THE JEWS IN PILZNO
King Kazimierz the Great decreed the founding of Pilzno in 1354.
The first arrival of the Jews in Pilzno is thought to have been in
1560. An elder of the town, Jan Tarlo, invited them and had them
settle on the outskirts. There is a lack of records up to 1560.
Records of 1564 mention three Jewish farm-owners, and two Jewish
tenant farmers. These tenants didn't pay taxes but were required to
work for the landowner.
Official records of 1576 indicate that three Jews lived in Pilzno:
Lazarus, Josef and his wife Jahenet, and Simon came from Tarnow.
Their occupation was trade and money lending. A citizen complained to
the court against the Jews, saying they were interfering with
citizens earning an honest way, in trade or other business. The Jews
wrote a plea to the King, but King Stefan Batory ordered the Jews
evicted from Pilzno and forbade them to settle in the town or
"In the 16th century more than twenty towns
obtained the"privilegia de non tolerandis Judaeis". These included,
Warsaw in 1525, Vilna in 1551, Bydgoszcz in 1556, Stryj in 1567,
Tarnogrod 1569, and Pilzno in 1577. In practice, however, this ban
was inconsistently observed. In other locations, separate suburbs,
"Jewish towns", were formed, or the Jews fought for and won the
revocation of those discriminatory regulations" --Mike Rosenzweig,
"Early History of the Jews in Poland."
In 1629 an official inspection found the houses which the Jews had
left still empty. The Pilzno city council issued a decree in 1635
prohibiting Jews from selling in the town's market. In 1814 the head
priest of Pilzno in his report to the Bishop mentioned that there are
no Jews in Pilzno. The Jews lived, however, in neighboring villages
and came to the market. "Altogether there are nine Jewish families in
the parish," he wrote. Jews had an Inn near the parish church in 1760
but none of them had the rights of citizens.
In 1772 Poland was divided among the three neighboring powers:
Russia, Austria, and Germany. The section of Poland that was given to
Austria, which included Pilzno and its environs, was known from then
on as Galicia. In 1787 a decree was issued that the Jews of Galicia
were required to take on German family names, starting in January
1789. The German names were intended by the government to promote the
process of Germanization and assimilation of the Jews of Galicia. For
the same reason, communities and businesses were required to keep
their ledgers and accounts in German only. They were forbidden to use
Hebrew or Yiddish for this purpose.
The Austrian government created a local council in Pilzno in 1830
and admitted Jews to the town.
The first Jew who received the right/approval of the city to
live in Pilzno was Aron Ader (1), a barber/surgeon, from Dembitz, in
1830. After him more Jews moved to Pilzno. (2)
In 1880, according to the census, Pilzno had 2128 residents, of
whom 551 were Jews. The Poviat (county) of Pilzno in 1886 had 47,500
residents, of whom 44,600 were Catholic and 2813 Jews. In 1900 the
Census in Pilzno showed 2138 residents and 707 Jews.
The early Pilzno Jews belonged to the synagogue in Tarnow, and in
1873 they organized a separate religious community with Aron
Seelenfreunden as their leader, and members Jacob Ader and Mendel
Kornhauser. From a Pilzno citizen they bought a wooden house which
they transformed into a synagogue and next to it they built ritual
baths. (There was also a Jewish school there between the wars: see
1924 photo). In 1873 they purchased some land for a cemetery.
They built a brick and stone wall around the cemetery, and at its
entry there was a wooden structure for the preparing of bodies for
burial. Before the establishment of the cemetery Jews buried their
dead in Dembitz.
In the 1890's an official report noted that "Pilzno consists of
tidy wooden courts surrounded by gardens, except for the marketplace,
in which there are mostly single-story brick tenements."
In 1897 the Jewish leader became Mendel Kornhauser, and after him
the next leader was Rafael Ader, and then Meyer Lerner. The Jews also
invited a Rabbi, Gershon Adler (3), and after him came David
Singer (Adler's son-in-law), and then Menacha Horowitz. The Rabbi
always drew attention with his original dress, which was a silk
gabardine coat, big hat with fur trim, white stockings, and black
Aside from the synagogue, there were also several houses of prayer
where Jews would gather., called in Yiddish "shteebls".
There were not a large number of educated Jews. Several dozen Jews
lived in the surrounding villages. They were often poor and their
livelihood came from buying produce from the farmers and taking it to
market. Jews who lived near main roads often had Inns, and had a
liquor license from the state. Jews rarely farmed.
Right before WWII there were 788 Jews in the town, and 1,342 in
the parish. Right after the Germans entered Pilzno they began to
isolate the Jewish population, first by having them wear the Jewish
star, in the fall of 1939, and afterwards (in 1942) by herding them
into a ghetto.
The first Jew killed in Pilzno by the Germans was Aron Chilowicz,
age 25; his brother Maurice Chilowicz reports: "Aron was shot in the
synagogue on 13 September, 1939, erev Rosh Hashanah. We buried him in
the cemetery the next day. At night the same day, the synagogue and
Talmud Torah was burned and the sexton was burned." Moses Beer, age
50, was the sexton, and when he tried to carry the Torah out of the
burning synagogue, he was shot by the German soldiers and thrown back
into the flames.
In Pilzno a ghetto was organized in June 1942 . The German's
separated a group of old persons and cripples, people who were not
able to work, and shot them to death at the Jewish cemetery, 12 June
1942. At that time the following people were shot: Chaim Spierer, age
70; Zachary Szmoya, age 70; Lazar Korn, age 70; Max Korn, age 70;
Joel Adler, age 70; Duwet Flam, age 70; and Duwet Herbst, age 55.
