| 2015 |
Junior High School No 2
Some say that the name of Koluszki town in Łódzkie Voivodeship comes from Koluszek, son of Koluch, who used to be the town’s owner. Others claim this isn’t true, as Koluszki is named after a fish whose back is covered with thorns (kolce) that was said to inhabit local ponds and lakes. Hard to say whether these theories are credible at all and when would the said fish inhabit Koluszki’s waters.
What is a fact is that in the 1921 census there were 387 Jews living in Koluszki, which comprised almost 29% of the town’s population. By 1939 the number had risen to 475. Jews were mostly working in trade and crafts.
The Koluszki ghetto was created by Germans in 1940 around the area of the Market Square (Rynek) and streets now known as Targowa, Poprzeczna, Krzemieniecka, Cmentarna, Krzywa, Konopnickiej and 11 Listopada. The ghettoresidents were local Jews as well as those from nearby towns and others deported from Tomaszów Mazowiecki. Altogether ca. 3000 people.
The ghetto was liquidated in 1942, with most of the Jews being deported to Treblinka and around 40 others executed in Koluszki and buried nearby. A handful of those who had been deported returned after the war; 6 of them lived in the town in 1945, but all of them would leave, one by one.
In the course of the workshops led by School of Dialogue educators Karolina Jastrzębska-Mitzner and Stanisław Niemojewski who came to Koluszki four times in the fall of 2015, first year students from Koluszki’s junior high school discovered their town’s Jewish past. They met with Mateusz Jaśkiewicz, School of Dialogue graduate who is now a local activist, and with Zbigniew Komorowski, a retired school teacher who works for a local newspaper and is an amateur historian of Jewish Koluszki. The two speakers encouraged students to act and explained students’ doubts and concerns. As a result of the series of meetings, students organized a walking tour “Searching for multicultural Koluszki” at 1PM on December 7, 2015. Students who were part of School of Dialogue explained to those who came what the whole idea was and is all about, what is the project’s aim, why it is important for tour participants to listen to the history that students wish to recount.
The students also explained about Jewish culture, holidays and cuisine. Sixth-graders invited for the tour were taught a few basic figures of a Jewish dance they would later try out to the melody of “Hava Nagila”. Then the group danced on to have a closer look at Koluszki Jewish history of the tour.
On Kozi Rynek (Goat Market Square) Kacper told the group about the Jewish soccer team “Haifa Koluszki”, that existed in the town in the 1920s and 1930s.
On Hallera Street Patrycja, Klaudia, Bartek and Kuba pointed out the site of a former kosher butcher shop. What is the difference between a ritual slaughterhouse and those we know? Who is a shochet and who is not allowed to become one?
There used to be a synagogue on Brzezińska Street – its history was rendered by Mateusz, Dawid, Paulina and Agnieszka, who showed photographs of the building and explained: that it stood only until 1939 and that it had a high gothic façade. One of the older town residents claimed that it was beautiful inside and coated with gold. Brzezińska Street was also home to rabbi Mordechaj Benet’s house, whose story was told by Mateusz. Benet moved to another house on the same street once the ghetto was created. People say that when Jews were deported to the camps, the rabbi managed to bring the Torah out of the synagogue, but it remains unclear what happened to the scrolls later. At the town’s market square Weronika, Hubert and Gabrysia told others that they are standing inside what became the aforementioned ghetto during World War II;
that the ghetto had no walls, but instead it was common knowledge that Jews are not allowed to leave its premises. That the place where participants now see a grocery store with a staircase used to be a Jewish police station during the war. Students also explained what the war and the Holocaust meant for local Jews: what it meant to be Jewish then and what it entailed. That some tried and some managed to escape. And that there was a certain Mr. Sitek who did his best to help and saved a few Jewish lives.
On 11 Listopada Street, the place where the fire station now stands was an execution site for a group of Jewish children. Mateusz recounted the place’s history and explained that such murders happened also at other sites. Then Paweł took the group along the route leading from the ghetto to the railway loading ramp used by Germans to transport Jews to Treblinka. And so the students marched in silence from 11 Listopada Street along Reja and Głowackiego Streets , all the way to Kolejowa Street, where Monika ended the tour by explaining how history of Jewish Koluszki had ended.
Participation in this project was important for me, because I used to look at people who are Jews differently. I learned many new things about practitioners of a different religion. I’m convinced that I’ll continue to search for information about Jews and their culture in the future.
Patrycja, workshops participant
Junior High School No 2
1st year students
Barbara Gudanis-Kościołek, Aneta Korczyńska
Mateusz Jaśkiewicz, Zbigniew Komorowski
Karolina Jastrzębska-Mitzner, Staś Niemojewski
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.
Program co-financed from the funds granted by Citizens for Democracy program, financed through the EEA grants.
In appreciation to Friends of the Forum for supporting the School of Dialogue educational program.