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Liceum Ogólnokształcące
w Zespole Szkół Ogólnokształcących im. Edwarda Szylki
w Ożarowie

“Jews in the history of Ożarów”

Anna Czajkowska
Osiedle Wzgórze 31/16
27-530 Ożarów

Ożarów 2003



I was born in Ożarów… I live in Ożarów… I have learnt here… My mother comes from Ożarów, my father- from close village- Jakubowice. My grandmother was also born here, she was growing up, she still lives here…

Asentiment? No, I simply love this place.

Nowadays about 5 thousand citizens live in Ożarów’s community. Our population is very different. Among us there are settlers from our former territories in the south-east of Poland, from Warsaw or even descendants of Germans and Jews. But, is it of any importance? Nobody pays attention to the extraction. It seems obvious that the most important is the soul, a character and relationships between people. Our community doesn’t consist of native citizens coming directly from Ożarów and others. But do you think that situation changed since that time?



Position  of Ożarów was profitable  for its  development.. From among several neighboring settlements: Lasocin, Gliniany, Janików, Ożarów advanced as the center of trade, industry, crafts. Once population of Ożarów counted 4 thousand inhabitants. As it mentioned our regionalist Edward Szylko, it was population „ Jewish in the whole, and Polish in the most".

Ożarów, according to the register from 1931, counted 4410 inhabitants, among that 2817 Hebrews. So the calculation, concerning the national structure of our town in those days is simple. Hebrews settled in Ożarów gradually. This process is shown in below mentioned data: in 1662 there was 302 Hebrews in the town, in 1787- 1429, in 1857- 1450, in 1921-3456. That nationality had large influence on the development of our town. Before settlement of Ożarów stood up assignment of supply its population with the most necessary products of trade and crafts. This function was fulfilled by the Jewish population. Poles turned over the trade and the crafts into their hands, and themselves stayed at agriculture. Hebrews became rich, unrolled their own institutions, little firms. However, occurrence of isolation of the Jewish community from the Polish did not take place. It did not change the fact, that in moderation of enriching of the Jewish population, the Polish became impoverished. Poles, whose income from agriculture did not assure prosperous lives, accepted function of the assistants in the trade. This situation testifies that Hebrews had decisive influence on the tempo of the town development. Economic dependence of the Polish element from the Jewish was consolidated.

Hebrews assembled fundamentally in two groups: the craftsmen and the merchants. As in every community, there also was a group of poor people, for whom the only source of income was trade house-to-house. Differences were scratched on a background of competition in range of trade, and more on a political background. Especially they appeared during the elections to religious authorities of the Jewish communes. Among both communities: the Polish and the Jewish was struck up a close economic dependence. The ones supplemented in activity  the seconds. However, it was not relationship. After all, the Jews occupied a leading position both in respect of amount, and in respect of capital. Pole, who could not hold a family working as a farmer, had to perform at Hebrew wage-earning, e.g. occupying himself with house-to house trade. However, from the second side, community of the Jews was a consumer of Polish farming products: milk, eggs, cereals. In close economic dependence there also stayed owners of little farms, workmen, and merchants dealing with swine. But after all economic dependence  was not the most important. Lately I have read, that the Polish population despised the Jewish community and limited relations only to economic cooperation. Nothing more incompatible!

The patron of my (high) school - Edward Szylko- regionalist, mentions, that both in Polish and Jewish inns assembled people of both nationalities, who together played, talked, even sang. Is this limitation of contacts? What is more, Poles engaged themselves in cultural life of Hebrews. Process reached also inversely-Hebrews had influence on Polish everyday life. Polish domination appeared in range of organization of church and in representation of municipal authorities (District and Communal Council). In District Council Hebrews determined minority (13 on 30 councilors), and in Communal Council were not represented at all.

Both groups had rich social life. Close to Catholic church on a hill, there was the synagogue in Ożarów with characteristic roof, public school and Jewish religious school. Cultural life was a consequence of religious confession. Hebrews had their own orchestra, amateur theatre, sports club, library and many other organizations. Polish community also united around Church, for example: there acted Polish Catholic Action, parish library.

