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  II Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Marii Konopnickiej w Zamościu  
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"To Bring Memory Back" edition 2007-2008

Gimnazjum nr 2 im. Adolfa Dygasińskiego w Pińczowie linia

Who are we

„To Bring Memory Back” is our educational project thanks to which we get to know Jewish culture and tradition, and restore remembrance about the multicultural heritage of our town. Pińczów has been an ethnic mosaic since the 16th century – among people living here were Italians, Jews, Scots, and French. However, it was the presence of the Jews which left its stamp on the history of Pińczów. The first information about local Jews comes from 1576. It was soon after when they started to determine the trade development of the town. Their number became to rise in Pińczów until the end of the 17th century, when they formed in Pińczów the largest Jewish cluster in Lesser Poland. In 1827 89% of the inhabitants of Pińczów were Jews.

Nowadays, there are no Jews in Pińczów, but they left an architectural memento – a synagogue built at the turn of the 16th and the 17th century. An old, brick building is surrounded by a wall which contains fragments of old Jewish obituaries built in it. Currently, the wall serves function of a monument in remembrance of holocaust of Jews from Pińczów.

The project „To Bring Memory Back” gives our students a chance to explore the mysteries of history and getting rid of intolerance and mutual (ethnic) prejudices.

Jewish community in our town

Jewish community played an important role in the history of Pińczów. Jewish people began to settle here before 1576, when the house of Myszkowscy ruled in the town. Jews were given many privileges which ensured their safe living and helped running their craft and trade business. Apart from trade and craftsmanship they were also doing various services. They lived in the market and in the southeastern part of the town. Jews, however, were not allowed to settle in Mirów which is nowadays in the vicinity of the archive of the town.

Jews had three synagogues in Pińczów, and the dead were buried in two cemeteries. The older one was situated in the vicinity of recreational plots near Skrzypiów but it was moved due to numerous floods, and was finally located near Słabska Street and Spółdzielcza Street (currently sports fields belonging to Vocational School in Pińczów).

Jews constituted over 60% of the inhabitants of the town in 18th century. Pińczów became the capital of Jewish community in Lesser Poland. Sayings such as “So many Jews like in Pińczów”, “Jews everywhere, like in Pińczów” come from this period of time.

Sessions of “The Parliament of Four Lands” took place here in 1673, 1674, and 1681. Jewish representatives from Lesser Poland and Ukraine took part in the convention. From 1692 to 1764 Pińczów was the headquarters of “Estate” of Cracow’s diocese, and the rabbi of Pińczów became its leader. Many prosperous companies were established at that time: Rosenberg factory of cloth, factory of cotton products, vinegar factory and chicory factory.

In 1846 Jewish commune was the owner of two brick synagogues, a brick house of prayer, wooden-brick hospital, brick baths, brick house of gravedigger and kosher slaughterhouse of birds.

During the first World War obituaries from the cemetery were devastated because of being used in order to make fortifications and strengthen embankments alongside the river. Rapaport Szapsia was, in 1932, the last rabbi in Pińczów, and it was the time when there were 50% councilors in the council of the town. 

In 1939, when Poland was under the Nazi occupation, the tragedy of the Jews began. They were forced to wear armbands with a star, and ordered to bow every time to the Germans. Jews were not allowed to move outside the town (it was not possible to create a ghetto in the burnt Pińczów). Burdened with high taxes and forced to work for free during the road labor and for the army, Jews were dying fast from hunger and due to numerous illnesses. During the summer 1942 the German military forces ordered massive displacements of the Jewish youth from Pińczów so that they could work in Germany and in factories in Częstochowa and Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. The ultimate extermination and displacement of the Jewish community took place in April 1942. Around 3777 Jews were displaced to the concentration camp in Treblinka, where most of them were murdered. Jewish people were lined up in columns, after which they were driven on foot to Jędrzejów where they were loaded to wagons and their lives ended in Oświęcim and Treblinka. Nevertheless, not everyone landed in death camps, it happened very often that people from Pińczów community hid Jews, risking at the same time their lives and lives of their families. Unfortunately, some of the hiding people were discovered by the German troops and then executed by firing squads together with Polish people who gave them shelter. Such executions took place in Bogucice, Kozubów, Góry Pińczowskie, Węchadłów and Kołków.

Nowadays, Jews are no longer in Pińczów. Here are names and professions of some people from the Jewish community in Pińczów:

- Chany Ryvka from Kugielów Jazwic (midwife)
- Joska Diament (trader)
- Szmul Kwaśniewski (tailor)
- Moszka Wolf Kautman (baker)
- Moszka Fajnsztad (watchmaker)

Jewish cemeteries were permanently closed in 1964, and the synagogue which survived by Klasztorna Street was transformed into a municipal warehouse. The building was gradually becoming ruined until 1988, when people started to renovate it. The remains of the obituaries, which were used by the local community to build their houses, were put in the wall around the synagogue. It was the beginning of the social committee which was established in order to reconstruct the monument. The committee was co-financed by the Jews who survived during the war, and their descendants from all over the world. One of the sponsors is a grandson of the last rabbi, Mr. Leon Radinsky from the USA, who visits our town every year and donates substantial sums of money for the renovation of the synagogue.

Katarzyna Łaganowska class  

What we do in the project

Middle School Nr 2 in Pińczów started to cooperate for the first time with Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Ponidzia (Society of Friends of Ponidzie) and Regional Museum in 2006, realizing an educational curriculum concerning the Jewish question. Program for Tolerance "To, co wspólne/to, co różne" (This, what is common/this, what is different) was executed by Fundacja Batory (the Stefan Batory Foundation) in cooperation with Towarzystwo Inicjatyw Twórczych (Association of Creative Initiatives). The aim of this venture was to support the operations forming the attitudes of tolerance and openness towards other communities. The name of the project was Sabbath in Pińczów “Renewal and Memory”, during which our school took part in:

  • Jewish cutout contest
  • Quiz about the Jews
  • "Sabbath Supper" staging
  • Jewish dances

What we are going to do next

The aim of our project entitled “Reviving Memories” is getting to know and restoring the memory of multiculturalism of our town, and especially the Jewish question.


1. Meeting with Jewish culture:
- a lecture about the Jews in Pińczów
- visiting the synagogue and a Jewish exhibition
- visiting an exhibition presenting old Jewish photographs in the synagogue
2. Journalist workshops
- preparation for interviewing the families of persons who were given the title “Righteous Among the Nations”
3. Interviews
4. Theater workshops
- preparation for workshop demonstration entitled “Threads of memory” 
5. Cleaning the grounds around the synagogue in Pińczów
6. Participation in an exhibition organized by the museum “In sepia and in color”
7. Participation in a seminar delivered by Mr. A. Dziubiński, entitled „New data about the Jews in Pińczów”
8. A school newspaper “A History of the Jews in Pińczów” in the school’s corridor

What are we proud of


A report of the activity which has been carried out

Meeting with Jewish culture
On December 5, 2007 r. class II c went out for a “meeting” with Jewish culture in the synagogue and the museum. All information about Jewish culture and habits were given by Mr. Jerzy Znojek – director of Regional Museum in Pińczów.

Mr Znojek told us about the Jews as former inhabitants of Pińczów. We got to know that the Jews made their own culture and had been living in Europe for 800 years. The current shape of their language, known as Yiddish, has been forming in Poland since the 18th century. The Jewish language constitutes a mixture of the Hebrew language, the German language, and Slavic languages.

Information about activities performed by women and men was also very interesting. The man works in public, studies Torah and Talmud. One of his responsibilities is an everyday prayer which is to be said three times a day. He has to circumcise his son, and provide him with proper religious education which has to be adequate to the son’s age. His daughter, on the other hand, must be provided with decent clothes and a dowry. The woman takes care of the house, cooks, looks after her children and teaches them morality and religion. Children have to take care of physical and spiritual comfort of their parents’. Jewish girls, until the end of the 19th century, were taught at home, or by private teachers. Women have to be behind the curtains in the synagogue because it is thought that their visible presence distracts men and causes them not to focus all their attention on the prayer.

The majority of students started to smile widely when they saw men’s behavior during their prayer. In the Jewish culture, it is forbidden to utter the name of God – Yahweh – but to nod lightly instead. Because the word occurs very often, the praying men are nodding all the time when they are sitting on the pews.

Mr. Znojek also mentioned about the Jewish religious holiday, called Sabbath. On this day, every believer of Judaism has to take a bath, comb his or her hair, cut his or her fingernails, wear his or her best, and clean the house. The Sabbath evening has to deepen family ties and make people abandon any work.

At the end of our meeting, Mr. Znojek showed us pictures of old synagogue, which were in the showcases. Some pictures were very old and partly destroyed which showed that they had been taken a long time ago. Judaicas, that is objects connected with Jewish culture, also arouse our interest (e.g. candlestick, the Torah).

All students enjoyed the lesson because we could deepen our knowledge about people who inhabited our town. In my opinion, this information will come in useful because when we will be accompanied by some Jews, we will know how to behave and not make a gaffe or a faux pas. Apart from this, such lessons teach us tolerance and openness towards others who, in the past, formed the community of Pińczów.   

Renata Woźniak, class IIc



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