The life

The Jewish community in Mszana Dolna is mentioned in the 1891 official record of Jewish congregations; however, Jews must have started living there much earlier. Słownik Geograficzny (a geographical dictionary, quoted after Flizak) states that 271 Jews (and 1607 Catholics) lived in Mszana Dolna in 1861. The first mention of a particular Jewish citizen of the town can be found in Sebastian Flizak’s chronicle, which mentions Jakub Smulowicz, an inkeeper in charge of the local aristocratic family’s inn, which was connected with a distillery and brewery. Flizak does not state when Smulowicz lived, but the fragment describing him comes from the chapter on the pre-1802 history of the town.

Stiil, it can be ascertained that Jews lived in Mszana Dolna and its vicinity much earlier than in 1780. The proof is a document from 5 August 1780, which gives one-fourth of certain Rabszkówek’s farming land to Jędrzej Biłek, stating that the land “lacks a definite heir to inherit it, and so should be put at the count’s disposal,” and, more importantly, that it had been “owned by innkeepers, the Catholic ones, and sometimes the Jewish ones.” Without any doubt, the document entails there were prolonged periods during which the piece of land had Jewish owners.

The first Jewish land- and homeowners in Mszana Dolna whose names are known are Chaim Gesler, Magdalena Gassnerowa and Lazar Kryger (Flizak, n.d.).

Local historian Olga Illukiewicz’s chronicle, largely based on Flizak’s chronicle and Aleksander Kalczyński’s memoirs, states:

The first Jews to settle down in Mszana Dolna were innkeepers, which is confirmed by 18th-century data.  Inns were leased to those Jews by the local nobility. The oldest Jewish inn was located on the corner of today’s Kolbe and Fabryczna streets.” (Illukiewicz, n.d.: 139).

Another Jewish inn was situated in another building owned by the local aristocrats, the so-called “town hall” next to the main market square. This inn is mentioned by 19th-century sources. Later it was transferred to the building at the main market square no. 5, owned by the Jewish family named Zesler. The so-called “Olszyny” area, i.e. today’s Orkana and Gronoszowa streets, was the location of Faber family’s inn. “Fights between people from Olszyny and those from Poręba happened there all the time,” as put by Illukiewicz (n.d.: 139).

Another Jewish inn belonging to the Schmidt family was located on the way from Mszana Dolna to Kasinka, and there was yet another one on the left bank of river Raba—possibly situated where a guesthouse, and afterwards a primary school, were later located. In the outskirt Przymiarki neighbourhood—actually a part of Kasina Wielka already—the wealthy Jewish family of Zellmans also owned an inn. Two other Jewish inns in Mszana were the one belonging to Stern and Weinberg in Piłsudskiego street, and the so-called Zdólna (“Lowerside”) inn on the corner of Piłsudskiego street and Kościelna (“Church street,” today’s John Paul II street), leased to Lilienthal.

In 1877 was a centre of Jewish life important enough to be included on Awigdor Jakow’s and Haleli Horowitz Meisels’s Hebrew Map of Galicia and Bukovina (now stored in the collections of Jewish Museum Vienna).

