BELCHATOW (Pol. Belchatów), small town 28 mi. S. of Lodz, central Poland, in the district of Piotrkow. Seven Jews are recorded as living in Belchatow in 1764. Jewish settlement increased after the formation of Congress *Poland. By 1897 there were 2,897 Jewish residents out of a total population of 3,859, mainly engaged in the flourishing textile industry which developed in the 19th century. In 1921 the Jewish population numbered 3,688 (59% of the total), and in 1939, 6,000, constituting one-third of the total population.
The German army took the town during the first week of the war, during the High Holidays. Many Jews dressed in tallit and kittel were humiliated in the streets and photographed by German soldiers. The Torah Scrolls and other liturgical objects were taken from the local synagogues and burned while the congregation was forced to dance around the pyre. Jewish property was looted, goods in Jewish warehouses were confiscated, and the Jews were evicted from their homes and sent on forced labor. There was no formal ghetto, but a few streets were earmarked as the Jewish district. Numerous refugees from the smaller towns and villages were crowded into this small area. Frequent German raids took place in which able-bodied men were kidnapped and deported.
The final liquidation of the Jewish community took place in August 1942 when close to 1,000 able-bodied Jews were sent to the *Lodz ghetto and 5,000 Jews were deported to the death camp in *Chelmno. No Jewish community was established in Belchatow after the war.
I. Trunk, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 2 no. 1–4 (1949), 64–166; D. Dabrowska, in: BŻIH, no. 13–14 (1955); idem (ed.), Kronika getta łodzkiego, 2 vols. (1965–66), passim; Belkhatov Yisker Bukh (Yid., 1951). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Piotrkow Trybunalski veha-Sevivah (1965), 113–15, 192, 202.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.