| 2016 |
Kamienna Góra, Junior High School No 1
Kamienna Góra (“Stone Mountain”) is situated in Lower Silesia, at the foot of the steep Krucze (“Raven”) Mountains and partially on the slope of Czarny Las (“Black Forest”). The seriousness of these sinister names is somewhat softened by the river Bóbr (“Beaver”) which flows through the city. The students of the Kamienna Góra junior high school learned about history and about things that no longer exist, with the help of Maria Pawlak and Franciszek Bojańczyk, School of Dialogue educators, who conducted workshops there in spring. The students discovered the history of Kamienna Góra and thus – the history of their hometown. It turned out that Jews were a significant part of this history.
It is not known when exactly the village, which later transformed into a city, was founded, but it is presumed that the city itself came to being in early 13th century, when prince Henry the Bearded ordered that a fortress be built on Kamienna Góra. Later a settlement developed outside of the castle, at the foot of the hill. Not much later, in the 14th century, first Jews started arriving there. Two centuries later, they were forced to move away due to a wave of anti-Semitic events. They returned to Landeshut (the name of Kamienna Góra until 1945) in early 19th century. They founded their Kehilla in 1821, a cemetery in 1824, the synagogue in 1858 and a congregation house with a school and debate hall in 1866. In 1862, F.V. Grünfeld opened a linen weaving plant and a yarn factory in Kamienna Góra. Bony and serious, dr Arnold Hamburger also owned a linen factory, and Isidora Rinkel operated three linen workshops. It was the wealthy Jewish factory owners, who funded the richly ornamented equipment of the stained-glass hall of the Kamienna Góra city hall. In 1884, exactly 177 Jews lived in Kamienna Góra, comprising 2% of the city’s population.
Later that number gradually dropped – more and more people moved further into Germany. However, persecutions in Germany intensified, and on November 9, 1938, during the Kristallnacht, the synagogue and four Jewish shops in Kamienna Góra were vandalized.
In 1939, only 14 out of almost 13.5 thousand inhabitants of Kamienna Góra were Jewish. Most of them most likely left the city or were murdered during the war.
Jews appeared again in Kamienna Góra after the war, when the region at the foot of the Krucze Mountains became part of the Polish territory and a center of postwar Jewish life in Poland. Two co-ops, one school and the Jewish Religious Congregation were founded. With the onset of Stalinist ideology, more and more Jews left the city and Poland, and whatever remained of Jewish life in Kamienna Góra was transformed into a local division of the Social and Cultural Jewish Association in Poland.
At number 11 of Wojska Polskiego Street (previously: Wallstrasse 22) still stands the abandoned Congregation House, which used to be a meeting place and house a Jewish school, whereas the building at number 3 on Żytnia street, once a Jewish prayer house, which was still active a few years after the war, is now home to two shops. During World War II, a subcamp of Gross-Rosen concentration camp, AL Landeshut, was located in Kamienna Góra where a several hundred of Jewish inmates were imprisoned and forced to perform slave labor. Today, there is a mass grave commemorating victims of the camp at the communal cemetery, and a monument on a slope of the Parkowa Góra.
Out of the two Jewish cemeteries in Kamienna Góra, only the older one is being maintained. Traces of the “younger” one could still have been found in 2002 on Bolka I Street, between the entrance to gardening allotments and the water reservoir. Nowadays probably hardly anybody knows about its existence. The older graveyard, founded in 1824, is situated on Katowicka street. It has a fence, the lawn is mowed, the sandstone matzevot are standing upright, in the shade of an ash tree.
Apart from this local history, the students and the educators discussed also modern Israel, its culture, language, complexity and difficult history. Later, the students were divided into groups, depending on individual interests and fortes, and organized a walking tour for their peers and Kamienna Góra locals. They gathered information, expanded their knowledge, looked for source materials.
They talked with locals, and it turned out that someone still remembered the Jewish traders, and someone else – the Jewish students. The teenagers also enquired with Kamienna Góra’s Lower-Silesian Museum of Weaving and talked with their teachers. They organized an exhibition in the school corridor and later moved it to the history classroom. They hanged posters with a logo they designed themselves – the Star of David inscribed into the crest of Kamienna Góra. They personally delivered invitations to Krzysztof Świątek (the mayor), Dariusz Kurowski (the school principal) and Waldemar Woźniak (head of an office overseeing schools in the region). Students also contacted the local weekly newspaper and “Tygodnik Regionalny” magazine, asking the periodicals to inform about their initiative and invite locals to the walking tour.
On June 10, the students and their guests gathered by “Arado”, the entrance to underground tunnels dug during the war by prisoners of concentration camps – now parts of this city labyrinth are available to tourists.
It is from there that the group moved on to the previously mentioned villa, previously owned by Grünfeld, prewar Jewish factory owner. Alicja explained who he was and his significance for the city. Then they went to Waryńskiego street where the building of his factory is located, as Marta told the guests. Later, led by the students, tour participants moved to Jana Pawła II Street to see the tenement house which used to belong to another Jewish factory owner, Rinkel. Pointing at the shopping center, situated on that same street, Oliwka and Kamila explained that it was built on the area where Rinkel’s linen factory used to stand. The building right next to it used to be the “J. Rinkel” warehouse.
Afterwards, the group turned back and went to the city center, passing a building where a Jewish family named Mosler used to run a haberdashery before the war. Here, the students told the group about other prewar Jewish shops in Kamienna Góra: mercer’s shops, hardware stores, butchers and bakers.
On the market square the students talked about the synagogue which used to stand at number 3 on Wolności square. From there, they headed towards the Lower-Silesian Museum of Weaving, where the exhibition “F.V. Grünfeld – History of the Factory in Kamienna Góra” was on display. The guided tour was conducted by museum historian Małgorzata Ogonowska, who talked about machines, factories, linen and its colors.
On the parking lot of Wojska Polskiego Street, Sandra and Klaudia said what used to be there before 1938: a synagogue which had been burned down in November ’38, during the Kristallnacht.
At the very end, on the Jewish cemetery on Katowicka street, Mateusz recounted its history and mentioned the graveyard on Bolka I, the one next to the gardening allotments. After that, Kacper explained the matzevot symbols: the meaning of a jug with water pouring out of it and of a broken candle. He asked whether anyone had noticed the gold polychrome.
Karolina summed up the walking tour by recounting the history of Kamienna Góra Jews and its tragic end. Emilia recited a poem – “Elegia miasteczek Żydowskich” (Eulogy for Jewish Towns) by Antoni Słonimski. The students offered homemade challah to the guests and gave them a guided tour of the exhibition of collage photographs of prewar and modern buildings. One of the teachers said: “I know Kamienna Góra, but this walking tour showed me a completely new side of the city.”
Junior High School No 1
1st and 2nd year students
Franciszek Bojańczyk, Maria Pawlak
In appreciation to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) for supporting this educational program. Through recovering the assets of the victims of the Holocaust, the Claims Conference enables organizations around the world to provide education about the Shoah and to preserve the memory of those who perished.
In appreciation to Friends of the Forum for supporting the School of Dialogue educational program.