The first documentation of Jews in Kutno (Moses, Solomon and Lewku) was 1513, but certainly the Jews lived here before that date. In 1753, a fire destroyed the town and the local Jewish community documents. Jews developed commerce reaching even Germany and the Netherlands. The Jews of traded livestock to make leather goods, shoes, and felt items. Skins of wild animals like hares, foxes also were used. Crafts such as tailoring were common. An additional source of income was breeding horses and cattle so 29% of animals belonged to Jews. In 1765, 928 Jews lived there. The 19th century was busy with construction of a railway line to transport goods from the factories of Lodz and construction of the brick synagogue and many Jewish communal organizations. The Jewish population multiplied: 1800-1,376 (70.2%) to 1908-8,978. Kutno's rabbi, Jechiel Jeszaja Trunk, for thirty years was a Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, advocate. [Note: That probably was Israel Yehoshua TRUNK, not Jechiel Jeshaya TRUNK who was his great-grandson and a Yiddish writer in New York.]
Kutno is also the home town Asza Shalom, Yiddish playwright, prose writer, and essayist. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish population began to decrease due to WWI, movement to Lodz, and immigration to America so in 1921, 6,784 Jews lived there. The Germans occupied Kutno on September 15, 1939. The synagogue was destroyed in the first months with many Jews taken for forced labor. A Judenrat was appointed as early as November 1939, with increasing numbers of refugees from nearby, but the ghetto was officially established in June 1940 on the grounds of the "Konstancja" sugar factory for more than 7,000 Jews. Franz Hansen, a Wehrmacht soldier posted there, photographed the Jews moving to the ghetto surrounded with barbed wires and watchtowers. Since several factory buildings had been bombed, many Jews lived outdoors. Black markets and smuggling kept ghetto prisoners able to preserve some semblance of normality, but disease was rampant and food scarce. Liquidated at the end of March/early April 1942, the ghetto prisoners were sent to Chelmno. [May 2009]
The Kutno Jewish cemetery is located on a hill between Sobieski and Tarnowski Zdrojowa streets. Established in the 18th century, the cemetery burials are difficult to calculate. The oldest Kutna inhabitants remember hundreds, perhaps 1,000 graves before WWII. Still remaining are the ohel of Rabbi Jechiel Jeszaja Trunk and the grave of Shalom Asz. The Old Cemetery is located on a hill with trees overlooking the gravestones. Some names are etched in stones in the town's streets and backyards: Reb Johanan in an alley, Reb Moszego in a garden. Archival photos of the cemetery before WWII. Approximately 6,700 Jews (25%+) lived in Kutno (Lodz district) prior to WWII. The Nazis destroyed the cemetery using stolen gravestones for pavements, squares and residential yards occupied by the Germans. At the cemetery, they planned to build a Victory Monument to the Third Reich, but never did. In the Jewish cemetery buried, dead or murdered in the ghetto. They also executed Jews there. After the war, few kutnowscy Jews brought ashes of their loved ones from Chelmno nad Nerem to the cemetery for burial. They unveiled a monument to the victims of the Holocaust, a stylized matzevot with Mogen David and the words in Hebrew and Polish: "Eternal memory Jews murdered by the Nazi ___, buried in the fraternal grave. ___ your memory." Unknown perpetrators however, very soon destroyed the obelisk. The last burial at the cemetery took place in 1948. Later, the cemetery gradually slipped into oblivion. Gravel gathering and rubbish dump became its fate. Residents graze livestock, which at least keeps down the vegetation. A few time graves have been opened and searched of valuables. A few surviving gravestones were stolen. Gravestones or fragments for many years can be found in many cities including in Murku fair and square on the cobbles of ul. Sowińskiego. In the 1980s, thanks to the involvement of Andrej Urbaniak, a former director of the museum in Kutno, the members of the kutnowski Friends of the Earth began to recover and protect the Jewish gravestones. Gravestones from surrounding yards, streets, and gardens were gathered for several years, until several hundred matzevot were found. With the Związkiem Religijnym Wyznania Mojżeszowego, matzevot planned to transfer them to the cemetery and create a lapidarium of the Wailing Wall from the damaged tombstones. These plans are not finalized so the gravestones remain stored in a warehouse the Regional Museum in Kutno. At the cemetery by a monument is this dedicated to the memory of the Jews of Kutno in Polish, English, and Hebrew: "This is the resting place of Kutno Jews, who were settled in the city since the beginning of the 15th century. The cemetery located on the hill was established in 1793. The Jews were kept there until March 1943. Take this seriously." Today, the cemetery on the hill has damaged and destroyed gravestones. "Newspapers in the Mazowsze Region," describes it thus: "In winter, the cemetery turns into a toboggan run and is a summer playground for sports, organized by the residents' children in the vicinity. In addition, regularly, drinkers use it. The aggressive hooligans knock over plaques dedicated to the Jews and paint offensive graffiti."
Alternate name: Kutna in Yiddish. Kutno is located in Plock at 52°13' 19°23', 41 km from Plock and 50 km from Lodz. Cemetery location: ulica Tarnowskiego. Present town population is 25,000-100,000 with no Jews.
Earliest known Jewish community was 1579. 1921 Jewish population was 6,784 and in 1931 was 6,440. Living here were Jozef Kutna (2M. 1829), rabbi in Hungary and Szalom Asz (1880-1957), writer and playwright. The Orthodox, Conservative, and Progressive/Reform Jewish cemetery was established in 16th century with last burial 1939-1945. The isolated urban crown of a hill has no sign or marker. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is open to all with no wall or gate. The size of the cemetery before WWII and now is 3.0 hectares. 1-20 gravestones, less than 25% are toppled or broken, [in the Museum] date from 19th-20th century. Removed stones are in the Regional Museum at Kutno (approx. 150 pieces). The sandstone finely smoothed and inscribed stones or flat stones with carved relief decorations have Hebrew inscriptions. No known mass graves. The municipality owns the property used as a Jewish cemetery only. Properties adjacent are residential. Occasionally, organized individual tours and private visitors stop. The cemetery was vandalized during WWII. There has been no maintenance. Authorities clean or clear occasionally. There are no structures or threats.
Pawel Fijalkowski, 96-500 Sochaczew, ulica Ziemowita 11, tel. 227-91 visited site 6/1991 and completed survey 21 Nov 1991. Documentation: Official Register of Jewish Cemeteries of 1981.
BOOK: Kutno Society B'nai Jacob (New York, N.Y.) Records, 1884-1974. Description: .9 linear ft. Notes: Landsmanshaft organized in 1872 by Jewish immigrants from Kutno, Poland. It dissolved in 1974. … YIVO collections are in Yiddish, Russian, Polish, English, Hebrew, and other European and non-European languages. Location: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, NY. Control No.: NXYH89-A738 [December 2000]
|Last Updated on Monday, 12 July 2010 13:00|