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Zawiercie Web Site

December 1, 2014

The Zawiercie web site was redesigned. The new version includes all the material that was presented in the older version with additional pages.

The current history page includes new essays and references about the history of Kromolow and Zawiercie in general and in particular the history of the Jewish community.

The web site is work in progress and we will be happy to receive photographs, stories and data of the Jewish life in Kromolow and Zawiercie.


Zawiercie Jewish Cemetery

Restoration Project

Dec 26, 2014

Dear friends,

I finally organized all the pictures I could  find and I created a site on my Facebook page titled “Zawiercie Jewish Cemetery Restoration Project.” 

 As regards the cemetery, Marcin Bergier was very busy this year clearing the vegetation and smaller trees as well as the area at the entrance behind the two buildings either side of the gate. He also contacted the city to empty the garbage can behind the carriage house.   I have also sent him a chainsaw, which he plans on using next year to  take down some of the smaller trees...  One of the most difficult issue we are dealing with are the two buildings on either side of the entrance gate.  The one on the left is the carriage house and the one on the right is where the caretaker lived and the bodies were prepared for burial.  These two buildings have serious structural damage...  If we don’t get some serious money,  the two buildings will likely have to be torn down.  If anyone has any idea about a charitable organization we can contact to get a grant, please let me know.

Please forward this note to anyone I may have missed. 

Thank you,

Joe Greenbaum



December 2, 2014

On Tuesday April 9, 2013 Joe Greenbaum send email to a group of people that have an interest in the town of Zawiercie:

"Dear Friends and Family, I would like to inform you that the city of Zawiercie is planning to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the liquidation of the Zawiercie ghetto on Thursday, August 29, 2013. Attached, you will find the invitation and a preliminary program schedule. "

The event took place on August 29, 2013 and Heidi Urich shared with me her experience:

"I attended the Zawiercie commemoration and found it to be a very worthwhile experience. I was particularly moved by the procession from the marketplace at the edge of the ghetto to the train station. In addition to town officials, there appeared to be a great many town residents who joined us as we walked about a mile on the route our family members were forced to take as they were being deported to Auschwitz. A large plaque commemorating the Jewish community was unveiled at the train station opposite the tracks in a solemn ceremony. This was followed by another ceremony at the Jewish cemetery. "

Read more ....

The Jewish Community in Kromołów and Zawiercie - An Outline History

“This was the story of Zawiercie:
At first it was a forest,
Then it was a town,
And later a major Jewish city.”

Zawiercie Yizkor Book



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A Note About the Resources

The chapter, “Zawiercie History,” outlined the history of Zawiercie in general. The current chapter will briefly survey the history of the Jewish community in Zawiercie. I am involved with translating the Zawiercie Yizkor Book from Hebrew and Yiddish to English. While reading the translated chapters, I’ve realized how rich and beautiful the stories in the Yizkor Book are and decided to transform the current essay into a reference guide for the various stories about the life of the Jewish community in Zawiercie before and during WWII. Hence the main sources for this article are the Zawiercie Yizkor Book and the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland.

We can find additional resources worth further research in the Zawiercie Yizkor Book, page 39 - under the chapter: “The Documents and Records about the History of the City and Its Neighborhood.”
The Yizkor Book book documents statistic about the Jewish population in the Zawiercie region in the chapter, “Statistics on the Jewish Population of Zawiercie Area in Modern Times.”

More resources are referenced in the article.

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Kromołów was an ancient settlement situated in Zawiercie Slaskie, Poland, at the source of the Wartha. Its geographical coordinates are 50° 29' 0" North, 19° 31' 0" East.

The first owners of the lands of Kromołów were the Kromołowscy.
The settlement was founded before 1193 by a knight Kromola from the family Kromołowscy. The name of the settlement was derived from the owner’s name.
The information about Kromołów is derived from a Bull issued by Pope Celestine III (1106 – 1198) in April 18, 1193, addressed to the Polish Prince Casimir II. The Bull approves the possessions given to the canons at the monastery Virgin Mary in Wrocław. The records tell about a tavern in Kromołów that was owned by the canons of the monastery.

