Sędziszów

It cannot be determined unambiguously when first Jews settled in Sędziszów. In the 19th century, owners of the town had three inns and two mills, probably rented by the Jews who had settled in their area. That tradition was also continued in the 20s of the 20th century – there was a restaurant of Berliński's tenant in the main square in Sędziszów [[ref:|Wspomnienia Wacława Cichockiego [online] http://www.sedziszow.pl/?c=mdTresc-cmPokaz-339 [access: 24.06.2014].]].

The Jewish community in the town lived in two areas: on the right side of the Main Square, over the bridge, by the bank of the Mierzawa river and behind the railway station, in the place of the present-day "Drewniane" and in, part, "Sady" housing estates. A few families also settled in Gródek and Bąkowiec. Rich shop owners lived at the back of their shops in the Main Square and on adjacent streets. Next to the Main Square, on the right side of the road to do Pawłowice and Łowinia, there were hovels in which poorer Jews lived. Most of the Hassids lived in the main square.

Jews were mainly engaged in trading on the fairs held in Sędziszów in the Main Square every Tuesday. They traded primarily with farmers from surrounding villages. They bought poultry and folk craft products of wood, wicker and straw from them. They were also engaged in peddlar's trade, whilst those who had a horse drove around nearby villages and sold their goods. They often sold on credit, most frequently at grocery stores, the amount due was entered in two books: one of the shop owner and the other of the client, and the entire amount was settled once, after the first day of each following month. Jews were also only suppliers of beef (on credit as well), which they distributed directly to houses once a week, on Fridays[1.1]

Within the credit system, there was also a custom of bringing to the houses of wealthier inhabitants textiles, leather goods, cosmetics, household goods and, before holidays, deli products, and leaving them for a few days. Most merchants - wholesalers lived in their own houses, in which there were stocks of coal, building materials, synthetic fertilizers, seeds and spare parts for agricultural machines. However, the most significant transactions connected with the railway transport took place on the ramp, in which Jewish traders from Szczekociny, arriving by horse-drawn railway, took part. The cars drawn by one or two horses travelled twice a day both ways on the distance of twenty kilometers. For the Jew from Szczekocin, Sędziszów was the nearest railway hub which they could use for dealings and passenger traffic. The trade in straw, hay, or even yellow sand from Gródek - a bricklayer's material used for the mortar  - was pursued all year. Coal, cement and synthetic fertilizers were imported, whilst, in autumn, crops - cereals, potatoes and vegetables - were exported to Silesia. There was a busy time when geese were exported to Germany - flocks of geese were brought from nearby villages and loaded on the cars specially adapted to the transport of birds. In winter, bags of down, stripped goose feather, supplied by goose growers from Gródek and Bąkowiec, were loaded on cars.

Another area in which Jews settled was in the place of the present-day "Drewniane" residential area" (during the occupation, there were barracks built by Germans for railway employees), where merchants-wholesalers, the most Europeanized part of the Jewish community, lived. They – particularly younger generations – expressed their willingness to assimilate with Poles, but, for that reason, they were condemned by the Hassids for being unfaithful and assuming the lifestyle of gentiles. Most of the children continued attending the Jewish school in the rabbi's house. Most girls finished their education on that level, whilst boys were sent to school at the community council in Sędziszów to comply with the obligation of primary education and avoid penalties. A few students commuted to the Jewish gymnasium in Kielce [1.1.1].

In the interwar period, the Jews from Sędziszów did not have an independent religious community, it belonged to the one in Wodzisław, as well as the Jews from Mstyczów and Nawarzyce – where, however, Jewish inhabitants were not numerous. In total, in the years 1929–1935, the Wodzisław community had 3100 members, out of whom only 279 paid fees. The poorest group constituted about 9% of all inhabitants, whilst 13% of the payers were medium wealthy [1.2]. The highest fees of more than 100 zlotys was paid merely by three Jews from Sędziszów: Najman Moszek, Sztrauch Idel, Chaja Brajbot[1.3]. The majority paid the fees of 25 zlotys.

In the thirties, the rabbi in Wodzisław was Icek Jakub Rotenberg. In 1921, there were 576 Jews in the territory of the rural community of the Jędrzejów district, which constituted 5.6 % of all inhabitants. It was the highest number of Jews from among other settlements of the Jędrzejów district. On the list below it, there were, among others, Węgleszyn (2%), Prząsław (2.5%), Nagłowice (2%)[[ref:|Piasecka R., Społeczeństwo powiatu jędrzejowskiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2000, page 109.]]. In 1931, the number of Jews in Sędziszów fell slightly to the level of 10%.

The Jews from Sędziszów were involved in a social and political life. There was a local branch of the Zionist Organization, which had 10 members.

