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Czenstochow Becomes a City

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

During the years around 1880 Czenstochow in the main consisted of two parts separated one from the other by large uninhabited stretches. The uppermost part of Czenstochow was lightly populated; the lowermost part was thickly populated and reached to the Warta River. No houses were seen across the river. The old slaughter house had sunk into the river and the new one with a stone building and modern facilities had no fear of the water. Farther along was a meadow that spread out as a green sea without an end. Crossing the second bridge in Zawada, several houses were found near the hilly, stone pits. Near the road lived the only Jewish farmer; on the other side, to the south, was the windmill. The water in the Warta was crystal clear, often visited by women who washed their laundry and even more often by those who filled their wooden ladles and clay pitchers with the “soft” spring water for brewing tea.

There was a Trinity square on the northern side of the lowest part of the city with the three crosses in the middle of a large desert of golden sand. Small wagons from Kalej, Amstow [Msztow] and Wyczerpy would pass here with their village products for the Czenstochow market and return with the goods from the city.

Thursdays and Fridays, multitudes of young boys, girls and women appeared at the Trinity with sacks and other containers which they filled with sand to spread over their clay floors and to polish their Shabbos candlesticks and the other brass and copper utensils, as their grandmothers and great grandmothers had done before they came to Czenstochow.

On Shabbos, the Trinity had a different face. On the “Jewish meadows” near Glowacke, or Shimshe Diabol's mill, lay older Jews, stretched out in the high green grass resting their bones. The young danced and sang:

Sir Ludwig went hunting
Marisha stayed to paint.
The horses of the wagon drivers grazed in the meadows, resting from their heavy burdens, which they pulled during the entire week until late at night. “Aristocratic” horses from Jewish house cabs, which did not pull any heavy burdens, only ferrying “genteel” passengers, grazed separately from them. The “aristocratic” horses were decorated with silver buttons, tassels hanging down from their brows.

The wagon drivers and the horse carriage drivers also lay here with their horses: the hitchmakers, the Klobucker [men from Klobuck], the old dorfsman [man from a village], the small express train with two vanishing eyes. The “old man,” who with his wife, “the old woman” smuggled emigrants and two “Tom cats” who always fought each other because of a passenger.

At that time, the smugglers carried on their business in a systematic manner. One gang carried the emigrants across the border, a second bought fake ships' tickets and exchanged money – so that they were not denounced – and waited for the emigrants in Lublinec.

Grosman's mill, with nearby beautiful gardens, free for everyone to enter, was found on the south side of the lower part of the city on both sides of the river. Several Jews were employed at Grosman's mill; their home was run authentically Jewish and they did not forget the poor.

Markusfeld's Malarnja was found a little higher to the west. The name Markusfeld is remembered as a holy place. True, Jews and Jewish girls did not earn more than the Christians at Malarnja; therefore, Henrikh Markusfeld would not forget to give a few rubles when a young girl got married, to help the Jewish workers on a Jewish holiday, to provide the poor Jewish children with matzohs for Passover and coal during the winter.

Near the Malarnja, on the other side of the paved cobblestone road, lay the old cemetery. Right near the cemetery was Werde's needle factory. Werde was a short Jew with a great deal of wisdom, loved good music,

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and was a great admirer of Mendelssohn. He also was a bit of a philosopher and smoked a pipe. He was not very loved in the city because he did not go to daven [pray].

A little higher, opposite Stacia Street (later Pilsudski Street), was another Grosman, who provided lime to whiten poor houses for Passover.

We turn back to the getsewizne or ghetto, to which peasants came from Czuresk, Miszkow and Janow. The Ostatni Grosz [“last penny” – the name of a district southeast of Czenstochow] was also located there. This was the story of the Ostatni Grosz: a peasant got very drunk in a tavern in the area. When he realized that he was down to his last grosn he began to scream, “Ostatni grosz… ostatni grosz.” And the name remained.

 

Events

A great event in Czenstochow was in 1887 when Russian light cavalry left the city and the dragoons entered. The government building or the police station around Warszawer, Senatorska, Kocza, Czike and Teper Streets was besieged by people. When the parade ended and the crowd dispersed – the fresh, green grass was completely trampled. The young trees barely survived. The green benches were muddied. Only the beautiful green park was saved. In the evening when the buzz of the chrab¹nszczczes [beetles] and the playing of the roll call were heard, it was a sign for the soldiers from the dragoon armories to go to sleep – it was lively on the First and Second Alee. High officers in light coats, with riding crops in their hand, strolled with powdered women. The covered vehicles were lit with torches. The white blooms of the chestnut trees were spread out on the ground like a white carpet. The ice cream vendor with a white linen robe and a Turkish hat shouted: “Ice cream.” And from a distance the time (church) shone with thousands of oil wicks, lit in honor of the Grynem Donershtik [Green Thursday – Pentecost – 50 days after Easter].

There was much whispering about why the officers of the 7th and 8th Regiments did not go out to greet the dragoons in Czenstochow then…

Above, in the uppermost part of Czenstochow where Czenstochowke [nearby village] and the Jasna Gora [mountain on which the monastery containing the Black Madonna is located] are found, from which the church with its tall towers looks down on the city – something was also being prepared. Stone cutters cut high marble stones and laid the foundation for a pomnik [memorial] for Aleksander the Second [Russian Czar]. In the city they could barely wait for the event. A large number of Christians waited for the moment to see the Russian Orthodox Czar who would stand at the top of Jasna Gora, would look down to the tall poplars that ringed the church. And the holy Mary, the patroness of Poland would look down from her height to the powerful world leader. Finally, everything was completed and the ceremony for the unveiling began. Kith and kin gathered and Jewish fathers and mothers from the back streets led their barefoot children with pocket handkerchiefs from beneath through the dark New Market and Alees (all kerosene lamps were turned off) through the forest to see the emperor…

When all the military and religious ceremonies were completed and the sheets that veiled the “monument” were removed – the crowd saw the massive figure of Aleksander the Second on a high marble terrace lit with dozens of bright lights, standing with his face to the city and with his back to the church and the holy mother. Polish patriots, gathered at the opening, left quickly with clenched fists, but the Jews ran home even faster and stayed together. And, indeed, in the morning there was talk that the Jews had given a great deal of money to erect the monument with its face to the city where the zydes [Jews] lived. At that time, the wounds from the Warsaw pogrom were fresh and Jews again trembled. As usual, two Czenstochower Jewish communal workers, Markusfeld and Ginsberg, had to do a great deal of work to save the situation. Priests in the churches actually gave reassurances that the Jews were not guilty.

