Most probably Jews settled down in Szydłów in the 14th or in the first part of the 15th century. However, they were first reported in historical sources in the second half of the 15th century. In 1470, after the fire of 1468, the very same king of Poland, in a renewed privilege granted to the local parish church, ordered that the priest should be paid the tithe upon the field behind the Jewish cemetery[1.1]. The information about the Jewish cemetery proves that an organized Jewish kehilla existed there in the third quarter of the 15th century. Thus the beginnings of Jewish settlement in the locality need to be researched as early as in the first half of the 15th century.

Moreover, several more circumstantial evidences prove that Jews were present is Szydłów already in the 14th century. First of all, the town[1.2] developed rapidly in those times which could have encouraged Jewish settlement. The locality was granted town rights in those days and the foundation of Casimir III the Great and Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high. Presumably the legendary Esther, famous for being the Jewish lover of King Casimir, has come from or lived is Szydłów, or had affiliation of other kind with the town . However, Opoczno and other towns of the Sandomierz province, were also mentioned as her birth place[1.3]. It is probable that she really had some ties with Szydłów.  According to Jewish as well as Catholic beliefs from the times before World War II, Jews settled there during the reign of Casimir the Great and Esther, who was said to have founded the synagogue in Szydłów. It is known that the synagogue was built between 1534 and 1564 [1.4], but it is possible that the 16th century building was not the first synagogue in town.

The first privileges for Jews were issued in Szydłów in the second half of the 15th century. In 1453 king Casimir IV Jagiellon confirmed to local Jews the extract of the Jewish privilege of Boleslaw the Pious from 1264. In the 16th century that privilege was reconfirmed by the Polish king Sigismund Augustus the Jagiellon, Stephen Bathory of Poland and Sigismund III Vasa[1.5]. Whereas in 1494 the Polish king Jan Olbracht issued another privilege for Jews from Szydłów which allowed them to sell liquors in town on equal rights as local townsmen[1.6]. Subsequently in 1577 and 1580 Jews from Szydłów have been obliged to undergo the same contribution to the town’s treasury as other residents. In 1588 king Sigismund III granted Jews the privilege to buy goods and food on equal rights as other town residents, but with main fairs excluded.

At least from the second half of the 16th century a gradual increase of Jewish population in Szydłów can be observed. Only from that moment it could be analyzed because the first information concerning the number of Jews in the locality concerns the year 1564. Fourteen Jewish households were reported in that year[1.7].

In the 17th century the development of Jewish settlement in Szydłów was blocked by war activities of the so called Swedish deluge. It can be proved by the fact that in 1656,on hearing the news that the army of Stefan Czarniecki was approaching the town, 200 Jews packed their belongings and escaped to Pińczów and Cracow [1.8].

In the second half of the 18th century, a German called Johann Philip von Carosi, who was visiting Poland in those days, wrote in his diary that most of the residents of Szydłów were Jews of modest means[1.9]. In 1765 the whole kehilla of Szydłów was inhabited by 430 Jews, while 308 of them lived in the town itself. In comparison to the whole country or even the Sandomierz province, the locality in question belonged to the group of small Jewish communities [1.10].

In the Old Polish period the Szydłów kehilla played an important role as a Jewish autonomy. Szydłów was the seat of one of the six Jewish district land courts of the Cracow and Sandomierz province. The district embraced, apart from the Szydłów kehilla, 17 other communities, mainly: Tarnów, Rymanów, Żmigród, Dukla, Nowe Miasto, Chmielnik, Pacanów, Oleśnica, Żabno, Dąbrowa, Stopnica, Połaniec, Bogoria, Staszów, Raków, Wiślica and Kurozwęki.

In 1823 there were 341 plots in town, and 63 of them belonged to Jews. The town’s complete area amounted to approximately 985,862 m2, and Jews were owners of approximately 32,465 m2 of it, that is about 3.3 % of all town’s land. It worth mentioning that although Jews lived on such a small area, they constituted 50% of the town’s inhabitants in those days. In the first half of the 19th century there was a brick synagogue, a wooden gallery annexed to it, a wooden cheder, a hospital and partly brick, partly wooden baths[1.11].

In 1925 about 700 Jews belonged to the Szydłów kehilla. There were two synagogue’s on the community’s territory – in Szydłów and Kurozwęki and two other houses of prayer[1.12]. According to a list from 1939 the value of the kehilla’s movable property amounted to 6,000 zł, and real assets were worth 30,000 zł. Whereas the income and expenses of the kehilla equaled respectively 5,754 zł and 5,294 zł[1.13].

