According to Marcus Brann, a 19th century researcher of Jewish history in Silesia, the earliest Jewish settlement near Racibórz dates back to 1060[1.1]. However, this information does not seem very likely and it has no confirmation in any historical sources[1.2].


Another information, written down by one of priests of Stara Wieś (now a district of Racibórz), which dates back to the second half of 11th century states that where the church of Saint Nicholas stands, used to be a synagogue. According to some uncertain folk stories, a wooden synagogue used to be in Stara Wieś. The presence of Jews in Stara Wieś in the 11th century is probable because Rarcibórz was then a part of the Great Moravia, where Jews could freely settle. They could travel through the Moravian Gate in business and reach Racibórz by the Amber Road[1.3].


Priest Augustin Weltzel, on the other hand, notes that the first Jews of Racibórz come most probably from Khazars, whose country was in the Lower Danube region[1.4]. It was not until many years later that Jews from Germany joined them[1.5].


Marcus Brann states that in 1367 Jews lived in Racibórz on Sukiennicza Street (today Solna Street) in the vicinity of the town wall[1.6]. The first synagogue stood on the corner of Solna and Lecznicza Streets (then Żydowska Street – Ger.: Judengasse) [1.7]. According to Weltzel, the synagogue dates back to 1432[1.8]. In 1379 Jews resided in the part of the city located west from the city square. In 14th century, there was already a Jewish municipality in Racibórz[1.9].


In the beginning of the 16th century, the competition between Jewish and Christian merchants in Silesia grew. The Jews were becoming wealthier, which evoked growing anxieties in the townspeople, who begun to file complaints on the Silesian Jews to the authorities in Vienna. The town of Racibórz, using the unfriendly attitude towards the Jews as a pretext, accepted the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis issued by the Czech king Władysław[1.10]. On 1 January 1510, duke of Raciborz, Valentin the Hunchbacked, issued a privilege which banned all Jews from Raciborz. As a result, Jews could not settle in the town[1.11]. However, it is known that Jews lived in Racibórz at least until the mid-16th century[1.1.9].


When Silesia came under the rule of German emperor in 1526, the Silesian Jews came under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Empire, too. The life of the Jewish community under the Opole-Racibórz Law and the Habsburg rule in the 16th century was regulated by a “land rule” established in 1561, which was a code of customary and state law, and contained the resolutions passed in the Silesian duchies. There was a separate chapter in it titled “Von Juden,” which regulated the matter of Jewish settlement on the Habsburg hereditary land, of lending money for interest to lords and peasants, and other[1.12].


In May 1713, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI, issued an tolerant edict (Ger.: Toleranzpatent), which allowed Jews to settle in Silesia after paying a tolerance tax. The imperial edict divided the Jewish community in two: (1) those who paid or were paid rent (they paid lower taxes), and (2) the tolerated Jews. Jews from Głogów and Biała Prudnicka were exempt from the tolerance tax[1.13]. This edict gave Jews the right to be traveling merchants but not in the cities of Prudnik, Głubczyce, Racibórz, Koźle, Opole and Nysa. Should a Jew be caught trading in one of those cities, he would have all his goods confiscated. The Jews, however, found a way to bypass that ban: they settled in the suburbs of those cities, where they opened their businesses[1.14]. Under such circumstances a Jew Dawid Samson was a leaseholder of the Racibórz estate's distillery in 1729. Soon, a group of Jews settled in Bosacz (now a district of Racibórz). Christian townspeople and merchants firmly opposed Jewish settlement in Racibórz. In 1736 they received from the emperor Karol VI a confirmation of the ban on Jewish settlement in the city.


On August 3, 1781, the office of Crown property in Wrocław issued a decree regulating the matter of Jewish settlement in the cities of Upper Silesia. As a result, towns which earlier had the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis were then not obliged to accept Jewish settlers. Among these towns there were: Niemodlin, Głogówek, Głubczyce, Prudnik, Racibórz i Tarnowskie Góry[1.15].


