Jews appeared in the town no later than at the turn of the 16th century. The first historical reference is a complaint filed in 1606 with Strzyżów town council by a Jew, Dawid from the nearby village of Lubowa, against two residents of Strzyżów - Andrzej Gorzelnik and Jan Machowski, who hadd not paid him for oxen [1.1]. Another mention refers to the Jew, Moszek, who was sued by Stanisław Lasota and Wojciech Kot for a debt he had incurred in 1626 [1.2].
In 1657, the town was completely destroyed by the troops of György Rákóczi. The king granted the inhabitants of Strzyżów numerous privileges in order to help rebuild. It also attracted the Jewish settlement. In 1673, Strzyżów had twenty Jewish families. Among them were wealthy Jews with extensive business contacts. In 1673-1674, the town had twelve taxpayers, and, in 1676, thirteen. Probably as early as at the end of the 17th century, a Kehilla was established in Strzyżów, together with a cheder and a timber synagogue. At that time, the rabbi from Strzyżów served not only the local Jews, but also the Jews from Czudec, Niebylec, Domaradz, Wielopole and Frysztak.
In the 18th century, the Jews of Strzyżów held a monopoly on the purchase of agricultural produce and necessities in the entire region. A dispute between the Jews of Strzyżów and traders from Przecław was registered in 1706. In that same year, the Jew, Josel Salomonowicz, a house and land from Jan Waltorowicz for 230 zlotys. The building was situated in ul. Św. Katarzyny and was intended for his son-in-law Moszek Majorowicz[1.3].
In 1747, Jews constituted a half of Strzyżów’s population. Their leading position in local trade resulted from the fact that, in this period, they could not buy land or hold offices. So as many as 25 Jewish families lived at that time in the market square. The Jews developed craft and trade. Strzyżów had 26 weavers, 13 bakers, 8 butchers and 8 shoemakers. The Jews most often joined the tailors’ guild, as it affiliated furriers and clothiers[1.1.3]. In the mid-18th century, first stone buildings were constructed in Strzyżów. A stone synagogue, which exists to this day, was also erected around this time.
In 1765, there were 979 Jews belonged to the Kehilla, and the town alone had 701 Jewish residents, which constituted around two-thirds of the entire population. For unknown reasons, the number of the Jews later decreased. In 1785, there were 508 Jews in the Strzyżów parish[1.4]. The same number was registered in 1799 [1.5].
The list of 1777 concerning the tolerance tax paid by individual Kehillot reveals that the Jews of Strzyżów paid 979 guilders (złotych reńskich). From 1792 on, a jüdisch-deutsche Schule operated in the town[1.1.5]. Toward the end of the 18th century, the Jews lived mainly from trade. The town held twelve fairs a year and so-called weekly markets, where the Jews played a dominant role.
Mosze Tajtelbaum, the future rabbi of Ujhely in Hungary, performed the function of a rabbi in Strzyżów at the end of the 18th century, whereas Cwi Elimelech Szapiro, the future tzadik and founder of the Dynów dynasty, was the rabbi at the beginning of the 19th century. He was succeeded by his son Dawid Szapiro (1804-1874), and later by his brother Eleazar Szapiro, the future tzadik of Łańcut. In the years 1857-82, the function was performed by Elzeazar’s son Szlomo Szapiro (1831-1893)[1.1.5].
In 1824, there were 560 Jews in the town, while in 1870, the entire Jewish community had about 933 members. At that time, the Kehilla employed two rabbis and had a synagogue, a Hasidic kloyz, a bathhouse, a poorhouse, and a cemetery. In 1892, the Credit Society (Towarzystwo Kredytowe) was established and Salomon Diamant became its president[1.1.5].
In the 19th century, Strzyżów continued its dynamic economic development. At that time, the local Jewish flax and hemp wholesalers Abraham Stiern and Boruch Hogel, as well as the grain merchant Berl Izrael Kraut, amassed considerable fortunes. The latter held a capital of 2,000 guilders which he invested biannually and generated at least 5% profit [1.6]. It is worth mentioning that the town had thirteen goldsmiths, who made cheap jewellery from low karat gold and tombac (a copper and zinc alloy). Similar craft centres existed also in Głogów Małopolski, Rzeszów and Leżajsk, from where the products made of so-called “Głogów” or “Rzeszów gold” were distributed in the entire Galicia and imperial countries, and even exported far into the east and west of Europe. However, goldsmithing was not developed to such extent in other Jewish populations.
