two cemeteries, and three dwelling houses in dire need of renovation. It is also pointed out that the community board should not be accepting formal applications written in Yiddish. However, in reality many local Jews did not speak much Polish and only used Hebrew or Yiddish in their everyday lives. The post-inspection reports and budget plans give us an insight into the inner workings of the kehilla. The inspection report of 9 June 1927 reveals that the board failed to enforce payment of 3,668.40 zlotys in outstanding contributions for the years 1925–1926. The kehilla also defaulted on the payment of the obligatory contributions to the Health Fund, for which it received a fine of 1,816.65 zlotys.[1.20] The auditor concluded that important legal documents were stored carelessly, and the board was not keeping minutes from its meetings. What is important, the community budgets were never drawn up on time. This was due, among others, to the advanced age of the board president – 90-year-old Rabbi Jehuda Rapoport.[1.21] After his death, the community was managed by Secretary Mielnik. With the authorities’ consent, assistant rabbi Wolf Knobel assumed all religious duties in the kehilla. The annual salary of the assistant rabbi and the shochetim were set at 2,400 zlotys and 2,200 zlotys, respectively.
The 1927 election to the community board triggered a conflict between the Orthodox Jews and the Zionists and was marred by irregularities. In view of this state of affairs, its results were annulled by the district authorities. After repeated voting, Nuta Ejzenberg was appointed president of the board and quite energetically took to work. The community expected to receive 43,146.16 zlotys in revenue, including 29,500 zlotys from ritual slaughter and 9,525 zlotys from contributions.[1.22] The board carried out an internal community census. The kehilla was inhabited by 4,976 Jews (620 families), including 287 families obliged to pay community contributions. The board concluded that 333 families lived in poverty and were therefore exempt from the fee. In 1928, the community expected to collect ca. 35,000 zlotys in revenue. The contributions were to be paid by 394 families, with the rate varying from 4 zlotys to 78 zlotys and the projected total set at 4,976 zlotys. However, when the annual budget was settled, it turned out that the collected amount was 8,554.81 zlotys lower than the expected sum.[1.23] This significantly hampered the operation of the kehilla. Rabbi J. Rapoport, the president of the board, died in December 1928. As mentioned before, his administrative obligations were taken over by Secretary Mielnik, and his religious duties – by assistant rabbi Wolf Knobel.
The projected budget for the year 1929 included revenue in the amount of 36,16,44 zlotys, with ritual slaughter assessed as its main source. It was expected that the shochetim would butcher 1,300 heads of cattle (5 zlotys each), 1,963 heads of calves (2 zlotys each), and 21,660 heads of different types of poultry. The board expected to collect 215 zlotys from burial fees, 70 zlotys from tombstone fees, 301 zlotys from fees for reading the Torah, 10 zlotys from fees for reserving seats in the synagogue. Revenue from other sources was to amount to 250 zlotys. [1.24] The community contributions were to be paid by 418 families, with the individual rates ranging from 4 to 80 zlotys. The following year, 379 families were obliged to pay the contributions; the rate was set between 1 and 22 zlotys. The value of immovable property of the kehilla was estimated at 150,000 zlotys. The budget projected for 1930 assumed total revenue of 31,926 zlotys, including 25,731 zlotys from ritual slaughter and 4,959 zlotys from community contributions. The board allocated 22,265 zlotys for the salaries of community officials and 4,602 zlotys for investments.[1.25] The average contribution rate amounted to 15.50 zlotys.
