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[Page 184]

Klobucker Righteous Gentiles

 

Dr. Brzozowski, a Pole
Who Saved Jews During a Pogrom

by Borukh Szimkowicz

Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

Among all of the personalities and figures of the former Jewish [town of] Klobuck, I would like to include a clever Pole, a socialist, and a real humanist, who risked his life for Jews and saved them from a pogrom. I think of the well-known Dr. Brzozowski.

In addition to his qualifications as a good medical doctor, he was known as being a good man. He did not charge poor sick people for their medical examinations. He showed his friendship for Jews at every opportunity. He really fought against the anti-Semitism of the Klobucker priests, and against the boycott of the Jews that anti-Semitic people wanted to enforce in Klobuck.

Even [his appearance] and his face seemingly brought him closer to Jews. [He looked like a Jew.] He had a small stature, and a long satin beard. Even in the Czarist period, Dr. Brzozowski was known as a socialist. Due to his membership in the P.P.S[1] he was jailed in the Pietrikower prison. Also arrested with him was the Jewish barber (old time surgeon), Shlomo Bams.

*

I remember from my youth the story about the pogrom in Klobuck, that was avoided thanks to Dr. Brzozowski.

As it was told then, the hatred against Jews in Klobuck

[Page 185]

started in the nineties (1890-99). This was linked to an event that occurred in year 1890. In that year, during Purim, the Klobucker, Reb Moshe Zalman, a Jew, and a Torah scholar, who liked to drink, wanted to get joyful about Haman's[2] (hanging). When Reb Moshe Zalman drank alcoholic beverages he made a doll and hanged it on a hook, like the one used to get water with a bucket from a well.

With the hook and the doll, the drunk Jew, Reb Zalman Moshe, strolled through the streets and shouted: “Patrzeæ jak Haman wiszy” (Look how Haman is hanging). The Gentiles went to the priests in the church, and reported that the Jews were [making fun of] and laughing at Jesus.

At that time there were three priests in Klobuck, two of whom were nicknamed “the big one and the red one,” because of their physical appearance, and they were the avowed enemy of the Jews. They took advantage of the event with the hanged Haman, and with the help of secular anti-Semites, and with the Endeke[3] Witmeinski, as the leader, started to incite against Jews, who they claimed were laughing at the persecuted Jesus. As it was written in another chapter, a pogrom almost took place then. Although the anti-Semites did not succeed at that time, they did not give up, and they sought to take advantage of this event later.

In year 1906, throughout Russia there was a wave of pogroms, and the priests in Klobuck, with their followers, also prepared for a “settling of account” with the Jews. In the church, on every Sunday, the peasants from the surroundings towns gathered, and the priests often called for a pogrom. One was announced to happen on a designated Sunday. The peasants were told to come with sticks, hatchets and iron bars to attack the Jewish shops, and make a “real” looting.

Dr. Brzozowski was informed about the preparations against the Jews, and he went to the priests and advised them not to tarnish the Poles with hooligan murders. His warning did not help. The news spread amongst the Jews.

There was turmoil. Jews knew that they didn't have

[Page 186]

anyone to rely on. At that time in Klobuck there were six Russian policemen and a sergeant, who also was a great anti-Semite. In such occasions, Jews usually looked for some miracle.

On the announced Sunday, the peasants came to the church, prepared to carry out a pogrom on the Jews. Dr. Brzozowski also went to the church. During the priest's harangue, the “praying” people grabbed the Doctor. They all shouted from all sides: “Kill the servant of the Jews”. The Doctor barely escaped. Shots were fired at him. He left his fur coat (it was winter time), and ran to tell the Jews what to expect.

Dr. Brzozowski went home and invited the following Jews to his home: Moshe Szmulewicz, Shmuel Szperling and David Zigelman. He pointed out to them the danger that threatened the Jews. A pogrom against the Jews was going to start in approximately two hours, when the “looting” would start. The Doctor advised the men to find two riders with agile horses, and ride to the county representative in Czestochowa, who was one of his good acquaintances, and let him know what was happening in Klobuck.

Three Jewish riders were dispatched immediately: Abraham, Michael and Aaron Mass. The Doctor gave them two letters, one for the county representative, and one for the military commander. Approximately two hours later, a few hundred Cossacks arrived in Klobuck, and they spread out throughout the shtetl. The Gentiles stayed in the church for the entire day. A few of the Endekes leaders, who also hated Israel Witmeinsky, were arrested by the Authorities. Klobuck was spared from a pogrom, thanks to the humanity of Dr. Brzozowski.

