Jews appeared in the area of Sucha Beskidzka probably around 1820. The records from 1827-1845 inform that at the request of a leather trader Michał Kulig an investigation was conducted against Wiktor Klapholz, a leaseholder and exciseman, who was accused of illegal trade in leathers[1.1]. A search in the defendant’s house (Jews had already owned houses in Sucha!) discovered 62 dried and raw cow and veal skins. Interestingly, the parish census mention Jews only as residents of the parish and not Sucha itself. In 1848, there were 3, and in 1880, already 136 Jewish houses[1.2].

The local Jews belonged to the Jewish Community of Żywiec-Zabłocie, established in 1864. It covered the same area as the Żywiec county and included following towns and villages: Biernaw with Glemieńc, Brzuśnik, Bystra, Na Bugaju, Cięcina withz Węgierska Górka and Przeniczyska, Cisiec, Czernichów, Gilowice, Hucisko, Isep, Jeleśnia with Dworzyska, Juszczyna, Kamesznica, Kocierz near Moszczanica, Kocierz near Rychwałd, Kocoń, Korbielów with Kamienna, Koszarawa with Bystra, Krzeszów, Krzyżowa, Kurów, Lachowice, Las, Leśna, Lipowa, Łękawica, Łodygowice, Łysina, Międzybrodzie, Milówka, Moszczanica with Rędziną, Mutne, Nieledwia, Oczków, Okrajnik, Ostre, Pewel Wielka, Pewel Mała, Pewel Ślemieńska, Pietrzykowice, Przyborów, Przyłęków, Radziechowy, Rajcza, Rycerka, Rychwałd, Rychwałdek, Sienna, Słotwina, Sól, Zwardoń, Sopotnia Mała, Sopotnia Wielka, Sporysz, Stryszawa, Sucha (nowadays Sucha Beskidzka), Szare, Ślemień, Świnna, Tarnawa (until 1897), Tresna, Trzebinia, Ujsoły with Glinką and Złatną, Wieprz with Pawlusie, Zabłocie, Zadziele, Zarzecze, Żabnica, Żywiec, Stary Żywiec. The kehilla was rather extensive. Many of the aforementioned villages were inhabited only by several Jewish families. Until 1872, the rabbi of Żywiec was Joel Szarf. He was succeeded by Icchak Ha-Kohen Zylbiger (died in 1888).

The board of the Żywiec kehilla could not avoid numerous feuds and arguments within a community spread on such a vast area. The Jewish community of Sucha tried to transfer to the Jordanów kehilla. It resulted from many problems with getting to Zabłocie. Several Jews from Sucha were members of the kehilla board and had to spare two days to arrive at the board meetings in Zabłocie. In May 1929, they demanded their expenses from the district governor. Also transporting the deceased to the Jewish cemetery in Zabłocie was problematic, especially during harsh winters. Great administrative confusion was difficult to bring under control by a community official who took care of certificates and local tax collection[1.3].

In 1876, the construction of a railway line between Bielsko and Żywiec was finished. In 1884, Galician Transversal Railway from Czadca to Husiatyn was opened, which established connections to Vienna, Nowy Sącz and Lwów. The development of the railway triggered off economic growth of the entire region, especially of the towns situated next to the railway. At the same time, the road network was extended which created favourable conditions for trade development. All those factors supported Jewish settlement in the area of Żywiec. The largest Jewish centres grew in Żywiec-Zabłocie, Żywiec-Isep, Milówka with Rajcza and Sucha Beskidzka. The local Jews dealt mainly with trade, and later became owners of stores, inns, hotels and restaurants. They established the first tourist-holiday base in Beskid Żywiecki. As the time passed, better educated Jews became doctors and lawyers, making contribution to the cultural life of the region. In Sucha Jews lived in houses located around the market square. Mostly they were brick, one-storey buildings, which held restaurants and shops on the ground floor, and dwellings upstairs. Storehouses and workshops were situated near the road leading to Kraków. They were surrounded by wooden houses of the Jewish poor. The Jews worked at the construction of a local railway junction. In 1895, Bertig Getzl was employed as an assistant in the railway traffic maintenance section[1.4].

