views updated


PIOTRKOW (Pol. Piotrków Trybunalski ; Rus. Petrokov ; Ger. Petrikau ), town in Lodz province, central Poland; known from 1578 as Piotrkow-Trybunalski. Several anti-Jewish resolutions were passed at state conventions held in Piotrkow during the 14th to 16th centuries, including a series of limitations by the Sejm (Diet) of 1562. Jews settled in Piotrkow from the first half of the 16th century. In 1569 Jews were permitted by the king to settle in the suburbs of Piotrkow and trade at the fairs there on payment of 30 ducats to the Christian guild. The Jews were expelled following a *blood libel in 1590. During the greater part of the 17th century the municipality prevented Jews from entering Piotrkow, until 1679 when King John ii Sobieski permitted Jews to return, to trade there, and to build a synagogue (completed in 1689). During the 1720s, under the first rabbi of Piotrkow, Eliakim Getz, a ḥevra kaddisha and Bikkur Ḥolim were organized. In 1744 Jewish self-defense against an attack by the mob was successfully led by Ephraim Fishel. The Jews of the community (about 800) were then compelled to leave the city and settle in the suburbs (Nowa Wiés). A bet midrash was founded there in 1765, and a large synagogue was built by the merchant Moses Kazin in 1781.

After the second partition of Poland in 1793, Piotrkow passed to Prussia. In 1808 there were in Piotrkow 1,817 Jews (46% of the total population), and in 1827, 2,133 Jews (45% of the total). After the opening of the Warsaw-Vienna railway line and the development of industries in the region, Jews founded weaving mills in Piotrkow. A growing Jewish proletariat was employed in the timber and textile industries, and in services. In 1857 there were 4,166 Jews (42% of the total population). In 1861 Jews obtained electoral and elective rights on the municipal council. In 1864 a Hebrew printing press was set up in Piotrkow, which in 1900 published the Jerusalem Talmud. Moses David *Szereszewski, the Lithuanian maskil, introduced the Ḥibbat Zion movement into Piotrkow in 1880. There were 30 ḥadarim, a talmud torah, two battei midrash, and a private secular school in this period. The Jewish hospital, founded in 1836, was also extended. In 1912 a Zionist workers' party was founded in Piotrkow. The community numbered approximately 5,400 in 1865, 9,370 (33.14%) in 1897, and by 1917 had increased to 14,890.

Some of the Jews who found shelter in Piotrkow during World War i left the town during the establishment of independent Poland (1918). In 1921 there were in Piotrkow 11,630 Jews (28% of the total population). Of the 33 members of the municipal council elected in 1919, seven were Jews. In the 1928 elections their number rose to eight. Between the two world wars new educational institutions were established in Piotrkow by the *Tarbut, cysho, and *ort; and sports organizations (Maccabi, Shtern, etc.) and a musical society, Zamir, were formed. From 1924 the Zionist periodical Unzer Tsaytung was published in Piotrkow and Zionist and other youth movements gained in strength. In the elections to the community council in 1935 six representatives of the *Bund were elected. From 1924 to 1931, Meir Shapiro, leader of the Agudat Israel, served as rabbi of Piotrkow.

Holocaust Period

After the outbreak of World War ii about 2,000 Jews, the majority of them young people, escaped from Piotrkow and attempted to find refuge in the larger towns and the Soviet-occupied zone. On Oct. 28, 1939, the Germans set up at Piotrkow the first ghetto to be established in Poland. Despite famine, disease, and terrorization, the population in the ghetto continued to increase as thousands of Jewish refugees arrived there, mostly from the regions annexed by the Germans. In April 1942 there were 16,469 Jews in the Piotrkow ghetto, of whom 8,141 had come from other localities, and by Oct. 15, 1942, there were about 25,000 Jews, including a large number of refugees from the surrounding townlets of Kamiensk, Wolborz, Serock, and others. Subsequently, in the course of one week, until Oct. 22, 1942, some 22,000 Jews of the Piotrkow ghetto were deported to the death camp of *Treblinka. About 4,000 Jews remained, half being workers in labor camps assigned to factories which worked for the German army. Some 2,000 others hid in the ghetto to escape the death transports. At the beginning of 1943 the Nazis carried out searches for those in hiding and found about 2,000 Jews, whom they murdered in the surrounding forests. In May 1943 about 500 Jews were taken from Piotrkow to the camps of Starachowice, *Radom, and others. Among those some 40 women and children were murdered on the spot. The remainder, numbering about 1,100, were concentrated into camps near the Karo and Hortensia glassworks and the Fischer & Co. timber enterprises. In November 1944 the last few hundred Jews in the ghetto were deported to the camps of *Buchenwald, *Bergen-Belsen, and *Mauthausen.

Several attempts had been made in the ghetto to organize resistance. Between 1942 and 1944, about 500 Jews escaped from the ghetto. They found refuge in the forests and within the organizations which fought the Germans. From the middle of 1943 a group of Jewish partisans was active in the vicinity of Piotrkow. The group succeeded in escaping from the labor camp attached to the Karo glassworks and held out until the retreat of the Germans from the region in January 1945. Jewish settlement in Piotrkow was not renewed after the war.


A. Feldman, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 1 (1938); Sz. Ashkenazy, Ze spraw żydowskich w dobie kongresowej (1913); M. Bersohn, Dyplomataryusz Żydow w dawnej Polsce (1388–1752) (1910), 179–80; Dzieje ydów w Piotrkowie i okoliey (1930); A. Eisenbach, in: bŻih, no. 29 (1959), 72–111; A. Rutkowski, ibid., no. 15–16 (1955), 75–182.

[Arthur Cygielman]