The history of the Jewish settlement in Pyrzyce began very early, in 1481.  At that time five Jewish families came to the town.  In 1491, Prince Bogusław X issued a collective privilege to all the families living in Pyrzyce, valid for three years, stating that their cases could be tried only in Pyrzyce or Szczecin (Stettin).  Jews had to pay 2 florins for this privilege.  However, around 1500, the Jewish residents of Pyrzyce and four other cities in Pomerania were forced to leave.  This happened when Prince Bogusław gave in to the pressure of his subordinates, who demanded that Jewish residents be forced out of their towns because they perceived the Jews as the competition.   The Jews began to appear again in Pyrzyce and Stargard Szczecinski (Stargarg) in 1670, under the rule of the Great Prince-electorate Frederick William.  He permitted the Jews who had been forced out of Vienna at that time to settle in the area of Pomerania. Then numerous complaints from the residents of the towns where the Jews settled began to appear once again.   However, in 1678 when, at the request of the town authorities, Frederick William wanted to issue a ban on Jewish settlement, the Pomeranian nobility unexpectedly stood up in defense of the Jews.  The nobles claimed that the complaints against the Jewish population were unfounded, and that the Jews led dignified lives that deserved praise, and that they always paid for all purchased goods immediately and in cash.  While local merchants continued to see the Jews as their competition, farmers and the nobility valued Jewish residents since they usually offered a greater selection of better quality goods at lower prices.  The nobility’s position in the dispute was successful for the time being, and the Jews were allowed to remain where they were.  Unfortunately, in March 1687 the Pomeranian Government (German: Hinterpommersche Regierung) once again presented Frederick William with complaints from state towns, and took their side.  The towns demanded that the Jews be banned from trade throughout the whole kingdom.  Finally, on March 25, 1687, a rescript that satisfied the merchants’ demands was issued.    The exact content of this document is cited in the reference book[1.1].  In response to the new decree, the nobility from Pyrzyce, as well as from Szadzek (Saatzig), Bialogard (Belgard) and Słupsk (Stolp), supported by the knights of Kamien Pomorski (Cammin) and the von Dewitz and Wedel families, all stood together again in defense of the Jews.   In an official letter, written on May 23, 1687, they underlined that the towns that had issued the complaints against the Jewish population did not follow police rules, and that both merchants and craftsmen fix their own prices, without paying attention to the regulations.  What is more, sometimes merchants refused to purchase goods for such a long time, that the desperate residents of the villages were ready to sell them at the lowest price, so that they could pay their taxes and bills. The expulsion of the Jews from these cities would undoubtedly influence negatively the incomes of shepherds, farmers, and land owners, who would be forced to sell their goods outside the borders of the country to prevent their businesses from going bankrupt completely.  They also asked that the Jewish communities be allowed to remain and be allowed to continue their work.   A letter from the government of the Duchy addressed to the government of Szczecin, dated July 1, 1687, demanded an explanation of the current situation in Pomerania.  Shortly afterwards, both the ban on trade and the decree to leave the towns by the Jews were revoked.  A census of the Jewish residents living in Pomerania in 1705 revealed that there were seven Jewish families living in Pyrzyce at that time.  Their names are listed in the reference book[1.2].  A year later a meeting of the Pomeranian Jewish Society (German: Pommersche Landjudenschaft) was summoned.  The Society was responsible for electing members of the eldership, rabbis, and for financial matters.  One of the members elected to the eldership was from Pyrzyce, and a document from the meeting was signed by, among others, Jochim Jacob and Salomon of Pyrzyce.  The Jews living in the area of Further Pomerania (German: Hinterpommern) fell under the jurisdiction of the Rabbi of Berlin.  The fee for Jews wishing to settle in Pyrzyce was established fairly late, i.e. not until 1712.  The fee of 10 thalers was higher than in other areas.  Two reports on the Jewish population in Pyrzyce were published; the first one on April 2, 1718 by the commissioners Massow, Somnitz and Borck, and the other one in July 1720 by the magistrate of Pyrzyce.  