SIERADZ (Rus. Seradz), town in the province of Lodz, central Poland. Jews settled in the town around the middle of the 15th century and in 1446 there was a Jewish street. In the second half of the 16th century the struggle between the Jewish community and the townsmen was intensified as a result of the latter's complaint about competition from Jewish merchants. In 1569 King Sigismund II Augustus prohibited Jews from entering the town. They resettled in Sieradz during the 17th century, but their residence was forbidden once more in 1725. In 1765 there were only 17 Jews in Sieradz. Under Prussian rule (1793–1806) Jewish merchants and craftsmen again settled in Sieradz. The Jewish population of Sieradz rose from 177 (10% of the total population) in 1808 to 595 (19%) in 1827; 1,782 in 1857; 2,357 (35%) in 1897; and 2,835 (31%) in 1921. They earned their livelihood from trade in cereals, shopkeeping, tailoring, weaving, carpentry, and haulage. From 1829 to 1862 the authorities of Congress Poland restricted the Jews to a special quarter of the town where not more than one family could reside in a room and the houses were to be built of brick and covered by tiles. A number of Sieradz Jews joined the Polish rebels in 1863. After the retreat of the Russian army (1915), Jewish cultural institutions were established in Sieradz and the Zionists subsequently acquired considerable influence. Between the two world wars, various Jewish social and political organizations were active.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

In 1939, 5,000 (about 40%) of the inhabitants of Sieradz were Jewish. The town was occupied by German forces on the third day of the war (Sept. 3, 1939), and looting of Jewish stores immediately spread. A number of Jewish hostages were taken and some were sent to Germany. In retaliation for alleged cases of shooting in the direction of German soldiers, all Jewish males were assembled and beaten, and some were killed. The ghetto was established on March 1, 1940, but no fence erected around it. During 1940–41 (before and after the establishment of the ghetto) the Jewish population of Sieradz decreased to about 25% of its prewar figure, as a result of deportations and flights to other towns of the Warthegau or to the territory of the General Government. In 1941 there were also sporadic transports of able-bodied Jews to the work camps near Poznan. By the beginning of 1942 only about 1,200 Jews remained and these were ordered to appear at a roll call twice daily. During their absence from their homes the remains of their property were looted. At the end of August 1942 the remainder of the Jewish population was sent to *Chelmno death camp with the exception of a few selected for forced labor in the *Lodz ghetto.

[Danuta Dombrowska]


B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 10, 12, 27, 50, 71; M. Baliński and T. Lipiński, Starożytna Polska, 1 (1845), index; A. Eisenbach et al. (eds.), Żydzi a powstanie styczniowe, materiały i dokumenty (1963), index; I. Schiper, Studya nad stosunkami gospodarczymi Żydów w Polsce podczas średniowiecza (1911), index; idem, Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich (1937), index; R. Mahler, Yidn in Amolikn Poyln in Likht fun Tsifern (1958), index; D. Dabrowska, in: BŻIH, 13–14 (1955); T. Berenstein, ibid., 38–39 (1961).

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