BEDZIN (Yid. Bendin), town in the Zaglembie Dabrowskie area, Kielce district, Poland. A Jewish settlement existed in Bedzin from the beginning of the 13th century with a privilege from Casimir the Great and his successors to work as merchants The development of Bedzin was interrupted by the Swedish invasion of the mid-17th cent. In 1765 the Jewish population numbered 446; in 1856, 2,440 (58.6% of the total); in 1897, 10,839 (45.6%); in 1909, 22,674 (48.7%); in 1921, 17,298 (62.1%); and in 1931, 21,625 (45.4%). A large number of Jewish workers were employed in Bedzin's developing industries at the beginning of the 20th century, and the town became the center of Jewish and Polish socialist activity and Jewish workers parties like the Bund and Po'alei Zion during the 1905 Russian revolution. Zionist activities were begun in Bedzin by Ḥovevei Zion in the 1880s and expanded in interbellum Poland to comprise various Zionist youth organizations. After World War I Jews took a considerable part in iron-ore mining, metallurgy, zinc and tin processing, and the production of cables, screws, nails, and iron and copper wire. Jewish-owned undertakings included chemical works and factories for paints, candles, and bakelite products, in particular buttons for the garment industry, which expanded in the area during 1924–31. Most Jews earned their livelihoods as merchants and craftsmen.
Jewish schools and a gymnasium (secondary school) were supported by the community with the help of donations from local Jewish industrialists. The Jewish community was very active organizing social and cultural institutions. The first pioneers of the Third Aliyah came from Bedzin. Dr. S. Weinzier was elected as member of Parliament (Sejm). The chain of credit cooperatives and free loan societies established in Bedzin through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee had a membership of nearly 1,000.
[Nathan Michael Gelber /
Shlomo Netzer (2nd ed.)]
The German army entered the town on Sept. 5, 1939, and five days later they burned the Great Synagogue in the Old City. About 50 houses surrounding the synagogue, which were inhabited exclusively by Jews, went up in flames and 60 Jews were burned to death. During 1940–41 the situation in Bedzin was considered somewhat better than in most other places in occupied Poland (Bedzin and its neighbor
were for a long time the only large cities in Poland where no ghetto was established). For this reason thousands of Jews from central Poland sought refuge there. Several thousand Jews from the district were expelled and forced to reside in Bedzin, among them all the Jews from Oswiecim (German name – Auschwitz), who arrived in April–May 1941, prior to the construction of the Auschwitz camp. About 6,500 Jews in the town were sent to forced labor camps and others were put to work locally making clothing and boots for the German army. In May and June 1942 the first deportations took place in which 2,400 "nonproductive" Jews were sent to their death in Auschwitz. On Aug. 15, 1942, about 8,000–10,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz, while others were shot on the spot for disobeying German orders. In spring 1943 a ghetto was established in the suburb of Kamionka. On June 22, 1943, 4,000 Jews were deported and on August 1, 1943, the final liquidation of the ghetto began. In all, about 30,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz from Bedzin. Only a limited number of Jews survived the concentration camps by hiding. The Jewish underground resistance in Bedzin became active at the beginning of 1940. They
circulated illegal papers and made contact with the Warsaw Ghetto underground. After the establishment of the ghetto, the underground concentrated mainly on preparations for armed resistance. A unified fighting organization came into being with strong ties with the Jewish Fighting Organization of the Warsaw Ghetto. On Aug. 3, 1943, during the last deportation, some armed resistance broke out. Among the fighters who fell in battle was the leading Jewish partisan Frumka Plot-nicka. Deportees from Bedzin played a major role in the underground and uprising in the Auschwitz death camp (among them – Jeshajahu Ehrlich, Moshe Wygnanski, Ala Gertner, and Rosa Sapirstein). Although some Jewish survivors settled in Bedzin after the war (in 1946 the Jewish population numbered 150 people), all of them left after some time.
Yidishe Ekonomik (1938), 488–90; A.S. Stein (ed.), Pinkas Bendin (Heb. and Yid., 1959). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Y.Rapaport (ed.), Pinkas Zaglembie (1972); D. Liver, Ir ha-Meitim (1946); Hancia u-Frumka (1945); PK.
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