The entry in Wikipedia, for Papal Bull, state that it is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the lead seal (bulla) that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it. An incomplete list of Bulls appears also in the Wikipedia entry. It includes one of the Bulls given by the Pope Celestine III’, but not the one addressed to Prince Casimir II. Finding this Bull and reading it is a worthy project to verify the origin of Kromołów.

Kromołów became a district of Zawiercie in the year 1975.

More detailed history of Kromołów appears in the Polish language here.

A chapter in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume VII, details the history of the Jews in Kromołów starting in the 16th century.

Population Figures in Kromołów

















Kromołów has a Jewish cemetery on Piaskowa Street. The cemetery was established around the mid-eighteenth century. To date, nearly 1,000 tombs and a mortuary have been preserved within an area of about 2.2 hectares. The graves have the shape of typical tombstones with inscriptions in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish.

According to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, the local residents claimed that there was an approximately 400 years old tombstone in the old KromołówJewish cemetery.


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Dr. Jan Pawel Woronczak from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, contributed his massive and accurate work on Kromołów’s Jewish cemetery, to the JRI-Poland organization. His work documents all the gravestones and the epitaphs on every grave.

From his records we can learn about the earliest existing tombstone in Kromołów:

The oldest tombstone is dated 1730 and the most recent is dated 1940. The inscription on the oldest tombstone is undecipherable. 

The following surnames and patronymic names appear on graves from the years 1810 – 1823. All were residents of Kromołow and were buried in the Kromołów Jewish cemetery:


The list of births and marriages between the years 1808 and 1825 expands the list to include more surnames.

Jan Pawel Woronczak Biography.



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Zawiercie, 1847

According to the entry Zawiercie in Wikipedia, the year 1847 was a turning point in the life of Zawiercie. On December 1, 1847, the Warsaw – Vienna railway was completed, and the first train along this line stopped in Zawiercie. This event gave Zawiercie an economic boost. According to the Zawiercie Yizkor Book the railway station was completed only in 1870.

Jews lived in Zawiercie since 1847. The Zawiercie Yizkor Book, page 35,

refers to Jewish families who came to live in Zawiercie at this time: Sofer and Adlerfligel from Bedzin, and Haskiel (Yechezkel) Landau. It is worthwhile noting that on page 45 there is a note about the first Jews in Zawiercie from a holiday prayer book (Machzor) of an elder Lewensztajn, dated 1847. The story is a paragraph in the memoirs of Mr. Zygelboim. It was translated but has yet to be published online. The families who lived in Zawiercie in 1847 earned their living in the sawmills that were Jewish-owned. The families received community services from the neighboring town of Kromołów.

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Zawiercie – The Late 19th Century

In 1852, there was an outbreak of cholera, “The Great Epidemic,” in which many Jews died. They were buried in a communal grave in the Kromołów cemetery. 

A more detailed paragraph about the Great Epidemic, written in Polish, appears online and the Zawiercie Yizkor Book is also a source of stories about the Great Epidemic.

This epidemic wasn’t the first or last in this area.

In the 1860s hundreds of Jewish workers found jobs in the local factories in Zawiercie and were joined by their families. The Jewish population in Zawiercie started to develop and organize internal institutions in the town, such as health care, education, and economic needs.  As a community they had community councils (Kehila) that administered to the Jewish population. Jewish communities such as this were organized all over Eastern Europe, and their development is documented in a books:

  1. Guide to the Collection on Poland (Vilna Archives) 1850-1939. It can be accessed at the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research.
  2. Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939.

By 1895, the community served the Jewish population in the neighboring towns and villages as well as in Zawiercie.

Jews made a considerable contribution to Zawiercie’s growth at this time.
The Zawiercie Yizkor Book chapter, “Memories of Zawiercie,” tells stories of how the forest was cleared and factories were built, mainly the cotton factory of the Ginsberg brothers. The chapter, “General History of Zawiercie,” details the history of the Ginsberg brothers’ factories that attracted thousands of workers to the town.

