The exact date of Jewish settlement in Gorzow is unknown. It is assumed that it was after the year 1350, after the fire that consumed the town. To ease fire victim’s plight, Margrave Ludwig, a ruler of Brandenburg, exempt the city from all taxes. It is assumed that in this period, Jews were permitted to settle in Gorzow. Their capital contributed to the reconstruction of the city. Appearance of Jews in that period is also associated with a document from 6 June 1350, in which the Margrave granted the city of Neumark the right to take in Jews expelled from its surroundings[1.1].
It is accepted that the Jewish district was delineated in that period. The district encompassed the southwestern part of the city. Approximately the borders of the ghetto delineated Sikorskiego, Spichrzowa, Mlynska and Wodna Streets. [see streets’ names, plan of Gorzow no. 2 and illustration no. 1]. Exactly how the first Jewish district looked is not known. The first written record dates back to 1557, to the period in which there were no Jews in Gorzow. The district handled all necessary institutions together with the cemetery, the synagogue, and the mikvah. Despite the fact that Jews settled in other cities of Neumark, only in Gorzow was there an official name in use for the “Jewish district”, which described part of the city in which Jews lived (in German: Judenviertel). It may mean that this district was strong and important but without any authentic sources this can only be speculative.
The year of 1510 was fraught with many unfavorable consequences for the Jews in Brandenburg. An accusation of the Host profanation lead to the exile of Jews from the territory of Marches, thus from Gorzow[1.2]. Chronologically it was the first exile of Jews from the city. Even if there were no Jews in the town, the territory of the ghetto was still called the Jewish district. Christians settled into the territory of the former Jewish district and adapted it to their needs. The mykvah, which was situated near the city wall, was transformed into public baths and as such it is mentioned in the sources from 1525[1.3]. Jews expelled from Brandenburg, among whom were also Jews from Gorzow, moved to independent Poland. Many Jews settled in the western cities such as Skwierzyn and Miedzyrzecze among others.
For the official return to Brandenburg, Jews had to wait until 21 May 1671, when elector Frederick William (1620-1688) issued an edict abolishing their banishment. In practice, Jews reappeared in Gorzow much earlier. Their presence in the city was first mentioned in 1649[1.4]. The oldest documents concerning the presence of Jews in Gorzow date back to 1656[1.5]. It is not known why Jews were present in the city for about 22 years before the issue of the edict. It might have been connected with the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) and Swedish occupation. There were more and more Jews in the city and by the year’s end, Gorzow had the third largest Jewish population after Brandenburg, Frankfurt on the Odra River, and Berlin.
[1.1] Neumark – part of Brandenburg, created when Lubusz Land was sold (1249-1250) by prince Bolesław Rogatka.
[1.2] I. Diekmann, J. H. Schoeps (edited by), Wegweiser durch das jüdische Brandenburg, Berlin 1995, p. 2.
[1.3] J. Zysnarski, Encyklopedia Gorzowa, Gorzów Wlkp. 2007, p. 724.
[1.4] A. Engelien, Geschichte der Stadt Landsberg an der Warthe, Landsberg/W. 1857, p. 112.
[1.5] S. Janicka, Judaica w Archiwum Państwowym w Gorzowie, „Ziemia Gorzowska”, no. 16/1993.
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