Archive | 2021/02/13

The beginning of Jewish settlement in Szczecin

Szczecin. Członkowie Ha-Szomer ha-Cair, wśród nich Halina Sztarkman, na obozie letnim w Dziwnowie (1949)

The beginning of Jewish settlement in Szczecin

Virtual Szetl


The beginning of Jewish settlement in Szczecin dates back to the Early Middle Ages. First Jewish merchants may have appeared in Pomerania as soon as the 10th century. Duke Barnim I granted special privilege to Jews in 1261,which made their rights equalized with rights of all citizens of the Duchy of  Pomerania. They also gained access to public services. Jews were granted rights as a result of the establishment of the town under Magdeburg Law[1.1]. The privilege given by Barnim I was confirmed by the following dukes: Otton I (21 September 1308), Kazimierz IV and Świętobór III (1371).

In the 13th and 14th centuries, Jews began to gradually settle in Pomeranian towns on the basis of  separate permissions. The majority of them constituted rich merchants. In 1325, thanks to the intervention of  two Pomeranian Dukes, Barnim III and Otton I, a wealthy Jewish merchant, having paid a certain sum of money, received a privilege which enable him to settle with his family in Szczecin. He was granted full town rights. Most probably, the town expected that thanks to that decision the taxes paid to the city treasure would increase. Despite the fact, Jewish had their right to purchase immovable property restricted. They were not also allowed to hold posts in offices. There were cases of persecution of Jews. It was the result of the directive issued by Duke Bogusław X in 1481, which constrained the process of Jewish settlement in Pomeranian towns.

Between 1492-1493, Jews were forced to leave the Duchy of Pomerania. They returned here not until the 17th century[1.2]. Some believe that it did not include all Pomeranian towns[1.3]. We do not know the exact situation of Szczecin Jews at the end of the 15th century. However, as far as data from later period are concerned , it is probable that Jews were also forced to leave Szczecin.

After Swedes conquered Szczecin in 1630 (pursuant to the Peace of Westphalia signed in Osnabrück in 1648, Szczecin found itself under the Swedish rule), new restrictions were introduced aimed at Jewish community. On the other hand, some historians believe that the Thirty Year’ War and depopulation contributed to Jews being allowed to settle in certain localities[1.4]. However, Jews were not allowed to settle in Szczecin. Moreover, they were not even allowed to stay in the city and they could only enter the town in exceptional cases. During the short Brandenburg rule (1677-1679), at the time of war with France, the Brandenburg troops conquered Szczecin on 22 December 1677. Pursuant to the peace treaty between Brandenburg and Sweden signed in Saint German in June 1679, the Elect of Brandenburg gave away conquered lands, including Szczecin. The situation of Jewish community did not change. They were allowed to enter the town only in exceptional cases after being given a special permission. On such occasions, they were given special permits valid for one or two days only (during trials or when it was required by the local Jewish Committee). Under the document dating back to 11 January 1678, Major General Schwerin expelled from the town Moses Helmsted, who was staying there illegally[1.5]. Under the regulation from 1683, only one Jew was allowed to settle in Szczecin, who on behalf of the Berlin Rabbinate supervised the trade of  kosher wine[1.6].

During the Great Northern War, Prussia conquered Szczecin in 1713, which was formalized in the Treaty of Stockholm of 1720. The Prussian rule did not change the Jewish situation. In 1721, the Prussian King Frederick William forbade Jews to settle in towns (including Szczecin) which served as fortress[1.7].

In 1761, Frederick William, confirmed the privileges of Szczecin, which forbade Jews to participate in the local fairs. Jews, who were engaged in money exchange and trade of precious metals, were allowed to stay in the town[1.8]. A year later, the regulation concerning the one or two day permits for Jews was mitigated. Jews possessing passports allowing them to exchange money and trade with silver and gold on the territory of Pomerania could apply for permits for a longer stay in town, issued in their names. Such a permit was not treated as a violation against jus de non tolerandis Judaeis. The Berlin Government, however, decided that the prohibition issued by Szczecin, stating that Jews were not allowed to trade on fairs there, based on the town’s old privileges, must be respected. There was one exception- a Jew named Meyer Benjamin Levi, who got the permission only because his wares for the fair had already been transported to Szczecin. Had he not received  the permit, he would have incurred terrible losses. He was told, however, not to trade in Szczecin again, as it was against the will of both the town council and the inhabitants.