In 1787 the Prussian authorities withdrew the decisions concerning Jewish resettlements to the designated resettlement towns. The reason was that the towns which the mentioned Jewish groups left suffered economically. Under such circumstances Jews begun to resettle in Racibórz.


In 1784, Josef Salomon build a house for himself in Bronki, near Brama Wielka (Grand Gate), in the vicinity of what today is Londzina street. The Jews that settled there came mostly from Biała Prudnicka. The Prussian annals from 1787 mention a synagogue in the Racibórz district. In 1788 the Prussian king Wilhelm II rode through Racibórz. The citizens decorated then the town gate in Bosacz to his honour. This impressed the Prussian authorities greatly – and made it easier for the Jews to resettle. Data from 1790 already mention Jews living in Racibórz itself[1.1.14].


In 1796 there were 30 Jewish families living in Racibórz. In 1798, there were 30 Jewish houses.


On April 17, 1797 the Prussian authorities adopted Statut Generalny dla Żydów (Eng.: the General Jewish Statute) that still saw Jews as a separate social class but allowed them sometimes to get the town’s citizenship. In 1803 Prussian authorities established in Racibórz the Royal Unit for Tolerance of the Jews (Ger.: Königliches Juden-Tolernaz-Amt). In February of 1808 the authorities lifted all feudal privileges pertaining to guilds and cities, including the de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege. From then on, Jews could freely settle and buy real estate in all Silesian cities, wherever the authorities gave permission.


Frederick Wilhelm, the Prussian king, issued on March 11, 1812 an edict on civic relations (Edikt der Bürgerlichen Verhältnisse der Juden), commonly referred to as the emancipatory edict. This royal edict equalized the rights of Jews, who now became rightful citizens of the Kingdom of Prussia and were thus called the state’s citizens (Statsbürger) or natives (Inländer). In order to obtain Prussian citizenship it was necessary to assume a full name and to know German. The Jews who were granted all the civic rights received special certificates. Under this edict Jews had the freedom of residence, profession, religion and religious rites together with the right to freely purchase real estate. Jews could also study at higher education institutions and occupy academic posts. Having civic rights they were also obligated to military service (from 1813 onwards they were being drafted into the army). The king reserved the right to decide whether a Jewish person could work for Prussian state administration or not. New regulations abolished Jewish judicial system and deemed Jewish communities associations under civic law. [1.16]. The first Jews of Racibórz who enjoyed this edict were: Nathan Lewy, Salomon Baruch, Borchcim and David Meyer[1.17].


On July 23, 1812 three Jews became members of the aldermen in Racibórz. They were sworn by the rabbi of Bosacz. The address book of that time mentions the names of wealthy Jewish citizens: Boss, Danziger, Dzielnitzer, Friedländer, Grunwald, Hausmann, Lewy, Lustig, Preiss, Proskauer, Ritter, Rosenthal, Seelinger, Schlesinger, Traube, and Zernik[1.1.14].


In 1814 a Jewish cemetery was established in Racibórz. Until that time, the dead were buried in Biała Prudnicka, Bodzanowo and Mikołów. The cemetery was located in Stara Wieś, on a hill Wilcza Góra. A land for building the cemetery was bought from Jan Hutny for 120 thalers. The first burial there took place in 1817. A matzevah of Rosalia Wachsner’s grave is the oldest registered gravestone in the cemetery of Racibórz which dates back to 1821[1.18].


A land for building a synagogue at Szewska Street was bought a few years later, in 1825, from a carpentry master Krzystof Hornung[1.1.14]. The synagogue was opened 5 years later. It was a neoclassical building with separated rooms for women and men. The greatest ornament was a menorah brought to Racibórz from Barcelona[1.19]. Nowadays, there is a square[1.20].


In 1828, in the whole county there were 863 Jews, which constituted 1,4% of the population[1.21]. In 1830 the construction of the synagogue was completed and the building was consecrated. In 1832 there were 376 Jewish citizens, 777 in 1847, and 1,200 in 1877[1.22].