The coexistence of both communities was shaping correctly. Most of Polish population treated the Jews as the employer, and activity of commercial and craftsmen's firms as a source of income. This information I possess from books, gathered in our school and communal libraries. Many times my grandma told me about existence of Hebrews in Ożarów, but this was not enough for me... I decided to seek people, who would help me to complete and widen my knowledge. My papa helped me, thanks to him my researches did not end with breakdown. He showed me the oldest inhabitants of Ożarów, who entertained relations with Hebrews directly, often were friends. I was afraid of these meetings. After all, as the elderly say „ you young, will never find a common language with us!". Luckily, I was disappointed very favorably! People, who I was talking to, were very attractive, with pleasure told me about their youth, learning at school, their parents, neighbors - Hebrews, parties, plays...



The man, who asked me to write a composition on theme of the history and heritage of his ancestors in my town, gave me several proposals. Unfortunately, I am not able to choose only one. Tales of my interlocutors (people who take part in her conversations) were so extensive, that I would not be honest if I did not write down all of them. People, who were kind to tell me about the past are: Helena Klimkiewicz, from house Cieszkowska, Edward Klimkiewicz, Kazimierz Pękalski, Stanisław Szymański, Eugeniusz Adamski and Emanuela Zajączkowska- my grandma.

I was surprised, when I told Mr. and Mrs. Klimkiewicz about the theme of my composition and I saw a smile on their faces. He began to tell... his best colleague  was Klaper, whose father was a dentist. They both liked to tease the girls from their class. I was very amused by the tale that they tore out cards from their own exercise books, crumpled them into balls and threw them into the girls' backs during the lesson. Once, having been noticed by a teacher, they began to explain, that it was because the girls turned round and sent them beautiful smiles. Their explanations did not bring awaited results and they spent the whole afternoon at school as a punishment.  I remind moments, when I attended the first class of my elementary school and from the very beginning I felt paper balls on my back. My colleagues did not spend the afternoon at school. They were punished by writing ten times: „ I won't throw papers into my friends". Surely boys never will change!

To Mr. Klimkiewicz's class also attended: Weicmann, Bleiwass, Ledermann (whose father was a saddler), Pik, Waksman, Ms. Hochmannówna (called „Hochmanka", lived in the town square), Sherman, whose father was one from three shoemakers in Ożarów, Epstein, who lived in a large house in Kościelna Street, Heim, who lived in Sandomierska Street  and his father was an owner of a mill, one from four brothers Murawiak, Kleinminc, who  lived in Wyszmontowska Street, Fisher, Mordka, Grumann, Jojna, whose father was a baker.

Mr. Klimkiewicz does not remember the names of all colleagues from his class. Children did not call one another by names. Every schoolboy had his own nickname. Sometimes they used pet names, sometimes surnames originated from an occupation, executed by the father, eg: „Carter", Carpenter", „Baker". Elderly people, both the Polish and the Jews also often did not use names. My interlocutors do not remember names of their neighbors, but their  nicknames: „Slepok", „Red", „Weird", „Hunchback", „Skinny". Mr. Klimkiewicz reminds two pals: Epstein and „Bajligitli", who borrowed his exercise books. His parents were not very rich. They supported, as most, from agriculture.

Mr. Klimkiewicz had an opportunity to eat sweets only during the holidays. Why do I write about this? Little Edward liked the Jewish friends not without a reason. In thanks for lending exercise books, he received cakes. Who would ever resist?

Grandmamma also told me about her classmates. She sat in a bench with a girl -Froyda. Unfortunately, grandma forgot the girl's name. However, thanks to exact description I managed to imagine how that schoolgirl looked like.  She had, so as my grandma, long, black hair, always connected in tresses. Every day, she had different colored ribbons. Grandma was jealous because her  parents couldn't afford to buy either colored ribbons or new dresses. This does not change the fact, that girls very liked and often visited each other in the afternoons. Grandma remembers that when she was spending dinner time at friends' s house, she was always invited to a common meal. „ They were good people," she speaks.