Jewish population in Mszana Dolna


It is very hard to provide a roughly accurate estimate of the actual number of Jewish citizens of Mszana Dolna before the war, as no convincing data is available. As already mentioned, Słownik Geograficzny (a geographical dictionary) states that among the 1607 citizens in 1861, there had been 217 Jews. However, both numbers must have been rising steadily as the town—as well as its industry, commerce and transportation—was developing. For instance, a station of the Galician Transversal Railway was established in 1884, and a part of “imperial” road leading through Mszana Dolna was built in 1885. Jerzy Michalewicz states that in 1921 there were 410 Jews in Mszana Dolna, which would amount to only 14% of the local population of 3016 (see Michalewicz, Jerzy, and Tryburowki, Wiesław. Żydowskie okręgi metrykalne i gminy wyznaniowe w Galicji [Jewish record districts and religious communities in Galicia]. Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka, 1995). Olga Illukiewicz’s chronicle claims that Jews were 25% of Mszana Dolna’s pre-WW2 population, which is supported by Franciszek Knapczyk. Aleksander Kalczyński’s memoirs even report that 50% of the pre-war population of Mszana Dolna was Jewish, which seems overestimated, even though this percentage is backed up by Katarzyna Ceklarz’s biography of Sebastian Flizak (cf. Ceklarz, Katarzyna. Sebastian Flizak. 2019: 197). Henryk Zdanowski (a citizen of Mszana Dolna, born in 1924), when asked to provide his estimate, answered, “There was a great number of Jews in Mszana. I can’t say exactly how many, but many they were. I had a dozen or so Jewish colleagues in my class at school.” (Antosz-Rekucki, Jakub, and Antosz-Rekucka, Urszula. Interview with Henryk Zdanowski. 28 December 2009). Maria Repelewicz née Antosz (born in 1929) recollects she had 7 Jewish colleagues in her class of 32 girls at school (Kotkiewicz, Łukasz, and Pyzik, Andrzej. Interview with Maria Repelewicz. 29 April 2011). Similar proportion of Jewish pupils and students can be calculated on the basis of their signatures included in Polish Declarations of Admiration and Friendship for the United States. This unique document was issued in 1926 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the US independence and bears 5,5 million of Polish citizens’ signatures (about 20% of the total Polish population at the time; cf. Unfortunately, providing a realistic estimate of the number of the Jewish citizens in Mszana Dolna is hardly helped by the school archives in Mszana Dolna. These contain only the data for the girls’ school, show that a great number of children did not attend school at all, and, for some unknown reason, do not list a number of Jewish girls in the years for which other sources indicate there were many more Jewish students(cf. “Metryka szkolna. Szkoła żeńska w Mszanie Dolnej” [school records for the girls' school in Mszana Dolna] and “Kronika szkoły w Mszanie Dolnej zaprowadzona przez Michała Skumiela w 1889 r. [Chronicles oof the School in Mszana Dolna, written by Michał Skumiel in 1889]. Available in Zespół Placówek Oświatowych w Mszanie Dolnej [archives of the schooling institutions in Mszana Dolna], Rynek 21). Taking all that data into account, it makes sense to assume the Jews were about 25–33% of the town’s total population. This is further confirmed by a document of the Jewish Mutual Aid Society issued on 1 May 1942, which states the number of Jews in Mszana Dolna prior to WW2 was 782. (Correspondence between the chair of the Jewish Mutual Aid Society and its delegation in Mszana Dolna, 5 January 1942 – 7 August 1942. Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw).

On the date the document was drawn up, i.e. in May 1942, Mszana Dolna was inhabited by 1064 Jews, including 161 refugees from Łódź. There were also displaced persons from Kraków, Zembrzyce, Krynica, Muszyna, Raba Wyżna, and even Vienna. The same number is given by the list drawn up on the Nazi Germans’ orders on 16 June 1942 by the Judenrat of Mszana Dolna; the document was then used as a checklist during the mass execution in the Na Pańskim area on 15 August 1942. As the total prewar population of Mszana Dolna was about 3,000 people, the estimate that about 25–30% of the town’s population was Jewish seems to be confirmed.

Mszana Dolna was the seat of the Jewish record district which covered also the settlements and villages of Glisne, Gruszowiec, Kasina Wielka, Kasinka Mała, Konina, Lubomierz, Łętowe, Łostówka, Mszana Górna, Niedźwiedź, Witów, Olszówka, Podobin, Półrzeczki, Poręba Wielka, Raba Niżna, and Słomka (quoted after Michalewicz and Tryburowski,



Professions and occupations of the Jews of Mszana Dolna

Apart from being innkeepers, the Jews of Mszana Dolna worked as craftsmen, lawyers, and medical doctors, as well as in industry and services. The majority of them, however, developed trade, which was actually dominated by them.

Turners and Stambergers traded in meat and fish. Live cattle was bought and sold by B. Jakóbowicz. J. Jakubowicz, A. Buchsbaum, P. Rottenberg, and Ch. and B. Turner dealt with hide trade. The Langsams owned a large grocery shop in Gronoszowa. The Weissbergers ran an ironmongery and a tobacco shop in Piłsudskiego Street. The Scharfs had a shop selling fabrics and bedlinen in Piłsudskiego Street, over Beldegrün’s bakery. Henryk Zdanowski reminisced that “Wikcia [i.e. Wiktoria] Scharf bleached linen using milk (interview from 28 December 2009). Other fabric and bedlinen dealers included in the 1929 list were R. Korngut, R. Turner, S. Leuchtag, and J. Hirsch. Mrs Feuerstein ran a haberdashery at no. 19 Piłsudskiego Street. Mastbaum had a shop with various small items in the same street. The delicatessen was run by J. Stern. The Rebhuns, neighbors of Henryk Zdanowski in Piłsudskiego Street, had a flour and groats warehouse. The Landau owned a fabric shop in the market square, while Wolf had a grocery store in Słomka. Next to Weissbergers’ large shop in Piłsudskiego, the longbearded Jew called Stern had a kiosk where you could buy “herring, soap, jam, and any other random thing.” (interview with Anna Knapczyk from 8 February 2020). Various other goods were sold by L. Amsterdamer, B & M. Beldegrün, Ch. Birnbaum, R. & S.Korngut, R.Landau, A. Langsam, H. Mastbaum, A. Schmidt, C. Sessler, L. Teller, Ch. & H. Schachter, A. & J. Traurig, W. Wasserlauf, M. Zehnwirth, E. Zins. Variety meat was sold by S. Korngut, and agricultural machinery by Nucha Götz. E. Glosser was a tobacco seller, M. Korngut—a clothing retailer. You could buy fresh vegetables from S. Birnbaum and L. Rümpler. Soda water production was run by Sessler, who lived in the market square; J. Kichler is listed as running a similar business. M. Weinberg and sons were producers of vodka and liqueur.

