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LECZYCA

LECZYCA (Pol. Łęczyca ; Rus. Lenchitsa ; Yid. Luntshits or Lentshits ), town in Lodz province, central Poland. Jews are mentioned as residents of Leczyca, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Poland, in the general privilege of King Casimir iv issued in 1453. In 1479 the Jews paid the royal treasury 15 florins in taxes. As early as the first half of the 16th century Jewish merchants of Leczyca dealt in grain, transporting it from Volhynia to the port of Danzig (Gdansk). Until the middle of the 17th century they dominated the trade in cloth, spices, and jewelry at the Leczyca fairs. The register of 1569 shows 19 Jewish houses in the town, and tax lists of 1576 mention 115 Jews, only 50 of whom were able to pay taxes. A *blood libel arose in the town in 1639 when the mutilated body of a boy was discovered. Suspicion fell on a tramp, who declared under torture that he had stolen the boy at the behest of Jews. On the strength of this confession 20 Jews were arrested and tortured. The matter came before the royal tribunal of Lublin, where the tramp, after further torture, indicated that the beadle Meir and Lazarus from Sobota were the ones to whom he had sold the child. Although they continued to protest their innocence under torture, they were condemned to death. After their execution in front of the Lublin synagogue, their bodies were quartered and the pieces impaled on stakes at the crossroads. In the Lublin community register these martyrs are named as Meir b. Menahem ha-Kohen and Ezra b. Avigdor. The child's body was placed in a glass coffin in the St. Bernard Church in Leczyca, while a picture depicting the ritual murder was displayed on the front of the church; there it remained until 1793, when the town came under Prussian rule. The picture was replaced in 1814 and it was not until 1825 that the government confiscated it along with the historical documents of the affair.

When the Jewish quarter was burned down in 1652, King John Casimir (see *Poland) allowed the Jews to rebuild their houses and the synagogue. During the Swedish wars, Jews from the surrounding district took refuge in the Jewish quarter of Leczyca. On Oct. 4, 1656, the Polish army advanced to the city gates, whereupon the garrison retired to the castle, leaving the Jews to the mercies of the attacking nobles. According to official lists of 1661, in the ensuing slaughter (re-ported in gruesome detail in the Theatrum Europaeum, 7 (Frankfurt, 1663), 988ff.; cf. also the description of a Polish observer, Pierre des Noyers, in his Lettres (1859), 252) 1,700 Jews lost their lives. Jewish reports estimate the number of dead at 3,000 and the number of burned Torah scrolls at 600. According to Polish reports (municipal archives), Jews commemorated the names of the dead on a tablet, which was lost in 1830. On June 20, 1657 "John Casimir pardoned the Jews of Leczyca their crime." However, very few availed themselves of his permission to return to the Jewish street; the 1665 register records only five Jewish houses in Leczyca. Later some more Jewish families moved to the town after King John iii Sobieski had confirmed their former rights (Feb. 20, 1676) and granted permission to rebuild the synagogue, on condition that it was no taller nor more beautiful than before. When the Swedish wars were over, many Jews returned to the town and in 1724 King Augustus ii granted them the right to engage in commerce, brandy distilling, slaughtering, inn keeping, and crafts. According to the 1765 census, there were 1,040 poll-tax payers under the jurisdiction of the Leczyca kahal, 607 of them from 83 neighboring villages. Of the 114 residents 34 owned their houses. Twenty were tailors. From 999 (49% of the total population) in 1808, the Jewish population increased to 1,797 (45%) in 1827, and 2,286 (44%) in 1857. In 1897 the community had grown to 3,444 (41%) in spite of large-scale emigration to Lodz, and in 1921 to 4,051 (40%).

Natives of Leczyca included *Ephraim Solomon of Luntschitz (16th century), rabbi of Prague, and Abraham Isaac Luntschitz (18th century). In the first half of the 17th century, when the community was most influential, the rabbi was Israel Samuel *Calahorra. He was succeeded by his son, Salomon *Calahorra.

[Encyclopaedia Judaica (Germany) /

Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

In 1939 there were about 4,300 Jews in Leczyca constituting over one third of the total population. After its occupation by the Germans (Sept. 7, 1939), a group of Jewish men was locked up in the local synagogue and a group of Polish Catholics in the church. These prisoners were forced to work on fortifications. The Germans temporarily retreated when the town was retaken and held for a few days by the Polish army. On the eve of the Day of Atonement the Nazis took 50 Jewish hostages, including the rabbi and community leaders, as well as 100 Polish hostages, as a guarantee for the safety of the German soldiers garrisoned in the town. All the hostages were subsequently released with the exception of the rabbi and several lay leaders for whose release the Judenrat had to pay 1,000,000 zlotys. Some of this money had to be raised by the Judenrat with the assistance of the police. In December 1939 Jewish families were evicted from many streets and from the buildings around the marketplace to be segregated in a separate, crowded Jewish district. To further repress and humiliate the Jews the Germans forced them to destroy their own cemetery and set fire to their synagogue. The Judenrat was compelled to sign a declaration that the "arson" was committed by Jews, and a heavy fine was imposed upon the community. During 1940 groups of Jews left the town, either voluntarily or by force. In January 1941 all Jews were ordered to appear in the marketplace with their kitchen utensils and some bedding. Some 600 people were then selected and sent under German police convoy to Poddebice. Another group of 450 were sent to Grabow. The Jewish area was then surrounded with barbed wire and as a result of famine and lack of fuel epidemics broke out. The final liquidation of the community took place on April 10–11, 1942, when the remaining 1,750 Jews were sent to the death camp at *Chelmno. A memorial book Sefer Lintshiẓ was published in Israel by the Society of Immigrants from Leczyca (Heb., 1953).

[Danuta Dombrowska]

bibliography:

R. Mahler, Yidn in Amolikn Poyln in Likht fun Tsifern (1958), index; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 10, 25; A. Eisenbach et al. (eds.), Zydzi a powstanie styczniowe, materiały i dokumenty (1963), index; I. Schiper, Studya nad stosunkami gaspodarczymi Żydów w Polsce podczas średniowiecza (1911), index; idem, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index; M. Bersohn, Dyplomataryusz, dotyczący żydów w Polsce (1910), no. 357; Trunk, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 2:1–4 (1949), 64–166, passim; Dąbrowska, in: bŻih, 13–14 (1955); Halpern, Pinkas, index; Tuchowski, Odgłos procesów kryminalnych (1713); D. Lewin, Judenverfolgungen im zweiten Schwedische-Polnischen Krieg (1901).

Leczyca

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