Nowy Sącz

Name in English: 
Novy Sonch
Name in Ukrainian: 
Novyj Sanc
Name in Polish: 
Nowy Sącz
Name in German: 
Neu Sandez
Name in Hebrew: 
צאנז [נובי סונץ']
Name in Yiddish: 
צאנז (Tsanz)
Names in other languages: 
Újszandec (Hungarian)
Historical-cultural region: 
Western Galicia
Administrative District : 
Lesser Poland Voivodeship
Population Data: 
Year               Population Data Jewish Population
1785 ? 986
1880 3523 1730
1890 4054 2009
1900 4232 2092
1910 4758 2171
1921 3583 1454
1931 ? 1700


Nowy Sącz, or as it is called by Jews Tsanz, lies on the eastern bank of the Dunajec River, near the point at which it meets the Poprad River. Nowy Sącz, is located about 70 kilometers east of Krakow, and about 47 kilometers south of Tarnów. The city is first mentioned in 1298, under the name Kamienic, when future king (then still the Duke of Krakow) Władysław I Łokietek granted it city rights, and is mentioned again in 1311 under the name of Nowy Sącz. From its beginnings until the 16th century, the city was comprised primarily of German settlers who engaged in trade and from a few Polish artisans. The conquests of Władysław I Łokietek in Czechia turned Zanz into an important city. Following this the king granted the city various trade rights, including, among others, the requirement that merchants from Krakow who imported different products from Hungary pass through, stay in and even purchase some of their merchandise in Nowy Sącz. These rights clearly made it difficult for the merchants of Krakow and Sandomierz to compete with market prices of Nowy Sącz, and following a compromise reached by the voivode of Krakow and Sandomierz in 1319, it was agreed that merchants from Krakow travelling to Hungary would be required to pass through Nowy Sącz and those from Nowy Sącz importing merchandise from the north and the east would be required to pass through Krakow.
In 1365, Nowy Sącz received Magdeburg city rights, and was one of only six cities in Lesser Poland that received this privilege. Throughout the years the citizens of Nowy Sącz received various privileges from Polish kings, including tax exemptions, the right to collect taxes on the Dunajec River bridges, exclusive import agreements with neighboring countries and the requirement that merchants from other cities pass through Nowy Sącz on their trade routes. The city did, however, lose somewhat of its status in the 17th century, following a series of fires. In addition, the wars of the 17th century against Khmelnytsky’s Cossaks, the Hungarians and the Swedes led to the depletion of the city. In December 1655, Nowy Sącz was captured by the Swedes, who invaded large parts of east Poland. The city was captured by 3000 Swedish soldiers, who burned the palaces and sacked the city. During the 1660s, a number of plagues broke out, causing many deaths. In 1769 another fire broke out, wiping out a significant portion of the city and leading to severe financial difficulties. Following the Austrian conquest at the beginning of the 19th century, a gymnasium was founded in Nowy Sącz, and in the second half of that same century a train track was laid down in the city, as part of the route connecting Tarnow to Slovakia. Workshops for the care of engines and train cars were built in the city, alongside factories for the production of agricultural tools. Toward the end of the 19th century, a number of fires broke out, causing destruction to the city, with the largest breaking out in 1894, and a cholera epidemic also took a toll on the city’s inhabitants. During the First World War the city was captured by the Russians, and many of the city’s inhabitants fled to the depths of the Austrian Empire to escape the Russian soldiers. The Russians left great destruction behind them.

The Jews of Nowy Sącz
The first, hazy testimonies to the existence of Jews in Nowy Sącz are from the end of the 15th century, but the first signature we have is of a Jew by the name of Abraham of Tsanz, from the year 1469. In 1503, we find a Jewish eye doctor by the same name. Jews are explicitly forbidden entry to the city in the bill of rights granted by King Zygmunt II August in the 16th century, and indeed, at the end of that century there appear to have been no Jews in the city. Already at the beginning of the 17th century, however, we know of two Jews in Tsanz: Gedalia and Wolff, who served as the suppliers of merchandise to Stanislaw Lubomirski, the city’s ruler, and throughout the century a Jewish community began developing at the foot of the royal citadel outside Nowy Sącz, in a pattern familiar from other cities in Poland where Jews were forbidden entry. The city’s starosta employed the Jews in the leasing of flour mills and other trades, and we have a number of testimonies to this. One must assume that the Jews living around the royal citadel were injured by the Swedes during the Swedish invasion of 1655, when the citadel was ransacked and burned, but we may also assume that they were injured by the Polish riffraff. We know explicitly of a Jew by the name of Finkel, who was the leaser of the Lubormisky starosta, who was accused of aiding the Swedes. In 1657 Polish merchants from Tsanz turned to John II Casimir, complaining of the starosta, who enabled the Jews to work in various leasing endeavors and granted the Jews many privileges, including the building of a beer brewery. We can therefore assume that already in the middle of the 17th century there was a Jewish community alongside the royal citadel, including a small synagogue and a rabbi or teacher, but we have no direct testimony to this.