The first report included the names of the Jews who were allowed to stay in Pyrzyce, and those who were forced to leave.  The second listed the property and estates owned by the seven Jews living in Pyrzyce at the time.   Both reports are available in the reference book[1.3].  On July 16, 1720 the guilds of merchants and tailors reported that farmers no longer shopped from their stores in town, because the trade in the villages had been taken over completely by Jewish traders.  A delegate from Pyrzyce, Joachim Jacob, took part in a meeting of the Jewish eldership that was held in 1723.  In 1728, Borchard Philipp and Loyer Marcus, members of the eldership, nominated Samuel Salomon of Pyrzyce as a new member.  At the beginning of that year five Jewish residents of Pyrzyce paid fees for their privileges.  Their names, along with the exact fees paid, are listed in the reference book[1.4].   A detailed list of the Jewish inhabitants of Pyrzyce at the end of 1728 is available in the table[1.1.4].  The next report on to the Jews living in Pomerania was prepared by the Pomeranian Government (German: Pommersche Regierung) on August 10, 1731, with two names listed under Pyrzyce: Samuel Salomon and Abraham Jochim.   At that time also Moses Jochem might have lived in Pyrzyce. He had been hired on the request of his relative, Marcus Magnus, who was the leading member of the Jewish eldership of Berlin, to collect fees.  The position required much effort because at that time Jewish families were scattered across the Pomeranian region.   A decree issued by the Government of Berlin pertaining to the placement of the Jewish residents in Pomeranian towns, both private and national ones, addressed to the Government of Pomerania on September 13th, announced that, in addition to Samuel Salomon, a Jewish gravedigger named Abraham Jochen would also be allowed to be employed in Pyrzyce. Hirsch Jacob and Marcus Wolff were also allowed to remain in the town because they had privileges granted by Meyer Riess.   Moses Jochim might also have been living in Pyrzyce because he was granted a special permit to do so.  In 1736 Salomon Samuel was responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish residents of the town.  Another report issued by the Government of Pomerania, dated March 19, 1738, confirmed the identities of three Jewish inhabitants of the town who were legally allowed to live there.  They were: Samuel Salomon, who received his privilege on October 12, 1717, Marcus Wulff (Wolff) and Hirsch Jacob, who obtained their privileges on June 18, 1735.  Accounts from 1764 indicated that as many as 12 Jewish residents in Pyrzyce paid a total of 140 thalers for their privileges at that time.   Their names, together with the fees they paid, are listed in the reference book[1.5].  As far as the real estate owned by the Jews is concerned, the Government in Berlin issued a rescript directed to the Pomeranian Chamber (German: Pommersche Kammer), stating that only two of the six Jewish residents leasing houses could own them.   It is important to note that article 28 of the privileges issued in 1750 stated that if five or more Jewish families lived in a given town, only one of them could purchase their own house.   The next list, made by a military and tax clerk (German: Kriegs- und Steuerrat) named Hillen and comprising all the Jews living in the district that he was in charge of, under the entry „Pyrzyce” contained 14 families (or households), consisting of 28 people.  In 1772, Isaac Hirsch, the second child of Hirsch Isaac, a holder of a privilege, was granted a protection privilege.   In 1793, Isaac Hirsch obtained permission to take over Moses Joseph’s woolen cloth business, because Moses Joseph had not been running the business since at least 1784.  As a result of the influx of Jewish residents to Pyrzyce, by the end of the 18th century this municipality became one of the most populated municipalities in the Pomeranian region, just after the municipality of Stargard. At the end of 18th century the Jews in Pyrzyce built a synagogue located in the 'Kleine Wollweberstraße'. In 1812, when Jewish families in Pomerania were required to take on official last names, there were already 34 Jewish families living in Pyrzyce.  The names adopted by them, as well as their Jewish last names, are listed in the table[1.6].  At that time H. M. Falkenburger had been a  chazzan, teacher and mohel for the kehilla for many years.  In 1833 the number of Jewish families in Pyrzyce had reached 58.  Their names, with the number of people per family and the occupation of the head of the household, are listed in the table[1.7].  