Łańcut - guidebook
It smells of Paradise here...
One day in May, in 1827, tsaddik Naftali Tzvi Horowitz was travelling with his Hasidim from the town of Ropczyce to the city of Lublin. They were going through the town of Łańcut when, just as they were passing near the Jewish cemetery, Naftali Tzvi had his carriage stop. He looked around, absolutely delighted, and said, It smells of Paradise here... He died soon afterwards, and the Hasidim built him an ohel in the Łańcut cemetery. When visiting Łańcut, one can learn many other similar stories.
On the route from Lesser Poland to Ruthenia
The town of Łańcut sits on the old route leading from Lesser Poland to Ruthenia, in the gentle rolling area between the Carpathian Foothills and the Sandomierz Valley. The town’s original name, Landshut, was connected with the influx of German colonists, who settled in that area (There is a town in Germany called Landshut). Łańcut was granted its town rights either by Casimir the Great around the mid-14th century or, a little later, by Otto Pilecki of Pilcza. In 1385, the owner of the town was Pilecki’s daughter, Elżbieta Granowska, who later married King Władysław Jagiełło.
The centre of the town is the trapezium-shaped market square, with several streets radiating from it. To the north from the market place a parish church was built, not far from where the Pileckis’ castle once stood. Damage to the town sustained in the first quarter of the 17th century due to the private wars of local nobility, made its then owners, the Stadnicki family, move their residence east of the old town centre. The next owner, Crown Marshal Stanisław Lubomirski, extended the castle considerably, so as to make Łańcut his main residence.
The Jews of Łańcut
The first mention of Jewish inhabitants in Łańcut can be found in documents from around the mid-16th century. However, as early as 1583, the new town owners, the Pilecki family, forbade Jews to settle there. This was an exceptional situation, as such bans were mostly imposed in royal cities. In 1600, there were five Jews among the town’s 180 taxpayers – a little more than 3 percent. The conditions for Jews to settle in Łańcut did not become more favourable until the Lubomirski family took ownership of the town in the second quarter of the 17th century. The new owners were aware of the beneficial impact the presence of the Jews had on the town development. Documents dating back to that period mention Jews as buyers of plots of land and houses in the town. The Lubomirskis received help from the Jews in financial matters such as loans, payment collection, the lease of marketplace fees and bridge tolls, the lease of propination rights (the right to distill and sell alcoholic beverages), breweries, taverns, and mills.
The Swedish and Transylvanian (Rakoczy’s troops) invasions of Poland in the mid-17th century destroyed Łańcut and put a stop to settlement for many years, but, in the fourth quarter of the 17th century, the local Jewish community began to revive. In 1677, Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski issued a document in which, among other things, he ordered all the Jews to become well-equipped in case it was necessary to defend the town and recommended the collection of municipal taxes also from Jewish tenants. In 1684, as many as 33 Jewish families were noted in Łańcut. The life of this Jewish community revolved around the already existing wooden synagogue, mentioned for the first time in the second half of the 17th century. The synagogue burnt down and was rebuilt many times. Łańcut also had a mikveh and a cemetery located beyond the fortifications, northeast of the town. The municipal record books from 1685 contained information about the following kahal elders: Bonas (Boaz) Ickowicz, Michel Sapsowicz, and Szloma Lazarowicz Załoski. Froim Boruchowicz was the town rabbi at the beginning of the 18th century, or perhaps at the end of the 17th century.
The town revival and its important status in the Jewish world stemmed from a session of the Council of Four Lands that took place here in 1707. However, the conflicts over financial matters between the town owners and the community led to a decree in 1710 by Franciszek Lubomirski which forbade lending money on interest (usury) and which resulted in Jewish expulsion in 1719. Three years later, however, Teodor Lubomirski cancelled the ban by issueing a new privilege granting Jews the right to build houses and to trade freely within the town limits. In the mid-18th century, the bishop of Przemyśl forbade the Jews of Łańcut to organise weddings on Sundays and ordered them to close their stores on main Christian holidays.