After this event, Dr. Brzozowski advised the Jews to join, in the greatest possible number, the “Stra¿ak Ogniowa” (Firemen Society), and thereby create an organized force, able to resist anti-Semitic attacks on Jews. Klobuck Jews followed his advice, and enrolled in the Firemen Society. The leader of the Firemen Society was actually Dr. Brzozowski. Drzemba, his deputy, also was not an anti-Semite.

[Page 187]

Hartzke Feige was the commander of the Jewish Firemen.

Through the pogrom that didn't happen, the observant Jews saw a miracle. The Jews were saved thanks to the merit of the saintly, righteous, Rabbi Yankele, who they said protected the Jewish Klobuck community.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. P.P.S Should be something that would translate in English Socialist Polish Party. Return
  2. The Jewish holiday of Purim relates the story about Haman (an adviser to the king), who instigated a plot to kill all of the Jews of ancient Persia. The plot was foiled by Mordechai and Ester (a Jew and the king's wife). Haman was hanged and the Jews celebrated the saving of the Jews. Return
  3. “Endeke” From the initials N. D. (pronounced ende) in Polish (Narodowa Demokratia) National Democrats: reactionary Polish party, who like the German Hitlerist “National Socialist” party, based its program on the extermination of Jews. Return

 


The Libidzer Estate Owner Who Saved Jews
from Danger During the First World War

by Fishl Fajga

Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

 

I don't remember his name. In Klobuck he was called the Libidzer good owner. He had German origins. During World War I he saved the lives of scores of Jews and Poles. This happened as follows:

In August 1914, when the German Army invaded Poland there was a great battle in Klobuck. The majority of inhabitants, both Jews and Poles, fled away from the shtetl, and went to the nearby villages. Meanwhile, a German officer was killed on the road between Kamyk and Klobuck. The corpse was put in the cellar of a Christian old age home.

The German military leadership was notified about the death of the officer, and the surrounding inhabitants of the house were accused of the murder. Fifty people, Jews and Poles, were arrested. Among the arrested Jews were: Chaim Leibish and Eliyahu Dudek; David Hersz Shochat; the lame man, Israel Meir Blau, and his father; Leibele, Lipman Bielas, Birenbaum, Asher Goldberg and others.

All of the arrested people were assembled with their hands up

[Page 188]

in the church. The Germans wanted to shoot them, and burn Klobuck in retaliation for the killed officer. The Libiczer good owner was informed of the Germans' intention. He immediately came to Klobuck, and intervened with the German Commander. He proved that none of the civilians took part in the killing of the German officer. He vouched for the civilians with his life, and signed (an oath) that he was responsible for the Jews, and for keeping the peace in the village. At that time, the Germans acted with some restraint in regard to their mass murders; they let themselves be convinced (of facts), and did not act out with their wild acts of retaliation. The arrested people were freed.

Much later when the Libiczer good owner died, representatives of the Jewish community, led by the Rabbi, participated in the funeral ceremony. Flowers were laid on his tomb. Jews from Klobuck always had good memories of the “Administrator”.

Also, his son followed in his father's footsteps. During the first week of World War II, when the Germans ruled with barbarity in Poland, the good owner's son was the mayor of Klobuck. His attitude towards the persecuted Jews was very good. There was a rumor that he opposed Hitler. He indeed proved his opposition.

The German Authorities requested that he sign the list of “Volks Deutschen” (Polish people of German origins), and that he send his son to Hitler's army. The good owner declared that he was a Pole, and would remain a Pole.

One day he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Ten days later, his family received a box full of ashes with the inscription that he died in the camp.

 


[Page 189]

The Jewish Mill That Provided Klobuck with Electricity

by Chaim Kurland

Translated from the Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

 

The Klobuck mill, our mill, where I was born and where I was raised. Each pebble, and each screw still are very well preserved in my memory. We had good times and bad times in that mill. I will recite some of my memories about the mill.

In those years there were two mills in Klobuck, both old fashioned mills, from the old days, which were operated by the water from the stream. One was at the Zagorz pond, with a big wheel, which always rotated slowly. The second mill was at the Zakszewer pond, and that one was always rented by my grandfather, Zisskind. He leased it for many years.