The Jewish community numbered 194 members at that time.  In 1834 chazzan Falkenburger, being of an elderly age, was replaced by Salomo Stern, a teacher of Gorzowo Wielkopolskie (Landsberg/Warthe).  His salary amounted to 25 thalers a year, however, due to disagreements between him and the kehilla, he did not stay there more than two years.  His post was taken over by S. Backhaus who received the same salary, and on whose initiative the school was provided with additional equipment. However, H. M. Falkenburger continued to serve as the chazzan and mohel for the Jewish community.  Some members of the kehilla even wanted him to continue giving them private lessons, but his age did not allow him to exert himself so much.  In the following years the Jewish community of Pyrzyce faced serious difficulties in finding a candidate for the position of a teacher; because, among other issues, the remuneration was low and its payments used to be delayed.  In the 1850s members of the Jewish community complained about the high taxes.   The community was quite large at that time, with 215 members concentrated in 60 families.  This number, however, was lower than the number of the Jews living in Pyrzyce in the previous decade, when the members of the kehilla numbered 236 people.  A table dated April 22, 1835 contains the names of 60 families, along with the members of each family and the profession that provided their main source of income[1.8].   In 1860 Pyrzyce had a population of 7000 people, of whom a great deal, i.e. as much as 4-5%, were of Jewish descent.  38 members of the Jewish community held the right to vote.  This same year the kehilla in Pyrzyce seriously considered hiring its first rabbi.  The suggested annual salary was 570 marks, with a five-year contract to be signed.   The first candidate was Dr. Jacob Wreschner, appointed to the post despite the opposition from the representatives.  His remuneration was lowered to 400 marks a year, which resulted in a petition from the rabbi for a pay rise.  As his request was refused categorically, he decided to leave the kehilla only two years later, when he took over a similar position in Rakoniewice (Rakwitz).    On October 1, 1862 D. Wolfermann of Słupsk (Stolp) took over the position of a teacher in Pyrzyce, with an annual salary of 300 marks and an apartment provided by the kehilla.  However, the Jewish community was not satisfied with his work.  Parents complained that their children’s knowledge was not sufficient, and that lessons frequently did not take place at all or, on the contrary, were lengthened beyond the fixed time.   Gradually parents began to pick their children up from school at a specified time. D. Wolfermann, who initially requested a five-year contract, submitted a notice of termination on May 1, 1864, however, for the time being he remained with the kehilla.  His notice of termination was not accepted until April 1, 1865, but he was asked to continue in the position until a successor was found.   The Jewish community of Pyrzyce advertised their search for a teacher in newspapers, including the ”Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums”, ”Vossische Zeitung” and ”Berlinische Zeitung”.  A dozen or so applications arrived, and finally in October of 1865 the kehilla decided on Dr. Benjamin Stern, who had previously worked in Berlin.   He signed a two-year contract, however, he submitted a notice of termination before his contract expired (May 1, 1866), too, most likely having received a more appealing offer in Lwowek Slaski (Loewenberg).  The next choice was also a teacher from Berlin named Levi, who also stayed only until November 1866. S. Victor, a member of the Jewish community, accused him of having hit his daughter during a lesson.   When the Jewish Theological Seminary in Wrocław (Breslau) wrote in its reply to an enquiry that it did not have any teachers available for hire at that time, the kehilla in Pyrzyce solved its problem by hiring Benjamin Stern again, but this time for a period of two and a half years with an annual salary 100 marks higher than previously.   However, he complained that chazzan Falkenburger continued to administer citizenship oaths sworn by the members of the kehila, just as he had been doing for many years. Stern attempted to take over this duty, however, the oaths were soon lifted.   In 1868 the Jewish community decided to entrust a chazzan and mohel named Cohn of Człopa (Schloppe) with the position previously filled by Falkenburger. Cohn had to pass an examination administered by Rabbi Dr. Freimann in Wielenia (Filehne). Falkenburger remained with the kehilla until 1869, having by then worked for it for almost 25 years.  