And so, it is the night of Kol Nidre. Yom Kippur. Huge candles have been put into chests filled with sand. Their red flames keep flickering up and down. An air of solemnity reigns over the place. The synagogue is bursting with a crowd of praying people. The Jews, dressed in their white coats and yellowish taleysim are standing and swaying back and forth monotonously. All of them are deep in prayer, making their pleas to God. The prayers of the cantor, and the laments of many elderly men are reverberating inside the synagogue. It is the Judgement Day. And then, again, there comes the festival of Rejoicing in the Torah. How different the atmosphere is now: from all corners and recesses of the synagogue comes the singing of the children, adults, and elderly people. Here comes a procession with Torah scrolls: “Oh, our Eternal God, have mercy and redeem us.” Everyone is walking around with scrolls of the Torah in their hands; their hearts filled with joy. Children are following the Torah scrolls and waving flags. The faces of the adults are radiant with joy. The whole of the synagogue looks as if it itself would like to participate in this joyful celebration
Most likely the earliest Jewish quarter situated northeast of the town centre. Łańcut’s infrastructure was developed after Stanisław and Izabella Lubomirski took over the ownership of the town in 1745. It was then that the centre of the Jewish quarter moved to the area between the marketplace and the castle, its main building being the brick synagogue financially supported by Stanisław Lubomirski in 1761, which was erected west of the nearby castle complex.
In 1765, the dynamically developing Łańcut kahal had 829 taxpayers, which was fewer than in the neighbouring kahals of Rzeszów, Sieniawa, Przeworsk, and Leżajsk. The most significant rabbis were Zvi Hirsch Meizlich [Meisel] (1758–1767), Moshe, the son of Yitzhak, and the grandson of Yehuda Leib – the rabbi of Cracow, followed by his son, Tzvi Hirsch Lipschitz.
This was one of the inscriptions on the walls of the synagogue in Łańcut, the famous line which gave rise to many animalistic images on the walls and ceilings of Polish synagogues.
The synagogue building was renovated in 1896, and again in 1910. Most probably, it was then that it received its classicistic, modest form. The interior consists of a two-storey main prayer room, adjoined on the western side by a porch and the kahal room (also known as “the Lublin synagogue” because of the “Seer of Lublin” who used to pray there). The women’s gallery was on the first floor. There was also a wooden women’s gallery, no longer existing, at the northern side of the men’s hall.
The decorations of the interior of the synagogue single out this building making it one of the most important in Poland. The walls of the men’s prayer room and the bimah are covered with colourful stuccowork and polychrome, created in several stages – from the 1760s, through the 19th century, and in 1909–1910 and 1934–1935. The stuccowork was probably completed already in the 1760s. It has elements of the Rococo style. On the canopy of the bimah there are stucco images of four symbolic crowns (that of the Torah, that of priesthood, that of royalty, and that of a good name, also following the line from Pirke Avot ethical tractate), as well as polychromes depicting six biblical scenes: the temptation of Adam, Cain’s murder of Abel, Noah’s Ark, Abraham’s sacrifice, a synagogue menorah, and a table for the shewbread (the twelve loaves placed every Sabbath on a special golden table in front of the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem Temple). The wall decorations include the texts of prayers and inscriptions commemorating the sponsors, images of Jerusalem, musical instruments, the signs of the Zodiac, and animal and floral motifs. There is also a modest polychrome ornamentation in the kahal room.
During World War II, the Potocki family prevented the destruction of the synagogue by the Nazis, although the synagogue building served as grain warehouse. After the war, a group of local heritage enthusiasts saved it from demolition. It was restored in the 1980s/90s. At present, the custodian of the synagogue is the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage. The building is an important point on the Hasidic Trail – a tourist route following the footsteps of the Jews in southeastern Poland. For information about the trail or visiting the synagogue, please telephone +48 22 4366000 or e-mail: [email protected]
The house of learning was always open. The door locks, which had never been used, were covered with rust. The house of study had become a sanctuary for merchants from the narrow streets of Łańcut, who found this place quite pleasant to stay in as it gave protection against the cold in winter and against the heat in summer. In the morning, prayers were said in minyans and individually. Jews would also come here to study a little, or to look through the Humash [Pentateuch – eds.]. And so, the voices of those who were praying mingled together with the voices of those who were studying the Torah, but they did not disturb one another because they were all preoccupied with their own business. There was also a third sort of Jew visiting the house of learning. They were those who would come here for a chat, or for a talk about politics, trade, or kahal matters.
