The exact date of the first Jewish settlement in Gorzów is unknown. According to the estimates, Jews settled in Gorzów after 1350 after the fire which had destroyed the town earlier that year. In an attempt to provide relief to victims of the fire, Margrave Ludvig, the ruler of Brandenburg, exempted the town of all its obligations towards him. Jews were likely granted permission to settle in Gorzów, and their financial assets expedited the process of town reconstruction after the fire. Arrival of Jews in Gorzów may also be linked with a document from June 6, 1350, in which the Margrave grants the New March towns permission to take in all the Jews who had been expelled from other regions.
It is assumed that the Jewish quarter was established around that time. It was located in the southwestern part of the town. The ghetto boundaries were approximately along the following streets of today: Sikorskiego St., Spichrzowa St., Młyńska St. and Wodna St. There is no information on what the first Jewish quarter looked like and how it was organized; the first written account on the subject dates back to 1557, which was during a period in which there were no Jews left in Gorzów due to an earlier expulsion discussed below. It is safe to assume, however, that the Council had all the standard institutions necessary for a functional community, such as a cemetery, a synagogue and a mikveh (Heb.: ritual bath). Even though Jews were also present in other towns of the New March, the formal name of Judenviertel (Ger.: Jewish Quarter) was applied only in Gorzów, referring to the section of town inhabited by Jews. This may be an indication to significance and power of the local community; due to the lack of historical sources, however, one may only speculate on this issue.
In 1510, Jews were accused of desecrating the Host and subsequently expelled from the March, and therefore also from Gorzów. Curiously, even after the Jews had left Gorzów, the area of the former ghetto continued to be referred to as the Jewish Quarter. Still, Christians settled in the former Jewish section of town and tailored it to their needs. The mikveh, which was located next to the city walls, was transformed into a public bath, and is referred to as such in historical sources from 1525 [ref.: Zysnarski, J.: Encyklopedia Gorzowa (The Encyclopaedia of Gorzów), Gorzów Wlkp., 2007, p. 724]. The Jews expelled from Brandenburg, including the expelled Jews of Gorzów, moved to the territory of independent Poland; the majority of them settled in towns of western Greater Poland, such as Skwierzyna and Międzyrzecz.
Jews had to wait until May 21, 1671 to be able to officially return to Brandenburg; on that day Frederic William, the Prince-Elector of Brandenburg issued a decree lifting the banishment. In fact Jews reappeared in Gorzów much earlier than 1671. The first mention of their presence dates back to 1649[1.1], and the earliest documents referring to the return of Jews to Gorzów date back to 1656[1.2]. It is not clear why Jews had been present in town 22 years before the decree was issued. Most likely the instability in the aftermath Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) and Swedish occupation of Gorzów created opportunities for Jews to return to the town and play a role in its reconstruction. Whichever the case, the number of Jewish residents of the town increased each year and soon Gorzów became a seat of the third largest, after Frankfurt (Oder) and Berlin, Jewish community in Brandenburg.
[1.1] A. Engelien, Geschichte der Stadt Landsberg an der Warthe (1857), 122
[1.2] S. Janicka: “Judaica w zasobach Archiwum Państwowego w Gorzowie Wielkopolskim” in: Żydzi na Środkowym Nadodrzu, M. Wojecki, 1, (1996), 67-70
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