Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


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Łańcut - Cultural Heritage Card

Łańcut in the Podkarpacie voivodeship is the powiat's capital with a population of 15 thousand residents. The town is located in the southern part of Kotlina Sandomierska, in the area known as Rynna Podkarpacka. Nearby, south of the town, Pogórze Rzeszowskie begins. Along Rynna Podkarpacka runs an old route from Małopolska to Ruś – Kraków to Przemyśl and Lviv – nowadays it is a road No. 4 (E 40); in Łańcut this road crosses the local road No. 877 from Leżajsk through Albigowa towards Dynów, and the local road No. 881 from Sokołów Małopolski through Kańczuga and Pruchnik towards Przemyśl. A railroad from Rzeszów towards Jarosław and Przemyśl also passes through here. North of Łańcut, parallel to road No. 4, the A4 highway is being built. The big towns in the area are Rzeszów – 16 km West, Przeworsk – 18 km East, Leżajsk – 25 km North–East, and Przemyśl – 45 km South–East.

Hanukiah at the exhibition in the synagogue in Łańcut
Hanukiah at the exhibition in the synagogue in Łańcut (Author: Majuk, Emil)

History of ŁańcutDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

A settlement on the East–West route on the Polish–Ruthenian borderlands. The original name of the settlement – Landshut – was connected with a German colony settlement. Town rights were given to Łańcut either in the mid 14th century by Kazimierz Wielki, or slightly later by Otton Pilecki of Pilcza. It was a privately owned town. The daughter of Pilecki – Elżbieta Granowska, noted as its owner in 1385, being a widow, married king Władysław Jagiełło. The Pilecki family fortified the town, built their manor, founded a Roman Catholic parish, and in the middle of the 16th century converted to Protestantism. As a result of land exchange, Łańcut passed to Stanisław "Diabeł" Stadnicki in 1585. During his private wars, the town was captured and burned down in 1608. Between 1625–1629 Łańcut lands were taken over by the Lubomirskis, who in a new location built a castle surrounded by fortifications, and reconverted the congregation to a church. During the Deluge (1655) and the later incursion of Rakoczy (1657) the town was captured and destroyed, but the castle survived. New destruction and the town's fall was brought about by the Northern War skirmish of the early 18th century. The stagnation in rebuilding Łańcut had lasted since 1745 until the time of Stanisław Lubomirski and his wife Izabella of house Czartoryski. They rebuilt the castle, erected several buildings in town and founded several production factories. In 1772, after the third partition, Łańcut was placed under Austrian rule. After the death of Izabella Lubomirska in 1816 the lands passed to the Potocki family and stayed in their hands until 1944. After the fire of 1820, the town's reconstruction was taken up by Alfred Potocki, who created the Łańcut Fee Tail (1830) and founded several industry workplaces. In 1849 a railway was traced through here, which positively influenced the town's development. The late 19th century and early 20th, during the time of Administrator Roman Potocki, saw a further development of industry, expansion of the castle, as well as emergence of various organisations, unions, and political parties in town. During both World Wars, Łańcut avoided large scale destruction. After Poland regained independence in 1918 and until 1939, Łańcut was in the Lviv voivodeship, and in 1945 it was placed in the newly created Rzeszów voivodeship.

History of Jews in ŁańcutDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The first individual Jews had been noted in the archival documents ever since the middle of the 16th century. In the following decades there were not many of them due to a ban on Jewish settlements within the town, issued by Pileccy (1583). It was a special case, as such bans were usually issued only for royal towns. In 1600 among 180 tax payers there were only 5 Jews – barely more than 1,5% of the population. Better conditions of settlement of Jews in Łańcut had not come until the times of Lubomirscy – on the break of the first and second quarter of the 17th century. The new land owners were aware of the beneficial influence of Jews on the town and land development. There was probably a document issued encouraging them to settle there. In the second quarter of the century Jews are noted to purchase squares and houses in town. Swedish and Transylvanian incursions caused Łańcut's destruction and for many year had halted the settlement, including the Jewish one, but in the last quarter of the 17th century the local community saw its own rebirth. In 1677 Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski issued a document in which, among other clauses, he ordered all Jews to have equipment suitable to let them join the town defence efforts when necessary, and regarding tax payment, he ordered it to be collected also from the Jewish tenants. In 1684 there were 33 Jewish families noted. They had a synagogue, existing beforehand, a mikveh, and a cemetery situated beyond town walls, North–East of the town. We know their elders of the time, noted in town registers – Bonas (Boaz) Ickowicz, Michel Sapsowicz, and Szloma Lazarowicz Załoski (1685). The rabbi in the early 18th or even late 17th century was Froim Boruchowicz. The Lubomirski family were helped by Jews in financial matters – loans, collections, rentals, payments of fair and bridge tax, rental of breweries, inns, and mills. Apart from that, Jews have also dealt in trade, both small and large scale, they had their shops, conducted itinerant trade, intermediated trades, they were also craftsmen – both in crafts connected to their tradition and others. Thanks to loans with a high interest rate (usury) they became owners of real estate – squares and houses in town and outside of it: arable land. Conflicts on these grounds resulted in a decree against usury, issued by Franciszek Lubomirski in 1710, and when that that did not work, in 1719 Jews were ordered to leave the town. Maybe it was provoked by the fact that after the Northern War, an epidemic of 1706, and town fire of 1716 the residents were unable to pay back the loaned money. However, quite soon, in 1722, Jews were allowed to return, encouraged by a privilege issued by Teodor Lubomirski, who allowed them to freely trade and build their houses. In the mid 18th century Przemyśl bishop banned local Jews from having weddings on Sundays, and ordered their shops to be closed during Christian holidays.

