Coach on Long Street, Konin, ca. 1912. The sign on the coach reads in Russian and Polish, “From Konin to Kutno.” Postcard published by J. Buchner, Konin. (YIVO)

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City in central Poland about two-thirds of the way on the east–west route from Warsaw to Poznań. The Jews of Konin probably arrived from Poznań and Kalisz (about 50 km due south of Konin) and are first mentioned in a Polish court record of 1397. The community gained full autonomy from Kalisz in 1810. It is likely that a Jewish burial ground existed at the beginning of the sixteenth century, though the town’s “old” cemetery was first used in the eighteenth century. The Jewish population had reached 180 in the fifteenth century, but destruction by the Swedes (in 1656 and 1707) and plague (especially during the cholera epidemics of 1628–1631 and 1662) kept the numbers of inhabitants lower. It was estimated that 168 Jews lived in Konin in 1764–1765 (making up 24% of the town’s population); by 1827, the numbers had grown to 872 (24.4%) and in 1897 to 2,482 (31.7%). In 1939, it was approximately 3,000 (23%).

Konin was under Prussian rule from 1793 to 1807. French administration followed until Russian rule took over in 1815. Thereafter until 1919, Konin lay close to the Prussian frontier. Situated on the Warta River, the mainstay of the town’s economy, it was an entrepôt for goods from Germany to Poland. The staples of this trade were spices, silk, and cloth products, as well as ironware and salt. Timber and untreated fur were major exports. Jews working in Konin played a major role, especially in the export of agricultural products, though the mass of Jews were artisans and small-scale traders.

From 1810, the town had a rabbi, Tsevi Hirsh Amsterdam, a main synagogue (Groyser Shul), and a smaller besmedresh (study house) containing a Hasidic shtibl (house of prayer). Haskalah influence was increasingly felt and Konin’s Jewish secular lending library was one of the largest of such institutions in Poland. A Russian elementary school was established before 1914 and in 1918 a Polish state elementary school, which a large number of Jewish children attended. A Jewish gymnasium existed from 1918 to 1929 (Leopold Infeld, the eminent physicist, was one of its headmasters). There was also an ORT (trade) school and a Jewish elementary school. Apart from the usual heders, there were two religious schools for boys and one for girls.

German occupying forces of 1914–1918 appointed Konin’s only Jewish mayor, Bernard Dancyger, and allowed a range of political activities that had been banned by the Russians. In independent Poland, Jewish political activity, both Zionist and non-Zionist, flourished. The process of secularization continued through education, theatrical and musical presentations, and Jewish sport organizations. In the 1930s, the town’s economy declined, and many left. Extreme Polish nationalism, mostly from outside, undermined intercommunal harmony, and economic conditions for Jews rapidly worsened.

German troops entered Konin on 14 September 1939, the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and drove Rabbi Ya‘akov Lipszyc and the other worshipers out of the synagogue. In December 1939, the deportation of Konin’s Jews began, to Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (south of Radom) and Jósefów Biłgorajski (between Lublin and Lwów). By July 1940, the town was Judenrein. Virtually all of the Jews in Jósefów were massacred in July 1942 and the Jews of Ostrowiec were deported to Treblinka in October 1942. Just after the war, 46 Jews returned to Konin, but it rapidly became clear to them that the community had no future, and by 1965 there were only 2 Jews left. The synagogue, vandalized by the Germans, was finely restored after the war, and is now used as a public library.

Suggested Reading

Mendel Gelbart, ed., Kehilat Konin: Bi-Feriḥatah uve-ḥurbanah (Tel Aviv, 1968); “Konin,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot. Polin, ed. Danuta Dąbrowska and Abraham Wein, vol. 1 (Jerusalem, 1976), also available at; Theo Richmond, Konin: A Quest (London, 1995).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1221, Ladies and Men’s Society of Konin, Records, 1959-1985.