General information: First Jewish presence: early 19th century; peak Jewish population: 1,200 in 1933
Summary: Jews first settled in Zabrze (renamed Hindenburg in 1915, in honor of the Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg; in present-day Zabrze, Poland) in 1825. In 1865, the Jewish community built a synagogue with a seating capacity of 300; later, in 1899, the building was enlarged to accommodate communal offices, classrooms and, in the basement, a mikveh. Local Jews also maintained a cemetery (consecrated in 1871) and, after 1869, an elementary school. The B’nai B’rith organization ran a kindergarten and a day care center in the town. Members of the early community were mainly cattle and grain traders, but Jews later branched out into retail, manufacturing and the professions. The Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith was active in the community, as were a Zionist movement, a sports club and several welfare agencies. Although anti-Semitic incidents were not uncommon in the 1920s, Hindenburg Jews were spared the worst excesses of the Nazi government until 1937, for the town was protected by the League of Nations’ convention on minority rights. The synagogue was broken into during this period, however, and many Hindenburg Jews emigrated from Germany. Courses in Hebrew language were set up, and the various Zionist and non-Zionist groups made a joint effort to counsel would-be immigrants to Palestine. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue was set on fire, Jewish-owned homes and business were attacked, and many Hindenburg Jews were arrested. In 1942, the 35 remaining Jews were deported to the death camps; Dr. Saul Kaatz, the congregation’s first rabbi—he had been appointed in 1895—was among this group.
Photo: Men in uniform standing in front of the synagogue in Hindenburg after it was burned. Workers are loading a truck with supposedly usable items from the synagogue. Courtesy of: Archiwum Panstwowe, Gliwice, Poland.
Author / Sources: Harold Slutzkin
Sources: EJL, LJG
Located in: silesia