September 22, 2019

A Brief History of a Jewish Chmielnik

In 1630, the mayor of the city Christopher Goluchowski gave the Jews the privilege to settle there and to run a business, trade, open inns, vineyards and what` s the most important of all – the permission to built a synagogue and religious school. In accordance to this privilege a synagogue was erected in the year 1638 on the north of the old Jewish cemetery from 1556. Next to it appeared some buildings important to the community – the rabbi’s house, the Talmud – Torah house , mikvah, and the second religious school.
During the period of the Reformation, the town appeared to be one of the most strong centers of reform. After the expulsion of the Arians, the Jews inherited the business field , which soon brought material prosperity both to the city and its surroundings. The power of the Chmielnik Jews largely depended on the religious authorities of the local community, occupying a significant place in the life of the city.

Chmielnik was a subject to Vaad Hamedina in Cracow Kazimierz. Seventeenth century is characterized by high dynamics of the community’s economy . Most of the crop trade, animals, and wood were in the hands of Jewish merchants and brokers. they were also engaged in the cloth trade from Silesia and France. Having developed a symbiosis with the Catholics they had never been subject of persecution and discrimination. After regaining independence in 1921 Chmielnik had 7690 inhabitants, including 5,908 Jews. in 1929 the number of residents exceeded 10 thousand., out of which Jews made up 70%. We should pay attention to the quantitative and economic advantage: the Jews possessed 90.2% of shops in the city, the City Council comprised of 70%. The economical proportions were similar : 80% manufacturing and processing plants were in Jewish hands, the remaining 20% belonged to Catholics mainly engaged in agriculture. The major industry were a limestone mine,  Chaim Frank Elijah Szlama lime, Deba Icek brewery, Icek Rajz winery, oil mill sof Brykmann, plant, carbonated water factory of Mosze Wesengarten. The special fattening farms Hmelnitski geese deserve a special attention as quite famous in the pre-war Europe.There were also some banks and credit institutions: Commercial Bank of Industry , Merchant Bank, Discount Bank and Cash Credit.
Political life of Chmielnik Jews flourished in the various parties and organizations,  among them Agudas Isrolel (Aguda), Poale Right, Left Poale Zion, with its own library, and Mizrachi Jewish Scout Associatio – Brith Trumpeldor. On April 4th, 1935, the Aid Society For Poor and Sick Jews -Linas haCedek was created to support the needy ones financially and spiritually. The break of the World War II destroyed nearly 100% Chmielnik Jewish population, numbering at this time 5700 – 5900 inhabitants. As a result of refugees arrival, the Jewish population rapidly increased to 12.5 thousand. In early 1941, the Nazis established a ghetto, covering the whole city except streets adjacent to the fields. On 6 October 1942 continued liquidation of the Chmielnik ghetto. About 12 thousand. people were deported to the Treblinka death camp, the majority of them were exterminated at once. The liquidation of the ghetto was completed in March 1943 At the beginning of 1942 a compulsory labor camp for Jews was made, and it functioned to 9 March 1944.  The Jews were subject to Nazis terror, expulsions, arrests, mass executions, depriving of the property. On a new cemetary established in 1820 on the Krucza Street in Chmielnik a monument dedicated to the memory of 250 Jewish inhabitants shot was erected.

After the war only a few Jews returned. The political situation – made it hard to reconstruct the Jewish life. Today in Chmielnik there is noone of the hundreds of the Holocaust survivors. There is only a memory and the silence of the stones.,