Polska / śląskie
|Synagogues, prayer houses and others||Cemeteries||Places of martyrology||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]
Bielsko-Biała is the capital of Bielsko-Biała County in Silesia. It is located in the Silesian Upland, at the foot of the Silesian Beskids (Beskid Śląski) and the Little Beskids (Beskid Mały), in the valley of the Biała (a right-bank tributary of the Vistula River).
Adam Marczewski /
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 conflict and a struggle between Catholics and reformers and that, too, made the
Adam Marczewski /
The history of Bielsko-Biała is, in fact, a history of twin towns – Bielsko and Biała – which were separate municipal centers until January 1951.
Older and wealthier, Bielsko had existed as a Slavic settlement already in the 11th century. Bielsko received a municipal charter in 1263. At that time, a wave of German colonists had settled in the Silesian Foothills. The first historical mention of the Bielsko settlement comes from 6 June 1312 (the granting of a forest “between Kamienica and Mikuszowice” to the town dwellers) [[refr|http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bielsko-Bia%C5%82a]. Since 1327, Bielsko remained under Czech rule and shared the political fate of Silesia. The town quickly became an important border crossing on the salt trail leading from Kraków to Cieszyn, and farther to Moravia. This contributed to the town’s economic development, and in 1424, Bielsko received a renewal of its municipal rights. From the 15th century, the town was known for its cloth making craft and wool trade. Since 1526, it was a part of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy. In 1548, the town received a guild privilege (a cloth makers guild was active here). When the Reformation had begun in the 16th century, the strongest Protestant community in all of Cieszyn Silesia was established in Bielsko.
On the other hand, Biała, the second settlement, was developing as a small farming and craftsmanship village located near the defense castle on the right bank of the border river, Biała (the border between the Cieszyn and Oświęcim principalities). The village was established around 1560 on the territories of the Lipnica county.
In 1572, a separate Bielsko country, which was an independent state country, was allotted from the Cieszyn principality. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, Bielsko had been developing as an important center of cloth making, trade, and ceramics. It was a wealthy town, reaping considerable profits from production and sale of alcohol, and from farming and fishing.
At that time, in 1613, the Biała village had been distinguished as an independent rural commune, which had been increasingly adopting features of an artisan settlement.
Between 1642-1660, Bielsko and Biała were destroyed and robbed a few times by Swedish armies. In 1659 an
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