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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Mishnitz, Myszyniec



I often get requests for information on various towns and shtetlach in Poland and I try my best to help. Recently I received a letter with an inquiry about the town of Mishnitz. After consulting various maps and atlases from the First World War to the post-Communist era, I could not find any place with that spelling. It is possible that the request came from a second or even third generation American who only remembers stories of a certain shtetl with a partially-remembered name that is given a spelling which is nowhere to be found in Poland. I believe Mishnitz is one such place. The closest I was able to come was the town of Myszyniec.

 

 

Mr. Shmuel Ben Eliezer:




I have just read your article about Kiernoza, a small Jewish village in Poland. Maybe you can help or point me in the right direction.


My mother also came from a small village called Mishnitz. It was near a larger city called Estralenka, near a river by the same name. I could not find them on a map of Poland, so I guess the Polish names were not the same. According to my mother, we still had family in the village. We know that an Uncle Berrel Teitelbaum and his family were alive during the early part of the war. The last we heard from him, He and the family were transported to Warsaw. He had eight children, ranging in ages from two to 13 or 14. We know of no survivors of this family or any of the others. All from the generation who came from Europe are no longer with us, and I guess I cannot forget my roots. I would like my children and grandchildren to know a little more about their roots. If you could shed any light on the village or how to find survivors, I would be grateful.


The following are sources that I often use to find information on Jewish history in Poland. I hope this is the right town and the following information is of use.


Sources: The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation Genealogy Project at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. www.polishjews.org/home.htm



Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast, 8 Lyle Road, New Britain, CT 06053-2104. E-mail: pgsctne@yahoo.com.

 


Myszyniec, the largest town in the Kurpie region and the regional trade and commercial center of the area, can trace its beginnings to 1654. The Jesuits in Lomza assigned two priests to convert the inhabitants of the nearby Kurpian Forest. King Jan III gave the Jesuits permission to clear two “wloks” of land to build a school, tavern and brewery.


During the Swedish wars in 1702, the Swedes were defeated by the Kurpian tribesmen. As punishment, the Swedish invaders burned down the entire town in 1708. In 1716 Jan Kos, the Wojewoda of Ostroleka, supervised the reconstruction of the town. King August II gave permission to conduct fairs at the town’s market place in 1719 and a settlement gradually grew there. Originally the settlement was called Martuny after a tar maker named Martun, who settled there after the conclusion of the Swedish Wars.


Myszyniec is located on a flat plain on the Rozoga River. In the 19th century, it was located in the area of Poland seized by Russia during the partitions of the late 18th century. Administratively, Myszyniec belonged to the Province (gubernia) of Lomza, County of Ostroleka. It was only a few miles from the border with Prussia. The people inhabiting the town and surrounding villages were and are distinct from other nearby regions in speech and customs. The Kurpian region is known as a major folklore center in Northeastern Poland, and the distinct form and characteristics of Kurpie peasant art is visible in the architecture and customs of the region.


The land in parts of this area is sandy and swampy, making efficient farming difficult. At the end of the 19th century, the basis for the existence and livelihood of most Kurpian families consisted of a seven- to 10-acre farm, in many cases located in a forest clearing. Since families were large, consisting of seven to 10 members – and it was estimated that a minimum of 28 acres was necessary to sustain an average sized family of the era – it is no surprise that by 1914 nearly 20 percent of the population of the area had departed for the United States, Canada and Brazil.


At this point, I have not been able to find much specific information on the Jewish history of the town, but it is probably similar to that of the other towns in the area, including Lomza.


Myszyniec was first occupied by the Germans, then handed over to the Russians – but was later re-conquered by the Germans. Most of the Jews were murdered in Treblinka. Today there are no Jewish remains left and it is hardly even mentioned in books on Polish Jewish history.

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The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

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