Postcard view of Belchatow (about 1914)
Location: Belchatow is located in a section of central Poland that is part of the Southern Mazovian Heights, on the Rakowka River (a tributary of the Widawka), 23 km (14.3 mi) west of Piotrkow Trybunalski and 50 km (31 mi) south of Lodz. Present-day Belchatow covers an area of 3,464 hectares (8,560 acres). Currently (since 1999) it is in the Province of Lodz (lodzkie). Prior to that is was in the Province of Piotrkow Trybunalski (piotrkowkie). During the time of the czars (Kingdom of Poland; Congress Poland) it was located in the guberniya of the same name.
Climate and Resources: The average annual precipitation does not exceed 600 mm. Snow usually covers this town about 50 days of the year. The average temperature in January is -2.5 C°, and in July it is 18 C°. Much of the land is covered with forests and contains rich resources of brown coal (estimated at over 2 billion tons).
Nearby Jewish towns and villages: Grocholice, Kamiensk, Lask, Pabianice, Piotrkow Trybunalski, Radomsko, Rozprza, Sulejow (Silev), Sulmierzyce, Szczercow, Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Tuszyn, Widawa, and Zelow.
After the second partition of Poland in 1793, Belchatow came under Prussian control and received an influx of settlers, including Jews. By 1820, when Belchatow ranked among the industrial centers of Poland, Jews constituted over half of the population. In the 1860 census conducted by the mayor Majewski, Jews numbered 1,139 (76%), Poles 325 (22%), and Germans 35 (2%). At that time there were two streets in the town, Pabianicka and Piotrkowska, and a main square, all unpaved. The town had received a city charter in 1843 but lost it in 1870, after the fall of the January Uprising, as a punishment for its active support of the insurgents. It then became the property of the German Reinhold Spiller and later the Hellwig family.
Click here for a translation of the section on Belchatow from the 1929 Polish Business Directory Project of JRI-Poland in cooperation with JewishGen. It includes a list of Businesses and Industries ranging from doctor and banker to midwife and stall-operator at the weekly marketplace, each of which is followed with a list of names of the proprietors and merchants (both Jewish and Christian).
At the outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, the area around Belchatow bore witness to heavy defensive fighting (since Borowa Gora had the task of stopping the Nazi assault on Warsaw). During the Nazi Occupation, Belchatow was declared a Jewish town, since the Jews constituted nearly 50% of its population. The Nazis established a ghetto, where the Jewish people were brutally repressed, beaten, and murdered. The ghetto was closed in August 1942, when the remaining Jews were sent to the Lodz Ghetto or the Chelmno death camp. The town was liberated on 19 January 1945.
In January 1956, Belchatow was made the capital of a new administrative unit, or district (powiat).
City Plan of Present-day Belchatow
Click on map for a larger view (in Polish)
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View Belchatow via Map Quest (Latitude 51º 22', Longitude 19º 23').
Or look at the area via the Interactive map of Poland (mostly Polish)
This page last revised
May 28, 2009.