Jews from Pilica were firstly mentioned in 1581 when the bishop of Cracow, Piotr Myszkowski, accused them of insulting the Host[1.1].
In 1598, priest Krzysztof Kazimirski forbade the Catholics to keep the Jews in their homes. Stanisław Warszycki, however, removed them from the town after 1636. The old synagogue was transformed into St. Barbara’s church [1.2].
Jews returned to Pilica after 1690 when Michał Warszycki, the contemporary owner of the town, let them settle. Thanks to the permission, in 1700 they possessed a synagogue, a cheder, and a bathhouse. Other privileges were given in 1731, 1733, 1753 and 1787, respectively. In 1763, a session of the Council of Four Lands took place. The council was the central body of Jewish authority. In 1765, 506 Jews lived in Pilica.
The town of Pilica went down in history for its role in the battle for independence. That was the reason why the tsar deprived Pilica of its town rights in 1869, despite the fact that the town had a population of 3,357 people at that time, including 2,267 Jews [1.3]. Three great fires also contributed to the collapse of Pilica.
At the beginning of the 1870s ,C. A. Moes’s paper factory was set up here. It employed 166 people in 1876. The mining industry developed as well.
In 1883, the town of Pilica had a population of 4,604 people, with 220 houses. In 1885, Pilica was described as follows: “…the puddles on the streets never go dry, and all the backyards are as dirty as garbage cans”[1.4]. In 1886, a fire destroyed the town severely again. Over 200 Jewish families were deprived of roofs over their heads. The majority of them left the town and moved to Zawiercie, Łódź, and even Cracow. In 1897, 1,287 Poles and 2,688 Jews lived here. Most of them lived off craftwork and market trading. Merchants-middlemen from Pilica were well-known outside the town of Pilica.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, Pilica was a famous center of Hasidism: “After a famous tzaddik from Góra Kalwaria died, a considerable number of Hasidim started to go on pilgrimages to the rabbi’s brother-in-law. The latter, on the other hand, was Pilica’s rabbi[1.5]. Rabbi Pinkus Rotenberg was the head of the Jewish synagogue district. Pilica, unlike many other towns, could be proud of a 300-year-old synagogue made of larch wood.
From an administrative point of view, Pilica was a town in the years 1918-1939. In 1927, there were 225 houses, most of which had one story structure. 3,300 people lived in them: “On average, four families lived in one house” [1.6]. The population density was considerable then. In the interwar period, Pilica was known for shoe manufacturing.
The largest factories which belonged to the Jews towards the end of 1920s were as follows: G. Lichtensztajn’s factory plant and windmill, D. Rajzner’s sawmill, L. Jakobson’s factory producing soda water, Ch. Kac’s sheet-metal shop, I. Jakobson’s hat shop, A. Wasserman’s bookbinding workshop, W. Hochman’s boot shop, L. Sztylman’s tailor’s shop, M. Grosfeld , H. Lancman, F. Sztybel, B. Wajnreb, Ch. Zegielman, Ch. Zylbersztajn, I. Zyzman’s bakeries, Ch. Fajman, M. Feder, A. i L. Gentrajchendlers’ butcher’s.
The most important stores were as follows: S. Rajzman’s mercer’s store, A. Szwarcbaum’s flour store, M. Binensztok, M. Feder, B. Frydrych, K. Goldkorn, H. Hagierman, L. Hercberg, N. Hochcajt, R. Rotsztajn, R. Szwarcberger, M. Wasserman’s groceries. A. Rapaport traded in tobacco, M. Mendelson traded in clothes, R. Ehrenrajch and I. Kaner traded in coal, D. Leichter traded in corn, A. Orbach E. Zylbersztajn, and A. Wajnsztajn traded in iron. Moreover, F. Gildkorn ran an inn while Miński and Batorowicz had a communications-motor enterprise.
One could take out a loan in the following banks: Ludowy, Spółdzielczy, Przemysłowy and Kupiecki Banks[1.7]. Hersz Majer and Lejbuś Goldkorn who ran a wine and vodka wholesale outlet, Alter Herberg, Abram Lewental and the Management of the Jewish Community could use checks[1.8].
The first documents concerning the Jewish Community from the interwar period date back to 1923. They showed that the salaries of Rabbi Baruch Kałma Sztrenfeld were equal to 1.000.000 marks, which was approved by the Ministry of Faith. The district authorities informed the Community Management that it could rent a bathhouse and mikvah, as they had been unprofitable. Moreover, a tax on slaughter was fixed. They charged 10,000 marks for ox and cow slaughter, 7,000 marks for calf or sheep slaughter, 5,000 marks for goat slaughter, 1,800 marks for goose slaughter, and 700 marks for hen slaughter[1.9].
In 1924, the new management was chosen, with the following members: Josek Moszek Jakóbson, Enoch Zelcer, Chaim Paryzer, Moszek Konopiński, Dawid Paryzer, Lejbuś Cymerman, Chaim Rotsztajn, Dawid Hercberg. J. M. Jakóbson was a member of the management who was chosen for another term, as he was a member of the previous management as well. All of them claimed to be Orthodox followers. As for their professions, there was one shoemaker and one factory worker. The rest of them were merchants and traders[1.10].