We may also assume that the prohibition on Jews entering the city was not enforced at the beginning of the 17th century, or at least was very loosely enforced. We know, for instance, of a Jew by the name of Daniel Moravietz, from the nearby village of Wisnicz, who received an order of a weaver’s loom and various other services. On January 30, 1649, King John Casimir published an edict allowing the confiscation of the merchandise of Jews who came to the city to trade during market days, and gave clear directions to the city guards to bar the entry of suspicious passersby and of Jews. But even in this case, Jews were not forbidden to act as the emissaries of Christian merchants, and many additional loopholes for the law were found. In 1652, about three years after the city was granted privilege, we know that Jewish merchants participated in a fair in Tzanz, after managing to smuggle their merchandise in. Thus also in 1657, we know of Jacob son of Wolff, who stored his merchandise in the home of a Pole.
A shift in the attitude of the city masters toward Jews took place in the second half of the 17th century. The city, as mentioned above, suffered from recurring invasions and plagues, which brought about a deterioration in the financial situation and of the city, and it was this that led the city rulers to change their attitude toward the Jews beginning in the final quarter of the 17th century. In 1670, the privilege forbidding Jews from settling in Nowy Sącz was renewed, but already in 1673 Jews were granted a privilege allowing them to reside in the city, to build houses and to trade in the city. The Jewish settlement in the city developed rapidly, and in 1682 the Jews already comprised about ten percent of the general population. In 1704 this number rose to 15 percent, and in 1709 Jews paid about 20 percent of the city’s taxes. The percentage of real estate under Jewish ownership grew likewise, from 23 homes under Jewish ownership in 1687 to 36 in April 1711, and in 1764, 60 Jewish-owned houses were reported. In 1699, permission was granted to the Jews to build a stone synagogue within the city walls, and in 1706 the Jews received permission to build a Jewish cemetery. The beginning of the 18th century coincided with the strengthening of the Jewish community, but alongside this, this was a period of great difficulties for the entire region, including Tsanz. During the years 1704-1712 the region of Nowy Sącz was the focus of a civil war, in 1709 Russian forces passed through the city, and in 1712 a terrible fire broke out in the city. These events took their toll on the Jews of the city as well, whose numbers dwindled. However, in the census of 1764, 648 tax-paying Jews were listed in the city, and an additional 800 people were settled in the surrounding area.
The Jews of Nowy Sącz were primarily merchants. As mentioned above, the city was on an axis linking the city to trade with the southern countries of Hungary and Bessarabia – and Jews engaged in trade both with these southern countries and with the ports of the north – Gdansk and Torun. Among the fields of trade were trade in wine, spirits, tabacco, honey, copper, perfumes, furs, pelts and horses. The Jews who continued leasing flour mills and who produced spirits were usually the leading stratum of the community, and were the four parnasim of the community. They were also the ones who had ties to the rulers of the city and the king. Another part of the community engaged in various trades – butchers, furriers, milliners, goldsmiths, etc. In addition to these, some Jews were also moneylenders. The leadership of the community was composed of four parnasim, a rabbi, a scribe and a shamash. In 1746 we also find collectors of charity funds. We find opposition to the parnasim and community rulers twice, in 1726 and in 1746, when several simple Jews appealed decisions made by the community to the authorities.
The success of the Jews in the city upset some other citizens, including those with various interests. For instance, the latter raised objections in the beginning to the granting of permission to sell animals to Jewish slaughterers, a prohibition appearing in the document from 1676 and officially lifted a year later. Thus also with regards to other artisans, who were required to give a tax of candles, animal fat or wax to the church on various occasions throughout the year. In addition, the amount of tax the community was required to pay the city was a source of continual tension between the community and the city owners, and different trials on this topic took place beginning in the 1680s and to the end of the 18th century. A number of violent events toward Jews also took place in the history of the city. In 1751 one of the parnasim, the leaser Jacob ben Abush, was accused of murdering a Christian student in order to use his blood for magical purposes and for the making of matzos. Despite the fact that he did not confess to the murder, Jacob ben Abush was executed. In 1761, Joseph Jasky ben Mordechai Babower and his family were executed in similar circumstances, as part of a trend that spread throughout Poland during this period. Additionally, various attacks were perpetrated and edicts were issued against the Jews of Tsanz in 1763, under the influence of the bishop of Krakow.