The municipality act of 1896 gave Sucha officially a city charter. In 1907, Sucha was within municipalities which had from 601 to 1,000 electors, so it could hold a municipality board of 30 members. At that time, 23 of them were Catholic and 7 Jewish. In 1912, Sucha exceeded 1,000 inhabitants and the municipality board grew to 36 members. Among them were the following Jews: Piotr Geschwind (a lawyer), Abraham Holländer (a merchant), Lasser Rubin (a merchant), Józef Klapholtz (a restaurator), Izrael Löwi and Rubin Landerer (an owner of a chemical fertilizer plant)[1.5]. Jews belonged also to the School Council. In 1097, one of the deputy chairmen was Henryk Horowitz. After World War I was over in November 1918, the local School Council was elected and Józef Klapholtz was a representative of the Jewish community[1.6]. In 1906, duties of the assessor (rabbi’s deputy) in Sucha were taken by Alter Korzennik[1.7].

On 22 June 1906, Samuel Wilder was born in Sucha, later known as Billy Wilder, an American film director, screenwriter and producer, author of such famous films as Some Like It Hot or Sunset Boulevard. His parents ran a railway station restaurant in Sucha.

The Merchants’ and Traders’ Association operated in Sucha and Salomon Mandelbaum was its chairman at the beginning of the 20th century. It was not very active at that time: only 13 out of 200 members took part in the meeting on 19 May 1914. The minutes were signed by Izrael Seilhardt, Szymon Funder, Eliasz Toppelrup, Jakub Reichenbaum, Hanine Reichenbaum and Rubin Landerer[1.8]. Far more active was the Collective Association of Handicraftsmen and Industrialists (or Collective Industrialists), whose several dozens of members represented different crafts and faiths. In a preserved Book of resolutions, among members of the meeting from 5 July 1908, we can see signatures of: Rubin Landerer, Salomon Gutter, Markus Ebel and Dawid Nebenzahl. In the years 1908-1919, to the Association of Collective Industrialists belonged the following Jews: Rubin Landerer, Salomon Gutter, Markus Ebel, Dawid Nebenzahl, Jakub Negeboren, Bernard Horowitz, Efraim Schott and Henryk Horowitz[1.9]. The latter served also in the Volunteer Fire Department and in 1907 received a badge of honour from the National Association of Volunteer Fire Departments for 20 years of uninterrupted service[1.10].

Just before the outbreak of World War I, Sucha and its neighbouring villages were inhabited by 94 rather large Jewish families, which had 578 members altogether. Additionally, ten Jewish soldiers were stationed there. The outbreak of the war stopped activity of all Jewish organizations and associations, which resumed operating only after 1918. In spite of this, still during the war the Jews of Sucha endeavoured to obtain an approval for building a synagogue. Probably it was connected with the attempts to create an independent kehilla. However, their efforts were of no avail and only a house of prayer functioned in the town, which was located at the Młynówka river. All religious duties were conducted by the assessor (deputy of the rabbi of Żywiec).

The end of the war brought about shortage of basic goods and growing dissatisfaction, which resulted in increased anti-Semitic tensions in Małopolska. Thanks to effective work of the town’s authorities and quickly organized Municipal Guards, Sucha noted only one attacks on Jews[1.11].

In September 1919, elections to the new authorities of the Collective Association of Handicraftsmen and Industrialists were held. Among others, Bernard Horowitz and Markus Edel were appointed members and Efraim Schott became a deputy. Holding vocational examinations was one of the primary responsibilities of the Association. In 1919, one Jew became member of the examination panel – Bernard Horowitz, who owned the carbonated water plant. As a graduate of the lower Realschule and having passed an accountancy examination, he conducted written and accountancy exams. One of his deputies in the panel was hairdressing master Markus Ebel[1.12]

In 1920, the local government elections were held in Sucha. According to the Provisional Municipal Board, all voters were divided into four circles, regardless of sex or faith. Belonging to the first three was connected with education and financial status (estimated on the grounds of paid taxes). Soviet mandates were given to representatives of the Jewish population only by voters from the II Polling Circle. Appointed were the following Jews: Dr Piotr Geschwind, a lawyer; Abraham Holländer, a merchant and estate owner; Rubin Landerer, a merchant and estate owner; Moses Klein, a merchant and estate owner; Juliusz Kühnreich, a merchant and estate owner, Izrael Löwi, an innkeeper and estate owner; Rubin Laufer, a merchant and estate owner.

The Corporation of Merchants, Traders and Industrialists acted in best interest of people dealing with trade, among whom most of the Jews could be mentioned. At the beginning of the 1930s, it associated approximately 100 people of different faith and was led by Poles as well as Jews. Growing nationalistic feelings caused a split in the Corporation in 1937. It became a solely Jewish organization with Bernard Horowitz being its chairman while Christians joined a branch of Kraków Merchant Congregation[1.13].