To the same class went also Symcha and Sura. Grandma said that the Jewish children learnt better than the Polish children. Mr. Szymański mentioned that the Jewish schoolboys were very clever and simultaneously polite. „More often we teased them." Grandma and Mr. Szymański claimed, that in classes there were not partitions into the Polish and the Jewish children. All learnt and played together. Mr. Szymański was smiling, speaking that his Jewish colleagues, „ were better at natures and calculations, but I was better at physical exercises". The Jewish schoolboys  did not go dressed in a different way. In later period, when Germans entered to Ożarów, they marked the Jewish children, commanding them to wear on the hand  bands with „David's Star". With this fact it is connected a very dramatic story, which was told me by Mr. Szymański. His neighbor (lived in Cicha Street ) was a poor Jew called Szlama. He had only a horse and his only occupation, bringing him income was conveyance of the wood from the forest. He had a beautiful daughter- Estera. When my interlocutor was speaking about her, his face oddly brightened up. She must have been beautiful ... She was older than he. But after all, there is a period in each boy's life, when he falls in love with an older girl. Estera already went to school. One day because of a lack of her homework, she had to spend all the afternoon at school. Stanisław's friends told him, that Estera went out of the classroom to the toilet. Unfortunately, she did not have the band on her shoulder. She was stopped by a German soldier, led out of the building and shot. She was killed in Żeromskiego Street (today's name). Her body was delivered to the father. It was his only child. Despair of the parents was huge... Mr. Szymański had tears in his eyes mentioning Estera... Maybe it was his first love?

Mr. Szymański told me about the organization working at school, called  „Schule Polizei". This was a pupils' organization.  Only boys-descendants of Germans- belonged  to it. They spoke German and Polish. Their activity had conspiratorial dimension. „ We called them- Szupowcy" - says Mr. Szymański. The Jewish and the Polish children did not like these boys. They induced young Poles to entering „Schule Polizei". However, anybody of the Polish people did not enter this organization. The bringing on the Jewish friends, neighbors, families would be a shame ... The Jewish inhabitants valued honor and honesty of young Poles.

Kazimierz Pękalski reminded , that every lesson began from the Prayer. The Jewish schoolboys did not mute. When the Polish children were praying, they „ stood on attention". They never disturbed. Mr. Pękalski, ashamed of the attitude of some Polish colleagues, admits that the Jewish colleagues sometimes knew the Prayer better than their Catholic neighbors.

Mrs. Helena was laughing, speaking about smartness of her Jewish colleagues. Such is surely mentality of the girls, that they like talking about their friends. When young Jewesses were speaking about the Polish friends and did not want to be understood they drove conversation in their own language. The Polish schoolgirls were angry of these situations. „ However, we were not able to do anything..." - mentions Mrs. Klimkiewicz. One conclusion can be drawn: every boy falls in love with an older girl, and every girl likes to speak about her friend behind the back. The age passed, but people are the same...



My interlocutors did not remember much from their school times. However, they with pleasure told me about everyday life in Ożarów. I have learnt, where little Edzio was sent for flour, where my great grandmother used to buy dresses, who was a doctor in Ożarów, who had a bakery, who had a mill...

Edward and Stanisław remind an inn of Ryba with smile. Their fathers, who were friends, entered there for „one"(one glass of vodka) every Sunday morning. Only after taking away the inn, preparations to sums could start. The second inn, which was with pleasure visited by Poles and Hebrews, belonged to Hersz- Joska. Poles spoke about him „Haszijaszek". Edward was laughing, speaking that his not avoiding liquor uncle often visited this place.  He sought there good luck, even at night. The inn was always opened „for people in need".  This sounds amusingly!