The Jewish community of Racibórz grew gradually due to a rising waves of Jewish emigration from the Kingdom of Poland to German border areas which were a result of persecution of Jews in Russia[1.1.14].


As the Jewish population in Racibórz increased, they became wealthier than previously. The Jews of Racibórz owned most of the shops in the city, 17 of which were located in the market square. Almost half of the city factories were owned by Jewish families, who, as they became wealthier, bought out estates in the neighboring villages. In the vicinity of Racibórz, the world-famous Rothschild family were a large land-holder. They owned the Szylerzowice land and a 17th century castle in Chałupki. Above the gate of the castle, a cartouche with the family name is preserved till the present day[1.1.14]. In 1872, the Upper Silesian Association of Synagogue Districts (Oberschlesische Synagogen-Gemeinden) was founded. The Jewish community of Racibórz was a part of that association.


In the years 1887–1889 a new bigger synagogue was erected in the place of the old one. It was built in Moorish style. In 1899 the following people were members of the kahal: rabbi Adolf Blumenthal (a graduate of the Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin), the first cantor Schimon Tonnenbert, the second cantor and kosher butcher Abraham Engel (both were from the Congress Poland), a religion teacher Adolf Bieberfeld, a teacher Rose Rawitscher, a synagogue servant and kosher butcher Friedrich Wilhelm Schwarzer, a secretary Heinrich Bekiersch, a poultry commissioner and synagogue servant Selig Holzmann, a cemetery gardener and gravedigger Albert Gawellek, and a servant Nikolaus Ubaschik[1.1.14].


Numerous Jewish institutions were established at that time due to the increase of the Jewish population in Racibórz. For example, the https://www.naszraciborz.pl/site/art/0-/0-/83-zydzi-raciborscy.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].">|Association of Jewish History and Literature| http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/article/raciborz/7,organizations-and-associations/16358,stowarzyszenie-historii-i-literatury-zydowskiej/]], which had its own library with a big book collection at its disposal, operated at the end of 19th century in Racibórz. In 1886, the Jewish Lodge of Peace XVII No. 361 – inspired by the Lodge Humanites of Gliwice – was established in Racibórz. It was subordinate to the Mother Lodge of Order in Germany, established in 1992, which in turn was subordinate to the Jewish humanitarian organization B’nai B’rith (Children of the Covenant). It associated the Jewish intellectual elite of Racibórz and its vicinity. There were mostly teacher, doctors and industrialists among them. The organization probably operated until 1925[[refr:.


The end of the World War I brought significant changes in the Upper Silesia. The restoration of Poland had an impact on pro-Polish sentiment among the people of Silesia. As a result it came to a conflict with German society and outbreak of three Silesian Uprisings. The Silesian Jews were in the middle of this conflict; however, most of them supported German in their claims.


There was plebiscite was to be conducted on 20 March 1921 in the Upper Silesia. It was overseen by an Inter-Allied Administrative and Plebiscite Commission in the Upper Silesia with its seat in Opole. At the voting, the majority of Jews voted in favour of the Upper Silesia staying within the German borders. In Racibórz, 25,336 (87,98%) voted for German and 2,227 (8,8%) for Poland. In spite of the voting outcome, Poles triggered the third Silesian Uprising; however, Racibórz remained within the German borders.


On 6 May 1932 a group of Jewish sportsmen of Racibórz took part in a big convention of the Jewish youth of Upper Silesia which was held in Taciszów. The groups came from Gliwice, Strzelce Opolskie, Bytom, Opole, Zabrze and Racibórz. There were approx. 250 participants. The peak of the convention was a speech performed by rabbi Ochs, which dealt with a worsening situation of Jewish young people in Germany. He exhorted the young people not to give up their aspirations and try to overcome any difficulties. During the convention they paid tribute to Germany as homeland and shouted “Long live!” three times. The convention ended with German national anthem “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles...”[1.23].