One morning the terraces of the monument were found defiled with garbage. From then on, a military guard was placed at the Czar's statue.

A few weeks later, a new excitement. The Straz Ogniowa [firemen) renovated their home on the Pogotka, between Jatke Street and Krakower Street. A fireman with a brass helmet on his head and a trumpet on which he did not stop playing spun on the wooden spire. People said that the tower was the highest in the world… Firemen dragged the new wagon with the rubber hose, quickly hitched up the horses. Here, Poznanski, a Jew in a new hat and

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a gleaming ax, also busied himself on the side. He was proud of his heroism compared to the Jews gathered on a Shabbos afternoon. The wagon moved from its place. The music played and the crowd gave a hoorah.

On the same night – someone trumpets; something is burning. The bell rings on Senatorske Street; ding-dong. The sky is red. Half naked people run. Where is the fire? Where is the fire? Tam (there)! They run breathless up to the firehouse. There a stable is burning. But when the firemen arrived everything was over. In the end, it was a rehearsal by the firefighters.

It was said in the city that Markusfeld had given the new wagon with the hoses. And Szwede's beer factory had given the horses.

A few days later a few comrades arrived in the courtyard opposite from Abele Shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] and created their own representation of that fire on Czenstochowke. One of them, Wigdor Brukacz, sang out in the voice of a tenor:

It's burning… It's burning…

Basses sustained:

Where?… Where?…

Altos and sopranos answered:

At the priest's… At the priest's…
The entire choir:
Bring water… Put it out… Bring water… Put it out…
All of Czenstochow sang the song and enjoyed themselves for a long time.

 

Jewish Streets

The very poor Jewish population inhabited Czike Street. When the river swelled from the melting ice, it appeared as if the sea would be drawn into Czenstochow and swallow the poor streets. How much lower to the river – how much higher the water stood in the houses. Sometimes up to the beds. There were very few wooden floors in the residences. As the water would recede, they would shovel out the mud and spread sand. On Shavous, a great deal of bone meal was spread. There were gardens around the houses. They would be planted with rosh khodesh radishes [new moon radishes – radishes that grow quickly, in less than a month], scallions, cucumbers, sunflower seeds and other things.

When a couple got married, the main household worth consisted of two cheap beds, a table with two chairs, a slop pail and a wooden dipper for water. A large share of the household articles came from wedding gifts. The bride brought a green chest with her “wardrobe.” A clothes closet was seldom found in a house.

The Teper Street was a little joyful – with Jewish shops, a tavern, covered wagons with bread, common bread, small bagels, smoked herring. But there were not many rich in the street, particularly on the side of the river where one could go through the courtyards from one street to another. Every person arriving came here: organ grinders, fortune tellers, exorcists, jugglers, musicians and ordinary poor people who came to ask for Rosh Khodesh [new moon-start of the new Hebrew month] money. Although themselves very poor, the ghetto residents also gave charity, although not an entire groshn, but a prute [penny] (a fourth of a groshn).

Across the street from Frajmark's house up to the Talmud-Torah [school for poor children] – was populated with middle class elements from the Jatke [butcher shop] Street, those who were established at the old market. There the mothers gave their children feshber (a break between dinner and supper), a roll with a hard egg. Jatke Street was then considered a predatory street. The heroic meat cutters in the butcher shops, the later well known good young men: the Kantors, Avraham-Ber Muczyn, Wolf-Jankl, the Zigases. Well known lads then were also: Avrahamele Klobucker, his brother, Manes, Icik Szlize, Josef Japcak, Hersh-Leib the Jometes (Benimet's), Nuchem-Jankl Frydman, Khenina Lojker, Daniel Bac.

The other side of Czike Street from the synagogue to the government building was populated with wagon drivers, shoemakers, rag traders (Machri was the main buyer), and feldzers [barber-surgeons]. A soap factory, a small bead factory was also found there. On the corner, opposite the dragoon barracks was a unkempt cemetery. On the other side of the street, where Teper Street went through the majority of courtyards, the beginnings [of the courtyards] were occupied by the Korpiels or the Dialbols – both with old goods and with the tavern that the old Korpiel, a Jew in a long arbekanfes [undergarment worn by pious men with tsitses – fringe – at the corner] sold a drink of whiskey for a three groshn coin. A little farther was another tavern of a Jew who looked completely different, like a tavern keeper. One spoke to this Jew as if to a rabbi; he would be called by his second name: Dovid Federman. He was a religious Jew, but not a fanatic. All of the weddings of the poor took place here.

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The courtyard was long with a passage from Teper Street to the Czike. Wolf Bom's or Maryem's (“Marjem”) son, Itske, drew long wires through an iron press in the courtyard to make brass rings.

A little farther was again a small tavern – Drewniak's. This was the home of the wagon drivers. Farther, a little, Itshe Leib the shoemaker, Arya the shoemaker, Fajertog the shoemaker, down to Spadek – Zalma Zigas the shoemaker, Jached the penny pincher, the Kelbmans, Ceszinski. These were the Czenstochow “400.”

Kocze Street was then not populated entirely with Jews. Shepherds grazed cattle in the fields. Fat cows would come onto Kacza Street where women stood ready with pitchers, waiting for the gentile women to milk the cows.

Izrael Win settled there in 1880. He and his wife, Sheyndl, were honest, fine people. He was one of the founders of the group, Shokher Tov [Benevolent Friend] with Mordekhai and Jokl Haklmakher, Shimkha Meszngiser, Avraham-Nusen Frydman. Wigder Szwarc was always the gabbai [sexton]. Meir Biczner then had a small house on Kocze Alley. Yehiel Melamed [teacher] had a small kheder [religious elementary school]. The lamplighter lived at the corner. It was frightening to go from Gitl Ester's shop to Golda's house. The deserted houses told the history of the terrible fires in the 1870s. Many people were burned at that time. After the fire, there was a search for gold among the ruins and a weak, burned wall fell in and killed several people. From then on there was fear of going past at night. Many people swore that they themselves saw corpses in white shrouds at exactly midnight. People in white clothing did pass there, but these were the workers in the flour mills.

The Senatorske Alley was completely different. Every newly wed man, Hasidic children in the long coats worn by religious men, merchants, brokers, shtekdreyers [good for nothings], lived there. Many shtreimlekh [fur trimmed hats worn by some Hasidim], black satin robes with white socks were seen here on Shabbos. Most of the Hasidic shtiblekh [one room houses of prayer] were concentrated here. The most distinguished site on the alley was the piantchke [watering hole – tiny tavern].

