The Jewish printing house of bilgoraj


R. Netta Kronenberg's big printing house had existed for many years in Piotrikov. In 1906, R. Netta transferred it to Bilgoraj.

Bilgoraj was controlled by the Russians prior to WW1 and the printing house used to print books for the rabbis of Great Tzarist Russia: various prayer books (Siddur) and festival prayer books (Makhzor), Torah and other sacred books, but secular books were also printed there- "books of the world". The printing house employed over twenty employees. With the outbreak of WW1, Bilgoraj was conquered and controlled by the Austrians. Life in town was paralyzed and the printing house was also influenced by it, but this situation did not last long. Life began returning to normal, the printing house immediately made contact with such publishers as Yoseph Schlesinger from Vienna and Simkha Fraind from Pashmischl who started producing sacred books, prayer books, Torahs and others. The place began working with full "steam", hired more workers and grew from year to year. Bilgoraj's name was known afar because of its printing house. If you were abroad and told someone you are from Bilgoraj, the other would nod his head and say, "ah, from the town of the big printing house…"  There wasn't a single place or a rabbi throughout Europe and America the printing house didn't have work and trade connections with.


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With the re-establishment of Poland, a tight connection was established between the printing house and the big publisher 'Schtibel' of Berlin. This publishing house opened a branch in Warsaw and printed hundreds of translated works of the most important foreign writers and also original books, all in Hebrew. This went so far that the publishing house transferred a proofreader to Bilgoraj to conduct the proofreading work there and thus save the needed time to pass the manuscripts by mail from one place to the other.

The printing house was in constant trade relations with book distributors in Poland and abroad like Central Klatskin, Gitlin, Cohen and Freed, Monkatch and others. A good portion of S.L Gordon's Bible was printed in Bilgoraj. Rabbis from all over the world printed their books in Bilgoraj- Rabbi Baabad from Tarnopol, Rabbi Perlov of Bolekhov, Rabbi Horvits from Stanislaw, Rabbi Michelson from Warsaw, Rabbi Levin of Risha, Rabbi Aigges from Vilnius, Rabbi Guttmann from Romania (immigrated to Israel), Rabbi Meat from London, Rabbi Kleinberg of Metz, Rabbi Reznick Rachster, Rabbi Amiel of Antwerp (died in Israel), Rabbi Dr. Klein of Nuremberg (escaped to Bilgoraj when the Nazis rose to power, immigrated to Israel), Rabbi Leiter of Vienna, and many others.


חורבן בילגוריי- p-41


On one Thursday in 1923 the 'Chaffets Chaim' of blessed memory came to Bilgoraj especially to print his book 'Mishnah Brurah'. On Friday he asked R. Netta Kronenberg to arrange a 'Minyan' for him for dawn as he was used to do and a condition this humble man who escapes from honor had- that he will not reveal that he, the Chaffets Chaim, is in Bilgoraj. But despite all this, the news spread as fast as the lightning throughout the entire town that all came to prayer on the Sabbath eve and morning, and later to Sabbath meals. On Saturday night, he was flooded heavily with 'Kvitalakh' (notes of wishes) but he refused to accept them, saying that he is a Jew equal to any other Jew. In the middle of night he was heard calling R. Hillel (his father in law who assisted him in his travels) to sit and study with him. As he was ready to leave, the entire town, religious and non-religious, was present there to escort him to the Koleika (narrow train) and carried him. When they passed through the streets, the Christians watched them from their windows and along the way with much respect. This way Bilgoraj was granted the honor of hosting in it the Gaon, the generation's great.

After that he had established his own publishing and printing house that produced tens of holy books including the famous Siddur 'Beit Haotsar' (House of Treasure). R. Netta Kronenberg and his publishing bought the rights for the book 'Haelef Lekha Shlomo' (the thousand to you Solomon) by R. Shlomo Kluger of blessed memory, and printed thousands of copies of it. He had also established a branched network of book trade it produced, printed and sold all over the world.

Print and the book trade grew and developed and were constantly growing. They employed agents who had traveled around Poland and sold books. And the printing became a member of Lublin's chamber of commerce and was granted discounts and special rights by the Polish royalty because of the foreign currency it brought to Poland.

Isaac Bashevis-Singer's first work 'Salamandra', (he himself was the grandson of the old rabbi of Bilgoraj and had resided there for many years) was also printed in Netta Kronenberg's printing house in Bilgoraj.

With the outbreak of World War 2, part of the writings and the machines were buried in the printing house's yard and remained there unhurt until the end of the war. All that was not, including thousands of matrixes, was destroyed by the murderous Germans.

When the war ended and the new Polish regime was established, a former employee of the printing house came from Lublin to Bilgoraj. He dug and took out all that was hidden from their grave and transported them to Warsaw. This equipment was the beginning of the new Jewish newspaper in Poland 'Das Naye Lebbn' (The New Life).

This is how R. Netta Kronenberg was exterminated with his great life work, the Jewish printing house whose fame was throughout the world. This is how they were exterminated alongside the community of Bilgoraj's Jewry.


Avraham Kronenberg, from 'The Destruction of Bilgoraj, pp. 39-44

Translated into English by Daphna Brafman