HERE to subscribe to our czestochowajews email group.
The Jews of Częstochowa
One of Poland's largest and most vibrant Jewish communities
lived in Częstochowa up until the German invasion of Poland in
September 1939 and the ensuing Holocaust.
From the 18th century, followers of traditional Judaism, Hasidic Jews, Reform Jews,
Catholics and Protestants lived together in relative peace.
Until its devastation, Częstochowa Jewry was famous for its business, cultural,
social, and patriotic activities. The city was also renowned for its religious faith
and scientific advances. The massive deportations of the Częstochowa Jews to
the Treblinka death camp, in September and October 1942, took a toll of 40,000 victims.
The earliest evidence for the presence of Jews in Częstochowa is found in the
reports of royal inspections from the years 1620 and 1631. A few decades later, in 1705,
the Council of the City of His Royal Highness took a loan from Mosiek, a Jew, in order to
pay a tribute imposed on the city of Częstochowa by the Swedes. In return, Mosiek
was allowed to reside in Old Częstochowa until the city repaid its debt to him.
Częstochowa was also a hotbed of Frankist activity. The founder of this
heretical messianic sect, Jacob Frank (1726-1791), was excommunicated by the Jews and
sought protection from the Church. He later found himself in dispute with the ecclesiastical
authorities and was pressured into converting to Catholicism. He then came into conflict
with the Church and was imprisoned in the Jasna Góra fortress. Later, he was freed
by the invading Russians.
The stormy days of the Bar Confederation, and the two sieges of the Jasna Góra
by the Russian army, were not conducive to forming an organized Jewish community.
How many Jews lived in Częstochowa until the middle of the 18th century,
remains obscure. We know that there were 75 Jews in 1765. According to certain sources,
a synagogue existed at that time at the junction of Nadrzeczna and Mirowska streets.
Other sources associate the first house of prayer with the period of the Prussian Partition.
In the year 1798, Częstochowa Jews decided to separate from the community in nearby
Janów. At that time, they established a Mikveh (ritual bath house) and temporary synagogue,
probably in the Berman house at 15, Old Marketplace (Stary Rynek). Between the wars, the Chief
Rabbi of Częstochowa, Rabbi Nahum Asz, initiated the construction of a larger and richly decorated
bath house on grounds belonging to the Jewish Community, on 18 Garibaldi Street.
When the Jews separated from the Janów community, the necessity arose for them to
establish their own cemetery. Official permission was obtained in 1798. However,
the cemetery did not come into being until a year later, because no Catholic would
sell the Jews a plot to for this purpose. The first funeral - of Izaak, son of Moszek - took place
in 1800. For over two years the tomb was guarded for fear of its profanation.
The 19th Century
In 1805, the Częstochowa Jews were granted an official construction permit to erect a
synagogue. Three years later, during the period of the Duchy of Warsaw, they were allowed to
establish a separate Jewish Community Council. Among other activities, the Community Council
maintained its offices, the synagogue, the cemetery, and the Mikveh. It supervised ritual slaughter,
arranged for social welfare, and collected taxes. Initially, only 495 individuals were allowed to
belong to the community although the Jewish population far exceeded that number. At the time,
there were 3,349 residents in the growing city.
In the 19th century, when Częstochowa was part of the Russian Partition, the
Jews had to struggle for their identity. They boycotted the order of Tsar Nicholas I,
in 1825, for all Russian citizens to abandon their national costumes and to dress
like Europeans. Policemen equipped with scissors stopped Jews in the streets and would cut
their beards, sidelocks and gaberdines. Wigs worn by Jewish women were stripped off. One
Saturday, when several police officers stood in front of the synagogue to examine the
appearance of the worshippers, the Jews remained in the house of prayer until late in the night.
Another source of conflict with the authorities was the Tsar's order to give names
to all the citizens of the Russian Empire. The Jews, despite administrative
pressure, would not respect this order. Consequently, the municipality - in a high-handed
manner - forced surnames on all the Jews in 1824. As a result, there were 31 Berman's,
29 Haiman's, and 28 Landau's living in Częstochowa at that time. In many cases,
they were not related.
In the 19th century, Częstochowa was transformed into an important
diverse industrial centre, including extractive and metallurgical works and the manufacture
of textiles, toys, and devotional articles. In the 1880's, next to Łódż, Częstochowa
was the second largest industrial city of the Russian Partition. It had the country's third
largest population - after Warsaw and Łódż. Later, Częstochowa became
one of the most industrialized cities of the independent Poland. In 1925, 136
factories including 17 big textile plants operated in the city.
