Author: Emilia Dudek, Brzesko grade school # 2
Distinction in the 5th edition of the project “We know your names. Commemoration of the pre-war Jewish community of Brzesko and vicinity”.
Life before the war
Until the end of the 19th century, the Jewish settlement in Zakliczyn could be described as insignificant – in 1880, 1253 residents, including only 36 Jews, were recorded in the town books. This changed significantly at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries – the town books state that there were 1341 residents, including 267 of Jewish nationality in Zakliczyn in 1905.
Although Zakliczyn was not considered an important Jewish center, it certainly had a special significance in the history of Jews from Zakliczyn and vicinity. From the beginning of the 20th century, about 50 Jewish families settled in Zakliczyn, which at that time belonged to the Brzesko County. Majority of them were small merchants and artisans. Some were also engaged in money exchange and ran stores of various trades; several families were engaged in farming. Zakliczyn resident Tadeusz Tokarz recalled, that the community was mostly poor, but it also included the owner of a mill and a sawmill.
Representatives of the Jewish intelligentsia also lived in Zakliczyn, for example, Sala Ebenholz, a dentist, and Pinkhas Kupfer, a judge.
During large fairs held in the town, residents of the surrounding villages sold their possessions and earned money, which they then spent in Jewish inns, often located near churches. It should be noted, however, that despite frequent visits of Jewish inns, the Polish and Jewish populations did not keep much social contact with each other; on the contrary, there often developed various conflicts.
Zakliczyn Jews had no community of their own. They belonged to the Jewish community in Wiśnicz. Jewish citizens also ran their own religious organization in Zakliczyn, headed by a rabbi. A mikveh, or ritual bath, was located on Pilsudski Street; a synagogue was nearby, as well as a house where the Jewish religious leader lived.
At that time, Jews had full civil rights, and Jewish children attended the Polish public school. In the afternoon they also attended a denominational school, the cheder.
Everything changed after the outbreak of World War II. In the wave of increasing repression by the security apparatus of Nazi Germany, a Jewish ghetto was established in the summer of 1940 in the area of Malczewskiego, Piłsudskiego and Browarka streets. Jews from various places were gathered in this ghetto – not only from Zakliczyn, but also from neighboring towns and villages – Czchów, Wojnicz, Bobowa, Gromnik, as well as from Tarnów, Krakow or Katowice. Even the Lusbader family – Lodz factory owners – was among them. The ghetto area included about forty buildings and was surrounded by a large wooden fence, with barbed wire at the top of it. One ghetto gate was located between the Judenrat building and Ekert’s house on Market Square. The other gate was at the exit of Pilsudski Street, where the Fire Department building is now located.
This was the place of suffering, pain and death. No words can describe the injustice suffered by the Jews who were gathered in this ghetto as well as every other ghetto throughout Poland.
However, before the gehenna of the Jews began, numerous propaganda campaigns were carried out against them, aimed at creating resentment against this population. The Germans put numerous posters with caricatures depicting Jews with beards and sidelocks that were infested with lice. And as if that wasn’t enough, they also used offensive slogans like “Jews – lice – typhus.” At the beginning these actions were not very hurtful, and no one really expected how much suffering the Germans would inflict on Jews. After a while, the actions of the Nazis worsened – Jews were ordered to wear armbands with a Zionist star on the left arms, and if a person removed such an armband in order to shop peacefully, he was immediately caught and shot. People of Jewish descent were forced to perform numerous jobs in Zakliczyn and surrounding towns. Although these actions already sound drastic enough, this was only the beginning, and Jews from all over Europe were soon to find out what kind of horror was prepared for them
The next step taken by the Nazis in Zakliczyn was to displace all non-Jewish residents of Pilsudski, Malczewskiego and Browarka streets and create a ghetto for Jews there, in which some 1,500-2,000 people were crowded together. According to the testimony of Izrael Dawid Mikolajewicz, who described the living conditions in the Zakliczyn ghetto, “the ghetto contained about two thousand people. Housing conditions were very harsh, with twenty people living in one room. In the summer, people slept in an open field.” The Wojnicki Notebooks provide an interview with Stefan Sciborowicz from June 16, 1993. He was among those few people who helped the Jews by risking their own lives. When he delivered a sack of potatoes to the ghetto, he witnessed terrible scenes – because of the terrible hunger there, the sack was torn apart and the people were fighting with each other for those potatoes. The people of Zakliczyn, despite the fact that there was a death penalty for entering the ghetto and helping Jews, tried to help them as much as they could. After all, these were their schoolmates, friends and neighbors. One way to help – bold and risky, yet popular and often practiced – was to issue false identity cards. Despite the distinctive and often revealing appearance and speech of the Jews, they were helped in this way by officials in Borzęcin, Dębno, Iwkowa, Szczepanów and Zakliczyn, who issued at least 60 identity cards. The mayor of Okocim, Stanisław Strączek, alone issued more than 10 of them.
