Stary Sącz

Maria Skłodowska-Curie High School

Stary Sącz is a small town in Lesser Poland, one of the oldest in Poland – it was granted city rights as early as in 1257. That is over 750 years of urban history of which Jews present a tiny fraction, as they only arrived in Stary Sącz in mid-19th century and never became a sizable part of the local community. They established their own Kehilla and built the synagogue already in 1876, but still buried their dead at the Jewish cemetery in the nearby Nowy Sącz. A funeral procession would accompany a cart carrying the body that was pushed by men.

Local relations would fluctuate – every once in a while an outburst of aggression would lead to an incident or assault: some group would break into a shop or house and loot it. Then the army would enter to restore order. One such incident happened on the eve of June 26, 1898. Almost until the outbreak of World War II, Stary Sącz was one of the few municipalities in Galicia without a single Jewish member of the town council; Jews were simply not allowed to hold public positions. On the other hand, one should also mention that at least a few of the local Jewish girls attended a school run by nuns.

Germans entered the town in September 1939 and in the spring of 1942 they created a ghetto which was liquidated in August of the same year; around 1,000 Jewish residents were deported to Nowy Sącz and then to Bełżec death camp. En route, around 100 people were shot in Piaski, not far from Poprad, near the bridge.

In the course of workshops , students got very involved and had plenty of enthusiasm for tasks they were presented with. They drew maps to recreate prewar Stary Sącz. They learned about Jewish religion, history, culture and customs. They learned new words, new concepts, important dates and numbers. They learned about the different Jewish holidays and realized how similar they are to some of the Catholic ones and that they happen around the same time. They asked about young Jews: what do they look like, what do they do, what are they like – in Poland, in Israel, in the USA and in Western Europe. They discussed multiculturalism and whether it is good or bad. And what the relations were between the different groups before the war and what they are now.

The tour prepared by the students who participated in the workshops had a few stops, beginning at the regional Historical Museum, which boasts a sizable collection of judaica. Then on to the synagogue at Staszica street – erected in 1906, burnt down, and classified as a heritage building in 1993. And then the mikveh building at Jagiellońska 10, which is now used by a printing house. Students talked about what they knew and the knowledge they had acquired: what was it like when voices of church and synagogue choirs mixed.

Stary Sącz

Maria Skłodowska-Curie High School
2nd year students
Tomasz Borowy and Jarosław Ziółkowski

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In appreciation to Friends of the Forum for supporting the School of Dialogue educational program.

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