By 1880 the population of Zawiercie numbered some 15,000. New factories were manufacturing glass, bricks, chemicals and cast-iron. In 1895 the population of the town totaled about 20,000, including more than 2,000 Jews, most of whom were working in the local factories as clerks, technicians and managers. Jews owned the majority of the shops in the central market of the town.
The chapter “Modern History of the Region,” in the Zawiercie Yizkor Book, summarizes the status of Zawiercie in 1895.

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Zawiercie Synagogue

In 1880 a synagogue was built in Marszałkowska Street with a Jewish community house next to it. After the completion of the central synagogue in 1880, the Rabbi of Kromołów, Yehuda Leib Gansweich, moved to Zawiercie and served as the local Rabbi. His successors were Rabbi Nathan Nachum Hacohen Rabinowitz, the Admor of Kromołów, and his son, Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech Rabinowitz, who became chief Rabbi and President of the Beth Hadin (Jewish Religious Court) of Zawiercie and the district.
The Zawiercie Yizkor Book devotes many pages to the synagogue and the Beit Midrash.

Zawiercie Synagogue on 41 Maszalkowska street



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Jewish Education in Zawierce

A quote from the Zawiercie Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities briefly describes the education in Zawiercie:
“At the end of the 19th century, most of Zawiercie's Jewish children studied in the traditional Cheder (religious grade school for boys) and in Talmud Torah (religious school).

In 1910 the yeshiva “Migdal Oz” was founded in Zawiercie. After WWI the organization “Hamizrachi” opened in Zawiercie a “Cheder Metukan” (Improved Cheder).

In 1928 the Hebrew school of the network “Tarbut” (culture) was started, and in 1932 a Hebrew kindergarten was established.

During the 1930s, most children from non-Zionist homes studied in public schools where there was no tuition. Jewish youth from assimilated families studied in the Polish gymnasium in Sosnowicz, and they were active in the non-Jewish youth organization Kultura.

More about the schools Yesoday Hatorah, The Torah Vadas School, the Cheder (Orthodox elementary school), The Tarbut school, the first public school Beit Talmud, can be found in the Zawiercie Yizkor Book. These chapters have not yet been translated to English.

The First Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution of 1905 had an adverse effect on the economic progress of the citizens of Zawierce. In addition, the economic boycott against the Polish Jews in Russia in 1912 affected the Jewish community in Zawiercie even more than the general population in the town.
The old Zawiercie Polish site brings a selection of excerpts about life in Zawiercie during the Polish Social Revolution in the years after 1891, especially about the events in the years 1894, 1905, and 1914.In the future we will add a summary of these excerpts.

In 1902 an anti-Semitic pogrom occurred in the neighboring town of Czestochowa, which was at the time under Russian Empire rule. According to an official report by the Governor of Piotrokov Guberniya, in which Czestochowa was located, the pogrom started after a dispute between a Jewish shopkeeper and a Catholic woman. A mob attacked Jewish shops, killing fourteen Jews and one gendarme. Russian military soldiers, brought to restore order, were stoned by the mob. The Zawiercie community came to the aid of refugees from the pogrom.
The Zawiercie community assisted also the victims of an epidemic that swept the area during the summer of 1902.
Several local charity funds were set up to help the Jews of Zawiercie, particularly in times of economic crises.

Zawiercie during WWI

A quote from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin describes briefly the situation in Zawiercie during WWI:

"The Germans occupied Zawiercie during WWI, and the village remained under German control for about three years. The German occupation paralyzed the industry, and as a result unemployment in Zawiercie was high. In addition to financial distress, a typhoid plague broke out and killed many people.
time, most of the industry reawakened. In 1926, Zawiercie achieved the status of a town. However, during the severe economic crisis of the late 1920's, many of the industrial plants were closed down, and Zawiercie got the nickname “the city of the unemployed.”


