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Records of the Krotoszyn Jewish Community Council

 Collection
Identifier: RG 14

Scope and Content Note

The collection comprises a portion of the records of the Jewish community of Krotoszyn, which today is in the Greater Poland Voivodeship, Poland. The records are dated 1828 to 1919. During this period the town was located in the Posen (Poznań) region of Prussia and, after 1871, of the German Empire, and was generally known by the German name "Krotoschin." Originally Polish, the town had been annexed by Prussia in 1793, in the Second Partition of Poland. In 1919, following the First World War, it was incorporated into the Second Republic of Poland. Only a small Jewish community remained in Krotoszyn during the interwar period. The records are almost entirely those of the Jewish communal administration, or council, of Krotoschin, with just three files of a somewhat different provenance, two pertaining to voluntary associations of the community (Folders 29 and 35), and another containing official correspondence kept by the teacher of the Jewish elementary school (Folder 38).

Approximately 40% of the collection comprises property and financial records (Series I), including correspondence with the government, with community members, and internally between the community executive and the representatives' assembly; and documents such as tax lists, insurance policies, plans/drawings of property, a debt repayment plan, and mortgage records. One volume in this series contains the oldest records in the collection, dated 1828 to 1830, related to assessing damage and negotiating compensation in the wake of the town fire of 1827 (Folder 1). Aside from a single volume of supporting financial documents, for income and expenses in the year 1835 (Folder 3), the collection lacks any formal financial accounts.

Another 40% of the collection comprises files of communal meeting minutes, and related correspondence, covering a variety of administrative as well as financial topics, along with meeting notices, announcements, and other ephemera (Series II). These records, spanning the period from 1834 to 1919, with gaps, include a file on communal elections of 1834 to 1872 (Folder 15); correspondence files pertaining to marriages, 1834-1841 (Folder 24), and requests for death certificates, 1834-1858 (Folder 25); and employment-related records pertaining to the position of rabbi, in 1895 (Folder 20), cantor/shochet, in 1904-1910 (Folder 21), and cemetery attendant, 1873-1913 (Folder 22).

The remainder of the collection pertains to charitable activities and, to a small extent, education (Series III). The former encompasses aid to community members as well as contributions to outside Jewish causes. Included are records related to distributions the community received from the bequest of Michael S. Freyhan, Breslau (Folder 30-31); contracts for distribution of flour and matzot to the poor at Passover time (Folder 32); participation in campaigns to aid Russian Jews, as well as combat anti-Semitism (1891-1905; Folders 33-34, including appeals from the Deutsches Central-Komitee für die russischen Juden); and appeals from a variety of other Jewish institutions and organizations (Folder 36), as well as a few Jewish communities. A small amount of material is included from two voluntary associations, one to clothe schoolchildren, 1834-1836 (Folder 29) and the other to provide charitable support to Jewish travelers around the turn of the 20th century (Folder 35). Series I also includes documentation of the Raschi Verein of Krotoszyn (Folder 1).

The small amount of correspondence with the Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeindebund (Folder 36) pertains not only to the latter's charitable work but also to the Krotoschin community's sending its archival records to Berlin, for inclusion in what became the Gesamtarchiv der Deutschen Juden.

Over 95% of the materials by extent comprise bound volumes of records, as they were prepared in the community, usually with their original covers intact, and, in most instances, formally inscribed with titles. In the inventory list below, the folder titles are taken from the original German titles, and an English-language title is given on the following line. On the covers of the volumes, the title (subject line) of the file is typically preceded by the phrase: "Acta israelitischen Korporation zu Krotoschin betreffend…" (Records of the Jewish community of Krotoschin, concerning…), or, in the case of volumes dating from the 1890s and later, the phrase: "Acta des Vorstandes der Synagogen-Gemeinde Krotoschin" (Records of the executive of the Jewish community of Krotoschin). In a few instances, volumes bear only an informal title indicating the topic. A small amount of the materials arrived in the form of loose documents, without any original folders. Those files, therefore, have no German title but only a supplied title in English. Folders containing loose documents are specified as such in the folder description. For the smaller bound volumes of up to 50 leaves, a leaf count is provided.

Dates

  • 1828-1919

Creator

Language of Materials

Predominantly in German, with some Hebrew and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.

