MLAWA (Pol. Mława ; Rus. Mlava ), town in the province of Warsaw, N.E. central Poland. The earliest documented information on the Jewish community is dated 1543. It is included in a report of a case of *blood libel, which mentions the name of the parnas of the community – Berechiah (Pol. Bogusław). In 1569 there were 23 Jewish families living in the town and in 1578 they had increased to 34. Their main sources of livelihood were the livestock trade and crafts. A charge of desecrating the *Host in 1670, and the fires which devastated Mlawa in 1659 and 1692, caused the number of Jews gradually to decrease. On the other hand, the Jewish population of the suburb of Zabrody, which was beyond the area of municipal jurisdiction, and the surrounding villages, increased.
Until 1753, the community of Mlawa was under the jurisdiction of that of *Ciechanow. The growth of economic activity in the region during the last third of the 18th century brought an increase in the Jewish population. The 1765 census showed 70 Jewish families numbering 487 poll tax payers in Mlawa and the neighboring villages. Fifteen houses in the town were owned by Jews. Sources of 1781 mention a Jewish population of 718. After the Prussian conquest (1793), the town was granted a de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege, and the Jews then moved to the suburb of Zabrody.
The Jews returned to Mlawa with the establishment of the grand duchy of Warsaw (1807). In 1808 they numbered 137, forming 15% of the population. Following restrictions on Jewish settlement, a special quarter was established in 1824, and only there (with some rare exceptions) were Jews permitted to live. In addition, the entry of Jews from other regions was almost completely prohibited, because of the location of the town in the border area. In 1827, there were 792 Jews (36% of the population) living in the town. The ghetto and the other restrictions on residence and ownership of real estate were abolished in 1862. Once the railway lines from Mlawa to Warsaw (1877) and Gdansk (1883) were opened, the trade in grain, livestock, wood, and army supplies, from which many Jews earned their livelihood, increased considerably. Between 1857 and 1897, the Jewish population of Mlawa grew from 1,650 to 4,845 (41% of the population).
The influence of Ḥasidism manifested itself among the Jews of Mlawa from the beginning of the 19th century. With the consolidation of their economic situation at the close of that century, the influence of Mitnaggedim circles gained in strength (in 1870, Wolf Lipszie was appointed rabbi of the town). The last rabbi of Mlawa, R. Jehiel Moses Segalowicz (appointed 1901), was known as one of the Mitnaggedim. In the late 1890s, a *Ḥovevei Zion circle was organized in the town. During the revolution and pogroms of 1905–06, the *Bund and the *Po'alei Zion wielded considerable influence among the Jewish workers, youth, and intelligentsia of Mlawa. The Jewish author Joseph *Opatoshu, the Hebrew author Jakir *Warshavsky, and the publicist and leader of the Bund in Poland, Victor *Alter, were born in Mlawa, where they also began their careers. Between 1921 and 1927 the Jewish population of Mlawa increased from 5,923 to 6,301. A newspaper, Dos Mlauer Lebn, was published; its editors included Bunim Warshavsky, Moses Lichtensztain, and Moses Laska.
At the outbreak of World War ii there were about 6,500 Jews in Mlawa. At the beginning of November 1939 the Germans destroyed all the synagogues in Mlawa and vicinity. The first deportation took place on Dec. 6, 1940, when 300 Jews were deported to Miedzyrzec *Podlaski, *Lubartow, and *Lublin; they shared the fate of the Jews there. The ghetto was established on Dec. 7–8, 1940, and liquidated two years later on Nov. 24, 1942. The last deportations took place from Nov. 10, 1942, to Dec. 10, 1942; almost all the Jews were deported to *Treblinka death camp. The Jewish community of Mlawa was not reconstituted after the war. Organizations of former residents of Mlawa are active in Israel, the United States, and Mexico.
Halpern, Pinkas, index; B. Wasiutyński, Ludnoś żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 23, 46f., 75, 78; S. Pazyra, Geneza i rozwój miast mazowieckich (1959), 398; Y. Trunk, Geschikhte fun Yidn in Plotsk (1939), 59, 62, 65; A.G. von Hoelske, Geographie und Statistik von West-Sued-und Neu-Ostpreussen (Berlin, 1800), 497; J. Shakky (ed.), Pinkes Mlave (1950); S. Zuchowski, Odgłos processów kryminalnych na Żydach (1700); Irgun Yoẓe'ei Mlawa be-Israel, Yedi'on (1967); Pinkas Mlawa (Yid., 1950).