At that time a motion was put forth to combine the duties of the teacher and chazzan, which would be fulfilled by one person from that point forward.  The government reacted sternly, arguing that the issue of hiring administrative clerks did not fall under the duties of the representatives, and that they should not get involved in such matters.  Finally, however, the representatives’ proposition must have been accepted because from 1871 Benjamin Stern worked both as a teacher and chazzan for the kehilla.  His contract was renewed on July 1, 1871.   Despite not being a rabbi, Benjamin Stern had the qualifications to perform these duties.  He, however, gave himself the title of rabbi, which sparked much controversy.  Two rabbis from Poznan (Posen) shied away from ordaining him a rabbi (S’mich), questioning his competency.   Finally, however, Stern received the title from Rabbi R. Zwi Hirsch ben Aron Schneidemühl of Oborniki (Oborniker), and in 1872 he took over the rabbi’s post in the orthodox congregation of Adaß-Jisroel (Congregation Israel) in Szczecin.  In 1871, still under Stern’s leadership, the number of members of the Jewish community of Pyrzyce reached its peak of 327 people.  What is more, the villages of the Pyrzyce county also had a numerous Jewish population.  A table with the names of 27 towns and the number of Jews living in each of them is available in the reference book[1.9].  In total they amounted to 187 residents.  At least since 1750 a few Jewish families lived in the small village of Wierzbno (Werben) in the county of Pyrzyce.   Although three years later the administrative clerk Hille wanted these families to be moved to localities such as Łobez (Labes) or Czaplinek (Tempelburg), where no Jews lived at the time, it did not happen.  In 1764, Joel Abraham paid 14 thalers for protective privileges to live in Wierzbno, while Simon Abraham paid 11 thalers and 12 cents.   They hired Levin Joel and Kallmann Simon at their farms.  In 1871 six Jews lived in Wierzbno, a small village that had no municipal rights.  Around 1872 Benjamin Stern was replaced by Dr. Ludwig Pick, who remained with the kehilla until 1893.  After he left to take on the position of the second rabbi in Chojnie (Königsberg), the post in Pyrzyce remained vacant.   The duties of the chazzan and mohel were fulfilled by M. Jacoby until 1908.  Finally, the situation of the Jewish community concerning religious clerks who fulfilled religious duties became stable.  Complaints about high taxes was a problem that resurfaced after 1890.  Most of these complaints were rejected.  The data collected five years later showed that out of the 8,000 residents of Pyrzyce, 268 were of Jewish descent, which equaled approximately to 72 Jewish households.  The Jewish population at that time constituted 3% of the total population.  Three years later the number of members of the Jewish community dropped to 214, i.e. 63 households. The growing community built a new synagogue at the point where the old one was located.[1.10] At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1901, changes introduced in the statute of the kehilla in 1857 (or in winter of 1870/1871) were approved by the President of Szczecin (German: Stettiner Oberpräsident) named von Maltzahn.  The first mention of a Jewish organization in Pyrzyce also appeared in the early 20th century.  Charity organizations like Chewra Kadisza[1.11] and Israelitischer Frauenverein[1.12] might have been already operating in the kehilla at that time, as well as W. Sperling’s charity organization and the community library.  The kehilla’s budget during the period form 1900 to 1913 fluctuated between 3,000 and 4,000 marks, with an average of 19 students attending the religious school.  During these years the number of members of the kehilla dropped by approximately 1/3, so that in 1913 the town had only 140 Jews grouped in 50 households.  In comparison, the total number of residents was 9,000, and the Jewish population comprised 1.5% of the total population.  During World War I the kehilla lost four of its members on the front.  Their names, dates of birth and death, and the names of the units they served are listed in the table[1.13].  After the end of the war the number of residents continued to decline, since some of them had moved to bigger cities, primarily to Berlin.  By 1924 the number of Jewish inhabitants of Pyrzyce had dropped to 83 people living in 20 households. Daniel, the chazzan and teacher, gave lessons to six children, and the budget of the kehilla equaled to 4,700 marks.  