On 1 April 1933 it came to anti-Semitic boycott in Racibórz and other parts of Germany. Groups of SA militants had their stations in front of Jewish shops, as well as solicitor's, and doctor’s offices. Their presence had a negative impact on customers who wanted to use their services.


On Monday 3 March 1933, the NSDAP party management had to backtrack from the boycott due to the international pressure[1.24].


On 14 February 1934, a German-Jewish Youth Association came to existence[1.25].


On 15 May 1922, a Polish-German convention for the protection of national minorities came into effect and it was force in the Upper Silesia. It was supposed to protect Germans living in the plebiscite area but in light of new circumstances Jews used it to protect their own rights. Poland and German however resigned from the convention in the Upper Silesia on 15 July 1937. As a result, the anti-Semitic laws of the Third Reich were in force in the German areas of the Upper Silesia.


On 9–10 November 1938, an event occurred which was later referred to as Crystal Night (Ger.: Kristallnacht). It was the first pogrom against Jews carried out by the German authorities, as a result of which persecutions of Jews by Nazis became organized and planed activities. The pogrom encompassed the whole Germany. In effect, 91 Jews, 267 synagogues were burnt down, approx. 7,000 shops and 29 industrial buildings owned by Jews were destroyed. Moreover, numerous Jewish cemeteries were desecrated and approx. 25,000 Jews were imprisoned in first Nazi labour camps. Firemen stood idly as the synagogues were on fire. Similar events occurred in Racibórz, where the main synagogue of the town burnt down[1.1.9]. After that the majority of Jews left Racibórz and headed to the Western Europe.


In 1938, under a regulation issued by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jews were required to adopt an extra (typically Jewish) first name. Women had to take the name of ”Sara” and the men, ”Israel”. According to a population census held on 17 May 1939, 309 Jews lived in Racibórz at that time[1.26].


Initially, Jews of the Upper Silesia were supposed to be deported to the General Government. However the authorities declined, thus ghettos were established instead. At the beginning of 1940, the biggest ghettos were in Będzin and Sosnowiec. In fact, they were “labour reserves” of the labour camps in the whole Silesia[1.27]. As part of that the majority of Jews of Racibórz were deported to the ghettos in Zagłębie Dąbrowskie and later on to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, where they died in gas chambers. According to The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during Holocaust, deportations from Racibórz to the General Government began in July 1942[1.1.9].


In 1940, Germans established a small labour camp for Jews in Racibórz. It was called Judenlager (Ger.: Jewish Camp) or Judenlager-Arbeitslager (Ger.: Jewish Camp–Labour Camp). The prisoners had to work in local factories[1.1.27]. The camp was probably liquidated in January 1945.


On 20 November 1942 a rail transport no. XVIII/2 left the administrative district of Opole and reached the Theresienstadt concentration camp. 50 Jews, among whom there were also Jews of Racibórz, were then transported to that ghetto. Ten people from this transport survived; however, it is hard to determine places of their deportation[1.28]. The third transportation (no. XVIII/3) from Racibórz to Terezín took place on 4 December 1942. There were 50 Jews from Racibórz, Koźle and Bytom. Seven people survived this deportation[1.29]. On 11 December 1942, the 4th transportation (No. XVIII/4 ) from the district of Opole to Terezín took place. It held 53 Jews from Głogówek, Racibórz and probably Pyskowice and Opole. Again, 7 people survived[1.30]. The fifth transportation (no. XVIII/5) took place on 21 April 1943. Documents from the card index C.V. Oberschlesien indicate that there were 46 Jews from Olesno, Opole, Racibórz and Głubczyce. This time, 11 people survived[1.31]. In the sixth transportation (No. XVIII/6), which took place on 30 June 1943, the last Jews remaining in Opole and 5 Jews from Racibórz were deported from Opole to Terezín. Only one person from this group survived[1.32].


