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Polska / lubuskie

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Province:lubuskie / inne (before 1939)
County:żarski / Sorau (Lausitz) (before 1939)
Community:Żary / Sorau (before 1939)
Other names:Sorau [j. niemiecki]
51.6414° N / 15.1374° E
51°38'29" N / 15°08'14" E


Andrzej Kirmiel

The town of Żary is located in the south-western part of Lubuskie Province, at the crossing of national roads No. 27, 12 and 287. The town of Żary belongs to Żary County and it is the seat of the Żary Municipality. Administratively, from 1950 to 1998 Żary belonged to Zielonogórskie Province and before that to Wrocławskie Province. Before 1945 Żary was under the German rule, Brandenburg Province, administrative district Frankfurt (Oder), Sorau County (Lausitz). The population of the town is 38,932 (CSO data of 30 June 2007). 



Andrzej Kirmiel

Ilustracja nr 1 | nieznany

Very little information has survived about the Jews in Żary. Certainly they were in Żary in the mid-14th century, when the then owner Ulrych Pack let the Jews settle down in town. What happened after that is uncertain, as they were taken in and expelled in turns. For instance, under Hieronim v. Biberstein’s rule in 1539, the Jews from the Czech Republic were allowed to settle down in Żary, but a few years later they were expelled on a charge of usury. The Jews appeared again in town during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), when the town owners – the von Promnitz family let the Jews stay in Żary temporarily and trade with Poland. They settled down in Żary for good in the 18th century, although in the organized form it did not occur until the beginning of the 19th century. In 1818 opticians Natan and Mojżesz Zweig asked the town authorities for a concession to trade in optical equipment. A year later, two Jews, Abraham Loebel and Abraham Joseph asked for a permission to settle down in Żary.

According to the data, in 1819, there were 18 Jews living in town in 1819. The first Jews living in Żary belonged to Gubin Municipality. Only in mid-19th century, when the number of Jews living in Żary increased to 50, they created an independent community. Apart from Żary, such villages as Krzystkowice, Raszków and Kunice Żarskie belonged to this community as well. Probably a cemetery was opened and a synagogue was built at that time. Within 30 years, the number of Jews in Żary tripled (154). The kehilla played a more and more important role in life of this town. One of the most distinguished people for the town of Żary was Johanna Knopf, who started a foundation, which was named after her. This foundation took action for the sake of Żary. With the money owned by the foundation, they created an idyllic garden, (German Lustgarten), which was considered to be one of the most attractive places in town. The residents of Żary, showing their gratitude for it, set a stone in the garden to commemorate the founder [<i>see picture No. 1</i>].

The houses and shops of the Jewish merchants stood out favorably in the architecture of town. Some of them, those particularly interesting, survived until these days and are located on the northern frontage of the town square. A modernist department store, built in the 1920s was run by the


Local history

Andrzej Kirmiel

The town of Żary was first mentioned in 1007 in the chronicle of Thietmar from Merseburg at the time when Dolne Łużyce belonged to Bolesław Chrobry. A trade route from Lipsk to Wrocław called the salt route went through Dolne Łużyce. This trade route had a vital influence on the development of the town of Żary. The town was granted municipal rights under the Magdeburg Law in 1260. In 1274 the Franciscan order was brought to Żary. From 1292 coins were minted there.


The location of Żary at the borderline made its national status change frequently. Until 1364 the town belonged to Silesian Piasts, from 1364 to 1635 it was owned by the Czech kings, and later until 1815 it belonged to Saxon electors. On the strength of the resolutions of Wien Congress, Żary along with entire Dolne Łużyce became a part of Prussia, and from 1871 it was transferred to Germany. The town belonged to Germany until 1945. Żary was never an independent town, it was always owned by people of the gentry background, who resided in a castle. Its owners were as follows: the Dewin family, the Biberstein family, and the Promnitz family.

Żary was an economic and administrative centre for its owners. In the 14th century, clothiers’, brewers’, shoemakers’ and dyers’ guilds operated in town. From the 16th century gold smithery started to develop. In 1586 the first post station on the route from Saxonia to Poland was opened in Żary. During the Thirty Years' War, the Wallenstein’s Army and the Swedes, which destroyed the town, went through Żary. The town was plagued with epidemics. From the beginning of the 18th century, silkworms were bred in Żary. In the 19th century, Żary became an important industrial centre. 50% of all people employed in industry worked in textile industry. In 1802, street lights were installed on the streets. The town was an important rail hub (the first railway line was opened in 1846). Moreover, Żary had a well-developed telegraphic system. In 1867, a Chamber of Commerce and Industry was opened, which was very active. In 1886, a Textile College was established there.

During World War II, from 1942 there was a detachment of air plant Focke-Wulf, which was moved from Brema. In April 1944, an allied raid destroyed a great part of the old town. In February 1945, the Russian Army entered the to




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