In the 17th century, Jews were occasionally employed in the Szczecin mint. In 1753, a medalist Jakob Abraham Strelitz, who minted coins and medals worked there. At that time, Moses Isaak and Daniel Itzigowie supplied silver to the mint[1.9].

Between 1772-1774, the town books mention three Jewish inhabitants. Other Jews were allowed to stay in the town until dusk only after showing a special permit[1.10]. Next decree from 1784 confirmed that Jews were not welcomed in the towns of Elbląg, Magdeburg or Szczecin.

The situation of  Prussian Jews changed in the early 19th century. After the Napoleon wars, the Prussian authorities introduced an edict in 1808 and emancipation edict in 1812, which changed the situation of Jews in the Kingdom of Prussia. Under the first edict, Jews were considered the rightful inhabitants of the town, while the emancipation edict drafted by Duke Carl August Hardenberg and signed by Fryderyk Wilhelm III granted citizen rights to Jews, including the right to settle freely, purchase properties in towns and handicraft. They were also allowed to register for military service. These liberal provisions resulted in the inflow of Jewish population to the town, which until 1813 was inhabited only by one Jew, Chaim Coeslin with his family (he controlled the trade of kosher wine on behalf of the Berlin Rabbinate)[1.11]. In 1820, the number of Jewish inhabitants rose to 106 people[1.12]. In the subsequent years, the inflow of  Jews continued, especially from the vicinity of Poznań.

Jews came to town not only because the legal limitations had been abolished, but also because the Napoleonic Wars had been over and the continental blockade impeding Europe’s development had fallen, which brought prosperity to Szczecin. After Odra and Wisła were connected by Bydgoszcz Canal, Szczecin found itself in a better location than Gdańsk and Królewiec[1.13]. Industralization, trade and crafts development encouraged people to settle in Szczecin[1.14]. In 1834, Szczecin was inhabited by 315 Jews[1.15].

On 1 July 1816, Szczecin Jews established the Jewish Association (which initially numbered 18 members). Shortly afterwards, the Association transformed into the Jewish kehilla. The Szczecin kehilla boasted many prominent rabbis over the years, including Wolf Aloys Meisel, Abraham Treuenfels, Heinemann Vogelstein, MosesWorms, Max Weiner, Dagobert Nellhaus, Max Elk and Karl Richter[[refr:. In 1829, the synagogue order of service was introduced (kehilla already possessed Torah and other religious objects).

From 1840 the Szczecin Community, in virtue of its statute, was called the „Israeli Community” (German „Israelitische Gemeinde”), whereas since 1856 it was called “Synagogue Community” (German „Synagogen-Gemeinde”). At first, it consisted of 40 families.

The activity of the Jewish Community in Szczecin manifested itself, among others, in organizing many cultural events, as well as in charity and care about the development of education. The Community had many employees- apart from the members of the board they employed rabbis, teachers, butchers, organists and choir leaders[1.16]. One of the most famous members of the Szczecin Community was Nathan Marx  (1873-1929)[1.17], who came with his wife Grete to the town from Mainz. He was the founder of a prosperous, modern factory producing colour lining for clothes, he was a member of the Szczecin Community and an art patron. He supported a painter and etcher, Lesser Ury[1.18]. A portrait of Nathan Marx himself was painted by one of the most famous representatives of the German impressionism, also a painter and printmaker- Max Liebermann[1.19]. Marx belonged to the minority in the Szczecin Community with Zionist views.

In the 19th century, the Szczecin kehilla developed organizationally. In 1822, the Burial Society was established, in 1854 – the Orphanage, in 1889 – the Retirement Home. In 1816, the kehilla purchased land for a cemetery and synagogue which was built between 1834-1835. Initially, it was a wooden building and was located in Podgórna Street ( synagogue in Dworcowa Street) is also mentioned.

