• Menu

  • Shop

  • Languages

  • Accessibility
Visiting Info
Opening Hours:

Sunday to Thursday: ‬09:00-17:00

Fridays and Holiday eves: ‬09:00-14:00

Yad Vashem is closed on Saturdays and all Jewish Holidays.

Entrance to the Holocaust History Museum is not permitted for children under the age of 10. Babies in strollers or carriers will not be permitted to enter.

Drive to Yad Vashem:
For more Visiting Information

The Jewish Community of Staszów before the Holocaust

The town of Staszów is situated in Central Poland, in the Kielce District.  Evidence of Jewish settlement in the town dates back to the 16th century, and the Jews organized themselves into a community from the very beginning.  In 1610, the Jews were expelled from Staszów as the result of a blood libel, but they returned some 80 years later.

When Poland was divided between Russia, Austria and Prussia in the late 18th century, Staszów found itself in Russian territory.  During World War I, the town became a war zone due to its proximity to the Vistula River. In the early stages of the war, Austria conquered Staszów, but retreated in September 1914, and the town was occupied by Russia.  On 15 September, Cossacks raided the Jews' stores and apartments, looting and brutally attacking their owners.  Later on, the community rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda Graubart, was accused of espionage and sent to Siberia.   Austria took the town back in May 1915, and occupied it until the establishment of the Second Polish Republic some three years later.

During the period of Polish independence between the world wars, the number of Jews in Staszów increased.  They made a living mainly in sewing and in processing animal skins, working in factories and private homes. On the eve of World War II, some 4,805 of the 9,147 residents of Staszów were Jewish.

Staszów's Jewish community leaders made a living from shechita (ritual slaughter) and taxes that members were obliged to pay. The community maintained and subsidized the synagogue, two cemeteries and a mikve (ritual bath), and supported educational institutions including three batei midrash (houses of learning), a Talmud Torah (junior school) and a yeshiva (Talmudic college). Weddings took place in the courtyard of the Great Synagogue, erected in the first half of the 19th century. Many of the town's residents would come to celebrate with the bride and groom, and klezmer artists would provide music. The badchan (entertainer), Rabbi Tuvia Marshalak would also participate in the festivities, singing improvised rhyming songs and quoting Bible verses.

The Agudat Yisrael party was established in 1912 by rabbis and community figures as an Orthodox political organization that promoted tradition and sought to confront the challenges to religious society engendered by modernization. The Staszów branch of Agudat Yisrael initiated a wide range of communal activities. In the summer of 1929, the Beit Yosef yeshiva was established in the town, with some 80 students. The same year, a girls' school affiliated with the Beit Yaakov network was set up, as well as religious studies and Judaism courses for girls who attended Polish schools.  Agudat Yisrael activists established the Kupietzky Bank for their members, and participated in the running of the community.

Traditional charitable organizations were active in the community, and helped the sick and the needy both financially and materially. One such organization was "Shmirat Layla" (night guard): volunteers would sit at the patients' bedside, keep them company and assist them with obtaining the relevant equipment.  The community also ran a charitable fund that provided interest-free loans to impoverished families.

In 1906 a branch of the Jewish workers' party, the Bund, was established in Staszów. The Bund promoted the rejuvenation of Jewish life on the basis of general, humane principles and was anti-religious, anti-Zionist and Socialist in outlook. The Staszów branch of the Bund disseminated Socialist propaganda in Yiddish, organized the professional workers' unions, and took a stand against other communal elements influencing cultural matters and the community's spiritual character.  In 1923, the Bund arranged a secular burial for one of its members, which caused a major furor in the town.

The annual Lag Ba'Omer outing was an important event in the lives of the members of the Hanoar Hatzioni youth movement in Staszów.  The day's events symbolized the connection to the tradition and history of the Jewish people. Dressed in their scouts uniforms, the youngsters would march together to the nearby Golejów Forest to the accompaniment of the "Hakoach" Jewish sports club orchestra. 

Branches of different Zionist youth movements such as Hashomer Hatzair, Hashomer Hadati and Hechalutz were active in the town, and the Zionist Histadrut movement was very influential.  A wide range of social activities were organized in this framework, and in the 1930s the Zionist parties and youth movements became increasingly popular, with many joining hachsharah (pioneer training) kibbutzim in preparation for immigration to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine). In 1938, an exhibition opened in Staszów in furtherance of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet L'Israel), at which the local Zionist organizations presented their activities and goals.  In addition, courses were held for the study of Hebrew and Eretz Israel.

The Jewish sports club "Hakoach" had a branch in Staszów. The club was equipped with a variety of sports and gymnastics apparatus for the members' use, and social events were held there. Club members competed against Jewish and non-Jewish groups in the area.  The club had a wind orchestra, which was often hired by local residents for parades. The "Hakoach" club also trained its members to protect the townspeople.

A rich and diverse cultural life flourished in Staszów. Jewish theater troupes performed plays on Jewish holidays and at communal events.  Familiar Jewish dramas such as "The Dybbuk" and "The Jewish King Lear" were performed, as well as concerts comprising contemporary songs and sketches.  The content of these performances was sometimes opposed by the more religious members of the community.

Many youngsters in Staszów thirsted for knowledge and education. Academics in the town therefore initiated the establishment of a large library for them.  The Y. L. Peretz Library housed some 10,000 reading and reference books. The library started out in a small room on Church Street, and as its activities broadened, it moved to more spacious surroundings on Market Street, becoming a cultural center that attracted many.  Amongst other things, balls and plays were held there in order to raise money for more books.  The library staff volunteered to educate the town's youth and broaden their general knowledge.

Artist Yehezkel Kirschenbaum (1900-1954) was born in Staszów. Even as a child he would draw signs for local craftsmen, and took an interest in literature, despite his religious parents' opposition.  In 1920, he escaped to Germany in order to avoid mandatory conscription in the Polish-Soviet War.  He studied art at the Bauhaus school in Weimar and then moved to Berlin, where he married Helma.  In 1933, the couple fled to Paris.  Yehezkel was incarcerated in various camps, but managed to escape and survived in hiding until the end of the war. Helma was arrested in 1943, deported to Auschwitz and murdered. After the war, Yehezkel returned to Paris, where he resumed his artistic endeavors.  His early works focus on the town of Staszów and its inhabitants.