Grandma remembers a wedding of her uncle - younger brother of my great grandfather. My ancestors also supported from agriculture. Their income sufficed only for the most necessary articles. Great grandparents could not afford even to buy a suit for their son. They went with request to Weitzman, a merchant , who was trading textiles,  knit goods,  different kind of materials. The shopkeeper noticing a need of Polish neighbors gave the suit „for payments". Great grandparents had to give back money in next three months. However, their modest income did not suffice for saving. After agreed period mother of my grandma went to Weitzman with request to prolong the repayment. Kindly Hebrew cancelled a debt and said that suit was a present for a new way of life. The thankfulness of my ancestors was huge. Grandma remembers that from that moment her everyday duty became to deliver milk, eggs and other farming products to the neighbors. It was not only one chance, in which appeared kindness and graciousness of this merchant. Mrs. Klimkiewicz talks about him: „ When it was necessary, Hebrew always gave". When we did not have money on repayment, he took a debt in milk, in cereal, in poultry," - said my interlocutor.

Mr. Kazimierz remembers the kindness of doctor Szpilman. He lived there, where at present is Medical Institution in High Street. He told me about

a very difficult situation, in  which his mother was found. Mrs. Pękalska heavily fell ill. Her husband worked in the field, at home there was only little Kaziu. Just he ran over to doctor with request for help. Hebrew did not disregard five-year-old Kazio. They together directed to the house of Pękalscy, where the doctor could examine the patient. Grandma remembers that he was a very pleasant man.  He treated the Jewish and the Polish patients in the same way.

From Kazimierz’s memories I have learnt a lot of interesting facts. This man remembers many parents of his Jewish friends. Some of them were quite well off, for example Kopel and Epstein were the owners of the mill in Kolejowa Street. Thanks to Sara Kopel, a merchant’s wife people in Ożarów had current. Kazimierz remembers that event in details. All was prepared for a long time. Lamps were installed on high posts. Children were promised to see light if they behaved politely. All inhabitants ran to the main square in the town. Mayor Adamski made a speech for the opening. The chief electrician in Ożarów was Herszel. Although current was more expensive than gas or kerosene lightning, many people wanted to install it, because it gave a possibility to lengthen the time of work.

Mr. Klimkiewicz recalls also a few neighbors. Szachna Fryd possessed a warehouse with the wood. He inhabited in 3rd May Avenue. His daughter was married to a rich Jew from Annopol. Next Mendel who also sold the wood, had a warehouse in Wąska Street.

He mentions also Jewish called Ramys who was engaged in wholesale trade of alcohol. His son attended the gymnasium in Sandomierz. Erlich led an office and fulfilled services in the domain of law, for example writing applications to different offices and institutions what was a rare ability in those days.

As it was mentioned before, Polish and Jewish populations were closely connected with each other. Jewish availed of Polish transport, the so called carters. Jewish were occupied with a turnover of flour, milk, grains, poultry, fruit, wood. But if hired carter did not respect symbols of the Christian faith, couldn’t expect to be employed by Jewish. Mr. Klimkiewicz recollects situation, when Jewish merchant went to the market with a son of Polish farmer-Dominik. They were in Sandomierska Street, by the figure of Saint Joseph with Jesus on his shoulder. Dominik, passing by the figure, did not adore it. Jewish ordered him to return to Ożarów. Since then Zygmunt Pilecki became his carter- a pious boy from a Polish family. The Jews thought that who does not respect his own faith cannot be a good man. Maybe it is a truth?

Polish lived in agreement with Jewish. Trade companies were a common phenomenon. Thanks to one of those companies Ożarów had the first bus “Swallow’’.

Mr. Klimkiewicz reminds four Jewish brothers-the Murawiaks, of whom he was really afraid. They were very tall and well-built boys. Gossip said that they sucked their mother’s milk till the age of three. They were frightened of nobody. And they were very honorable. Even during World War II, when one of them was hit by a German soldier-he hit him back. For his deed he was sent to prison for four months.

Mrs. Klimkiewicz recalls: “He was in a good position, who worked for the Jews.” When one of Polish carters lost his horse, he did not get a sack from his employer. On the contrary-the employer gave him money needed for buying a new animal.

All my interlocutors consider that the Jews appreciated devotion. Not all Jewish inhabitants were wealthy. The poor Jews worked for the richer as carters, water-carriers. There were three wells in Ożarów. The first well was situated behind the school in Lubelska Street (at present Mazurkiewicz Street), the second one in Toberkaska Street (today Long Street), the third one was in Spacerowa Street. There were also three wood warehouses and all belonged to Jewish.

