KUTNO , town in the province of Lodz, central Poland. Jews lived in the town from its beginnings in the 15th century and are mentioned in an official document of 1513. Between 1728 and 1738 the Jews paid 1,500 to 1,800 zlotys in poll tax. In 1753 a fire destroyed the town, and all Jewish documents, including the community minute book (pinkas), were burned so that no sources remain which would throw light on Jewish activity there. The extent of the commercial activities of the Jews there may be indicated by the surnames Kutnis or Kutnes found among Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries in western Germany and in Amsterdam. After 1753 the town was soon rebuilt and the Jews reestablished their institutions. The pinkas of the ḥevra kaddisha contains records from 1755. Various institutions were built only at the beginning of the 19th century, e.g., the ḥevrah kaddisha hospital, erected after 1808. Jews from Kutno attended the fairs at Leipzig and Frankfurt on the Oder in 1793. The number of Jews in Kutno increased from 928 in 1765 to 1,376 (70.2% of the total population) in 1800 and 8,978 (63.1%) in 1908, but fell to 6,784 (42.4%) in 1921 and 6,440 (27.5%) in 1931. Kutno was a center of Torah study and Haskalah; the most famous of its rabbis was Israel Joshua *Trunk.
[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim]
Holocaust and Postwar Periods
In 1939 Kutno had 6,700 Jewish inhabitants out of a total population of 27,000. The Germans took Kutno on Sept. 15, 1939, and immediately rounded up a few score Jewish men and sent them to forced labor camps or *Leczyca and/or Piatek. The synagogue was burned and Jewish property plundered. The head of the Gestapo especially indulged in beating up Jewish women, jailing members of the *Judenrat, and extorting precious gifts. In February 1940 a group of Volksdeutsche arrived and took possession of about 70–80% of Jewish property. For a while the Jews were able to engage in "illegal" trade with the areas of the General Government. In June 1940 the Jews were transferred to a ghetto on the site of a destroyed sugar refinery. Close to 7,000 persons were crowded into this small area without fuel, with three lavatories, and one water pump. Typhoid broke out and 280 died. The only medical care was at first provided by a single Polish doctor, who did not even reside in the ghetto, and no medication was available. The Judenrat managed to bring in two Jewish doctors from other localities. Extra provisions were brought into the ghetto by guards. The situation deteriorated in the latter half of 1941 when the ghetto was sealed off because of renewed epidemics. Despite the gravity of the situation, the Judenrat took care of refugees from other localities, arranged a public kitchen, and even provided some educational facilities for the children. At the end of March 1942 the entire Jewish population was rounded up and sent to the *Chelmno death camp.
I. Trunk, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 2:1–4 (1949), 64–166; D. Dabrowska, in: bŻih, 13–14 (1955); Dos Naye Lebn, 14 (July, 1946). add. bibliography: J. Trunk, A Yidishe Kehille in Poylen baym sof fun 18-yorhundert – Kutneh (1934); Sefer Kutno veha-Sevivah (1968).