Every night it was joyful in the tavern. If a man did not come home, his wife knew where to find him. Scandals took place here often in the middle of the night.

 

Khederim, Talmud-Torah
[Religious elementary schools and school for poor boys]

Jewish families were settled on Warszawer and Krakower Streets. Most of the children from the streets studied with Yitzhak Kraser – an angry, severe, wide boned teacher. Girls also studied in his kheder, but not together [with the boys]. While the young boys learned, the girls sat opposite [the kheder] in the courtyard.

The second kheder was Moshe Lerer's [Moshe the teacher]. A tall Jew, he always suffered from stomach problems and did not sleep. He would go the Rozprozer Rebbe to celebrate the concluding Shabbos meal. For the holidays, he would prepare gregers [noisemakers traditionally used on Purim], dreydlekh [tops traditionally used on Chanukah] and flutes for his students. He would take them on “May picnics.” The children of the Alee mostly studied with him.

The same year the first Talmud-Torah opened on Czike Street. Tovya was the first melamed. Many children, from six to seven years old, studied in the Talmud-Torah – older youths, mostly from the villages, barefoot, who were just beginning to learn the alphabet. If Tovya had taught each child separately, he would never be finished. The kheder closed during the winter because of the snow and frost; the poor children did not have any boots and no capes. The mothers of the children who did have warm clothes were ashamed to send them to the Talmud-Torah [which was for poor children].

An historic chapter in the Jewish life in Poland was recorded in the winter of 1899. Jews from various localities, from villages and cities, arrived in the city. In the surrounding localities, the Jews simply died of hunger and cold. So from there they flowed to Czenstochow where charity was given and there was a free Talmud-Torah. Many poor houses became crowded with the arriving families. The rich could not bear the knocking on their doors. The kehile [organized Jewish community] called for a meeting of the rich businessmen in the city and it was decided to give coal for the poor houses, a few gildn a week according to the size of the family, and, in addition, notes for bread and potatoes. It was announced in the synagogues that all of the needy should come to register. The registration lasted for three days and Markusfeld gave a sermon to the assembled Jews and declared that they should not be ashamed to accept charity. Rich women also went from house to house to see who needed clothing. Doctors, the first among them Dr.

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Rus and Dr. Wasertal, gave free help to the sick.

Many children died that winter. One, a Lozerl, had to be taken to the cemetery. But instead of taking him to Kucelin, they buried him in the snow. In the springtime, the dead body was found in the middle of the road.

The same year, immediately after Passover, the Talmud-Torah was moved from Czike to the Teper Street. A large building with a gate in the front. There were two divisions: one with Tovya for the alef-beis [the youngest] children, the second, where the melamed was Rabbi (Liulke) Hendl, for Khumish [Torah] and Rashi [commentaries].

The Talmud-Torah children had a joyous winter in 1890. The city fathers came to the school with shoemakers, took measurements for boots for each child. Many children received warm clothing with bashlykn [Russian hoods with long flaps]. They were given candies for Chanukah and several kopekes were put in the packages. A few weeks later, the old Gynsberg died. All of the Talmud-Torah children marched to the train station, waited for the train to arrive from abroad and the children accompanied the coffin with the respected deceased under a thin, wet snow.

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The City Grows

In 1893 several demolished houses were already seen near the Trinity square. Houses appeared on the other side of the city, at Blachownia [town outside of Czenstochow]. On Kocze Street, Meir Biczner erected a large brick building with a courtyard – an entire shtetl [town], with shoemakers, tailors, Wolf Kac with a tavern, Kizshe Malarcz with a mangle [wringer, rollers in a frame that extract water from cloth]. In front was the Hasidic shtibl [one room house of prayer], and on the second floor the lame shoemaker directed Goldfaden's[1] theater piece. Another large building arrived in Teper Street, across from Drewnjak's tavern, where Izke's daughter, Maryam, remodeled the apartment. The apartment is important because of the later history of Lipe Goldboim. Another new building was erected on Teper Street: the residence of Khasriel Stoldola, the first refuge for our later heroes: Yakov-Ber Zylber (the lame Staluch), Yitzhak Lewi, Josef-Hersh Grejcer, Shaua Glezer, the lame Kopl, Chaim Leibele Szwarc.

New tailors of cheap clothing, shoemakers, fruit sellers, herring and kasha [buckwheat groats] shops were added to the new market. Shaya's son, Hershl, still had his good honest name, as well as Khasriel the Shenker [tavern owner] and Meir-Leib Helman. Henekh Lapidus opened a bookshop right after his marriage. His competitor was Emanuel Bejgele. Both supplied reading material for the Yiddish readers which consisted mostly of such stories as: Di Tsvelf Gazlonim [The 12 Thieves], Di Farfirtre Kale [The Seduced Bride], Di Farwunderter Khosn [The Astonished Groom] and so on.

At the corner of Jatke Street opposite the church stood the sellers of lemonade: the Kopls [men in hats] in white clothing with tall bonnets on their heads. Sheya Stope with kvas [fermented drink made from bread], actually from Petersburg; Nakhum-Yankl Frydman with a keg on his back, a long, tall bird over his head tied with a red turban with two tassels. Nakhum-Yankl was also an “actor.” His best role was Hotsmakh [a character in Abraham Goldfaden's Di Kishef-Makherin The Sorceress]. And thus he would offer his lemonade: “As I am Hotsmakh, the devil should take him, buy lemonade, made by the Bobe Yakhne [another character – the sorceress - in Di Kishef-Makherin], as I am a Jew.”

Shlomo Kutner, a good youngish Jew, in a Jewish hat with a large gentile lacquered visor, stood near Nakhum-Yankl and clapped to the beat. Welwele Dziekan [dean], a city clown, appeared on the market stage, lifted his thick cane to heaven, declaimed: “I am the king of all the council drivers from Germany… I am the general of the field marshals.” The beggars near the wall of the church played their Jasna Gore melodies on their fiddles. A second “actor,” Hershele Bejtom, a small Jew with a twisted stick, appeared. He sang a song, danced, grabbed a thrown groshn and disappeared. Yeshaya Szlitn turned the barrel organ: “Why did my mother give birth to me” and sold mazel kvitlekh [lottery coupons], which his caged bird picked out of a box.

Tuesday auction days at the new market were full of other stands and goods: earthen pots, dishes, koybers (pillows), trunks, beds, closets, lime, rope, noodle boards, graters and so on, paint businesses, dry goods, haberdashery, Jews with small wagons and package porters. Among the merchants were found such distinguished Jews as the lame Landa with his doll business, Templ, an importer of Russian goods. Avrahamele Suberda, a gentle Jew, would give a great deal of charity. He was the moyel [performed circumcisions] for the poor without pay and would in addition give a ruble to the woman who gave birth.