In 1924, the representatives of the district authorities carried out a complex inspection of houses of prayer. As a result, they decided to close down the houses of prayer in the following buildings: Samuel Monowicz, Perla Erlich, Rafał Rusinek, Alter Baum, Henryk Wajnsztok, Szaps Rajzman. The close-down was caused by appalling sanitary conditions. At the same time, they emphasized that Pilica had two synagogues, so there was a place to pray.
In 1924, a new tax was fixed. They charged 5,000 000 marks for ox or cow slaughter, 4,000 000 marks for heifer slaughter, 3,000 000 marks for calf slaughter, 2,000 000 marks for sheep slaughter, 600,000 marks for goose slaughter, and 300,000 marks for hen slaughter[1.11]. Mendel Binsztok and Szloma Sztajnfeld worked as butcher koshers.
In 1925, the district authorities ordered the management to regulate the methods of slaughter. It was due to the fact that the butcher koshers were charged for ritual slaughter, which was against the decisions of the Ministry.
In 1925, 2,850 people lived in the community altogether. E. Zalcerz was the head of the management. 291 families were chosen to pay the fees[1.12]. They intended to make a profit of 11,248.94PLN on slaughter. There was also the Funeral Brotherhood by the Jewish Community. It charged some fees from families, which was against legally binding regulations. The way the accounts were done was regarded as efficient. Rabbi Sztrenfeld’s salary amounted to 400 PLN a month, that is 4,800 PLN a year. In August 1925, the Ministry decided to give him a pay rise of 800 PLN. At the same time, they stated that the profit from slaughter was underpriced taking into consideration the number of families in the community[1.13].
After the evaluation of the budget in 1926, they found some irregularities. First of all, the management did not have its own office, and the documents were kept in Icek Zielony’s house. They ordered to remove the planned income from koshering stoves, weddings, and circumcisions from the budget. The money received from these sources was due to the rabbi[1.14]. Other irregularities were that they did not look after the synagogue, and they did not plan the income from ritual slaughter and bathhouse reasonably. In case of the bathhouse, they expected to make a profit of 3,000 PLN on it. It was also emphasized that Polish grosz should not be charged in the fees. The tax on slaughter amounting from 6 PLN to 0.20 PLN was regarded as correct.
In 1927, the revenue in the budget amounted to 25,350 PLN. An average fee was 12 PLN. As for the expenses, the most important ones were the rabbi’s and butcher koshers’ salaries. In 1927, the community management had eight meetings. They touched upon the subject of fees and poor people during the meetings.
According to the project of the budget in 1928 which has been preserved until today, they expected an income of 12,350 PLN from slaughter, 1,798 PLN from fees, 25 PLN from cemetery charges, and 100 PLN from gravestone charges, 491 PLN from reading the Pentateuch roll, 1,231 PLN from bathhouse rent, and finally 350 PLN from selling Matzah[1.15]. As for expenses, they planned to spend 5,760 PLN on the rabbis’ salaries, 1,200 PLN on the deputy rabbi’s salaries, and 2,880 PLN on each butcher kosher’s salary a year. The management did not discuss the very important matter of the renovation of the synagogue, the shingle of which began to decay. Moreover, they did not talk over the subject of the funeral house in the cemetery which had collapsed and the cemetery wall which was about to collapse. There was a similar case with a house of prayer, school and rabbi’s house, which were neglected. Also, the community did not fix the matter of their ownership in the central mortgage register. According to the inspection, the petty cash ledgers were kept in an exemplary manner[1.16].
In 1929, they planned to obtain 20,200 PLN , including 13,500 PLN from ritual slaughter, 1,340 PLN from fees, 50 PLN from cemetery charges, 70 PLN from gravestone charges, 490 PLN from reading the Pentateuch roll, 600 PLN from bathhouse rent, 294 PLN from baking Matzah, 260 PLN from the charges for the seats in the synagogue, and finally 710 PLN from voluntary charges. As for expenses, they planned to spend 5,700 PLN a year on Rabbi Baruch Kałma Szternfeld’s salaries, 3,000 PLN on Mendel Binsztok and 3,000 PLN on Szloma Szajnfeld’s salaries. They were butcher koshers in the community. Cantor Allter Korenwald’s salary amounted to 250 PN, secretary Icek Zielony’s salary amounted to 1,040 PLN, teacher Froim Mendelson was to get 200 PLN, and the slaughter meter reader Alter Korcwald - 400 PLN. They planned to spend 3,000 PLN on maintenance, 1,000 PLN on support of the poor, 500 PLN on treatment of poor people and 740 PLN on religious education [1.17].
In 1929, Rabbi B. K. Szternfeld was chosen as the head of the management, with the following members: Icek Moszek Jakobson, Lejbuś Gwercman and Icek Zielony. The management had 14 meetings[1.18].A conflict between the rabbi and Icek Moszek Feder, who wanted to become an assistant rabbi weakened the position of the management. I. Borzykowski supported Icek Moszek Feder, who had carried circumcisions in the community for many years. The disputes were over debts as well, which amounted to 5,648.23 PLN.
