The Jewish community of Polaniec
(In Jewish sources Planch)
A small town in the district of Kielce, central Poland.
Polaniec is situated near the town of Staszow, on the river Wistula. After the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, the area became part of Tsarist Russia. The manifest Polaniecki (Polaniec Manifesto) proclaiming the victory of the Polish uprising of 1794, under the leadership of general Tadeusz Kosciuszko, originated there.
Jewish inhabitants are documented in Planch in the year 1579. In 1765 Jews were given the right of permanent residence in the town, and permitted to open workshops.
Community life began with the building of a synagogue which was well known for its architecture and wall paintings.
Rabbi Yehiel Michal, the author of "Emek Beracha", was the community's rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in the early 18th century.
In the mid-18th century, the town had, in addition to the synagogue, a Beit Midrash, a "Talmud Tora" yeshiva, and many heders, including one belonging to the Prisker Hassidim. At that time, most of the members of the community were Hassidim.
Planch had a cemetery, Hevra Kadisha and welfare organizations. The community also had a Hebrew school.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Planch had 600 Jewish inhabitants, by mid-century there were 750.
The activities of the community were financed by progressive taxation levied on the heads of families.
A balance sheet of the budget was published each year by the head of the community.
Admor Haim Horowitz, father of "Harav Hatzair" (rabbi Eliezer Horowitz of Radomiszl), was the community's rabbi in 1912. Rabbi Israel Meir Hakohen Rappaport served as presiding judge of the rabbinical court from 1935 to 1937.
The 1921 census recorded 1,025 Jews in Planch.
A fire swept the town in 1929, destroying the Beit Midrash, Mikveh and the Talmud Tora school. One hundred Jewish families were left homeless.
In the 18th century the town had four Jewish tailors, one hatter, two butchers, two bakers, one glazier, one entertainer and three teachers. Later, most of the Jews of Planch earned their living as small shopkeepers, hawkers and craftsmen.
Jewish traders sold manufactured goods to local peasants, from whom they bought agricultural produce for export.
There was a local labor union although jobs were scarce. In the 1920's, many people left Planch to look for work in the big cities, particularly Lodz.
Branches of the Zionist movement began to be set up in the town at the beginning of the 20th century, among them Hashomer Hatzair, Hehalutz, Hamizrahi, Hashomer Hadati and Poalei Zion. Their activities included Hebrew language courses and work on behalf of the Keren Kayemet.
In 1939 Polaniec had 864 Jewish inhabitants.
The Holocaust Period
The region was occupied by the Germans at the beginning of September 1939. We have no information about the Jews of Planch during the first years of the war, except for the fact that Jews from the nearby villages were taken there, and in October 1940 there were 1200 Jews in Planch.
According to a document in the local archives, the Germans shot and killed a Jewish boy who tried to escape from the town on February 23, 1942. On August 2 1942, German police chased a Jew and murdered him near the wall of the church by the stream.
In the summer of 1942 a ghetto was set up in the Jewish quarter of Planch for the local inhabitants and other Jews taken there. In October 1942 the ghetto had 2000 Jews, totaling half of the town's population.
On October 11, 1942, Jews from Planch were sent to Staszow, where an "Aktion" was organized by the Germans, during which they murdered hundreds of Jews.
At the end of October 1942 the Polaniec ghetto was liquidated.
About 60 Jewish inhabitants of the town survived the war. The members of the Berger family, who returned to Polaniec, were murdered by their Polish neighbors.
According to the local town council, a synagogue in Polaniec was placed under the protection of the historical conservation authority of Kielce, in the 1980's.