The Ogrodowa Street to the north was lightly settled. Half Jewish, half non-Jewish. Only in 1894, when the Bedzin wood trader, Nomberg, built his large building, did it

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become equal to the second side of Ogrodowa on the south. Two malarczes (painters) lived on both side of Ogrodowa. One was Ahron Goldberg, the first to bring painting into Jewish houses, [paint that] he brought mainly from Lodz and Warsaw. The second, Cymberknop, was a sign painter.

Most of the businesses were Jewish in the first and second alees [alleys]. The first and most esteemed businessman in the second alee was Imich and his paint business. Gradsztajn had a bank in the house in which he lived, until he built his new house on Teatralna. Nejgeld had a good reputation; he maintained a warehouse in the first alee. He was very respected in Czenstochow.

One often saw a woman in black with a veil over her face running around the alleys with quick steps. She spoke a nobleman's Polish and invited everyone to come to her for a visit because her husband was coming today. This was the crazy Treiza. A second one was the crazy Ruzshe. She gathered small pieces of paper and sang a song:

Pani [Madam] Royze sits in the garden
It rains on her.
When is my groom coming
For a stroll?
It was still empty to the north on Teatralna. A hrabia [equivalent to a count] lived there. They went there to skate in winter. Woe to those who greeted the count without his title; they immediately felt the count's whip and the teeth of his wolfhound. The count borrowed money from the Jews and paid back with slaps.

Kohn's factory was located on the other side, to the south. Ginsberg lived across from it. The two manufacturers were different from each other; Ginsberg was a solid Jew and a great philanthropist. Kohn was baptized for spite.

Going on Teatralna, one comes to the two new factories: on one side the “shpagatchernia” (strados [twine]). On the other side, the Pelcers, both French. New streets with family houses grew up in the fields around them. Work was then cheaper in Poland than in France – the Pelcers built one of the most beautiful palaces in Poland. The palace, three stories high, stood in the middle of a garden decorated with stucco and poured sculptures. In the garden – trees and flowers from all corners of the world. The master craftsmen in the French factory were all French.

Czenstochow spread and grew at a rapid pace and reached Hantke and the swamps. Meanwhile, we will return to the Jewish side of the street.

 

Shabbosdike [Sabbath] Recreation

It was a wintry afternoon. The Shabbos goyim [non-Jews who perform tasks forbidden for Jews on the Sabbath] had heated the ovens in the morning, fixed the fires at noon and received their drinks of whisky and a piece of challah [Shabbos egg bread]. The congregation had finished its prayers, eaten, sung the Shabbos songs and rested in enjoyment of Shabbos.

However in several houses such as Jaworski's or Peczke's, Shabbos was spent in another manner: servant girls, Jewish soldiers, young cavalrymen came together and they sang Yiddish and Ukrainian songs. It was warm in the room. The sand on the window flowed from the melting frost on the window panes. In the sand – paper funnels filled with cotton and secured with colored paper. The silk shawls and the Petersburg galoshes were removed and the girls told stories about their rich men, of marriage arrangements and of their shtetlekh [towns] and villages. Understand that these were poor children from the “outside.” But when the girls were included somewhere, the wise guys did not have any influence over them.

Then they began to dance. The girls sang:

Who sewed for you –
Were you yourself capricious
Tra-la-la tra-la-la
Napravo (right).

Who asked you to marry them,
Did you yourself bury your face
Tra-la-la tra-la-la
Nalevo (left).

They became tired and revived themselves with a candy or another snack that the girls had brought with them. Then they began the broyges-tants [a dance of anger or offence; a dance done at weddings]:
Are you angry with me – I do not know for what – you go around all day with your nose lowered!
And:
Perhaps you desire a kiss from me
One-two-three-four;
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From someone else, yes – from you, no
La-la-la-la-la.
And they sang further:
Who is the boy who wanted me
Who promised me a kerchief with gold?
There he is standing behind the wall
And holds the kerchief in his hand.
They danced a polka, a czardas and a rach, czach-czach for going home. These Shabbos entertainments lasted until two weeks before Passover, until the beginning of the baking of the matzoh at Elhanu the headstone carver's, Szamper's and others. Young and old boys and girls worked with the matzoh; most of them were rollers, a smaller number were flour mixers, kneaders, hole pokers, scrapers, carriers. They worked from six in the morning until 11 at night, sometimes, in addition, an entire night. They made [the money for preparing for] Passover and sometimes there was [some money] left over for a new calico dress or a hat.

 

The Cholera

The rays of the setting sun fall on the synagogue and on the Beis-haMedrash [house of study] at the Warta River on a late summer day and light the large Mogen Dovid [Shield or Star of David] on the colored windows that shine out to the world: “East of the sun until His arrival.”


The Old Synagogue

 

But on the streets that encircled the synagogue there was darkness. The entire summer the cholera ate the souls of the small and large. The number of victims was so large, mostly in the small houses on the straw mattresses with rotting straw, full of vermin – that the black coffins in the synagogue courtyard were left to rest and the dead were brought to the Kuceliner cemetery in simple wagons.

In 1894, the cholera was truly fought with better means than the cholera in the 70s. Then Meir Biczner, still a young man, with a few members of the Khevre-Kadishe [burial society] put on shrouds and rode white horses through the city waving swords towards heaven, shouting: Malekh Hamoves [Angel of Death], get out of our city! Now the city was bigger, with more Jewish doctors who appeared satisfied with a gildn or two from a poor man and many times they came without payment and even left a ruble for medicine. The Russian police, the fat wachmistrz (wachtmeister)[sergeant] Garbarski and the long thin Babrowski went around the city, asking that the gutters be whitewashed with lime and that the sick not be given water that had not been boiled to drink.

A small, white house stood on Warszawer Street, with its face to the government buildings. This was the Jewish hospital. Clean inside, white covered cots, carbolic acid splashed around in all corners. Languid lips drank sterilized water and blessed the city fathers who had quickly put together the Jewish hospital. They were: Gejsler, Markusfeld, Ginsberg, Meir-Leib Helman of the old market, Avrahamele Suberda of the new market, Nejgeld, Imich. Doctors Rus and Waserthal and a few feldshers [barber-surgeons] and a poor girl, Gitl Zigas, who came running to the hospital with the first patient, her father Mendl Zigas, and remained there to serve the sick, worked, all doing their work for free.

