ZGIERZ (Rus. Zgerzh), city in Lodz province, central Poland. Jews first settled there in the mid-18th century. There were nine Jews living in the city according to a census of 1765, and 12 in 1793. Their main sources of livelihood were the leasing of inns and the sale of alcoholic liquor. Their number had grown to 27 (5% of the total population) in 1808. The situation of the small Jewish settlement deteriorated following the restrictions imposed on the industrial cities by the government of Congress Poland. In 1824, by order of the Warsaw authorities, the Jews of Zgierz, with few exceptions, were compelled to move to a separate small quarter. There they numbered at first 30 families, increasing in the following 25 years to 400 families, although only 24 one-story houses were built in the quarter during that time. In 1851–55 a few streets were added to the Jewish quarter, and in 1862 the restrictions on residence were abolished completely. Jews were also discriminated against in an agreement signed on March 30, 1821, between the Polish administration and German immigrants, in which (paras. 38 and 39) Jews were prohibited from acquiring real estate in the new quarters and from manufacturing or selling alcoholic beverages in the whole city. This became the prototype for similar agreements with other towns.

Despite these restrictions the Jewish population grew, numbering 356 in 1827 (8% of the total) and 1,637 (20%) in 1857. According to data of 1848, 92 Jews engaged in crafts (46 tailors, 10 hatmakers, 11 in the foodstuff branch), and 43 in trading, while 46 were hired workers. In this period cotton and wool mills were founded by Jewish industrialists. An organized community functioned from 1824. A wooden synagogue was built in the 1840s, a mikveh and poorhouse were erected in the 1850s, and a large stone synagogue in 1860, followed by a large bet midrash in the 1880s. The first rabbi of the community, Shalom Ẓevi ha-Kohen (officiated 1827–77), founded a yeshivah. His son, Solomon Judah, author of Neveh Shalom, was rabbi from 1898 to 1940.

The first Jewish school with Russian as the language of instruction was founded in Zgierz in 1885. Toward the end of the 19th century several modern ḥadarim of the *Haskalah movement were organized, one by Jacob Benjamin Katzenelson, father of the poet Itzhak *Katzenelson. The Hebrew poet David *Frischmann was born in Zgierz. In 1912 the Yagdil Torah organization was founded, which supported many religious educational institutions. There were cultural associations for literature, art, drama and sport, and in 1911 a branch of *Ẓe'irei Zion was founded, which was active in the cultural sphere, stimulating interest particularly in the Hebrew language and press.

During World War I the Zgierz community instituted a special tax to provide for Jews in Zgierz suffering from hunger or disease. Conditions for Jewish workers in Zgierz were particularly poor, and the community administration sent an appeal (Sept. 28, 1920) to local Jewish industrialists to employ Jewish workers. Polish workers used antisemitic arguments to oppose Jewish industrialists who favored the employment of Jewish workers. The Jewish population numbered 3,543 in 1897, 3,828 in 1921, and 4,547 in 1931.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

In 1939 there were 4,800 Jews in Zgierz (about 20% of the total population). Immediately after the German occupation persecution of the Jewish population began. On Dec. 27, 1939, about half the total Jewish population – some 2,500 persons – were expelled to the town of Glowno. The rest either managed to escape or were deported across the border to central Poland. A few Jewish tailors and shoemakers, who worked for the Germans, were allowed to remain in the city. In January 1942 they were sent to *Lodz ghetto.

[Danuta Dombrowska]


Lodz, WAP, Anterioria Piotrkowskiego Rządu Gubernskiego, no. 2581; Dyr. Sz. no. 1710–18 (= CAHJP, ḤM 3450, 5686, 5708); B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 28; R. Mahler, Yidn in Amolikn Poyln in Likht fun Tsifern (1958), index; E. Sonnenberg, Zgierz ze stanowiska sanitarnego (1869); B. Wachlik, Zgierz, szkic historyczny (1933); J. Goldberg, "Zgierz" (Ms. at Yad Vashem, for inclusion in PK Polin); Davar (Jan. 14, 1940), 3; D. Dombrowska (ed.), Kronika getta łódzkiego, vols. 1–2 (1965–66), passim; idem, in: BŻIH, no. 13–14 (1955).

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