Polska / małopolskie
|Synagogues, prayer houses and others||Cemeteries||Sites of martyrdom||Judaica in museums||Andere|
|Province:||małopolskie / kieleckie (before 1939)|
|County:||olkuski / olkuski (before 1939)|
|Community:||Olkusz / Olkusz (before 1939)|
|Other names:||Ilkenau [j. niemiecki]; אולקוש [j. hebrajski]; עלקוש [j. jidysz]|
Olkusz – a city in southern Poland, in Małopolska Province. It lies on the Baba River, 40 km northwest of Kraków and 300 km northwest of Warsaw.
It is difficult to give an exact date when Jews first appeared in Olkusz. The oldest note regarding Jews in Olkusz dates back to 1317, when according to the list in the town’s register there are two Jewish houses mentioned (curie due Judeorum). Therefore, the connections of Jews with Olkusz go back to the beginnings of this town.
Towards the end of the 13th century, there were a few Jews living in the town who worked in silver and lead ore trade. Probably, a court banker of King Casimir III the Great and King Jogaila (later Władysław II Jagiełło), Lewko from Kraków (died in 1395) leased a tax paid to the king on ores mined in Olkusz mines as well. However, there is no direct evidence of this. The development of the settlement was to be stopped in 1374, together with granting a privilege De non tolerandis Judaeis by Elżbieta Łokietkówna, sister of King Casimir III the Great and wife of King Louis I of Hungary. According to M. Bałaban, Olkusz Jews ‘presumably moved to nearby Kraków’. However, there is no confirmation of this in the sources . The fact is that by the middle of the 16th century there is no information about Jews in Olkusz. Their presence in the town is noted down again in the Kraków register books only in 1546. According to historians, it was connected with a further development of mining in this area and trade in silver gathered mainly in the hands of Jewish merchants. Numerous disputes with the townsmen over the finances, concerning mainly turnover of real estate and trade in lead were noted in the documents at that time. In 1564, there was even a demand that they should be dismissed from the town; it was repeated a few times later. Nonetheless, the development of the settlement was not stopped. On the contrary, together with an increase in the economic role of the Jews, the number of members of the community rose. They settled mainly near a synagogue, built at this time, and the Parczewska gate. The cemetery on the Sławkowski outskirts in the northern part of the town was probably established at that time .
At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, the most important activity of Olkusz Jews was still mining, metallurgy, trade in lead and silver. The most important and the most well-off merchants and gwareks were, among others, Samuel Abrahamowicz called Węgrzynowicz, Mojżesz Abrahamowicz called Abraha
From the very beginning, Olkusz was a typical mining town. It owed its establishment and development to lead ore mined there since the end of the 13th century. Trade in it was very profitable, dominated mainly by Kraków people. Lead was taken to Hungary, where it was exchanged for silver from the Central-Slavic mines . In the light of the newest archeological research, the beginnings of the exploitation of lead deposits in this area date back to the 8th century BC. It was probably connected with the arrival of Celtic tribes, who specialized in silver processing, into the Lesser Poland lands at that time. The origin of the town’s name has not been explained fully. In the old documents there are: LCUHS, HILCUS, ILCUS, ILKUSZ and then Olkusz. The first information about Olkusz can be found in the Bible commentary by Rabbi Shlomo Ben Izaak (Rashi) from the 11th century. The first historical note about the locality was found in the obligation of King Bolesław V the Chaste – Sandomierz and Kraków prince, who in 1257 promised to pay two grzywnas of gold a year from the Olkusz lead profit for the maintenance of a Poor Clares convent that he had moved from Zawichost to Skała. The documents confirming the granting of Olkusz a town charter did not survive until this time, though probably Bolesław V the Chaste did grant it. The oldest confirmation of the charter dates back to 1299 and this date is officially assumed as the beginning of an Olkusz existence.
At first, Olkusz was about 2,5 km west of the present town, but for some unknown reason the settlement was moved to another area. The new location contributed to an intensive development of the town because of a convenient situation on a trade route from Kraków to Wrocław. However, the exploitation and sale of lead ore were the most important source of income. In the 15th century, in the glory days, there were 300 active mines of this metal in Olkusz. Silver smelters developed around them. It was the reason to open a royal mint striking coins of high quality here in 1579, the only one at this time. In the 17th century, Olkusz was one of the biggest cities of the then Kraków Province. Unfortunately, wasteful exploitation of resources, natural disasters such as fires and floods of the Baba River, as well as epidemics and war activities, of the Deluge and then of the Northern War, led to the col
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