+ Photos Only + Advanced Search
Printer-friendly Printer-friendly

Guide to the Records of the Ostrowo Jewish Community Council RG 13

Processed by Steven M. Lowenstein, 1970s.  Edited by Rivka Schiller, 2006 with the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation.  Additionally processed and prepared for digitization by Violet Lutz in 2016 as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project, with the assistance of a grant from the Conference of Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, New York, with additional funding from the Kronhill Pletka Foundation, and The Ruth and David Levine Charitable Fund, 2015.

Note to researchers: This collection is currently closed in preparation for the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Email: archives@yivo.cjh.org
URL: http://www.yivo.org

© 2006 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved.

Electronic finding aid was converted to EAD version 2002 by Yakov Sklyar in December 2006. EAD finding aid customized in ARCHON in 2012.  Description is in English.

Collection Overview

Title: Guide to the Records of the Ostrowo Jewish Community Council RG 13

ID: RG 13 FA

Extent: 10.0 Linear Feet


This collection was part of the YIVO Archives in Vilna before the Second World War. The records were arranged, numbered and described in Vilna. A part of the original catalog survives and is included with the collection (folder A). The arrangement used here relies on the Vilna catalog.

The main body of the collection is arranged in 184 numbered folders. Some files which were in the original collection catalog in the prewar period when the collection was in Vilna were not transferred to YIVO in New York in 1947. These files are indicated in the body of the folder listing. Some folders titles were not in the original catalog and were added to the catalog in New York. his has been indicated by the addition of the letter A. As a supplement to the collection’s main body, there is a section of financial volumes that has been arranged at the end of the collection. The folders contained within this latter section have been numbered F1 to F12.

The records contained within the collection are those of the Jewish communal administration of Ostrowo. Also included here are some materials from other Jewish agencies in the town.


The Jewish community of Ostrowo, which dates back to 1724, became thoroughly Germanized in time. During the period leading up to World War I, Ostrowo’s Jewish population began a downward decline, which lasted beyond 1918. The depletion of the Jewish population was due to the steady stream of emigration to countries including Germany, the United States, and Palestine. In early October 1939 the Nazi Reich annexed the western part of Poland, including the province of Poznan. By this time, the Jewish community of Ostrowo had dwindled to 17 members. According to Pinkas Hakehilot, in December 1939 these last remaining Jews fled to some unknown destination site. The collection is only a fragment of the original Ostrowo Jewish community’s archives. The records of the Ostrowo Jewish community cover the German period. The vast majority of the material focuses on the years 1834-1919, although a few documents are older.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The following categories provide a general overview of the documents contained within the collection:

Government, Legal, and Miscellaneous Finance Records: Government-issued certificates of toleration, orders, annual lists of tolerated Jews, correspondence re: individual and public concerns, 1835-1848, synagogue mortgage, court cases concerning communal property, 1824-1858, wills, probate court documents, 1828-1875, lists of debtors, balance sheets, audits, legal proceedings to collect debts, 1880-1902, amortization, legal discussions, bank correspondence, inheritance, wills, legal rules, endowments, government correspondence, 1878-1903, bills, income, expenses, receipts, pay orders, communal tax lists, expense vouchers, ledger of revenue, 1851-1905.

Communal Aid and Welfare Societies: Individual petitions for aid and corresponding decisions of aid commission, lists of recipients; includes society to aid poor gymnasium students, 1856-1884, communal meetings to discuss welfare aid, pleas from organizations, 1867-1891, material pertaining to Passover flour for poor, 1835-1845, communal aid for insufficiently clothed school children, 1834, 1842-1846, 1865, collections for hospital, 1886-1893, material pertaining to various societies to aid poor women, society to provide soup to poor: lists of members, bills for soup distribution, 1842-1880.

Religious and Education Records: Material pertaining to the hiring and financial support of synagogue rabbis and their immediate families, 1823-1907, kosher meat tax, 1845-1901, registry of slaughterhouse, 1838, ritual bath, 1865-1900, Jewish burial society, 1872, 1907-1909, Ner Tomid Society, 1834-1897, lawsuit with church, communal meetings, appeals, court decisions, 1836-1858, synagogue mortgages, 1878-1903, fees for religious ceremonies, petitions concerning anti-shekhite (ritual slaughter) proposals, ritual objects belonging to synagogue, synagogue budgets, expenses pertaining to upkeep of Jewish cemetery, 1891-1911.

Administrative Officers and Community Council Records: Materials on elections of communal officers, rabbis, cantors, ritual slaughterers, sextons, synagogue, communal decisions and protests, rolls of community members listing profession and citizenship status, birth records and registries for Ostrowo and nearby Adelnau Kreis, 1847-1874, lists of community members with professions and citizenship status, list of villages, legal regulations, correspondence concerning Jewish civil rights, 1833-1837, correspondence with Government, statutes of community, government orders, 1834-1845, election meetings; minutes of representative meetings; correspondence with government, 1834-1846.

Historical Note

The first mention of Ostrowo, a private town that originally belonged to the Polish aristocracy in the region of Kalisz, dates back to the year 1404. During the 17th century, Ostrowo was afflicted by a series of wars and plagues, prompting Poland’s then Minister of Finance, who was also a resident of the town, to invite outside parties to come settle in Ostrowo, with hopes that this would help remedy the city’s economic difficulties and the problems associated with its declining population.

In 1724 King Augustus II the Strong granted 12 Jews the right to settle in Ostrowo. These Jews were allowed to reside in homes located on side streets—not in the city’s center—and to rent to other Jews. With this newly augmented population, the city began to grow both economically and demographically. In 1793, when the second partition of Poland took place, Ostrowo’s total population numbered 2,541.

