GNIEZNO (Ger. Gnesen), city in Poland; first capital of Poland and center of the Catholic Church in that country until the beginning of the 14th century. Jews are mentioned there in 1267. Various charters of privilege granted to individual Jews or the community giving them rights of residence, and permission to organize defense and engage in commerce (1497, 1499, 1519, 1567, 1571, 1637, 1661) were destroyed in fires that periodically devastated the town. From the 13th to the middle of the 17th centuries, Gniezno Jewry remained one of the smaller communities in the kingdom, numbering 100 people in 30 houses at the end of the period. A representative from Gniezno participated in the provincial (galil) council of the communities of Great Poland in 1519. Several such councils were convened at Gniezno (in 1580, 1632, 1635, 1640, 1642). Local and visiting merchants and their agents dealt in wool and rags and collected tolls at the biannual fairs, and even attempted to carry on business outside the Jewish quarter (1643). The synagogue, built in 1582, was modeled after the one in Poznan. Eliezer *Ashkenazi was among the rabbis of Gniezno. The events surrounding the Swedish War (1655–59), as well as attacks led by the Jesuits and by the troops of Stephan *Czarniecki, ended with the destruction of the community. In 1661 it reorganized outside the city walls. A new synagogue was built in 1680. In the first half of the 18th century the community suffered during the Northern War, and there was an outbreak of fire as well as cases of *blood libel (1722, 1738). There were 60 Jews living in Gniezno in 1744. The community increased from the second half of the 18th century, particularly after Gniezno came under Prussian rule with the second partition of Poland in 1793, growing from 251 in the beginning of the period to 1,783 in the middle of the 19th century. It had cultural and welfare institutions, craftsmen's associations, a school, and a synagogue. The talmudic scholar Moses Samuel *Zuckermandel officiated as rabbi in Gniezno from 1864 to 1869. Subsequently many Jews emigrated to the German states and from the second half of the 19th century to America, especially after Gniezno was incorporated within independent Poland in 1919. The community numbered 750 in 1913 and approximately 150 in the 1930s.
Before World War II nearly 150 Jews lived in Gniezno. During the Nazi occupation, the town belonged to Warthegau. During the first four months of the occupation, the town was emptied of all its Jewish inhabitants. A certain number escaped before and after the Germans entered, but the majority were deported on orders given on Nov. 12, 1939, by Wilhelm Koppe, the Higher SS and Police Leader of Warthegau. The orders called for the deportation of the entire Jewish population of Gniezno by the end of February 1940 to the territory of the General-gouvernement. On Dec. 13, 1939, 65 Jews from Gniezno, probably the last of the community, arrived in Piotrkow Trybunalski in the Radom district. After the removal of the Jews from Gniezno, the Germans blew up the synagogue and razed the old Jewish cemetery, using it as the site of a warehouse. No Jews resettled in the town after World War II.
Halpern, Pinkas, index; idem, Yehudim ve-Yahadut be-Mizrah Eiropah (1968), index: B.D. Weinryb, Te'udot le-Toledot ha-Kehillot ha-Yehudiyyot be-Polin (1950), index (= PAAJR, 19 (1950), Hebrew and English text); D. Avron, Pinkas ha-Kesherim shel Kehillat Pozna (1967), index; A.B. Posner, Le-Korot Kehillat Gnesen (1958); A. Heppner and J. Herzberg, Aus der Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden und der juedischen Gemeinden in den Posener Laendern (1909), 405–13; D. Dąbrowska, in: BŻIH, 13–14 (1955), passim (on Holocaust). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E.B. Posner, Le-Korot Kehillat Gnesin (1958).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.