Chrzanow Old Jewish Cemetery
In the first years of Jewish settlement in Chrzanów, Jews were buried in the cemetery in Olkusz. The first “small” Jewish cemetery was established on a small hill in the south-eastern part of the town in 1759 and was enlarged several times. The oldest section of the cemetery was in use until the beginning of the 19th century and was fenced with a brick fence. During World War II, the Germans extended Podwale Street along the railway embankment and liquidated a part of the cemetery, leading a road through the area. The human remains were moved to the new Jewish cemetery, and the tombstones were used for construction. After the war, a petrol station was built in the area of the cemetery.
The first mention of Chrzanów dates to 1179. It was first a ducal town known for its iron and lead sediments. The town was founded in the 14th century. Jewish settlement in the town dates back to the end of the 16th century (at least 1590) and an independent Jewish community was established in 1745 at which time the Ossoliński family owned the town. From 1790, the Jews of Libiąż Mały were subordinate to the community.
In 1781, the town owner issued a statute regulating the obligations and relations between Catholics and Jews. After the incorporation of Chrzanów into the Habsburg monarchy in 1846, the Jewish community was deprived of its rights for several years and, under the new constitution of December 21, 1867, the Jewish population was legally equated with the Christian population. In 1880, Jews constituted 58.9% of the total population (3,591 out of 6,098 people). From 1888 to 1920, they had a decisive advantage in the town council. Until 1912, the mayor of Chrzanów was a Jew – Dr. Zygmunt Keppler.
In 1901, the statute of the Jewish community in Chrzanów was approved, which included 60 neighbouring villages under its administration. Among the prominent rabbis and leaders of the community were the descendants of the tzadik known as Diwrej Chaim (Chaim ben Arje Lejb Halberstam). Chrzanów was also associated with the cantor Hirsz Lejb Bakon and a member of the Polish Government in London – Ignacy Schwarzbart. Despite the Jewish community’s large population (6,328 people in 1921), the community was rather poor in the interwar period and most made a living in crafts and trade. During the Nazi occupation in 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in the town. Jews from nearby towns and cities were resettled there as well. After the liquidation of the ghetto in February 1943, most of them were transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, and some were sent to labour camps. After the war, 105 Jews returned to the town, more than half of whom left by 1950.