Polska / śląskie
|Synagogues, prayer houses and others||Cemeteries||Sites of martyrdom||Judaica in museums||Andere|
|Province:||śląskie / krakowskie (before 1939)|
|County:||miasto na prawach powiatu / bielski (before 1939)|
|Community:||Bielsko-Biała / Bielsko (before 1939)|
ביילסקו-ביאלה [j. hebrajski]
Bielitz-Biala [j. niemiecki]
Бельско-Бяла [j. rosyjski]
Bílsko-Bělá [j. czeski]
Adam Marczewski /
Bielsko-Biała - a city in southern Poland in the Silesian Province, seat of Bielsk County. It is situated 60 km south of Katowice, 69 km southwest of Kraków, 350 km southwest of Warsaw; also 40 km east of the border with the Czech Republic (Cieszyn) and 50 km north of the border with Slovakia (Zwardoń). It lies by the Biała River.
In fact, the story of Bielsko-Biała is a story of two twin towns which were two separate municipal centers. Older and richer Bielsko, which existed as a settlement as early as the 11th century, was granted town privileges in 1263. On the other hand, Biała developed as a village of crafts and agriculture situated at a fortified castle on the right bank of the River Biała. From 1613 on, Biała was an independent crafts village.
The beginnings of the Jewish settlement in this area had to do with the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) which left many Silesian towns depopulated. Aiming at improving the country’s finances, Emperor Ferdinand eased, in 1627, the policy towards Jews and issued an edict allowing Jews to settle here after paying a special fee at the amount of 40 guldens. The Emperor’s edict made it legally possible to conditionally run trade and craft businesses by a certain separate group of privileged Jews (privilegire Juden), who were also called court Jews (Hofjuden). The emperor also gave them his permission to lease tax and customs duty collection. The Jews could buy houses and own them.
Jewish people would come here from Moravia and Lower Silesia bringing along western patterns of social and political life, as well as Jewish customs and religious rituals and the language of the Ashkenazi Jews (the Hebrew term אַשְׁכְּנָזִים (“Ashkenazi”) refers to Germany as the country they came from).
The oldest mention of the Jewish presence in Bielsko dates back to 1653 and it states that tolls were charged and vodka was sold by a person of Jewish origin who was called “Mutjude.” On the other hand, based on the 1697 account of Mateusz Klimczak, a Beskids highwayman, who claimed that he sold looted things to “the Jew on the Biała River,” it has been assumed that Jews settled in Biała towards the end of the 17th century.
At the turn of the 16th-17th centuries Bielsko developed as an important center of cloth, trade and ceramic industries. It was a rich town, drawing considerable profits from production and sale of alcohol, as well as from agriculture and fishing. Therefore it should be supposed that most of the Jews of Bielsko were traders and that was how they made their living.
The turn of the 17th and 18th centuries was a period of a very fierce religious co
Martyna Sypniewska /
The history of Bielsko-Biała is, in fact, a story of twin towns – Bielsko and Biała – which had been separate municipal centers until January 1951.
In today's district called Stare Bielsko a fortified town was founded in the 12th century, which should be linked to the fact that a wave of German colonists had settled in the Silesian Foothills at that time. The first historical mention of the Bielsko settlement dates from 1312, which marked the granting of a forest “between Kamienica and Mikuszowice” to the townspeople. From 1327 on, Bielsko remained under Czech rule and shared the political fate of Silesia. The fact that the town played a significant role on the salt route leading from Kraków to Cieszyn, and farther to Moravia, was confirmed by the renewal of the town privileges by Duke Bolesław I in 1424. From the 15th century onwards, the town was known for cloth making. From 1526 on, just like the whole of Silesia, it was under the Habsburg rule. In the mid-16th century, the strongest Protestant community in Cieszyn Silesia was established in Bielsko, while in 1572, the Bielsko territory was separated from the Duchy of Cieszyn and subsequently turned into a free state country.
Being, at first, part of the Duchy of Oświęcim, and then of Silesian County, Kraków Province, Biała, which was founded around 1560 in the territory of Lipnik Crown Lands (Polish: starostwo lipnickie), was located on the the right bank of the River Biała and would develop as a small farming and craft village and exist as a separate municipality from the year 1613 onwards.
Between 1642 and 1660, Bielsko and Biała would be destroyed and plundered a few times by the Swedish army. In 1659, and 1664, fires ravaged Bielsko, but the town was quickly rebuilt. In 1686, Bielsko received a privilege of free cloth manufacture, and soon after that cloth from Bielsko was regarded as best in Silesia and the Czech state. However, strong economic competition had been slowly emerging in the vicinity of Bielsko. In 1710, a customs chamber was created in Biała, and on 9 January 1723, Biała received municipal rights. Very quickly, the town had become one of the most important centres of cloth and linen making in western Lesser Poland. In the mid-18th century, first factories (ba
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