Use Restrictions

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Historical Note

Krotoszyn (German: Krotoschin) is a town in west-central Poland, today in the Greater Poland Voivodeship. It lies some 30 km. west of Ostrów Wielkopolski, and 140 km. west of Łódź. The Jewish community in Krotoszyn dates from at least the 1420s, based on evidence that the community owed a debt to the Catholic Church of Czylez in 1423. The Polish king had granted town privileges to the locality in 1415. Documentation of the Jewish community's original charter (Privileg), dates from 1638, when the owners of the town reissued it; the charter was also ratified and extended in 1648 and in 1673.

In 1656, during the Polish-Swedish wars, the Jewish community was decimated by the Polish troops of Stefan Czarniecki. Of the 400 Jewish families then residing in the town, only 50 families survived. The community later revived, and played an important role in the Polish-Jewish governing body known as the Council of the Four Lands (circa 1580-1764).

The community had its own cemetery since at least the 17th century and perhaps earlier. Until the early 18th century, the Jewish cemetery in Krotoszyn served nearby localities including Leszno, Kobylin, Kępno, Zduny, Ostrów Wielkopolski, and, especially, Wrocław (Breslau), until 1761, when the Breslau community established a new cemetery.

During the 18th century, wealthy Jews of Krotoszyn carried on trade with the German lands, and attended the fairs in Breslau, Leipzig, and Frankfurt an der Oder. Community statutes were formulated in 1728 under a decree of the provincial governor Stanisław Potocki (d. 1760).

In 1774 a fire that affected half the town completely destroyed the Jewish quarter, including the synagogue, which had stood since the previous century. Nearly all of the community's records were also lost to the fire, so that documentation of the earlier history is scant. The synagogue was rebuilt but burned again in another town fire in 1827. The construction of a new synagogue was not undertaken until 1843-1846. In the intervening years services were held in the ten prayer houses. The new synagogue was dedicated in September 1846 by Rabbi Julius Gebhardt; it was a massive building, among the largest in Posen province.

Krotoszyn—in German "Krotoschin"—was located in territory annexed by the kingdom of Prussia in the Second Partition of Poland, in 1793, becoming the seat of the county (Kreis) of the same name, in the Prussian province of South Prussia. In 1807, following Prussia's defeat in the Napoleonic wars, South Prussia was part of the territory that Prussia ceded to France under the Treaty of Tilsit, and which became part of the quasi-independent Duchy of Warsaw. A few years later, following Napoleon's defeat, most of what had been South Prussia, including Krotoschin county, reverted to Prussia, under the settlement reached at the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, becoming part of the newly constituted Grand Duchy of Posen. After the adoption of the Prussian constitution of 1848/1850 the duchy became known as the Province of Posen.

In 1793 there were 1,384 Jews in Krotoschin, comprising approximately 37% of the town's total population (3,692). Based on death statistics, there were likely well over 1,800 Jews in Krotoszyn in 1828, and there were approximately 2,200 by 1837. The size of the Jewish community peaked in around 1849, when there were 2,327 Jews in the town, making up approximately 30% of the total population.

By profession, community members were mostly engaged in retail trade and handicrafts, with tailors, furriers, glove makers, and lace makers well represented.

Krotoschin was a notable center of Jewish learning and scholarship. Prominent scholars active there who also served as rabbis of the community included, in the 17th century, Menahem Mendel ben Meshullam Auerbach (served in Krotoschin from 1673 until his death in 1689); in the 18th century, Menachem Mendel ben Moses Auerbach (served 1732-1755; d. 1760), and Benjamin Katzenellenbogen (served 1774-1792); and, in the 19th century, David Joel and Eduard Baneth.

The community was also a center of Hebrew publishing, beginning in the mid 18th century. A well known printer and publisher of Krotoschin was B. L. (Baer Loeb) Monasch (d. 1876). His company, founded in the early 1830s, also brought out works in German, and remained in existence through 1901.

A Jewish elementary school, recognized by the government, was established in 1850, in its own building, through the efforts of the Verein zur Wahrung jüdischer Interessen (Society for the protection of Jewish interests); in 1860 approximately 500 students attended the school. Later on, a school devoted to Hebrew and religious instruction was established.

The Krotoschin synagogue underwent a major renovation in 1894, and an organ was installed.

