By an Unknown Rabbi
(submitted by Engineer Davidovicz)
Translated by Allen Flusberg
Only a bridge over the little river separates one town from the other. But in fact it is a single community with one rabbiin spite of the fact that each town has its own synagogue and beis medrash and also a separate cemetery. For in times past these were two separate towns, with separate communities, located on either side of a border. Today, however, it is a single community.
The Jewish community of Golub is very old, with an ancient walled synagogue, an old beis medrash, and an old cemetery. In this cemetery a local rabbi who was a great prodigy and a student of Rabbi Akiva Eiger lies buried. In the beis medrash there was a trove of valuable rare religious books.
The Jewish community in Dobrzyn is also old, but not as old as that of Golub. The synagogue, which is constructed of wood, is about one hundred years old. The cemetery, however, is older than the synagogue. There Rabbi Toib, a student of the old Alexander Rebbe, Rabbi Yechiel, had been laid to rest.
Rabbi Toib was supposed to be Rabbi Yechiel's successor, as had been requested by the older, highly regarded Hassidim. But Rabbi Toib categorically refused the position; he himself began traveling to see Rabbi Yechiel's son, Rabbi Yisroel Yitzchok (the author of the book Yismach Yisroel).
There were 15 Torah scrolls in the synagogue and 5 in the Beis Medrash. In the Beis Medrash there were also several sacred silver vessels.
In January, 1939 Dobrzyn became famous throughout all of Poland with the terrible pogrom incitement that the local Endekes carried out against the Jews. It resulted in a boycott and in picketing, and it ended with an actual pogrom, during which many Jews were wounded and very seriously stabbed; 70 windows were shattered in Jewish dwellings, and merchandise was robbed and destroyed.
The local priest, Barszewski, stood at the head of the pogrom incitement. He was a well-known anti-Semite and enemy of the Jews. He was the author of the well-known inciting work Shadow, which was circumspectly polemicized in his newspaper. These events in Dobrzyn were echoed by an interpellation by Rabbi Rubenstein in the Polish Sejm.
Immediately after the outbreak of the war, in September 1939, hordes of German soldiers descended on the town. Right after their arrival they began to seize Jews for various types of labor, at the same time beating them cruelly. One day later a series of beard shearings began. Nearly all the Jewish men were left with no beards, and during the beard shearings the beatings and torment were repeated.
Four days later they sealed all the Jewish houses and businesses. Additionally they began to inventory Jewish homes and simultaneously confiscate their propertyall their meager belongings and merchandise.
Not far from Dobrzyn there was an estate, called Szitna, which belonged to a Hassidic Jew named R. Yitzchok Yaakov Szmiga, a rare, generous person, a philanthropist and a prominent social leader. In spite of the fact that a terrible anti-Semitic incitement had gone on for an entire year in Dobrzyn and in the surrounding area, Szmiga had not been affected by it. With a generous hand he had distributed various products, as well as cash, to needy Jewish families. But at the same time he had provided for the peasant farmers and farmhands; for this reason he was well liked by them, as well. The landowners also liked him very much.
During the massive bombardment, hundreds of Jews and Christians fled to Szitna. Szmiga allowed them access to the manor, which had dozens of rooms; he himself spent each night in the barn. He opened the granaries that were full of food, and from them he distributed flour, kasha and potatoes to the people; the cows were milked and the milk was distributed; the refugees also ate the many geese, chickens and turkeys that were on the estate. He did not hold anything back, but in spite of everything a bitter fate awaited him. One fine day several SS members came in and took him away. He disappeared forever without a trace, and no one even found out how and where he had met his death.
Another sorrowful event took place on the first day of Rosh Hashana 5700: two huge trucks filled with a large number of police drove onto the main street of the town, and went after the synagogue and the Ger shtiebel, taking out 230 Jews who were wrapped in their taleisim and dressed for the holiday in their silk kapotes. Among them were elderly men, in their eighties, as well as some children ten to twelve years old. They loaded them into the trucks and took them away in an unknown direction; and to this very day no one even knows what became of their bones.
This transport contained the finest and most prominent personalities of the town: party leaders and socially active people, community representatives, municipal councilmen, etc.
Here we provide a partial list of the most prominent of those who were seized: (1) Avrohom Gurfinkiel; (2) Yechiel Zissholtz, a community representative and municipal councilman; (3) Oizer Kohn, 64 years old; (4) Yosef Binyomin Gąnsior, 60 years old; (5) the chazzan Zylberberg; (6) the shochet Mendel Gurfinkel; (7) Itzik Shamash; (8) Cudkiewicz; (9) Flusberg, 59 years old, an ill, broken-down man; (10) Yisroel Muller; (11) Frenkiel; (12) Dentist Blauzeg; (13) Moishe Pozmanter; (14) Dzialdow; (15) Mordechai Salomon, chairman of all the social institutions in the town; (16) both sons of Chayim Yanuar; (17) Sztetyn; (18) Eliezer Zaklikowski; (19) Kalman Arfa, administrator and leader of the Poalei-Tzion; and many others. ,
The same fate awaited the Golub pharmacist, Riesenfeld, a distinguished person who was a great philanthropist, a great contributor to Zionist funds, and who was beloved by the people of Dobrzyn-Golub. He was arrested by a Gestapo officer and was taken away accompanied by him; and to this day no one knows where he took him.
Later they emptied the synagogue and the beis medrash of their benches, tables and Aron Koidesh, converting both of these sacred places into a stable. The local Poles gathered around for this particular Culture Action and took away much of the furniture that had been left outside.