Herbst was a war veteran who had lost his leg in WWI. He waved his
crutch as he was taken and yelled: "Poland has not gone yet."
(4) These elderly Jews were driven to the Jewish cemetery on a
horse-drawn wagon to be killed.
The Pilzno ghetto was situated at the old market, bordered by the
bridge over the river Dulca, to Legion Street, to M Street, along the
river, and back to the bridge. In this area about 1000 Jews were
squeezed in primitive conditions.. The ghetto did not last long.
During July 1942 Jews were taken to Belzec, and those who remained
were taken to the ghetto in Dembitz. By the end of July Pilzno was
cleansed of Jews, except for those few in hiding. In Nov. 1944 the
German area commander posted a decree that any Jews found would be
shot, and if anybody helps them they too will be shot.
Many Poles decided to help Jews. On Feb. 19, 1943 the German
police shot four Poles for offering shelter to Jews and at the same
time shot the six Jews whom they had sheltered. On 9 Oct. 1943 the
Germans shot 5 members of the Rebisiow family and the 12 Jews they
had been hiding, and burned down the whole farm. Josef Bobrowskiego
was discovered to be hiding Jews; he was shot as were the two Jews.
Josefa Rysinska of Pilzno was given a medal by Yad Vashem after the
war for her role in helping Jews during the occupation. Another
person who helped the Jews was Mieczyslaw Ryba of Slotiwej. From
August 1942 to Summer 1944 there were 3 Jews hiding on his
fathers farm: Benjamin Deresiewicz, Abraham Einspruch, and
Israel Hamel. In Spring 1943 two more came, brothers Hyman and Mendel
Reiner of Pilzno. As the front was getting closer, all five Jews
moved to another farm. All survived.
The soldiers took several of the most beautiful Jewish girls for
sex, and then killed them. Taken were: Schneidle Spierer, age 25;
Gitle Katzner, 21; Jute Turk, 25; Reizle Szmaje, 24; Chaya Nord, 22;
Ruchl Tannenbaum, 21; Esther Weinbach, 19; Rivke Chilowicz, 19; Sara
Stern, 18; Hanna Deresiewicz, 16.
Laya Reich, born in 1921 in Pilzno, was shot in 1943 by the "navy
blue policemen" (5); an informer told on her to the Germans;
Pinkas Rosenbaum, born in 1918, who was hiding in Dulczowce, was
found and shot in Oct. 1943. Moses Tannenbaum of Pilzno was hiding in
the woods near Jaworza, found and shot. Gitl Warowicz of Pilzno,
hiding in Lekach Dolnych, was found and shot in 1943. Necha List,
born 1924, had been hiding; Gedalie List, born 1913, was also found
The Wurzel family, Shlamy and Rywy, and their three little
children, including a baby born in August 1942 while the family was
in hiding, gave themselves up to the police because they could not
hold out any longer. They turned themselves in 24 Nov 1943 and were
shot at the cemetery.
Leizer Spierer was in hiding, but in despair, turned himself in,
and was shot by the blue policemen. The Steplow family was found and
After the war, no Jews settled in Pilzno.
1. PILZNO AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE, published in
1994, Poland, by Josef Szczeklik; translated by Krystyna Malesa.
2. Texas Polish Genealogical Society web site
3. The Book of Dembitz, translation of sections of the
Dembitz Yizkor Book, prepared by Jerrold Landau of Toronto in 1998.
The Book of Dembitz was published in 1950 in Israel by a group of
Dembitz emigres organized by Daniel Leibel.
4. Tarnow Archives
5. Rosenzweig, Mike, "Early History of the Jews in Poland"
(1) Aron Ader's descendant, Howard Ader lives
in California. Howard writes: "Aaron Aders house was right
across the street from the market place. Good place for a barber shop
and medical center. They also made and sold soda pop. People would
come into their basement and have a cooler." A birth record in the
Tarnow Archives from 1861 registers the birth of Basche Eidel Ader, a
daughter, to Aron and Chana Laya Ader in Pilzno. A birth record from
1866 registers the birth of Joseph Ader to Aron and Chana in Pilzno.
(2) Other early records found in the Tarnow Archives
In 1850, Aron Guttenberg, age 24, married Mirl Chaya Goldstein,
age 23 of Dukla. Chaim Friedman of Pilzno officiated. In 1854 Bershon
Terig and Ignatz Hans were born in Pilzno. In 1857 Moses Chilowicz,
age 1-1/2, died in Pilzno; also in 1857 Schulem Pilzer, age 29,
married Blume Grunspan, age 17 of Pilzno. In 1858 Moses Maschler
married Seme Robensohn, age 17. In 1859 Feige Chilowitz was born in
Pilzno; Reisel Kranz was born in Pilzno; Beila Tulipan was born in
Pilzno Michael Semel was born in Pilzno; and Hersch Halberstam, age
22, married Beila Staff, age 18 of Dukla. Also in 1859 Rivke
Silberman, age 62, died in Pilzno..
(3) Rabbi Gershon Adler is described in "Encyclopedia of
Galician Rabbis and Scholars" as Dayan in Pilzno.
(4) This is the opening line of the Polish national anthem.
(5) "granatowa policja", translates as "navy-blue police,"
were Poles working for the Germans
See also http://www.pgst.org/places/pilzno.htm
for a translation of the Polish
Geographical Dictionary entry on Pilzno, written between 1880 and 1902.