The history of Jewish settlement in Świdwin began in the early 18th century, with the first family settling there in 1715. At that time, between 500 and 600 people lived in this New March (Ger. Neumark) town. In 1717, the shochet Marcus Nathan was also granted permission to settle in Świdwin. However, he likely died young, survived by his wife and two children. We also know that Aron Behrend, who arrived in the town on 14 March 1740, received concessions in Kostrzyn nad Odrą (Küstrin).

According to a list compiled in 1740, four Jews lived in the town at that time. They were Nathan Marcus’s widow and her two sons, Abraham Marcus, Isaac Nathan and Aaron Berend. Later data from 1770, 1777 and 1785 indicate that five Jewish families permanently lived in the town. Together they supported a gravedigger and a kehilla servant (the so-called “Schulklepper”).

In 1794, the community was made up of 24 people. In 1804, eight Jewish families resided in Świdwin, and three years later – six. In 1808, they were granted town citizenship. In an appendix to an official letter issued on 21 October 1814 by the Königlich Neumärkische Regierung in Königsberg/Neumark, 17 names of Jewish families from Świdwin were included among all the Jewish families from the New March who were granted citizenship in 1812. A year later, eight more families were granted Prussian citizenship.

In 1816, Świdwin’s population numbered 1,804. The Jewish community (78 people) constituted 4.3% of the town’s population. By 1831, the number of kehilla members rose to approximately 120 and 127 (23 families) ten years later. Nathan Fuchs served as the chazan, teacher and shochet. By 1852, the kehilla grew to 160 members and had as many as 253 members ten years later. Since 1862, a charitable organization, Chevra Kadisha, had been officially operating in the community, unofficially since the establishment of a Jewish cemetery in the town. In contrast, the Association of Jewish Women (Israelitischer Frauenverein) was launched in 1871. During this time, the whole county had 347 Jewish residents – 315 in Świdwin, fourteen in Łabędzie (Labenz), five each in Rusowo (Rützow), Słonowice (Schlönwitz) and Ząbrowo (Semerow), two in Szczytniki (Botenhagen/Amtsdorf) and one in Międzyrzecze (Meseritz). The population of Świdwin, which transformed from an agricultural settlement into a trading town, was 5,500.

In 1881, the peaceful existence of Jewish communities in Pomerania was interrupted by anti-Semitic sentiments. Two speakers from Berlin, the court pastor Stöcker and the teacher Henrici, dismissed from his post, were particularly prominent in this regard. The latter was particularly active, travelling throughout Pomerania to turn local communities against Jews. These anti-Semitic activities resulted in events which transpired in Szczecinek (Neustettin), as well as riots against Jews in the Pomeranian towns of Barwice (Bärenwalde), Bobolice (Bublitz), Złocieniec (Falkenburg), Lębork (Lauenburg), Polanów (Pollnow), Połczyn (Polzin), Miastko (Rummelsburg), Słupsk (Stolp) and Świdwin, and in the towns of West Prussia – Jastrowie (Jastrow), Czarne (Hammerstein) and Chojnice (Konitz). The anti-Jewish attitude was also prevalent in extremist right-wing newspapers, including Szczecinek’s Norddeutsche Presse and others. The lack of response from Chancellor Bismarck, absorbed by the election campaign, encouraged a growing sense of impunity among the masses.

On 7 August 1881, Świdwin saw a true pogrom lasting over three hours. Although the mayor had banned apprentices and other young people from leaving their homes to avoid riots, the situation in the town was as turbulent as ever. One of the craftsmen, who tried to incite an already-angry street crowd to further action, was arrested. The arrest greatly angered the several-hundred-strong mob, who marched to the town hall shouting anti-Semitic slogans, threatening the police and ransacking Jewish shops and homes. The Jews who were unable to find safety were badly beaten. After destroying the market square, the mob moved across the town along Querstraße, Lange Straße and Kirchenstraße (presently the area of Niedziałkowskiego Street), devastating any Jewish property and then returning to the market square. In the meantime, soldiers had gathered in the square and were finally able to subdue the mob. The damage to the town was estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000 thalers. This was far more than the losses after the riots in Szczecinek. After the incident, it was decided that patrols would guard all buildings that had been plundered and that the streets would be patrolled after dusk. Groups of more than three or four persons were to be dispersed, and both the army and the marksmen’s club (Schützenverein) were to assist the police in maintaining order. The events were later covered by two newspapers, the Vossische Zeitung and the Königlich privilegierte Berlinische Zeitung, published on 9 August. Fearing a repeat of these events, on 12 August, the mayor ordered 21 of the arrestees to be transported, under the protection of 50 soldiers, to a central prison in Koszalin (Köslin).

A foundation named “Joseph-Mannheim-Stiftung Schivelbein” was established in the community by a will dated 20 August 1884. The interest on its mortgage, worth 3,000 marks, was to be used to help poverty-stricken members of the community. At the end of the 19th century, in 1895, the community numbered 65 Jewish households, with around 44 to 49 children attending religious school. The entire population of Świdwin at that time was 6,400, with Jews making up 4–5%. In the 1890s, another organization was formed, the Association for Jewish History and Literature (Jüdischer Literatur- und Gesellschaftsverein, later Verein für jüdische Geschichte und Literatur). The kehilla’s budget in 1898–1899 was between 4,358 and 4,400 marks.