After Stanisław and Izabella Lubomirski claimed the town (in 1745) they started its expansion, within the scope of which in 1761 they funded a new, brick synagogue in a classicist style. In 1765, the quickly developing Łańcut qahal had a population of 829 tax payers, it was surpassed, however, by the qahals of Rzeszów, Sieniawa, Przeworsk, and Leżajsk. Other known rabbis of the time are: Cwi Hirsz Meizlich [Meisel] (1758–1767), Mosze son of Icchak and grandson of Jehuda Leib – rabbi of Kraków, and then Mosze's son Cwi Hirsz Lipszyc.

In the Austrian partition, as a part of Joseph's Reforms the qahal organisation was changed, the obligation for Jews to have surnames (German–sounding ones) was introduced, "German–Jewish" schools were implemented (the school building in Łańcut was funded by Naftali Herc Homberg), synagogue silver furnishings were confiscated (Catholic and Orthodox church ones as well), the cemeteries were ordered to be relocated outside the town, and new taxes were introduced. Łańcut Jews made a living mostly out of trade, including grain, wood, potash, and fabric trade.

Even before the partitions, in 1770, Hassidism reached this place. For two years a famous tzadik lived and taught in Łańcut – Elimelech son of Eleazar Lipman, who later moved to Leżajsk and was nicknamed Elimenech of Leżajsk. He was an author of several books, including an important treaty "Noam Elimelech" – on the role of tzadik in Hassidism.

In the late 18th century another famous tzadik appeared, a student of Elimelech and later his opponent – Jaakow Icchak Horowic, known as the Seer of Lublin, who married in Łańcut, but then moved to Czechówka village near the township of Wieniawa (both settlements are Lublin districts today). A small hall in the synagogue where the Seer met Jews since that time had been called the "Lublin synagogue". In the early 19th century strong Hassidic influence continued, represented by Arie Lejb, the author of the treaty entitled "Gevurot Arych", then by Cwi Elemelech Szapiro, the author of a series of Cabbalistic commentaries and the founder of a Hassidic dynasty in Dynów. After that, between 1816–1865, the Łańcut rabbi was his son Eleazar, then Eleazar's son Symcha (until 1912). In 1827, during his journey to Lublin, in Łańcut died another famous Hassidic tzadik – Naftali Cwi Horowic of Ropczyce, who was buried there.

The development of the town's community was halted by Napoleonic wars, epidemics (1827, 1831), and a great fire of 1820. More suitable conditions for the town's progress, including the Jewish community, came only after the arrival of a railway in 1859, and after Galicia gained greater autonomy in 1867. For the needs of a community developing to the South of the town, in 1860 a new Jewish cemetery was founded. In the late 19th century the influences of Haskalah reached Łańcut, and the first political parties (Zionistic) as well as social organisations started to appear. In 1880 the town had 3483 residents, including 1587 Jews (45.6%). In 1900 in the entire Łańcut community there were 2588 Jews, including 1940 in the town itself. By World War I, the population of Łańcut had grown to ca. 550, including about 2000 Jews (35%). The Jewish community had its representatives in the town council. In 1910 there was a Jewish bath funded, and a Jewish music association "Hazemar" founded.

