[Yiddish, Kieltz] - A city that began as a
trading settlement, mentioned [in sources] as early as the eleventh
century. It was granted its town charter in the mid-fourteenth century.
Away from the main trade routes, Kielce was more important as a mining
center and for the smelting of lead, iron, copper and silver ore.
As the property of the Krakow bishops, the city had been granted the
privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis, which remained in force until the
partitions. After 1815, Kielce was located within the Kingdom of Poland.
In 1852, there were approximately 100 Jews living there and belonged to
the Community in Checiny. An independent Community was founded in 1868,
at which time a cemetery was also founded. In the second half of the
nineteenth century, the economy revived as industry developed (building
materials, artificial fertilizers, tanneries, glass) and the building of
rail connections with the Dabrowa mining region, and later with
Economic changes brought about in increase in population. In 1882,
there were already about 2,600 Jews living in Kielce, and in 1909, there
were over 11,000. There were over 30 chadarim (plural of cheder)
operating in the city at that time, as well as private schools, for the
most part elementary schools, including some for girls. Jewish political
parties, the Bund and Stronnictwo Postepowo-Demokratyczne ("The
Progressive-Democratic Party") were active.
A Jewish demonstration demanding political and
cultural autonomy on November 11, 1918, sparked a pogrom during which
many buildings and schools were destroyed. Despite the worsening
conflict, whose roots were primarily economic in nature, the Jewish
Community continued to grow. In 1921, there were approximately 15,500
Jews living in Kielce (over 37% of the total population). They were
involved above all in middle- and small-scale enterprises. There were
numerous crafts organizations, an orphanage, old people's home, library
and secondary school (gimnazjum).
In 1932-1939, approximately 5,000 Jews from Kielce and its environs
emigrated to Palestine. In 1939, the Jewish Community numbered about
25,000 people (over 35% of the total population). During the Second
World War, several thousand Jews were resettled here from the smaller
towns nearby, as well as those from the Lodz district, Poznan and
Vienna. On March 31, 1941, a ghetto was created in the city, which held a
total of approximately 27,000 people. The Germans created a Judenrat,
headed first by M. Pelc, and, after his arrest and deportation to
Auschwitz (brought about by his refusal to carry out Nazi orders), H.
Lewi held the position. The ghetto was decimated by disease. In the
course of a few days in August 1942, about 21,000 Jews were sent to
Treblinka. The remaining group of approximately 2,000 people were put in
a labor camp; some of them died in Auschwitz, and only a few managed to
After the Second World War ended, about 200
people returned to Kielce, most of whom lived on Planty Street, where an
orphanage and kibbutz were founded. On July 4, 1946, a pogrom began
after accusations that a Polish boy had been kidnapped by Jews.
Forty-two people were killed, and over 40 were injured. The Kielce
pogrom prompted anti-Jewish incidents in and around the city; trains,
for example, were stopped and searched for Jews. These events resulted
in a mass emigration of Jews to Israel and other countries. Kielce still
has a synagogue dating back to the early twentieth century, which
currently holds an archive. Communities of Jews whose ancestors
originally came from Kielce continue to exist in Israel, the United
States, Canada, Argentina and France.