In the second half of the 19th century, the community steadily declined in size, mostly due to members moving away to larger German cities. The community numbered 2,098 in 1857; 1,149 in 1871; and 670 in 1900. In 1907, there were 527 Jews in the town, making up approximately 3% of the total population.

In spring 1919, pursuant to the treaties following the First World War, Krotoschin became part of the Second Polish Republic. Many Jews as well as non-Jewish Germans moved away at that point. In 1925 the Jewish community numbered approximately 120 members, or 1% of the town population. In 1939, only 50 Jews remained; and there may have been under 20 by the time of the Nazi invasion in September 1939, marking the outbreak of the Second World War. Under Nazi administration, the Posen province became part of Reichsgau Wartheland. The small number of Jews remaining in the town were deported to the Łłódź ghetto by early 1940.

Rabbis, community leaders, and other prominent figures in the 19th to 20th century

Following are rabbis who served the Krotoschin community, with approximate years of service:

Herschel Cohen (or: Hirsch Kohen; son of Raphael Cohen, Hamburg), circa 1803 until his death in December 1827
Beer Lichtenstädt (also known as "Lichtenstein"), 1828 until his death in April 1837
Löbel Goldschmidt (dayan), 1825 until his death in May 1832
Samuel Mendelssohn (dayan), 1828 until his death in April 1866
Israel Goldschmidt (dayan), 1852—circa 1858
David Joel, December 1859—early 1880
Eduard Baneth, 1882-1895
Heinrich Berger, 1896-1912
Gustav Cohn, 1912-1920

Following, with approximate years of service (gleaned, as best as possible, from the files in the present collection), are community members who served as chair (Vorsteher) of the community executive (Vorstand) from the early 19th century through the First World War:

Salomon Krüger, circa 1828
Michael Rosenstein, 1834-1850
Joseph Israel Goldschmidt, 1850-1855
Auerbach and/or Herzsohn, circa 1857-1866
Louis Bendix, 1867-1872
Meyer Katzenellenbogen, 1872-1874, 1881
Joel Auerbach, 1875-1876
Louis Cohn, circa 1879
Marcus Levy, Moritz Prinz, and/or K.[?] Grünspach, circa 1885-1887
Marcus Levy, circa 1887-1889, 1900-1902
Adolf Katzenellenbogen, 1891-1893
Emil Cohn, 1894-1896, 1900-1902
A. Grünspach, 1903-1907
Otto Hepner, 1907
Julius Neumark, 1908 until his death in April 1913
Louis Daniel, circa 1915

Following are those who served as chair of the representatives' assembly:

Israel Abraham Goldschmidt, 1834-1837, 1840-1843
H. Alba, 1837-1840
A. Sochaczewski, 1843-1845
H. Karo, circa late 1840s
Louis Cohn, circa 1855-1857
Joseph Israel Goldschmidt, 1863-1868
S. H. Eppenstein, 1869-1872
Louis Dienemann, 1872-1876, circa 1881, 1886-1889
M. Auerbach, circa 1891, 1900, 1905
Simon Lewy/Levy, circa 1906, 1910
Louis Sklarek, circa 1910
Manheim, circa 1911
Heimann Daniel, 1911-1915

Other prominent Jews of Krotoschin not already mentioned included Rabbis Abraham Meyer Goldschmidt (d. 1889), Isidor Kalisch (d. 1886), Aron Pulvermacher, Simon Eppenstein (d. 1920), and Max Dienemann (d. 1939); teachers Hermann Warschauer (d. 1880) and Albert Herbst (d. 1907); historian Bruno Gebhardt (d. 1905); scholar Georg Huth (d. 1906); and the feminist and educator Henriette Goldschmidt (née Benas, d. 1920; wife of Rabbi Abraham Goldschmidt).

Postscript

No Jewish community was ever re-established in Krotoszyn in the post-World War II period. The Krotoszyn synagogue, located on Potter's Square (Garncarskiej plac), was destroyed during the Nazi occupation, circa 1940-1941. The site was apparently razed after the war, leaving an empty square; the property was returned to the Wrocław (Breslau) Jewish community sometime after 1989, and in 2016 was sold to a private party. The Jewish cemetery, located on ulica (street) Ostrowskiej between the streets Głowackiego and Sosnową, was also desecrated during the Nazi period; the gravestones were removed and used for building blocks in various places in the city. One surviving intact gravestone was transferred to Krotoszyn's Regional Museum in 1975. In 2005, a wall that was built on the grounds of St. Roch Catholic church was partially dismantled, and gravestone fragments from there as well as elsewhere in the city were recovered; the same year the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich, gave permission for the construction of a lapidarium. Under a 2010 agreement between the town and the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (ZGWŻ), the site of the former Jewish cemetery is partially used for residential buildings, with two thirds remaining as greenery.

