Mielec Yidn (“Jews of Mielec”) is for all those interested in the history and life of the Jewish people who resided in, and in the environs of, what is now known as Mielec, Poland. There are many resources on the internet on this topic; we do not expect that this site will be the exclusive resource on this topic. But we hope that you find information here useful, insightful, or at least thought-provoking.
This site is managed by a group of volunteer genealogists who have ancestral ties to Jews who lived in Mielec from at least as early as 1850. Most of our families left Mielec prior to the Shoah (otherwise known as the Holocaust – the extermination of over 6 million Jews and other ethnic minorities by the German Nazi Army during World War II, 1939-1945). Except for a rare few who survived by hiding (often with the courageous assistance of righteous Poles), all those who remained were murdered.
If you are able, we encourage you to visit the town of Mielec someday. Although there are no Jews who currently live in the town, there are Polish residents who volunteer their time to aid foreign Jewish visitors over and over again. They too embrace our quest to learn more about Jewish life and history in this small town in “the old country.” If you are there, make sure you visit the Mielec Jadernówka Photography Museum (Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernówka”) as it has a superb exhibit and books for sale.
Jews lived in Mielec for almost 500 years, starting in the late 16th century with the arrival of “Israel the Jew” and his wife Bilha in 1573. The Jewish population grew to a peak of more than 5,000 where they were approximately half of the total population of the town. Jews in Mielec were very heterogeneous in composition, ranging from extremely wealthy to very poor, land barons to paupers, ultra-Orthodox to secular. Most of the shops and industry in town were run by Jews, including flour mills, soap factories, distilleries, and feather trade (goose down for pillows & bedding, and decorative ones from around the world for fashion).
Mielec’ Jewish community was led by three generations of rabbis now known as the Melitzer Rebbes. Part of the Ropschitz Rabbinic Dynasty, the first Melitzer Rebbe was R’Jacob Horowitz ZTVK”L (1784-1836), the son of R’Naftali Tzvi Horowitz of Kolbuszowa (Kolbasov) ZTVK”L. R’Jacob Horowitz was succeeded by his son R’Yehuda Horowitz ZTVK”L (1820-1879), the second Melitzer Rebbe, and then by his grandson R’Naftali Horowitz ZTVK”L (1845-1915), the third Melitzer Rebbe. The Melitzer Rabbinical dynasty survived the Shoah; the great-great-great grandson of R’Jacob Horowitz, R’Naftali Asher Yeshayah Moskowitz RBIH”K, is the current leader of the Melitzer Shul in Ashdod, Israel. There is an excellent book by R’Aaron Halberstam that chronicles the lives and accomplishments of the three generations of Mielec Rabbis.
After several pogroms in the early 20th century and with the assistance of programs such as the Baron Hirsch Foundation, Jews began to emigrate out from Mielec – mostly to the United States. The Jewish population in Mielec began to decline in the aftermath of WWI and eventually was declared one of the first ‘Judenfrei’ towns under German occupation in WWII after a forced-march eviction on March 9, 1942. We will never know the exact number of Jews from Mielec and its environs that were killed in the Shoah. One of the goals of this site is to be a memorial to these victims. The current count of those killed, died, or persecuted to death between September 1, 1939 and May 8, 1945 is 1054 (as of July 2020).
There are many famous Jews who can trace their lineage back to the town of Mielec including:
Arthur Miller (born Asher Miller), 1915-2005, American playwright. His father was Isidore Miller and was born in Radomyśl Wielki. Arthur Miller was most well-known for his plays such as “Death of a Salesman”, “All My Sons, and “The Crucible”. He was once married to the American actress Marilyn Monroe.
Herschel Bernardi, 1923-1986, American actor. His grandmother was Fruma Herz and was born in Mielec. Herschel Bernardi was most well-known for playing Tevye in the first Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, and for his roles as Police Lt. Jacoby in “Peter Gunn” and Arnie on television in the 1960s-1970s.
- To our families: to those who left Mielec prior to 1939, those that survived the Shoah in Poland, and most importantly, to those who were killed during the Shoah. May their memories be a blessing.