The Częstochowa Jews were not only active in developing local industry but were
frequently among initiators of the process. In 1828, David Kronenberg, who earlier
owned a dozen or so weaving workshops, established the first textile factory of
hand-produced goods. Among the biggest factories established by the Jews until
the 1850's there were: the Warta Factory of Jute Products, owned by
Henryk Markusfeld and Szymon Neuman; the Gnaszyńska textile plant; the factory owned by
Izydor Singer and Roman and Zygmunt Markowicz; the Langhamer's picture factory and two
factories manufacturing spoons owned by Kohn and Landau; the printing house owned by
Szymkowski and Oderfeld; and the match factory owned by Sperber.
The Jews were unrivalled in the field of toy manufacturing. At the turn of the 19th
century all toy factories (as many as 15 altogether) in Częstochowa had Jewish owners.
Business and forwarding enterprises, warehouses, intermediary agencies, etc. of various
sizes developed around factories. New lines of business and professions were emerging.
Many Jews also held onto their traditional occupations in handicrafts and commerce.
Jewish craftsmen established their own guilds, such as those belonging to tinsmiths,
roofers, hairdressers, wig-makers, cap makers, furriers, metalworkers, bakers, confectioners,
upholsterers, and brush makers. In 1897, the renowned Craft School for Jews was established.
It trained skilled workmen, such as carpenters, locksmiths, mechanics, and electricians.
In the middle of the 19th century, mutual relations tightened between Jews and
Poles, particularly between Jewish industrialists and the emerging Polish
intelligentsia. The Jews and the Poles were connected, thanks to growing business
relations and their common engagement in patriotic, scientific, and cultural
activities. Daniel Neufeld, founder and headmaster of the Jewish grammar school with Polish
language instruction, organized patriotic events before the January Rising, and was an
outstanding advocate of Jewish-Polish rapprochement. >The Częstochowa Jews, despite
severe repression, took part in all the struggles for the independence of Poland. After the
8th of September Uprising in 1862, tsarist troops attacked the Old Town inhabited by Jews.
Many Jewish homes were set on fire and there were many casualties.
In the last decades of the 19th century, only poor Jews remained in the Old Town,
inhabiting tenement houses on the Targowa, Garncarska, Nadrzeczna, Senatorska,
Kozia, Gęsia, Ptasia, Mostowa and Spadek streets. Wealthy people abandoned the confined
area of the Jewish quarter and moved to the city centre. Roomy, large-style apartment houses
were erected along the I Najświętszej Marii Panny Avenue, in the Aleksandrowska (now
Wilson) Street as well as in the Odjazd (now Piłsudski) Street.
Wealthy, open-minded Jews built the so-called New Synagogue on the Aleksandrowska Street.
In accordance with the ideas of Haskalah or "Jewish Enlightenment", they sought to
combine secular knowledge with religion. They chose outstanding scientists and scholars to
be religious leaders, such as the historian Mayer Bałaban. Cantor Abraham Birnbaum
founded the renowned cantorial school that was attached to the New Synagogue. Its graduates
found success and admiration in the United States. He was also the first person to start a
Union of Cantors. In his compositions, he combined traditional Jewish themes with the
elements of contemporary European music.
The New Synagogue existed for only 46 years. Devastated and robbed of all precious objects,
it was set on fire by German military policemen and their Volksdeutche henchmen on
Christmas Day, 1939. The Judaic library with its rich music collection was decimated
along with the building. In the 1960's, a philharmonic hall was built on its ruins.
In an earlier period, Polish Standards, from the Napoleonic era were stored in the Old
Synagogue. Soldiers, returning from Russia in 1813, handed them over to the local Jews to be
hidden. One of the standards was used as a parochet, or curtain for the Aron Hakodesh,
the altar cabinet where Torah scrolls are kept. Afterwards, the standards were
taken by the Assimilationist Jews from the New Synagogue. The existence of these
precious relics was discovered in 1916, during the First World War, when Russian
troops withdrew from Częstochowa.