Jews ran also bakeries, which enjoyed a great reputation. Grünberg and Zins (a father- and son-in-law) owned the one on the corner of the market square and Leśna Street. Beldegrün ran a bakery in Piłsudskiego Street, and Marcus the one in Kolbego Street. Yet another bakery was owned by the Amsterdamer family. Olga Illukiewicz mentions also the one in Kolbego Street at no. 16, but does not include the name of its owners. Henryk Zdanowski mentioned that Beldegrün’s bakery offered exquisite round bread and at Grünberg and Zins’s you could buy the best oblong-shaped bread. The inhabitants of Mszana Dolna gave this bakery a nickname “U Srajmurka” (literally “Shitwall’s place”), but still appreciated the quality of bread baked there (quoted after Flizak’s chronicle).  There was also a separate bakery for baking matzah for the Passover, which operated seasonally and was run by a Jew named Uryś in the backyard of the present-day “Osmed” clinic in the market square. It must be noted, then, that there were quite many Jewish bakeries in a town of 2,000–3,000 people. In his chronicle, Sebastian Flizak admits that bread from the non-Jewish bakeries was of much worse quality. Uryś, mentioned above, was also something of a celebrity violinist in Mszana Dolna; no wedding party could take place without his playing. He also bought and sold hides and furs of small animals, but he was not an effective businessman and the Jewish community had to provide some financial support to his large family.

Jews were also involved in the timber trade. The Goldberger family, A. Geller, Wiener, Sz. Feuerstein, L. Kleinmann, M. Frey, S. Wachtel, Weinberg, and A. Faber were some of the Jews involved in that trade. As written by Aleksander Kalczyński, “timber trade was all in Jewish hands. In the area there was just one small non-Jewish timber trade company, run by Ignacy Łazowski and Julian Kalczyński” (Aleksander Kalczyński’s memoirs).

Szymon Feuerstein ran a sawmill leased by the local aristocratic family, the Krasicki. The Gellers in Kościelna Street produced wooden shoe soles. Also the craftsmanship in Mszana Dolna was largely developed by the Jewish citizens of the town. A hat manufacture in Piłsudskiego Street was owned by beautiful Jewish women, whom H. Zdanowski would call “fashionista milliners.” The place may be the same as the “Wasserstrum Headgear Workshops” mentioned by the business record of 1929. J. Neuger, a bearded tailor, had a workshop in Orkana Street. Other tailors included I. Schagrün and Traubermann. Upholstery was W. Gassner’s craft. The only Jewish glazier in town had a shop in the market square, at the backyard of building no. 11. Dominik, a hairdresser operating in Piłsudskiego Street, trained both Jewish and Christian boys in his profession, with Henryk Zdanowski’s brother being one of his apprentices. The Wachtel from the market square was a surveyor. The watchmaker in Mszana was a Jew named Selinger. Goldfinger is said to be a tinsmith. S. Ader ran a transportation company. Izaak Widawski owned a candy factory producing sztolwerki, a type of fudge. Another Ader had a bentwood furniture factory. Glücksmans are said to own a tannery in Folwark (the area near the former farm buildings of a local manor house). Maurycy Streimer, Leon Rosenbaum, and one of the Aders had law firms in Mszana Dolna.

Jewish craftsmen belonged to an association of merchants and craftsmen under the supervision of the kehillah. Aleksander Kalczyński recalls that the Jewish community managed the association very effectively and enforced any customer complaints immediately, which earned the craftsmen a lot of trust of other citizens of Mszana Dolna.

