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Jewish Families from Bircza, Poland

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  • Tryna Roth (deceased)
  • Louis Roth (deceased)
  • Zisia Rubinfeld (deceased)
    According to family lore, Zisia worked for the squire of Bircza, as a manager of a timber or sugar mill. I think this might have been the Kowalski family. Apparently he was very friendly with the land ...
  • Zigmund "Sam*" Schnell (deceased)
    Zigmond was a master craftsman, a carpenter who made butcher blocks and show cases.
  • Sarah Schnell (1891 - 1963)
    Sarah's only brother was a brickmaker in Bircza, and she was the oldest daughter.Married her cousin.1930 US Census says she immigrated in 1906.On it shows a Sara Schnell born in 1890 to J...

This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from the town of Bircza, Poland, also known as Berch, Bircha, Birtch.

Bircza Online! Virtual Shtetl

Gesher Galicia - Bircza

JewishGen - Bircza


Bircza [%CB%88birt%CD%A1%CA%82a] (Ukrainian: Бірча) is a village in Przemyśl County, Subcarpathian Voivodeship, in south-eastern Poland. It is the seat of the gmina (administrative district) called Gmina Bircza. It lies approximately 24 kilometres (15 mi) south-west of Przemyśl and 51 km (32 mi) south-east of the regional capital Rzeszów.[1] The village has a population of 1,000. Before World War II, the Bircza area was home to a large Jewish community. Nearly all of them were murdered during the ensuing Holocaust.Orthodox Jews Yov Boretsky and Jan Komski were born in the sztetl.

Jews were present in the town of Bircza already in 1570. Five years later, one of them, Rachwał ben Izaak, moved to Lesko. As few as two Jewish families lived here in 1577, but the number of Jewish population was growing rather fast and it was already at the beginning of the 18th century that a Jewish community operated here with their own synagogue and cemetery.

  • In 1785, there were 160 Jews in Bircza alone, and in 1793 a Jewish school was in operation in the town.
  • In 1824, the town had only 615 inhabitants, including 144 Jews. In the mid-19th century the duties of a rabbi were performed by Szmuel Szpiro (1831-1893), son of Tzadik Elimelech from the town of Dynów. He was succeeded by his brother, Cwi Elimelech from Bircza (1841-1931), whose son, Josef (-1932) became a tzadik of Dynów.
  • In 1870 the Jewish community of Bircza numbered 528 people, while in 1900, as many as 2,063, whereas in Bircza alone there were 1,050 Jews, who made up 50.7 percent of the entire population. Their number grew by World War One to approximately 1,200 members.
  • In 1921, there were 1,038 Jews in the town, who constituted almost 54 percent of the entire population. They had at their disposal a synagogue, which was already built in the 19th century. In the interwar period, the following initiatives were especially active in Bircza: “Jad Charuzim” Association of Jewish Artisans, Gemilut Chased Loan Fund and Merchants’ Association.

After the outbreak of World War Two, Bircza found itself in the Soviet occupation zone. About 2,500 Jews, who had escaped from the western territories of Poland occupied by the Germans, were gathered in the town. There were also refugees from Austria among them. Most of them were sent up the USSR.

A ghetto is formed

Towards the end of June 1941, Nazis seized the town once again and formed a ghetto for Jews from Bircza and neighboring villages, as well as Jews relocated from the ghetto in Pruchnik.

The first execution was carried out in April 1942, when, outside the town, the Gestapo and SS-men shot to death about 50 Jews. Approximately 150 Jews were killed in other executions that took place in Kamienna Góra, while, in July, on the hillside of the Wierzysko Mountain, next 800 Bircza ghetto’s inhabitants were executed.

In September the same year, the Germans shot dead over 100 Jews in the forest in Kamienna Góra. The rest of the people were transferred to the ghetto in Przymśl. In the nearby village of Łodzinka Górna, towards the end of December 1943, the Gestapo killed by shooting seven Jews who had taken shelter with a Polish family. Testimony given by Stanley and Lusia Igel about Michał Gierula who hid their family and other Jews in Łozina Górna in 1943, and who was murdered with his wife by the Germans for hiding Jews.

  • We hereby give testimony about the following events that took place in 1943, during the Nazi occupation, in Łodzinka Górna near Bircza. At night we, the soldiers of the Home Army and others, 7 persons in total, left the woods where we were hiding and reached Łodzinka Górna.

There, we stayed in Mr. Michał Gierula’s farm and asked him for help. It was winter and it was freezing cold outside. Without hesitation, Mr. Gierula quickly took us to a barn where he prepared a makeshift bedding for us, and then brought us food. Thanks to his help, we were able to rest and gather strength, and what is more we were not exposed to cold.
We stayed four days at Mr. Gierula’s farm. Throughout this time, he provided us with food, heat and anything else that we needed to survive. Sunday morning Mr. Gierula went to church where he met an inhabitant of his town who somehow found out that he was hiding partisans and Jews. This woman told him: “Don’t be such a hero because you are hiding partisans and Jews.”
After having returned from the church, Gierula called me, that is Stanley Igel, and informed me that the whole village knew that he was hiding partisans and Jews. I answered him that our entire troop would leave that night so as not to pose his life at risk from the occupant’s side. Hearing this, Gierula protested and said that we could stay.
Nonetheless we, that is: I, Stanley Igel, my wife Lusia Igel, my brother Martyn Igel, as well as my father Gustaw Igel left Mr. Gierula’s farm at night while three other persons stayed. On Tuesday morning the Ukrainian police came to the village. After having searched Gierula’s farm buildings, they found the remaining three Jews whom they shot immediately before the farmer’s eyes and buried them in the yard. >During the search Gestapo also found my small suitcase in which I kept my military documents, as well as pictures and family mementoes, addresses and telephones. Gestapo demanded Gierula to denounce us. Gierula knew where we were hiding but he did not tell the Gestapo about it. Gierula and his wife were arrested and transported to the Czarniecki Street in Przemyśl where they were imprisoned for 6 weeks.
During their imprisonment, the Gierulas were beaten and tortured in order to reveal the place where we, that is the Igel family, were hiding. Although the Gierulas were treated in such an inhumane manner and knew where we and our child – little daughter Marysia – stayed, they did not denounce us and did not say a word during the hearings. Upon realizing that the hearings and tortures were to no avail, Gestapo sentenced and hanged Michał Gierula and his wife, Katarzyna, in “Plac na Bramie” square in Przemyśl. We believe that the behavior and attitude of Michał Gierula and his wife deserve the highest admiration and recognition. For us, it is an unimaginable and heroic act because they scarified their own lives to save ours. Any information given in our testimony is true, which we hereby confirm with our handwritten signatures.


Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute, Yad Vashem, 1875, mps. ”[1.1]