• Memorial to the murdered Jews of Będzin
In Będzin several memorials stand in memory of the approximately murdered 25,000 Jews from the city and its surroundings.
Image: Będzin, about 1900, View of the synagogue beneath the castle, public domain
Będzin, about 1900, View of the synagogue beneath the castle, public domain

Image: Będzin, 2013, Memorial at the site of the former synagogue burned down in 1939, Steve Glickman
Będzin, 2013, Memorial at the site of the former synagogue burned down in 1939, Steve Glickman
Będzin is an industrial city in Upper Silesia about 10 km away from Katowice. Prior to the First World War the city was part of the Russian Empire and in close proximity to the borders with the German and the Austro-Hungarian Empires.
The history of the Będzin Jews dates back to the Middle Ages. In the mid 19th century 2,240 Jews live in the city, more than a third of the total population. At that time the town thrived mainly thanks to mining and the steel industry. The Jewish community benefited from this boom and in 1894 a new synagogue built from stone was consecrated. After the First World War, Będzin became a part of Poland. At the outbreak of the Second World War more than 40 percent of the approximately 50,000 inhabitants were Jewish.
The German Wehrmacht occupied the city as early as September 4, 1939. Already in the first days of German rule numerous Jews were murdered, for instance under the pretext of pursuing speculation. On September 8 the Germans burned the synagogue and parts of the Jewish quarter without any prior warning. Hundreds died in the fire. In early 1940 a ghetto was established. In the followings months Jews were again and again taken away to conduct forced labour in other parts of Upper Silesia. From May 1940 onwards the German authorities started to deport Jews from Upper Silesia to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp which was only 30 km away from Będzin. Until summer 1943 most of the Jews from the ghetto had been deported, only men fit for work remained. At this stage, an underground resistance movement developed. When the Germans started to liquidate the ghetto on July 31, 1943 some fighters put up resistance until August 8. The last inhabitants of the ghetto, about 1,000 Jews, were deported to Auschwitz in January 1944.
Image: Będzin, about 1900, View of the synagogue beneath the castle, public domain
Będzin, about 1900, View of the synagogue beneath the castle, public domain

Image: Będzin, 2013, Memorial at the site of the former synagogue burned down in 1939, Steve Glickman
Będzin, 2013, Memorial at the site of the former synagogue burned down in 1939, Steve Glickman
Approximately 30,000 Jews from Będzin and surroundings were forced to live in the Będzin ghetto. More than 25,000 of them were murdered, most of them in the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Image: Będzin, 1942, Street scene in the ghetto, public domain
Będzin, 1942, Street scene in the ghetto, public domain

Image: Będzin, 2012, Inscription on the memorial to the victims of the ghetto, Helena Grunfeld
Będzin, 2012, Inscription on the memorial to the victims of the ghetto, Helena Grunfeld
The Red Army reached the city in January 1945. Upper Silesia and therefore also Będzin became a part of Poland. Some of the Jewish survivors returned to their home but most of them emigrated soon afterwards. After the anti-Semitic campaign of the communist government in 1968 hardly any Jews stayed in Będzin.
For a long time very little was reminiscent of the city's former Jewish life or the victims of the ghetto except for the abandoned Jewish cemetery. In 1987 a memorial plaque was erected at the site of a mass shooting of Polish and Jewish hostages in the early days of the German occupation. Only after the breakdown of the communist system a memorial was erected which made reference explicitly to Jewish victims: At the site of the synagogue which was burned in 1939 a square-shaped memorial stone with a menorah and an inscription in Polish and Hebrew was erected on initiative of descendants of Będzin Jews. In 2005 a memorial to the victims of the ghetto was inaugurated. At the place which today is called the Square of the Heroes of the Ghetto members of the Jewish underground movement put up resistance during the liquidation of the ghetto. Behind the stele is a fragment of a wagon remembering the deportation. The inscription of the memorial plaque in Hebrew, English and Polish reads: »In memory of the more that 30,000 Jews who have settled here for ages and generations and have been taken away and murdered by the Nazis 1939-1945. Authorities and inhabitants of Będzin, August 2005.«
Between summer 1943 and September 1944 there was a satellite camp of the Auschwitz concentration camp in the Będzin district of Łagisza with approximately 1,000 detainees. They are remembered with a memorial stone in front of the local power station.
Image: Będzin, 2012, Memorial to the victims of the ghetto, Helena Grunfeld
Będzin, 2012, Memorial to the victims of the ghetto, Helena Grunfeld

Image: Będzin, 2012, Rear of the memorial to the victims of the ghetto, Helena Grunfeld
Będzin, 2012, Rear of the memorial to the victims of the ghetto, Helena Grunfeld
Name
Pomnik dla ofiar getta w Będzinie
Address
Plac Bohaterów Getta / ul. Józefa Podsiadły
41-200 Będzin
Open
The memorials are accessible at all times.