The 20th Century
After Poland regained its independence in 1918, patriotic celebrations took place in
both synagogues on the anniversaries of important events in Polish history. In the
1920's, Rabbi Nahum Asz initiated thorough renovation of the Old SYnagogue. It was carried
out according to the design of painter Perec Willenberg, who fashioned magnificent symbolic
ornaments. He also painted Polish coats of arms on the walls. On the 25th of September 1939,
Germans, dressed in their uniforms began to demolish the Old Synagogue. They were joined by
Volksdeutche and a local mob. After three days of looting and devastation, only the
walls, shattered windows, and broken floors remained.
Apart from synagogues, there were many Hassidic stiblekh in Częstochowa,
including four houses of prayer connected with the Tsadik from Góra Kalwaria.
In keeping with the charitable principles of Judaism, the Częstochowa Jews arranged
for care of the sick, aged, orphans, pregnant women, and others in need. The
Dobroczynność ("Charity") association and the Towarzystwo Dobroczynne
dla Żydów ("Charitable Association for the Jews") were the largest and most
respected charitable institutions.
Thanks to the philanthropists, a home for the aged, and a day nursery for poor
pre-school age children were established along with summer and holiday camps. In
1913, a modern hospital with 50 beds was erected on Mirowska Street. This hospital was open
to anybody in Częstochowa without regard to religion.
Schooling was also a religious obligation. At first, the Jews were educated in
numerous cheder schools (there were 32 cheder schools in 1912) and yeshivas that offered
mostly religious education. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Jewish children
attended nine primary comprehensive and public schools, two secondary schools, a grammar
school, and several trade schools. The experimental gardening farm situated
at 89 Rolnicza Street was a teaching institution of special importance. Here, children
and young people were prepared to live and work in Palestine. Instruction was given by the
members of WIZO, the International Zionist Women's Organization.
WIZO was one of the many Zionist organizations active in Częstochowa. From the
1880's on, the Zionists argued with the Assimilationists about total polonization.
High hopes for harmonious coexistence with the Poles were raised when Poland
regained its independence in 1918. Anti-Semitic excesses, however, weakened the
position of those who supported assimilation. At the dawn of the Second Republic, on 28th
of May 1919, a bloody pogrom - with participation of soldiers of General Haller's Army -
took place in Częstochowa. Seven Jews were killed and many wounded.
Anti-Semitic aggression among university students increased in the second half of
the 1930'a as a result of the propaganda fuelled by the National Democratic
Movement. Anti-Semitic incidents that took place in Częstochowa in 1937 had wide
repercussions. The synagogue was set on fire, and 46 Jewish shops and 21 flats were
demolished. A feeling of danger and uncertainty over the future was growing among Jews.
All important events in politics, culture and sport were reported and discussed in
the local Yiddish press. As many as six Jewish daily papers, ten weekly magazines and one
bi-weekly magazine were published in Częstochowa before 1939. Yiddish was the primary
language of most Jews in Poland.
The German army seized Częstochowa on Sunday, the 3rd of September in the early
morning. At noon the next day, they brutally brought the city to submission. Several hundred
people were killed (some sources report one thousand victims) including many Jews. In the
following days, the persecutions continued, and were, in part, specifically directed at the
At the beginning of the occupation, the Germans immediately ordered all Jewish
schools closed. Military and police units moved into some school buildings. On
orders of the occupation authorities, a Jewish representative Council of the Six was
established on the 16th of September 1939. Later, on the 1st of October 1939, it was
transformed into the Judenrat, or Council of the Elders, composed of 24 members.
The task of the Judenrat was to administer the affairs of the Jewish population and
to, execute all the orders of the occupation authorities unconditionally.
In the face of resistance by the Polish municipality, nearly the entire burden of
services on behalf of the German functionaries and administration fell upon the
Judenrat. The Council was obliged to prepare fully furnished flats and office
premises. By order of the Germans, the Council was also forced to supply manpower free
of charge. The Council was also compelled to accommodate Jews deported to Częstochowa
from Berlin and other parts of Germany, and from the annexed territories. Meanwhile, more
and more Jews, displaced or escaping from neighbouring places, were flooding into
Częstochowa. From the beginning of the occupation, the Germans took over
Jewish enterprises, blocked bank accounts, and robbed Jews of their possessions.
There were many murders, beatings and cases of physical and psychological persecution.