In the early 1930s the Jewish residents were estimated at around 100 people, 20 of whom paid taxes.  The kehilla continued to hire its own chazzan and teacher, then it was Salomon Kornfeld. The budget at that time amounted to 8,000 marks.  Over the next three years the number of members of the Jewish community fell by another 1/3 and dropped to 33.  Despite the fact that many families decided to move to bigger cities, in 1935 Pyrzyce still had 19 Jewish-run businesses.   The owners’ names, along with the type of business and its address, are available in the table[1.14].  Most of the wealthier and more respected Jewish families lived around the market square, and this neighborhood was often referred to as the ”Jewish quarter” (German: „Judenviertel”), while the narrow street that led to the market was called the ”Jewish pass” (German: „Judengang”).  Thanks to the memoirs of Irma Pinto nee Marcus, a former resident of the municipality of Pyrzyce who moved to Israel in 1933, it was possible to draw up a list of members of 17 Jewish families, as well as to discover their fates.  In the 1980s the list was supplemented with additional testimonies by Gerharda Blumenthala of Haifa and Hansa Brunnariusa.  We know that most of those named in the list either left the country or perished in the camps.   Some of the elder members of the community rejected the idea of fleeing, since they believed mistakenly that as longtime and respected citizens they had nothing to fear.  The details of the list are available in the reference book[1.15].  In the period from 1936 to 1938 the activities intending to alienate the Jewish population intensified.  The residents of the town were forbidded to buy goods in Jewish shops.  The events of Kristallnacht (the night of November 9, 1938), when Jewish properties were destroyed and heads of Jewish families arrested, were the culmination of this persecution.   Since 1940 those Jews who were spared on Kristallnacht were gradually deported east, where most of them died.  A census conducted in Pyrzyce in 1939 demonstrated that there were 32 people of Jewish descent still living in the city at that time.  Their names, dates of birth and addresses are in the table[1.16].  Most likely, at least part of this group moved to other German cities or abroad.  In 1942 and 1943 fifteen former residents of Pyrzyce were deported from Berlin.  Their names, and the dates and destinations of transport are available in the table.  Max Golinsky, whose name appears on the list, is known to have committed suicide.  Extracts of a story about the history of the Jewish community in Pyrzyce written by one of its members were published in a local newspaper entitled „Weizackerbrief”[1.17].  A letter written by another member of the Jewish community, Gertrud Krombach, nee Grünberg, who immigrated to Israel with her husband in 1936, is also available.   It is dated 1957 and is filled with the descriptions of the peaceful, almost idyllic, existence of the Jewish community in Pyrzyce preceding the persecutions.  Fragments of this letter are cited in the book[1.18].

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Gerhard Salinger, Zur Erinnerung und zum Gedenken. Die einstigen jüdischen Gemeinden Pommerns, vol. III, New York 2006, p. 630-631.
  • [1.2] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 631.
  • [1.3] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 632.
  • [1.4] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 633.
  • [1.1.4] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 633.
  • [1.5] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 634.
  • [1.6] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 636-637.
  • [1.7] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 637-638.
  • [1.8] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 639-640.
  • [1.9] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 644.
  • [1.10] Klaus-Dieter Alicke, Lexikon der jüdischen Gemeinden im deutschen Sprachraum, vol. 3, München 2008, p. 3401.
  • [1.11] Jewish charity and funeral society – known as the Holy Funeral Brotherhood, which was responsible for male burials.
  • [1.12] Jewish women’s society who helped those in need and was responsible for female burials.
  • [1.13] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 646.
  • [1.14] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 646-647.
  • [1.15] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 650-652.
  • [1.16] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 648.
  • [1.17] Weizackerbrief, Hubert Topp, Landau; nr 85/4, 90/6, 90/7, 92/12.
  • [1.18] Gerhard Salinger, op.cit., p. 652.