Rabbi Yeḥi’el Kestenberg (in fur hat) gesticulating toward a group of orphans, Radom, Poland, 1923. The rabbi may have hoped that the photograph, possibly taken by an American visitor, would reach potential benefactors. (Forward Association / YIVO)

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City in the Mazovia province of southeast Poland, established in about 1350. A reference to a “Jewish” street in the town comes from documents dated 1567. In 1724, a Jew was accused of blasphemy and burned at the stake, and Radom’s Catholic population subsequently obtained the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis from the king, forbidding Jewish residence in the city. For breaking this prohibition, a royal court in 1746 fined Radom’s Jews 1,000 grzywien and ordered their complete expulsion. Jews soon managed to return, however, and established a community. In 1789 the town’s Catholic residents agreed to further Jewish settlement in exchange for a monopoly on trade in salt. At the time, perhaps 100 Jews resided in Radom, with approximately 300 others in nearby villages.

By 1827, about 1,000 Jews lived in Radom (representing 23.2% of the city’s population); they worked mainly as peddlers or artisans. Despite the efforts of the city’s non-Jewish residents, all attempts to force Jews out of the city failed. In 1829, an illegal house of prayer functioned, and two years later a cemetery for Jewish cholera victims was established on the outskirts of the town; in 1837, this cemetery was acknowledged as the official, legal burial ground for Jews. That same year saw the official demarcation of a Jewish quarter, and in 1844 the community built a synagogue. Private donations also made possible the establishment of a Jewish hospital with 25 beds. By 1860, the community numbered 2,723 (about 27% of the city’s population), among them three rabbis. Jews continued to work mainly in trade and crafts, but also were among Radom’s pioneering entrepreneurs, mostly in the tanning business.

After the lifting of residence restrictions in the 1860s, Jews settled throughout Radom, and the community now had a full range of religious institutions. Radom boasted several outstanding rabbis, including Shemu’el Mohilewer. Jews were active in the tanning, construction, and the metal industries. The revolution of 1905–1907 sparked the development of Jewish political life. In 1916, Jews gained representation in Radom’s municipal self-government for the first time.

After Polish independence in 1918, Radom was included in Kielce province. In 1921, the city’s Jewish population numbered 24,465 (39.7% of all residents); in 1931, there were 25,159 Jews (32.3%), but by 1938 their numbers had fallen to 24,745, as did their percentage of the total (29%).

Jewish public life revolved around political parties, notably the Zionist Organization; the Orthodox Agudas Yisroel; and the socialists, including the Bund and Po‘ale Tsiyon. Political rivalries played themselves out in both the municipal council (on which the Jewish community maintained 4 to 12 representatives) and the institutions of the general community itself. During this period, Radom’s Jews maintained more than 100 organizations and social institutions, at least 12 periodicals, a theater, an artistic and literary society, and more than 20 educational institutions. Although peddlers and artisans still predominated among Radom’s Jews, the community also included doctors, lawyers, and officials. Ethnic relations remained nonviolent for most of the period from 1935 to 1939, but Polish right-wing organizations staged frequent antisemitic actions, including boycotts of Jewish businesses and physical assaults.

With the Nazi occupation of 1939, Radom became the capital of one of four districts of the Generalgouvernement. With forced resettlements, the city’s Jewish population increased dramatically, reaching about 33,000 by 1942. In April 1941, the Germans established two ghettos in the city—the “large ghetto” in the city center and the “small” ghetto in the Glinica neighborhood. Despite extreme hardship and persecution, ghetto residents organized a well-developed network of self-help organizations and a civilian resistance movement that included clandestine schooling, a theater, and literary activities. The Germans liquidated the Glinica ghetto on 4 August 1942, the larger ghetto 12 days later. Most of Radom’s Jews were murdered at Treblinka. About 3,000 remained in town as laborers; in the end they were housed in a camp near Szkolna Street, which from 1944 was linked to the Majdanek concentration camp. In the summer of 1944, most were sent to the Vaihingen camp near Stuttgart, where the survivors were liberated.

After the war, many Jews settled in Radom, at least temporarily. In the summer of 1945 they numbered 1,198, formed a district Jewish committee, and set up a house of prayer and a shelter. This number quickly diminished, however, as Jews faced antisemitism and acts of violence, including beatings, assault, and murder. After the Kielce pogrom of July 1946, most of the city’s remaining Jews left. By 1947 barely 99 remained, and by the next year that number had shrunk to 30. Radom’s Jews made their last public appearance in August 1950, during the unveiling ceremony of a monument commemorating the period of occupation, erected where Radom’s synagogue had once stood.

Suggested Reading

Alfred Lipson, ed. and comp., The Book of Radom: The Story of a Jewish Community in Poland Destroyed by the Nazis (New York, 1963), based on Sefer Radom, ed. Yitsḥak Perlov (Tel Aviv, 1961); Sebastian Piątkowski, Dni życia, dni śmierci: Ludność żydowska w Radomiu w latach 1918–1950 (Warsaw, 2006).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 104, Eyewitness Accounts of the Holocaust Period, Collection, 1939-1945; RG 1160, Lionel S. Reiss, Papers, 1920s; RG 116, Territorial Collection: Poland 2, 1939-1945 (finding aid); RG 215, Berlin Collection, Records, 1931-1945.



Translated from Polish by Anna Grojec