With the Austrian conquest, various decrees were issued against the Jews of Nowy Sącz, as part of the policies of the Austro-Hungarian rulers in occupied Galicia. The community, which was already suffering terrible financial hardship following the fire of 1769, was required to pay heavy taxes, and the jurisdiction of the community was limited by the removal of the community of Grybów from its realm, following a protracted battle that lasted until 1789. An appeal by the community to the Lwow authorities finally led to the freezing of the interest of the community debts from 1774 for six years. The reconstruction of the synagogue, which was burnt in the fire of 1769, also took a long time and involved a complex legal and political battle, but the community eventually built a magnificent stone structure, which withstood the great fires that broke out in the city in following years. Additional decrees issued against the Nowy Sącz community, similarly to other cities in Galicia, included: The requirement that a certain number of family settle in a new agricultural settlement in 1784 – a project that was unsuccessful in almost all of Galicia, for different reasons; the obligation to build a Herz Homberg school in 1788 – another project that was ultimately cancelled at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1805, a number of decrees were made regarding the Jews of Nowy Sącz, limiting their trade days during Christian holidays and curtailing their agricultural trade and their real estate purchase opportunities within the city. In October 1807, a law was put into effect forbidding Jews from employing Christian servants in inns and taverns, with the exception of Jewish holidays, and in 1808 Jews were forbidden to work in the alcohol distilleries in the city. Perhaps the most severe limitation placed on the Jews of Nowy Sącz was the cancellation of the legal status the community institutions had enjoyed in 1785, and its curtailment to representation only in religious matters. The leasers of the kosher meat tax and the candle tax, who were often close to the authorities, were chosen as the community’s representatives.
Beyond these injuries to the community’s institutions, the Jews of Nowy Sącz also suffered severely in the fields of economy and trade. Severe restrictions were placed on the Jews of Galicia in general, regarding the production of alcoholic beverages, and these hurt the trade of Nowy Sącz’s Jews as well. Beyond this, the northern trade of the city – to Danzig and Torun – were completely abandoned, and restrictions were placed on the Jews in the realm of agricultural trade. Some merchants, however, discovered new trade potential with the expansion to Hungary, and the changes in the Jews’ status following the events of 1848 brought about a certain alleviation of the decrees against the Jews, and they were now permitted to purchase real estate in the Christian quarters of the city as well. However, with the decline of Jewish-Polish patriotism and fraternity, Jews were again forbidden to buy real estate in the Christian quarters, a decree that was only lifted in the 1860s.
Despite all this, already in the 1820s it appears that about half of the trade in the city was controlled by Jews. We have little knowledge of the Jewish community of Nowy Sącz until the Polish Revolution of 1863, but with the cancellation of the decrees in the 1860s we know that about 30% of the city’s real estate was Jewishly owned (96 out of 288 houses), almost all of the ale-houses (31 out of 38) and almost all merchants (180 out of 192 merchants) were Jewish. Out of 146 artisans in the city, 53 were Jews, who were employed in a variety of crafts. There was also a Jewish doctor in the city (one of only three doctors) and a Jewish lawyer (one of five lawyers in the city). Additionally, there were several small workshops that were Jewishly owned – for cloth-weaving and for the production of shoe polish. As mentioned above, a large fire in 1894 destroyed much of the city, and the Jewish community, in particular, suffered financial loss as a result. The difficult situation in the city also turned into a platform for incitement against the Jews and in June 1898 a blood libel was spread about the Jews, claiming that they had killed a Christian child in the village of Tuchów. The blood libel brought dozens of polish farmers to Nowy Sącz, where they began rioting and attacking Jewish businesses, but the Austrian army managed to quiet the riots and arrested about 25 rioters. A week later around 500 farmers arrived in the city, armed with axes and metal bars. The Austrian army prevented a pogrom this time as well, and the entire area was placed under curfew for a while. Antisemitic activity continued at the beginning of the twentieth century as well. In 1909 thugs attacked the reading hall and the cultural hall of ‘Po’alei Zion’, and only the reaction of the organization’s youth prevented the destruction of the space. Thus also at the beginning of 1914, rioters swarmed a group of Jews who had congregated in order to hear a speech by Nahum Sokolov.
