They are no longer here… Revitalization of the cemetery area and commemoration of the Jewish inhabitants of Małogoszcz on the 80th anniversary of their extermination
There is no certainty as to the origins of the Jewish settlement in Małogoszcz. It is suggested that the division of the town in the 18th century (which had existed since the times of Casimir the Great and even earlier location of the town) into an area belonging to a Catholic rectory and a royal part, marked the basic settlement boundary. Because of the ban on settlement in the parsonage part, the Jews first inhabited the area of the royal town. The situation changed when in 1775 a royal decree was issued and prohibited Jews from settling in the part belonging to the ruler. The settlement moved to the church side.
The oldest surviving records of the Israelite synagogue district in Małogoszcz date back to 1826. This means that the Jewish community concentrating around the town and in the surrounding villages was large enough to create a synagogue district and to maintain a rabbi (who initially commuted from Chęciny).
Jewish settlers were perceived as competition for the Poles, which in Małogoszcz in the 19th century were engaged mainly in agriculture and shoemaking. The Jewish newcomers did not own any land, so it was natural for them to work in crafts and trade. In Małogoszcz, they produced, among other things, fabrics, were engaged in tailoring, hat-making, and traded in wood and building stone. With the annexation of Kielce Land by the Russian Empire in the 1860s, Jewish settlement in Małogoszcz was permitted. The Jewish community of Małogoszcz grew slowly, to reach over 90% of the town’s population in 1865 (when, in addition, the fatal January Uprising caused a decline in the Polish population in the town). In the Second Republic, in 1938, Małogoszcz was inhabited by approximately 500 followers of Judaism, which accounted for 20% of the total population. These were rather families who had settled here already in the 19th century.
In Małogoszcz, in the interwar period, there was a synagogue (erected in 1915 in Jędrzejowska Street), a Jewish slaughterhouse, a mikvah (i.e. a bathhouse for ritual washings), the I.L. Perec Library, and the “Gemiłus Chased” Benevolent Society.
Today, there is no trace left of the Jewish presence in the area… except for one. The cemetery survived the turmoil of history. It survived because of its function as a burial place and also because of its location at a certain distance from regular buildings. Its establishment dates back to the end of the 19th century, which means that there was an older cemetery in another location or the dead were buried in nearby Chęciny.
Despite the social tensions that intensified in Poland in the 1930s, the Third Reich’s aggression against Poland brought disastrous events for the Jewish community of Małogoszcz. Repressions in the form of compulsory physical labour, being marked with a Star of David, a ban on free movement, and restrictions on access to food were only some of the harassments suffered by the Małogoszcz Jewish community. A closed ghetto was established here in 1941, but the concentration of Jews from the surrounding area (and apparently also from Łódź, Kielce and even Bielsko-Biała) had taken place in Małogoszcz much earlier.
At present, we have no direct information on what life was like in the Małogoszcz ghetto, but it may be assumed that it did not differ from life in the ghettos we know from descriptions. Over one thousand one hundred people lived side by side in cramped and inhuman conditions. On 28 August 1942, the inhabitants of the ghetto were assembled in the market square, and ordered to prepare only a small hand luggage with the most valuable and necessary things. This was done to give the appearance of moving to a new ghetto. In reality, before the extermination, the luggage was collected and the belongings sorted, selecting the last valuable items that people managed to keep, as well as warm clothes and furs, which were later used by concentration camp inmates to sew the linings for the winter coats of German soldiers embarking on their winter campaign deep into Russia.
In August 1942, selecting a group of the strongest at the market, the Nazis sent them to work in the Bukowka quarry and the Jędrzejów ghetto. The rest set off in trains into the unknown. Most of the Jews of Małogoszcz died in the Treblinka extermination camp. Those left alive to work were sent to Auschwitz in 1944. After World War II, the community did not revive.
On August 28th, 2022, we will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the extermination of the Jewish residents of Małogoszcz. Thanks to a grant awarded by the Polish Ministry of Interior and Administration, a series of commemorative activities will be carried out under the banner of ‘They are no longer here…’.
Firstly, as part of the project, cleaning works at the cemetery, which were launched in 2021 by the Local Patriots Association from Kozłów, will be continued. Thanks to these actions, all tombstones catalogued by the Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries in Poland have been unveiled.
Jewish cemetery in Małogoszcz
You can find it on the website: https://cemetery.jewish.org.pl/list/c_111. A characteristic feature of the tombstone inscriptions in Małogoszcz cemetery is the lack of surnames. The tombstones give only the first name and the date of death of the deceased. Full identification therefore requires comparison with metrical records.
In 2022, mowing of the cemetery will take place on three dates: May, July and September. If possible, we want to clear the original entrance to the cemetery and patch up the breaches in the wall. The project also includes publishing a short book about the history of the cemetery and the Jewish community in Małogoszcz, creating a historical lesson for the youth of local schools and editing a short film on YouTube about the cemetery and its history.
All these activities will be crowned with the erection and ceremonial unveiling of a memorial plaque at the cemetery.
The task is carried out in cooperation with three entities: Stowarzyszenie Lokalni Patrioci (Local Patriots Association) based in Kozłów, EUROS Foundation, which is the main grant holder, and Fundacja Rodziny Popielów – Centrum (Popiel Family Foundation – Centre), the implementer of the ‘People, not numbers’ project.
We would already like to thank the above-mentioned partner organisations for their positive response and commitment so far! Our partners’ websites:
Everyone willing to join the action is encouraged to follow our facebook page dedicated to the cemetery: https://www.facebook.com/MalogoszczKirkut/
and to contact the Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The historical outline is based on Magdalena Trznadel-Warzykowska’s MA thesis “Cmentarz żydowski w Małogoszczu” written in 2015 at the Jagiellonian University under the supervision of Prof. L. Hońdo and information on www.sztetl.org.pl)