Pasłęk’s location near important trade routes and the port of Elbląg attracted many Jewish merchants to the town. They were mainly engaged in textile trade, competing with local merchants and craftsmen. In 1779, Reple – a rich clothier residing in Pasłęk – complained that Jews were decreasing his income. The municipal authorities imposed harsh restrictions on Jewish trade, only allowing for visitors to stay in the town for one day and limiting the area of their commercial activities to villages and streets outside the city gates. Jews who were allowed to reside in the town for longer periods of time were prohibited from engaging in trade; they made a living from working for other people.

In 1806, Marks Lemon filed a petition to the municipal authorities, asking for permission to purchase a plot of land in Pasłęk and erect a two-storey house on the site. The Municipal Council rejected the application. In the years 1813–1816, 10 Jewish families settled in Pasłęk under the Emancipation Edict of 1812. Their representatives, as well as the later members of the community, were mainly engaged in trade in agricultural products, textiles, and leatherware. Some of the most prominent merchants in the town were the members of the Aris family (who lived in the former Wola district at 18a Amtsfreiheit Street, today A. Steffena Street), leaders in the local trade in grain, leather and textiles since 1857. Samuel Aris (grain merchant) was one of the three members of the committee of the Grain Exchange founded in 1871, located on the ground floor of the Deutsche Haus Hotel in Pasłęk. Heinrich Aris, who was also the head of the Jewish community in Pasłęk, accumulated a fortune of ca. one million marks (his villa was considered to be the biggest and most beautiful in the city). This made him the wealthiest inhabitant of Pasłęk, providing means to live for many members of the nobility and owners of the nearby estates. His funeral in 1930 was attended by numerous prominent figures from the town and its surroundings.

In 1814 or 1817, a Jewish cemetery was established outside the town (enlarged in 1864) and a house of prayer was opened. In 1836, the first synagogue was erected. It was later pulled down and replaced with a new building constructed in 1878. In 1826, a ritual bath was opened near the Mill Canal. It was not until 1892 that a mikveh started to operate in one of the residential houses in Pasłęk. In 1895, an independent religious elementary school was opened in the town. The local religious community was officially established in 1847. The communal documents were signed with a seal with two standing lions holding a shield and a crown. The bordure bore the inscription: VORSTAND DER SYNAGOGEN * GEMEIN * DE ZU PR. HOLLAND.

The size of the community reached its peak in the 1880s. At that time, Pasłęk was inhabited by ca. 170–190 Jews, who constituted ca. 3.6% of the total population. The local Jewish people soon became Germanised. In 1915 and 1918, four Jews from Pasłęk died in the ranks of the German Army.

The synagogue community in Pasłęk still existed in 1932, although there were only 12 payers of the community tax (among 5,000 inhabitants) – 0.2% of the total population. The community was headed by a board composed of: Leo Aris, Jakob Rosenberg; Georg Salinger was its official representative. The community property included the synagogue at Steintorstraße and the cemetery; there is no mention of a ritual slaughterhouse in contemporary documents. In 1930, the community budget amounted to 1,500 RM. Religious education was provided to four children.

After the end of World War I, strong anti-Semitic sentiments started to emerge in Germany. Social and economic harassment intensified after the NSDAP came to power. In 1938, the Nazis dissolved the religious community of Pasłęk and took over its entire property. The synagogue building was set on fire during the Kristallnacht, on the night of 9/10 November 1938, despite the fact that it had earlier been sold by the community.

When leaving their hometown, the local Jews looked for shelter in Berlin and abroad, e.g. in Italy (Albert Adler) and the Netherlands (Georg Fürst, 1936). In 1942, only one Jew was said to live in Pasłęk.

Lists of Holocaust victims feature the names of 43 people born or living in Pasłęk. They were deported to the ghettos in Theresienstadt, Riga (including Riga – Jungfernhof) and Warsaw, to the camps in Tormersdorf and Ravensbrück. They were murdered in the ghettos in Theresienstadt and Riga, camps in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Tormersdorf, and Ravensbrück[[refr:|Gedenkbuch. Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945 [online:] http://www.bundesarchiv.de/gedenkbuch/directory.html#frmResults [Accessed: 30 June 2022], search results for: Preußisch Holland; The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, Yad Vashem].

Bibliography

  • Cmentarz żydowski w Pasłęku. Opracowanie historyczno-konserwatorskie, ed. K. Panimasz, Pasłęk 1996.
  • Führer durch die jüdische Gemeindeverwaltung und Wohlfahrtspflege in Deutschland: 1932–1933, Berlin 1933, p. 20.
  • Kabus R., Juden in Ostpreussen, Husum 1998.
  • Löwenstein L., Die jüdischen Gefallenen des Deutschen Heeres, der Deutschen Marine und der Deutschen Schutztruppen 1914-1918. Ein Gedenkbuch, Berlin 1932.
  • “Preussich Holland,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, vol. II, p. 1025.
  • Salm J., “Z problematyki rozwoju przestrzennego Pasłęka,” [in] Pasłęk. Z dziejów miasta i okolic. 1297– 1997, ed. J. Włodarski, Pasłęk 1997.
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