From quiet trading centre to utter destruction

Działoszyn, a town with a rich history, is situated in central Poland. Its origins can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it was part of the Piast dynasty's realm.

The first documented mention of Działoszyn dates back to 1245 when it was granted municipal rights by Prince Bolesław the Chaste.

Over the centuries, the town played a significant role in the region's socio-economic development.

During the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth era, Działoszyn continued to flourish as it became a center for trade and craftsmanship.

The town's strategic location along important trade routes contributed to its prosperity. In the 17th century, Działoszyn faced the ravages of the Swedish Deluge, a period of conflicts that left scars on many Polish towns, including Działoszyn.

The 18th century brought further changes as Działoszyn, like the rest of Poland, went through partitions. The town found itself under Prussian rule after the second partition in 1793. Throughout the 19th century, Działoszyn witnessed industrialization and modernization under Prussian governance.

The early 20th century marked a return to Polish rule after the First World War. In the interwar period, Działoszyn experienced cultural and educational advancements, with the establishment of schools and cultural institutions. However, the spectre of the Second World War loomed, and by 1938, tensions escalated as Poland became increasingly entangled in the geopolitical struggles that would ultimately lead to the outbreak of the war in 1939. The events that followed would significantly shape the town's destiny in the years to come.

Antisemitism breaks out

During the 1930s, Działoszyn was engulfed by a surge of anti-Semitism. By 1936, the windows of Jewish homes were frequently shattered. In December of that year and January of 1937, the Emergency Guard imposed restrictions, prohibiting Christians from patronizing Jewish stores.

The situation escalated on 28th January 1937, leading to outright riots. The mob targeted Jewish stores and market stands, assaulting any Jews in their path. Approximately forty Jews suffered injuries, six of them seriously.

The arriving police unit from Wielun managed to halt the attackers, arresting several hundred individuals. The sentences handed down were relatively mild, with one rioter receiving just a one-month imprisonment. On the other side, a Jewish individual was sentenced to three months, while another received one month.

Unfortunately, the assaults on Jews persisted and intensified. In July 1937, the Jewish cemetery suffered desecration, with the fence destroyed, numerous gravestones shattered, and some graves dug up, allegedly resulting in the scattering of the deceased's bones.

German attacks

Działoszyn, like other border towns and villages, served as the frontline defense against the advancing German forces during the tumultuous period of the Invasion of Poland. The town faced a harrowing ordeal on the 1st September 1939 when it became the target of three successive bombings.

The initial bombing laid waste to the town center, causing widespread destruction. Within half an hour, a second raid ensued, exacerbating the devastation and igniting numerous fires throughout the area.

The third and most devastating air raid, executed by approximately 30 Luftwaffe Stuka dive bombers, inflicted near-total annihilation upon Działoszyn.

The toll was particularly severe among civilians, who hastily evacuated the ruins amid numerous casualties and injuries.

The once-thriving town was reduced to rubble, with only a handful of structures, including a few houses, the local post office, and the bridge over the Warta River, managing to withstand the ferocity of the attacks.

Eyewitness account

“It was September 1, 1939, a Friday around morning, a very nice day, hot, still summertime, everything normal like a typical Friday while I was getting the food ready for Shabbat like God asks, when all of a sudden we received bad news that the war had begun.

We didn't know what to do. Everyone was anxious when out of nowhere we saw the airplanes flying overhead.

Some commented "they're ours" and others "they're Nazis."

Each person had a different rumour. So, we closed the store. We were at the other exit which led to the passage, or a corridor that was between our house and my uncle's bakery, when all of a sudden some soldiers appeared asking for civilian clothes to change into with the hopes that they wouldn't be captured as prisoners.

They remarked, "We are lost. Poland doesn't have the necessary weapons to protect itself. The Nazis are very well armed, motorized, with tanks and everything else."

We entered uncle Faywisz's bakery when out of nowhere we heard the bombs explode. We didn't know what to do… everything happened so suddenly.

We all decided, along with my uncle and his family, that we would find shelter in the house of a family, Saylit [Szylit?]. It was nearby and it had a large basement made out of concrete; which we thought the bombs couldn't destroy it.

We tried to leave various times but the bombs wouldn't stop. We finally left, but only to the nearest house which belonged to my uncle, Moishe Urbach. At that moment a very powerful bomb exploded.

I thought, "We won't get out of here alive!"

A long time passed and the bombing ceased. So we went out to see where the bomb had fallen because we heard it was close to us. Sure enough it plummeted onto the terrace on which we had been standing.

There was a hole large enough to fit a house. We were lucky, but how unfortunate it was for those poor people that were able to hide in the basement where we couldn't reach… the bomb destroyed that house and they all lay dead under the ruin. My brothers, along with many other men, went to find survivors, but it was hopeless.

Much later we were informed that only one girl survived, but with such bad luck that she was missing legs. The poor girl cried about her misfortune, lamenting "What's the use in living, being disabled?"

After such a sad event, we decided to flee. But where?

In the meantime the Nazi airplanes disappeared after destroying many house”

Eyewitness account of the mother of Sammy Guberek - who survived the war.


The town's civilian population witnessed a mass exodus as refugees sought safety before and during the relentless onslaught. Among them, approximately 2,000 Jews sought refuge in the neighboring town of Pajeczno.

Additionally, records indicate that some Jewish residents from Działoszyn relocated to Zelów (Lask county) around 1939 or 1940, while another group of about 250 settled in Kielczyglów (Wieluń county). For those Działoszyn refugees who arrived in Pajeczno with little to nothing, the local Joint committee took on the responsibility of their care and well-being.

The plight of these refugees, akin to the local impoverished population, compelled many to seek employment opportunities.

Some found work under the employment of affluent Jewish individuals, while others were compelled to engage in forced labor for the Germans, highlighting the challenging circumstances faced by the displaced population from Działoszyn during this tumultuous period.

Further reading