Upon the outbreak of World War II, the persecution of Jews began. Jews were sent to forced labour. The occupation authorities deprived them of their belongings and property. In 1940, their shops and apartments of a higher standard were seized. During the relocation of Jews to the ghetto, furs, sheepskin coats and all valuables were taken from them. Although the ghetto was not fenced, in the summer 1940, the ghetto was deemed to be closed and its inhabitants were prohibited to leave its premises, whilst in the place of Jewish stores and warehouses, the development of a residential area began. Initially, the separated Jews received stamps for small, starvation rations of food. Wealthier of them sold out their property, whilst the poor begged. The ghetto was extremely crowded. There was a requirement to accept additional lodgers. Some Jews were forced to live in the synagogue [1.4]. Soon, the ghetto inhabitants faced hunger and those who were delegated to work outside it, tried to smuggle food. No cases of epidemic were recorded - the Polish Red Cross vaccinated the Sędziszów Jews against typhus in December 1939 [1.5]. In January, 50 people from the nearby Jędrzejów were moved to the Sędziszów ghetto and, after that, the ghetto had 480 inhabitants [1.6].

In 1940, some of the Jews, not only from Sędziszów, were delegated to work at splitting rocks at the railway station and at the development of the station itself, since the Germans wanted to make it a major railway hub. At that time, 5 residential barracks were built for the Jews [1.7]. There were many contractors executing orders at the railway station which also employed "volunteers" - mainly women, who wanted to avoid relocation. Their remuneration was a small ration of food, for example, bread, soup, coffee, tea [1.8].

According to Wacław Cichocki, another group was sent to a farm in the village of Łowinia: several dozen of people, the Jewish youth from the Sędziszów ghetto, were transported there by ladder wagons. They were supervised by two Jewish policemen. The main job of the young Jews, mainly girls, was to weed planted and sown beets, feed plants and flax, as well as keeping order on the farm and field. They ate what they brought with them: a piece of dry bread, and they were provided with ersatz coffee on the farm. An important source of food were potatoes baked on the field. Polish employees secretly shared their rations with them. The allowance which they received was poor, as it was ordered to give them barley or oats, which are feed grains, instead of rye and wheat. After each day of work, Jews received small portions of wheat which they took in pockets, stockings and other pieces of clothing. [1.1.1]. Some Jews were also forced to work at road repairs and melioration works - in the labour camp in Węgleszyn[1.1.6].

The liquidation of the ghetto began at the end of September 1942. On the eve of Yom Kippur, Jews from Sędziszów and the nearby areas - Wodzisław, Szczekociny, were gathered in the main square in Sędziszów. That time is recollected by the survivor, Isroel Ben Cukierman:

shots were heard nearly every minute, along with the screams of the tormented. It was Kol Nidrei time... when we, the privileged workers, could not take our eyes off the nightmarish scene, a few Gestapo officers and 5 Ukrainians wearing the black uniforms of death, holding their guns, approached us and took us to the place where the murdered Jews were. ... we, the survivors, were taken to the barracks. ...on the following morning, at 5.00, we were sent to unload cars of bricks. I hoped to find the traces of my dearest ones, but, unfortunately, all those who survived had been sent to Treblinka the night before.[1.9]

The Jews were brought to a meadow near the railway station, where they were kept for the night. The elderly and sick ones where shot and buried on the spot, whilst the others were taken to the death camp. There was also a selection at labour camps – women, elderly and boys below 15 were joined to the transport [1.1.6]. After the war, in the years 1947–1950, there was a trial of the Polish policemen who participated in murdering the hiding Jews. The main accused, Józef G., was initially sentenced to death, but later the penalty was changed into 15 years of imprisonment. The others were sentenced to 6 - 12 years of imprisonment [1.1.6].

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Wspomnienia Wacława Cichockiego [online] http://www.sedziszow.pl/?c=mdTresc-cmPokaz-339 [access: 24.06.2014].
  • [1.1.1] [a] [b] Wspomnienia Wacława Cichockiego [online] http://www.sedziszow.pl/?c=mdTresc-cmPokaz-339 [access: 24.06.2014].
  • [1.2] Piasecka R., Społeczeństwo powiatu jędrzejowskiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2000, page 124.
  • [1.3] Piasecka R., Społeczeństwo powiatu jędrzejowskiego w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2000, page 119.
  • [1.4] Kraemer J., Sędziszów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 19391945, vol. II, Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, Part A, P. Megargee, M. Dean, eds., Bloomington 2012, page 303.
  • [1.5] Kraemer J., Sędziszów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 19391945, vol. II, Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, Part A, P. Megargee, M. Dean, eds. Bloomington 2012, page 304.
  • [1.6] Kraemer J., Sędziszów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 19391945, vol. II, Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, Part A, P. Megargee, M. Dean, eds., Bloomington 2012, page 304.
  • [1.7] Sędziszów zarys dziejów, K. Ślusarek, ed., Jędrzejów 2000, page 36.
  • [1.8] Kraemer J., Sędziszów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 19391945, vol. II, Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, Part A, P. Megargee, M. Dean, eds., Bloomington 2012, pages 303–304.
  • [1.1.6] [a] [b] [c] Kraemer J., Sędziszów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 19391945, vol. II, Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, Part A, P. Megargee, M. Dean, eds., Bloomington 2012, page 304.
  • [1.9] Isroel ben Cukierman, 28 miesięcy w schronie – i przeżyli, [in:] Pinkes Szczekocin, Szczekociny 2010, page 200.