There was enough work for Meir Biczner: to go the houses to comfort the mourners…

However, the cholera did not stop the work of the small Jewish factories. In Godl Wajnberg's small 10-groshn watch factory on Warszawer Street, in a small dark room, they worked from six in the morning until 10 at night. The old marriage age girls worked at the presses. Their harsh lives poured out in the mournful melody of a folksong:

I go out on the small porch
To look over the shtetele
A small bird comes flying
And bows to me.
The second manufacturer was Mordekhai Dreksler, also on Warszawer Street, opposite Kotlicki; a small, short Jew with a beard to his navel. His craft was to pour lead roosters. He tried to find a trick so that with one pouring almost 100 roosters would come out. His son helped him in the work and his mother (the Muter [mother] – that is how she wanted to be called) said that he had the head of a

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minister. The Muter who was the master of the shop was so bulky that a special soft chair was made for her. Five girls sat around her and decorated the trumpeters, rattles and silver bells. Her mouth never closed; she kept pouring tea into herself. Perhaps she was up to her 30th glass; this was a remedy against the cholera. She said the girls who worked should wait until night, that when they returned home they should cook a large teapot of water and if the did not have any lemon or sour salts, they should use vinegar…

Konarski's small factory in Golda's house at the old market was a little decent. He paid his workers an entire 60 kopekes a week.

There was tumult in the street. A gentile girl fell down in front of Smolek's bakery. One and two – and she was dead. Across was the host of Federman's tavern, a healthy young, tall Jew. He lay down and did not stand up anymore. There was a rumor that he had been buried alive because his grave split; they went to the cemetery, making strenuous efforts at asking forgiveness.

A ruddy preacher came to the city, gave a sermon in the Beis-heMedrash that the cholera was a punishment for sin; they must repent, recite psalms and marry off orphans. The orphan who was burned on one cheek was caught and he was matched with an orphan. Women gathered flour, eggs, meat and celebrated a city wedding to chase the cholera.

The city fussed with piety. Mezuzus [plural of mezuzah – a box placed on the doorpost containing a parchment on which the prayer, Shema Yisroel - “Hear O Israel” – prayer that is central to Jewish worship expressing the oneness of God – is inscribed] were checked, the tzitzis [fringe on the tallis - prayer shawl and tallis katan – garment worn next to the body by pious men] were counted; one was prohibited from going out on the tree-lined street without a scarf, servant girls' umbrellas were broken and the children tore out rubber combs from girls heads. This was how it went until the Days of Awe.

 

Apostates, Dybbuks

There was also excitement in the city because of two new apostates. One was Chaim Leizer (Eliezer), a middle class man with a wife and grown daughters, who was employed in Kahn's factory on Teatralna. Every morning, his wife saw him kneeling and crossing himself. Then he grabbed his tallis and tefillin [prayer shawl and phylacteries], prayed and kissed the mezuzah and ran to work. The second was Kopl Moshe, the teacher's son, a melamed [religious teacher] who ran to the church every day and cried with bitter tears that he would not be buried on a Jewish cemetery. It was believed in the city that he was the victim of love of a Christian.

Zelkowicz, who stood at the market every day selling pork, was an apostate of an entirely different character. He was a Cantonist. He was caught as a child and became a Nikolajever soldier. He could not bear the torture and surrendered to conversion. But Shmuel Zigas and the old Kelbelman, also Cantonists, risked their lives for Kiddush ha-Shem. It was better for them to die than to convert; they came home as Jews.[2]

There were two dybukim [plural of dybbuk – a soul who enters the body of a living person] present in the city. One was Golda Dybbuk. A Ludwig spoke from her. The Dybbuk Ludwig shouted: “The Jews, the Jews, they want to kill me.” Golda calmed Ludwig: “Do not have any fear, Ludwig.” She reminded him of the beer hall in Hamburg where they drank beer, caraway whiskey and Bordeaux wine together. A bright smile stretched over Golda's face. And Ludwig said: “Yes, that time is past … Oh, the young girl from the beer hall … blue eyes … sings and plays … I was baptized … I am not a Jew … no! I am not a Jew! …” The only one who could calm Golda Dybbuk was Wigder Brukarcz. He would take her by the hands and shout: “Quiet, Ludwig!” – and Golda would swear that she would be quiet.

Wigder Brukarcz said that when he was 16 years old in Germany he had a good friend, Ludwig, who fell in love with a Christian girl, the daughter of the beer hall owner. Because of her he converted. Golda Dybbuk also lived in the same courtyard and it seemed she fell in love with Ludwig. After her wedding to her husband, Aba Sarwer, she became ill with a nervous upset and convinced herself that Ludwig Dybbuk had entered her.

The second was Meir with two dybbuks. One dybbuk was a cantorial dybbuk, who would sing out from [Meir] all of the cantorial pieces, Shabbos and holiday prayers. The second dybbuk in him was a Russian guard who would give orders and curse in Russian.

A close neighbor of Wigder Brukacz was Meyta the baker. The aroma from her bread with caraway seeds, which she leavened, kneaded and placed in the oven, was dispersed over the neighboring houses. Meyta (Mayta) the baker's little son, Itsik-Shpitsik,

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would chase after May bugs and cut the buttons off boys' pants. Wigder demanded that Itsik return the buttons; if not he would send him to his father in America.

 

Days of Awe

The Days of Awe were coming closer. It was quiet in the Gecewizne [neighborhood of Czenstochow]. The Talmud Torah and the khederim were closed. Only the voice of Hendl melamed [teacher in a religious primary school] on the topmost story poured out in the spirit of Rosh Hashanah: “A man's origin is from dust and his destiny is back to dust…”

On the other side of the Jewish part of the city at the very tip of the gubernia [province] near Reb Shaya Szlitn in bent over little houses in Kocze Alley, they fervently prepared. They dressed up … and they argued. The holiday guests would allot the places among themselves: who should go to the shtiblekh [one room synagogues], who should go to the synagogue, who to the Beis-heMedrash - to beg. Meanwhile, they rehearsed how to groan and moan, how to give themselves a hunchback, how to be blind and to sing: My eyes are closed; it is dark for me day and night…

A guest came – Aytsik Szlize, the first one who came out of the Piotrkow jail. The second after Szlize was Josl Yapcak, who murdered his father, Nakhum the shoemaker, and threw him out of bed in honor of Rosh Hashanah. Josl Yapcak was the fear of the Jewish neighborhood because he was as strong as a lion and no one could compete with him. Girls from outside, who came to work as servants in Czentochow, had to pay him a fee.