References

Alicke, Klaus-Dieter (2008). Lexikon der jüdischen Gemeinden im deutschen Sprachraum. 3 vols. Güterloh: Güterloher Verlagshaus. Vol. 2. "Krotoschin (Posen)." Available online: www.jüdische-gemeinden.de

Berger, Heinrich (1907). "Zur Geschichte der Juden in Krotoschin." Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums. Issue 3, p. 359-380. Available online from the library of Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Compact Memory Collection: sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/cm

Heppner, Aaron, and Isaak Herzberg (1909). Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden und der jüd[ischen] Gemeinden in den Posener Landen. Koschmin and Bromberg. Vol. II, issue 15. "Krotoschin," p. 561-583. Available online from the library of Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Aron Freimann Collection: sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/freimann

International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS). "Krotoszyn." International Jewish Cemetery Project.

Kirshenboim, Shimshon Leib, and Danuta Dombrowska (2007). "Krotoszyn." Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Eds.), Encyclopaedia Judaica. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. Vol. 12, p. 373-374.

Virtual Shtetl. "Krotoszyn" (in Polish, with some parts available in English translation). Originally a project of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, since 2012 the Virtual Shtetl website, www.sztetl.org.pl, is sponsored by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Extent

3.6 Linear Feet (9 boxes, including one oversize box; 40 folders)

Abstract

The collection comprises a portion of the records of the Jewish community of Krotoszyn, known in German as Krotoschin. The records span the years 1828 to 1919, when the town was part of the Posen (Poznań) region of Prussia and, after 1871, of the German Empire; in 1919, it became part of newly independent Poland. The records are mainly those of the Jewish communal administration, or council, of Krotoschin, along with some records kept by communal voluntary associations, or, in one instance, the teacher of the Jewish elementary school. The collection consists predominantly of correspondence and minutes, with inclusion in some periods of documents such as tax lists and lists of eligible voters; records concerning charitable aid to community members and donations to external causes; and other types of documents, including insurance policies, mortgage records, debt repayment plan, and drawings/plans of property. Highlights include records related to property damage in a town fire of 1827; documentation of income and expenses for the year 1835; records of communal elections, 1834-1872; correspondence concerning marriages, 1838-1841, and requests for death certificates, 1834-1858; a small amount of material pertaining to the religious school, circa 1880s-1902; correspondence with regimental commanders of the German army regarding Jewish soldiers from the Krotoschin area, 1891-1910; applications for the position of rabbi, 1895, and cantor/shochet, 1904-1910; and continuous proceedings of the communal council in the period 1905 to 1913.

Arrangement

The great majority of the materials are volumes of records that were bound and titled in the community. In addition, many of the volumes have on the front cover what is apparently a location designation, usually indicating a shelf or compartment, and position number (e.g. "Fach 4, No. 1")—a labeling system that was applied in the community, likely reflecting how the volumes were stored. Those designations, when present, are included here in parentheses following the original German title. (A few volumes do not have such a designation, and a small amount of material arrived as loose documents, with no original folders.) The sequence of the volumes according to these location designations has large gaps and does not in and of itself reflect any consistent intellectual arrangement. During the present processing, therefore, the volumes have been grouped into the present three series, representing broad categories of records, in order to facilitate an overview. Care was taken to keep related volumes together, based on content (and as sometimes reflected in similar location designations).

The collection is arranged in the following series:
  1. Property and financial records, 1828-1913
  2. General correspondence, minutes, and ephemera, 1831, 1834-1858, 1873-1919
  3. Charitable activities and education, 1828, 1834-1839, 1852-1913, 1919

Other Finding Aid

The earlier finding aid produced by Steven M. Lowenstein in the 1970s is on file at YIVO; attached is a concordance of the old and new folder numbers.

