Royal town in southern Poland, since 1945 in the province of Silesia. Będzin (Yid., Bendin) traces Jewish settlement back to the thirteenth century. In 1583, King Stefan Batory granted a charter to Jews of Będzin, giving them the right to own prayer houses and a cemetery, to sell and buy municipal real estate, to carry out unlimited trade, to slaughter animals and sell meat, and to manufacture and distribute alcoholic beverages. The privilege was confirmed by subsequent rulers.
In 1593, King Sigismund III intervened with town authorities, insisting they respect the privileges of Jewish residents. In the seventeenth century, Jews from Będzin maintained close trade links with Silesia and the German territories. In 1755, Będzin’s town council, after negotiations with the kahal, granted municipal rights to Jews on condition that they accept tax obligations. In 1764, the Jewish community’s census counted 556 Jews, of whom 446 lived in Będzin itself. In 1808, this population rose to 453 (representing 37.7% percent of the town’s total). Numbers increased in 1825 to 1,196 (42.3%), in 1857 to 2,418 (59.6%), and in 1897 to 10,839 (45.8%).
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the Jewish community’s development slowed substantially and was riven by internal conflicts. Prussian authorities (who ruled from 1795) forbade Jews who had not been inhabitants of Będzin before 1795 to settle there. Tax burdens grew rapidly, though protests in 1802 led to a waiving of the community’s protection fee. In 1835 (the town having passed to Russian rule in 1815), Avraham Rozynes, son of the previous rabbi and an informer for the tsarist secret police, became Będzin’s rabbi. Because of Hasidic opposition, he was deposed in 1841 and replaced by Berek Hercygier, a Hasid. In 1861 a group in Będzin advocated Polish–Jewish brotherhood and supported the anti-Russian insurrection movement. The first modern schools were established in the late nineteenth century, despite protests of Rabbi Yisakhar Berish Graubard, one of the founders of Agudas Yisroel.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Będzin experienced an economic boom. In 1921, Jews owned 672 factories and workshops, employing 1,616 people. A Jewish press functioned, as did primary and secondary school systems in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew. Zionists were the most influential Jewish political group in the 1920s and the 1930s. In 1921, the Jewish population was 17,298 (62.1% of the town’s total); this number increased to 21,625 (45.5%) in 1931.
Soldiers of the Wehrmacht set fire to the synagogue and the neighboring Jewish houses less than a week after occupying the town in early September 1939; 44 persons were killed, including more than 30 shot by firing squad. In May 1940 there were 24,495 Jews in Będzin. The first mass deportation to Auschwitz began in May 1942, the next on 1 August 1942. Final extermination began in August 1943. On 3 August of that year, armed resistance of Jewish underground organizations began.
After the war, Będzin was one of the most important centers for Jewish settlement in Upper Silesia and Zagłębie. In June 1945, there were 1,034 Jews in the town (the largest concentration in the area after Sosnowiec). The Jewish Committee functioned from May 1945, and Jewish parties were active. In July 1946, the number of Jews had fallen to 249. In 2004, three persons declaring Jewish origins lived in Będzin.
Daniel Blatman, “Bendz´in / Będzin,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Polin, vol. 7, Meḥozot Lublin / Kyeltseh, pp. 101–115 (Jerusalem, 1999); Wojciech Jaworski, Żydzi będzińscy: Dzieje, zagłada (Będzin, Pol., 1993); Abraham S. Stein, ed., Pinkas Bendin (Tel Aviv, 1959).
RG 116, Territorial Collection: Poland 2, , 1939-1945 (finding aid); RG 1198, Fraternal Order of Bendin Sosnowiczer, Records, 1960-1983.
Translated from Polish by Bartek Madejski