In September 1939, several Jewish political activists were arrested by the Gestapo
and deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp. In April 1941, the Germans drove the Jews
into the Częstochowa ghetto. Its borders were delimited by the railway line and the
wall stretching along the track. German checkpoints were set up on the approach roads to the
The Jewish community did not remain passive. In September 1939, the
Society for Jewish Population Health Protection (TOZ) continued to function, fixing
its attention on malnourished children and youth. Efforts were also made to provide them
with education. They also tried to offer medical care to the entire Jewish population.
Various underground military activities and resistance were attempted. However,
the deportations of the ghetto residents to Treblinka that began early morning on the 22nd
of September 1942 put a stop to everything. The Germans, with all perfidy and cynicism,
chose the most important day on the Jewish calendar - Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)
- to liquidate the Częstochowa ghetto. Around 40,000 women, children and men, in five
transports, were deported to gas chambers of Treblinka.
Anyone who offered resistance, along with the weak and sick, were killed on the spot.
Children and pregnant women were marched to the Kawia Street for mass execution.
Murdered people were buried in two common graves. At least 2,000 Jews were murdered in
Częstochowa alone at that time. Deportations continued until the first days of October.
It was at the time of this bloody operation that a Jewish resistance movement began, made up
mostly of young people.
During liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans picked out a group of 856 men and 73 women and
transferred them to the HASAG Apparatenbau plant where wood distilled-gas generators for
trucks were manufactured. An ammunition factory was also set up there. The Częstochowa
plant of the HASAG (Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft) arms concern was established
in the former Pelcera textile factory. Some of the ghetto residents were employed in HASAG
Eisenhutte - former Polish Pelcer's steel works. Survivors were settled on the premises of other
enterprises. The so-called Small Ghetto was established for the Jewish prisoners. 5,185
people including 35 children were placed there. Around 1,500 Jews, together with little children,
still remained in hiding. Jewish fighters under Machel Birencwajg's command smuggled these people
into the Small Ghetto, where they had to hide in bunkers and in the attics, since
capture meant certain death.
The liquidation of the Small Ghetto began on Monday morning, on the 4th of January 1943, when the
Germans and the Ukrainian police surrounded it. Women, children, and men were gathered in the Small
Marketplace (the Ryneczek), herded onto lorries, and transported to the Jewish cemetery where they
were shot. The first act of military resistance was recorded during the selection of Mendel
Fiszlewic, a fugitive from Treblinka and a member of the battle group, and a young woman of unknown
identity. They attacked the German officers that were commanding the selection. The action
(watched by many people including the young boy who observed it from hiding)
undertaken by these brave young people failed, and they were shot on the spot. In
revenge, the Germans shot every fifth person (20 people altogether) among those who
were present in the Ryneczek at that time. All who were killed on that day, later
called Bloody Monday, were buried in a common grave.
On the 20th of March 1943, during the so-called Purim Operation, the Germans shot
members of the Judenrat, along with their families, in the "kirkut" (the Jewish cemetery).
On the 23rd of March 1943, after a long night of torture, the Germans shot the six
fighters who were arrested on the previous day, at 34 Wilsona Street. A grave with
the engraved names has remained to this day: Flamenbaum, Moniek -21 years old;
Herszenberg, Olek - 25 years old; Krauze, Janek - 23 years old; Rychter, Heniek - 19 years
old; Rosenblat, Jerzyk -18 years old; Szajn, Szlamek - 27 years old.
After the liquidation of the Small Ghetto, most of the 4,000 survivors were driven to
forced labor camps attached to the HASAG factories. Wooden barracks, surrounded by an
electrified, barbed wire fence, were erected on the grounds of the HASAG Apparatenbau.
The Jews had to work in the HASAG ammunition factory, where artillery ammunition cases,
brought from the front, were reconditioned.
On the 20th of July 1943, German foremen and the woman-supervisor Koch, notorious
for her cruelty, carried out a brutal selection of workers - men and women and
Jewish children from the Kinderkomando. Around 260 people were condemned to death.
Several hundred Jews from beyond the HASAG were added on the next day. More than 500
people were shot in the Częstochowa Jewish cemetery at that time.
In January 1944, transports of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto and the
Płaszów camp started to arrive in Częstochowa. More ammunition factories
were established. HASAG, the Częstochowianka and HASAG Warta, as well as new camps
for Jews, were attached to them. In July 1944, Jewish prisoners were moved to Częstochowa,
together with the equipment from the HASAG Concern ammunition factories that were
closed down by the Germans in Skarżysko. Eleven thousand Jewish workers were then at
work in Częstochowa. On the 14th of December 1944, the HASAG camps came under the
authority of the SS. This resulted in further deterioration of the already inhuman
On the 15th of January 1945, the Germans ordered the evacuation of the HASAG
prisoners to the "Reich." To avoid deportation, individual groups of prisoners
including a large group led by Leon Silberstein left the camp and awaited liberation.
