Jewish presence in Sochaczew dates back to the 15th century. In the years 1426-1455, the duke of Mazowsze Władysław issued to the Jews of the Sochaczew region a privilege which regulated the legal way of dealing with Christian land owners who were in debt to Jews. It is possible that Jews lived exclusively in the town at that time. They appear in the sources as early as 1463, when a Jewish doctor named Feliks is reported to live and work there. In 1507, the Jews of Sochaczew paid 6 zlotys of coronation tax. The information on Mojżesz and Michał, who were tax collectors in Sochaczew and Kłodawa, dates back to the beginning of the 16th century[1.1].

In the second half of the 16th century, anti-Jewish riot became more frequent in Mazowsze. With the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation in the background, many accusations against Jews were spread. One of charges considered desecration of the Host and pressing blood out of it. A case of this kind ended up in Płock. In April 1556, a group of townsmen from Sochaczew accused the local Jews that they had bought a consecrated host from Dorota Łazęcka and pressed blood from it. The district governor of Sochaczew, Stanisław Borek from Trzecieniec, punished Dorota Łazęcka and the rabbi of Sochaczew Beniasz with death penalty, wich was carried out on 23 April 1556. The remaining three accused Jews were taken to the provincial governor of Rawa Andrzej Sierpski and after being subjected to torture, they confessed. On 1 June 1556, they were hanged on the hooks at the three gates to Płock. The Jews of Płock feared similar incidents and asked King Zygmunt August to issue a safe conduct for them and help establishing the truth. The king gave his protection to all Jews in Rzeczpospolita, especially those in Płock, until the case was resolved. The safe conduct gave them right to trade and prove their innocence. After half a year (on 14 January 1557), Zygmunt August ordered to take the victims of the hooks and allowed the families to bury them[1.2].

In 1564 and 1570, the Jews owned 7 houses, including a synagogue. The poll tax was paid by 24 Jews in 1578. The local municipality was growing fast. In 1599, already 20 houses belonged to Jews. Addiionaly, sixteen tax collectors lived there. In 1602, the Jews had also a hospital, a house of prayer, and the number of tax collectors dropped to 4. Altough the community was rather small, its members were resourceful and venturesome. The Jews of Sochaczew were mainly occupied with trade in leather, suet and wool. They purchased materials form farmers coming to the markets and next transported them to larger towns to sell them with good profit. Such practice was strongly opposed by the craftsmen, who found it difficult to provide themselves with crucial products. Fights between members of the Jewish population and the Christians were part of their day-to-day co-existence.

In 1602, the Jews refused to pay municipal taxes along with the other residents. In July 1617, they were accused of a murder on a Christian child. Many fled the town to protect themselves from pogroms. Those who stayed were executed. In 1618, the Jewish estate was destroyed in fire. The townsmen managed to obtain from the king a privilege which prohibited Jews from settling in Sochaczew. However, it was not put in force. Many victims of the fire stayed in the town. In 1630, the Jews again had 20 houses. Three years later, they got a privilege from king Władysław IV which allowed them to own houses, plots and gardens, and to use the existing synagogue and the cemetery[1.3].

After the Polish-Swedish War (1655-1660), the Jewish population in Sochaczew declined. In spite of this, the local kehilla survived, which was confirmed by the sources from 1662. At that time, the tax was paid by 30 Jews. Re-establishment of the municipality was supported by confirmotion of the previously granted rights in the privilege, which king Jan III Sobieski issued to the Jews of Sochaczew in March 1682. Another privilege from 1749 given by King August III Sas extended those rights. In 1765, there were 1,349 Jewish inhabitants[1.4]. In 1793, a new brick synagogue was built next to the already existing large wooden one. Interestingly, the bricks were taken from the parish church, which had been burnt by the Prussians.

In the 19th century, the Jewish community of Sochaczew was growing. Reconstruction of the synagogue began immediately after the previous one had burnt down on 19 November 1858. The works were completed two years later. The new building had classicistic and negothic elements. In 1883, Tzaddik Abraham Bornsztajn, who was one of the leaders of the Aleksandrów group, established his court in Sochaczew. Between about 1880 and 1894 he was also the rabbi. After being dismissed by the Russians in 1894, he stayed in the town and led his yeshiva. He was called “Avremele Sochatchever”. At that time, Sochaczew had already become a great Hasidic centre. In 1897, there were 3,776 Jews[1.5]. In the years 1902-1912, the position of rabbi was held by Samuel Izaak Landau.

The outbreak of World War I caused the local Jewish population flee to Warsaw on a large scale, but after the German occupation was established in 1915, the most of the escapees returned. In 1918, as the chaos continued, anti-Jewish riots took place. So as to restore order, a common Polish-Jewish police was established in November 1918[1.1.5].