From a legal perspective, the Jewish residents of Ostrowo were not privy to the same rights as other Ostrowo residents. Nonetheless, they were not required to pay the standard compulsory army tax, which other residents were required to pay. By the latter part of the 18th century, Ostrowo’s Jews saw a greatly improved economic situation, and the Jewish community began to develop. The Jewish community of Ostrowo was granted the right to build a synagogue, to open a kheyder for its children, and to established a cemetery on land that was bequeathed to it by the city’s leaders. In 1773 there was no more remaining room in the first Jewish cemetery, so the Jewish community established a second one on the outskirts of the city, on additional land that it acquired.

The majority of Ostrowo’s Jewish community earned its livelihood from merchandise and petty trade. In 1770 there were 9 merchants, 9 tailors, 3 furriers and in addition, 2 physicians. By 1794 the number of tailors had increased to 31, the number of merchants remained the same, and the number of furriers had increased to 8. In 1835 the Ostrowo Jewish community established an elementary school of two classes, which was recognized by and received the financial support of the German government. At the time of the school’s founding, there was a student body of 136 children. The teachers were all government-licensed educators. In 1860, a Talmud-Torah was also established, which the Jewish community funded. During the first year of its existence, the school had a student body totaling 362. In 1866 Ostrowo’s two gymnasiums had a student body totaling 367, of which 77 were Jews.

In 1871 Ostrowo’s Jewish population numbered 1, 982 out of the total of ca. 7,000. During the course of the 19th century, the Ostrowo Jewish community became increasingly established and Jews played an especially prominent role in the city’s clothing and fur trades. However, by the close of the 19th century, Ostrowo witnessed the same overall tendencies of other cities in this region: The younger generation of Ostrowo Jews began to gravitate toward larger German cities. In particular, they tended to settle in areas where maskilim and professionals already resided.

With the growth of Ostrowo’s Jewish community, a new synagogue was established in the Moorish style. The synagogue’s cornerstone laying ceremony was held in April 1857. Within a few years, the Jewish community also built a new beys-medresh and a ritual bath. In 1905 a branch of the Zionist movement was established, which provided great support to the Zionist Congress of 1911.

During World War I many young Jewish males were drafted into the German army. After World War I, when Ostrowo was returned to Poland, the city’s Jewish population began a rapid and steady decline. Most Jews leaving Ostrowo moved to larger cities in Germany, or emigrated to the United States or Palestine.

In the beginning of September 1939, when Nazi Germany conquered Ostrowo, only 17 Jews remained in the city. In December 1939, when the last remaining Jews of Ostrowo learned of the fate of Jews from nearby towns, they all fled to unknown destinations. The Germans destroyed both the synagogue and cemetery of the Ostrowo Jewish community.

A Centrum Judaicum catalogue was published in 2001 and contains references to 34 files dating 1798-1912.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers by appointment. For more information, contact: Chief Archivist, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011;  email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Related Materials: At the present time, the Ostrowo communal records can be found in several locations. Part of the communal archives was sent about 1910 to the Gesamtarchiv der Deutschen Juden in Berlin. Materials were later dispersed among several archival repositories around the world. A portion of the materials spanning the years 1724-1875 found its way to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. Another portion was taken over by the East German state archives and ultimately returned to the German Jewish community. Today these materials can be found in the “Centrum Judaicum,” which is a museum and archives located on Oranienburger Strasse, at the site of the recently reconsecrated Neue Synagoge in Berlin. Yet another portion is located at the Jewish Historical Institute (ŻIH) in Warsaw. Finally, fragments of the Ostrowo records are located in Moscow, at the former “Osobyi” (Special) archives, a repository for records confiscated by the Red Army from Germany and other countries during World War II.

Preferred Citation: Published citations should read as follows: Identification of item, date (if known); YIVO Archives; Records of the Ostrowo Jewish Community Council; RG 13; folder number.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

Series 1: Series I: General Files, 1824-1915,
Series 2: Series II: Financial Documents, 1851-1915,

Series II: Financial Documents
Folder F 1: Ausgabe Belaege Zur Korporations Tariffen Rechnung
Contains material from 1850-1852; receipts, bills, pay orders
Folder F 2: Ausgabe Belaege
Mainly bills; pay orders, receipts, pleas for aid
Folder F 3: Ausgabe Belaege
Bills, receipts, pay orders
Folder F 4: Einnahme Belaege
Receipts, changes in communal tax lists, Einnahme Anweisungen
Folder F 5: Einnahme Belaege
Lists of various types of income (with corresponding amounts), Einnahme Anweisungen
Folder F 6: Einnahme Belaege
Lists of various types of income and of donations, Einnahme Anweisungen
Folder F 7: Ledger
Both income and expenses, includes numbered and dated items, (fragmentary)
Folder F 8: Revenue ledger
Folder F 9: Accompanying documents for expenses
Bills, lists of expenses, receipts, pay orders, expense vouchers, pleas for aid, etc.
Folder F 10: Einnahme Belaege
List of debtors, orders, and documents concerning various kinds of income
Folder F 11: Ausgabe Belaege
Mainly bills and vouchers
Folder F 12: Accompanying documents for expenses
Bills, receipts, pay orders

Browse by Series:

Series 1: Series I: General Files, 1824-1915,
Series 2: Series II: Financial Documents, 1851-1915,
© 2013 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Terms of Use Privacy Policy

Archive powered by Archon Version 3.14
Copyright © 2011 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign