Pabianice

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    Pabianice Landsmanshaft
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    History of Pabianice, Poland

    Pabianice, city in Lodz province, central Poland. One of Poland's most ancient towns, Pabianice was officially granted municipal status in the 14th century. The prohibition against Jewish residents, based on a privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis, appears to have been abrogated when the town came under Prussian domination. Jews then began to settle in the old city of Pabianice. The growth of the Jewish population was closely tied to the development of the local textile industry, and the spinning mills which were set up under subcontract for the textile factories of Lodz. In 1850 steam-powered machines were introduced into the Jewish-owned factories and large numbers of Jewish workers were employed in them from that time on, although Jews were compelled to compete against Polish workers who sought vigorously to supplant them. In 1913 the Polish workers of one Jewish-owned factory declared a strike because the owner hired four Jewish workers. The number of Jews increased from 27 in 1808 to 5,017 in 1897 (18% of the total population).

    Because Pabianice was in a battle region during World War I, the activity of the spinning mills was almost entirely interrupted and many Jews left, but they returned immediately after the armistice. In 1921 the Jews numbered 7,230, about 33% of the population. Their relative number, however, decreased so that in 1938, the 8,357 Jews in town constituted only 16% of the total population. Economic competition between the Poles and Jews led to an encroachment on Jewish enterprises and during the 1930s Jewish poverty became widespread. Many Jews actually suffered from hunger.

    The Jews of Pabianice were greatly influenced by Hasidism, the tzaddikim of Sochaczew, Radoshits, and Komarno, having lived in the city. One of the rabbis of Pabianice was Mendele Alter, a brother of the Rabbi of Gur. After R. Alter left to become rabbi of Kalish, his position was filled by his son, R. Abraham. The community's synagogue was first built by Jewish workers in 1847. Restored in 1880, it was famous for its fescoes and wooden engravings and the artistic construction of its Ark. Many organizations were active in the community between the world wars. The Mizrachi organization was founded in 1918, and Revisionists began their activities in 1927. The Po'alei Agudat Israel and Ze'irei Emunei Israel of the community were affiliated with Agudat Israel. A large school, Or Torah, which also served as a cultural center for adults, was established by Agudat Israel. In 1919 the Zionists organized a Hebrew high school.

    Holocaust Period.  German forces entered the city on Sept 8 1939, and immediately introduced a series of repressive acts against the Jewish population. On Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue was destroyed and the building converted into a stable. On the Day of Atonement an intensive campaign of kidnapping was carried out in the streets, and in the clandestine places of worship. In November many Jews were brutally evicted from their homes, in order to make room for the Germans. A the same time the chairman and 3 other members of the Judenrat were arrested and 2 of them murdered. In February 1940 a ghetto was formed in the old district of the town into which 8,000-9,000 Jews were crowded. Contact with the non-Jewish population was still possible and anyone could leave or enter the ghetto at will. Jewish artisans continued to earn wages, and thus supplement the meager rations allocated by the Germans. However, as a result of internal dissension, several members of the Judenrat, including its chairman, Jehiel Rubinstein, were denounced by a group of Jews, resulting in their arrest and dispatch to concentration camps in Germany where they met their death.

    In February 1942, the Germans carried out a medical examination of all Jews in Pabianice of ten years of age or older. The able-bodied were stamped "A", while the elderly and sick were marked "B". The liquidation of the ghetto took place on May 16, 1942. Some 3,500 Jews in the "A" category and a few children were sent to the Lodz ghetto. The 150 patients in the hospital were murdered on the spot, 180 tailors were detained in Pabianice to finish the work they started, while the rest of the Jewish population, some 4,500 B category, were sent to death in the Chelmno camp. After the liquidation of the ghetto, some 250 Pabianice Jews were employed in the large storehouse located nearby in Dombrowa where the clothing of the murdered Jewish population of western Poland was processed, sorted and repaired.

    A memorial book, Sefer Pabianice (1956) was published in Yiddish in Tel Aviv, by the society of immigrants from Pabianice. Bibliography: Dabrowska, Encyclopedia Judaica - Macmillan.

    Devastation in Pabianice
    by Piotr Piluk
    30 July 1999

    In the Pabianice of today the number of Jewish cultural relics is very small. As difficult as it now is to believe, in 1933 there were 45,670 people in Pabianice, 8177 of them Jews - in all, 17.8% of the population. The Jewish community in Pabianice was a diverse one, both economically and socially. But despite the differences, there were places common to all - the synagogue standing at the helm of the faith that united Jews, and the cemetery where the deceased rested next to one another regardless of their fates, all identically helpless in death.

    At the outbreak of World War Two, there were 9550 Jews in Pabianice. In January 1940 the Germans created a ghetto there, which was liquidated in 1942. After the war only a handful of Jews returned to Pabianice, their attempts at setting up a community failing due to their small number.

    Synagogue Memorial Plaque,
    Bozniczna Street, Pabianice, Poland
    (click on photo to see enlargement)

    The Pabianice synagogue was constructed in the XIX century in the Old Town. It no longer exists today, but the street where it stood is still called Boznicza (Synagogue) Street. The Pabianice Landsmannschaft and their descendants placed a memorial plaque commemorating the presence of Jews in Pabianice on the site where the synagogue once stood.
    Today it is the only visible trace of the presence of Jews in the Old Town district where most of them lived.

    From the moment of its creation, this modest plaque has been the target of senseless attacks. It has been covered in tar, and is witness to the constant appearance of explicit anti-Jewish commentary alongside it. Painting over this does nothing - new inscriptions appear soon after.

    Walking along Boznicza Street, one can immediately notice these slogans.
    Once can ask questions as some do, about the roots of anti-Semitism and vandalism and how to prevent this, but these voices seem futile when confronted by the reality of it.

    It is a shame that a few primitive and irresponsible people can, through their vandalism and in such place, corrupt the good reputation of the city and of the rest of the Pabianice residents who, in my opinion, do not identify with them at all.
    It is difficult in such circumstances to talk about a good atmosphere in which to build Polish-Jewish relations.
    What is more, this only underlines the view of the Pole as anti-Semite, builds on the anti-Polish responses of Jewish communities abroad, and adds to the fear of those Jews living in Poland today.

    In the middle of the Nineteenth Century the Pabianice Jews set up a religious cemetery on the outskirts of town.
    In the decades that followed, many honourable residents of Pabianice came to rest here. After the Second World War, in the sixties, this cemetery was closed and a large part of the terrain was appropriated by a neighbouring firm.

    At the beginning of the nineties, this neglected and devastated site was given over to conservation and renovation.
    Broken gravestones were repaired; colourful polychromes were uncovered on some, revealing rich decoration and symbolism. The new fence was constructed to protect the cemetery from vandals. But this was not enough of an obstacle for the culprits and the destruction has not stopped.  The ceaseless battle with the dead continues.

    Today at the cemetery we can see several newly-smashed headstones, whose colourful reliefs lie amongst last year's leaves.
    Someone has drawn three sixes and an upturned cross on one maceva. The newly-constructed polychromes have been covered in dark, oily liquid, which has dried on the reliefs. The small plaques in memory of the dead, funded by families overseas, have disappeared from the outside walls of the cemetery. Several years of hard work and difficult reconstruction work has not prompted even a moment's reflection in those with the drive to destroy and profane.

    Nothing holds any meaning for them - not the significance and historical meaning of the place, nor the artistic value of the century-old macevot. It is a sad fact that this same sort of thing occurs at other Jewish cemeteries in Poland. There are still no answers to the questions: how to touch the conscience of the vandals and how to curb their destructive actions.

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    The following information is taken from an article by Lezek Ramisz in Zycie Pabianic no. 47/89 (published in Pabianice in 1989), as well as a book by Roman Peska: Skazani na Zaglade: Zydzi w Pabianicach 1794-1998, (Doomed to Death: The Jews of Pabianice 1794-1998) published in Pabianice in 1999 by Oficyna Wydawnicza "Pamiec" - see http://www.zchor.org/pabianice/peska.htm .

    The Jewish Cemetery in Pabianice lies on Jana Pawla II Street, between Cmentarna and Sniadeckiego Streets. Its size was 1.7 hectares, but its size today is dramatically smaller due to its devastation. The macevot were inscribed in Hebrew with beautiful reliefs with symbolic meanings. The cemetery stopped serving its purpose in May 1942 when the Pabianice Jews who had been incarcerated in the ghetto, were deported to death camps by the Nazis. After the Second World War, the cemetery was almost destroyed. Firstly the macevot were stolen for sandstone works, then the graves were dug up by locals in search for 'gold', and others were destroyed by vandals.

    Pabianice Jewish Cemetery Poland
    Address: 57 Jana Pawla II St (Karolewska St) , Pabianice.
    Photo taken in 2005.

    (click on photo to see enlargement)

    There was no one to defend the site. It was closed by the town authorities in autumn 1966. Two years later, a section was taken for the building of a heat-generating plant for the newly built housing estate nearby. Thus the cemetery was further diminished. Roman Peska, the author of the above book, a resident of Pabainice, wrote to the town president in 1989 about the unacceptable state of affairs with the cemetery, asking in the name of this historic monument and holy site to the Jewish Community, for urgent repair works (his letter is published in his book on pp. 60-61) as a result of which some work was begun, to build a new wall around the cemetery, to clear it of debris, and to install a notice informing visitors of the site's meaning. Sadly though, the cemetery today is possibly in even worse condition than it ever was.

    A Pabianice descendant visiting Pabianice in 2005 from Australia - Jack Ekstein - found the site so appalling that he also wrote to the town president about the shocking state of the cemetery, and was informed that it belongs today to the Jewish Community Council in Lodz (zydowska Gmina Wyznaniowa w Lodzi). Upon writing to Simcha Keller, the President of the Jewish Community Council in Lodz, Mr. Ekstein was informed that this organisation lacks the funds for any works on the cemetery and many others like it, without the support of outside organisations, and partly because money owed to them by the town authorities has not been forthcoming. Another exchange of correspondence ensued with the town president, who steadfastly refused to take responsibility for the cemetery because its ownership now lies in the hands of other authorities. Meanwhile, the macevot are further disintegrating, and nothing is being done to save what remains of this precious site - the last physical reminder of Jewish presence in Pabianice. The Regional Museum in Pabianice is also aware of this situation.

    One fortuitous event was the painstaking work done in 1989 by a former Pabianice resident, the late Mr Leon Dzialoszynski, who transcribed the remaining 596 macevot in the cemetery. The original list was recently donated to the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne, Australia, by Mr Dzialoszynski's wife Ester, the electronic version has been submitted here, and the Regional Museaum in Pabianice, Poland, also holds a copy of the original list.   Cemetery List and photos
     

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