Jews appeared in Żnin before 1449. Following a feud with the Christian inhabitants, the Jews were expelled from the town by decree of the Gniezno Chapter of 24 April 1449. Others began to settle around 1816. A kehilla was created before 1825. A synagogue was built, and a cemetery was founded. The statutes of the Jewish congregation were approved on 1 October 1834. The number of Jewish inhabitants gradually rose until the mid-19th century. The community had 357 members (72 families) in 1857. From the 1860s, this number started to decrease.

In 1903, the community had 313 members and in 1905 – 300. In the mid-19th century, the community had a religious school (1857) and the “Chevra Kadisha” burial society. There were two associations of Jewish women in the 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, the Association for Jewish History and Literature was founded.

Renowned Talmudists M. Landau, Abraham Chaim and his son Elias Chaim were the rabbis in Żnin. The latter was a native of Żnin. Initially, he studied under his father, later under Rabbi Blaschke from Trzcianka and Rabbi Malbim from Września. After getting married, he became a merchant and toll collector in Łabiszyn. After his father’s death, he became a rabbi in Żnin, holding this office for 44 years until his death in 1900. His brother-in-law Singer was a rabbi in Mogilno.

The next rabbi was also a native of Żnin, Louis Lewin (born on 30 December 1868). History was his passion. Several of his books dealt with the history of Jews in Inowrocław, Pniewy and Leszno, the synod of the Jews of Greater Poland and Wrocław’s “Chevra Kadisha”. He also published an impressive number of other valuable writings. The famous scientists from Żnin included Zemach ben Zwi, Hillel ben Chaim, Joseph Zaduk ben Nachman, Jakob ben Baruch.

During the unrest as part of the Revolutions of 1848, Żnin became an arena for several violent incidents against the Jews. Many houses were plundered, one Jew (Mosze Jehuda Hakohen) was killed, and many others were wounded. In 1894, the board of the Jewish community in Żnin, comprised of Hirsch, Leser and Kruger, applied for a grant to restore the synagogue. In 1893, compulsory education covered 75 children, and in 1907 – 15 children. In the second half of the 19th century, a new Jewish cemetery was founded near the old one.

After Poland regained its independence, most Jews left Żnin for Germany. The community quickly depopulated. In 1921, it had 140 members; in 1923 – 29, 1925 – 19, and 1932 – 25. The Żnin kehilla was dissolved and incorporated into the one in Gniezno. All officials left. Only the cantor remained. There were no elections of board members. The Governor of the Poznań Province officially dissolved the community in 1922, but it appears that his decision was not approved by the Minister of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment. The Jewish school was closed. None of the organizations existing since the 19th century were active. The financial situation of the community deteriorated, together with the declining number of members and decreasing donations from the former members of the community who moved to Germany. To secure the property and maintain its proper condition, the Jews of Żnin donated part of the land owned by the congregation to the town in exchange for guardianship over the cemetery. The agreement with municipal authorities provided that after selling part of the community property, the funds raised would be used to repair the cemetery walls, pay off debts and provide lifelong support for the poor Jews previously assisted by the community. A governmental commissar was assigned in 1931 to administer the community. His assignment was to prepare the community for incorporation into the Jewish community in Gniezno.

The professional structure of the Jews in Żnin in December 1922 was as follows: out of 29 members, only nine were professionally active, including four merchants, one farmer, one maid, one female and one male labourer, and one cantor. In the 1930s, there were demonstrations in front of Jewish shops. Signs such as “Jews – propagators of Communism”, “Thanks to Hymies and Ikeys Bolshevik paradise approaches” and “Don’t buy from a Jew” appeared on the walls. At the entrance to his confectionary, Jarosław Sworowski put a sign “No Jews and dogs”[1.1].

After the outbreak of war in 1939, ten Jews from Żnin were relocated to Radziejów in November 1939. However, one cannot dismiss the idea that some individuals could have been relocated as early as September 1939 together with the Jews from the counties of Żnin, Szubin and Mogilno. They were gathered on the 7 September in Buk in Nowy Tomyśl County. After a month there, they were transferred to a temporary camp in Młyniewo near Grodzisk Wielkopolski and then to the General Government. Groups of Jews appeared near Żnin in 1942. They were incarcerated in the Jewish labour camp in Murczyn, created in 1942 in the former school building. Initially, 150 prisoners did water and sewage work. When the camp was liquidated on 6 July 1942, it held only 30 people. They disappeared without a trace. Allegedly, they were transferred to the labour camp in Essen[1.2]. After the war, the Jewish community never recovered.

 

Bibliography

  • Dąbrowska, Zagłada skupisk żydowskich w ‘Kraju Warty’ w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, (1955), nos. 13–14, p. 175.
  • Heppner, I. Herzberg, Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden in den Posener Landen, Koschmin-Bromberg (1904–1908).
  • Z. Guldon, Skupiska żydowskie w miastach polskich w XV-XVI wieku, in: K. Pilarczyk and S. Gąsiorowski (eds.), Żydzi i judaizm we współczesnych badaniach, vol. 2, Kraków (2000).
  • T. Kawski T., Społeczność żydowska na pograniczu kujawsko-wielkopolskim w XX wieku, in: D. Karczewski (ed.), Z dziejów pogranicza kujawsko-wielkopolskiego. Zbiór studiów, Strzelno (2007).
  • J. Libiszewski, Obóz żydowski pracy przymusowej w Murczynie, in: Wojewódzki Obywatelski Komitet Ochrony Pomników Walki i Męczeństwa w Bydgoszczy, Z badań nad eksterminacją Żydów na Pomorzu i Kujawach, Bydgoszcz (1983).

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] T. Kawski, “Społeczność żydowska na pograniczu kujawsko-wielkopolskim w XX wieku”, in: Karczewski (ed.), Z dziejów pogranicza kujawsko-wielkopolskiego. Zbiór studiów, Strzelno (2007), pp. 161–188
  • [1.2] D. Dąbrowska, “Zagłada skupisk żydowskich w ‘Kraju Warty’ w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej”, Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, (1955), nos. 13–14, p. 175; J. Libiszewski, “Obóz żydowski pracy przymusowej w Murczynie”, in: Wojewódzki Obywatelski Komitet Ochrony Pomników Walki i Męczeństwa w Bydgoszczy, Z badań nad eksterminacją Żydów na Pomorzu i Kujawach, Bydgoszcz (1983), pp. 61–62.