The first records that mention individual Jews in the city of Pszczyna date back to1505. The Jews who settled in Pszczyna originally came from Western Europe.
After Silesia came under the rule of the German Empire in 1526, successive rulers introduced restrictions regarding Jewish settlement in the area. On 14 September 1559, Ferdinand I issued an edict ordering Jews to leave the Habsburg hereditary lands such as Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia.
The Thirty-Years War (1618-1648) resulted in the depopulation of several Silesian cities. As a result, the emperor Ferdinand mitigated his policy towards the Jews in 1627 and issued an edict re-allowing Jewish settlement after paying a special fee of 40,000 guldens. Taking advantage of change in attitudes, Jews again settled in Pszczyna in 1634. In spite of laws reminding about the ban on Jewish settlements under severe penalties and imprisonment in case of disobedience, the census of Jewish population in Silesia held in 1691 mentions the presence of Jews in Pszczyna.
New restrictions and legal regulations regarding Jewish settlement in Silesia, including Pszczyna, were introduced in subsequent years. During the First Silesian War in 1742, Pszczyna came under the rule of the Kingdom of Prussia. The emperor Ferdinand II began to work towards curtailing freedoms and settlement of the Jewish community in Silesia. The most important legal act regulating the status of Jews in Silesia (except for Wrocław and Głogów) was the so called Juden Regelment, introduced on 2 December 1751. The document imposed on land owners and city councils the duty of reporting, within 14 days, every case of Jewish settlement to the county and royal tolerance office. In 1787 the Prussian authorities repealed, for economic reasons, the laws dislocating Jews to specially designated cities. The General Prussian Tables from 1787 inform that, in that year, 85 Jews inhabited Pszczyna. At that time in Pszczyna, there was a synagogue in Żory which was attended by Jews from Rybnik, Wodzisław, and Pszczyna.
In February 1808, the Prussian authorities repealed all the feudal privileges of guilds and cities, including the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis. From that time onwards, with the consent of the authorities, Jews were allowed to settle in all Silesian cities and freely purchase real estate.
On 11 March 1812, King Frederick William III issued the Civic Relations Edict (German: Edikt der Bürgerlichen Behältnissen der Juden), commonly known as the Emancipation Edict. It equalized the rights of Jews as rightful citizens of the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1812 a Jewish community with its own cheder was established in Pszczyna. In 1816 the first house of prayer and Jewish cemetery were established in Pszczyna. Earlier they prayed in private houses.
In 1814 the assembly of Jewish communities of Upper Silesia took place in Gliwice. The proceedings were attended by Abraham Muhr (1780-1874), a member of the City Council in Pszczyna. A memorial was passed regarding the unification of Jewish communities in religious activities and providing mutual assistance to each other.
In 1814 a Jewish cemetery was established in Pszczyna. In 1820 the Jewish community was granted a permit allowing Jewish children to attend Evangelical schools. They were also permitted to attend Catholic schools, however, Evangelical ones were more popular. In 1835 the first wooden synagogue was built in Pszczyna. At that time, the city was inhabited by 210 Jews. In 1861 the city was inhabited by 331 Jews and by 1885, 340.
The Union of the Synagogal Communities of Upper Silesia (German: Oberschlesische Synagogen-Gemeinden) was established in 1872. It included the Pszczyna Jewish community.
In 1873 a Jewish-Evangelical school was founded, and in 1893 it was transformed into a communal school. The famous Rabbi Markus Brann, the founder of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Wrocław, was also active in Pszczyna.
In 1916 an entrepreneur from Gliwice, Fritz Friedlaender, opened a carbide production plant at the “Prinz” mine in Pszczyna.
The end of World War I was followed by huge changes in Upper Silesia. The rebirth of the Polish state on 11 November 1918 lead to an increase of pro-Polish sentiment among the Silesian population. The majority of Jews showed decidedly pro-German attitudes. At that time, many Silesian Jews decided to leave for the West, mainly for large German cities. This westward exodus of Jews was also observed in Pszczyna.
On 20 March 1921, a referendum was held in Upper Silesia. 3,759 inhabitants of Pszczyna (75.5%) were in favor of staying in Germany. When Pszczyna found itself within Polish territory, the local Jews decided to emigrate to Germany. Thus, only 60 Jews remained in the city.
After 1922 Polish Jews started to arrive in the Polish portion of Upper Silesia. Job-seeking Jews from Galicia began to flood Pszczyna. In 1931 the city was inhabited by 83 Jews, whereas in 1939 the number amounted to 91.
On 10 May 1940 the Germans deported all Jews to Trzebina. The majority of them died in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1943.
After the war, Pszczyna saw an influx of Jews, mainly from USSR. Some Jews of Pszczyna survived in neighbouring villages thanks to the help of Polish peasants and Aryan papers. In the mid-1950, Pszczyna was inhabited by around 200 Jews. The majority of them left the town after 1957.
Until the end of the 1950s, various Jewish organizations existed in Pszczyna. A house of prayer (beit ha-midrash) was located in a private home at 5 Krymska Street.
In the mid-1980s the town was inhabited by some 35 Jews. Currently (as of 2010), there are around 15 people of Jewish origin in Pszczyna. Some inhabitants are active in Jewish organizations that operate in Bielsko-Biala, Katowice, and Kraków. Four of them were born in pre-war Pszczyna.
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