In 1900, the Kehilla had 1,121 Jews, while the town itself had 992[1.1.5]. In 1912, Strzyżów had 2,237 inhabitants, among them 1,150 Jews [1.7]. The residents of this small town were mainly farmers or craftsmen. In the years 1911-1914, Strzyżów had 21 Catholic and 7 Jewish organisations. The most distinguished among the Jewish ones was the Jewish Library Society (Towarzystwo Czytelni Żydowskiej)[1.1.7].
The literacy level of Jews was substantially higher than that of their Catholic neighbours’. Basic education was provided by cheders which were attended by children 3-4 years old. Due to a shortage of high schools, Jews together with Catholics, petitioned the National Council of Galicia for the establishment of a high school in Strzyżów. The delegation to Lwów included three educated landowners, the mayor, a pharmacist and townsmen, among whom were two Jews, Herman Braw and Mojżesz Diament. Apart from Roman Catholics, the Community Committee for the Establishment of a Middle School (Społeczny Komitet Budowy Gimnazjum) included two Jews: Jakub Keh and Herman Braw. Land for the school was bought from Goldberg. The initiative ended in success. During World War I, the army was quartered in the school building , which caused serious damage. In 1915, the inhabitants of Strzyżów set up a committee to re-establish the school. Among its members were Mojżesz Diament and Abraham Nehemie[1.8].
On 5th November 1918, antisemitic riots took place in Strzyżów. Outraged inhabitants plundered Jewish shops[1.9]. Jews were pulled out of their houses and beaten up. As a result, three Jewish residents lost their lives. It was only thanks to the intervention of a vicar priest from Lutycza and a few important inhabitants that the pogrom was stopped and the brawlers were driven out of the market square[1.10]. The next pogrom took place on 21st April 1919 after a rumour about a ritual murder spread in the town. Over a dozen Jews were wounded and one died due to injuries. Peasants from nearby villages, and the town’s common people, robbed many Jewish shops and apartments[1.1.1].
In 1921, Strzyżów was inhabited by 1,104 Jews, which constituted 50.4% of the entire population. Dominant were the Hasidim, who had two local tzadikim - Mosze Lejb, the son of Szlomo Szapiro, and Nechemiasz Szapiro, the son of Mosze Lejb. The town also had supporters of the tzadikim from Sadogóra and Nowy Sącz. Chairmen of the Kehilla were, in turn, Cwi Braszow, Abraham Kech, Wolf Deutsch and Abracham Tenzer. The fund Gemilut Chesed and the Cooperative Bank (Bank Spółdzielczy), which had 362 shareholders in 1932, were also operating in the town [1.1.1]. The existing middle school provided education for both Catholic and Jewish youth. Sometimes race-related excesses took place. This is how an 8th grade student, Nathan Roth, responded to the anti-Semitic texts written by the editor of the “Echa szkolne” (“School echoes”):
I cannot understand what made him take up the subject. Was it because he was jealous that we, the Jewish students, have better opportunities and better outlooks for the future? But our friend is not naive, is he? He knows that to say “He’s not going to university” is not only to give friendly advice, whether right or not, but it is simply an order resulting from the numerus clausus method and it can only be justified by the fact that we are Jewish. Can our friend understand the tragedy of a young man who is apt and clever, but cannot pursue his studies because the only obstacle that prevents him from doing so is his descent…?[1.11].
In 1939, Strzyżów had 2,905 inhabitants, including 1,300 Jews. The Jews owned a stone synagogue, a cheder, bathhouses, and a cemetery. They had a great influence on the town's social and economic life.
The Germans entered Strzyżów on 15th September 1939 and, during the first few days, they killed four Jews - Józef Puderbeitel, Berisch Schlesinger, Chune Wolf Zanger, all three from Frysztak, and Mates Stern from Kołaczyce[1.12]. The reason for the murders was that the Jews refused to clean the streets on Shabbat. Their bodies were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Żarnowska Góra. In the first weeks of the War, the Jews were registered, a ban was imposed on radio listening, and radio sets, skis, as well as the possession of ski boots. Just as everywhere in Poland under German occupation, Jews were forbidden to change their place of residence and to use public transportation. They could not belong to any political, cultural and educational associations.