The preserved budget documentation allows us to ascertain the identities of the kehilla officials. W. Knobel served as assistant rabbi, Szoel Rozenblum was the community secretary, Symcha Kaufman and Wolf Lubelski worked as shochetim, Josek Horowicz was a slaughterhouse inspector, Ajzyk Wanderman performed the role of a religious supervisor, Jankiel Rozencwajg were slaughterhouse inspectors, and Nusyn David Buchbinder worked as a gravedigger.[1.26]
In 1931, Pińczów was inhabited by 4,976 Jews. The community imposed contributions on 379 families and exempted 133 families from payment. The fee rate ranged from 3 to 50 zlotys. Apart from residents of the town itself, the contributions were also paid by Pińczów Jews temporarily residing in Kozubów, Góry, Młodzawy, and Ryczywół. The budget amounted to 45,415 zlotys. The year-to-year discrepancies in the projected budget suggest that the board was not sufficiently familiarised with the current situation in the kehilla. As a result, the operation of the community was subject to frequent interventions by the district authorities. Pressured by the local government, the board allocated 9,449 zlotys to renovation of communal buildings. A significant sum – 1,440 zlotys – was to be spent on renovating the Talmud-Torah school.[1.27]
A “staple” in the operation of the Pińczów community were frequent changes in the composition of the board, resulting primarily from constant interpersonal conflicts. In 1931, Nuta Ajzenberg was appointed president of the board; the members were Szyja Brona, Icek Kalo, Chaim Nusyn Orbach, Chaim David Rojt, Luzer Ehrenreich, and Zyl Rodel.[1.28]
In 1931, a delegation of Pińczów Jews participated in the Zionist Congress in Basel, and two years later – in Prague.
While working on the projected budget for 1932, the board discovered arrears in the payment of contributions in previous years. They amounted to 214 zlotys in 1925, 878 zlotys in 1926, 975 zlotys in 1927, 3,285 zlotys in 1928, 3,089 zlotys in 1929, 2,002 zlotys in 1930 and 4,544 zlotys in 1931. This must have been detrimental to the economic standing of the kehilla. Nonetheless, in 1932 the board expected to collect an ambitious amount of 43,491 zlotys, including 27,751 zlotys from ritual slaughter. The expenditure was as follows: annual salaries of kehilla secretary Jonas Mandelbaum – 2,160 zlotys, cantor Herol Tekiel – 480 zlotys, teachers Szyja Kasztański – 720 zlotys, Joel Solarz – 250 zlotys, shochetim Smycha Kaufman – 4,800 zlotys, Wolf Lubelski – 4,800 zlotys, supervisor Ajzyk Wanderman – 3,360 zlotys, and Jankiel Rozencwajg – 1,200 zlotys. According to the budget documentation, Herszel Abeli worked as a teacher in the Talmud Torah school, Bela Walc taught in the Beit Yaakov school, and Stefan Ozdoba took care of community buildings. The board allocated 1,000 zlotys to charity and 250 zlotys to the Gemilut Chesed organisation.[1.29]
In 1933, Fuel Brama was appointed president the board, which comprised members Pinkus Rubin, Aron Wanderman, Tobiasz Zajd, Nusyn Eisenberg, Moszek Werdyner, Abel Kinrus, Icek Kalb, and Joel Wajnsztat.[1.30] In the face of progressing impoverishment of the community, the new board decided to reduce the salaries of kehilla officials.
In 1933, the board estimated revenue from slaughter at 27,750 zlotys, from the contributions – at 10,738 zlotys, and from other sources – at 4,985.04 zlotys, which gave a total of 43,491.04 zlotys. The amount allocated for the salaries of community officials was 19,950 zlotys, investments – 5,795.44 zlotys, and charity – 3,000 zlotys. The same year, Szapsia Rapoport, an Orthodox Jew, became the rabbi of Pińczów.
In the 1930s, as was the case in many other towns, Pińczów witnessed occasional anti-Semitic incidents. School headmaster Stanisław Kwiecień informed the school inspector that an unknown missionary had been making efforts to turn the Catholic children against Jews: “In consequence of his instigation […] some hostile attitudes towards the Jews could be observed among the Catholic youth, expressed in the form of scribbles on school desks reading: ‘away with Jews.’”[1.31]
In 1937, the Pińczów kehilla had 3,700 members. The community board consisted mostly of nonpartisan deputies. A total of 401 families was obliged to pay the community contribution.[1.32] The movable property of the kehilla had an estimated value of 150,000 zlotys and the immovable property – 100,000 zlotys; the community debt amounted to 20,000 zlotys.
The Germans invaded Pińczów on 5 September 1939. They set up a ghetto, the population of which came to comprise 3,000 Jews. Several dozen people were shot in a series of executions. Jews were sent to force labour at cutting peat. Their only payment was a ration of flour. In October 1942, the Germans started deportations of the local population to Treblinka. The Jews were first driven on foot to Jędrzejów and then loaded onto trains. Many people tried to hide in nearby villages, but the majority were eventually captured. A group of 71 escapees was reportedly killed in the Bocucki forest.
