Jews started to settle in Świecie at the end of the 18th century. An independent community developed in the first half of the 19th century, with its statute officially approved in 1857. At its peak in the 1870s, it had over 500 members. Over subsequent decades, its size started to decrease. In 1885, there were 497 Jews living in Święcie, in 1895 – 463, in 1905 – 370, in 1910 – 320. A new synagogue was erected in 1899.

The majority of local Jews preferred for Święcie to remain in Germany and therefore left Poland after 1920. In 1921, the community had 171 members. Most of its officials, including the rabbi and the cantor, decided to migrate. Religious services were provided by cantor Szymon Rogoziński from Pakość, who was employed by the Święcie community in 1921. On holidays, he was assisted by an additional cantor.

The community board had not been complete since before the restoration of Polish independence. World War I claimed the lives of Juliusz Jacobsohn and Aleksander Hirsch; Jakub Juda and Rosenkranz migrated from Święcie. A by-election was held in 1921. The new board comprised Isidor Stein, A. Bukofzer, T. Lazarus, and deputies: Max Cohn, L. Camnizter, L. Lewiński. In 1923, the post of the president was granted to Dr Max Cohn, who held it until his death in 1939. Cohn was an active member of various German organisations, such as the “Deutsche Vereinigung.” Thanks to the support of the local German population, he was elected to the Świecie Municipal Council in 1925.

In 1933, the Świecie kehilla was expanded to encompass three previously independent communities: Świecie, Nowe, and Gniewo. The board elected in 1933 comprised representatives of Świecie itself (Adolf Bukofzer, Max Cohn, Davis Friedman, Juliusz Friedlender, Izydor Hermann, deputies: Baruch Landau, Theodor Lazarus, Leo Lewiński, Mojżesz Israelowicz, Leo Camnitzer, Georg Bernstein), as well as Jews from Nowe, Przechów, and Gruczno. Following the subsequent election to the community board in 1937, Świecie was represented by Max Cohn, Theodor Lazarus, Leon Lewiński, David Friedman, Leon Israelski, deputies: Dratwa Abraham, Mojżesz Isaelowicz, Leo Camnitzer, Georg Bernstein, Baruch Landau. In 1938, the assets of the community (for Świecie alone) included: the synagogue (estimated value of 40,000 zlotys), cemetery with a morgue (3,000 zlotys), community building at 25 Dworcowa Street (5,000 zlotys), movables (3,000 zlotys). The only Jewish institution operating in Świecie was the “Judische Gemeinde – Świecie,” a religious charitable society. During the heyday of the community, it comprised 250 members, with M. Cohn serving as the board president and A. Bukofzer as the deputy. A number of local Jews belonged to the local freemason lodge, including Friedman Davis.

The professional structure of Jews in Świecie was typical of all Jewish communities of the time. In the interwar period, the town boasted 26 Jewish merchants, nine salesmen, six peddlers, six craftsmen (two shoemakers, a butcher, a cold meat maker, a tinsmith, a boot-calf maker), two industrialists, a doctor, a leaseholder, a shochet, a cantor. In 1932, Jews ran 24 out of all 911 shops operating in the town. The Jewish-owned shops sold clothing (10), groceries (7), agricultural resources and farming products (3), and others (4). Very few local Jews dealt with crafts. The local concrete production plant and harmonica factory were some of the largest enterprises in the Pomorskie Province. In 1931, Jews from Świecie owned the following companies: M. Flatauer (mercery), F. Jacob (shop at Rynek Street), B. Ruina (mercery at Rynek Street), M. Israelowicz (shop at Batorego Street), L. Camnizter (shop at Klasztorna Street), L. Lewiński (grain trading facility at Klasztorna Street), Drawtwa (hide trading facility at Batorego Street), F. Davis (colonial shop at Klasztorna Street), L. Israelski (horse trade), J. Friedländer i D. Lipschütz (horse trade). Some of the more affluent members of the community were: Dr M. Cohn, T. Lazarus, Davis Friedmann, Jerzy Bernstein, and Artur Bukofzer from Przechów. The latter owned five buildings with a value of 70,000 zlotys, three hectares of land, and a produce and colonial goods warehouse.

A series of anti-Semitic incidents took place in Święcie in the interwar period. In 1925, the “Rozwój” Society promoted an anti-Jewish campaign, albeit with no considerable success. The anti-Semitic Między Oczy magazine (based in Grudziądz) published a number of articles attacking affluent Jews from Świecie. In 1933, the publisher of the Szabes-Kurier, another anti-Semitic newspaper, arrived to the town from Bydgoszcz to deliver a series of anti-Jewish speeches. The “imported” anti-Semitic propaganda was soon adopted by the local population. In 1936, windows of Jewish shops were painted over and vandalised with such slogans as “Jew-traitor” or “Jew” (the night of 4/5 February 1936, 22/23 November 1936). Over the course of 1937, ten anti-Jewish events were organised by the members of the National Party, but they did not gain much support from among the local Christian community[1.1].

Before the German army entered Grudziądz, many Jews had fled deeper into Polish territory. Those who stayed were arrested between 3–15 September 1939. Among them was a small group of Jews from other localities in the Świecie District. A selection was carried out, with only the youth and those fit for work released from captivity. A group of 83 people was executed on 7 and 8 October 1939 at the Jewish cemetery in Polna Street. As the post-war exhumation showed, the group comprised ca. 50 Jews (23 men, 16 women, 5 children, the ethnicity of 10 victims was not determined), among them at least four members of the last community board, including president Dr. M. Cohn and secretary L. Lewiński. Only a small group of Jews was left alive; they lived in Świecie until the spring of 1941. There is no information on their subsequent fate[1.2].

Bibliography

  • Golon M., “Gmina Wyznaniowa Żydowska w Świeciu nad Wisłą w latach 1920–1939,” [in] Gminy Wyznaniowe Żydowskie w województwie pomorskim w okresie międzywojennym (19201939), ed. J. Sziling, Toruń 1995, pp. 173–202.
  • Sziling J. “Eksterminacja Żydów na Pomorzu Gdańskim w latach 1939–1945,” [in] Emancypacja – asymilacja – antysemityzm. Żydzi na Pomorzu w XIX i XX w., ed. Z. H. Nowak, Toruń 1992.

 

 

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Karpus Z., “Żydzi w Świeciu i powiecie w okresie międzywojennym,” [in] Emancypacja – asymilacja – antysemityzm. Żydzi na Pomorzu w XIX i XX w., ed. Z. H. Nowak, Toruń 1992, pp. 109–121; Golon M., “Gmina Wyznaniowa Żydowska w Świeciu nad Wisłą w latach 1920–1939,” [in] Gminy Wyznaniowe Żydowskie w województwie pomorskim w okresie międzywojennym (19201939), ed. J. Sziling, Toruń 1995, pp. 173–202.
  • [1.2] Sziling J. “Eksterminacja Żydów na Pomorzu Gdańskim w latach 1939–1945,” [in] Emancypacja – asymilacja – antysemityzm. Żydzi na Pomorzu w XIX i XX w., ed. Z. H. Nowak, Toruń 1992, pp. 82, 85.