POSEN-L Archives

Archiver > POSEN > 1999-03 > 0921898148

From: =James Birkholz= <>
Subject: [POSEN-L] Margonin description
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 21:49:08 -0500

Dear subscribers,
I found a web site a little while ago (in German) about a Jewish doctor who
was born in Margonin, Kreis Kolmar. Joel Streich has kindly provided me
with a translation and has agreed to share it with the list.
More info (maps and pictures) of this area can be seen at

Dr. Aronstein, sadly, was a victim of the Holacaust. To view the page that
this came from, go to

James Birkholz


The trail of the Aronstein's at the end of the 19th Century leads to
Margonin, a small city in today's Poland in the Wojewodschaft Pil~a.
The signs of an once lively Jewish community have disappeared. The
synagogue, which once stood a little to the side of the market square
in the street leading to Posen, and the Jewish cemetery, which had an
area of 0.28 ha, are no longer there. The market square in the center
of Margonin, surrounded by small gabled houses, developed at the end of
the last century. In the direct vicinity there is the Catholic church,
a late baroque structure with a free standing, classical bell tower.
The area around Margonin is very charming. A lake with a surface of
ca. 215 hectare is still today an angler's paradise. Two old linden
alleys lead towards Margoninsdorf into a park with a neo-gothic
palace. The Polish Magnate-family Skrzewski frequently had Jozef
Wybicki, who later composed the lyrics for the Polish National Anthem,
as a guest. He met his wife here and married here in 1773. Also, the
Polish National Poet Adam Mickiewicz was said to have convalesced in
Margonin. Of the Baroness Skrewska the story goes, that she requested,
out of fear of social tension, that the Prussian king, Friedrich II,
take her wide reaching land holdings under his protection.....

In contrast to Friedrich's original plans, Margonin and its
surroundings became Prussian in 1772 during the first Partition of
Poland and belonged thence forth to the so called Netzedistrict within
the Province of Posen. The oldest report about Jews in Margonin, also
called Margonin in the Hebrew writings, is dated July 30, 1688. On
this day the Castilian of Plotzk, Stephan Gembicki, granted them a
Privilege. In a German translation from the year 1801 it went:
"Whichever Jew builds a new house from ground up shall from all city
assessment, as taxes.... be freed for four years, it will be
allowed... to brew a half Gebraeude beer without tax; the construction
of such a house we will allow him, however, not only in the street
assigned to them [ie. the Jews] but also elsewhere, where he pleases...
It will stand freey to them to deal in all ways with all things without
hinderance." In Prussia the rights of the Jews were confirmed in the
"Revised General-Jewish-Regulations' of April 17, 1750.

They had no citizenship rights [and] stood, with the exception of a few
well-to-do families (Schutzjudenfamilies), at the bottom of the social
structure. In 1815 40% of all Prussia's Jews lived in the Province of
Posen. Until 1833 they were required to carry letters of protection
and registration (Schutz- und Geleitbriefe). They were deprived of all
freedom of movement? and were required to pay numerous special taxes.
Through the "Provisional Ordinance regarding the Jews in the Grand
Duchy of Posen" of June 1, 1833, they had the right of naturalization,
i.e. they could obtain Prussian citizenship. The conditions for this
were a "clean record"(unbescholtenen Lebenswandel), the assumption of a
fixed family-name, and the obligation to use the German language. In
addition, proofs of continuous residency in Posen since 1815 and
sufficient means of support were required. This law was the only one
that was ever specifically issued for a province. Beginning in 1847
there was an attempt to create uniform regulations governing Jewish
life in Prussia.

Equal rights were only given, however, to naturalized Jews, the other
Jews living in the Province of Posen remained excluded. That was still
more than 30% of all Jews living in Prussia. The small city of
Margonin was thusly stamped by Polish, German and Jewish history and
tradition. When the Aronstein's came to Margonin is not known. The
mother of Victor Aronstein, Hentiette Aronstein nee Cohn, came from
Neuteich, Kreis Marienburg and was born there on December 29, 1856, the
Father, Jacob Aronstein on September 12, 1844 in Slupowo. In Victor's
birth record he gave his occupation as brewery owner. Henriette
Aronstein was almost 40 years old when she brought her son Victor into
the world on November 1, 1896. At this time the Aronstein family had
two daughters, the 11 year old Bertha and the three year younger
Herta. From the end of the 18th century to 1861 the number of
residents in Margonin increased. In contrast to the turn of the
century it diminished.

For the population development of Margonin for this period there is the
following information:

Year Total PolishGermanJewish









Causes for the rapid decline of the Jewish and German population lie in
the fall of the old feudal forms of production in brewing and in the
production of cloth. Many Germans and Jews left Margonin in these
years and resettled in the upward striving industry centers of
Germany. Berlin was the next stop for many. In addition came some
natural disasters that plagued the area at just that time. The hard
winter of 1888 caused a great flood in the spring. The streets had to
be secured by dams. The bridges over the small river Margo, next to
the church, were torn down so that the masses of ice could flow into
the lake. The following rainy summer allowed the grain to grow only
sparingly, the potatoes rotted. Poverty and misery spread through the
populace. Burglary and theft were the order of the day.

In 1898 bands of arsonists organized themselves. While fires broke
out in various places, the houses of the rich residents, especially the
Jews and Germans, were robbed. Surely Anti-Semitism played a role.
The number of Jewish emigrants was so great about 1900 that for those
remaining, the upkeep of the synagogue became too expensive and it
gradually fell apart. It was torn down prior to 1920. Also the
Aronstein's had decided to leave Margonin. As a brewery owner, through
a sale or a lease, Jacob Aronstein was able to live in Berlin with his
family from then on as a pensioner. In the address book for the city of
Berlin, Jacob Aronstein first appears in 1905. That means that he came
to Berlin in 1904. He lived at Breslauer Strasse 31, House II, Berlin
O 17, Parterre in Friedrichshain? between the stations Jannowitzbruecke
and Schlesischer Bahnhof, the present main train station. It remains
uncertain, whether he first came alone, or immediately brought the whole
family along. The move to the capital of the Empire must have been
quite an adventure for the Aronstein's. Margonin had still no railroad
at that time. Presumably goods were loaded on horse drawn wagons in
order to be taken to the nearest rail station....

This thread: