The Jews began to settle in Puławy on a large scale in the second half of the 17th century. Originally, the Jewish population settled in the nearby village called Włostowice. In 1676, there were 12 Jews out of 245 inhabitants, whereas in Puławy there were 2 Jews out of 91 inhabitants. The kehilla of Włostowice was set up most probably at the end of 17th century or in the first years of the 18th century. The kehilla was in charge of the cemetery situated at 28 Kilińskiego Street (formerly Zapłocie) between Racławicka and Murarska Streets, established in the first half of the 18th century and being in use until 1895. The cemetery was completely devastated by the Germans during the occupation and the cemetery matzevot were used for hardening the pavements. The kehilla also owned a synagogue, however, its location remains unknown[1.1].

In the first quarter of the 18th century, Włostowice lost its dominating position to a dynamically developing settlement of Puławy. In 1820, the kehilla of Włostowice was replaced by the kehilla of Puławy. It resulted from the changes that occurred as a consequence of moving the main residence of the Czartoryski family to Puławy in 1785 and transforming the settlement into an important political and cultural centre[1.2]. Initially, the town owners allowed the Jews to settle in the northern part of the town near the trade settlement called Piaski at the foot of the hill on which the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is situated today. During the subsequent years, the Jews also settled in the northern parts of today’s Kołłątaja and Piaskowa Streets[1.1.2]. In the 19th century, the Jewish population began to dominate demographically over the Christian population of the town.

From 1875 to 1884, one of the spiritual leaders of the local kehilla was rabbi Elijah Lerman and in 1888 tzaddik Chaim Jisroel Morgenstern, a grandson of the famous tzaddik from Kock, Menahem Mendel Morgenstern, and his court became an important centre of the Hasidic movement. The district of Piaski still remained the centre of the Jewish life. Two wooden synagogues were situated there. In 1896, a new brick building, modelled after the Lublin synagogue of Maharshall and Maharam, was erected there. The Puławy synagogues were destroyed during the air raid on 6 September 1939 and after the dissolution of the Jewish ghetto, they were pulled down together with other buildings located in the Jewish district.

In 1893, the kehilla in Puławy was granted a permission to set up a cemetery which was opened two years later. It was situated in Piaskowa Street near the crossroads with today’s Kołłątaja Street, north of the today’s Catholic cemetery. The area of the cemetery was fenced. There were also a mortuary and a caretaker’s house. The cemetery was devastated by the Germans during the occupation and the cemetery matzevot were used for laying the pavements in the Gelatine Factory. In the 1960s, the buildings of the Municipal Services Office were constructed in this place[1.3].

The urban and demographic growth of the town in 1870s and 1880s was connected with the development of the rail transport on the Mława – Warsaw – Lublin – Kowel route, as well as with the growing popularity of nearby Kazimierz, a holiday resort. Puławy created new workplaces servicing tourism movement. The trade was flourishing as the outlet markets for the local agricultural and crafts production were expanding. The preserved official documents and materials published in the Memorial Book of  Puławy reveal that at the end of the 19th century, a large group of the Jews from Russia, so-called Litvaks, relatively wealthy people who had broad trade contacts, settled in Puławy. At the beginning of the 20th century, they managed to a large extent instil the Zionist ideas among the local intelligentsia and youth. All this contributed to the fact that at the end of the 19th century Puławy became an important trade and communication centre, as well as an influential cultural and political place.

The first Zionist party was established in Puławy in about 1906, however, the socialist Bund party gained its supporters here as well. The activity of the parties had its significant impact on the development of the Jewish political lay life as well as the social, cultural and educational ones. In 1908, a semi-legal “travelling library” was set up; it contained the works of the lay literature and magazines written in Hebrew. In addition, there appeared political organizations embracing mainly the youth, organizing theatrical performances, concerts and popular scientific lectures. The orthodox adherents condemned this activity, which led to the exacerbation of the intergeneration conflicts.

According to the Russian national census from the end of the 19th century, Puławy was inhabited by 5,306 people, including 3,883 Jews who constituted 73.2% of the entire town population. Although in the subsequent 20 years, the number of the kehilla inhabitants rose by a few hundreds of people, the percentage of the Jewish population decreased to 61.6% as a result of the influx of the Christian population to the town [1.4]. However, the percentage of the Jewish population was still one of the biggest in the Governorate and the kehilla of Puławy was one of the wealthiest in the Lubelskie Region. At that time, Jews resided mainly in Lubelska, Piaskowa, Wąska, Nowa, Żyrzyńska, Powiatowa, Szosowa, Modlitewna, Browarna and Iwanogrodzka Streets[1.5]. The Jewish inhabitants were involved in trade, shoemaking and the manufacture of furniture. In 1907, the Jewish bank was established in the town.

World War I was followed by the decrease of  the town population nearly by half[1.6]. The two third of the town buildings was burnt and the Jewish district was almost totally devastated. In the summer of 1915, the Russians withdrew from the Kingdom of Poland and the power in the town was seized by the Austrian army, which significantly affected the situation of the Jewish population in the town. One of the first rulings of the Austro-Hungarian authorities guaranteed the equality of Jewish population and their religion. This act abolished legal limitations which previously had prevented the Jews from taking positions in the local government. From 1916 to 1919, there were already 6 representatives of the Jewish community in the town council[1.7]. At the same time, the Jewish refugees from Warsaw started to settle in Puławy, as well as the incomers from the Habsburg Monarchy and the fugitives from Russia, among whom there were many representatives of the assimilated Jewish intelligentsia and the supporters of the Zionist movements.

On the initative of the Zionists, a public Jewish library was legalized. An amateur theatre movement was developing in Puławy. There were organized concerts, poetic and literary evenings, lectures[1.8]. In 1917, a weekly newspaper entitled “Szprocungen” and written in Yiddish language started to be issued.

The 1921 census showed that Puławy was inhabited by 3,221 Jewish people (i.e. almost 45% of the whole town population), who either defined their nationality as Polish (309 people) or as Jewish. Ten years later, the number of Jews grew to 3,590 people but the percentage of the Jewish population in proportion to a total number of the citizens dropped to 39.5%. The expansion of the town’s administrative borders in 1934 contributed to a further decrease in this rate which at that time amounted only to 30%[[refr: |T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 100.]].

As the sources inform, e.g. the data of the kehilla budget, a significant number of Jewish inhabitants from Puławy (about 80%) belonged to the poorest dwellers of the town, and 20-30% of the Jewish population lived below the existence minimum[1.9].

The kehilla of Puławy included not only Puławy but also the villages of  Wólka Profecka, Włostów and Wronów, as well as the municipalities of Żyrzyn and Gołąb. The kehilla was headed by the orthodox rabbi Mendel Naj, who held this function incessantly throughout the whole interwar period. Following the elections for the kehilla board in 1936, the orthodox members, as well as the Zionists and the representatives of Craftsman Union won sits in the board. The Puławy kehilla owned a synagogue, a bath house and a house of prayer. The kehilla also subsidized Talmud-Torah, the activity of the “Tarbut” Association and “Linas Hacedek” Sanitary Association, which took the all-night vigil of the sick people and organized burials, as well as the activity of a loan fund of ”Gemilut Chesed”. It also provided financial aid to the poorest members of their community[1.10].

In the interwar period, the Jewish political life thrived, and the representatives of the particular political parties were present in the local government[[refr: |T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 141 and n.]]. Apart from the conservative branch of Aguda, operating from 1921 and supported by a significant part of the Jewish community and having its representatives in municipality institutions, there also existed two different branches of the Zionist party, from which the most active was the Puławy branch of  Poalej Syjon – Left. Numerous Jewish social and political organizations operated in Puławy under the patronage of Zionist parties. A religious school for girls Beys Ya'akov, a secular Hebrew school run by the Cultural and Educational Association “Tarbut”(1928-1930) and a TSIShO school (Central Yiddish School Organization) functioned under the auspices of Aguda. From 1927, on the initative of Leon Nudelman, a local doctor sympathizing with Zionism, there was established a branch of the Society for the Protection of Health in Poland, which aimed at pro-health education. The Zionists in Puławy were also the initiators of the Jewish Citizens’ Club (1927) that provided patronage for artistic events, the “Makabi” Gymnastic and Sport Association (1931) and the “Hapoel” sport club. There were also active youth Zionist organizations, for example, Ha-Shomer ha-Tsair, Gordonia, Brit Trumpeldor i He-Halutz.

The Zionists in Puławy gradually took control over the majority of Jewish organizations which stemmed from the orthodox environments, e.g. the “Gemilut Chased” association that performed a non-commercial credit activity. Furthermore, there also operated: Bikur Cholim, an association that took care of sick people, “Hachnosat-Kalo”, an association providing financial help for the poorest, a branch of American Jewish Joinnt Distribution Committee that organized financial help for the Jewish population and a branch of the “Hias” Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, assisting people in their emigration to the USA. Organizations operating in the cultural field were: the “Da'at” (Knowledge) association and the "Ezra" (Help) association. Between1934-1937, there was also a branch of the ”Education” association which supported the education of Jewish children by providing schools and orphanages with financial help, as well as by organizing summer camps, courses, libraries and reading rooms[1.11].

Influenced by the Zionist organizations, there were also professional associations in Puławy: the Jewish Craftsmen Association, a local branch of the Retail Centre and Small Traders in Poland, the Association of Jewish Traders and trade unions[1.12]. The support among the working youth and Jewish intelligentsia had also the left wing Bund. A branch of Association ”Kultur Lige” (from 1925), whose aim was to propagate culture and Jewish education, functioned under the auspices of Bund[1.13].

The local youth with left wing sympathises gathered around the sport club “Sztern”, which also had its own football team[1.14]. Branches of communist organziations operated in the town, which enjoyed strong influence among trade unions in Puławy[1.15].

In the second half of the 1930s, Jews were increasingly affected by the state’s integration into internal issues of the community. It was associated with the intention to control community budget  by public administration as well as to limit the size of ritual slaughter[1.16].

In September 1939, Puławy was occupied by the German army and the town Jews shared the same fate as all the Jews in Poland. Puławy, like other localities situated on the right bank of the Vistula River, became part of the Lublin District belonging to the General Government. From October 1939, all Jews aged 14-60 were forced to perform obligatory work. In November, the Germans introduced the obligation to wear the Star of David badges and all the Jewish businesses (shops, workshops, etc.) were marked with this symbol. The occupying authorities established Judenrat that was chaired by Henryk Adler, a former headmaster of the primary school and a town councilman.

At the end of December 1939, the town of Puławy witnessed a mass displacement of the Jewish inhabitants, who were forced to leave the town within 48 hours. The attempt to cancel the order or to postpone it until the spring months failed and in the early morning of 28 December the Jewish district was surrounded by the members of the police formations. In the cold of –30°C, a column of about 2.500 Jews set off towards Opole Lubelskie. During the march, a great number of displaced people died – children and elderly people in particular. People who were unable to march were closed in the Puławy synagogue and kept there until they died from cold[1.17]. At the beginning of 1940, another transport of Jews was sent to Nałęczów, Baranów, Ryki and Końskowola and in 1943 the last Jewish residents of Puławy were killed in the forced labour camps.

Bibliography

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] S. Pać, Żydzi w Puławach, „Dziennik Wschodni” from 1 October 2004.
  • [1.2] S. Pać, Żydzi w Puławach, „Dziennik Wschodni” from 1 October 2004.
  • [1.1.2] S. Pać, Żydzi w Puławach, „Dziennik Wschodni” from 1 October 2004.
  • [1.3]  S. Pać, Żydzi w Puławach, „Dziennik Wschodni” from 1 October 2004.; K. Bielawski, Puławy, Kirkuty – cmentarze żydowskie w Polsce [online] http://www.kirkuty.xip.pl/pulawy.htm [Accessed 20 December 2014]. 
  • [1.4] B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX. Studium socjologicznostatystyczne, (1930), 34; J. Lewandowski, Ludność żydowska na Lubelszczyźnie w latach I wojny światowej, in: J. Doroszewski, T. Radzik(eds.), Z dziejów społeczności żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie w latach 1918–1939, (1992), 16.
  • [1.5] K. Zieliński, Rewolucja w sztetl? O żydowskich środowiskach małomiasteczkowych w Królestwie Polskim pod koniec XIX i w pierwszych dekadach XX wieku (na przykładzie Puław),in: . F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 71, 94–98.
  • [1.6] J. Lewandowski, Ludność żydowska na Lubelszczyźnie w latach I wojny światowej, in: J. Doroszewski, T. Radzik (eds.), Z dziejów społeczności żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie w latach 1918–1939, (1992), 30-35.
  • [1.7] K. Zieliński, Rewolucja w sztetl? O żydowskich środowiskach małomiasteczkowych w Królestwie Polskim pod koniec XIX i w pierwszych dekadach XX wieku (na przykładzie Puław), in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 82–84.
  • [1.8] K. Zieliński, Rewolucja w sztetl? O żydowskich środowiskach małomiasteczkowych w Królestwie Polskim pod koniec XIX i w pierwszych dekadach XX wieku (na przykładzie Puław), in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 87–91.
  • [1.9] T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 101.
  • [1.10] Budżet Gminy Wyznaniowej Żydowskiej w Puławach, Archiwum Państwowe w Lublinie, Urząd Wojewódzki Lubelski, Wydział Społeczno-Polityczny, 21 April–1 July1930, sygn. 811, k. 5.
  • [1.11] T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 132–134.
  • [1.12] T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 124–129.
  • [1.13] Kowalik T., Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, [in:] Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, ed. F. Jaroszyński, Janowiec nad Wisłą 2003, pp.137–139.
  • [1.14] T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 121–123, 135, 140–141.
  • [1.15] T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003),135–136.
  • [1.16] T. Kowalik, Żydowskie partie i organizacje społeczne w Puławach okresu międzywojennego, in: F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 142–144.
  • [1.17] S. Piątkowski, Żydzi Janowca, Kazimierza i Puław w larach wojny i okupacji (1939–1945), [in:] F. Jaroszyński (ed.), Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne”, (2003), 203–204.