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Sierpc

SIERPC

SIERPC (Rus. Serpec ; Yid. Sheps ), town in Warszawa province, N. central Poland; passed to Prussia in 1795 and was within Russia from 1815 to World War i, after which it reverted to independent Poland. A Jewish settlement in Sierpc is mentioned in documents in 1739 and 1766. In 1830 a government commission directed that Jews living in houses owned or leased by them were to be permitted to stay in Sierpc, while the rest were to be expelled. The community numbered 649 (67% of the total population) in 1800; 2,604 (56%) in 1856; 2,861 (42%) in 1921; and 3,077 (about 30%) in 1939. Jews earned their livelihood from the retail trade and crafts, generally on a small scale with inadequate earnings. They particularly suffered from the economic *boycott instigated by antisemites from 1912. Many Jews in Sierpc were dependent on outside relief, being helped by former residents of Sierpc in the United States who established a special "rescue fund" to aid them. Prominent rabbis of the town included Meir Devash (officiated 1790–1812); Moses Leib Benjamin Zilberberg (1830–40; d. Jerusalem, 1865); Mordecai b. Joshua Greenboim (1841–58); and Yeḥiel Mikhal b. Abraham Goldshlak (1865–1918), a disciple of the ẓaddik of Przysucha.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim]

Holocaust and Postwar Period

In World War ii, during the German occupation, Sierpc belonged to Bezirk Zichenau, established and incorporated into East Prussia by order of Hitler on Oct. 26, 1939. When the Germans entered on Sept. 8, 1939, German soldiers, Volksdeutsche, and Poles immediately began to loot Jewish shops. Frequent street and house raids to seize Jews for forced labor were made, and Jews were beaten up. During the Sukkot holiday the Germans set fire to the main synagogue. A young boy who entered the burning building to save the Torah scrolls was shot, and the following day, the Germans, on the pretext that the boy had been the incendiary, fined the Jewish community 50,000 zlotys.

On Nov. 8, 1939, deportation of the Jews from Sierpc began. The Jews were then driven out of the town where they were loaded on to wagons and taken some distance. They were subsequently forced to continue on foot in the darkness to Nowy Dwor, many being beaten on the way. The following day the police marched about 1,800 of them to Warsaw, while the rest managed to hide in Nowy Dwor. A few craftsmen whom the Germans wished to exploit remained in Sierpc interned in a special quarter. In addition a small number of the deportees returned to Sierpc, increasing the number in the ghetto to about 500.

The ghetto was liquidated on Feb. 6, 1942. Jews were loaded onto trucks sent to the ghetto in Mlawa district. On the way many were murdered.

Few Jews from Sierpc survived the war. Twenty-four survived internment in *Auschwitz. A few individuals saved their lives by hiding on the "Aryan side." Two of their number, who had escaped from the ghetto in Strzegów, were members of a partisan detachment in the vicinity of Plock, but after the war was over were murdered by Polish partisans.

In 1948 eight Jewish families, formerly resident in Sierpc, were living there. The societies of former residents of Sierpc influenced the municipal authorities to return the tombstones taken from the Jewish cemetery to pave the streets. The stones were used to erect a monument in memory of the Jews from Sierpc who perished in the Holocaust.

[Danuta Dombrowska]

bibliography:

Kehillat Sherpẓ; Sefer Zikkaron (Heb., Yid., 1959).

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