 Although the edict issued in 1812 was a turning point for the Jewish population, complete emancipation of Jews in the Kingdom of Prussia occurred a few decades later. Not until November 1847 that the King Fryderyk Wilhelm IV issued Gesetz über die Verhältnisse der Juden, which equalized Christian and Jewish citizens as far as political and civic rights were concerned. It regulated numerous legal matters referring to organization and functioning of Jewish communities. It gave the Jewish communities a corporate status under the public law, with their own statutes and without any superior religious hierarchy In 1850, the Prussian Parliament adopted new constitution, which ultimately confirmed granting civic rights to Jews. All these implemented laws encouraged a continued wave of Jews to Szczecin. In 1840, the town was inhabited by 381 Jews, in 1849 – 726, in 1871 – 1,823. In 1880, Szczecin was inhabited by 2,338 Jews (the total town population amounted to 88 thousand people) )[1.20].

Follwing the development of the community, a new and bigger synagogue had to be constructed. In 1873, at the request of 900 men and 750 women of Jewish origin, the construction of a new synagogue began in Dworcowa Street. It was built according to the design of urban construction designer Krühl, and had 16,000 seats. Additionally, it had a space which could accommodate 100 standing people[1.21].

In the middle of the 19th century, the wealthiest Jews inhabited near-Odra part of the town, between Wyszyński, Farna, Wyszaka Streets, and in south-west part of Szczecin: around the Port Gate in Nowe Miasto (New Town)  and Górny Wilk. In 1910, 2,757 Jews inhabited Szczecin, however, its number subsequently started to decline. In 1925, Szczecin numbered 2,615 Jews, in 1930 – 2,703, and in 1932 – 2,630[1.22]. In comparison to other kehillas in Pomerania, the Szczecin kehilla was quite numerous. Thanks to this, the cultural life of Szczecin Jews developed more intensively than in other kehillas. For many years, there was a choir, which mainly comprised of women, and numerous foundations which provided support for the sick and social assistance closely cooperated. Jewish organizations in Szczecin that should be mentioned are Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith  (Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens), Association of Jewish Front-Line Soldiers (Bund Jüdischer Soldaten), Association of National-German Jews (Verband Nationaldeutscher Juden), Zionis Association in Szczecin (Stettiner Zionistische Vereinigung), Association of Israeli Women (Israelitischer Frauenverein), a rowing club “Viadrina” and a tennis club “1924”. The artistic life thrived as well. The author of one of the most beautiful views in the port city of Szczecin was a Jewish painter Julo Levin[1.23]. In 1928, a library with a collection of 1,500 books and magazines was opened. From 1929, a Jewish newspaper was published in the community, which in 1935 had the circulation of 1,200 copies. Prior to the outbreak of World War I, numerous lectures and courses were organized in the kehilla by various associations. However from 1927, rabbi Dr Elk planned to pass over the organization of the events to the community’s authorities. After 1933, the demand for this type of cultural events rose considerably. As a result, the Cultural Association was founded (German Kulturbund), which had 630 members. It is known that the association’s members constituted 25% of the Jewish Community, so we can estimate that in 1934 the Jewish Community consisted of 2,500 people. The Cultural Association organized theatre performances, lectures, concerts, film screenings. It functioned until February 1940.

When the National Socialist German Workers Party took over power in Germany in 1933, they firstly seek to eliminate Jews from public and political life. Between 1934-1935, anti-Jewish demonstrations aimed at merchants, traders, doctors and lawyers of Jewish origin were organized in Szczecin. During 1935, a number of state and local decrees were introduced against Jews. As a result, they were not allowed to organize political gatherings and use sports facilities. Contacts between artists, Jewish and German sportsmen were forbade. German lawyers could not represent Jewish clients. Doctors were laid off from health offices. On 26 August 1935, the Jewish register was introduced. Szczecin experienced an increased number of demonstrations right outside Jewish shops. Soon afterwards, protective custody began. Broken windows and the abuse of Jews show that demonstrations organized by the Natzis were becoming more fierce. In March 1935, there was a boycott of Jewish shops in Szczecin. Between 1934-1935, Gestapo supervised Jewish organizations. Despite this, Jews were active and organized meetings for the purpose of integration and self-defence. Moreover, the Szczecin Jewish entrepreneurs filed complaints against the discriminatory practises of authorities. A merchant Blochert demanded the removal of the signboard forbidding Germans to buy in his shop. Other merchant Blochert wanted to forbade the march of Hitlerjugend in front of his shop, as well as to distribute anti-Jewish leaflets. During the boycott between 29 July – 3August 1935, the shop owners sent a telegram to the Minister of Economy, informing about incidents in Szczecin. They were: the Karger brothers, Neumann, Rosenbaum, Otto Lindner, Max Kurnik, Hermanns and Troitzheim[1.24]. Although the situation in Szczecin was deteriorating, Jews were still engaged in professional activities, including craftsmen, shop or factory ownership[[urls|,ludzie-listy-nazwisk-genealogia/44023,spis-zydowskich-sklepow-warsztatow-oraz-osob-pochodzenia-zydowskiego-pracujacych-zawodowo-w-szczecinie-w-1935-r-/]].