Custodial History

The collection was received by the YIVO Institute in Vilna in the prewar period. During the German occupation of Vilna in 1942, these records were among the materials looted by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (a special task force of the National Socialist regime devoted to the plunder of art and cultural artifacts) and sent to the Institut zur Erforschung der Judenfrage (Institute for Study of the Jewish Question), an institution of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP), in Frankfurt am Main. In 1945 these records were among materials recovered by the U.S. Army and returned to the YIVO Institute in New York, via the U.S. Army archival depot in Offenbach. The records arrived at YIVO in New York in 1947.

Related Materials

Two fires in the town of Krotoschin in 1774 and 1827 destroyed most of the community's older records. Beginning in 1905, a significant grouping of the Krotoschin community archives was given to the Gesamtarchiv der deutschen Juden (Central Archives of German Jewry), Berlin. An inventory list of the initial donation, made in 1905, to the Deutsch-Israelitische Gemeindebund, is found in the present collection (Folder 38); the Gesamtarchiv subsequently began operations in 1906, and it existed until 1938. An inventory of Krotoschin community materials was published in the newsletter of the Gesamtarchiv in 1910 (Mitteilungen des Gesamtarchivs der deutschen Juden, 2. Jahrg., p. 29-36). Those materials included the community's charter of 1638, a death registry beginning in 1675, and other materials dated 1830 to 1901.

Some of the materials from the Gesamtarchiv were taken over by the East German state archives in the post-World War II period, and later returned to the German-Jewish community; today that portion of those materials can be found in the archives of the Centrum Judaicum foundation, located at the Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue), on Oranienburger Strasse, in Berlin. A catalog was published in 2001, as Volume 6, Parts 1 and 2, of Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in den Archiven der neuen Bundesländer, edited by Stefi Jersch-Wenzel und Reinhard Rürup (Munich: Saur). This catalog (Part 1) details 40 files pertaining to the Krotoschin community, dating from 1825 to 1901, some of which appear to correspond to files listed in the inventory published by the Gesamtarchiv in 1910.

The Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, holds some materials related to the Krotoschin community under the heading "Gminy żydowskie prowincji poznańskiej. Krotoschin (Krotoszyn)," including a death register 1846-1938. Also, scattered related materials can be found in the Polish state archives in Krotoszyn, Poznań, and Kalisz, as detailed in the following publication: Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in polnischen Archiven, edited by Stefi Jersch-Wenzel (Munich: Saur, 2003).

According to an earlier finding aid for the present collection, produced by Dr. Steven M. Lowenstein at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in the 1970s, portions of records from the Krotoschin community can also be found in the former "Osobyi" (Special) archive in Moscow, a repository for records confiscated by the Red Army from Germany and other countries during World War II.

The Leo Baeck Institute, New York, holds an index of the graves in the Krotoschin community cemetery, circa early 20th century, by Simon Lewy, chair of the Verein der Krotoschiner in Breslau (call no. AR 760), and photocopies of various 18th- to mid 19th-century records of the community, in the Jacob Jacobson Collection (AR 7002). Also, the Lewin Collection, held by Yeshiva University, contains a variety of records of Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe, including some materials from the Krotoschin community.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research holds other records of Jewish communities in Germany, including: RG 13 Ostrowo (Ostrów Wielkopolski) Jewish Community Council; RG 15 Briesen (Wąbrzeźno) Jewish Community Council; RG 244 Adelebsen Jewish Community; and RG 31 Germany (Vilna Archives) Collection, Series IV, containing smaller groupings of records of the Filehne (Wieleń), Raschkow (Raszków), and Rybnik communities.

Finally, the archives of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York, also at the Center for Jewish History, focuses on materials pertaining to the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry.

Processing information

During the current processing the materials were transferred into new acid-free archival folders, and the folders were newly arranged and numbered sequentially (see the Arrangement note). The materials also underwent conservation treatment.
Title
Guide to the Records of the Krotoszyn Jewish Community Council, 1828-1919 RG 14
Status
Completed
Author
Originally processed by Steven M. Lowenstein in the 1970's. Edited by Rivka Schiller in 2006. Finding aid encoded by Yakov Il'ich Sklar in 2006. Materials further processed, described, and prepared for digitization by Violet Lutz in 2016.
Date
©2017
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English, with inclusion of original folder titles in German, accompanied by an English translation.
Sponsor
Processed, conserved and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022). Additional work funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Earlier work funded by the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation (2006).

Revision Statements

  • January 2018: dao links added by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

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