Knowledge about the tragic fate of the Jews during the Second World War is becoming more and more common in Poland. We also tend to talk more openly about its most painful aspects. However, this knowledge is still quite selective. It is limited mainly to the history of the Jewish communities of the largest cities: Warsaw, Cracow and Lodz. Rarely do we remember about the Jews who lived in smaller towns. Fortunately, thanks to the commitment of residents and local governments, the situation is slowly changing.
Today at the Public Library in Radziejów took place a popular science panel on the history of the Jews of Radziejów, and at the Square a stone plaque dedicated to their memory was unveiled. The residents had carved a fragment of Kaddish Yatom on the plaque: „He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace, upon us and upon all Israel.”
Jewish settlement in the area of Radzijów was first mentioned in 1430s, which suggests that it was the first city in Kujawy which Jews arrived to. In the mid-sixteenth century, however, the authorities of Radziejów received Royal Charter, which forbade Jews and then all infidels, to settle in the city.
The Jewish community began to revive in Radziejów. In spite of still functioning difficulties, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — a synagogue and ritual baths were built, and outside the city, on the road to Piotrkow Kujawski, a cemetery was founded. In 1921, there were already 599 Jews living in Radziejów constituting about 20 percent of all residents. In the interwar period Jewish cultural and political organizations were growing intensely. The town had Jewish Library and Social Reading Room. To rule young people’s hearts and souls fought sports clubs, Makabi associated with the Zionists and Bund’s Jutrznia. In 1938, the new synagogue, called „The House of Rachel”, was put into use.
The next year, a month after the invasion of the German troops on Radziejów, two synagogues were burned, for which the occupant blamed the Jews. On 18th November, 1939, the Germans ordered all Jews to leave Radziejów within eight days. The order was withdrawn when half of the Jewish families had left the town. In the spring of 1941, in the area of Toruńska and Szewska streets a ghetto was built. In March 1942 mass extermination of the Jews of Radziejów began. On 22nd April, the last 100 Jewish residents of the city, held in a parish church, were loaded onto the trucks and taken to a concentration camp probably in Chelmno on the Ner river.
After the war, a small group of Jews who managed to survive returned to Radziejow. At that time a local branch of the Central Committee of Polish Jews was created there. In 1949, when due to Stalinization of Poland, CKZP lost the ability to act autonomously, and then was closed, the majority of Jews of Radziejów left Poland. To this day, there was almost no trace of their presence in this town.