An estimated 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland before 1939. In Będzin, Jews comprised about half of the population (nearly 25,000). The diversity of the Jewish community in Będzin was reflective of a wider social, cultural, intellectual, and economic variety within this highly industrialized region.
Wealthy and comfortable individuals felt it was their social and religious obligation to ensure that poorer Jewish families were well equipped with the essential food to observe Shabbat, the holy day. Others made monetary donations to the local Jewish orphanage in Będzin or assisted with costs associated with Jewish burials and funerals. Others embraced modern commerce which allowed them to explore business and pleasure beyond their town. Some Jewish men adopted secular appearances, such as clean-shaven faces and modern dress. Orthodox Hasidic Jews, on the other hand, preserved their religious traditions by wearing their traditional kaftans and head coverings.
Many of the Jewish youth were engaged in a broad range of political groups, including socialist, traditionalist, and Zionist movements.
Historical film footage from Jews in the ghettos of Dabrowa Gornicza and Będzin (11 minutes):
For more information on Jews in occupied Poland:
Read more on Będzin’s Jews under German occupation:
Mary Fulbrook. A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust (Oxford University Press, 2012)