It is worth noting how the Dobrzyn anti-Semitic priest Barszewski behaved in this case. When he became aware that the Poles were dragging away the furniture that the Germans had brought out of the synagogue and beis medrash, he quickly came running. He demanded of the Poles gathered there not to dare touch those objects that had been held sacred by the Jews; and, for those who had already taken some of these things, to immediately bring them back.
They demolished the synagogue in Golub, as well, replacing it by a stable.
On the 6th of November 1939, thirty-five of the most distinguished families in Dobrzyn, consisting of approximately 100 people, received an urgent request to appear at City Hall. There they handed them written instructions that they were permitted to take along in the transport; the transport consisted of several vehicles that were already waiting for them at City Hall. The men, women, children and elderly were separated from each other, and they were placed separately in three vehicles. They were driven away in an unknown direction, and to this very day no one knows what became of them.
Among the 35 families were: (1) Shlomo Yosef Lipski; (2) Yisroel Muller, a family of 11 people (not the same Muller who was on the previous list); (3) Lemel Lewin; (4) Mendel Sapersztajn; (5) a woman and child named Dzialdow (see Footnotes 21, 22).
On Thursday, November 9th, early in the morning, the head of the Jewish council was called in to appear before the Chief of Police, who told him the following: Since all the Jews are being evicted from the town today, he has a proposition with respect to this expulsion. If the Jews will deliver a total of 40,000 zlotys during the next three hours, they will be permitted to take small essential items with them.
A terrible panic ensued, and the Jews began to collect money from every direction. But in spite of the best of intentions it was not by any means possible to collect this much cash. Altogether 20,000 zlotys were collected; the remaining 20,000 zlotys were brought in the form of various valuables, including a basket full of gold and silver objects.
As requested, the Jews gathered at City Hall at the appointed time, each of them carrying a bundle on his shoulders and waiting for the police's order. In the meantime some of the policemen went after the unfortunate people gathered there, beginning to cruelly beat them left and right, not even discriminating with respect to gender or age. They did not let anyone get away, and everyone was badly beaten. Then the Jews were told to leave the town in the direction of the General Government but not in the direction of the Reichfor obvious reasons.
As we now know, the sacred buildings, such as the synagogue and the beis medrash, were later set ablaze; and the Torah scrolls were damaged and torn up. The cemetery was plowed up and turned into a park. The Golub synagogue and beis medrash also suffered the same fate. There, too, the cemetery was plowed up.
This is how the Jewish community in these two most beloved towns, Dobrzyn and Golub, ended its physical existence, concluding a living history that had endured for hundreds of years.
*The author is an unknown rabbi; [article] submitted by Engineer Davidovicz.
|Mendel Kohn's children (wearing caps) with their friends|
By Shlomo Aleksander
Translated by Allen Flusberg
Perhaps I am not able to convey with my humble pen the depth of the heartache I feel as I look back at the enormous destruction of our beloved town Dobrzyn. During its hundreds of years of existence a great deal of history had transpired there; and all at once the accursed German murderers arrived and wiped out Jewish Dobrzyn, leaving behind not a trace of its rich past.
Dobrzyn was renowned for its good people: when it unfortunately happened that a Dobrzyn Jew lost his money in business, or a wagon-driver lost his horse and was left without any livelihoodthen the dedicated volunteers would immediately take up a collection to put that Jew back on his feet. And all of this was done covertly, matan besayser. If a Jewish young man did not wish to serve in the Russian army then he would come to Dobrzyn, where the benevolent Jewsa people excelling in compassionwould ensure that he crossed the border to Golub. And from there the Jews of Golub would transport him further, whether or not he had the financial means. I recall once going into the Beis Medresh, where I found that there were more than ten Jews who needed to cross the border. The issue was not only bringing them across, but also giving them the capability to continue their journey beyond Golub. Those who were engaged in the needs of the community turned to the wealthy people of the town, and by the time I returned to the Beis Medresh the next day not a single one of those ten Jews was still therethat is, they were all already on the other side of the border.
The list of prominent philanthropists of the town was a long one. Everyone considered it an obligation to do favors for others, and it was not merely for esteem. People would spend their valuable time helping those who were suffering. Whether it was late at night, in rain or in snow, they would hurry to fulfill the sacred duty of ozoiv taazoiv imoi.
The aid institutions that existed in this small town were very active. I will mention only a few of them: the gmilas chasodim fund, hachnosas orchim, hachnosas kalla, bikur choilim, etc. Noble Jewish housewives donated their most precious time to ensure that these institutions could carry out their normal activities. There were pious women who by Thursday would already be making certain that needy families did not lack anything on the Sabbath, Heaven forbid. And who in fact can enumerate all the good deeds that the people of the town accomplished?
Dobrzyn also had its political parties, comparable to those of all the large cities of Poland. Foremost was the Zionist organization, which led a great deal of activity for the Land of Israel. Everything was present in this very town, but unfortunately this is all history now. Together with the annihilation of six million Jews, our precious beloved town was destroyed, as well; even the Jewish cemetery, where our dear parents had found their eternal rest, was destroyedas was also the Beis Medresh with our beautiful synagogue, where for generations Jews had presented their supplications before the Master of the Universe. May the curse of I will surely blot out the memory of Amalek accompany our enemies for generations to come.
Our only comfort has been the building up of our beloved Land of Israel, which feels like home to every Jew throughout the world. Today every Jew takes pride in the State of Israel, knowing that it elevates the dignity of each and every one of us. No sacrifice is too great for the sake of our state, which has made it possible for millions of Jews to build their home and presence here.
Let this Yizkor Book serve as an everlasting monument to our fallen parents, sisters and brothers who gave their lives as martyrsmay God avenge their blood.
|Mr. Chayim Kaczor and His Family|
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