And it was already Rosh Hashanah. The Jatke [butcher shop] Street and the old market were cleaned up. Only the smell remained that clearly says that last night old fish, rotten cucumbers, spoiled plums and wormy apples were sold here. The peasants from the surrounding villages knew that it was a holy day for the Jews and they did not come to the city with their village produce. Only one gentile moved idly around the street and shouted and cursed. This was Mecner Pajak who would have died from hunger if not for the Jews.

Zelkowicz, the convert, who did not now stand at the market with pork, hung around the Shul [synagogue] Street. He would say that his heart drew him to the Ahron Kodesh [ark containing the Torah scrolls] and he saw his parents in his dreams. He was nine years old when they tore him away from them.

The barrel organ with the birds that picked out the lottery coupons in Shaya Szlitn's courtyard was at rest. The shutters in Morits's “little house” near the river were closed. The officers would not whip the girls with their riding crops today; the boastful young men would not hit them and the girls would not wink at the passersby from the balconies. Uncle Morits, a short, dark little Jew in dark clothes with a gold chain that was balanced on his fat stomach, held his talis bag and a large Makhzor [plural Makhzorim – Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur prayer book] stiffly under his arm and marched to Krakower Street to the leaseholders' shtibl.


The Old Market

The Rosh Hashanah sun warmed the Jewish alleys. Men in faded, threadbare, black loose coats – a number an inheritance from the grandfather's wedding clothes – rushed into the synagogue and into the shtiblekh. Boys and fathers were dressed in loose cloth coats. The wives wore small Rosh Hashanah bows in their sheitlen [wigs worn by pious married women], with padded busts and little pillows underneath; the older ones in headbands, inheritances from mothers and grandmothers and in black dresses.

The women from the boulevard and from the new market were dressed differently, long gold chains around throats, pearls, broaches with diamonds, diamond earrings, rings with diamonds and wide golden bracelets on their hands. The zogerins [women who translate the prayers from Hebrew to Yiddish] carried large Makhzorim and Tkhinus [Yiddish prayer books] to recite for those who did not know Hebrew.

Ayzik Kikele also was all dressed up in a pair of pants from which he fell out, a gift from fat Wolberg and in shoes from which his feet crept out. His left eye was bound with a colored rag, urchins ran after Ayzik, speaking with a twang: gut yom-tov [happy holiday], Ayzik, may you obtain a good year.

The synagogue was lit with a hundred candles.

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Long streams of water poured from the walls. The fine proprietors with gold and silver asores [ornamental pray shawl collars] occupied the middle of the synagogue to the Ahron Kodesh [ark with Torah scrolls]. The simple Jews, those who drag sacks and crates, factory workers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers were closer to the anteroom. Outside in front of the synagogue the ułaner [an ironic reference to the Polish light cavalry] moved with arrogance: Moshe Pace, the Yomete's Hersh Leib, Avraham Ber Murczyn, Yankl's son, Avraham Wolf, the fast talkers and movers, the boastful ones and their followers.

The gang members were now the heroes of the Jewish neighborhood. They repealed one of the market tax payments, took pretensja [demanded or required] money, or they protected the Jews many times from gentile beatings, from gentile attacks and gave blows when it was needed. Sometimes, butcher hatchets, meat cleavers and shafts from wagon wheels were used.

 

The City Becomes Larger and More Beautiful

Short, bleak days. The deep mud is covered with thin ice. In the Jewish homes, they are talking about the death of Aleksander III. The masses do not read the Polish and Russian newspapers from Warsaw and Petersburg. There is no Jewish newspaper here yet except for the Hebrew Hamelitz. Only several large manufacturers, the Grodsztajns and the Kazione Bank make use of the telephone. Yet, the news about the death of Aleksander III spreads quickly and awakes sadness and fear in Jewish hearts. It was said that Czar Aleksander was good to the Jews and who knows what the new king will be. They consoled themselves that Nikolai II might be good to the Jews because he had a Jewish lover and what a lover!

A soldier who had shot a sergeant-major was then sentenced to death in Czenstochow. Shabbos morning, the entire city ran to see how the solider had been shot. But as the body lay in a grave, a telegram arrived that the Czar had forbidden his death sentence…

In 1895, Jews swore their devotion to Nikolai II in the city schools. The city had then grown a great deal. In the First Alee, Notl Pankowski erected a new building with stucco on the ceilings and large tiled ovens decorated with ornaments. New houses were built by Kalinski on Teatralne, Winer on the Stacje Street, Kruger on the Blich, the Namberg brothers on Ogrodnowa and Drewniak on Garncarske.

In the middle of the 1890's they began to prepare electrical lighting. The electrical station was built opposite the Russian church, behind the koze (jail). The first holes were dug at the new market. It was then learned that the new market was once a large cemetery because many human skulls and bones were dug out. Stories were told that the small building also opposite the church was in the old times a castle of King Zigmunt with an underground passage to the church in which there appeared to be a grave.

The coloring of the first pole for the electrical lighting opposite Imich's dye business was like a great exhibition. People gathered to see the great wonder where they would climb up so high to the tip of the pole with paint and paint brush in the hand. The 13-year old Chaim-Leibele carried this out; he was praised with a bravo and applause from the assembled crowd.

They prepared for the coronation of Nikolai II. The fronts of the houses were colored and covered in lime, the gutters were cleaned, criminals were freed from jail. For the most part, the janitors took part in the holiday. They illuminated the gutters with lanterns and kerosene wicks. The intelligentsia did not take part in the holiday. Jews had not yet forgotten the pogroms in Ukraine after the murder of Aleksander II; in Czenstochow they also sang the song of the Kiev pogrom, “The wild kacapes [Great Russians] with their paws, they have corrupted everything…”

The coronation was dominated by drunken scoundrels; beatings took place. Drunk officers tottered in the streets with Pan [Mr.] Erlich, the police chief.

Immediately after the coronation, the Czenstochow city fathers decided to introduce sewers into the city.

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Theater, Literature, Movies

The same summer, Malkha Szwartsnkop [Queen Black Head] was performed in a summer theater on Teatralne Street. Shabbas at night our Jewish guys would drop in there. Whoever did not have a ticket was almost satisfied with looking through the crevices of the boards around the theater. The play was performed in Polish, but one scene was performed by a Yiddish

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kheder in Yiddish. A song that was sung there spread through the Jewish streets. This was:

“Yonale, Yonale, I want to tell you something.
Here is a young wife but you should not hit her.”

