[Yiddish: Zamoshch, Zamoch] - A town in the
Lublin voivodship, founded in 1580 by Jan Zamoyski on the trade route
linking Lwow and Volhynia with Lublin and Warsaw. From the late
sixteenth century, Zamosc was the main regional center and the seat of
Zamosc soon became a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural town. In 1585,
Zamoyski brought Armenians to Zamosc, followed in 1588 by Sephardic Jews
from Lwow who had originally come from Italy and Turkey; in 1589,
Zamoyski brought Greeks from Kaffa. The Jews were granted a privilege
according them the same rights as other residents. In addition to being
able to own property anywhere in the town, their safety and complete
religious freedom were guaranteed. They were granted the right to build
synagogues, mikvahs (ritual baths) and cemeteries, and to found schools.
They were even allowed to carry weapons.
In 1602, Zamosc already had a "Jewish Street", and by 1603, a
synagogue had been built; the Community also had its own rabbi. In 1657,
of 222 buildings in Zamosc, nineteen were owned by Jews; by 1691, this
number had grown to 36. In the sixteenth century, there were also
Ashkenazim living in Zamosc; for the most part, they rented mills and
the right to collect tolls. Their numbers grew during the seventeenth
century, until they eventually absorbed the Sephardic Community. This
situation changed the legal status of the Jews of Zamosc, since the
Sephardic Jews had not been under the jurisdiction of either the Polish
authorities nor the Jewish Sejm.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries, when Zamosc was under Austrian rule, it became a center for
the Jewish Enlightenment. After the Congress of Vienna, it was part of
the Kingdom of Poland. Beginning in 1821, Zamosc was owned by the
These changes did not limit Jewish social and cultural life. J.
Cederbaum and J. Eichenbaum were both active here, as was the author of
Enlightenment comedies, S. Ettinger. The great Yiddish writer I. L.
Peretz was born in Zamosc, as was the political and German
social-democratic activist, Rosa Luxemburg.
In 1822, approximately 2,500 Jews lived in Zamosc (55% of the total
population); by 1890, this figure had grown to 5,700 (approximately
62%). They were primarily engaged in trade and supplying the military
barracks in Zamosc. Jews owned almost all of the town's shops.
During the interwar period, though the town fell to the rank of a
provincial center, there were nevertheless still several Jewish
publications, and political and social organizations continued to be
active. In 1939, there were approximately 12,000 Jews living in Zamosc
(60% of the town's population).
When the Second World War began, many of them
escaped to the Soviet zone of occupation. In October 1939, the Nazis
created a Judenrat; in the spring of 1941, they concentrated the Jewish
population in a designated part of the town. In April 1942, they created
a ghetto in that area, in which Jews from the surrounding localities
were crowded, as well as those who had been deported from areas annexed
to the Reich, and from Germany and the Czech lands--9,000 people in all.
In the spring and autumn of 1943, most of them were deported to the
death camp in Belzec.
Some of Zamosc's former Jewish quarter still survives today,
including its Renaissance synagogue built in 1620 (which currently
houses a library). Next to it is the kahal, dating back to the
seventeenth century, where the school used to be located as well; it is
currently used as a hotel. The building of the ritual baths (mikvah) has
also survived, as well as a nineteenth-century synagogue and several
seventeenth century buildings constructed by Jewish merchants.