Consequently, the Germans managed to deport only half of the eleven thousand Jews
working in the HASAG camps.
On the day Częstochowa was liberated from the German occupation, around
5,200 Jews were left in the city, including 1,518 people who lived here before
the war (including 1,240 people who were born here).
The Jews coming from other Polish cities left Częstochowa within three months
after liberation. At the same time, 1,195 Hungarian, Czech, Romanian, French,
Dutch, Austrian, Yugoslav, and Belgian Jews, and one Jew from Greece, arrived
from German territories seized by the Soviet Army. A few weeks later, they, too,
left the city.
Rejoicing in the liberation did not last long. Thousands of survivors were homeless
and without means of subsistence. They were without their families and loved ones.
Dozens of disabled persons, and hundreds of seriously ill people - people suffering
from physical and mental disorders- were in desperate need of help.
Children presented a particularly serious issue. More than a hundred were orphaned
and without protection. The chairman of the Częstochowa Bund
organization, Liber Brener, wrote, "Children from the camps, children taken back from
their Polish protectors, children from the convents, children who survived as
herdsmen in the villages and the children wandering through the towns and villages
were often in a very bad physical, spiritual and mental shape...". Many children had
to be found and then bought back. Many young people were sent to school, and an orphanage
was set up in the building at 23 Krótka Street, where the Peretz School stood
before the war. Sometimes, these orphans were given to substitute families.
Thanks to domestic and foreign financial aid, a rest home for convalescents and
the physically exhausted was established near Częstochowa. A Regional Jewish
Committee was also organized in Częstochowa. The Committee was composed of the
representatives from the Bund, the Poale Zion and the PPR. Thanks to support received
from the Municipal Housing Commission, most of the Jews in Częstochowa found shelter.
Financial help and food was distributed. A common lodging-home for Jews returning from
labor camps was set up. The homeless could also find shelter and food there. Shared flats
for young people as well as a school for children and youth were established. A health-care
institution was also brought into existence. Religious life was reborn after the liberation.
A room of prayer and a kosher canteen were created in the Mikveh building.
After the War
When the Jewish community started to revive, tragic events in Kielce and other
places in 1946 dramatically changed the situation. In spite of the courageous
attitude assumed by Bishop Kubina, the local Jewish community felt threatened again.
Jews were given firearms and were stationed at night in front of the orphanage. Surviving
Jews began to leave Częstochowa. Around 400 Jews lived in Częstochowa in August
In spite of these events, the Club for Children and Youth was established in the
residence of the Markowicz family at 36 Jasnogórska Street. The Club was also attended by
adults. Activities included courses in Yiddish and Hebrew, amateur theatre, photography,
and fine arts. The Club had been active until the antisemitic campaign in 1968, at which
time, most of its members dispersed throughout the world.
At the beginning of the Nineties, the Częstochowa people decided to commemorate
the murdered Częstochowa Jews. At the suggestion of Dr.Tadeusz Wrona, the Mayor of
Częstochowa, commemorative plaques in Polish, Hebrew and English, were fixed onto the
walls of the Częstochowa Philharmonic Hall, the Zawodzie Hospital, and in the
Bohaterów Getta street (former Ryneczek). At the same time, the Wysza
Szkoła Pedagogiczna (Pedagogical College) in Częstochowa, organised an academic
conference. Papers delivered during the Conference were published in the book Dzieje
Żydów w Częstochowie" (A History of the Częstochowa Jews) edited by
"Surviving Jews in Częstochowa"
Shortly after the conclusion
of World War II,
the World Jewish Congress
published a booklet entitled Surviving Jews in CzĘstochowa"
based on lists supplied to it,
at that time by the
Central Jewish Committee in Poland.
To view or to download
a scan of this booklet,
click HERE (6.1 mBytes).
Please be aware that the listing
is not strictly alphabetical.
The material on this page
was written by
historian, former Vice-Chancellor of the
Jan Długosz Academy and
one of the Exhibition's creators.
It originally appeared on the
website of Dr.Mizgalski's son,
and is included within this
website with their