Jews started settling in Leśnica during the First Silesian War in 1742, when most of Silesia came under the rule of the Prussian Kingdom (except Cieszyn Silesia and the Dutchy of Troppau).

The first records of Jews living in Leśnica come from the census of 1783. At that time, there were 12 Jews living in the town (1.8% of the total population).

In 1809, there were 22 Jews living in Leśnica, who constituted 2.9% of the total population. In 1828, their number increased to 33 (3.3% of the total population). They belonged to the more affluent class of the population, they were traders and stall-keepers. They were probably subordinated to the Jewish community in Biała Prudnicka or Gliwice. At the end of the 1830s, the Jewish community of Leśnica decided to establish a cemetery. The cemetery, established before 1841 (the oldest preserved tombstone dates back to September of that year), was located outside the town, among fields, far from buildings.

In the middle of the fourth decade of the 19th century, the Jews of Leśnica constituted the second largest religious community of the town after the Catholics - in 1843, 66 Jews lived here (5.2% of the whole population).

According to the data of 1842, two Jews were restaurateurs and two were innkeepers[[refr:State Archive in Opole, Files of the town of Leśnica 1 k. 103v.]]. From 1843, prayers were held in a rented room in the building of the later court. In 1846, the Jewish community in Leśnica numbered 88 people (6.5% of the total population).

In the years of 1847-1850, a temporary Jewish community existed in Leśnica, but it was quickly dissolved due to the decreasing number of members. At the beginning of the 1850s, the Jewish community in Leśnica was subordinated to the Jewish community in Strzelce Opolskie. There was never a rabbi in Leśnica, and the ceremonies were attended by rabbis from Ujazd, Strzelce Opolskie or Gogolin.

In the early 1850s, four Jews lived in the nearby village of Wysoka, and five in Zalesie Śląskie (1861). In 1872, the Association of Upper Silesian Synagogue Communities (Polish: Związek Górnośląskich Gmin Synagogalnych, German: Oberschlesische Synagogen-Gemeinden) was established, which included the Jews of Leśnica. In 1875, 58 Jews lived there. From 1888, services were held in the Steinitz house (26 Narutowicza Square (Polish: Plac Narutowicza 26)). The prayers were led by a cantor. Statistical data from 1895 confirm the decreasing number of the Jewish community in Leśnica - in that year there were 35 Jews living in the town.

The rebirth of the Polish state in 1918 was followed by an increase in pro-Polish sentiment among the Silesian population. This led to a conflict with the German community and the outbreak of three consecutive Silesian uprisings. The majority of Jews were definitely on the pro-German side. At that time, many Silesian Jews decided to leave for the West, usually to big urban centres in Germany. This process concerned also Leśnica.

During the plebiscite of 1921 in Leśnica, 899 votes were cast for the town to remain in Germany and 101 votes for Poland. As a result of the vote, the town remained part of Germany. In 1925, there were only 6 Jews living in Leśnica, and in 1933 only two. During World War II, there was a slave labour camp for Jews in the nearby village of St. Anne's Mountain. After World War II, the Jewish community in Leśnica did not manage to revive. A larger group of Jews settled in the region only in Opole.

 

Bibliographical note

  • Borkowski M., Kirmiel A., Włodarczyk T., Śladami Żydów: Dolny Śląsk, Opolszczyzna, Ziemia Lubuska, Warszawa 2008.
  • Dziewulski W., Wsie sołeckie gminy Leśnica (do roku 1861), [in:] Szkice z dziejów Leśnicy, Opole 1977, p. 57.
  • Głowacki H., Dzieje Leśnicy w epoce feudalnej, [in:] Szkice z dziejów Leśnicy, Opole 1977, p. 48.
  • Ładogórski, Generalne tabele statystyczne Śląska 1787 r., Wrocław 1954.
  • Szkice z dziejów Leśnicy, Opole 1977.
  • Woronczak J., Żydzi w Leśnicy, [in:] Osiem wieków ziemi leśnickiej, ed. A. Lipnicki, Wrocław 2002.

 

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