The protests of Szczecin Jews did not bring expected results, contrary to the economic boycott, which deprived many Jewish families of their income. In order to make ends meet, merchants began to distribute their products in villages by car. However, the authorities ordered to withdraw driver’s licences from Jews. In the late 1935, the government began the process of liquidation of Jewish crafts. More and more members of the Jewish community decided to escape from the town. The emigrants headed for Palestine and West Europe, leaving behind their property and achievement of several generations, as customs rules did not allow the transfer of valuables and money. At that time, Jews from smaller German town started to arrive in Szczecin. In 1937, there were still arrests of Jews, who were inconvenient for the authorities. On 9 June 1937, two traders were arrested for illegal trade: Adolf Martin and Adolf Drucker. Arrests and persecution became a mass phenomenon in 1938[1.25].

During the Kristallnacht ( 9 to 10 February 1938), riots launched against Jews erupted so suddenly like never before. The synagogue was set on fire, 42 craft workshops and other facilities that belonged to Jews were destroyed. Windows were smashed  in department stores owned by Blumenreich, located in Große Wollweberstraße (present Tkacka Street), Karger brothers in Schulzenstraße (present Sołtysia Street), Rosenbaum in Breite Straße (present Wyszyńskiego Street), in the company owned by Labbow in  Langebrückstraße (present Nabrzeże Wieleckie), as well as in Dannemann’s company in Wolffstraße (present Dębogórska Street)[1.26]. The pre-burial house at the Jewish cemetery was also set on fire. Arrested  Jews, including the members of the  board  of the Szczecin kehilla were transported to the Nazi concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. Many of them were released only after they submitted documents which entitled them to leave the country or they were able to prove that they were of use in the kehilla which still functioned after pogroms (however, its presence was ignored). Following the events of the Crystal Night in Szczecin, there were still some Jews living in the town and in constant fear of their lives[1.27].

The situation of Jews of Polish nationality, who arrived in Poland prior to or after the outbreak of World War I, should be mentioned. Polish law required regulation of nationality issues within two years, so the Jews lost their Polish citizenship. In 1934, the Third Reich deprived of German citizenship these Jews who were born in Poland or after 1933 in Germany. The Nazi authorities considered Polish Jews to be stateless people and subject them to various persecutions. They seeked help in consulate of Polish Republic, which advised them to establish a Polish Jewish community. The consulate estimated that the community numbered around 70 families (200 people) in 1932. In the subsequent years, thanks to the consulate, Polish Jews were less often subject to persecutions and to anti-Semitic speeches despite they were getting more frequent. Soon, all Jews were influenced by an anti-Jewish policy. On 28-29 October 1938, there was organized the so-called Polenaction, during which many Jews were arrested. Those who disobeyed the order were forcefully expelled to Poland via Piła. After the German aggression on Poland, in September 1939, Szczecin Jews were first arrested and then transported to the camp for interned in Nürnberg-Langewasser[1.28].

Following the events of Kristallnacht, the Jewish emigration, started in 1933, turned into a large-scale one. There were established three special organizations which dealt with immigration issues. Paul Hirschfeld organized the escape for the poorest, who benefited from charity assistance of community members. Aid Association of German Jews in Szczecin (Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden in Stettin), headed by  Else Meyring, organized escape to both Americas. Palästina-Amt strived for enabling Jews to escape to Palestine ( its secretary was  Fritz Gabriel). The Szczecin Jews escaped mainly to Palestine and Shanghai.

It is known that Jewish officials, for example, Jacob Peiser, went to Tel Aviv in December 1937; a merchant Max Eisenstein managed to move to South Africa in 1938, and a rabbi Karl Richter emigrated to America in May 1938. In 1939, a doctor Ismar Rosenberg moved to Leeds in England and Heinz Levysohn left for Palestine. Despite pogroms and mass emigration, a new Board was formed in the community[1.29].