The split in the merchants’ corporation was just one of the signs of mutual relations deteriorating and anti-Jewish feelings growing. Already in 1918, the Jews were accused of usury and speculating with the most needed goods; at the end of 1930s, as the economic situation worsened again, accusations and dislike were present again. Although the Jews governed the town together with Christians, they were portrayed as “alien” when economic matters were concerned. Priest Józef Sławiński, the chairman of the Christian Economic Front section in Sucha, held a speech at a meeting at the beginning of 1935, in which he condemned the fact that “only when the Jew [Bernard Horowitz] opened a inn, the Christian residents rushed to this <<hole>> and leave their all money in Jewish hands, as if there were no Christian restaurants. It is a shame to look at it and to say nothing, when on Sundays and Saturdays one can see young people sitting in Jewish inns where there are no pictures of saints”. He also warned “not to visit Jews for anything, because all goods are available at the same price in Catholic stores in Sucha” ”[1.14]. Despite some misunderstandings, all inhabitants of Sucha held their parallel funeral services after the death of marshal Józef Piłsudski, and later together listened to president Mościcki’s address at the market square, honoured the deceased with a minute of silence and sang a patriotic church song (“Boże coś Polskę”) [1.15].

Jews and Christians of Sucha often lived next to each other and did business together, but knew little about each other. Those members of the Jewish population who were appointed to the Municipality Board, school council or merchants’ associations were a minority. The majority lived behind a fence built of separate customs, religion and Yiddish language, which non-Jews did not want to or could not come over. The situation improved after World War I, as the relations tightened due to common place of education for Jewish and Christian children. The Jews never established their own cheder in Sucha, so their children were taught rules and history of the Jewish faith at home and other disciplines they learnt in Polish public schools. During the 1921 census, approximately 65% of the Jews defined themselves as Polish; however, the census caused many misunderstandings as the terms “nationality” and “national status” were often confused.

The Jews of Sucha did not have their own kehilla and belonged to the Jewish Community and register district in Żywiec-Zabłocie. They usually had their representatives there, who in 1920s were two orthodox Jews: Izrael Löwi and Bernard Horowitz. A house of prayer was located at the Młynówka river. Since 1923, it was led by the assessor (the rabbi’s deputy) Jakub Hirsz Halberstram whose salary amounted to 3,500-4,600 zlotys annually. Ozjasz Knohol was the shochet and received up to 3,000 zlotys per year[1.16]. In 1935, as a result of a political rift the assessor Halberstram had to resign. He led the so-called “rabbinic party”, supporters of the Aguda, which was criticised by the Zionists and progressives[1.17].

When Sucha became part of the Maków Podhalański county, the Jews of Sucha endeavoured to incorporate their community to the Jordanów kehilla. Their proposal was supported by the county office in Żywiec which quoted the reasons given by Jews. First of all, it was difficult to get to the community board meetings in Zabłocie, as the distance was substantial and there were no communications which would make returning home on the same day possible. Secondly, there was no appropriate control over issuing certificates, as the Jews of Sucha belonged to the register office in Zabłocie and Sucha itself to the county office in Maków. Lastly, also administrative and transport difficulties appeared in connection with burying the dead on the cemetery in Zabłocie (a county doctor’s certificate from both Żywiec and Maków was required); therefore, many of the Jews buried their deceased relatives on the cemetery in Jordanów[1.18]. The Board of the Jewish kehilla in Zabłocie acted against and appealed to the Ministry of Religious Faiths and Public Enlightenment which rejected the application. The Jewish community in Sucha did not renounce; burying the dead on the cemetery in Jordanów or Wadowice was justified by the fact that according to the orthodox, the burials in Zabłocie were conducted against the Halacha rules[1.19]