Bibliography


  • Brann M., Geschichte der Juden in Schlesien, Wrocław 1896–1917.
  • Dziewulski W., Dzieje Raciborza, [in:] Szkice z Dziejów Raciborza, Katowice 1967.
  • Jonca K., Zagłada niemieckich Żydów na Górnym Śląsku (19331945), „Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka” 1991, no. 2.
  • Konieczny A., Ludność żydowska na Śląsku w świetle spisu z 17 maja 1939 r., „Studia nad Faszyzmem i Zbrodniami Hitlerowskimi” 1992, t. 15.Maser P., Weiser A., Juden in Oberschlesien, Berlin 1992.
  • Newerla P.J., Opowieści o dawnym Raciborzu, Racibórz 1996.
  • Raciborz, [in:] International Jewish Cemetery Project [online] https://iajgscemetery.org/poland/raciborz.html [Accessed: 29.10.2014].
  • Ratibor, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, vol. 2, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, p. 1060.
  • Spychalski S.,Horn M., Przyczynek do dziejów dyskryminacji ludności żydowskiej na terenie byłej rejencji opolskiej w okresie rządów hitlerowskich, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1974, no. 3/91.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Brann M., Geschichte der Juden in Schlesien, Wrocław 1896–1917.
  • [1.2] Walerjański D., Z dziejów Żydów na Górnym Śląsku do 1812 roku, „Orbis Interior. Pismo muzealno-humanistyczne” 2005, vol. 5, p. 27.
  • [1.3] Świtlicki K., Wawoczny G., Żydzi raciborscy, naszraciborz.pl [online] 09.06.2008, https://www.naszraciborz.pl/site/art/0-/0-/83-zydzi-raciborscy.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].
  • [1.4] The Khazars’ country was not located in the Lower Danube region but in the south-western part of Europe – editorial note.
  • [1.5] Weltzel A., Geschichte der Stadt und Herrschaft Ratibor, Racibórz 1861.
  • [1.6] Newerla P.J., Opowieści o dawnym Raciborzu, Racibórz 1996, p. 149–152.
  • [1.7] Walerjański D., Z dziejów Żydów na Górnym Śląsku do 1812 roku, „Orbis Interior. Pismo muzealno-humanistyczne” 2005, vol. 5, p. 29; Świtlicki K., Wawoczny G., Żydzi raciborscy, naszraciborz.pl [online] 09.06.2008, https://www.naszraciborz.pl/site/art/0-/0-/83-zydzi-raciborscy.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014]; Ratibor, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, vol. 2, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, p. 1060.
  • [1.8] Weltzel A., Geschichte der Stadt und Herrschaft Ratibor, Racibórz 1861, p. 109.
  • [1.9] Ratibor, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, vol. 2, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, p. 1060.
  • [1.10] Walerjański D., Z dziejów Żydów na Górnym Śląsku do 1812 roku, „Orbis Interior. Pismo muzealno-humanistyczne” 2005, vol. 5, p. 32.
  • [1.11] Dziewulski W., Dzieje Raciborza, [in:] Szkice z Dziejów Raciborza, Katowice 1967, p. 82; Ratibor, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, vol. 2, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, p. 1060; Weltzel A., Geschichte der Stadt und Herrschaft Ratibor, Racibórz 1861, p. 109.
  • [1.1.9] [a] [b] [c] Ratibor, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, vol. 2, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, p. 1060.
  • [1.12] Walerjański D., Z dziejów Żydów na Górnym Śląsku do 1812 roku, „Orbis Interior. Pismo muzealno-humanistyczne” 2005, vol. 5, p. 31.
  • [1.13] Maser P., Weiser A., Juden in Oberschlesien, vol. 1, Berlin 1992, p. 26; Walerjański D., Z dziejów Żydów na Górnym Śląsku do 1812 roku, „Orbis Interior. Pismo muzealno-humanistyczne” 2005, vol. 5, p. 34.
