History of the Jews in Wislica from the beginning until the end of the XIXth century
History of the Jews in Wiślica from XV to XIX cent.
Alternate names: Wiślica [Polish], Vayslits, ווייסליץ [Yidish], Vislitza, Вислица [Russian], Vishlitsa, Veislitz, Wyslica, Wislits.
Location: 50°21' N, 20°41' E, 14 miles SE of Pińczów (Pintshev).
Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego (1880-1902), Band XIII, pp. 573-577: "Wiślica". 1900 Jewish population: about 1,300.
Yizkor: Sefer Vayslits; dos Vayslitser yisker-bukh (Tel Aviv, 1971.
This village in Busko County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship in south-central Poland is the seat of the administrative district called Gmina Wiślica (the Wislica County) on the Nida River, 14 km (9 mi) south of Busko-Zdrój and 60 km (37 mi) S of the regional capital Kielce.
2006 village population was 680.
The Wiślica county contains following villages and settlements: Brzezie, Chotel Czerwony, Gluzy, Górki, Gorysławice, Hołudza, Jurków, Kobylniki, Koniecmosty, Kuchary, Łatanice, Ostrów, Sielec, Skorocice, Skotniki Dolne, Skotniki Górne, Szczerbaków, Szczytniki, Wawrowice and Wiślica. [July 2009]
First references of a Jewish population in Wiślica date to 1514, when an attempt to expel the Jews from the town was thwarted. King Zygmunt I himself protested against the expulsion, which indicates that Jews must have already lived here earlier. In the book Żydzi w Małopolsce, studia z dziejów osadnictwa i życia społecznego (Jews in Lesser Poland, Studies in the History of Settlement and Social Life) edited by Feliks Kiryk, there is the information about the presence of eleven Jews in Lesser Poland (in Wiślica, for instance), recorded by the end of the 15th century. Jews willingly settled near main routes and in the cities where the Wisła river (Vistula) trade flourished.
The 1533 recruitment record lists the Jew Jakub living at the royal court and three other Jews who paid municipal rent. Another record, dating from 1538, gives the same number of Jewish taxpayers – indicating that four Jews paid taxes that year. However, the turmoil for Wiślica’s Jews continued. In 1542, the king ordered Andrzej Gnojeński, County of Nowy Korczyn governor, to demolish the synagogues and expel from the town the Jews who came from Moravia and the Czech Republic. The events testify to the fact that a Jewish community existed in Wiślica in the mid-16th century. At that time, the religious community belonged to the Szydłow district.
In 1545 Poles and Jews made an agreement and the Jews were allowed to return to the town and to rebuild the temple. The 1564 town inspection did not register any Jews who paid taxes. In 1557 king Zygmunt August confirmed their previous rights, and, additionally, exempted them from paying taxes and duty. Just like in other royal towns, the main occupation of Jews was usury and trade, especially liquor trade. In the 1560s lending money at interest was the profession of Abraham from Wiślica. The economic competition brought about by the Jewish population led to many clashes with the Christian population. The Polish inhabitants of Wiślica wanted king Zygmunt August to issue a decree that would limit the number of Jews in their town. They succeeded in their attempts and the document issued by the king included such a decision. The permission to live in the outskirts could only be given to three families who would not be permitted to distil and sell alcoholic beverages.
In 1564, a raging fire consumed Wiślica, which led to a decrease in the number of the town’s residents, including Jews. Yet, the tax records from the next years show that Jews were still present in the town, for example in 1578 they paid 6 Polish zlotys of head tax.
There were two Jewish houses in 1615. The king confirmed in 1621 the new privileges that the Jewish residents had been granted. The Jews returned to trade, as the monarch allowed four of them to sell alcoholic beverages. The period of the Swedish deluge (1655-1660) proved to be hard and catastrophic for the people living in Wiślica. Swedish and Hungarian armies plundered and burned down the town in 1657. Many people were murdered at that time, and most victims were those of general Czarniecki who killed fifty Jewish families. The 1660 inspection did not record presence of any Jews in the town, and it was not until 1674 that a record was made of 20 Jewish head tax payers.
There were 15 towns in Wiślica County (except Żabno, which was situated on the right bank of the Wisła River). Jews lived in four royal towns (Korczyn, Stopnica, Szydłów, and Wiślica) and five noble towns such as Chmielnik, Kurozwęki, Oleśnica, Pacanów, and Pińczów). Therefore, the distribution of the Jewish population in the mid-17th century, after the wars, in the left-bank part of Sandomierz Province, was that out of 84 cities there were, in 37 centers, 37 Jewish agglomerations (13 royal and 24 noble ones).
