WLOCLAWEK (Rus. Votslavsk), city in central Poland. Jews began to settle in Wloclawek at the beginning of the 19th century. The Jewish population numbered 208 in 1803, 4,248 in 1897, 6,831 (21% of the total population) in 1909, and 10,209 (18.3%) in 1931. In the interwar period Zionist and other national groups were active in the community. In the census of 1931, 96% of the Jews declared their mother tongue to be Yiddish or Hebrew. Among the outstanding personalities of Wloclawek were R. Judah Leib *Kowalsky, a leader of the Mizrachi movement in Poland, and Abraham Leib Fuks, a physician and a Zionist leader. There was a Jewish gymnasium in the city and two weeklies in Yiddish – one Zionist, and the other Zionist-Revisionist.
When World War II broke out, the Jewish community of Wloclawek, with approximately 13,500 persons out of a general population of 60,000, increased in size as refugees came in from neighboring communities. The German army occupied Wloclawek (renamed Leslau) on Sept. 14, 1939, and incorporated it in the Warthegau district (see *Poland) of Germany. Liquidation of the Jewish community began almost immediately, with the active help of the local Germans (Volksdeutsche) and the support of the Polish population. All the synagogues were destroyed by fire. Hundreds of Jews were taken hostage and ransoms for them were extorted. In December 1939 deportations to eastern Poland began. Many Jews fled to nearby towns and to *Warsaw, while 3,000 remaining Jews who were segregated into a ghetto (October 1940) suffered from the food shortage and disease. The *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee helped many destitute families, and a soup kitchen was opened. Until the liquidation of the ghetto on April 27, 1942, the Jewish cemetery served as a clandestine meeting place for instructing Jewish children, and even for theatrical performances and a makeshift library for exchanging books. At the end of April 1942 the inmates of the ghetto were all sent to *Chelmno extermination camp, and the ghetto was burned down by the Nazis.
When the war was over, the surviving remnants of the Wloclawek Jewish community gradually returned to their home town in search of relatives and friends. In 1946, some Jews who returned from the Soviet Union resettled in Wloclawek. The JDC helped to organize cooperatives of Jewish tailors and dressmakers, and Jewish cultural life was renewed. In the first few years after the war the military commander of Wloclawek was a Jew, Michael Weinstein. In 1946 he successfully averted a pogrom on the Jewish quarter by incited peasants. In the course of the following years most of the Jews of Wloclawek left for Israel, the last ones settling there after the Six-Day War (1967).
Vloẓlavek ve-ha-Sevivah, Sefer Zikkaron (1967, Heb. and partly Yid.); Y. Trunk, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 2 (1949), 64–166; Yoyvel-Bukh fun Branch 611 Arbeter Ring (1951).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.