The Dutch, the English and the Scots

The Scots in Chelmno

Most of the families of Scottish emigrants running away from religious persecution in their homeland settled in Chelmno in the 17th century.
They came to Poland driven also by a desire to get richer through trade and since the 16th century the term ‘szots’ was used in edicts issued by the authorities. Their main occupation at that time was peddling. The Scots coming to Prussia in the 17th century were on the other hand rather wealthy. They came mainly from the Aberdeenshire: from Roundlichet and Bortie. The protestants’ favourite settlement places were the seaside cities – Gdansk and Elblag, and the Catholics’ – Chelmno.
The Scots that settled in Chelmno turned out to be a very mobile and energetic element playing a significant role in the life of the city. They also hugely participated in the struggle to improve its economical situation. They settled in the local society and being calm and kind gained the people’s liking. The Scots were not an isolated group and mixed marriages were not uncommon. In the life of the city the Forbes, the Chatters and the Smiths played a very significant role taking the highest offices in the city.

Walter Forbes

came to Chelmno in 1696 or 1697. After settling down here he started his career as a merchant, in the years 1719-1721 he was a judge, and between 1725 and 1733 he was a town councillor, finally to be elected the mayor in the years 1725-1733.
There were other Scottish families whose activities in the social and economic life of Chelmno made them quite outstanding and who were appointed to take various city offices on numerous occasions: the Smiths, the Chatters, the Gordons, the Herwows, the Ahorns, the Dominics, the Walters, the Blacks and the Arbuthnots. Many an epitaph prove the wealth and the role the families played in the life of the city. Among them the Forbes’, the Chatters’, the Smiths’ or the Walters’ epitaphs in the parish church of Saint Mary’s Assumption, showing people wearing traditional costumes of the Polish nobility.

copyright by E. Pawelec


The Jews

Generally in Chełmno, the Jews were not allowed to settle down in Chełmno.

According to the Laudum of the Prussian Land of 1616 the Jews were forbidden to stay in three provinces: Malbork, Chełmno and Pomorskie Provinces. They only could come to the towns to take part in fairs and mar­kets. Some of them wanted to settled down and get the status of permanent residents. For that purpose they became neophytes, which means that they were con­ver­ted to catholicism. The baptism ceremonies of the Jews very often were very solemn and formal. Many of such ceremonies were run by Missionary Priests in the Chełm­no parish church. As mentioned in the chro­nic­le one of such events took place in 1700 on the Feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary. Then, one of the Missionary Priests baptized a 30-year old Jew as Bishop Potocki ordered to accept him in the town and allow his membership in the gild of furriers because it was his job.  Thus, he became the citizen of the town.

 In XIX there was the affluence of people of Jewish faith. When escaping from Russia because of intolerance and pogroms they found the shelter in Chełmno. Many settled down there for ever. The increasing Jewish community caused that in 1842 a house of prayer — synagogue located in Poprzeczna Street was built and the Jewish cemetery, a place of burial, was situated in the today’s Powstańców Wielkopolskich Street.
The Royal Catholic Male Secondary School (in Polish: Królewskie Katolickie Gimnazjum Męskie) in Chełmno played an important part in the life of the Jewish community. This school was famous of high quality education in the Pomeranian region, which was confirmed by the fact that many great people, both the Poles, Germans and Jews graduated from this educational institution. This secondary school gave its graduates a possibility of completing education and obtaining the maturity certificates, which were a basis/ condition for going to the university.  The name of this school implies that it had only Catholic students but actually it was not the case. The children of Cat­ho­lic, Jewish faiths, Protestants and Mennonites went to this school and all of them were equally treated.
The Jewish students came mainly from the mer­chants’ families both from Chełmno and other towns, among others, from Inowrocław, Fordon, Świecie, Wąbrzeźno. Many of them did not complete the entire cycle of education but those of them who graduated from this school and were granted the maturity certificates studied medicine and law. It was also the rabbins from Chełmno such as doctor Moritz Salzberger and doctor Moritz Guttmann who were the teachers. The famous Jewish student who graduated from this school was, among others, a critic and a writer whose pen-name was Anselm Ruest. As Ernst Samual he graduated from this school in 1896.

When Poland became independent many Jews left Chełmno. Only few of them stayed in the town. There were only 49 of them in 1921. The period of time between I and II World Wars was not favourable for mutual contacts. Antipathy was noticed in the local press.

 The outbreak of the II Word War decisively changed the lives of Jewish community members. The majority of them were killed in massive executions in Klamry. Only few survived. Also, the synagogue and Jewish cemetery disappeared. The synagogue was blown up by the Germans in 1939. In the place where it  was located, garages were erected and the area of the cemetery was used for building blocks of flats. Currently efforts have been made to commemorate the last resting-place of members of the Jewish community in Chełmno who died and were buried before 1939.