Jews played an important role in the
development of Polish industry during the nineteenth century, both as
businessmen, as well as in trade. Often, they were involved in several
different kinds of activities, such as banking and production.
In the Kingdom of Poland, they helped establish the textile, sugar,
and tobacco industries. In the sugar industry, the Epstein family was
especially important (the "Hermanow", "Lyszkowice" and "Konstancja"
sugar refineries), as was L. Kronenberg ("Tomczyn" and "Ostrowiec" sugar
refineries). The following industrialists were active in Lodz: I.
Poznanski (1833-1900), M. Silberstein, A. Gerszon, A. Likiernik, M.
Elbinger, M. Zand, H. Konsztat, M. Szlosberg, A. Stiller, H. Wolfson, S.
Barczynski, O. Kon, B. and N. Ejtingon (Eitingon).
These were pioneers of the textile industry that had been developing
in Poland since the mid-nineteenth century, whose main markets were
Russia and the Far East. The textile industry also established itself in
the Bialystok district, where there were many small-scale Jewish and
German manufacturers, as well as a few larger enterprises. After the
First World War, the J. A. Grosslajt joint stock company not only ran
its own production, but also provided financial support to the textile
industry as it was rebuilding.
In Warsaw, a company founded by J. Orzech was producing finely woven
textiles, such as muslin and cambric. In Tomaszow, near Lodz, the
Landsberg family had one of the largest interwar Polish factories
producing synthetic silk; the Bornseins were engaged in the manufacture
of broadcloth, and Szeps produced carpets, runners, and transmission
belts. The clothes industry developed mostly in the area of small goods
It was only in the 1920's and 1930's that large-scale companies were
founded. Factories producing ready-made women's and men's clothing were
located in Tarnow (the "Wurzl i Daar" company and "B-cia Braun" ("Braun
Brothers") and in Bielsk (Langfeder factories). The firm "Opus" (Lewin
and Rappaport), located in Warsaw, was the largest men's underwear
company in Poland, and one of the largest in Europe. In shoe
manufacturing, during the interwar period, crafts production was
gradually replaced by machinery. Jewish firms were also involved in this
process, including J. Brochis and J. Himelfarb.
The proportion of Jews employed in the textile
and clothing industries was very high. This tendency persisted during
the first years of independence; thus, after the crash in the textile
and clothing sector in 1932, the pauperization of the Jewish population
The Jewish contribution to the development of other sectors of the
economy was also significant. The oil industry had been developing in
Galicia since the mid-nineteenth century in Boryslaw, Drohobycz and
Kolomyja. It was primarily Jews who were engaged both in its business
aspects as well as in production; these included the Schreir,
Lauterbach, Goldhammer, Lieberman and Friedman families. The rising cost
of drilling meant the Jewish companies' position weakened. When Poland
regained its independence, most of the oil fields were taken over by
companies and large foreign investors.
The tobacco industry was another branch that Jewish businessmen
built from the ground up. Many famous tobacco-processing plants ceased
to exist when the independent Polish state introduced the State Tobacco
Monopoly. These included the Fabryka Papierosow (Cigarette Factory) in
Warsaw, the "Progres" ("Progress") cigar factory (the largest in the
Russian Empire), and the Szereszowski factories in Grodno.
The lumber industry was a traditionally Jewish domain-from the
Zaklady przemyslowe ("Industrial Plants") founded by J. G. Bloch, trade
and shipping enterprises, to small companies specializing in windows and
furniture, such as the Krygier, Schalit, Z. Heller and H. Leszczynski
companies. The largest factories, producing plywood, were founded by N.
Heller in Miklaszewicze. Bronislaw and Boleslaw Ejger played a large
role in the cement, lime, and brick-making industries. They owned the
cement factories "Wolyn", "Wysoka" and "Ros", and were also active in
politics and the community. The following enterprises were also
significant: "Checiny" (J. and K. Hemple), "Janina" (C. Ingber),
"Kadzielnica" (S. and S. Erlich), "Saturn" (J. Dawidowicz) and
"Wierzbnia" (S. Zagajewski).
In the Kingdom of Poland, A. Oppenheim, S.
Halber and H. Doktorowicz were involved in brick manufacturing. In
Cz�stochowa, the following businessmen were active: S. Helman
("Michalina" ceramics factory), T. Hafftka ("Sw. Barbara", engineering
works), and S. Kornberg ("Liska" brick factory). Leading glass
manufacturers included Towarzystwo Akcyjne Fabryki Szkla ("Glass Factory
Joint Stock Society") in Zawiercie, "Feniks" in Piotrkow and "Geha"
Joint Stock Company in Lodz. In the metallurgy industry, the
three-generation Wolanowski family played an important role (Warszawskie
Fabryki Srub i Drutow, "Warsaw Screw and Wire Factories"), M. Hochberg
("S�owianin" factory in Konskie) and L. Starke (factory manufacturing
ironware in Kielce and Suchedniow). In the field of galvanization, S.
F�rstenberg led the way, which meant Poland was no longer forced to
depend on expensive imports during the interwar period. J. Birbaum,
founder of the "Strem" Chemical Factory in Strzemieszyce, was a
prominent figure in the chemical industry. W. Sachs, A. Wolberg and H.
and J. Markusfeld were active in Czestochowa. In 1923, S. Halperin
founded a small plant for the manufacture of galoshes, which in 1927
became a joint stock company called Polski Przemysl Gumowy "Polish
Rubber Industry" (hence the Polish nickname for tennis shoes-pepegi).
The first gramophone record factory in Polish lands, "Towarzystwo
Syrena-Rekord" ("Syrena-Record Society"), was founded in 1904 by J.
Feigenbaum. It was the leading manufacturer on the Polish market. A.
Feigenbaum founded factories producing gramophone mechanisms, which
almost completely shut out Swiss imports. The Jewish role in the soap
manufacturing industry was of fundamental importance, from the Natanson
and Epstein families to the small factories in almost every small town
of central and eastern Poland, which produced for the local market. In
the paper industry, the Szwarcsztein family had the largest mills: they
owned the Kluczew Paper Mill, still in existence today. The following
paper mills were also Jewish-owned: Albertynska Fabryka Tektury
("Albertine Cardboard Factory", owned by the Zaron brothers),
Czestochowska Fabryka Papieru ("Czestochowa Paper Mill") (Kon and
Markusfeld families), Mirkowska Fabryka Papieru ("Mirkow Paper
Factory"), Nowowerkowska Fabryka Papieru ("Nowowerkow Paper Mill")
(Olejnik and Szbad families), among others.
Hundreds of other small factories also existed, often as cottage
industry, producing packaging and paper consumer goods. In the food
manufacturing branch, Jews specialized in the production of spirits,
yeast, oil (such as the "Potokol" factory, which specialized in kosher
margarine), beer (such as the Lwowskie Towarzystwo Browarow ["Lwow
Association of Breweries"] and the Rebhana brewery in Przemysl). The
most famous candy factories were the "Plutos" chocolate factory and the
"Suchard" factory in Krakow founded by the Luks family.