GORLICE, town in S.E. Poland. In the early period of Polish rule Gorlice belonged to the district of Nowy Sacz where all the towns had been granted the privilege of excluding Jews (de non tolerandis Judaeis), excepting Nowy Sacz itself, where a Jewish community existed. A few Jewish families were living in Gorlice in 1765 and 1784. Jews settled there in the 19th century, living in an area near the marketplace. By 1880 the Jewish population formed half of the total of 5,000, and by 1900 their number had grown to 3,297 (51.2%). They dealt mainly in wine and corn. The town suffered severely during World War I. In 1921 there were 2,300 Jews (41%) living in Gorlice.
At the outbreak of World War II the Jewish population numbered between 4,500 and 5,000. Most of them fled to the Soviet-occupied part of Poland before the Germans entered on Sept. 6, 1939. The Germans immediately took hostages among Jews and Poles and detained them for a long time in prison. On the eve of Rosh Ha-Shanah, the Germans ordered that all Jews between 18 and 35 years old should appear daily at the magistrate's office for work. On the eve of the Day of Atonement, the Germans destroyed the interior of the main synagogue and later converted it into a stable. Religious Jews were singled out for particular persecution: Jews caught praying in small minyanim were killed; the shoḥet, who continued to slaughter poultry in secret, was shot with his family.
During the German occupation, a Judenrat consisting of seven members was set up in Gorlice. Its first president, Henryk Arnold, a man of integrity, was harassed by the Gestapo and finally killed in the Judenrat office for disobedience to German orders. The Jewish police in Gorlice were honest and helpful in protecting the population. A Jewish labor office was established to supply the Germans regularly with manpower. After the outbreak of the German-Soviet war (1941) a ghetto was established. An influx of refugees from larger towns, such as Cracow, caused an acute housing shortage. Disease spread, but there was no Jewish doctor available until a physician arrived from Cracow some time later. The Judenrat established a primitive hospital. A Jewish elementary school functioned, possibly also in the ghetto, where Hebrew was taught clandestinely.
In the spring of 1942 about 70 members of Zionist organizations were executed in Gorlice and the neighboring town of Biecz. In June 1942 a large fine was levied on the community, and houses were searched in order to confiscate valuables. In the summer increased numbers of young men were sent to distant labor camps in
, Pustchow, and Frysztak. In early August, Jews from nearby Bobowa and Biecz were brought to Gorlice. On Aug. 12, 1942, another heavy fine, of 250,000 zlotys, was imposed for immediate payment. On the night of Aug. 13–14, 1942, the ghetto was surrounded by German and Ukrainian units. In the morning the Gestapo selected about 700 old and infirm people and others. They were taken to Garbic, where a mass grave was prepared. They were ordered to undress and were shot at the edge of the grave together with children. The majority of the remaining Jews were sent to the death camp at Belzec. Many Jews managed to escape during the Aktion to fields, woods, or villages in the vicinity: encountering no help, most of them returned and were executed on the spot or included in the transport.
After this, about 700 able-bodied Jews remained in Gorlice. In the period to mid-September two further "selections" were made and most of the remaining Jews were sent to Belzec; after Sept. 14, 1942, there remained only the factory workers who lived in the factory buildings, and on Jan. 6, 1943, they were sent to the labor camps of Muszyna and Rzeszow.
After the war approximately 30 Jewish families returned to Gorlice. They found that their property had been looted, and that tombstones from the cemetery had been taken to construct pavements. An attempt was made at rehabilitation, and goods sent by the Landsmannschaft in the United States were distributed by a committee. However, antisemitism among the local population caused them to leave shortly afterward.