History of Jews in Mielec Poland 1573 to 1939

History of Jews in Mielec, Poland: 1573 to 1939

Jews lived in Mielec for almost 500 years, starting in the late 16th century with the arrival of “Israel the Jew” and his wife Bilha in 1573. The Jewish population grew to a peak of more than 5,000 where they were approximately half of the total population of the town. Jews in Mielec were very heterogeneous in composition, ranging from extremely wealthy to very poor, land barons to paupers, ultra-Orthodox to secular. Most of the shops and industry in town were run by Jews, including flour mills, soap factories, distilleries, and feather trade (goose down for pillows & bedding, and decorative ones from around the world for fashion).

Mielec’ Jewish community was led by three generations of rabbis now known as the Melitzer Rebbes. Part of the Ropschitz Rabbinic Dynasty, the first Melitzer Rebbe was R’Jacob Horowitz ZTVK”L (1784-1836), the son of R’Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Kolbuszowa (Kolbasov) ZTVK”L. R’Jacob Horowitz was succeeded by his son R’Yehuda Horowitz ZTVK”L (1820-1879), the second Melitzer Rebbe, and then by his grandson R’Naftali Horowitz ZTVK”L (1845-1915), the third Melitzer Rebbe. The Melitzer Rabbinical dynasty survived the Shoah; the great-great-great grandson of R’Jacob Horowitz, R’Naftali Asher Yeshayah Moskowitz RBIH”K, is the current leader of the Melitzer Shul in Ashdod, Israel. There is an excellent book by R’Aaron Halberstam that chronicles the lives and accomplishments of the three generations of Mielec Rabbis.

After several pogroms in the early 20th century and with the assistance of programs such as the Baron Hirsch Foundation, Jews began to emigrate out from Mielec – mostly to the United States. The Jewish population in Mielec began to decline in the aftermath of WWI and eventually was declared one of the first ‘Judenfrei’ towns under German occupation in WWII after a forced-march eviction on March 9, 1942. We will never know the exact number of Jews from Mielec and its environs that were killed in the Shoah. One of the goals of this site is to be a memorial to these victims. The current count of those killed, died, or persecuted to death between September 1, 1939 and May 8, 1945 is 1054 (as of July 2020).

Historical Timeline

Information below is from Rochelle Seidel’s book, published in 2012, and from various online sources such as the POLIN: the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.

16th Century

1573 – The first Jews are recorded living in Mielec, referring to the marriage of “Bilha” and “Israel”.

17th Century

1601-1602 – Joachim “the Jew” and Moses “the Jew” (both born ca. 1580) are recorded as living in Mielec
1631 – The first Jews are recorded living in Rzochów.
1658-1660 – Forty Jewish families are killed in the Swedish Deluge.
1662 – The first census of Mielec is taken, recording 491 total residents including approximately 100 Jews. Twenty Jews pay the ‘head tax’ this year – most likely due to counting only grown men.
1676 – Only six Jews pay the local ‘head tax’ in Mielec this year, whereas there are twenty Jews who pay the same tax in Rzochów.
1681 – Mielec parish priest Fr. Waśniowski leases a toll for 12 months to Jacob Markiewicz for 120 zlotys.

18th Century

1715-1721 – In 1715, Jews borrow 300 zlotys from the Mielec parish priest Sebastian Głębocki to build a cheder and synagogue. Abram Markiewicz, the leader of the Kehilla, Juda Davidowicz, Abus Jacobowicz, and 14 others sign the document confirming the loan. As a result, the first Jewish cheder opens to educate Jewish children in Mielec in 1720, and a year later (1721) the first Jewish synagogue, a wooden structure, is built.
1741 – Jews are given suffrage in municipal elections, allowing for Jewish representation on the Mielec Town Council.
1765 – The Jewish population of Mielec is 585, including 12 tailors, 3 hat makers, 1 ribbon maker, 2 goldsmiths, 5 butchers, 3 ritual butchers (shochetim), 3 bakers, 4 musicians (klezmer), 1 soap maker, 1 glazier, 1 velvet maker, 1 boiler maker, 2 barbers, and 2 jesters (badchanim) in the town itself. The Jewish population in the entire Mielec powiat reaches 914. [MJD]
1772 – Mielec falls under Austrian rule as a result of the First Partition of Poland.
1777 – The Jews of Mielec paid a ‘tolerance tax’ in the amount of 914 zlotys, which would suggest that Mielec was the ninth largest Jewish community in the territory of current-day Podkarpackie province.
1781 – Jewish population of Mielec is 734.
1783 – Rabbi Jacob Horowitz, the future 1st Mielec Rebbe, is born in Ropczyce.
1792 – All Jewish children are required to attend Jüdisch-Deutsche Schule in addition to Jewish cheders so that they may learn German.
1799 – Jewish population of Mielec is 1008, accounting for about 34% of the overall population. A brick Beit Midrash is built by the Jewish community and a wooden synagogue is built in Rzochów.