Amongst the famous figures from Nowy Sącz was Rabbi Haim Tzanzer, who was one of the prominent figures in the famous kloiz of Brody, one of the most influential institutions in eastern Europe during the 18th century. During the 19th century we know very little of the rabbis who served the Zanz community. In 1828, however, R. Haim Halberstam was appointed the rabbi of Nowy Sącz. R. Halberstam, in time, became one of the central halakhic adjudicators of all eastern Europe, and Hungary in particular, and the leader of a large group of Hassidim, which was the originator of the Tzanz Hassidic dynasty. The city held additional Hassidic courts as well, such as those of the Hassidim of nearby Grybów, Sieniawa and Satmar. R. Haim was conservative in his outlook, and was part of a trend of Hassidic rebbes who incorporated the classic model of the traditional rabbinate in their leadership. He was also a fierce warrior against modernism, and there were those who called him ‘a zealot, son of zealots’. Several books of R. Haim’s letters were printed under the name ‘Divrei Haim’ (‘The Words of Haim’). They include halakhic responsa, innovative interpretations of the Babylonian Talmud and of halakha, and homilies. In 1869, one of R. Israel of Ruzhyn’s son, R. Dov Ber Friedman, who served as a Hassidic rebbe in Bukovina, decided to leave the path of hassidism, publicly chose to join the Enlightenment Movement and left religion. Beyond the shock to his community, this move led to a sharp attack by R. Haim Halberstam on the ostentatiousness of the rebbes of the Ruzhyn dynasty, an attack that was termed ‘one of the saddest chapters in the history of Galicia’s Jews’ by historians. R. Haim died in 1876, and his son, R. Aharon, took his place. Many of R. Haim’s Hassidim, however, began travelling to visit the court of his other son, R. Yehezkel Shraga, who served as the rabbi of Sieniawa.
The community of Nowy Sącz, as we saw above, was very Hassidic, and therefore Zionist activity began rather late in the city, compared to the rest of Galicia. At the beginning of the 20th century a chapter of the ‘Safa Berurah’ secondary Hebrew school, which was active in all of Galicia, was founded in the city. In 1906 there were already 80 students in the school, and six years later there were about 200. In 1903 a library and a reading hall by the name of ‘Ezra’ were constructed in the city. The students of the gymnasium started classes named ‘Benei Zion’ and ‘Benot Zion’ for male and female students, respectively. In 1905 a chapter of ‘Po’alei Zion’ was begun in the city, and in 1907 a chapter of the latter’s youth movement as well. In 1906 the ‘Hatikva’ merchants’ association was formed in the city, and in 1913 a women’s club named ‘Yehudiya’ was instituted. A branch of ‘the Jewish Socialist Party’ was begun in the city in 1910, and it made significant strides for the different artisans of the city and brought about cooperation with the traditional artisan’s union ‘Yad ha-Haruzim’ in the city. The party was also active in the realm of culture, and a drama club was founded through it. 

The First World War
At the beginning of the First World War, as mentioned above, the city was captured by the Russians, and many of the city’s inhabitants, particularly the Jews, fled to other parts of the Austrian Empire. When the city was recaptured by the Austrians in 1915, its inhabitants were close to starvation, and a public soup kitchen and charity fund were started in the city, the latter distributing money for the sustainment of hundreds of families. In 1917 a second, specific, soup kitchen was founded for children from poor families, and about 200 children received three meals a day there. With the end of the War, a committee for the treatment of orphans was begun, and an orphanage was built, which in 1925 housed 130 orphans, who also learned a profession during their time at the orphanage. The orphanage continued to operate during the 1930s. political and Zionist activity in the city was also reanimated, and amongst the well-known activists from Tsanz were the historians Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum (the founder of the ‘Oneg Shabbat’ archive in the Warsaw ghetto), Dr. Refael Mahler and Dr. Aharon (Arthur) Eisenbach. The Jews began taking a more active part (although it still did not accurately reflect their numerical presence) in municipal political activity in the elections of 1934, when eight of 30 representatives chosen were Jewish ones, and in 1939 seven of 32 chosen representatives were Jewish. Alongside political activity, the circles of cultural activity also widened. In 1925 a musical society by the name of ‘Shir’ was formed, and in 1930 a drama club named for An-sky was instituted. Similarly, a ‘Beit Am’ clubhouse, a chapter of the ‘Maccabi’ sport association and a general library named after Sirkin were built in the city.