  • [1.14] Świtlicki K., Wawoczny G., Żydzi raciborscy, naszraciborz.pl [online] 09.06.2008, https://www.naszraciborz.pl/site/art/0-/0-/83-zydzi-raciborscy.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].
  • [1.15] Nadolski P., Historia osadnictwa Żydów w Gliwicach sytuacja prawna Żydów na Śląsku do I wojny światowej, [in:] Żydzi Gliwiccy, ed. B. Kubit, Gliwice 2006, p. 51.
  • [1.1.14] [a] [b] [c] [d] [e] [f] Świtlicki K., Wawoczny G., Żydzi raciborscy, naszraciborz.pl [online] 09.06.2008, https://www.naszraciborz.pl/site/art/0-/0-/83-zydzi-raciborscy.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].
  • [1.16] Stern S., Der preusische und die Juden, Erste Abteilung Darstellung, Tübingen 1971.
  • [1.17] Weltzel A., Geschichte der Stadt und Herrschaft Ratibor, Racibórz 1861, p. 449.
  • [1.18] Raciborz, [in:] International Jewish Cemetery Project [online] https://iajgscemetery.org/poland/raciborz.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].
  • [1.19] Raciborz, [in:] International Jewish Cemetery Project [online] https://iajgscemetery.org/poland/raciborz.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].
  • [1.20] Gmina Wyznaniowa Żydowska odzyskała teren przy ul. Szewskiej, Raciborz.com.pl – Racibórz Website [online] 18.07.2008, https://raciborz.com.pl/art9668.html [Accessed: 29 October 2014].
  • [1.21] J. Janczak, Rozmieszczenie wyznań na Śląsku w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku [in:] Przeszłość Demograficzna Polski. Materiały i Studia 1967, vol. 1, p. 20-21.
  • [1.22] Weltzel A., Geschichte der Stadt und Herrschaft Ratibor, Ratibor 1861.
  • [1.23] Schmidt J., Udział członków gminy żydowskiej w życiu kulturalnym Gliwic, [in:] Żydzi Gliwiccy, ed. B. Kubit, Gliwice 2006, p. 101–102.
  • [1.24] Kaczmarek R., Narastanie antysemityzmu w prasie gliwickiej 19331939, [in:] Żydzi Gliwiccy, ed. B. Kubit, Gliwice 2006, p. 206.
  • [1.25] Jonca K., Zagłada niemieckich Żydów na Górnym Śląsku (19331945), „Śląski Kwartalnik Historyczny Sobótka” 1991, No. 2.
  • [1.26] Konieczny A., Ludność żydowska na Śląsku w świetle spisu z 17 maja 1939 r., „Studia nad Faszyzmem i Zbrodniami Hitlerowskimi” 1992, vol. 15.
  • [1.27] Świerkosz K., Żydzi w obozach hitlerowskich na Śląsku Opolskim podczas II wojny światowej, [in:] 45 Rocznica powstania w getcie warszawskim (19431988). Materiały z sesji popularno-naukowej, Opole 1988.
  • [1.1.27] Świerkosz K., Żydzi w obozach hitlerowskich na Śląsku Opolskim podczas II wojny światowej, [in:] 45 Rocznica powstania w getcie warszawskim (19431988). Materiały z sesji popularno-naukowej, Opole 1988.
  • [1.28] Opole National Archive, Gestapo Oppeln, No. 12, kk. 544, 554, 626.
  • [1.29] Opole National Archive, Gestapo Oppeln, No. 12, kk. 237, 376, 555, 579
  • [1.30] Opole National Archiv, Gestapo Oppeln, No. 12, kk. 522, 548, 550.
  • [1.31] Karny, Miroslav Theresienstaedter Gedenkbuch. Die Opfer der Judentransporte aus Deutschland nach Theresienstadt, 19421945, Praha 2000, p. 70.
  • [1.32] Czech D., Kalendarium wydarzeń w KL Auschwitz, Oświęcim 1992, p. 788; Adler H.G., Theresienstadt 19411945. Das Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft, Geschichte, Soziologie, Psychologie, Tübingen, 1955, p. 694. Spychalski S.,Horn M., Przyczynek do dziejów dyskryminacji ludności żydowskiej na terenie byłej rejencji opolskiej w okresie rządów hitlerowskich, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1974, No. 3/91.