Following the outbreak of World War II, the Jewish community was subject to the increasing persecution, which affected mainly the elderly and the lonely. A few rapports of the Szczecin Gestapo describe arrests that occurred, for example, at the station in Szczecin on 13 February 1940. A Jew from Berlin, Leon Steinberg, was arrested. Police records, which have been preserved to date, contain annotation regarding the Jewish checkout from Szczecin to Lublin.

12 and 13 February 1940 are mentioned quite regularly as the deportation dates.  Information on the fate of Jews of Szczecin one can find in records of the Jewish Council in Lublin, which mentions that there was a transport of 1,100 Jews from Szczecin and Pomeranian localities to Lublin in 1940. Many people died during the transport in unheated wagons and with nothing to drink. Having reached their destination, Jews were directed to the SS camp in Lipowa Street (SS und Selbstschutz Durchgangslager).The sick and those who suffered from hypothermia were sent to a Jewish hospital. The displaced people were imprisoned in the Lublin ghetto and in the transitory ghettos in Bełżec, Piaski and Głusk. The Jewish Council in Piaski published on 9 September 1940 the list of people who were staying in the local ghetto at that time. The list included the names of many people deported from Szczecin.

Jews of Szczecin sent to Bełżec were murdered by Germans on 28 October 1942. Only a few survived, for example Baden and Hoffman, Reitzs with her daughter, Gertruda Joachimstal with her children Eva and Lutz, Dr Mosbach with his family and his subordinate Eva Susskind. 65 Jews of Szczecin were held in the ghetto in Głusk. All in all, around 700 people were kept in the ghetto. During the first deportation on 16 October 1942, the majority of people from the ghetto in Głusk was relocated to the ghetto in Piaski, from where both groups were then taken to the Natzi extermination camp in Sobibor.

The Emigration Department of  Jewish Council in Lublin took care of people kept in ghettos. It cooperated with Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland in Berlin and with foreign aid organizations for Jews. Due to hard conditions, some of them died[1.30].

There were still several dozen Jews, children and elderly, who were soon moved to Berlin and Hamburg. Until mid-1940, displaced people lived hard life, yet relatively normal in these conditions. They regularly performed prayers. There was organized education for children, cultural meetings and handwritten newspaper. Jews received  letters and packages from  the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. They were allowed to correspond with their Christian friends, from whom they sometimes received shipment. The correspondence of Margarete Lachmund[1.31], A. Grüneberg, doctors Max and Martha Bauchwitz and Claire Silbermann. A book was published based on preserved letters and collected memories[1.32]. The book includes an afterword written by a well-known evangelical writer – Alfred Goes.

Szczecin Jews from the aforementioned ghettos ended up in the Natzi extermination camps in Sobibor, Bełżec and Majdan. Only a few survived. One of those people was Dr Erich Mosbach and his family – a dentist working in an aircraft factory. Having regained his freedom, he moved to the US. Dr Mosbach provided valuable information regarding the fate of last Jews in Szczecin and what fate befell the once rapidly developing community[1.33].

The fate of Jews interned in 1939 and sent to the camp in Norymberga and of 340 people who were kept in a temporary camp in Piła have not been resolved yet. They were probably transported to some German concentration camp[1.1.30].

The kehilla in Szczecin was officially disbanded. Dr Max Plaut ensured that all legal requirements regarding the closing of the kehilla were met.  The land belonging to the kehilla was sold at advantageous price. The money along with the assets of the kehilla accumulated in a bank were given to the Reich Representation of German Jews (Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland), and the personal property of Szczecin Jews was confiscated. Thanks to the friendly attitude of Lenz, Dr Plaut bought clothes for 90 thousand marks which he obtained from the Szczecin kehilla. He sent the purchased clothes by train to Lublin. They were delivered and divided between the deported people. The remaining members of the Board found shelter in the house of a cemetery gardener – Karl Retzlaff. For many years,  he taught Jewish children agriculture and horticulture[1.34].

After the war, Western Pomerania became one of the main centres of Jewish settlement.  Jews arrived mainly in Szczecin. It was the result of two factors: firstly, due to its location Szczecin was a transfer point after the war and secondly it was a stop point on the way to Western countries and to Palestine[1.35]. At that time, the Zionist Coordination – a branch of Bricha – started to function. From 1944, it helped Jews to emigrate to Palestine via the so-called “green border’’. Apart from illegal emigration, there was also organized legal emigration by the Emigration Department at Provincial Committee of Polish Jews in Szczecin, however, on a much smaller scale. In November 1948, a ceremonial farewell took place for a group of 615 Jews, who headed for Israel aboard a ship “Beniowski”.

