The first Jewish family settled down in Nowe Brzesko as late as 1862, and others arrived in the town in 1864. Yet a wave of new massive settlements started only after an imperial ukase of 1883, which contained an order that the Jewish population should leave the villages and settle down in the nearest locality with a police station. However, the Jews moved to the town from the villages rather reluctantly as evidenced by the 1885 census.[1.2] Nowe Brzesko was a poor town without any promising perspectives for the future, and that was why many young Jews moved to other cities.
In 1820, mayor Targowski wrote that 16 fairs were held annually and two markets were organized every week. During fairs, people traded in horses, cattle, pigs, grain, food, stall objects; the Jews sold good and linen[1.3].
A sharp increase in the number of Jews occurred during World War I, when 400 refugees arrived here from other regions, but mainly from Galicia. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the number of the Jews decreased again to about 200 people.
This small and poor kehilla did not have its own rabbi and had to rely on the services offered by the Proszowice rabbi. Initially, both the communities belonged to the kehilla in Działoszyce, and in the 1920s, to the kehilla in Miechów. It was not until the interwar period that the kehilla in Nowe Brzesko had its own rabbi, Mordka Henoch Spiro. He however moved to Kraków as early as 1923 and it was necessary for the Jewish community to elect a new rabbi. Because of a difficult financial situation, a rabbi was allowed to commute to the kehilla from a nearby locality.[1.4] For the lack of other volunteers, rabbi M. H. Spiro commuted from Kraków.[1.5]
In 1929, the kehilla had 450 members. Apart from Nowe Brzesko, it also included Gruszków, Igołomia and Wawrzeńczyce. Fifty-one families paid contributions at the amount of 5 to 60 zlotys. The contributed money were appropriated for paying the rabbi 400 zlotys a year for commuting, shochet – 2,600 zlotys, kehilla secretary – 400 zlotys, slaughter tax collector – 124 zlotys, renting rooms for houses of prayer – 400 zlotys, premises for an office – 100 zlotys.[1.6]
The Jews, who were made, against their own will, to settle down in Nowe Brzesko, were very poor people who did not have land or financial resources and had to take up jobs not demanding much investment. Most of them dealt with different types of trade and small craft, such as shoe- and dress-making.
Before the breakout of World War II, the Jewish community in Nowe Brzesko was not much diversified economically. The wealthiest Jewish citizens were Josek Szmuglewicz – the owner of a board depot, Szulik – a grain trader and R. Rychter, who ran a silk fabrics store. Besides, there were a bakery of Herszel Birbaum, a slaughterhouse of Dawid Pióro and grocery stores owned by Cherszel Ickiewicz and Jankiel Szmulewicz. Overall, thirty Jewish families ran some kind of businesses at the time.[1.7]
The fall of 1942 brought about the extermination of the Jewish community in Nowe Brzesko. In September, notices appeared in the village, informing about a meeting of all the Jews on the specified date in the New Market Square. They could take along only what they were able to carry. The crowded Jews were put into cars and transported to the Miechów ghetto. The old and infirm people were shot dead on the spot.
Two grown-up Jewesses and a child survived the war hidden under the floor in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Szewczyk in Nowe Brzesko. A few more Jewish families from Nowe Brzesko who took a refuge in neighboring localities made it through the war.[1.8]
No traces of the Jewish existence in Nowe Brzesko have survived to our times. The cemetery was destroyed during, and the building of the house of prayer was demolished after the war. Following the war, the village’s inhabitants used the matzevot to reinforce streets, as well as the foundations of new houses. Because of the fact that the cemetery was small, bordered on fields, and was surrounded by barbed wire, today it is impossible to determine where it actually was.
[1.1] Ziemia Nowobrzeska. Zarys dziejów gminy i sołectwa, red. Chorązki Włodzimierz, Nowe Brzesko 2006, pp. 9-201.
[1.2] Marcinkowski Stanisław, Miasta Kielecczyzny. Przemiany społeczno gospodarcze 1815–1869, Warszawa 1980, p. 83.
[1.3] Wędel Jadwiga, Toroń Małgorzata, Pempuś Maria, available at: http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:Ozjcf1gmmWcJ:www.gimnbrzesko.nowe-brzesko.iap.pl/legendyn.htm+nowe+brzesko+%C5%BCydzi&cd=21&hl=pl&ct=clnk&gl=pl&client=firefox-a (as of December 18, 2009)
[1.4] State Archive in Kraków, Provincial Office in Kraków I classification number 1748, card 49.
[1.5] State Archive in Kraków, Provincial Office in Kraków I classification number 1507, card 88.
[1.6] State Archive in Kraków, Provincial Office in Kraków I classification number 1471, card 17.
[1.7] Ziemia Nowobrzeska. Zarys dziejów gminy i sołectwa, red. Chorązki Włodzimierz, Nowe Brzesko 2006, pp. 200-203.
[1.8] Ziemia Nowobrzeska. Zarys dziejów gminy i sołectwa, ed. Chorązki Włodzimierz, Nowe Brzesko 2006, pp. 50-53.
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