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KATOWICE (Ger. Kattowitz ), capital of Katowice province Silesia, part of Prussia until 1921. Information regarding Jewish communities in the vicinity of Katowice goes back to 1733. At the end of the 18th century certain Jews leased the iron foundries in the suburb in Bogucice (Ger. Bogutschuetz). The Jews were expelled from the nearby localities in 1781, but they were permitted to return in 1787. In 1840 there were 12 Jews in the city. Following the industrial development of the city, Jews played an increasing role in its economic life. The Jewish population numbered 102 in 1855, and in 1867, when Katowice was declared a city, 624; it numbered 2,216 in 1899, 2,979 in 1910, and 9,000 in 1932. The non-Jewish population grew at a much faster rate, rising from 14,000 in 1888 to 130,645 in 1930.

An independent community was organized in 1866. From 1850 religious services were held in prayer-houses. The first synagogue was built in 1862 (expanded in 1880) and a new one was built in 1900. A cemetery was opened in 1868, and the first community rabbi was appointed in 1872. Communal activities expanded as the community grew. The Ḥovevei Zion conference was held in Katowice in 1884 (see *Kattowitz Conference). The Jewish communal organization developed considerably after World War i when Bruno Altmann headed the community from 1919. A new community building was inaugurated in 1937 which served as a center for cultural and organizational activities. The community paid much attention to Jewish education, maintaining a school, named after Berek *Joselewicz, and a Hebrew school, established in 1935.

Antisemitic agitation in Katowice increased during the 1930s. In 1937 there were pogroms, and bombs were thrown into shops owned by Jews. As most of the Jews there were tradesmen, their economic position suffered severely as a result of the anti-Jewish *boycott. The Polish artisans' organizations introduced "Aryan" articles into their regulations, and the Jewish artisans were expelled: the barbers' association introduced an Aryan article in 1937, and the tailors' association and others introduced similar articles in 1938. As a result of antisemitism many Jews left Katowice, and by 1939, 8,587 remained (6.3% of the total population). Rabbis Kalman Chameides and Mordechai Vogelmann served the community from 1928 until just before the Holocaust. In 1937 Rabbi Chameides was appointed adviser on Jewish affairs at the municipal law courts.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim]

Holocaust Period and Modern Period

The Germans entered the city on September 3, 1939, and found a refugee-swelled Jewish population of 11,000–12,000 there. With many fleeing, 3,500 remained in October. Further flight and expulsions left 900 at the end of the year. These were expelled to other localities in May-June 1940, mostly to Chrzanow, and shared the fate of the local Jews

After World War ii about 1,500 Jews (almost all of whom were from other parts of Poland and had spent the war years in the Soviet Union) settled in Katowice, and a Jewish Commitee for Upper Silesia was established there. A chapter of the Communist-led Jewish Cultural and Social Society was active until 1967, when the Polish authorities launched their antisemitic campaign. As a result of official hostility, almost all the Jews in Katowice left Poland.

[Stefan Krakowski]


J. Cohn, Geschichte der Synagogen-Gemeinde Kattowitz… (1900); A. Szefer, Miejsca stracen Ludnscicywilnej wojewodztwa katowickiego, 1939–1945 (1969); Yad Vashem Archives. add. bibliography: P. Maser et al., Juden in Oberschlesien i (1992), 107–21; W. Majowski (ed.), 100 Jahre Stadt Kattowitz 1865–1965.


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Katowice City in s Poland. Founded in the 16th century and chartered in 1865, it was occupied by Germany during World War II. A leading industrial centre, it produces coal, iron and steel, heavy machinery and chemicals. Pop. (1999) 345,934.