During World War I town buildings did not suffer a lot of destruction, the residents suffered more from robberies by the armies passing through. Especially Jews did, as they were owners of the majority of shops large and small, workshops, and inns. Many residents, including Jews, left the town, running from wartime activities.

After the rebirth of Poland it turned out that the town's population dropped by almost a thousand people – in 1921 there were 4518 residents noted, including 1925 Jews (31%). By World War II their numbers had grown to ca. 2750. The inter-war period was a time of the society being organised, Jewish community was no different. Divisions of political parties, organisations – social and cultural alike, trade unions, sports clubs, and banks were being created. In 1930 the Jewish Cultural House was built, where among others a Jewish library was located. There were still strong influences from Hassidism, especially the Hassidic Rokeach dynasty of Bełz. Jews lived mostly in the western and northern parts of town, usually at the town square and its area. That was where the majority of around 170 Jewish shops large and small, stands, inns, and workshops was located. Jakub Fast was a Łańcut Jew, who volunteered for Polish army and took part in the Polish–Soviet war.

Several days after the outbreak of World War II Germans entered Łańcut. One of the ways they persecuted Jews was setting fire to the synagogue, which was, due to the intervention of Alfred Antoni Potocki, doused. Soon the invading authorities ordered relocation of Jews to the Soviet occupation zone, a chance some of them took. In the course of time German persecution of Jews escalated – Jewish shops were being closed, as were as their workshops, forced labour was introduced. Jews from the nearby villages and from Kalisz, Łódź, Chorzów, and Katowice were relocated here, so the number of Jews grew to about 6 thousand. The ghetto was created in the January of 1942 and was liquidated in phases between June and August of that year. Jews were relocated to Sieniawa, Pełkinia, and ultimately to the extermination camp in Bełżec. Groups of surviving and hiding Jews were shot in several executions on the new Jewish cemetery. Only few managed to survive.

UrbanismDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The town is located on the route from the Lesser Poland to Ruś, between hills and a lowland, on a slightly rolling terrain. The axis of a relatively irregular plan of the old town centre is a trapezoidal town square, from which several streets spread in irregular intervals. Near the North–Western corner there was a Dominican monastery complex erected between the 15th and 16th century, liquidated by Austrians in the late second quarter of the 19th century. North of the town square, beyond the frontage, a parish church was erected. Not far from it there was the original castle of the Pilecki family, but after its destruction in the first quarter of the 17th century Stanisław Lubomirski moved his residence to the East of the old town centre. The town was surrounded by earth ramparts. Initially the Jewish quarter was probably located North–East of the town centre, but during the town's expansion in the second half of the 18th century the Jewish district's centre was moved to the area between the town square and the castle, its centre was a brick synagogue. The Jewish cemetery was founded in the second quarter of the 17th century, to the North–East of the town, beyond the town's fortifications. Another was founded in 1860, also beyond town buildings, near the Christian cemetery existing before. The railway was traced about 2 km North of the town centre, while state road No. 4 was traced so that it bypassed the town centre in a South–bound arc.

Architecture and building monuments – preserved and destroyedDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

1) The old urban shape – in the centre of the present town, it consists of two historical foundations: a medieval location town (from about the mid 14th century) with a town square, network of streets and a church, and a castle and park complex (the second quarter of the 17th century).

2) The parish church of Saint Stanisław – the creation of the Roman Catholic parish was probably connected to the location efforts. The church had been mentioned since the late 14th century, since 1488 it had been made out of brick. Between 1549–1629 it was converted to a Protestant congregation. In the second half of the 17th century it was seriously rebuilt, and later renovated several times. The current Neo–Gothic church was created as a result of rebuilding the previous one between 1896–1900 according to the design by Teodor Talowski and Dionizy Krzyczkowski.

3) The Dominican monastery complex from the last quarter of the 14th century. On the break of the 15th and 16th century a brick church of Saints Peter and Paul, and a brick monastery building were erected. The complex was reconstructed several times in the 17th and 18th century. In 1820 it was destroyed in a fire, which resulted in its discontinuation by Austrian authorities. Soon after it was rebuilt with lay purposes in mind – as offices and barracks. Currently it holds Dom Turysty PTTK [The Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society] and a restaurant.

4) The synagogue – originally wooden, mentioned since the second half of the 17th century, rebuilt after fires. The new, brick synagogue was built in 1761 with the funds of Stanisław Lubomirski. It was erected on a new place, West of the castle complex not too far from it. It was renovated in 1896 and 1910 – it was probably then that its shape became simple and classicist.