Jews who were interested in permanent settlement arrived in Szczecin as well. The group included all displaced people from the Soviet Union (or repatriates, as they were called at that time) among whom were also many Jews. In April/May 1946, 39 transports from the Soviet Union arrived in Western Pomerania, bringing 25,321 Jews. In June 1946, the largest group of Jews was staying in Szczecin (WKŻP reported 3,951 people). From July 1946, the number began to fall sharply – in autumn there were only 1,500 Jews. This trend can be observed throughout the 1940s. 

At that time, Jewish life in Szczecin focused around two rival institutions which fought for support  among Jews: Provincial Committee of Polish Jews and Religious Congregation, which changed into Jewish Religious Associations in June 1946 (the authorities did not register the Jewish community). WKŻP was to be politically independent and represent the entire Jewish community. However, its members were chosen according to political  affiliation.  The Committee included the representatives of  the Polish Workers’ Party, the Bund, Poale Zion-Left, Poale Zion-Right and Ichudu, as well as Ha-Szomer ha-Cair, Hitachdut and Mizrachi. In the subsequent years, WKŻP was dominated by Communists[1.36].

The recollections of Szczecin Jews, Izrael Ciring and Aleksandr Biełous, provide  a deeper insight into the life of Jewish community in Szczecin between 1945-1950. We learn from the memories of Ciring that the Jewish Committee in Szczecin was located in Słowackiego Street. On the initative of Dr Adam Asnes, the head of cultural department, there was a radio programme for the local Jewish community aired  several times a month. The wife of Ciring, Irena Dołgow – who was a violinist – was the frequent guest on the programme. She performed along with a singer – Roza Rajska or a duet – Fresz couple during the artisitc part of the  programme. There operated two theatres – Teatr Mały and an amateur theatre group led by Austryjski. A few shows were performed in Yiddish. There were two synagogues owned by the Jewish community – Ashkenazy and Sephardic one. Ciring especially remembers the Saturday preaching of the local rabbi, which he described as “of a very high quality”. Ciring recalled that the ritual slaughter was performed in a  room behind the synagogue. The community allegedelly run a kosher meat shop[1.37]. In fact, there functioned three house of prayers, located at 14 Słowackiego Street, 51/13 Bogusław Street and in Niemcewicza Street. Between 1946-1947,  the function of rabbi was performed by Lew Rubinstein, and until 1950 – by Dawid Izrael Tszarf. The community owned baths, used the kosher kitchen and the services of shochet. As Ciring recalls, the Religious Association of Members of Judaism was located at 2 Niemcewicza Street (at present there is a seat of the Social and Cultural Association of Jews.

“There was a chairperson (I do not remember the name) and a secretary Mr Malowańczyk  (I remeber his surname due to its uniqueness). When a petitioner  came  and they did not want to be understood, they spoke Hebrew. It happened to me  too, but they did not realize that I knew Hebrew and their secret was not secret for me”[1.38].

According to Aleksander Biełous, who was staying in Szczecin between 1948- June 1950,  Jewish community inhabited mainly Niebuszew, Żelechowa and nearby Wały Chrobrego. Jews were very active both politically and culturally. Aleksander Biełous knew Izrael Ciring; he played the violin with his wife during their meetings. Moreover, he also recalled the pianist Freszka (named by Biełous as Ferszko lub Fereszko in his memories). Biełous mentioned that there operated political parties, including the aforementioned Ha-szomer ha-Cair, Gordonia or Dror[1.39]. Both Ciring and Biełous recalled the I. L. Pereca Jewish school, which operated until 1969, and afterwards  it was taken into public ownership. However, Yiddish language was still taught there[1.40]

In the 1940s, there functioned numerous organizations, Jewish facilities and institutions, which were not mentioned in the above memories. They were: Society for the Protection of Health, 2 nurseries, 5 kindergartens, schools subordinate to WKŻP ( Provincial Committee of Polish Jews) and to the Zionist parties located, for example, at 2 Podgórna Street (liquidated by the authorities in 1949), Jewish  Sports Club, Jewish Cultural Society operating from 1947. Between 1946-1947, there was issued a Jewish newspaper “Tygodnik Informacyjny”. The Society of Promoting Professional Work and Farming among Jews in Poland organized vocational courses. At that time, Jewish cooperatives played a major role in the economic reconstruction of Western Pomerania[1.41].

