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PRZEMYSL (Pol. Przemyśl ), city in Rzeszow province, S.E. Poland; after the partition of Poland, it passed to Austria (1772–1919), subsequently reverting to independent Poland. In 1939–40 the German-Soviet borderline ran through Przemysl. A Jewish community existed in the city by 1367. In 1542 some 18 Jewish families were living there. The community numbered 1,558 by 1775. A Jew of Przemysl, Moses (Moshko) Shmuhler, was sentenced to death in 1630 following a *Host desecration libel. In 1638 the communities in the vicinity were ordered to pay their taxes through the Przemysl community, and from 1670 Przemysl became a leading community for the region of "Red Russia" within the framework of the *Councils of the Lands. Przemysl Jewry was granted detailed charters of rights by King Sigismund ii Augustus (March 29, 1559) and King Stephen Báthory (June 27, 1576) enabling the Jews to trade despite opposition from the municipality. The economic position of Przemysl Jewry declined in the 18th century and the community fell heavily into debt. When in 1772 the community passed to Austrian rule its autonomy was curtailed, and the Jews in Przemysl, like the rest of the Jews in the territories incorporated into Austria, came under the Austrian system of supervision limiting their numbers and marriages (see *Familiants Laws). On the other hand they also benefited from the more favorable Austrian attitudes toward the Jews and legislation concerning them. The Austrian authorities gave support to the *Haskalah movement, directed Jews to attend government schools, and were inimical to *Ḥasidism. Half of the members of the Przemysl city council were Jews. Among the heads of the Jewish community the most influential was Moshe Sheinbah, an active member of both the municipal and community councils before World War i. The Jewish population numbered c. 5,692 in 1870; 16,062 in 1910 (29.6% of the total population); 18,360 (38.3%) in 1921; and 17,300 (34.0%) in 1931. Wealthy Jews of Przemysl engaged in the wholesale commerce of wheat and timber; some were purveyors to the Austrian army garrison in the town. Jews also engaged in banking, small- and large-scale industry, and agriculture. A large section of the Jewish population was impoverished.

Among rabbis of Przemysl in the 19th century Samuel Heller and Isaac Judah *Schmelkes were prominent. In 1875 the Yishuv Ereẓ Israel organization was founded, and from 1897 many Jews in Przemysl joined Zionist organizations, prominent among them Aguddat Herzl. The *Bund, *Agudat Israel, and the *Folkspartei were also active in Przemysl. H. *Lieberman was active in organizing the Polish Socialist Party (pps). In World War i Przemysl was occupied for a short time in 1915 by the Russians. Many Jews then left the city and some were expelled by the Russians.

After the war Przemysl was incorporated in independent Poland. In the municipal elections of 1928 the Jewish National bloc in coalition with the Polish Sanacja party won 18 seats out of 40; a Jew was elected deputy mayor. In the communal elections of 1928 Agudat Israel gained the majority. In the 1936 elections it was defeated by the Zionists whose representative, Jacob Rebhan, was elected president of the community organization.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim]

Holocaust Period

There were approximately 20,000 Jews living in Przemysl in 1939. When war broke out that year, many Jews from areas further west took refuge in the city. On Sept. 14, 1939, Przemysl fell to the Germans and within a few days some 500 Jews, about half of them refugees, were murdered on a trumped-up charge that 12 Germans had been shot by Jews. On September 18 Przemysl was handed over to the Soviet Union; two days prior to this, the Jews of Zasanie, which remained under German occupation, were expelled to the eastern sector of the city. Under Soviet rule all Jewish communal activities ceased. Jewish artisans were organized in cooperatives; Jews in the professions (except physicians) faced difficulties in finding employment. In April and May 1940, 7,000 Jews were deported to Russia. Most of them were refugees from the western parts of Poland.

Following the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Przemysl fell to the Germans on June 28, 1941. Subsequently a Judenrat was set up, headed by Ignacy Duldig. In June 1942 the Germans shot 45 of the Jews from Zasanie. This was followed by the expulsion of 1,000 Jews to the camp of Janowska in *Lvov and the transfer, by Aug. 3, 1942, of 12,500 Jews to *Belzec extermination camp. On Nov. 18, 1942, a further 4,000 Jews were sent to the same camp. Some 10 months later, on Sept. 2–3, 1943, 3,500 Jews were sent to *Auschwitz. In subsequent months the remaining Jews in Przemysl – some 2,000 persons – about half of whom had been in hiding, were murdered by the Nazis.

The Jews made an attempt at armed resistance. In April 1943 a group of young Jews went to the nearby forests with the intention of joining the partisans. They were all captured and murdered.

The Soviet army reentered the city on July 27, 1944, and a few days later some 250 Jewish survivors gathered in Przemysl. A Jewish council was established under the leadership of Mordechai Schatner and later of Ẓevi Rubinfeld to assist the survivors; in 1947 its activities were limited to religious needs only. Przemysl Landsmannschaften had been established in Israel and in New York. A memorial book on the Jewish community of Przemysl has been published (Sefer Przemysl, Heb. and Yid., 1964).

[Aharon Weiss]


M. Schorr, Żydzi w Przemyślu do końca xviii wieku: opracowanie … materyału archiwalnego (1903).