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"To Bring Memory Back" edition 2006-2007

SZYDŁOWIEC - Zespół Szkół Ponadgimnazjalnych nr 2 im. WOP linia

Who are we

High School Complex No 2

Our Project  "אבנים ידברו " ("And the stones will speak…”") is being realized within the circle of interest, which was created in our school under supervision of Professor Monika Łukomska-Bekiel, teacher of Polish language.


Why we do this project

Paraphrasing the words of Isaak Bashevis Singer we can say:

"When we say „Szydlowiec” we see with our soul’s eyes the old, Jewish Szydlowiec. We see Jewish streets, stalls, synagogues, schools, fairs, backyards filled with Jewish residents. How possible is existence of a Jewish-Polish town without a synagogue and a school? Is Friday possible without steaming mikva, without Jewish women who bake chalkas and put Shabbat’s czulent into the stove? It’s hard to imagine everything turned to ashes.”

We cannot, and above all we do not want to forget this so colorful past of Szydłowiec. We want the Szydłowiec Jews to live in the memories of the people; we want to bring back the memory of our former neighbors.

Jewish community in our town

Through the centuries Jewish population dominated among Szydlowiec’s residents. First mentions about them are dated on 1584. In sources as the first one appears a Jew Przasnysz, a year later – Abram Sowa. These sparse notes mean that to half of the 17th century the number of Jews in Szydlowiec was not so high. The situation changed in the second half of the 17th century. The number of people claiming to be Judaism believers increased significantly [1]. The influx of Jewish population was, according to some historians, connected with the events on Ukraine during Bohdan Chmielnicki’s uprising. In the second half of the 17th century the number of people in the town dramatically decreased due to epidemics, famine and robberies. In connection with that Dominic Mikolaj Radziwill passed a proclamation to inform that in Szydlowiec there were many empty houses. In this way he tried to attract attention of potential newcomers. Then the influx began – merchants, Jewish craftsmen. In 1716 in Szydlowiec there were 20 families of Judaism relief – the majority in the town. The number of Jews in Szydlowiec constantly increased. To Szydlowiec’s kahal belonged also Jews from Jastrzeb, Skrzynna, Wierzbica, Wąchock and several dozen villages of Opoczno, Radom and Sandowmierz district. [2].

Together with the increase of number of Jewish population the role in Szydlowiec’s economics have also increased. Between 1819 and 1913 there was a rapid increase of population growth (i.a. Jewish population). Alas we know very little about the beginnings of the town’s Jewish Community activity. The basis to establish and activity of a kahal was a permission called the Jewish Location Privilege. The permissions were given by the king or a liege lord. In 1711, owner of the town, Michal Antoni Radziwill began to make efforts to get an agreement of
Krakow’s bishop to build a synagogue. Officially Jewish Community in Szydlowiec was established in 1711. Then a synagogue, cemetery and mikva came into being.

Our knowledge about rabbis in Szydlowiec in beginnings of the Community is not broad. Most probably the first rabbi was Meir Ben Isaak Eisenstadt, a person of high esteem. After him the position was taken by his son Elizar (half of the 18th century). On January 1st 1879 a newcomer from Warsaw, Josek Goldblum, became a rabbi. However in 1893 he was recalled from the position. The next rabbi was Nusym Dawidowicz Rabinowicz. His candidacy for the place was confirmed in 1912. His father also was a rabbi in Szydlowiec. In mid-twenties Chaim Rabinowicz became a rabbi.

Jewish population of Szydlowiec lived in big cluster and has taken the central part of the town, called by the Catholics “Jewish Town”. Most of them lived near main squares and surrounding streets. Majority lived in following squares: Maly, Wolnosci and Targowy and in following streets: Boznicza, Rabinowa, Krotka, Mala, Ogrodowa, Poprzeczna, Radomska and Zachodnia.[3] The total output of craftsmen in the town served to the local community. [4]  In Szydlowiec, like in other small towns, traditional model of religion was still in force. The basic duty for every Jew was to marry and have children. Religion had the most significant influence for family life. Tradition ordered to raise children in respect for the parents, older and erudites.[5] [6] Life of the Jewish community was filled with work and very monotonous. Craftsmen and shopkeepers most of their time had been spending in their shops and workbenches.

