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Olkusz

Polska / małopolskie

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Summary

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]
 
GPS:
50.2811° N / 19.5651° E
50°16'51" N / 19°33'54" E

Location

Anna Rutkowski

Herb miasta Olkusz | Olek Remesz

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.

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History

Anna Rutkowski

Portret rodziny Chai Tendler z ich kuzynką z Paryża Reginą Fajner. | nieznany

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

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Local history

Anna Rutkowski /

Widok rynku w Olkuszu, 1792 | Zygmunt Vogel

According to recent archeological research, the beginnings of the exploitation of lead deposits in this area date back to the 8th century BC. The first people to mine lead were probably Celtic tribes, who specialised in processing of silver. It is difficult to trace the origin of the town's name. In various documents, we can find names like Lchus, Hilcus, Ilcus, Ilkusz and finally Olkusz. First mention of Olkusz in historical records dates back to a commentary to the Bible written by Rashi in 11th century.

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