Legal acts concerning Jews, known under the German name Toleranzpatent, were issued in 1781 by Joseph II (1741–1790), the Emperor of Austria (1780–1790). The emperor issued his Edict of Tolerance for the Jews of Vienna and Lower Austria, and subsequently other edicts followed for other parts of the monarchy (for Galicia in 1785 and 1789). The reforms followed the ideology of enlightened absolutism. They sought to better integrate the Jews into the state by decreasing the segregation of the Jews, removing the Jews from activities considered harmful and non-productive, facilitating their access to secular education, and making them more useful to the state. To this end, in 1784–1785, the Jews were forbidden to lease land, inns, breweries, produce and sell alcohol and were instead encouraged to establish agricultural farms. A whole series of legal acts referring to particular spheres of life culminated in the patent of May 17, 1789, called Die josephinische Judenordnung. Under this act, the Jewish self-government that had existed until then was abolished. Religious communities were created instead on the basis of kahals (141 in Galicia and two in Bukovina), and a separate judiciary was established. New arrangements were introduced that promoted trade, craft, industry, the purchase of real estate, and higher education. In 1787, the Jews were ordered to adopt German family names, and compulsory schooling was introduced. A year later, Jews were included into the military conscription pool and had to serve in the army.
Based on: J. Tomaszewski, A. Żbikowski, Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon
(Jews in Poland. The History and Culture. The Lexicon), Warsaw 2001, www.sztetl.org.pl
First Hasidism settled in Łańcut in 1770. For two years, a famous tsaddik lived and taught in Łańcut – Elimelech, son of Eleazar Lipman, who later moved to Leżajsk and came to be known as Elimelech of Leżajsk. He was the author of a series of books, the most important was Noam Elimelech, sometimes considered to be the first Hasidic book.
At the end of the 18th century, another famous tsaddik, YaakovYitzhak Horowitz (d. 1815), arrived in Łańcut, where he got married. He was a disciple and, later, a rival of Elimelech of Leżajsk. Shortly after his marriage Yaakov moved to the village of Czechówka near the town of Wieniawa (both today districts of Lublin), where he gained his honorary nickname “the Seer of Lublin.” The small chamber in the Łańcut synagogue where “the Seer” met with local Jews, is called “the Lublin synagogue.” At the beginning of the 19th century, Łańcut was still under the strong influence of Hasidism, represented by Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro, kabbalistic commentator and the founder of the Hasidic dynasty in Dynów. His son, Eleazar, was the next rabbi of Łańcut (1816–1865), succeeded by Eleazar’s son Simkhah (until 1912).
The Jewish community in the 18th and 19th centuries
The Jews of Łańcut earned their living mostly by crafts and trade, including trade in grain, timber, potash, and cloth. At the end of the 18th century, there were seven Jews among Łańcut’s nine bakers, and there were as many Jewish tailors. One of the eight local butchers was Jewish, and one Jewish weaver lived in the town, too. Eight Christians and six Jews had licences to sell alcohol in Łańcut. Towards the end of the 18th century, all Łańcut taverns were run by Jews; their owners were Sander Glana, Eliasz Sona, Lazar Wolkenfeld, Gieca Worcel, and Berek Baumberg, the richest of them all.
The development of the town Jewish community was halted in the early 19th century by the Napoleonic Wars, epidemics (1827, 1831), and a large fire in 1820. The conditions for the town development, including that of its Jewish community, became more favourable after a railway reached Łańcut in 1859, as well as after Galicia gained autonomy in 1867 as the result of the political reforms adopted with the rise the dualist Austro-Hungarian Empire. A new Jewish cemetery was established in 1860.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the influence of the Haskalah began to be felt in Łańcut, and the first political parties and secular social organisations emerged too. In 1880, Łańcut had 3,483 inhabitants, including 1,587 Jews (46 percent). By the outbreak of World War I, its population grew to about 5,500, including 2,000 Jews (35 percent). The Jewish community had representatives on the town council. In 1910, a new Jewish bath was opened; nowadays, the bathhouse building stands at the corner of Tadeusza Kościuszki St. and Ottonaz Pilczy St. (it is the seat of St. Brother Albert’s Aid Association).
