Gorlice, Poland

Gorlice is in southern Poland, close to the Slovak border.

Jews first settled in Gorlice in the 18th century and made a living trading timber, corn and wine. The community grew substantially in the late 19th century after oil was found in the area and Jews owned the local oil refinery.

Gorlice was home to eight of the Boys, who were born in the town, and at least two more of them grew up there. Zisha Swimmer grew up in the nearby village of Struzowska.

Slave labour played an important part in their survival.


Jews played a major role in the commercial and civic life of Gorlice. They owned 90% of shops and 30% of craft workshops. There was a rich cultural and religious Jewish life and Gorlice had two synagogues.

In 1939, the Jewish population of Gorlice was 5,000, about half of the total. Many Jews fled eastwards after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939.


A ghetto was established in Gorlice in 1940. It was liquidated in September 1942, and the vast majority of the Jews in the ghetto were taken to the Belzec extermination camp.

When the ghetto was liquidated in 1942, some Jews were selected for slave labour. Some including Hersch Balsam, David Hirschfeld and his brother Moniek Hirschfeld and SzjayaPopiel were sent to the Krakow-Plaszowlabour camp.

From there the members of the Boys were transferred to work in the munitions camp of Skarzysko-Kamienna where many of the Boys worked as slave labourers. It was here that the group first began to come together. They were then deported via Czestochowa to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.


After the liberation about 30 Jewish families returned. They found their property had been looted and the cemetery destroyed. Antisemitism made them seek a new future elsewhere.

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