  All my interlocutors take into consideration that in spite of differences in possession between rich Jewish and poor Polish, there was no other differences between these two nationalities. They together spent time, played, talked, sometimes helped each other…My grandmother mentions that when her mother needed a loan, advice or talking, she did not apply for help to a rich Pole, she turned to a friendly Jew. So we cannot claim that Jewish population did not assimilate with Polish people.



           Mr. Szymański told me about the localities of Jewish and Polish buildings in the interwar period. Some streets had different names than today. For example Kolejowa Street was named Wyszmontowska, Partyzantów Street-“The Sea” (also today older inhabitants call it in this way), Mazurkiewicz Street was called Lubelska, Kochanowski Street-Piłsudski, and Wysoka was Pocztowa Street. Some regions of the town were inhabited only by Jewish, the others-only by Polish, but there also were places in which both nationalities lived together. Polish families lived mostly in Sandomierska, Cicha, Kościelna, ’’The Sea”. Toberkaska, Piłsudskiego, Jasna, 3rd May Avenue were inhabited mainly by the Jews. Both societies lived in Wyszmontowska, Spacerowa and Pocztowa Streets. Mr. Szymański remembers where were situated the houses of the rich Jews. Epstein and his family lived on the crossing of “The Sea’’ with Wyszmontowska Street, his neighbors were the Adlers; Fryman resided in a tenement house at 3rd May Avenue. ‘’Hochmanka’’ lived with her parents in Ostrowiecka Street. My grandmother’s house stood on the corner of Toberkaska. Kleinminz and Lederman inhabited tenement houses by the synagogue. Sherman lived in Pocztowa Street, Waksman –in Lubelska.

On the place of today’s “Ladybird’’ shop three streets crossed, they were inhabited only by Jewish population. My grandma remembers that these streets had high richly decorated tenement houses, with large balconies and beautiful hanging flowers. The buildings were the richest and the most beautiful in Ożarów. The building of Urząd Miasta i Gminy (our local authorities) stands on the place where Jewish rabbis lived. Every tenement house had a few floors. The basements were used as stores, on the first floor there were shops, workshops and small enterprises. The next floors included flats.




Year 1939… Outbreak of the Second World War…Germans attacked Poland. The Jews started to wear bands with “David’s star” on their right arms. Jewish authority “Judenrat’’ began to exist. “Judenrat” executed all German orders. Jewish had to work, cleaning the town, clearing the snow off roads. Mr. Klimkiewicz reminds the winter in 1939, when the Jews cleared the snow in the direction of Wyszmontów. Mr. Klimkiewicz’s mother said at home that probably ‘’Judenrat’’ had to pay contribution to Germans.

Kazimierz Kwieciński says: “Times, especially for the Jews, were nervous, uncertain. Jewish young people tried to leave Poland, for example Hersz-Joszki’s son, called “Giejle” (he was red-haired). Three sons of Lederman went to The Soviet Union. Young Grumans, Fryd’s son left to Zawichost. They thought that it will be better for them to cross the Vistula. All people tried to protect against the danger.” The atmosphere in the town was full of fear and threat. My grandmother said that the Jews repeated many times:’’ God wants it and it must be so…’’.

Situation became more and more dramatic. The first killed person was the girl called “Pejra”. Mr. Kwieciński told me about a German gendarme who shot in the square an innocent Jew and the next day he killed the other on the path leading to the Jewish cemetery. Mr. Kwieciński, who lived in “the Sea”, was a witness of this event, because at the moment he worked with his father in the barn. Many times he was a witness of Jewesses’ crying ( Mrs. Grumanowa ”Surgitałe”, Mrs. Aronowa), because being his mother’s friends they often visited their house. With Mrs. Aronowa’s children –Szlama and Nachman -he learnt in the same class. Nachman and a few young Jews hid at the beginning of German occupation in Wólka Chrapanowska. He returned to Ożarów after displacing the Jews. Kazimierz’s father knew some people from Annopol who worked in a firm building roads for Germans near Lwów. He understood that his family and their Jewish friends are in danger. He told Kazimierz to take six Jews to the railway station in Jasice. It was night; Kazimierz  bought them tickets and contacted them with his father’s friends. They left….And nobody knows what happened to them…