19th Century

1830Rabbi Jacob Horowitz moves from Kolbuszowa to Mielec and becomes the 1st Mielec Rebbe.
1831 – The Second Cholera Pandemic hits Mielec, killing hundreds.
1839Rabbi Jacob Horowitz dies in January at age 55; son Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz becomes 2nd Mielec Rebbe.
1846 – Peasant riots break out in Mielec. The Jewish population of Mielec is 1980.
1856 – A great fire engulfs Mielec, destroying 60 homes in Mielec (including 28 Jewish homes) and the wooden Jewish synagogue. A wealthy Jew named Pinkas Kranz dies, directing that his estate be used to help the poor and infirm.
1857 – A Jewish family named Gross purchases Mielec’s property from Ludwik Starzeński.
1870 – Jewish population of Mielec is 2534, supporting two rabbis in addition to Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz, now the Chief Rabbi of the Mielec powiat.
1872 –  Peasant riots break out on economic grounds, looting Jewish businesses. Soldiers are called into the town to quell the violence.
1873 – The first railroad is built from Mielec to Dębica, and there is a cholera outbreak in December, killing many citizens including approximately 200 Jews.
1879 – Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz dies; his son Rabbi Naftali Horowitz becomes 3rd Mielec Rebbe.
1881 – The Pinkas Kranz Foundation builds an almshouse & hospital for needy Jews and Christians.
1882 – Jewish population of Mielec is 2731, accounting for about 45% of the overall population.
1885 – The first Jewish credit union, Credit-Verein, is founded by Nathan Schmirer(?).
1890s – The Baron de Hirsch Fund builds the “Baron Hirsch School”.
1891 – The Gross family sells Mielec’s property to the Oborski family, the last full owners of the town.
1892 – Nathan Gross founds the second Jewish credit union. At this time, 13 out of the 24 members of the Mielec Town Council are Jewish: Markus (Mordechai) Horowitz, Oser (Asher) Kanner, Abraham Anisfeld, Alter Blattberg, Nathan Gross, Abraham Haber, Abraham Kleinman, Isaac Klein, Maurycy Landes (Lander), Chanoch Nussbaum, Simon Wanderer, Asher Reich, and Stanisław Schabbus.
1895 – Peasant riots break out on economic grounds, looting Jewish businesses.
1896 – 45 out of 50 total businesses in Mielec are run by Jewish families.
1898Evidence of Gypsy (Roma) families living in Mielec.
1899 – Abraham Yehuda Kurtz opens the first printing press in Mielec. Unfortunately it did not last long and did not leave lasting products.

20th Century

1900 – Jewish population of Mielec is 3993, including 2817 in the town itself. Another great fire breaks out, destroying many homes.
1902 – A new Jewish Synagogue is built out of stone near Mielec Rynek.
1905 – Jewish population of Mielec is 4017, accounting for about 62% of the overall population. The first Jewish bookshop / library is established by Rachel Grau on the Mielec Rynek. The basic wooden bridge across the Wisłoka river breaks apart [see image from Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernowka”: Img1].
1914 – WWI breaks out. Russian troops seize Mielec on September 21, plundering Jewish houses and shops.
1914–1918 – Jewish soldiers from Mielec fight alongside Poles in the Polish Legions under the command of Józef Piłsudski.
1916 – Rabbi Yehuda Horowitz dies while in exile in Vienna during WWI; his son Rabbi Menachem Mendel Horowitz becomes the 4th and last Mielec Rebbe to live in Mielec. The Town Council of Radomyśl Wielki has several Jewish members: P. Boksbaum, ? Brand, ? Koch, ? Neustadt, ? Weiss, ? Dembitzer, ? Geldzahler, and ? Weiser. [source: PSA Przemyśl, Zespoł 972 – Notary Files of Henryk Breyer]
1918 – WWI ends on November 11. Peasant riots break out in March and November, destroying many Jewish businesses in Mielec. The first Mielec youth Zionist organization, Hashomer Hatza’ir, is created.
1919 – 4000 peasants form a riot on May 1, plundering 14 Jewish shops & five houses, and injuring eight Jews. The Jewish football (soccer) team “Maccabi” is founded.
1921 – There are 86 Jewish-owned workshops and factories in Mielec; the Beit Yaakov School for Girls is founded.
1923 – Jewish population of Mielec is 3020, accounting for approximately 56% of the total population. The American J.D.C. helps the Jewish community rebuild the ritual baths (mikveh).
1925-1930 – A new wooden bridge is built across the Wisłoka river [see images from Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernowka”: Img1; Img2; Img3; Img4; Img5; Img6].
1931 – ‘Tourist’ airport opens in Mielec [see image from Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernowka”: Img1].
July 1934 – An enormous flood engulfed much of Mielec, creating terrible damage to houses and roads [see images from Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernowka”: Img1; Img2; Img3].
Summer 1939 – Jewish population of Mielec is 5420.
September 1, 1939 – The German Army invades Poland. The Germans occupy Mielec less than two weeks later. See full history of WWII and the Shoah in Mielec here.

  • MJD = Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Jerusalem, Israel. Published 14 July 1982.

Other Resources