As the attempts to secede from the Żywiec kehilla failed, the Jews of Sucha put their efforts into entering the board. In 1928, Juliusz Kühnreich became member of the kehilla board and his deputies were Rubin Laufer and Abraham Holländer. The elections themselves and the way they were conducted raised a protest. The Jews of Sucha appealed against the decision of the election committee formed from Zionist supporters. As it refused to open a separate polling station in Sucha, 20 out of 85 Jews of Sucha did not manage to get to Żywiec to vote. The inhabitants of Sucha protested also against the fact that the orthodox lists unreasonably could not be blocked [1.20]. The kehilla board staged continuous arguments between supporters of orthodoxy and Zionism. It was a common practice to call a meeting of one fraction without informing the other. When in 1931 Rubin Laufer from Sucha was appointed chairman of the Zabłocie kehilla, the opposition called it a coup d’état and protested against the election to the state authorities which rejected the motion. During the following elections (December 1932) a separate constituency was formed in Sucha and as a result the voter turnover amounted to 100%. The Jews of Sucha obtained two mandates in the community council board of Zabłocie which were held by Chaim Schönberg and Abrham Holländer; their deputies were Rubin Laufer and Juliusz Kühnreich. At the end of 1920s, Sucha was again represented in the board by Chaim Schönberg and Gustaw Aftergut.

Although the Jewish community in Sucha was rather little when compared to other towns on the Polish territory, it played a considerable role in the town’s economic life, and particularly in trade. In 1933, the Municipality Board requested to postpone the fair from Tuesday to Wednesday due to a Jewish holiday, because the absence of Jewish merchants would bring irreparable loses to the municipality budget. In 1938, the Jews owned 4 out of 5 textile shops, 2 out of 3 tailor’s shops and all stores with metal accessories. As the trading activity sometimes required additional funding and it was difficult to receive a loan in a bank, the Jewish population of Sucha established its own relief institutions. After the World War I, the Gemilut Chesed Fund helped the poor craftsmen by giving them interest free loans to rebuild destroyed workshops, sustain their existence and protect them against economic and life dangers. It was founded by Abraham Holländer and its board members were: Chaskel Korngut, Bernard Horowitz, Szymon Buchbaum, Chaim Schönberg, Abraham Mendelbund, Izrael Dorf and Chaskel Steiner. Around the same time (1919), the People’s Factory Store “Self-Help” was opened, which offered social aid. It was headed by Józef Klapholtz, Rubin Landerer, Herman Steiner, Juliusz Kühnreich and Beniamin Klein.

As already mentioned, the Jews of Sucha supported almost only two political parties: the Zionist Organization and the Aguda. The latter dominated not only the political scene, but also set the tone of the population’s religious life. On its initiative various religious brotherhoods were established. Among them the largest was the Prayer Association “Ahavat Torah” with around 70 members. It was run by the most prominent residents of Sucha, who were elected at the general meetings. During the interwar period, the chairmen were respectively: Abraham Holländer, Moses Klein, Beniamin Seelenfreund, Szymon Buchbaum, Chaim Schönberg, Hirsz Schaja, Chaim Hirsz Gross and Jakub Kühnreich.

In 1930, the Zionist organization set up the Local Committee of the Zionist Organization, but with little success. Three years later the second attempt was made, but it also ended with a fiasco, as there are no records of its activity. In 1932, on the initiative of a lawyer Emil Stein an attempt was made to establish a branch of the youth Zionist organization Ha-Shachar “Daybreak”. In the first meeting less than 30 people took part; they chose the board which consisted to large extent of women and among the board members were: Helena Ernstówna (president), Alicja Löwówna, Cecylia Eblówna, Ewa Ernstówna, Rudolf Ebl, Fryderyk Zilberrig, Saul Nebenzahl, Chaim Gutfreund, Oskar Ritter, Samuel Ackerman and Salomon Flessig. After two years of total inactivity a new board headed by Saul Nebenzahl was established. Shortly after the organization dissolved and its members were encouraged to join the Josef Trumpeldor revisionist Jewish Association of Scouts, namely Betar. In Sucha operated also the Jewish Youth Association “Akiba”.

As another war became inevitable, the Jewish community of Sucha engaged in raising money for the National Defence Fund in August 1939. Altogether they collected 2,749,20 zlotys[1.21].

When in September 1939 World War II broke out, many Jews joined the town’s civil guards. They maintained order on the streets wearing white-read bands on their sleeves. After breaching the defence of the forts in Węgierska Górka, on 5 September the German army took over Sucha. The invader’s authorities incorporated most of the Żywiec county to the Third Reich, but Sucha became part of the General Government. At the same time, former administrative structures of Jewish communities were abolished.