At the beginning of the 20th century, in 1905, Świdwin’s population reached 7,000, and the Jewish kehilla numbered 241 members, with 217 living in Świdwin and the remaining 24 elsewhere in the county. The number of children attending school was between 40 and 49, and the community’s budget oscillated somewhere between 4,450 and 4,704 marks. Between 1907 and 1911, the number of kehilla members was between 200 and 220, which translated into 61–63 households. At the same time, a second foundation, the „Gebrüder Itzig und Abraham Samuel Stiftung”, was established, with a budget of 18,000 marks. The interest from its budget, as in the case of the previously mentioned foundation, was used to assist those in need and pay the salaries of administrative officials and the upkeep of graves in the cemetery. The foundation also granted dowries for poor brides (no less than 1,000 marks) and scholarships for students (no less than 400 marks annually). During its first year of operation, the foundation spent 1,104 marks on the above-mentioned causes.

Between 1907 and 1911, the kehilla’s budget rose to somewhere between 5,569 and 5,598 marks. The number of students attending school diminished, initially to 33, and later to only 14. Of the 7,700 residents of Świdwin in 1913, 184 were Jewish (60 households). The Jewish residents constituted only 2.5% of the town’s population. The reasons for this decline were both the high mortality rates and the fact that many families chose to leave the town following the outbreak of the First World War. During the fighting at the front, a relatively large number of Jewish soldiers from the local community fell, as many as seven, as well as five wards of the youth custody centre (Fürsorge- und Erziehungsanstalt) in neighbouring Rzepczyn (Repzin).

At the end of 1923, the kehilla’s budget was even higher at 7,495 marks, with 200 marks used to cover schooling expenses. During this time, between 12 and 20 students attended school, and the Świdwin kehilla included Jews from Koszanowo (Kussenow) and Słonowice (Schlönwitz). In 1926, the community had 166 members, with a budget of 6,289 marks. An additional amount of 250 marks was earmarked for charity. Three commissions operated at the time to oversee the synagogue and cemetery, construction matters, and education. At the beginning of the 1930s, the number of community members shrank to 150, of which 57 paid taxes. The population of Świdwin reached 9,500, and thus the Jews constituted less than 2% of the population.

In 1933, Hitler came to power and anti-Semitic activities erupted. The first measures against the Jewish population came in the form of a boycott of all Jewish-run businesses. Based on a list dated 1 December 1935, 65 adults of Jewish descent lived in Świdwin at that time. Furthermore, there were approximately 20 Jewish children in the kehilla, bringing the total number of members to over 80. We also know that in 1935 a horse trader named Louis Lewin lived in Rzepczyno (Repzin). In Świdwin alone, Jews ran seven more businesses.

The living conditions for Jews who had remained in Świdwin deteriorated year after year. In time, all the shops in town had signs announcing that “Jews are not served”. However, many Christian residents of Świdwin secretly supplied their Jewish neighbours with food in the evenings. By the time of Kristallnacht (the night of 9–10 November 1938), under pressure from the Nazi Party and the state, most Jewish residents had left the town for Palestine and South America. Despite this, the remaining Jewish homes and businesses were plundered, many people were arrested during scuffles, and Świdwin’s last rabbi, Karl Richter, was killed.

The census of May 1939 included the names of 34 people of Jewish origin or faith who were still living in Świdwin at that time. Soon after, they too left for Berlin or other cities, while those Jews who stayed behind were likely over the age of 65 and were deported east in July of 1942. We know that Joseph Mannheim lived in a “privileged mixed marriage” and, thanks to his wife and daughter, was able to live safely in Berlin with his family. It was not until the very end of the war that he was so severely beaten by SS soldiers that he died a few days later. Fourteen members of the former Świdwin Jewish community were deported from Berlin between 1942 and 1943.

Four others (Ruth Meyer, Siegfried Mendel, Leonhard Wolff, Asta Wolff) were deported from Szczecin (Stettin) on 13 February 1940 and were sent to the Lublin area. Two former residents of Świdwin (Helene Ephraim and Frieda Zuckermandel, née Kargauer) found themselves in a transport of people over the age of 65 from Słupsk to Terezín (Theresienstadt). Additionally, Gisela Mießner, née Mannheim, a former resident of Świdwin currently living in Berlin, provided valuable information about 14 Jewish families from Świdwin. According to her account, six whole families managed to emigrate, four were wiped out completely, the fate of one is unknown, one man died while still in Świdwin, and of the other two families, only representatives of the younger generation survived.

 

BIBLIOGRAPhy

  • F. R. Barran, Städte-Atlas Pommern, 2. Aufl., Leer (1993), p. 102.
  • G. Salinger, Zur Erinnerung und zum Gedenken. Die einstigen jüdischen Gemeinden in Pommern, vol. 3, New York (2006), pp. 702–718.

 

 

 

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