Between the two World Wars the economic condition of Jews in Poland in general was difficult, due to the damages of the war, the yoke of the polish authorities and many manifestations of antisemitism, on the part of the authorities, different polish financial associations and religious polish figures. In Nowy Sącz the difficult financial situation led to many Jews leaving the city. Despite this, about 260 small workshops and artisans operated in the city (including workshops for the processing of pelts, for textile, wood workshops, smitheries, construction workshops, bakeries and candy workshops), in which mostly family members and a few paid workers were employed. The Jewish artisans were primarily unionized under the organization ‘Yad Haruzim’, which at this time battled the discrimination of the authorities and bans against Jews. Some of the Jewish artisans were members of a shared Jewish and Polish union, but in 1935 they were expelled from the union, which was thereafter called ‘the Christian Artisans Union’. Jewish merchants also unionized in 1931, under the name ‘the Organization of Trade Workers’. In order to aid the artisans, various credit funds were organized in Zanz and its surroundings, such as ‘the Jewish Trade Bank Cooperative’, ‘the Organized Credit Cooperative’ and ‘the Trade and Industry Union’.

Second World War
Even before the beginning of the Second World War, in 1938, Jewish refugees who were chased out of Nazi Germany arrived in Nowy Sącz and a special committee was put together in order to care for them. Before the War, young Jewish men were drafted to the Polish army, and the Jewish community took part in the fortification of the city. With the fall of the front line, some people, mainly men, began to flee to the Romanian border, where they remained under Soviet rule. Nazi Germans conquered the city on 06.09.1939, and immediately began seizing Jews for forced labor, stealing Jewish property and engaging in acts of shaming and abuse of Jews, particularly those in traditional garb. The Poles took part in these acts as well, along with the ‘Folks-Deutsche’. Moshe Rindler was appointed head of the Judenrat, followed by Jacob Marin. Marin was very active in attempting to alleviate the community’s suffering, but decided to quit his position in July 1940 due to internal disputes amongst the members of the Judenrat. Three months later he was sent with a group of 120 other Jews to Auschwitz, where he perished. Ensuing Judenrat heads also courageously withstood the Germans’ threats, and some paid with their lives. Alongside these, however, a Jewish police, comprised of shady characters, operated in the city in service of the Germans, and this body was violent and could not be controlled by the Judenrat. Already in November 1939, Jews from Lodz and Sieradz were brought to Nowy Sącz, and they continued to be brought to the city throughout 1940. In November-October 1940 Jews from the entire surrounding area were brought to Nowy Sącz and crowded conditions prevailed. Soup kitchens and orphanages were organized in the city in order to care for all the poor refugees, as well as a small hospital, but the winter of 1940-1941 was a very difficult one and many epidemics struck the city. In the spring and summer of 1941, additional Jews from Labowa and Chełmża were brought to the city and all the Jews were forced to move to the Jewish quarter, which was still open, and to another neighborhood, these forming the two ghettos of the city. Beginning in January 1941, a wave of ‘roundups’ began, as well as executions at different times and under different pretexts. In June 1942 it was announced that one ghetto would house those fit to work, and the other was designated for the elderly, the crippled, women and children. In July and August of that year, the ghetto space was curtailed, and the German army burst into the ghetto many times and killed dozens of men and women. In addition, during August, Jews from surrounding areas were banished to the Tsanz ghettos, and the sum total of Jews in both ghettos reached 20,000. On 23.08.1942, the Germans began sending the Jews in Tsanz to the Belzec extermination camp. Around 800 of the Jews, who were considered ‘essential’ to the Germans, remained in the city, and the rest of the city’s inhabitants were sent, over the course of three days, to Belzec. Most of the remaining Jews were sent to labor camps in the vicinity of the city, and some were employed in the city in packing up the Jewish possessions in preparation for their shipment to Germany. In the spring of 1943, there were only about 100 Jews in the city, and these were sent to labor camp. In July 1943 the city was declared ‘Judenrein’. With the end of the War, about 30 survivors and several Jews who had fled to the depths of the Soviet Union returned to the city, but already in 1946 the last Jews had left the city and Poland and moved to Palestine or to other countries.
(Roee Goldschmidt)
רפאל מאַהלער, 'צו דער געשיכטע פון יידן אין סאַנץ', ספר סאַנץ, רפאל מאַהלער (רעדאַקטאָר), תל אביב תש"ל, עמ' 231-21.
דוד אסף, 'פרשת בערניו מליאובה ומחלוקת צאנז—סדיגורה: ביבליוגרפיה מוערת', דברים חדשים ועתיקים: מיתוס, מיסטיקה ופולמוס [=מחקרי ירושלים במחשבת ישראל, כג], עורכת: רחל אליאור, עמ' 481-407. 
דוד אסף, הציץ ונפגע: אנטומיה של מחלוקת חסידית, תל אביב 2012.


See detailed information about  the community of Nowy Sącz on the site Massa le-Galicia (in Hebrew)