Jewish Families from Bielsko-Biala
Bielsko-Biala was established in 1951 with the amalgamation of two towns on the opposite side of the Biala River, Silesian Bielsko and Lesser Poland’s Biala.
Jews settled in Bielsko as early as the second half of the 17th century but the community only began to grow significantly in the second half of the 19th century when trade and residence restrictions were lifted. Wool and textile manufacturing and trade formed the basis of the economy and most Jewish livelihoods were connected to this industry. The cultural orientation of the community was pro-German and modern. Most children studied in public schools.
Biala’s Jewish history dates back to 1600 but because of a royal non tolerandis Judaeis privilege in 1669, Jews settled in neighboring Lipnik (which subsequently became a suburb of Biala) and then in Biala only after 1850. Biala’s Jewish population was largely of Eastern European origin, primarily orthodox, and mostly engaged in trade and crafts. The more successful moved to Bielsko and assimilated.
The approach of the Germans in 1939 led to mass flight but many had to return when their escape routes were cut off. When the Germans arrived on 4 September, they blew up the temples and synagogues as well as the Jewish public buildings. In 1940 a ghetto was established in Bielsko: it was liquidated with the deportation of the remaining population to Auschwitz. After the war, a few hundred Jews settled in Bielsko-Biala. After the implementation of an anti-Semitic campaign by the Polish government in 1967, almost all remaining Jews left Poland.