World War I affected Łańcut’s townspeople, in particular the Jewish owners of most big and small shops, workshops, public houses, and inns, who suffered pillage at the hands of the passing troops. Many inhabitants left the town to avoid warfare.
The Jewish community of Łańcut could boast eminent cantors, who were also invited to other towns. In 1914, a Jewish musical association called “Ha-zamir” (Heb.: Nightingale) was founded and an orchestra too. Originally composed of seven members, the orchestra, founded by Tzvi Ramer, gradually expanded to a band of more than thirty wind instruments performers. As Sefer Lancut recalls, Rabbi Eliezer Shapiro was initially against the orchestra because boys and girls played together in it. However, within time, the rabbi’s reservations were overcome, and the “Ha-Zamir” orchestra would sometimes give concerts during Zionist celebrations in the synagogue in Łańcut as well as in other towns of Galicia.
W 1988 r. powstał film dokumentalny przypominający o orkiestrze “Hazamir już tam nie śpiewa - dzieje łańcuckich Żydów” (reż. Chaim Techelet) ("Hazamir" does not sing there anymore: the story of the Jewish community of Lancut).
In 1988, Haim Tekhelet made a documentary about the orchestra, Hazamir Does Not Sing There Anymore: The Story of the Jewish Community of Lancut. Every year, in May, Łańcut is the venue for a Music Festival – one of the most important in Poland presenting a broad spectrum of classical music. For many years now, master string classes for school children and students have been organised here.
Knowledge, Power, and Worker
After the establishment of independent Poland following World War I, the number of Łańcut’s inhabitants had fallen by nearly 1,000 people – in 1921, there were 4,518 inhabitants on record, including 1,925 Jews (31 percent). By the outbreak of World War II, the number of Jews had risen to about 2,750. Most of the approximately 170 stores, shops, stalls, public houses, and workshops were located at the marketplace and its environs.
In the interwar years, the influence of Hasidism remained strong, especially that of the Rokeach Hasidic dynasty from Belz. However, it was also a time of social activism, including among the Jewish community. Branches of new political parties, social and cultural organisations, trade unions, sports clubs, and banks were established. In 1930, a Jewish Community Centre was erected and became the seat of institutions such as “Da’at” (Heb.: Knowledge) library. Jewish sports clubs also were founded. Sefer Rymanów mentions two clubs: “Kraft” (Yid.: Power) and “Ha-poel” (Heb.: Worker). The former was Zionist, and its members were young Jewish people from relatively wealthy families, whereas the latter attracted poor Jews with socialist views and oriented its activity towards the poor strata of the community. In subsequent years, “Kraft” changed its name to “Trumpeldor” (in memory of Josef Trumpeldor, a hero of the Russo-Japanese war and a pioneer of the Jewish self-defence in Palestine). After the outbreak of World War II, the sports clubs ceased activity – with the exception of “Trumpeldor,” whose members also included Jewish policemen. The members of this club, wearing white and blue club colours, had football competitions until as late as the spring of 1940.
There are two Jewish cemeteries in Łańcut. The old one (in Stanisława Moniuszki St.) was founded in the second quarter of the 17th century, northeast of the town, outside the town walls. It was gradually expanded over the years. During World War II, it was destroyed, and all matzevot were removed. Nowadays, the area of the cemetery is fenced and wooded, and there are two ohels in it: one of tsaddik Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Ropczyce (d. 1827), and the other of a local rabbi, Eleazar Shapiro (d. 1865). The new Jewish cemetery (in Romualda Traugutta St.) was founded in 1860, south of the town, near a Christian cemetery (existing since circa 1800). This cemetery was also destroyed during the war. Fragments of several dozen matzevot from the Łańcut cemetery are preserved and displayed in the synagogue porch. During the war, the cemetery was the scene of countless mass executions of Jewish people. After the war, the area of the cemetery was fenced, and a memorial to the Jewish victims of Nazi German terror was erected.