In September 1942, more German soldiers arrived in Zakliczyn – their goal was to liquidate the ghetto. They surrounded its entire area, ordered the Jews to take out only the most valuable things and prepare to leave the place. Once everyone had gathered outside, the Germans searched the apartments. In one of them they found a sick Jewish woman sitting on a bed, whom they immediately shot.
All the Jews were gathered in the marketplace (Market Square, located in the area of the current traffic circle and Ofiar Katynia Street) and lined up in a column. Peasants from nearby villages were forced to provide wagons and the Jews were successively transported to Gromnik, where they were placed on trains. In conditions degrading to human dignity, they were transported to the Belzec extermination camp, where they were murdered (as were the Jews of the Bresko ghetto). However, about seventy Jews remained on the site, whose task was to clean up the area. They hoped to be saved, but fifty of them were shot by the Germans in the second stage of the ghetto’s liquidation, a few weeks after the first groups were transported to Belzec. The remaining 20 were deported by the Germans. Three women were placed in the Tarnów ghetto, while the rest were shot in the Brzesko Jewish cemetery.
We know of some attempts to hide from the Nazis and avoid the tragic. Even before the establishment of the ghetto in Zakliczyn, two young Jews, Abel and Moryc, managed to hide, but unfortunately their further fate is unknown. Władysław Tarłowski was another Jew who managed to avoid being sent to the ghetto. He had been hiding under this name since the spring of 1940. Reportedly, before the war he was a director of a mine in Silesia. Home Army soldiers brought him to a monastery in Zakliczyn, where he was hiding for about three years. He then moved to the Żab family in Zdonia, and finally to Bieśnik.
A Jewish family with a child was hiding in the basement of house # 33 on Pilsudski Street (where there is now a store). Unfortunately, they did not manage to survive – the Germans found them and placed them in the municipal detention center. During their stay there, someone tried to help them get out and provided them with a small saw to cut the boards. However, before they could do it, the Gestapo officers spotted their escape attempt and executed them by the Dunajec River. A friend of Stefan Sciborowicz, who was found hiding in the attic of one of the houses located on Mickiewicza Street, ended up similarly to this family.
General Mond’s wife and her sister, who were hiding in Zakliczyn, were qalso murdered. The women were handed over by a Gestapo confidant, after which they were arrested and shot in Tarnów.
However, several Jews managed to escape from the ghetto and hide in the Stróża forests. They were engaged in building underground bunkers, in which they later lived with the partisans, and also participated in military training under the supervision of Jozef Kusion.
In addition to them, of those held in the ghetto, only three Jewish women survived – Regina Hudes, her daughter and her sister, Sala Ebenholz. The women, having escaped from the ghetto, were at first hidden by a resident of Wola Stróska, and then by a person from Lusławice. Their entire remaining family perished in Belzec.
Bresko Jewish cemetery
After the war, in 1947, Sala Ebenholz, a survivor of the Shoah, returned to Zakliczyn and organized the exhumation of the executed, taking them to the Jewish cemetery in Brzesko. This cemetery was established in the 19th century and is located on Czarnowiejska Street. The oldest identified tombstone dates from 1823 or 1824 and commemorates a woman named Itel. The most recent, however, belongs to the aforementioned dentist Sala Ebenholz, who died on April 10, 1960.
Sala was born in Zdonia in 1913, she was the daughter of Herz (Henryk) Ebenholz and Regina née Knobloch. On June 14, 1946, in Kraków, Sala legally changed her name and from that point on was called Jadwiga Ziarnecka.
The Zakliczyn ghetto is connected with the Brzesko Jewish cemetery more than we may think. Jewish women, men and children transported after the liquidation of the Zakliczyn ghetto were murdered and buried there in a mass grave.
Another story connecting the history of Jews from the town on the banks of the Dunajec River to Brzesko, is the murder of two Jewish women by a German gendarme, which took place in 1941 during a fair. The bodies of the women brutally killed in Zakliczyn, were taken to Brzesko and buried in the local cemetery.
It may seem strange, but more and more traces and mementos of the Jews of Zakliczyn are being discovered thanks to local history enthusiasts (not only Jewish), who research Polish and foreign archives, acquire artifacts and analyse the acquired material.
The results are sometimes surprising; following a trail of photographs, posted on the National Digital Archive website, I came across the story of the Jewish family of Tauba Steiner from Wesołów in the Zakliczyn municipality, where a maid was murdered in 1932. The case was widely reported due to the role of forensic medicine in clarifying the circumstances of the crime and the court’s appointment of more experts, including Professor Jan Olbrycht. His opinion weighed on the court’s verdict, and the whole case ended as unexpectedly as tragically – the main suspect, Solomon Steiner, committed suicide. I encourage you to read the details of this interesting case: www.kryminalistyka.fr.pl/crime_polska_steiner.php.
In addition to written sources, the Jewish presence in the Zakliczyn area is marked by the existence of a Jewish cemetery located on Spytka Jordan street. It is not a typical Jewish cemetery (for local Jews were buried in the Nowy Wisnicz Jewish cemetery), but a resting place for twelve Jewish soldiers killed during World War I. Eleven of them were Austro-Hungarian soldiers and one was the soldier of the Russian army.
At this point I would like to express my special gratitude to Mrs. Ewa Jednorowska, a historian from Zakliczyn, and to Maria and Wojciech Grzegorczyk, members of the Zakliczyn Land Lovers Society (FB private group “From Zakliczyn to Czchow”) for their help in acquiring materials for this paper.
Zakliczyn’s contemporary ties with Brzesko, after the 1997 administrative reform, have been somewhat loosened. Nevertheless, looking back, one should not forget the time when Zakliczyn municipality was part of the Brzesko district. This includes the period of World War II. Hence, I thought it legitimate to take up the history of Zakliczyn Jews in connection for this project.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the Jewish community of Zakliczyn was not as extensive as, for example, in Nowy Wisnicz or Bobowa. Nevertheless, the steadily growing (until 1939) number of Zakliczyn Jews was a sign of the growing importance of Jewish citizens to the local community. The coexistence of Poles and Jews was brutally interrupted by the German invaders….
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– Bartosz A. Tarnowskie Judaica Warszawa, 1992
– Miodunka P. Społeczność małych miast południowej Małopolski od końca XVI do końca XVIII wieku Kraków, 2021
– Grabowski J. Judenjagd. Polowanie na Żydów 1942-1945. Studium dziejów pewnego powiatu. Warszawa, 2011
– http://archiwum.zakliczyninfo.pl/index.php/historia/historia-i-ludzie/1770-sownik-ruchu -oporu-na-terenie-gminy-zakliczyn-nad-dunajcem-w-latach-1939-1945-litera-qq-oraz-literatura
– http://archiwum.zakliczyninfo.pl/index.php/historia/historia-i-ludzie/1697-sownik-ruchu -oporu-na-terenie-gminy-zakliczyn-nad-dunajcem-w-latach-1939-1945-litera-qtq –
– https://hi-in.facebook.com/1151430818216178/posts/1166328306726429/ –
– https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC4VJ58_zakliczynskie-getto?guid=a918c67 2-cfdc-4860-a6b3-361006601667#cache_logs_table
– Zakliczyn town books – photo 1
– private collections – photos 2,3,4,5,6
– https://hi-in.facebook.com/1151430818216178/photos/pcb.1166328306726 429/1166325016726758/?type=3&__tn__=HH-R&eid=ARCzFs23zj7jtjDn 1i87IzLrDOmym9TFK823dzC_k7SpjsbmwPnqxxGrxHss5rR4rc8Um_4m8 jZRcI5t&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARB-3gBdSLXyY4cPGwT-TdNUiJgcwpQ GtNS5EaPkg76Kku6yXIr3XaROoK7wQf50J04wDpLKt9HWZXGNmGhYVCNEiGu24UMZp33KMculFTerZhpFZZIwh2W99az4tAYZmQAnedG l2AiCUUcl-PBsVd9wmbF6S2RZLHGs7SSEzivfeDgtzAG-MpYxAMcoFFQ 1X6sb8DxPwZKK8OWbUuxnl-XV7L-SCK9TTDIqIr9VMMsL8Q2bgvXFTEpQObA0QvJ2Nm-fpcGU5GzU9RqCQw4PYkQ0MtGZrKzmvHtlUBl h_vT-W2fSSIhN0 – photo 8
– https://hi-in.facebook.com/1151430818216178/photos/pcb.1166328306726 429/1166327056726554/?type=3&__tn__=HH-R&eid=ARBm5Lr1Bbs8F 8kYphiiUiEkDRbxPoDgAkAUXQO9FHHBbL_mD8QpONGRpNcqBYb ccKP75dHatm405YuT&__xts__%5B0%5D=68.ARB-3gBdSLXyY4cPGwTTdNUiJgcwpQGtNS5EaPkg76Kku6yXIr3XaROoK7wQf50J04wDpLKt9H WZXGNmG-hYVCNEiGu24UMZp33KMculFTerZhpFZZIwh2W99az4tA YZmQAnedGl2AiCUUcl-PBsVd9wmbF6S2RZLHGs7SSEzivfeDgtzAG-Mp YxAMcoFFQ1X6sb8DxPwZKK8OWbUuxnl-XV7L-SCK9TTDIqIr9VMM sL8Q2bgvX-FTEpQObA0QvJ2Nm-fpcGU5GzU9RqCQw4PYkQ0MtGZr KzmvHtlUBlh_vT-W2fSSIhN0 – photo 9
– https://audiovis.nac.gov.pl/obraz/74874/a34c3eac65dbf711b5c4a9a7a1e774 56/ – photo 10
– https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Cmentarz_wojenny _293_w_Zakliczynie_a1.jpg – photo 11
© Emilia Dudek, 2022