The German authorities from the very beginning introduced restrictive anti-Semitic laws. Jewish families were expelled from houses located on the main street and forced to move to run-down wooden houses. The Germans took control over all Jewish stores, workshops, a chemical factory, a lubricant factory, a paper mill and farms. All Jews were obliged to report to the police station every day. Jewish children were expelled from schools, and as the number of German students was growing, the same happened with Polish children. A post of protective police with a prison was set up in the town. Also a work camp for Jews was quickly established. According to the plan drawn up by the forester Schedtler, the Jewish forced labourers worked on a farm in Wieprz where they cleared the forest, afforested wasteland, constructed forest tracks, regulated the river Juszczynka and cleared the town. The works were supervised by Polish police officers[1.22].

In January 1940, all Jews were ordered to wear white bands with a blue Star of David on their left arm. Also all Jewish houses had to be marked with a black or blue star, at least 40 cm large. At that time, the president of the Jeiwsh Community Board was dr. Roman Nehmer.

In spring 1941, the Germans began deportations of all Jews from the Żywiec county (belonging to the Third Reich) to the General Government. At the beginning, transports were sent to Sucha Beskidzka, where a Jewish camp was established on the former premises of the count Tarnowski’s brewery. The camp was open, so the Jews were allowed to leave during the day, but they had to be back for the night. The Jews were forced to do maintenance and deconstruction work in the town. The house of prayer and a tenement house in the market square, which belonged to Löwie, were among the destroyed buildings. Some of the Jews were transported further to the ghettos in Kraków, Bochnia and Chrzanów[1.23].

In spring of 1942, the Germans established an open ghetto, also on the premises of the count Tarnowski’s brewery in Sucha. Approximately 300 Jews from Sucha Beskidzka and neighbouring villages were gathered there. They were working slavishly at the regulation of the Stryszawka river and construction sites in the town[1.24]. In July 1942, first transports of the Jews of Sucha to the Nazi German extermination camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau took place. Until December, about 189 people from Sucha were sent there. After the planned maintenance work in the town had finished, the ghetto was liquidated on 8 May 1943. All Jews were sent in a “death transport” to the camp in Auschwitz. As in many places in Poland, it put an end to coexistence of the two faiths and nations. Few survivors or their descendants live now in Israel or other places in the world.

Bibliography

  • R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000).
  • K. Samsonowska, Wyznaniowe gminy żydowskie i ich społeczności w województwie krakowskim (1918–1939), Kraków (2005).
  • Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998).

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków 1998, p. 116.
  • [1.2] Archiwum Państwowe w Krakowie(State Archive in Kraków), Zespół Starostwo Żywieckie II (Żywiec County Office II), Teki Schneidra 1829 (Schneider’s Files 1829).
  • [1.3] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), p. 30.
  • [1.4] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 167.
  • [1.5] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 151.
  • [1.6] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 196.
  • [1.7] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), p. 104.
  • [1.8] Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach (State Archive in Katowice), Starostwo Żywieckie (County Office in Żywiec), Odpis protokołu walnego zgromadzenia 19 maja 1914 r. (Copy of the general meeting report from 19 May 1914), p. 173-174.
  • [1.9] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk(eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 176.
  • [1.10] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 143.
  • [1.11] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), pp. 109–110.
  • [1.12] Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach (State Archive in Katowice), Oddział w Żywcu (Department of Żywiec), Cechy i Stowarzyszenia II-1 (Guilds and Associations II-1), k. 1, 18, 22, 24.
  • [1.13] Archiwum Państwowe w Krakowie (State Archive in Kraków, Starostwo Żywieckie II – 191 (Community Council in Żywiec II-91), k. 353.
  • [1.14] Quoted after: Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), pp. 300–301.
  • [1.15] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 257.
  • [1.16] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), p. 105.
  • [1.17] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków) (1998), p. 302.
  • [1.18] Archiwum Państwowe w Krakowie (State Archive in Kraków), Starostwo Żywieckie II – 143 (Community Council in Żywiec II - 143), k. 313–314.
  • [1.19] Archiwum Państwowe w Krakowie (State Archive n Kraków), Starostwo Żywieckie II – 143 (Community Council in Żywiec I – 143), k. 311.
  • [1.20] K. Samsonowska, Wyznaniowe gminy żydowskie i ich społeczności w województwie krakowskim (1918–1939), Kraków (2005), p. 203.
  • [1.21] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), p. 117.
  • [1.22] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), pp. 119–120.
  • [1.23] R. Caputa, I. Jeziorski, Okruchy pamięci. Z dziejów Żydów na Żywiecczyźnie, Kraków (2000), p. 125.
  • [1.24] Sucha Beskidzka, J. Hampel, F. Kiryk (eds.), Kraków (1998), p. 329.