Zdunska Wola

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ZDUNSKA WOLA (Pol. Zduńska Wola ), district capital in the province of Lodz, Poland. In 1788 the owners of the town erected at their own expens e a wooden structure to serve as a synagogue to encourage Jewish settlement. Of the 32 families who lived there in 1778, 11 were Jewish, eight of whom earned their livelihood as craftsmen and three in commerce. In addition to the taxes owed to the crown, every Jewish family had to pay 16 to 50 zlotys annually to the owners of the estate. The Jewish community body also had to pay an annual rent of 130 zlotys for the synagogue. In 1825 the settlement was granted municipal status and at the same time the residence rights of the Jews were limited to two streets. In 1827 there were 468 Jews (17% of the total population) in the town. In the 1830s, when Jewish financiers took the initiative of opening a woolcloth industry (with manufacture on a contractual basis), some of them were authorized to erect stone houses beyond the Jewish streets. During the second half of the 19th century Jewish merchants became pioneers in the manufacture of cotton cloth. The rapid industrialization of Zdunska Wola attracted Jews from the surrounding towns as well as from Lithuania. In 1857 the number of Jews had risen to 1,676 (26% of the population), and in 1897 to 7,252 (46% of the total). The majority were engaged as craftsmen, particularly as weavers. At the beginning of the 20th century a class of Jewish industrial workers had already developed.

Until 1828 the community of Zdunska Wola was subject to the jurisdiction of the *Lask community. In 1825 a cemetery was established which was enlarged in 1850. During the 1840s a bet midrash was founded, and in 1852 the old wooden synagogue was replaced by a large one with funds contributed by Feibush Opatowski. The community's first rabbi, Levi Cybis, was appointed in 1825. During the tenure of office of Levi Isaac Fleischer (from 1873), Gur and *Aleksandrow Ḥasidism gained ground, while among the Jews of Lithuanian origin *Haskalah was the prevailing influence. Eliezer *Kaplan taught in the secular Jewish schools founded at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1921 there were 7,885 Jews (42% of the total population) living in the town. Between the two world wars, the community maintained a Hebrew *Tarbut school, an elementary school of the cysho (see *Education), a *Beth Jacob school for girls, and a talmud torah. The Jewish population numbered 8,819 in 1931. From 1931 antisemitism began to spread in the town, particularly among the German population. In 1936 there was even an attempt to stage a blood libel.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

There were close to 10,000 Jews, comprising nearly 50% of the total population, in Zdunska Wola at the outbreak of World War ii. The German armies entered on Sept. 6, 1939, and immediately destroyed the synagogue and burned all the liturgical objects. In October, in retaliation for the alleged killing of a German policeman, over 3,000 Jews were arrested and kept in prisons in Sieradz for several days. During this Aktion many Jews were maltreated and some killed. The extortion of large sums of money and the eviction of Jewish families from predominantly non-Jewish districts followed. In the spring of 1940 a ghetto was formed on the outskirts of the city and over 8,000 Jews were crowded inside. In the meantime the number of Jews in Zdunska Wola increased as a result of the transfer of various groups from other towns and villages in western Poland annexed by Germany. A series of workshops was organized in the ghetto for furriers, tailors, shoemakers, and knitters. Their products were bought by the German army at a low price. On the outskirts of the ghetto Zionist youths received agricultural training on a farm. They helped supply the ghetto with vegetables and milk. In the summer of 1941 the Germans raided the ghetto to collect able-bodied men for labor camps in the Poznan district. Over 1,000 men were seized, with the cooperation of the Jewish police. In 1942 two public executions took place in which ten Jews accused of smuggling were hanged. The Germans picked the festivals of Purim and Shavuot for that purpose. The ghetto was finally liquidated on Aug. 23–24, 1942. The first Selektion was carried out in the ghetto and the second in the Jewish cemetery. Over 1,000 able-bodied Jews were sent to *Lodz ghetto, 550 Jews were murdered on the spot, and between 6,000 and 8,000 were transported to the death camp at *Chelmno. Throughout the existence of the Judenrat, its chairman Jakub Lemberg was held in great esteem for his courageous and selfless leadership in which he often risked his life. He also was murdered during the liquidation of the ghetto.

[Danuta Dombrowska]


J. Smiałowski, in: Rocznik łódzki, 2 (1959); D. Dąbrowska, in: bŻih, 13–14 (1955), passim; I. Tabaksblat, Khurbn Lodz (1946), passim; Zdunska Wola (Heb., Yid. (same) Eng., 1968); B. Wasiutyński, Ludnósść żydowska w polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 27.