The small Jewish guys would also sometimes slip into the theater where Gege, the poster hanger reigned. Also at the expense of Madam Szwarc, the owner of the flower shop in the Second Alee, a Jewish child would go up to the gallery. Sometimes a copper ten-piece bribe would be given to the “important one.” They performed then, Goœæie Przyæodzon (Guests are Coming] Gejsha, Halka. The small Jewish group had become infected with theater fever. Their rebbe was Yakov Ber Zilber or the lame Staluch. He took all of the young children from the old Talmud-Torah of Yitzhak Lewi and rehearsed theater there. Yitzhak's father, Mordekhaile, a short Jew with sparkling eyes, and his mother, Beyle, always in a long skirt with a sweet smile on her wide face – would beam with joy at their son and at the entire theater company.

The first presentation, Kuni-Leml [a musical written by Abraham Goldfaden] was initiated by Grumen the melamed of the kheder on Warszawer Street. Men hot geshtanen oyf kep [it was very crowded]. Everyone came to see their children, grandchildren and cousins act in the theater. Tickets were not needed. How the small group could carry out such a performance, without any help, without mastery of stagecraft – was God's wonder.

On the second night of Purim, the same piece was performed in Markowicz's house at the old market, in Mordekhai Korek's tavern.

Several weeks later, during Khol haMoed Pesakh [intermediate days of Passover], a troupe of actors came from Lodz and performed four plays: Ahashverosh. Shulamus, Bar Kokhba and Kabtsnzon un Hungerman [Kabtsnzon and Hungerman]. Famous actors took part in the troupe: Piurnik, Akselrad, di gele Tslove [the blond Tslova]. The theater was fully packed with people for all four nights. Then they were not permitted to perform in Yiddish, only in Deitsch-Merish [Germanisms]. Madam Szwarc helped out convincing the police chief that they were acting in “stage German.” Pan Erlich knew very well that this was not German, but he could not refuse Madam Szwarc, the beauty of the city.

The Jewish neighborhood became richer with new songs. The father absorbed Khazan [cantor] Ziskind's beautiful melodies. The girls sang theater songs. Goldfaden's songs were then very popular, particularly Dos Yidele [The Little Jew]. The Jewish soldiers, entering Jewish homes for Shabbos spread Russian and Ukrainian songs.


New Market

 

The interest in literature in the Jewish neighborhood was also awakened. For the most part, they read Yiddish translations of novels which arrived from America. Shomer [pseudonym of the Yiddish novelist, Nakhum Meir Sheilewitch] was at the head. The young had already begun to thirst for real literature. Books written by Mendele Mocher-Sforim and M. Spektor had started to appear. Klatshe [The Dobbin] was particularly popular. Shoemaker and tailor apprentices delighted in Tolstoy. Translations of Emil Zola appeared and the young thirsted to absorb the new ideas. Czenstochow began to become a cultural center that influenced the surroundings that was called Zaglembie or Piotrkow gubernia [province].

In 1898, the Dreyfus trial resulted in changes in the Jewish street. Captain Dreyfus, which was published in pamphlets, became the most popular literature. Anti-Semitism in Poland began to show its teeth.

A Jew appeared at the old market the same summer with a box on his stomach; four white, rubber tubes came out of the box. For three kopekes Jews could put the rubber tubes to their ears and hear singing. Posters appeared in the Alee that a great world-wonder would be shown in the theater. The wonder was a large chest with a large trumpet on the stage that sang Bozhe, Tsarya khrani [God Save the Czar] and other songs, and

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suddenly the room became dark, a white sheet appeared on the stage and two children in two beds threw pillows, feathers flew, people, policemen, firemen ran together.

People could not understand all of the wonders and assumed it was black magic or delusions, but the young lads from the Jewish street read about Edison in the American publications and knew that the box at the new market and the chest with the large trumpet were gramophones and the black magic on the sheet was called zywe obrazi (living pictures).

New streets were cut on the square where the coronation took place, behind the church down to Czenstochowka. A new post office building with a large, wide courtyard, where the highest Russian authorities lived, was erected not far from the church. During the spring and summer days it smelled of greens from the trees and from the open windows pianos played the music of Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Schubert. No wonder that when a child from the Jewish street strayed here and compared everything that he saw and heard with the suffocating poverty of the poor street that sold milk from a farmer for a three-piece coin, chicory for a kopek (they did not know about coffee) and two blocks of sugar for two groshn – strange thoughts awoke in his head…

The lame Stalich (Yakov Ber Zylber) himself thought about dramatizing and acting in a new play. This was Shimkha Plakhte. The presentation took place on Purim in the Pupecki Hall on Tilne Street. Chaim-Leibele made the decorations. After the presentation, a small group began to rehearse Uriel Akosta. The daughter of Gradsztajn the banker emulated the children on the Jewish street and founded a theater club for the rich children. The troupe produced one-act Polish plays.

Czenstochow grew like yeast. On Ostatni Grosz, Hantke, the converted Jew, began to cover the mud and build an iron factory. At the same time, Leibl Garbinski bought a large house on Tilne Street. Garbinski, who won a great deal of money from Hantke playing cards – later founded a pawnshop where the poor pawned their rings, clocks and overcoats.

In 1899, A Velt mit Veltelekh [A World within a World] appeared in Czenstochow. This small book spread like a blaze. It fell among the young men in the yeshiva and caused real devastation.

 

New Winds

In 1900 the great Zalel of Piotrkow, Hershele Beker from Lodz, Mordekhai Beker and the lame Kopl came to Czenstochow and they brought plays and new songs. A new star arrived: Lipe Goldbaum, a Lodz turner, who lodged with Izke's daughter, Mariem, or with Wolf Bom. Lipe was the first teacher of science and political enlightenment in the circle to which Chaim Leibele, Josef Hirsh Gricer, the lame Stalukh, Khasriel Totbard (Stadale) belonged. In the circle, they spoke about parliamentarianism, the Czarist government and natural science. During the same year Werde of the gold factory bought the old age home on Ostatni Grosz. At the same time the Czenstochow wagon drivers and porters brought a sefer-Torah [Torah scroll] to the synagogue, as was the custom with music, torches and dancing in the street.

During the month of Tammuz of that year, three Czenstochower – Chaim Leibele, Josef Hirsh Grajcer and Yakov Ber Zylber – left to wander across the world. Stealing across the Austrian border, they arrived in the shtetl, Teshibin [Teshabin], and rented an inn for two guldn to present theater at night. But instead of an audience, a mass of children came with kreuzers. The proceeds in the cashbox were one guldn and 75 kreuzers. The actors jumped out of a window with this sum and went farther on their way.