In his book Strzępy wspomnień (“Snatches of memories”) Roman Konieczkowski, the commander of the AK (Armia Krajowa – “Home Army”) Strzyżów outpost, quotes the words of Tenzer, a local Jew and the author’s friend. In September 1939 Tezner said: “We will manage somehow to live with these Germans”, while in December he noted: “You know what, Rumek – we need to pray a lot for a free Poland, because they are not human and we will have a hard time living next to them”[refr:|Roman Konieczkowski, Strzępy wspomnień, Warszawa (1986), p. 45]].
The persecution of Jews escalated. They were forced to perform hard work and had to give away all the valuables. One Jew was shot dead on the spot because a fragment of leather was found on him during a search .The Jews were obliged to bow to Germans. Local attorney Rosenthal was killed on a manure heap simply because he did not greet them properly. Those inhumane actions were performed by a gendarmerie station, consisting of a dozen people who, cooperated with the Gestapo in Rzeszów and the Wehrmacht units. The station chief was Hauptmann Otto Köller, a Bavarian and a former history teacher. He personally led actions in which Jews and Gypsies were executed[1.13]
In the first months of the War, the Germans resettled 100 Jews from Łódż to Strzyżów, and later, a certain number of people from Kalisz[1.1.1] Abraham Braw was appointed the Judenrat President. In May 1941, about 2,500 Jews from Warsaw were transported to build a railway tunnel in Strzyżów and a railway bunker in Stępno[1.1.1]
On 15th May 1942, a group of SS-men from Rzeszów came to Strzyżów and created a pogrom in the town’s streets. On that day, eight Jews were shot to death. Among them were:[1.14]
- Chaim Salomon Flanmenhaft– a trader, born on 21st May 1884;
- Samuel Grosskopf – a trader, born on 6th May 1872;
- Pinkas Klein – a butcher, born on 6th July 1886;
- Samuel Seinwel Grünblatt – a trader, born on 19th June 1893;
- Dawid Liebermann – a trader, born on 1st August 1884;
- Jakub Rosen – a trader, born on 25th August 1892;
- Moses Scheffler – a butcher, born on 6th August 1878.
On 24th June 1942, the resettlement of Jews from Strzyżów to the ghetto in Rzeszów began, which followed the plan to annihilate the whole Jewish population in the General Government. The action lasted until 26th June. On preparing the transportation, the county’s authorities decided that carts would be delivered by the kehilla. On the day before the departure, the Jewish Community Board paid the sum demanded by the gendarmerie. “On the set day, more than a hundred and several dozen carts arrived at the market square. Individual families divided them among themselves (most often thanks to “special favurs”), loaded them with some of their belongings and headed for Rzeszów and it was with no delay, as Germans announced that Jews encountered in the town after 6 p.m. would be shot dead on the spot[1.15]. In June 1943, in the nearby village of Wiśniowa, the Germans murdered seven Poles who helped hide some Jews[1.16].
- A. Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004).
- Z. Rusek, D. Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009).
- [1.1] Andrzej Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004), p. 183.
- [1.2] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), pp. 5-6.
- [1.3] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 7.
- [1.1.3] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 7.
- [1.4] Zdzisław Budzyński, Ludność pogranicza polsko-ruskiego w drugiej połowie XVIII w.: stan, rozmieszczenie, struktura wyznaniowa i etniczna vol. II, Przemyśl-Rzeszów (1993) p. 344
- [1.5] Andrzej Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004), p. 183
- [1.1.5] [a] [b] [c] [d] Andrzej Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004), p. 183
- [1.6] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 10.
- [1.7] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 13.
- [1.1.7] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 13.
- [1.8] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 14.
- [1.9] A. Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004), p. 183.
- [1.10] Z. Rusek, D. Skóra,Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 14.
- [1.1.1] [a] [b] [c] [d] Andrzej Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004), p. 183.
- [1.11] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 14.
- [1.12] Roman Konieczkowski, Akowskie Krzyże, Bielsko-Biała (1995), p. 25.
- [1.13] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 19.
- [1.14] Zofia Rusek, Danuta Skóra, Społeczność żydowska w dawnym Strzyżowie i okolicy – historia i wspomnienia, Strzyżów (2009), p. 29.
- [1.15] Wielokulturowa i wielonarodowa przeszłość powiatu strzyżowskiego w ujęciu antropologii kulturowej, Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego [online] www.fodz.pl/PP/download/1referat.doc [Accessed: 22 September 2015].
- [1.16] A. Potocki , Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów (2004), p. 183.