At the turn of 1949-1950, the attitude of authorities towards the Jewish population changed. The majority of institutions and Jewish organizations was liquidated and the authorities enabled the Zionists activist and followers to emigrate to Israel. It was only necessary to register and participate in qualification procedure. In October 1950, 2,500 people registered,  however, not all were allowed to leave Poland. It is estimated that 4,000 people stayed in Szczecin after the first wave of emigration. During the second wave between 1955 – January 1956, 1,438 people wanted to emigrate in Szczecin Province. The emigration reached its peak between August 1956 – October 1957, as 1,764 Jews wanted to leave  Poland. At that time, there still operated two Jewish organizations: the Religious Association of Members of Judaism (Jewish Religious Associations was transformed into Religious congregation in 1946, which established the Religious Association of Members of Judaism in August 1949), as well as the Social and Cultural Association of Jews established on 26 November due to the merger of the Central Committee of Jews in Poland with the Jewish Association for Culture and Art)[1.42].

One should mention the Jewish cemetery in Szczecin. In 1946, it was released into custody of Religious Congregation, however, any burials at the cemetery were forbidden. The decision was justified by the necessity for the town to have only one cemetery. However, deceased people were buried there illegally. Although the Congregation fought for the cemetery, it was officially closed in 1962, and Jews were given burial place in the Central Cemetery (they were not allowed to fence their part of the cemetery or to build a shtiebel). The cemetery was liquidated in 1982, and an urban park was established in its place. In 1988, a monument made of matzevot was erected in memory of the resting place of Szczecin Jews[1.43].

1968 marked a turning point for the Jewish community in Poland. Violent anti-Semitic attacks initiated by authorities and supported by Polish society influenced the Jews’ decision to leave Poland. Between 1968 – August 1969, 699 Jews in Szczecin Province submitted a request to leave Poland. Only 1,500 Jews stayed in the Province. In Szczecin itself, schools and Jewish organizations were closed. The Social and Cultural Association of Jews reopened not until 1971. Many young Jews left in the years to come, as they did not see any prospects for the future in Poland of that time. Since 2003, all Jews, who left Poland after the March events, have been meeting in Szczecin every three years. It is the time of reunion of former students of I.L. Perec Jewish School. There are organized exhibitions, concerts, trips and other cultural events which refer to the Jewish heritage.

At present, Jews are mainly active in 3 organizations: Social and Cultural Association of Jews, Association of Jewish Veterans and Second World War Victims, Jewish religious Community (Religious Congregation until 1993). In 2002, the Social and Cultural Association of Jews was the largest one and numbered 74 people[1.44]. At present, members of the Social and Cultural Association of Jews pay contribution and occasionally participate in the community events. Because of that, TSKŻ strives for organizing events which would activate its members, with particular focus on young people, who are not often familiar with the Jewish tradition and culture. It organizes celebrations of Jewish holidays, anniversaries associated with the Jewish nation, as well as Hebrew courses. Moreover, it promotes the history of Jewish community in Pomerania and Poland.


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The Jewish Nation: Proof That the Impossible Is Possible

The Jewish Nation: Proof That the Impossible Is Possible

Pini Dunner

Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law (1659), by Rembrandt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

William L. Rowe (1931–2015) was a distinguished professor of philosophy at Purdue University, who specialized in the philosophy of religion. Although he discovered and embraced evangelical Christianity as a teenager, in later years he evolved into an avid atheist, basing his transformation on what is known as the ‘evidential argument from evil.‘ This position is grounded in the existence of seemingly pointless evil, such as violent or painful death caused by natural phenomenon — prompting the question: why would a loving God allow such evils to exist? Surely, if God is all-powerful and benevolent, there would be no pointless suffering?

In his anthology, God and the Problem of Evil, Rowe actually narrowed down his position to this: “An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.”

