Interwar Shkhita Restrictions
Shkhita refers to the slaughter for food of animals according to methods that conform to Jewish dietary laws. (More, here.)

It is generally accepted that such purely Jewish community practices were usually relatively free of restrictions by the currently-governing national power in the region.

With respect to Shkhita, this may have changed when Brest was returned to Poland following World War I, and Polish control was confirmed by a permanent armistice in 1920 to the Polish-Soviet War . The Polish goverment asserted more control over Shkhita.

The following documents tell a fragmentary story: First, early in the period, an investigator for Brest was assigned to look into covert/clandestine slaughtering of home animals:

permission 1
Credential Certificate of Investigator, 1933

We hereby certify that the bearer of this certificate Joseph Mondry has a post in the municipal slaughter house. He is a detective in issues of struggle with covert/clandestine slaughtering of home animals in Brest Bugiem. The above mentioned is authorized to carry out activities such as detailed in the regulations. The police authorities are asked to lend a hand to Joseph Mondry in carrying out his official tasks.
Was this directed specifically at Jewish practices? Or was this a general effort to broadly improve the quality of meat? Or, as has been suggested, was it primarily economic, supporting attempts to stabilize the post-war economic situation with respect to the meat supply?

In 1938, an individual could obtain a permit to perform Kosher slaughtering, as follows:

permission 1
Permission Certificate to Meir Goldshtein
Permission for Kosher Slaughtering

Meir (?) Goldshtein is granted a franchise to sell meat of ritual slaughtering. This franchise applies from the 1st to 28th of February 1938. He is permitted to bring to [Name of slaughter house and location] for ritual slaughtering, farm animals – horned cattle, (including calves), horses, goats and the like. Total weight of live animals: [in numbers and words] 1250 KG
Were permits commonly of such a short duration? These documents don't speak to this.

permission 1
List of Animals Slaughtered Ritually

Under this permit, in February, 1938, Meir Goldshtein recorded the animals he slaughtered, preparing a form containing the date, the number and type of type of animals, the live weight, and an official endorsement for each. The stamps signify he paid a fee of 30 groschen.

The stamps are titled Public Slaughter House, and carry the caption: Winter help for the needy.

These documents demonstrate that, in 1938, it was at least possible to perform some ritual slaughtering. Were the Polish restrictions --or the fees-- crippling? Were these suddenly increased at that time? Were the regulations applied uniformly throughout Poland? This evidence does not tell.

Clearly, a month later, the Jewish leadership in Warsaw felt Jews were affected by Polish government regulation and proclaimed a serious reaction, a two-week ban on all shkhita and eliminating all kosher meat from the market:

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Assembly of Rabbis proclaims a ban
The ban declared by the assembly of Rabbis
And the prominent sages of Israel in Warsaw
Upon Shkhita

Because of the great danger that threatens the entire Jewish community in Poland, and in connection with the harsh attempt to erase of one of the greatest religious fundamentals [of Judaism] - forbidding Shkhita, we have adopted a number of resolutions:

1. During 16 days - from 14 to 30 March 1939 - to cease all shkhita.

2. During these meatless days, meat shops selling kosher meat must be completely closed. Delicatessen shops will not sell any sausages, the restaurants are forbidden to serve dishes made of any meat, and the shokhtim [ritual slaughterers] are forbidden to perform any shkhita at all [from Monday on].

3. We declare a total prohibition on eating meat and meat products – treating it as eating Treyfa [non-kosher] - in the above-described days, including Saturday's meal.

We express our deep belief and conviction, based on historical Jewish readiness to self-sacrifice exactly as always: any attempt to force the Jews to break the laws of religion awakens resistance and self-sacrifice in all Jews --of all classes or inclinations-- to protect religion. So will we also follow in the footsteps of our ancestors, who sacrificed themselves to die at the stake for their religion and with the greatest strain and self-dedication united, to defend Kashrut -- which is what makes us a holy people and provides us the possibility and the right to our eternal existence. So everybody without exception will abide by the above-described prohibitions.

The Association of the Rabbis of Poland

1. The ban on shkhita applies to poultry as well, even for celebrating the Sabbath.
2. All organizations and parties, regardless of inclinations, joined the above mentioned resolutions.
The proclimation implies a reaction to a recent increase in Polish government restriction on shkhita throughout Poland, but it also implies that at least some shkhita would be still be permitted. The ban seems intended to mobilize Jewish opinion by simulating a future in which shkhita would be completely impossible.

It is generally agreed that there were broad currents of anti-Semitism in Poland during the interwar period, but this evidence is not sufficient to determine the contribution of anti-Semitism to measures that affected shkhita.

Notes: Translation by Mihail Akerman. Edits and annotations by H. K. Mondry: the name translates to wise in Polish. Horses: This is strange, as horses were never eaten by Jews -- horsemeat is unconditionally treyf, not Kosher.

Page Last Updated: 13-Nov-2013