- Boratyn I., “Gród biskupów. Żydów, protestantów,” Gazeta Lokalna. Dodatek do Gazety Wyborczej 1998, no. 50.
- Dziubiński A., Pińczowskie rozmaitości, Pińczów 2000.
- Dziubiński A., Znojek J., Żydzi i synagoga Stara w Pińczowie, Pińczów 2002.
- Mrozik J., “Żydzi w Pińczowie,” 7 Źródeł 2001, no. 3.
- Penkalla A., Żydowskie ślady w województwie kieleckim i radomskim, Radom 1992.
- Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce – Pińczów – Szydłów – Chęciny, Kraków 2005.
- Tambor J., Społeczeństwo żydowskie w Pińczowie, Pińczów 1998.
- Znojek B., “Renesansowa synagoga,” in: Muzeum Regionalne w Pińczowie, Pińczów 2003.
- [1.1] Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce – Pińczów – Chmielnik – Szydłów – Chęciny, Kraków 2005, p. 45.
- [1.2] Dziubiński A., Znojek J., Żydzi i synagoga Stara w Pińczowie, Pińczów 2002, p. 5.
- [1.3] Boratyn I., “Gród biskupów. Żydów, protestantów,” Gazeta Lokalna. Dodatek do „Gazety Wyborczej” 1998, no. 50; “Miasto Myszkowskich,” Gazeta Wyborcza, Kielce 2006, no. 29.
- [1.4] Znojek B., “Renesansowa synagoga,” in: Muzeum Regionalne w Pińczowie, Pińczów 2003, n.p.
- [1.5] Mrozik J., “Żydzi w Pińczowie,” 7 Źródeł 2001, no. 3, p. 47.
- [1.6] Muszyńska J., Żydzi w miastach województwa sandomierskiego i lubelskiego w XVIII wieku, Kielce 1998, p. 31
- [1.7] Dziubiński A., Pińczowskie rozmaitości, Pińczów 2000, p. 43.
- [1.8] Wiśniowski E., Prepozytura wiślicka do schyłku XVIII wieku, Lublin 1976, p. 66.
- [1.9] Penkalla A., Żydowskie ślady w województwie kieleckim i radomskim, Radom 1992, p. 73.
- [1.10] Dziubiński A., Znojek J., Żydzi i synagoga Stara w Pińczowie, Pińczów 2000, p. 10.
- [1.11] Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce – Pińczów – Chmielnik – Szydłów – Chęciny, Kraków 2005, p. 31.
- [1.12] Tambor J., Społeczeństwo żydowskie w Pińczowie, Pińczów 1998, p. 3.
- [1.13] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1561, fol. 306.
- [1.14] Mrozik J., “Żydzi w Pińczowie,” 7 Żródeł 2001, no. 3.
- [1.15] Spis uczestników obrotu czekowego P.K.O., Warszawa 1933, p. 570.
- [1.16] Księga Adresowa Polski (wraz z W.M. Gdańskiem) dla handlu, przemysłu, rzemiosł i rolnictwa, Warszawa 1930, pp. 257–258.
- [1.17] Gruda Z., “Miasteczko nad Nidą,” in: Pińczów i jego szkoły w dziejach, J. Wyrozumski (ed.), Warszawa – Kraków 1979, p. 273.
- [1.18] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1511, fol. 39.
- [1.19] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1651, fol. 17.
- [1.20] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1601, fol. 1.
- [1.21] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1601, fol. 2.
- [1.22] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1601, fol. 3.
- [1.23] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1561, fol. 8.
- [1.24] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1561, fol. 75.
- [1.25] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1516, fol. 21.
- [1.26] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1561, fol. 86.
- [1.27] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1561, ff. 395–410.
- [1.28] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1601, fol. 170.
- [1.29] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1651, fol. 464.
- [1.30] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 1651, fol. 257.
- [1.31] Dziubiński A., Znojek J., Żydzi i synagoga Stara w Pińczowie, Pińczów 2002, p. 17.
- [1.32] State Archives in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, ref. no. 3354.