- To Wiktor Jaderny, Leon Wanatowicz, and Eugeniusz Szyfner – Polish residents of Mielec who risked their lives to help protect Jews during the Shoah. All three were honored with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by Polish President Andrzej Duda on March 17, 2016.
- To R’Naftali Asher Yeshayahu Moskowitz RBIH”K, the Melitzer Rebbe of Ashdod, and R’Aaron Halberstam RBIH”K, for continuing the Mielec Rabbinic traditions and for sharing their knowledge with me.
- To Stanisław Wanatowicz of Mielec. He has almost single-handedly preserved the history of the Jews of Mielec over a lifetime. Pan Stanisław is literally known as the “Mielec Rabbi” due to his incredible knowledge of Mielec Jews and Jewish life in Mielec prior to 1945. Much of the content on this site is a celebration of his efforts over many decades.
- To Janusz Halisz and Beata Ślemp-Kwoka for preserving the memories of Mielec Jews at the Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernówka”, and their constant vigilance to ensure that the Old Jewish Cemetery on ul. Jadernych is maintained and treated with respect.
- To Andrzej Krempa, Janusz Halisz, Krzysztof Haptaś, and many other Polish historians who have made significant contributions to this site and to our knowledge of Jewish life in Mielec
- To Izabela Sekulska for her bold initiatives to clean up and maintain the New Jewish Cemetery on ul. Tragutta, and for her “Mayn Shtetele Mielec” Facebook group which continues to foster mutual understanding and friendship between Poles and Jews.
- To the many other Polish residents of Mielec who helped Jews during the Shoah in various ways*, including:
- Józef Balczeniuk, for helping the Rosenblatt family
- Józefa Bogusz, for helping the Korzennik family
- Karol Broniek, for helping the Birnbaum, Lischer, Gralitzer, Grun, Jachymowicz, and Gawendo families
- Commander Michał Burkiewicz, for helping the Hill family
- Tomasz Buś, for helping the Weissman family
- The Catholic Sisters of Trzęsówka, for helping Rachel N. aka Zofia Dąbrowska
- Jan Chichoń + his wife, for helping the Marek family
- Władysław + Stanisław Dobrowolski, for helping the Honig, Lerensohn, Rosenzweig, and Kuper/Kanarek families
- Jan Domagała + wife of Zarównie, for helping the Kirschenbaum family
- N. Dubiel, for helping the Ladner family
- The Dudek family, for helping the Siegfried family
- Maciej + Zofia Dudzik, for helping the Allweiss family
- Maria Fedor, for helping the Hill family
- Bronisław Florek + his wife, for helping the Nichtberger family
- Władysław Górski, for helping the Kirschenbaum family
- Jan Indyk, for helping the Finger family
- Maria Kosiorowska + her husband, for helping the Messing and Rothbart families
- Mieczyslaw Kowalik, for helping the Wusch family
- Władysław Kryczka + his wife, for helping the Marek family
- Jan Kusak, for helping the Rosenbluth family
- Józef Mądry, for helping the Kuper/Kanarek family
- Tadeusz Maziarz, for helping the Balsam family
- Wojciech Moździerz’s father, for helping the Feit family
- Leokadia and Stanisław Orłowscy, for helping Irene Geminder (Eber)
- Stanisław Pachoł, for helping the Birnbaum family
- Stanisław Pieróg of Brzyście, for helping the Kupferman family
- Zdzisław Piolkowski, for helping the Ladner family
- Katarzyna Szyfner + her son, for helping the Gross, Jungenwirth, Zuckerbrodt, and Heller families
- Marcin Walas and an unknown couple from Poznań, for helping the Haar family
- Stanisław Walczak, for helping the Lind and Rosenzweig families
- Pan Walęga of Zdziarzec, for helping the Hirsch family
- Michał Wątrobski, for helping the Dershowicz family
- Stanisław Wawrzycki, for helping the Hauser family
- Bronisław Wilk + his wife, for helping the Orgiel, Wachtel, and Pflaker families
- Stanisław Wojtusiak of Gliny Wielkie, for helping the Horn family
- Jan Ziętek, for helping Zofia Wróblewska (fake Aryan name; Jewish name unknown)
- Władysław Zioło, for helping the Gottdenker family
* information provided by Tom Frydel, University of Toronto
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