Szczerców ~ Stertzev ~ ועצרעטס – Poland
Compiled by Martin Davis © 2014
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Thanks & Acknowledgements The information contained in these KehilaLinks pages have been compiled from a number of sources but a special mention should be made for the help given by Esther Levy and the Gerson (Gerszonowicz) family whose treasury of information and photos of Szczerców enrich this small site. Web pages updated January 2014

Introduction

The Jewish community of Szczerców called this shtetl Stertzev. These pages are a basic introduction to that country village, in central Poland, and to aspects of its former Jewish life and history. Today, Szczerców is both a village and an administrative centre for the villages and hamlets of the area; in a rural location within a farming community, with its own rural development plan. Szczerców is one of a cluster of settlements located by the meandering River Widawka, a tributary of the River Warta, where Jewish people lived for centuries but there is no memorial to the former Jewish community in the village and surrounding area (a Jewish population totalling some 3,000 people at the time of the Nazi invasion) nor have there been available the usual photographs and stories of the pre Second World War life of the whole community of Szczerców. To an extent this loss of collective memory (and history) is understandable, for as a result of the Nazi onslaught during the first days of the defence of Poland, Szczerców was reduced to rubble. However, we are fortunate that we have access to previously unpublished information and accounts of life in the village. One of these is the heart rending memoir of Tobi Komornik-Gerson; which characterised the innocence of the people of the shtetl as it speaks to us of the very essence of the systematic suffering inflicted on ‘the unconvicted’ during the Shoah.

A Small Rural Jewish Community

Before the Second World War, the Lower Warta area had many long established and mixed Jewish and Christian communities. These were communities without ghettos; where often the church and the synagogue were adjacent to each other. The Jewish community of Stertzev had an established but relatively small presence from the late 1700’s - and never constituted more than 1/3 of the total population. The village lay at the crossroads of important trade routes - from Kielce via Piotrków to Sieradz , and the route from Krakow via Czestochowa to Szadek. Market trading and crafts were the important income generators and provided the trading outlet for the farmers of the area. The market linked the village to the network of larger markets of Widawa, Działoszyn , Belchatow and beyond. During the period from the 1840’s, the gradual collapse of the local economy, combined with a continuing series of disasters - cholera and typhus epidemics, floods and extensive fires - led to the impoverishment of the villagers. The once bustling market village lost its town charter in 1869 as a result of this economic collapse and as punishment for the part its local leaders played in the insurrection (January Uprising) against the Imperial Russia.

A Slow Ending

Over the next 70 years a combination of economic failure and natural disasters had a major effect on life for Szczerców’s inhabitants. Many left and those that remained saw their incomes dive to poverty levels. At times an ‘uneasy’ relationship existed between the Christian and Jewish communities - which occasionally spilled over into vandalism and violence toward the Jewish community. This apparently was exploited through the targeted activities of the Anti Semitic political party Stronnictwo Narodowe (National Party) - which operated in the area.1 The first days of the Second World War saw the almost complete destruction of the village and the dispersal and eventual eradication of the 200 year old Jewish community of Stertzev/Szczerców.  
1. Outline of the History of Szczerców - 1332-1945. Zbigniew M. Glab. Publish at http://www.historycznie.uni.lodz.pl/szczercow.htm
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Facts
Municipal Coat of Arms Coordinates for Szczerców 51°07' N, 18°52' E Alternate names: Szczerców [Pol], Stertzev [Yid], Shchertsuv  [Rus], Szczerców is a village in Belchatów County, Lódz Voivodeship, in central Poland. It is the seat of the gmina (administrative district) called Gmina Szczerców. It lies approximately 18 kilometres (11 mi) west of Belchatów and 56 km (35 mi) south-west of the regional capital Lódz. The village has a population of 3,300.
A recent aerial photograph of Szczerców courtesy of www.historycznie.uni.lodz.pl.
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