In the second half of the 17th century a Jewish cemetery (1.3 ha) was established in Wiślica.
At the turn of the 17th and 18th century, the Jews in Wiślica started to play an even more important role in both economic and social life. In the second half of the 18th century, the main occupation of Jews was the profitable vodka, beer, and mead trade. Furthermore, the 1719 agreement concluded between the town and its inhabitants that allowed the Jewish population to sell alcoholic beverages. The agreement was confirmed in 1750.
A sizeable Jewish agglomeration existed in Wiślica in the years 1734-1736 and it is confirmed by the documents containing the information about the amount of the Jewish January head tax for Kraków and Sandomierz Counties. In 1734 they paid 230 Polish zlotys, as compared with the lowest rate for the Jews of Sobków, 52 Polish zlotys, and the highest rate for the Jews of Pińczów, 1, 633 Polish zlotys. Similar numbers were recorded in 1736. The Jews of Wiślica paid the January part of 200 Polish zlotys, May part of 200 Polish zlotys, and the August part of 200 Polish zlotys.
At the end of the 18th century Wiślica County had 13 towns, including five cities belonging to the king, six to the nobility, and two to the church. In 1765-1790 there were nine Jewish communities in Chmielnik, Kurozwęki, Nowe Miasto Korczyn, Oleśnica, Pacanów, Pińczów, Stopnica, Szydłów, and Wiślica.
In 1765 the Jewish community owned a synagogue, and the Jews had 15 out of 56 houses in the town, including six houses in the marketplace and nine, with the synagogue, along the streets. In 1765, Wiślica County had 256 Jewish residents, and the town of Wiślica, 184. In 1790, their numbers in the municipality grew to 359 and to 215 in the town.
According to the 1787 diocese census there were 944 inhabitants in Wiślica, 206 (21.8%) of whom were Jewish, while the 1789 state census showed that the total population numbered 513 residents, including 231 (43.5%) Jews (69 men, 74 women, 44 sons, 44 daughters.) That year, according to the inspection carried out in Wiślica, there were 24 Jewish houses and 51 Catholic ones. One of the Jews even lived in the town hall. A document describing the economic and professional structure of the Jewish population in the towns of Wiślica County dates from that time as well.
Further statistical data of 1798 state that the Jews of Wiślica made up 33.6% of the entire town population.
In 1827 there were 785 (46.5%) Jews in Wiślica. In the mid-19th century Wiślica numbered 1,675 inhabitants of which two thirds were Jewish. The town had 129 (including seven brick) houses.
A book written by Adam Penkalla contains data from the year 1843 concerning the financial standing of Jews in synagogue supervision boards in the Kielce Government (Gubernia kielecka).
Thirty-six houses (including the synagogue) burned down during a fire in 1858.
The Jewish population in Wiślica participated in many joyful Jewish activities: “During the holiday of Purim everybody had a lot of fun, according to the custom based on the Talmudic pronouncement that during the Purim feast, its participants should drink until they will not be able to tell the difference between the names Haman and Mordechai…”
In 1872, the Poles in Wiślica decided to let Jewish craftsmen into the guild, manufacturing morocco leathers. The Jews received the right to train apprentices and journeymen. In return, the Jews were obliged to return the 60% of the profit they made from training apprentices and from certifying masters and journeymen to the Poles. Both sides benefited from the agreement, which strengthened Polish-Jewish relations. The cooperation was based on tolerance and understanding and the fact that the Jews were let into the guilds was an unprecedented phenomenon, not only on the governmental scale, but also on the scale of the entire Kingdom of Poland.
The beginning of the 1880s saw a big change in Polish-Jewish relations and it was mainly characterized by increased internal anti-Semitic policies. The effects of this could be observed almost immediately, with many anti-Semitic incidents taking place in many Russian towns, and later also in the Kielce Government. As early as May 1881, in the Wiślica marketplace, there appeared a proclamation issued in Polish, saying Vengeance! Vengeance! It was to protect Catholic businesses and to call for beating and expelling the Jews, who, out of fear for their safety, instantly submitted the case to the head of the county, demanding protection and that the case be investigated. After a fortnight investigation, it was claimed that the whole situation was only a mistake.