The town of Sławków was owned by the Bishops of Kraków from the 13th to 18th century (until 1790) and for that reason Jews were banned from settling there. In spite of that, at the end of the 17th century a few Jews managed to settle down in Sławków; they leased mines and inns. The 1790 abolition of the limitations previously imposed on the Jewish settlement was an important moment in the history of the Kingdom of Poland. However, it did not encourage the Jewish settlement in Sławków .In 1820 only 20 Jews lived in Sławków. In 1826 some small tradesmen settled in the town. In 1838 Szlomo Szajn (died in 1919) opened a metal plant, which quickly became one of the biggest in Zagłębie.

In 1862 the tsar issued an edict on emancipation of Jews in the Russian Empire. In 1865 already 64 Jews lived in Sławków, making up 2.4% of all population. Booming local industry encouraged faster development of the town, where unemployed Jews started to migrate in large numbers. Initially Michał Zeitler, who was later succeeded by Schein brothers, was the owner of the wire factory. Until 1890 Jewish community grew to as many as 246 people, which constituted 7% of town’s population. They were subordinate to the Kehilla of Olkusz. Olkusz was also a place the Jewish community used to bury their dead. A synagogue was built in Sławków in 1896. In 1900 the Jewish community of Sławków numbered 714 persons. In 1904 a separate and independent Jewish community was established. Its first Rabbi was Szalom, Mosze Juda Zayonc's son. At the same time a Jewish cemetery was opened, and a funeral parlour Chevrah Kaddisha was established next to the cemetery. The Jewish library, where the Hebrew language courses, lectures and literary meetings were organized, was established in 1917.

During the interwar period, in 1921, the total of 610 Jews lived in Sławków, making up 16.3% of all population. Most of them worked as craftsmen and small tradesmen. As the years passed by, more and more Jews were hired in industry where they were paid by the day. At that time the a metal factory, established by Szlomo Szajn, employed ca. 1,200  workers, out of which some 300 were Jewish.  1927 Joint (The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or Joint) created a charitable fund Kupat Gmilot Chassidim, which granted low-interest rate loans for the development of Jewish enterprises. In 1928 town authorities ordered to close five Jewish bakeries in Sławków, justifying this decision by their inadequate sanitary conditions. In 1930 and 1936 there were a few serious outbreaks of fire in Sławków, during which 10 Jewish families lost their houses. Additional difficulties connected with a financial crisis forced many Jews from Sławków to emigrate to the United States.

There were numerous social, cultural and political Jewish organizations in Sławków. Zionist organizations and political parties were especially active. Also a training camp for those willing to leave to Palestine was created. It was called the Hachshar "Ovadiya" training kibbutz (it belonged to Hashomer Hadati movement). Furthermore, there existed orthodox organizations in the town. Initially, there was only Agudat Israel party, but in 1929 Shomer Szabat Vedat society was established. Baruch Gad Heffner became a new rabbi in 1931. Szomo Pinchas Markus (died 1962) helped him.
In 1934 four Jews held seats on the Town Council. In 1939 there were about 960 Jews living in Sławków. Gutman Libermansz was the head of the Community Board.

During World War II, on September 4, 1939 Sławków was taken over by German forces. Many of the local Jews were trying to flee from Germans. After a few days, when some of them were trying to cross a destroyed bridge over the Biała Przemsza river in order to get to Sławków, from 5 to 7 September, 30 Jews (some of which were from Będzin and Sosnowiec) were murdered by Germans. Later the bodies were transported to the local Jewish cemetery [1.1]. The remaining 68 Jews who were executed in nearby Kozioł village. Their bodies were later  thrown to an unused mining shaft. The synagogue was also profaned. There were numerous cases of plunder of Jewish property, battery and assault and foring Orthodox Jews to cut off their beards in public.

A few days later, the German military governor of the town demanded from the Jewish community a large ransom, which was paid when due. From November 1939 Jews were obliged to wear white armbands with the "Star of David” (later replaced with yellow stars sewn onto their clothes on their chests).

In November 1939 Judenrat was established and Izydor Laks became its head. A Small group of people also created a Jewish Police consisting of 3 people. Judenrat quickly opened a canteen for the poor, which would give out 200 meals each day in February 1940. This first winter Judenrat helped 400 people, who had no means to survive..

On October 28, 1940 the Nazis selected 50 Jews who were then sent to the forced labour camp, established in the synagogue building. The workshop of the factory Blechwaren Fabrik manufacturing metal plates used in the production of the vehicle bodies was established on the premises of the camp. Other Jews were forced to work in the town and its surroundings. Aiming at meeting the needs, Judenrat organized metalwork courses, which were attended by 20 people. In March 1941 Judenrat delivered 300 food parcels to the poorest families. Moreover, 25 children got milk each day. Judenrat also financed a health centre employing one doctor and two male nurses.

In the second half of 1941 the Germans established a ghetto (it was not fenced and its area spread only over two streets). Imprisoned Jews were forced to work in the carpentry, shoemaker’s and tailoring workshops. On June 10, 1942 SS soldiers, with the help of Polish policemen surrounded the ghetto and took all Jews out of their houses. They were locked for three days and nights in the building of an old brewery. At the same time the Nazis were dividing Jews into groups and separating those who were to be directed for work in tailoring workshops in Sosnowiec and Będzin. The remaining ones were led to the train station in Bukownia (in 6 kilometre distance) on June 12. The old and sick were transported on the carts. Then they were all deported to the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 20 Jews were left in Sławków – they were Judenrat members and their families. A few months later they were deported to one of the ghettos in Zagłębie and they suffered the same fate as those in Auschwitz-Birkenau[1.2].

 

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] eds. Bolesław Ciepiela, Małgorzata Sromek, Śladami Żydów z Zagłębia Dąbrowskiego. Wspomnienia, Polish Authors Society, Będzin Division, Będzin 2009, p. 21.
  • [1.2] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_poland/pol7_00356.html [as at June 16, 2009].