OPOCZNO


OPOCZNO, town in central Poland. Opoczno was the birthplace of Esterka, according to legend the mistress of Casimir the Great (1333–70). In 1588 the Polish sovereign authorized the town to expel the Jews living there, but a Jewish community had resettled in the environs by 1646. The settlement was not permanent: a judgment of the supreme tribunal in 1714 again prohibited Jews from living in the town. According to the census of 1765, however, there were 1,349 Jews in Opoczno and the vicinity (excluding infants under one). They owned 12 plots of land outside the town and 41 houses within it. A number of crafts were exclusively pursued by Jews. Judah Leib, son of Eliezer b. Solomon *Lipschutz, author of responsa Dammesek Eliezer, officiated as rabbi of Opoczno at the end of the 18th century. The community numbered 1,469 in 1856, 2,425 in 1897, and 4,025 in 1909 (compared with 2,387 Christians). The 1921 census shows a marked decrease to 3,135 Jews (46.9% of the total population).

[Nathan Michael Gelber]

Holocaust Period

In 1939 there were about 3,000 Jews in Opoczno. The German army entered the town on Sept. 6, 1939. In November 1940 a ghetto was established and the town's Jewish population was crowded into 115 small houses. In June 1942 about 1,200 Jews from nearby villages were deported to Opoczno Ghetto which grew to over 4,200. In July 1942 about 400 men were deported to the Hasag slave labor camp in Skarzysko-Kamienna and on Oct. 27, 1942 the ghetto was liquidated and all its inmates deported to *Treblinka death camp. Only 120 men were left by Jan. 3, 1943, and they were then exterminated. At the time of the mass deportation in October 1942, scores of Jews fled to the forests and organized partisan units there. The best-known unit, "Lions," under the command of Julian Ajzenman-Kaniewski, conducted a number of successful guerilla actions against Nazi forces and the Opoczno-Konskie railway line. After the war, the Jewish community of Opoczno was not reconstituted.

[Stefan Krakowski]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

BZIH, no. 15–16 (1955), 82, and no. 65–66 (1968), 55–57.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.