Szydlowiec was taken over by German army on
September 8th 1939. Instantly after taking the town the solders began to repress Jewish population. One of many forms of it was forcing the Jews to clean the streets while clothed in ceremonial garments. On November 23rd 1939 a regulation had been published – every person of Jewish origin had to wear a white band with the Star of David on the right shoulder.[7]   For Szydlowiec’s Jews a real tragedy was the order from August 1940 which directed the forced labourers to work in a camp in Jozefow-upon-Vistula. More and more severe repressions caused the enlivening of religious life. Adam Finkler recalls: [8]  [9]. The closed district was established not before then in the second half of 1942. The fate of Jews of Szydlowiec was not so bad in the beginning. Just before the war the town had almost 8 thousand residents but in 1942 their number reached 15 thousand. The fugitives from other towns arrived to Szydlowiec. In time the situation of Jewish population worsened systematically. Overpopulation was one of the main causes and in effect it lead to the outbreak of typhoid fever. On January 20th 1942 in Wannsee (near Berlin) a conference took place, where technicalities concerning the “final solution of Jewish matter” were finally fully known. “The solution” was the extermination of all Jews living in areas dependant on Germany. In the area of German-occupied Poland the action was named „Aktion Reinhardt”. The headquarters was in Lublin. In order to improve the process of extermination began to resettle the inhabitants of smaller ghettos to towns located near railway interchanges. In connection with that in turn of August and September 1942 Jews from Wolanow, Wierzbica and Skaryszew arrived to Szydlowiec. This way the number of Judaism believers in the town increased and reached over 16 thousand.  Szydlowiec’s ghetto was liquidated by the Germans on September 23rd 1942. Most probably the process was similar to other carried out in Poland at the time. The closed district was closed with tight cordon and its inhabitants directed to (how ironic) the Freedom Square. After forming a column they were hurried to train station about 5 kilometers distant from the city.

On the place the patients of epidemic hospital were shot to death, and while marching, the old, children and everyone who was not quick enough met the same end. [10] Mass deportation to Treblinka has not ended the tragedy of Szydlowiec’s Jews. Germans knew that many Jews have run away and hide in vicine villages and forests. That is the reason for the November 10th 1942 regulation of making „secondary ghettos”. Among the chosen towns was also Szydlowiec. Part of the Jews actually believed German soldiers and returned to the town. Quickly in Szydlowiec their number increased once more and reached 5000 – they lived in one part of the town. The secondary ghettos were however ambushes. On January 13th 1943 in the town there was another massacre. After the liquidation of the secondary ghetto there were no Jews left in Szydlowiec. The locals started to rob Jewish houses.[11]

After the liberation few Jews returned to the town. The attitude of Polish community toward them caused that many of Jews left Szydlowiec in a hurry. The residents recall to this day how Jews leaving the town in summer 1945 because they were fired at by unknown individuals. In the beginning of August anti-Semitic leaflets were published in Szydlowiec, what caused further migrations of Jewish population. Today in the town beside the cemetery remain a few Jewish tenement houses, old mill owned once by Kurlender family, a Mouse and private synagogue of Nuta Ajzenberg and a vodka and liquor factory.

[1] J. Wijaczka, Żydzi w Szydłowcu do końca XVIII wieku, in: Żydzi Szydłowieccy, Szydłowiec 1997, s. 25.

[2] Z. Guldon, K. Krzystanek, Ludność żydowska w lewobrzeżnej części województwa sandomierskiego w XVI-   XVIII wieku, Kielce 1990, s.183, tab.18.

[3] Memorial Book Szydłowiec, New York 1989, s. 56.

[4] R. Rentz, Życie codzienne w miasteczkach województwa kieleckiego 1918-1939, Kielce 1994, s. 52.

[5] Ibidem, s. 60-61.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Memorial Book Szydłowiec, New York 1989, s. 139

[8] AŻIH, Rel, sygn. 301/55, k. 2. Aut. A. Finkler.

[9] E. Fąfara, Gehenna ludności żydowskiej, Warszawa 1983, s. 106.

[10] AŻIH, Rel., sygn. 301/55, k. 3. Aut. A. Finkler.

[11] AP Radom, OKŻ, sygn. 6, k. 1.

What we do in the project

  1. We take care of the cemetery.
  2. We interview the inhabitants of Szydłowiec.
  3. We participate in the celebration of the International Day Against Fascism and Antisemitism. 
  4. We prepare a school play presenting the richness of Jewish culture.  
  5. We take part In the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
  6. We are preparing a tourist route “On the traces of Szydłowiec Jews”.

What we are going to do next

We’re going to create an interactive program showing the old Jewish Szydłowiec.  


Who is helping us

Since October we are being supported by the scouts from Szydłowiec.


Recommended links


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