 

klo189.jpg
Yossef Meir Kurland and his family

 

[Page 190]

Over time, as the new, modern, mills were built, the old ones slowly disappeared. My father, Yossef Meir, a flour merchant, who lived in Czestochowa, often came to Klobuck. He saw that Klobuck was an appropriate location to build a new, modern, mill. At the same time my uncle, Moshe Zigelbaum, my grandfather Zisskind's son, rented a mill in a village called Dambie, near Czestochowa. My father proposed a plan to build a modern mill in Klobuck, and presented him with the prospect that in the future it could provide a nice livelihood.

In 1905 the work commenced to build a large mill in Klobuck on the Grodziker road. In 1906 the mill was finished. It had two pairs of rolling mills and two pairs of grindstones. One “Perlak”[1] to grind barley, and one “Jagielnik”[1] to grind millet.

In the beginning the mill was operated by a diesel-motor, and the neighbors often complained that it bothered them and prevented them from sleeping, because the motor was very noisy. So we bought a steam engine, which operated with coal, and it was a quiet engine.

In the mill, flour was being ground. In the past, the bakers bought flour from Czestochowa, and from the Kowalsk mill in the nearby shtetl of Krzepice. The bakers indeed were relieved. They no longer had to go through a flour broker, or wait until the flour sacks arrived from Czestochowa. Similarly in the past, the bakers of Klobuck could not store and preserve large quantities of flour, because they could not afford to appropriate the necessary sums of money to buy standby reserves of flour. (As a result of the mill), the bakers (in Klobuck) became prosperous.

The Jewish mill, which was managed by my father, became a popular institution. When a baker needed a half sack of flour to bake bread or rolls, he came to the mill and took a sack of flour. Even when the baker did not have enough money to pay for it, he never left empty handed. The peasants from the surroundings brought their grain and wheat from their harvest to have it ground, and they went back home happy.

[Page 191]

The Mill that Lit up Klobuck

Like in all of the shtetls, at that time in Klobuck there was no electric lighting. During the evening people assembled around night lamps. Since the mill had a large dynamo engine, the owners of the mill, my father and my uncle, Moshe Zigelbaum, decided to provide electric lighting in the shtetl.

In 1918 we delivered electric lighting to the Klobuck population. Everywhere wooden poles were erected, and electric wires were pulled to connect all of the houses. At once, on a summer evening after sunset, suddenly all of the houses were illuminated. There were no electric switches in the houses. Switching the lights on and off occurred in the mill. The mill became the electricity provider, and it was nice and good.

 

The Fire

In 1920 a fire suddenly broke out in the mill, and all of the flour was burned with the smoke. The fire lasted three days, because the mill's warehouse was full of grain. We were left without a groschen (penny). Moreover, the mill was under insured; the insurance recovery barely was enough to buy the stones and nails. We did not have any ability to rebuild the mill. Since my parents and uncle Moshe were held in high regard, and were loved by all Klobuck inhabitants, both Jews and non-Jews alike, people came forward and offered to help to rebuild the mill. Also, the Libidczer land owner contributed front money to help rebuild the mill.

The work started, and in 1922 the mill was rebuilt and again started to grind grain. Because of technical problems we could not immediately restore the electric lightning of the shtetl. In 1925 the electric lightning of the shtetl was resumed.

My father and my uncle, Moshe Zigelbaum, committed to provide electricity for the Synagogue and the Batei-Midrash for free, and they honored their promise. I became the collector of the electricity fees. Each

[Page 192]

month I went from apartment to apartment to collect what was called “electric money”. It was duly conducted. In 1933 I made my Aliyah to Eretz Israel, and my father came to visit me in Israel.

 

The End of the Jewish Mill

When the Germans invaded Klobuck, the destruction came. They immediately confiscated the mill, and they put a German in charge, and left my father as a supervisor of the mill. That situation lasted until the Germans implemented the final liquidation of the Klobucker Jews.

A camp was established in Zagorz, and my father and sisters were sent to the camp. My uncle Moshe and his wife went to Czestochowa and hid themselves. They died from hunger and cold.

After the war, my surviving sister, Rachel, returned to Klobuck. Understandably, the mill was taken over by foreign people. The owner was one of our former workers, called Matinski. Rachel requested that the mill be given back. The new “owner” said that the mill was owned by him. My sister filed a complaint in the Czestochowa court, and after many difficulties, she received her share of the mill. She sold her share to another non-Jew, and barely escaped after receiving death threats from Matinski.


Translator's Footnote:
  1. Perlak and Jagielnik are the names of the types of grindstone used by the mill. It could be the name of the grindstone brand, or of the name of the town of provenance. Return

 

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