In the interwar period, the community still functioned, but not as dynamically as earlier. In 1925, Jews constituted a half of the Municipality Board; in 1939, however, only three Jews were members of the Board[1.1.5]. On the political scene dominated the Zionists. The “Sochatchever Tsaytung” newspaper was published. In 1931, there were 3,011 Jews in the town which constituted 28% of the total number of inhabitants.

In 1930s, anti-Semitic feelings were observed in the town. A rumour about a young woman being kidnapped for “ritual reasons” caused bloody attacks on Jews. The riots were pulled down by the police, and during a trial it turned out, that the woman had invented the story[1.1.5]

As the World War II broke out, most of the Jews left the town. The Germans arrived on 9 September 1939. The elderly and infirm were immediately pulled out of their houses and brutally murdered. The others were subjected to force labour. In January 1940, the Germans ordered to establish a Judenrat. At the beginning of 1941, 900 Jews were transported to Żyrardów. Those who remained were confined in a ghetto, which comprised the following streets: Staszica, Toruńska, Farna and Kościuszko Square. Apart from local Jews, also a group of approximately 250 Jews resettled from Łódź and Zgierz in February and June 1940, was closed there. The ghetto held 2,300 prisoners in total. Men were forced to carry out deconstruction in Sochaczew. The ghetto itself did not exist long, as already on 15 February 1941, all prisoners were transported to the Warsaw ghetto[1.6]. The vast majority perished in the Nazi German extermination camps in 1942.

After the war, a group of Jews returned to the town and even a branch of the Central Committee of Polish Jews was established. However, almost all of them left Sochaczew by the end of 1940s[1.7].

 

Bibliography

  • P. Fijałkowski,”Początki osadnictwa żydowskiego w województwach rawskim i łęczyckim” (Beginnings of Jewish Settlement in the Rawskie and Łęczyckie Provinces), Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce, no. 4 (1989), pp. 6–14.
  • P. Fijałkowski, "Żydzi i chrześcijanie  na pograniczu wielkopolsko-mazowieckim (z dziejów współżycia w XVI–XVIII w.)" (Jews and Christians at the Greater Poland and Mazovian Border (a History of Co-habitation in the 16th and 18th Centuries), [in:] Żydzi z Wielkopolsce na przestrzeni dziejów, J. Topolski, K. Modelski (eds.), Poznań (1995).
  • P. Fijałkowski, Żydzi w województwach łęczyckim i rawskim w XV–XVIII w. (Jews in the Łęczyckie and Rawskie Provinces in the 15th-18th Centuries), Warsaw (1999).
  • "Sochaczew", [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. 3, Sh. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), New York (2001), p. 1209.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] P. Fijałkowski, „Początki osadnictwa żydowskiego w województwach rawskim i łęczyckim, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce, no. 4 (1989), p. 4.; Z. Guldon, "Skupiska żydowskie w miastach polskich XV–XVI wieku", [in:] Żydzi i judaizm we współczesnych badaniach polskich, K. Pilarczyk, S. Gąsiorowski (eds.),  vol. 2, Kraków (2000), p. 24.
  • [1.2] M. Żuławnik,Żydzi płoccy w XVI i XVII wieku, Notatki Płockie, no. 2/191 (2002), p. 4 - 5.
  • [1.3] P. Fijałkowski, “Początki osadnictwa żydowskiego w województwach rawskim i łęczyckim”, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Polsce, no.4 (1989), pp. 6 -14;P. Fijałkowski, "Żydzi i chrześcijanie  na pograniczu wielkopolsko-mazowieckim (z dziejów współżycia w XVI–XVIII w.)", [in:] Żydzi z Wielkopolsce na przestrzeni dziejów, J. Topolski, K. Modelski (eds.), Poznań (1995), pp. 46–49.
  • [1.4] P. Fijałkowski, Żydzi w województwach łęczyckim i rawskim w XV–XVIII w., Warszawa (1999), tab. 1, p. 142.
  • [1.5] "Sochaczew", [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. 3, Sh. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), New York (2001), p. 1209.
  • [1.1.5] [a] [b] [c] "Sochaczew", [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. 3, Sh. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), New York (2001), p. 1209.
  • [1.6] T. Brustin-Berenstein, “Deportacje i zagłada skupisk żydowskich w dystrykcie warszawskim”, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, no. 1 (1952), tab. 6, pp. 115–116; "Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemiach polskich 1939–1945". Informator encyklopedyczny, Warszawa (1979), p. 462.
  • [1.7] P. Burchard, Pamiątki i zabytki kultury żydowskiej w Polsce, Warszawa (1990), pp. 129–130.