Synagogue in Łańcut
Synagogue in Łańcut

During the war it was saved from destruction by the Potocki family who converted it into a granary. After the war it was saved from deconstruction by local excursionists. The interior walls in men's prayer hall, as well as the bema, were covered with interesting mouldings and polychromies, which were created in several phases – [in the1760s., in the first half of the 18th century, in the 2nd half of the 18th century, between 1909 and 1910, as well as 1934-1935]. The humble polychromy can be found also in the "Lublin synagogue". This form of synagogue interior decoration makes this building one of the most interesting and valuable of this kind in Poland. Currently the synagogue is cared after by the Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.

A bimah in the synagogue in Łańcut
A bimah in the synagogue in Łańcut

5) Castle and park complex – located East of the town centre, in its relative vicinity. Its main and central building is the palace surrounded by bastion fortifications of Dutch type. It was built for Stanisław Lubomirski between 1629–1641, rebuilt in the late 18th century and again in the late 19th. In the romantic park created in the late 18th century there was a series of buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th century: Glorietta, Little Castle, riding hall, keeper's house, gazebo, gate, and a guardhouse. After World War II the complex was taken over by contemporary state authorities and re-purposed to serve as a museum of palace interiors. Apart from the chamber furnishings there are work of art collections in the palace and neighbouring buildings, including paintings and sculptures, craft and utility art, and a collection of Jewish ceremonial art. Łańcut collections belong to the richest in Poland.

6) The stable and carriage house – located near the castle and park complex, it holds a collection of Orthodox church art.

7) Two granges – located a bit further away from the complex, they consist of several buildings connected to it, all erected between the late 18th and the early 20th century.

8) Town tenement houses – brick, mostly dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century, with parts of earlier buildings from the 17th and 18th century.

9) Suburban manors – there are around a dozen preserved brick buildings erected in the early 20th century, all with interesting plans and shapes.

10) The old mikveh (on the corner of Tadeusza Kościuszki and Ottona z Pilczy streets) – made of brick, erected between 1908–1910, currently it holds St. Brother Albert's Aid Society.

11) Christian cemetery (Ignacego Mościckiego street) – founded near 1800, South of the town, formerly beyond town limits.

12) Old Jewish cemetery (Stanisława Moniuszki street) – founded in the second half of the 17th century, expanded in time. Destroyed during the war and robbed of its matzevahs. Currently the area is fenced, overgrown with trees, with two ohelmi: of tzadik Naftali Cwi Horowic of Ropczyce (died 1827) and local rabbi Eleazar Szapiro (died 1865)

13) New Jewish cemetery (Romualda Traugutta street) – founded in 1860, South of the town, formerly beyond its limits. During the war it was destroyed, robbed of its matzevahs (pieces of tens of matzevahs are kept in the synagogue's vestibule). During the war the cemetery's area was the place of multiple mass executions of Jews. After the war the cemetery area was preserved, fenced and a monument commemorating the Jewish victims of Nazi terror was erected.

Matzevot in the hall collected at the vandalised Jewish cemeteries of Łańcut
Matzevot in the hall collected at the vandalised Jewish cemeteries of Łańcut

BibliographyDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

- Lancut; chajejcha we-churbana szel kehila jehudit, Tel-Aviv 1963

- M. R. Nitkiewicz, Szewski poniedziałek oraz dalsze dni tygodnia czyli życie codzienne w siedemnastowiecznym Łańcucie, Łańcut 1990

- Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, Seria nowa, t. 5 – województwo rzeszowskie, z. 5 Łańcut i okolice (oprac. M. Milanowska, J. Sito), Warszawa 1994

- W. Bonasiuk, Łańcut. Studia i szkice z dziejów miasta, Rzeszów 1997

- Łańcut. Zarys rozwoju przestrzennego od powstania do współczesności (pod red. J. Malczewskiego), Łańcut 1999

- A. Trzciński, Wystrój sztukatorski i malarski synagogi w Łańcucie [w:] Od starożytności do współczesności. Język – literatura – kultura. Księga poświęcona pamięci profesora Jerzego Worończaka, Wrocław 2004, s. 247-280

- A. Potocki, Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów 2004

- Tam był kiedyś mój dom … Księgi pamięci gmin żydowskich (oprac. M. Adamczyk-Garbowska, A. Kopciowski, A. Trzciński), Lublin 2009

- M. Cichocki, W. Litwin, Łańcut. Szlak chasydzki, Warszawa 2010

Author: Paweł Sygowski XIII/2015