Autumn 1940 (actually Oct. 15, 1942) came…Germans went to Ożarów with Ukrainian squad “Własowcy’’. They were to displace all Jews from Ożarów. It was a warm wet day. All Jews were gathered in the town square. Mr. Kwieciński remembers this cruel event with details. ‘’From the early morning screaming and shots were heard everywhere. Jewish stood all families, with small children, holding bags, baskets and suitcases, taking with them everything the most precious and necessary for the road- they did not know their destination. They stood in the square, expecting unknown future.” Those, who did not want to leave their houses, ill and old were killed. “Gestapo’’ commanded that action, but ,,dirty work’’ was done by ,,Własowcy”-cruel and ruthless Ukrainians. All families went in the direction of Wyszmontów. Even small children carried bags. Mr. Kwieciński and Mr. Pękalski say that this cannot be forgotten. In the crowd Mr. Kwieciński noticed Fryd with his wife, Symche (barber) with his small daughter – Edzia, Szlama (Mrs. Aronowa’s son–in–law) with two daughters. There were about one thousand people.

,,Screams of the children and wails of the adults made us cry. Their life was endangered, they could be killed even for small things. Bodies of murdered children and adults were taken to the Jewish cemetery, next to our windows. Then began an enormous silence. Everybody was too scared to leave the house and nobody wanted to see what there was in the streets: bodies, bags, remains of different Jewish things. I am not able to describe what happened!’’- says Mr. Kwieciński.

Mr. Szymański explained that those who were not taken to the railway station in Jasice were murdered on the Jewish cemetery. It was Friday, when children were taken from school to the Jewish cemetery to be killed.

Somebody said: “death of thousands is a statistic, death of the individual is a tragedy”. I would like to mention some situations, which shocked my interlocutors and had a large influence for their whole future life.

Mr. Pękalski with tears in his eyes reminds his classmate’s sister-‘’Szwarcymałka’’. It was a young girl, whose fiancé was a German soldier, fighting in the east front. They wrote letters to each other. She lived opposite the school, where was a German seat. The girl went out of the house to call her sister for dinner, but she did not have a band on her arm. She was stopped by a drunk German soldier, brought to Czachowskiego Street and shot…

One autumn day a German soldier stopped a five-year-old Jewish girl. He was drunk…He took her to the Jewish cemetery, put her on the fence and shot at her ….Mrs. Klimkiewicz was surprised that any bullet did not reach her. It made the soldier very angry, so he stood next to the little girl and shot into the back of her head…It was a child, innocent little girl, who was killed only for being Jewess…

Grandmother with tears in her eyes says:  “Sodoma i Gomora …. Real hell...”.



Every Pole, who hid Jews was to be killed. But after all they helped… This story was told by Mr. Szymański. In the suburb of Ożarów –Rock, a man called Aleksander Trela lived. Two young Jews were hidden in his barn. It was Saturday… German soldiers found the boys, tortured them and took them into captivity together with Alexander’s wife and children. Mr. Trela was not found. He returned after two years. His family survived and lived in Małachów.

17th August… It was a harvest time. Helena with her mother carried grains to their barn. In the fields they noticed a young Jewess, hidden in bundles of straw. For a few days little Helena brought some food for the Jewish girl. Unfortunately, the girl decided to get to the railway station in Jasice. She was killed during the escape.

In my grandma’s barn two brothers and their younger sister found a hiding place. One of the boys was a classmate of  Wacława –my grandma’s sister. Unfortunately, they were found by a German patrol. The barn was set on fire, the Jews died, Wacława also was killed, and my grandma’s brother – Eugeniusz was burnt…



 And what will be next? I am 17 and all events mentioned above (the Second World War, German occupation, mass extermination of Jewish and Polish nationalities) for me are only historical events, of which I learnt at school. I know that both nationalities were harmed in an enormous degree. Wound is very deep…Has it healed over? I do not know.

   Can it be forgotten? I doubt! But maybe it can be forgiven?

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