World War II and the Holocaust
The outbreak of World War II triggered the persecution of the local Jewish community. The synagogue was set on fire, but it was extinguished thanks to the local count Alfred Antoni Potocki’s intervention. Soon after that, the German occupation authorities ordered the relocation of the Jews to the Soviet occupation zone; some of the Jews took advantage of that opportunity. In time, German actions against the Jews escalated: Jewish shops and workshops were closed and forced labour was introduced. Jews from Kalisz, Łódź, Chorzów, Katowice, and surrounding villages were resettled to Łańcut, and the number of Jews in the town rose to about 6,000. A ghetto was established in January1942, and it was liquidated in stages, from June to August 1942. The Jews were transported to Sieniawa, Pełkinia, and, eventually, to the death camp in Bełżec. Groups of Jews who did not leave or who remained in hiding were executed at the new Jewish cemetery. Few Jews in Łańcut survived the war.
Today, Łańcut is acounty town – and important tourist center – in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship, with a population of about 15,000. Tourist Information Office is located in the Menege building at 3 Maja St., tel. +48 172254850; +48606455724, [email protected]
Authors: Paweł Sygowski, Emil Majuk
- Synagogue (1761), 16 Jan III Sobieski Sq., +48 601 176 351, +48 22 436 60 00, [email protected]
- Mikveh/bath house (1908–1910), now St. Brother Albert’s Aid Association, at the corner of Tadeusza Kościuszki St. and Ottona z Pilczy St.
- Old Jewish cemetery (2nd half of the 17th c.), Stanisława Moniuszki St.
- New Jewish cemetery (1860), Romualda Traugutta St.
- Urban layout dating back to two historical foundations: that of a medieval chartered town (circa mid-14th c.) with a market square, a network of streets, and a church, as well as that of the park and palace complex (2nd quarter of 17th c.)
- Park and palace complex of the Lubomirski and Potocki families, now a museum (17th c.), 1 Zamkowa St.1 Zamkowa St., tel. +48 17 2252008, [email protected]
- Church of St. Stanislaus, Farna St.
- Old Dominican monastery complex (14th c., rebuilt in the 17th and 19th c.), now a hotel run by the Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society (PTTK), 1 Dominikańska St.
- Town houses (17th, 19th/20th c.).
- Christian cemetery (circa 1800), Ignacego Mościckiego St.
Markowa (11km): “Farm housemuseum”; The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in World War II; monument and tomb of the Ulma family murdered in 1944 for harbouring Jews.
Żołynia (16 km): Church of St.John Cantius (late 19th c.); the old granary of the Potocki family in Brzóza Stadnicka; a wooden mill on the bank of the Płytnica River; a Jewish cemetery near Mickiewicza St.; an old mikveh, currently a kindergarten.
Rzeszów (18 km): Old Town Synagogue in Bóżnicza St. (16th c.); New Town synagogue in Sobieskiego St. (early 18th c.), now Artistic Exhibitions Gallery (BWA); former Jewish houses in Matejki St.; former Bet Am community centre, now Voivodeship Cultural Centre; former Jewish hospital, now an oncology centre; former rabbi’s house, now State Archive; a Jewish cemetery; a memorial to Holocaust victims; 3 reconstructed ohels: of the Lewin rabbinical family, tsaddik Tzvi Elimelech Szapiro, and Abraham Horowitz; a castle (early 20th c.); city hall (16th c.); burgher houses in the market square (16th–19th c.); the Lubomirski Summer Palace (18th c.); the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1624–1629); the fara church (1430); the Church of the Holy Cross (1645); District Museum; Bedtime Stories Museum; the History Museum of the City of Rzeszów.
Kańczuga (18 km): Church of St. Michael the Archangel (1605), the old Greek Catholic Church of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary (17th c.); a narrow-gauge railway station; the old synagogue building, now a health clinic; a network of underground tunnels used already during Tatar raids; the Jewish cemetery in nearby village of Siedleczka (tombstones and mass grave of victims from 1942).
Sokołów Małopolski (24 km): Church of St. John the Baptist (1908–1916); the new Jewish cemetery (1880); the old Jewish cemetery in Kochanowskiego St., with ohels of Rabbi Meilech Weichselbaum and tsaddik Aba Hippler; the old synagogue building (19th c.), currently the Cultural Centre and the Regional Museum; the town hall (1907).