It can be also noted that in the interwar period almost all stores in Szydłów belonged or were run by Jews. Only one shop in the market square called “Jutrzenka” was run by a Catholic, but he rented the rooms for his shop from a Jew[1.14].

On January 1, 1942 German authorities established a ghetto in Szydłów. Initially it was meant for local Jews from Szydłów and nearby villages. In the end of 1940 Jews from Radom were displaced there and in February-March 1941 from Płock. In April 1942 the ghetto was dissolved and about 2,000 Jews were deported to Jędrzejów and subsequently to Treblinka. Besides some Jews from Szydłów were displaced to the Chmielnik ghetto.

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Wiśniewski, Historyczny opis kościołów, miast, zabytków i pamiątek w Stopnickiem, Marjówka 1929, s. 294.
  • [1.2] Zob. np. A. Sabor, Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek: Działoszyce – Pińczów – Chmielnik – Szydłów – Chęciny. Przewodnik, Kraków 2005, s. 118-120
  • [1.3] Z. Kaczmarczyk, Esterka, Polski Słownik Biograficzny, t. 6, Kraków 1948, s. 299; H. Węgrzynek, Esterka z Opoczna, [w:] A. Cała, H. Węgrzynek, G. Zalewska, Historia i kultura Żydów polskich. Słownik, Warszawa 2000, s. 84; Z. Guldon, J. Muszyńska, Powstanie i dzieje miasta w okresie przedrozbiorowym (do 1795 r.), [w:] Opoczno. Studia i szkice z dziejów miasta, pod red. M. Meduckiej, Kielce 2003, s. 39-40
  • [1.4] A. Penkalla, Synagoga i gmina w Szydłowie, „Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego”, 1982, nr 1-2/121-122, s. 59, 61
  • [1.5] Lustracja województwa sandomierskiego 1660-1664, cz. 2, wyd. H. Oprawko i K. Schuster, Wrocław 1977, s. 39-40; F. Kiryk, F. Leśniak, Skupiska żydowskie w miastach małopolskich do końca XVI wieku, [w:] Żydzi w Małopolsce. Studia z dziejów osadnictwa i życia społecznego, pod red. F. Kiryka, Przemyśl 1991, s. 30; zob. też: Przywilej księcia Bolesława Pobożnego dla Żydów wielkopolskich. Kalisz 16.08.1264 r. [w:] P. Fijałkowski, Dzieje Żydów w Polsce. Wybór tekstów źródłowych XI-XVIII wiek, Warszawa [1994], s. 15-19
  • [1.6] M. Baliński, T. Lipiński, Starożytna Polska pod względem historycznym, geograficznym i statystycznym, t. 2, Warszawa 1944, s. 381; Lustracja województwa sandomierskiego 1789, cz. 3: Powiat wiślicki, wyd. H. Madurowicz-Urbańska, Wrocław 1968, s. 132
  • [1.7] Lustracja województwa sandomierskiego 1564-1565, wyd. W. Ochmański, Wrocław 1963, s. 145
  • [1.8] Z. Guldon, Straty ludności żydowskiej w Koronie w latach potopu, [w:] Rzeczpospolita w latach potopu, pod red. J. Muszyńskiej i J. Wijaczki, Kielce 1996, s. 299
  • [1.9] J. Ph. Carosi, Reisen durch verschiedene polnische Provinzen, mineralischen und andern Inhalts, t. 1, Leipzig 1781, s. 88
  • [1.10] Liczba głów żydowskich w Koronie z taryf roku 1765, wyd. J. Kleczyński i F. Kluczycki, Kraków 1898, s. 8-9 i in.; S. Stampfer, The 1764 Census of Polish Jewry, „Bar-Ilan – Annual of Bar-Ilan University. Studies in Judaica and the Humanites”, t. 24-25, 1989, s. 82 i in.; Z. Guldon, K. Krzystanek, Ludność żydowska w miastach lewobrzeżnej części województwa sandomierskiego w XVI-XVIII wieku. Studium, s. 208 i in
  • [1.11] A. Penkalla, Synagoga i gmina, s. 65-66
  • [1.12] Archiwum Państwowe w Kielcach, Urząd Wojewódzki Kielecki I, sygn. 1763, k. 137; A. Penkalla, Żydowskie ślady w województwie kieleckim i radomskim, Radom 1992, s. 93
  • [1.13] Archiwum Państwowe w Kielcach, Urząd Wojewódzki Kielecki I, sygn. 1765
  • [1.14] A. Sabor, Sztetl, s. 137