The history of Skawina dates back to 1364.  At that time, Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) established the town on parts of the property taken from the Benedictine monks of Tyniec. After his death in 1370, Skawina was again managed by the monks and became a church town that did not tolerate the permanent presence of Jews[1.1]

In the 14th century,  the de non tolerandis Judaeis principle was implemented in Skawina.  Although there is no mention of a Jewish population in archival documents from the 14th and 15th centuries, this does not mean that there were no Jews in the town.

Skawina was a very important trading town in the vicinity of Kraków. In the mid-15th century,  Casimir Jagiellonian (Kazimierz Jagiellończyk) granted the city the right to organise Thursday markets, which resulted in changes in favour of the Jews. The permanent presence of Jews on the Skawina market in the 19th century is confirmed by a note from "Czas" magazine of 22 July 1873 [1.2]. Cholera was rampant at the time, and many residents of Skawina also fell ill and died. In the article, it says, inter alia: "Just yesterday, certain police and sanitary resolutions were adopted to disinfect the town, prohibiting merchants, and especially Jews, from coming with goods, trash and junk to the market..."

The confirmation of the permanent presence of Jews in Skawina and the surrounding areas was the issuance of an ordinance on the observance of order in the town in 1784, which was addressed to all residents of Skawina, including Jews. Based on the text of the ordinance, there were already Jewish properties in Skawina at that time.

The first Jewish family mentioned by name was the Goldberg family, who have lived since 1860 in the town. Natan Goldberg was involved in brokering the purchase and sale of real estate and many other businesses[1.3].

The second family were the Neigers.  They have lived in Skawina since 1865.  The senior of the family - Leon Neiger - was the only person with the right to sell alcoholic beverages. In 1871, he was the first Jewish member of the Municipal Council in Skawina.

At the end of the 19th century, there were more and more Jews in the town and there has been a steady increase in their number since then. The Jews living in Skawina were not wealthy, they did not own any land and were mostly engaged in petty trade.  Some had their own houses and small factories.

The Jewish population owned 25 out of 600 houses in Skawina.  In the market square alone, there were 24 houses, 4 of which belonged to Jews.  Several houses owned by Jews are still there today. The tenement house no. 9, located in the market square, belonged to Eisig Kleinberger. At the entrance from the market square, in M. Konopnicka Street (ul. M. Konopnickiej), the first corner house on the left, no. 1, belonged to Józef Feltscher.  Building no. 20, located in the market square, belonged to Schachne Landau, and house no. 22 (where the hairdresser's salon was located) was owned by Stefania Scheirichowa (the house was probably bought by Goldstein).  Half of house no. 6 (a one-storey house before the war) belonged to Aron Grajov, who had a shop there.  At the junction of A. Mickiewicza Street (ul. A. Mickiewicza) and Wolności Street (ul. Wolności), on the left, on the corner, from the west, there is house no. 14, which was owned by Henryk Klainzoller.  On the opposite side, also at the same junction, there is house no. 4, which was owned by Pinkas Spielman.  House no. 6 in Słowackiego Street (ul. Słowackiego) was owned by Dawid Gross[1.4].

The beginning of the 20th century was good for the Jews of Skawina.  The authorities and neighbours of the town accepted their presence and their relations were good.  This is evidenced by archival materials presenting the names of Jews who were the members of the Municipal Council in Skawina in the period from 1871 to 1938[1.5]. Jewish councilors were elected by all inhabitants of the town. Therefore, It can be concluded that they enjoyed trust and respect also among Catholics.

Efforts were made to create the best possible conditions for the Jews to live, study and continue religious traditions and rituals. At the beginning of the 20th century,  they were granted permission to build a synagogue and ritual bath, which were erected by the Psalm society (Hebrew: Chawra Thilim) in 1894.

In 1920, the rabbi in Skawina was Szymon Alter Frenkel.  The Jewish community in Skawina owned a synagogue and an adjacent building with a school for boys - cheder, a rabbi's apartment and a mikveh - a ritual bath.  The Jews also owned an educational institution for girls. In 1936,  some land was purchased to establish a Jewish cemetery - kirkut; however, the outbreak of the war prevented its opening [[refr: | Grzesiak Krystyna, Żydzi w Skawinie – została tylko synagoga, "Skawina" no. 9-10, 1991, p.  6.]].

Most of the Jews of Skawina were born in the town. They studied, worked, started their families and raised their children there.  It was their whole world and they enjoyed their life there. Evidence of the above can be the entry of Jewish names in the book of distinguished residents of Skawina. There are such names as Berber Markus, Barber Berisag, Frankel Szymon, Grunberg Leon, Gross Dawid, Gross Henryk, Kempler Zygmunt, Kleinberger Eisig, Klainzooler Henryk, Spilman Mojżesz, Springut Zachariusz[1.6].

The history of living together ended with the outbreak of World War II and the spread of the idea of the total elimination of the Jewish population. Although the Jews stayed in the town until the end of August 1942, relations and contacts with the other inhabitants were generally of a different nature.

In September 1939, Skawina was occupied by the German army.  In the period from 1940 to 1942,  Jews from the area of Kraków were deported to Skawina.  In August 1942,  the Germans carried out a liquidation of the Jewish population in Skawina.  Some of the Jews were shot near Tyniec and others were taken to the German Nazi extermination camp in Bełżec.

References

  • Grzesiak K., Żydzi w Skawinie – została tylko synagoga, „Skawina” no. 9-10, 1991 
  • Prochwicz J., Żydzi Skawińscy, Kraków 2000

 

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Grzesiak Krystyna, Żydzi w Skawinie – została tylko synagoga, "Skawina" no. 9-10, 1991, p. 6.
  • [1.2] Kocham Skawinę, Przewodnik po ciekawych i nieznanych, Kraków 2001, p.  10.
  • [1.3] Prochwicz Jan, Żyd Skawińscy, Kraków 2000, p.  8.
  • [1.4] Prochwicz J., Żydzi Skawińscy, Kraków 2000, p.  75.
  • [1.5] Prochwicz Jan, Żyd Skawińscy, Kraków 2000, p. 9.
  • [1.6] Prochwicz J., Żydzi Skawińscy, Kraków 2000, p. 73.