Zawiercie Cemetery Restoration 1998


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Zionist Activity in Zawiercie

In the late 1880 the Zionist organization Chibat Zion started its activity in Zawiercie.

It was headed by Avraham Borshtein, a member of the Jewish Community Council and eventually its Chairman and Deputy Mayor of Zawiercie. Many Jews were active supporters of the Zionist Federation and of Aliya (immigration) to the land of Israel. The first immigrants from Zawiercie arrived in Eretz Israel early in the 1900’s. My grandmother, Chana Sznajderman, was one of those who left Zawiercie about 1904 and headed to Israel. Soon after my grandmother’s departure, her two brothers Dawid and Shlomo Sznajdermam joined her.

Zionist Youth Organizations such as Hakoach, Herzlia, and Hashomer Hatzair formed during the First World War. They were joined, in the 1920’s, by the formation of three other Zionist youth groups: Betar, Mizrachi Youth and Agudat Israel.

Poles and Jews were active side-by-side in the local branch of the Polish Socialist Party and in the Labor Union (established in Zawiercie in 1895).
Between WWI and WWII, the Jewish communal life in Zawiercie focused on the Zionist movement and the youth movements. A chapter in the book, Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume VII (Poland, page 194), describes the different Zionist organizations that were active in Poland in general, and especially in Zawiercie.

The Zawiercie Yizkor Book also includes many references to the involvement of the young people of Zawiercie in the Zionist movement.
The abstract of the article “SOCIO-POLITICAL LIFE OF JEWS IN ZAWIERCIE REGION IN THE YEARS 1918-1939” (“Zycie spoleczno-polityczne Zydów w regionie zawiercianskim w latach 1918-1939”) by Rosinska Dorota briefly hints about the Jewish local political parties in Zawiercie.

“In 1921, the Jews accounted for approximately 10% of the population in Zawiercie district and for some 20% in the town of Zawiercie itself. The regaining of independence by Poland coincided with the establishment of local branches of Jewish political parties in the Zawiercie region. A lot of influence was wielded by the Zionists (the centrist Zionist Organization and the right-wing Mizrachi) as well as the conservative Agudas Israel. The full development of the Jews' socio-political life in the region occurred in the late 1920s. That was when many diverse associations came to life. The Great Crisis (The Great Depression after WWI) led to a surge of activity of Zionists parties and associations, including extremist ones. The influence of right-wing Zionist revisionists was rising, but so was that of the leftist Poale Zion, and of Hehalutz and Hashomer Hatzair. In the late 1930s, the prolonged economic crisis caused a decline in the activity, or even the disintegration of some political parties and civic organizations affiliated with them. The popularity of the Zionist Left was rising, but Mizrachi and the Zionist Organization also preserved a lot of their influence. It was only at that time that the socialist Bund began to operate in the region.”


Zawiercie - Cultural Life

The Zawiercie Yizkor Book devotes several pages, 494 – 513 and 550, to the cultural life in Zawiercie. These pages have not been translated yet. They include several articles. An article by Reuven-Romek Rothenstein, a member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, tells about the musical life in Zawiercie and about the violinists and pianists that lived there. Harry Weinglick’s article describes life as an artist. Yitzhak Yaakov Erlich writes about Rev Reuven Zarmof, an orthodox poet, and quotes from his poems.


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The Holocaust 

In 1939 the town’s population numbered about 40,000 inhabitants; nearly 10,000 of them were Jews.
 German troops occupied Zawierce on September 3rd, 1939. The residents had to present themselves at the big textile factory, where the Germans separated the Jews from the Poles and detained them in the factory in harsh conditions for about two weeks. The German commandant of the town issued orders to place the factories of Zawiercie at the service of the German armed forces and imposed restrictions on the Jews. The young citizens of the town had to perform forced labor in the area. The German appointed a Jewish council - a "Judenrat" that was responsible for the implementation of the Germans’ orders among the Jewish Population.
Jews from nearby towns were also forced to move to the factory in Zawiercie. An essay about the town Wolbróm describes how the Germans detained the Jews from Wolbrom in Zawiercie:

"Wolbróm was occupied by the Germans on September 5th, 1939. Immediately when they entered the city, the Germans assembled all the men in the market square. First to be released were the elderly and children under 16. The others, about 1,400 Jews and Polish men, were led running to Zawiercie, where they were locked up in an old factory. The Poles were then separated from the Jews and released after a day or two. The Jews were held under arrest for over a week and were subject to abuse. On September 13th, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish detainees were released too. "

During the summer of 1940, some young Jews from Zawiercie organized themselves in order to escape (organized an escape) to the Soviet Union. Most of the refugees found shelter there until the end of the war.
In October 1940, the young Jews of the community were conscripted for forced labor in Germany. The first group was taken there on the 11th of that month and the second in May 1941.
 In 1941 the Jewish streets of Zawiercie were transformed into a Ghetto. Only persons with work permit were allowed to leave or enter the Ghetto. Jews from Silesia and Czechoslovakia who worked for the German army and Jews from the small towns in the neighborhood of Zawiercie were brought to this Ghetto.
Overcrowding and food shortages led to the spread of sickness and disease. A hospital was set up in the courtyard of the Kromołów Rabbi.
In 1943 – the Germans liquidated the Ghetto of Zawiercie

The liquidation of the Zawiercie Ghetto as it is described in Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:

“In August 1943 the Germans performed their second “Akzia.” The two German air force officers tried to save the Jewish workers, claiming that their work was vital. In the end the Germans agreed to postpone the expulsion of 500 Jews, those most vital to the uniform factory. Again this time the SS members, the Gestapo members and German Gendarmes arrived at Zawiercie and with the help of Polish police, expelled the Jews from their home, searched hiding places and chased everyone out to midtown square. There in midtown square, when most of the Jews were rounded up, the Germans shot the Judenrat people in front of the people who had gathered there. The Jews of the Zawiercie Ghetto, the locals and the refugees from other places (about 6,000 to 7,000 people,) were led to the train station and deported to Auschwitz. Immediately after this “Akzia,” Zawiercie was declared “Judenrein,” clear from Jews, even though there were still about 500 Jews who were the uniform factory's workers. The two German air force officers, Gerbrecht and Teicher, protected these Jewish workers as much as they could. After the big “Akzia” of August 1943, the Polish workers were set, daily, to replace the Jewish workers, but the Polish workers lowered the factory yield. As a result, the factory managers strongly demanded that the 500 Jewish workers be kept alive. However, in October 1943 the factory workers were also deported to the Auschwitz death camp. When the Jewish workers were rounded up, the official manager, Gerbrect, came in and secretly separated seven of the Jewish workers from the others and led them to a secret place, although they objected and wanted to remain with their brothers. These seven Jews survived to see the Red Army free Zawiercie on January 20, 1945.”

The last Rabbi of Zawiercie, Shlomo Elimelech Rabinowitz, was murdered by the Germans when he was taken from Auschwitz to Dachau. Professor Menachem Z. Rozensaft who was born in 1948 in Bergen-Belsen, Germany, tells about his father’s emotional encounter with the Zawiercie Rabbi, Shlomo Elimelech Rabinowitz, in Auschwitz during the Days of Awe in mid-October 1943. The two were inmates together in the same barrack. The essay tells the events when the inmates gathered to pray with the Rabbi of Zawiercie.

On a separate page in this web site there is a short description of a case study conducted by Daniel Burns about one hundred men who were deported from the Zawiercie Ghetto to Auschwitz and then to other camps.

When I visited the Zawiercie cemetery in 2002, I took a photo of the monument to Jews murdered during the liquidation of the Ghetto in August 1943.

The USHMM “Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945Volume II, Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe,” includes an entry about Zawiercie during the 1939 – 1943 years of horror.

(Add a pointer to the aticle, I have a copy of it)

The site Lists the Zawiercie Holocaust Survivors.