Tyczyn (25 km): the only decoratively polychromed sukkah in Poland (early 20th c.) in the house at 23 Rynek; the old Jewish cemetery (16thc.); the new Jewish cemetery (19th c.); the Wodzicki palace and park complex (19th c.); the Church of St. Catherine and the Holy Trinity (1631–1638); former presbytery (18th c.).
Błażowa (29 km): Church of St. Martin (late19th c.); a cemetery chapel (1904), a synagogue converted to a regional hospital; a Jewish cemetery (18th c.).
Pruchnik (30 km): about 40 wooden arcaded houses and cottages in the market square (19th c.); Church of St. Nicholas (17th c.); the parish museum; a wooden observation tower; a memorial to 67 Jews killed in 1942–1943, situated by the road to Kańczuga.
Leżajsk (30 km): a Jewish cemetery (18th c.); tsaddik Elimelech’s tomb; the reconstructed ohel of Dov Ber’s disciple; a centre providing services for Jewish pilgrims visiting Leżajsk; a museum exhibition in the former prayer house; the Leżajsk Land Museum in the Starościński Mansion; a basilica and a Bernardine monastery with Baroque organs (17th c.); the town hall (2nd half of 19th c.); the fara church complex: the Church of the Holy Trinity and of All Saints, a presbytery, curate’s house, and walls (early 17th c.); the former Greek Catholic Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, now the Church of Merciful Lord Jesus (1828–1832); Mier’s Palace (1819); a sawmill (mid-19th c.); the National House of Ruthenians’ Association “Proświta”; the Leżajsk Land Museum.
Jarosław (34 km): the Orsetti House Museum (circa 1500); Rydzikowska House (16th or 17th c.); Queen Consort Marysieńka’s House (late 16th c.); the town hall (19th c.); the Prof. Feliks Zalewski underground city route; a convent of Benedictine nuns: the Church of St. Nicholas and St. Stanislaus the Bishop (1614–1624); Corpus Christi Collegiate Church (16th c.); Transfiguration of the Lord Orthodox Church; the building of the Gymnastic Society “Sokół” (Falcon), currently the Municipal Cultural Centre; relics of Krakowska Gate and defensive walls (16th c.); the great synagogue in Opolska St. (early 19th c.); the little synagogue in Ordynacka St. (20th c.); the synagogue at 17 Mały Rynek St. (late 19th c.), now BiaMed Medical Centre; the building of the Jewish Handicraftsmen Association Yad Charuzim in Tarnowskiego Square; the Jewish cemetery in Kruhel Pawłosiowski St. (1699).
Dynów (34 km): The Centre of the History of Polish Jews, founded by Rabbi Pinchas Pamp, with its own synagogue, mikveh, kosher cuisine menu, archive, museum, and guest rooms; the old Jewish cemetery (17th or 18th c.) with the ohel of Yehoshua, son of Arie Leib, and the ohel of Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro; the new cemetery (mid-19th c.); the folk school building (19th c.); the mansion of the Trzecieski family (1750); two bunkers of the “Molotov Line”; narrow-gauge railway.
Sieniawa (37 km): the park and palace complex of the Sieniawski family (17th c.), currently a hotel; the town hall (17th c.); the former Orthodox Church of the Ascension (1753); the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1719–1749) with the Czartoryski family crypt; a Jewish cemetery (2nd half of 17th c.).
Czudec (38 km): the park and palace complex of the Uznański family (17th c.); Church of St. Martin (1602); Holy Trinity Church (17th c.); underground remains of the castle (16th c.); the wooden arcaded buildings in the market square; the old synagogue (1795) in Słoneczna St., currently a library, old mikveh at 8 Św. Marcina St.
Kolbuszowa (47 km): the synagogue at 19 Piekarska St. (19th c.); the future Museum of the Two Nations; a Jewish cemetery (1830); All Saints’ Church (1750–1755); the remains of a manor farm – a granary, labourers’ living quarters, and a distillery (1910); the seat of the Gymnastic Association (1907); Ethnographic Park.