In 1930, there were 1,908 Jews in the community, and 265 families were obliged to pay fees. The lowest fee amounted to 2 PLN. The revenue was estimated at 30,357 PLN, including 17,200 PLN from slaughter, 39,80 PLN from fees, 600 PLN from bathhouse rent, 50 PLN from cemetery charges, 70 PLN from gravestone charges, and 1,000 PLN from voluntary fees. As for expenses, B.K. Szternfeld - rabbi’s salary: 6,240PLN, Wigdor Binsztok- butcher kosher’s salary: 3,640 PLN , Szlama Szajnfeld’s salary: 3,120 PLN, secretary Zielony’s salary: 1,040 PLN, singer’s salary: 250 PLN, teacher’s salary: 200 PLN, and slaughter meter reader’s salary: 500 PLN. They allocated 650 PLN for the poor, 1,600 PLN for the health-insurance fund, and 6,000 PLN for renovation of the community buildings[1.19].
In 1931, the composition of the management changed. The head of the management was still a rabbi, but the members were as follows: Chaim Paryzer, Lejbus Gwarcman, Chaim Rotsztajn, and Enoch Zelcer.
In 1932, there was a lot of disagreement over the income from ritual slaughter between the management and the district authorities. The management expected to obtain 9,000 PLN. However, the district authorities expected 12,850 PLN. They claimed that the community should earn as much as possible from the slaughter because they were still in debt.
In 1933, 1,500 Jews lived in the community area, and 253 families had to pay fees. The fees ranged from 5 PLN to 1,000 PLN. As for income, they estimated to obtain 25,010 PLN, including 3,405 PLN from fees. However, there was a problem with unpaid fees. The management did not manage to obtain 4,355.90 PLN, but it still hoped to do so.
As for expenses, the main ones were Rabbi B. K. Szternfeld’s salaries: 6,240 PLN, butcher kosher W. Binsztok’s salaries:3,640 PLN, Sz. Sztajnfeld’s salaries: 3,129 PLN, singer Koronwald’s salaries: 250 PLN, servant Mendelson’s salaries: 200PLN, and expenses on renovation amounting to 8,784.64[1.20].
In 1938, the Jewish community in Pilica had a population of 1,711 people, and 217 families paid fees. The real estate was estimated at 11,700 PLN, and movables at 62,000 PLN. The community debt amounted to 11,186 PLN.
During the Second World War, the town of Pilica was occupied by the German army in September 1939. The Germans created a ghetto where 2,000 Jews were sent.
In 1942, all the Jews were firstly transferred to the Wolbrom ghetto and then to the concentration camps.
On Januray 15, 1943, the German gendarmerie shot Maria Rogozińska (aged 38) at Pilica castle. It was a penalty for hiding Jews. Also, a local guard was shot for not reporting the presence of Jews in his village.
On November 14, 1943, the gendarmerie shot Piotr Domagała from Dobra (aged 36). He had also hidden Jews. He was buried at the cemetery in Pilica. Moreover, the Germans shot the Janus family consisting of 10 people, together with the Jews whom they had hidden. The execution took place in a forest situated behind a monastery. Bronisław Janus, the only one who survived, was awarded the medal of the Righteous Among the Nations.
[1.1] S. Adamczyk, The Jews in Pilica in the second half of the 17th century„Almanach Historyczny” 2002, v . 4 , p. 151
[1.2] http://dziedzictwo.polska.pl/katalog/skarb,Projekt_rozbudowy_cmentarza_zydowskiego_w_Pilicy_z_1884_r,gid,387014,cid,1477.htm?body=desc [stan na 16 II 2010].
[1.3] Wiech S., Towns of Kielce Province in the years 1870-1914, Kielce 1995, p. 120
[1.4] „Gazeta Świąteczna” 1885, no. 226
[1.5] „Gazeta Kielecka” 1906, no. 78
[1.6] H. Błażkiewicz, History of the parish church in Pilica, Cracow 1988, p. 80
[1.7] Polish Book of Addresses (including W.M. Gdańs) for trade, industry, craft and agriculture, Warsaw 1930 , pp. 256, 257
[1.8] A list of check users of P.K.O., Warsaw 1933, p. 569
[1.9] APK, UWK I, classification number 1752, c. 485
[1.10] APK, UWK I, classification number 1501, c. 195
[1.11] APK, UWK I, classification number 1749, c. 302
[1.12] APK, UWK I, classification number 1400, c. 388
[1.13] APK, UWK I, classification number 1400, c. 382
[1.14] APK, UWK I, classification number 1650, c. 4
[1.15] APK, UWK I, classification number 1650, c. 9
[1.16] APK, UWK I, classification number 1650, c. 57.
[1.17] APK, UWK I, classification number 1650, c. 83
[1.18] APK, UWK I, classification number 1650, c. 193
[1.19] APK, UWK I, sign. 1650, c. 159
[1.20] APK, UWK I, classification number 1650, c. 412
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