Anna Kadłubek claims that a respected female Jewish paediatrician lived in the Folwark area. Unfortunately, she cannot recall her name (interview with Anna Kadłubek from 8 February 2020). Perhaps the person in question might be Ewa Semel, included in the business register from 1929. According to Henryk Zdanowski’s testimony one of young Langsams was the town’s dentist; however, the 1929 record mentions Adolf Wieder as the only stomatologist in Mszana Dolna.

Jews were not only the main innkeepers but also the owners of elegant restaurants in the town, including the Lilienthal’s (in Kolbego Street), M. Weinberger’s (in Piłsudskiego Street), and Kleinmann’s (in Kolbego Street). The Schmidts had a guesthouse on the border of Mszana Dolna and Kasinka Mała. R. Kleinmann is also listed as a hotel owner

The philantropic activity of some rich Jewish families should be mentioned here as well. According to Henryk Zdanowski’s account, Samuel Weissberger, the owner of a large ironmongery, eagerly supported the poor of the town (including Zdanowski’s family), while judge Kisiel was able to built Kisielówka (“Kisiel’s place”), a villa located above the Piłsudskiego Street, for a loan from Weissberger as well. The Langsams are reported to have acted for the benefit of the community of Mszana Dolna in a similar manner. The Jewish contributions to the cultural development of the town must not be forgotten as well. For instance, Dudek (Dawid) Langsam was the founder of the first library in Mszana Dolna, which was open to everybody. It was established in 1926 and included 535 books. The first public bath in Mszana Dolna was established by Jews as well; it, too, was available to Christians as well, according to Aleksander Kalczyński’s account.


The Jewish religious community

Mszana Dolna had its own formalised Jewish religious community. Unfortunately, its prewar documentation has been lost and only the names of the chairmen of the kehillah prior to WW2 and after the outbreak of the war are known: Szymon Feuerstein, “the old” Stern, Josek Turner, Dawid Langsam (nicknamed “Dudek”), Aron Turner, and Arie Schmidt. Schmidt was the one who, on the orders from the Nazi authorities, drew up the list of all Jews living in Mszana Dolna on 15 June 1942, which today is an invaluable source of information.

The Jewish community participated in the public ceremonies taking place in the town. Jakub Weissberger recollects that during the processions on 3 May (celebrating the establishment of the first Constitution of Poland) Jews would walk alongside the Christians, carrying the Torah scrolls in ornamental casings (Jakub Weissberger’s letter to Anna Kadłubek from 20 May 1998). The same happened on 11 November (the Independence Day in Poland) and on the names-day of Marshal Piłsudski (a military and political leader considered one of the founding father’s of Poland’s independence in 1918), which is backed up by Henryk Zdanowski’s testimony.

A significant part of the Jewish community of Mszana Dolna were orthodox Jews, who wore traditional clothes, strictly adhered to the orthodox religious law, and observed all the holidays and the weekly Shabbat. There were also progressive Jews in Mszana Dolna, who wore modern clothing and trimmed their facial hair. They constituted the core of the Jewish intelligentsia and included families such as the Streimers, the Aders, the Weissbergers, the Lilienthals, and a certain Frei. However, the orthodox appear to have been the majority. It was their party that won the elections to the Jewish religious authorities in Mszana Dolna in 1928. (Samsonowska, Krystyna. Wyznaniowe gminy żydowskie i ich społeczności w województwie krakowskim 1918-39  [Religious Jewish kehillot and their communities in the Kraków Voivodeship 1918-39]). Szymon Feuerstein and Mojżesz (Moses) Mastbaum were elected to the kehilla of Mszana Dolna. Szymon Feuerstein was also the president of the Association of Merchants in Mszana Dolna.

When one visualizes all the accounts on the Jewish activity, it becomes clear the prewar Mszana Dolna cannot possibly be imagined without its Jewish citizens, who created its economy, history, and culture. When trying to describe the difference between Mszana Dolna before WW2 and what was left of it after the Shoah, he put it in the following words, “You cannot possibly understand; it is as if someone took an axe and chopped half of the city off” (interview from 11 February 2011).



Illukiewicz, O. (n.d.)  Kronika Mszany Dolnej [Chronicles of Mszana Dolna]. Unpublished typescript.

Jakow, A. and Meisels, H. H. (1877). Map of Galicia and Bukovina. Jewish Museum Vienna collections.

Flizak, S. (n.d.). Kronika Miasta Mszana Dolna [Chronicles of the town of Mszana Dolna]. Unpublished typescript.