Various theologians, particularly from the group known as “skeptical theists,” reject the evidentiary evil argument based on strong counter arguments, and even Rowe was ready to acknowledge the power of their reasoning, although he was never persuaded out of his atheism. But his struggles with God-belief on the basis of our human concept of an omnipotent, omniscient God echo a profound theological debate that has raged throughout the history of religious faith, widely known as the ‘omnipotence paradox.’

If God is all-powerful — which is undoubtedly the central belief of mainstream monotheism — can He create something that would confound His own power? Or, as J. L. Cowan put it (Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. III, No. 3, March 1974): “(1) Either God can create a stone which He cannot lift, or He cannot create a stone which He cannot lift. (2) If God can create a stone which He cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent (since He cannot lift the stone in question). (3) If God cannot create a stone which He cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent (since He cannot create the stone in question). (4) Therefore, God is not omnipotent.”

In another instance of this paradox, the 13th century Roman Catholic philosopher, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), deliberated whether or not God could create a triangle in which the angles didn’t add up to 180 degrees. Another problem he grappled with was this: can God create a flat circle where π = 3? Such a shape could not possibly exist on a flat surface, only on a curved surface, and warping space to create such a circle would be the same as placing the object on a curved surface. Which proves that God’s powers are limited by the laws of mathematics — in which case He cannot be omnipotent.

Before revealing why none of these questions should undermine our faith in God, let me turn to the source of our Jewish faith existence and belief system, the Ten Commandments, as found in Parshat Yitro (and again in Va’etchanan), which begin with (Ex. 20:2): “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

What follows on from this is a series of do’s and do-not’s, the majority of which reflect the basic rules of any just society —don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t behave immorally — and as Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (1937-2020) observes, “in part, at least, similar ideas are already found in the older law codes of Babylon and Egypt, India and China.”

Putting this aside for a moment, it is the first commandment that is most puzzling. Throughout the history of Torah commentary, the great commentators have wrestled with two questions that arise from this opening verse of the Torah’s most profound text. Firstly, why is it presented as a statement about God, not a commandment to believe in God? Second, why does God describe Himself as the ‘One who took you out of Egypt’? Why not simply instruct His chosen people to believe in Him, period?

The great Spanish commentator, Don Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508), controversially suggests that this first “commandment” is not a commandment at all, rather it is an opening preamble, setting the stage for what follows, and indeed for all the mitzvot of the Torah. Without belief in God, and the power that He holds to do anything He desires — such as miraculously extricate an entire nation from persecution and slavery with the accompaniment of supernatural wonders — justice and morality are empty ideals, essentially self-serving vessels and an exercise in collective vanity.

Can God prevent murder, theft and immorality from ever happening? Of course. That is exactly what the opening verse of the Ten Commandments teaches us. But does God actually prevent murder, theft and immorality from ever happening? No, he doesn’t. He hands that power over to us.

God’s omnipotence is not compromised by the existence of evil, whether by human hands or as a result of natural phenomena. He deliberately created a world in which the natural order is an overriding power — except in exceptional circumstances, such as the formation of His chosen people, who are expected to be ambassadors of God-belief in a world where God-denial is not just possible, but a prevailing reality.

As to the omnipotence paradox, it is not a paradox at all. The seminal French philosopher, René Descartes (1596-1650), dismisses the whole idea that an omnipotent being is ever incapable of doing anything, even if the act in question makes no sense to us because it is profoundly illogical. Simply put, God can make contradictions true if He wants to, and could therefore create a stone too heavy for Him to lift — and still lift it.

Don’t ask me how this works, as I haven’t the faintest idea. But the Jewish nation is certainly proof that the impossible is possible, and our existence flies in the face of any questions regarding God’s omnipotence. As the Swiss philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) observed, in wonder: “The Jews provide us with an astonishing spectacle… Athens, Sparta, Rome have perished and no longer have children left on earth; Zion, destroyed, has not lost its children… Any man whosoever he is, must acknowledge this as a unique marvel, the causes of which, divine or human, certainly deserve the study and admiration of the sages.”

The author is a rabbi in Beverly Hills.

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Psalms 104 sung in ancient Hebrew | ברכי נפשי את ה’ – תהלים קד

Psalms 104 sung in ancient Hebrew

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Zawartość publikowanych artykułów i materiałów nie reprezentuje poglądów ani opinii Reunion’68,
ani też webmastera Blogu Reunion’68, chyba ze jest to wyraźnie zaznaczone.
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