The group left on foot from Teshibin to Krakow, from Krakow to Chrzanów and Oshpitsin [Oœwiêcin] and from there back to the border near Elkish [Olkusz]. They were again in Czenstochow on Rosh Hashanah.

New winds blew. It was the time of the rise of Zionism. Dr. Herzl's name was well known far and wide. The Czarist government did not disturb the Zionist activity; the Zionist preachers said in the synagogues that salvation was near; they were going to buy Eretz-Yisroel from Turkey. The Zionists particularly attracted the middle-class and the young who felt how the ground was sinking under their feet. Young men and girls arranged Zionist balls; poor businessmen saved and bought a shekel.[3]

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The resistance to Zionism came from two sides: in addition to the Polanized Jews from “higher” society and a number of the middle class who withdrew from Jewish life in general – the pious Jews, Hasidim and rabbis moved heaven and earth and gave sermons in the synagogues that only Moshiakh [Messiah] can redeem Jews from the exile. On the other site, the Socialist agitation among the highest circles in Warsaw, Lodz, Vilna, Bialystok reached Czenstochow. The Socialist Workers Movement began that preached brotherhood and liberation through struggle and revolution.

Little by little the Socialist movement among others also drew in the religious youths; the Enlightenment mainly had an effect on the young men in the yeshiva.

Fathers and mothers made fun of their children and others beat their children who wanted to overthrow Nicholai. But there also were fathers and even entire families who assisted the movement.

The struggle between the pious Jews and Achdusnikes [Bundists] flared up. An untrue story spread across the city that the Achdusnikes in Lodz had dressed a dog in a talis [prayer shawl] and tefilin [phylacteries] and led it through the streets. Achdusnikes became a curse words. The fights and scuffles between the leaders of the Freiheit movement and the young rascals often became embittered.

The coming of a new and fresh storm that entered the Jewish streets with a rare zest was strongly felt in 1901. Many new publications from America appeared. New styles for women arose in the winter. The long trains disappeared; the small cushions lay neglected in the street. The short dresses, high heeled shoes, low hats over folded braids, the red capes with the short parasols added a great deal of charm to the working girls. The young men also began to dress up. The caftans became shorter; the hats smaller; they put on paper shirtfronts and paper cuffs. However, the trouble was the shirtfront was nothing short of them creeping out from the undershirt during a “conversation.” The cuffs had a habit of falling off the hands. The spinkes (studs) broke and the collars opened.

In the evenings we went to the First and Second Alee and had discussions. The beloved theme was still: what is heaven, the stars, how large and how far is the sun, what is thunder and lightning and so on. We also spoke about politics. Yiddish love songs and folk songs that had earlier been sung on the Shabbosim [Sabbaths] in the squat houses were now sung on the benches in the Alees and many new songs were added: Hatikvah [The Hope – now the national anthem of Israel – was then the anthem of the Zionist movement], Dort vu di Ceder [There Where the Cedars]. A beloved folk song was:

The clock has already struck 12
Take me home, take me home.
What excuse will I make
For my mother at home?
The first excuse you should give:
You worked late, you worked late.
The second excuse you should give:
You lost your way.

The lamer kop [lame head] brought a new song from Lodz copied onto a piece of paper:

It snowed and rained
Sadness in the street.
I met a small girl
Poor, naked and pale.

They did not yet know that this song had been written by Morris Rozenfeld.

Monash Biber brought a song from a workroom in London:

The machines run, the wheels bang,
It is dirty and hot in the workshop.
My head becomes confused,
My eyes become dark,
Dark from tears and sweat.

Things began to stir in the small factories, where adults and children worked. The words bourgeois and proletariat quietly crept into the workers' mouths.

The young group acquired new friends – students and intellectuals. The first were Markus Goldberg, Markus Cymerman, Goldsztajn from the First Alee, several girls. A secret meeting took place in an attic in Godl Wajnberg's courtyard on Warsawer Street.

In 1902 in the month of Shvat, all of Czenstochow was abuzz. One of the bakers had led a girl named Chanale astray. He gave her drops for an abortion and the girl died. Chaim Leibele then wrote a song named, Chanale's Toyt [Chanale's Death]. Henekh Lapidus bought this song for five rubles and published it in a

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booklet. This song reads thus in the Yiddish of that time[4]:

At three in the afternoon
Whoever was in front of the shamas's house,
Began the dark funeral
For the one who saw misfortune.
Running, a shout, a commotion,
A cry among sisters and brothers.
The mother with a muffled voice:
Chanale, where are you being taken?
Oy, Gotenyu [Oh, my God], what has happened to me?
Chanala, I will see you no more. And so on.
This song, Chanale's Toyt [Chanale's Death] spread not only in Czenstochow, but also in many cities in Poland. Girlish eyes filled with tears while singing and servant girls poured out their bitter hearts with it. [Page 45]

The Pogrom

The coming of the Days of Awe was already felt in the air. The market was fuller than on all other Thursdays [the days on which people shopped for Shabbos]. Ripe fruit was displayed. Plums, red berries, apples and also greens, brought in from the surrounding peasant villages. The peasants knew that the women needed to buy for Shabbos; they brought chickens, eggs, ducks. The fishermen displayed the kosher fish, the long pike in Balye's water with swimming carp taken recently from the Warta. The women and their servants, bosses and their apprentices and many, many poor women with baskets would soon come.

Near the fishermen stood the tailors of cheap clothing with their stands: pants, men's jackets, shirts and colored kerchiefs. The wagon drivers and porters waited to earn a few groshn for Shabbos. Sacks of kasha, beans, peas, broad beans, oatmeal, pieces of salt, soups and barrels of herring stood in front of the shops. The rich bought shmaltz herring and roe; the poor – small herrings with a great deal of milk (mlitsakes) so that there would be something to chop with onions and vinegar for after the Shabbos prayers.

The boastful ones, pickpockets and heroes with knives moved among the carts and fruit sellers.

The quiet, modest Dovid Oderberg also stood with plums among the fruit sellers. Mrs. Teafila, the Polish woman, came to him at nine o'clock in the morning with a basket and asked him to measure several quarts of plums. When the plums were in the basket, she suddenly began to shout that Oderman should give her back her money. She did not want the spoiled Jewish plums. Dovid looked at her astonished and said: “Pani [madam], you have not yet paid me for the plums.” Teafila began to speak loudly: “Paskudner Zyd” [loathsome Jew], give me my money!” The plums were poured out of her basket. Hooligans grew as if from the earth, overturned the troughs of fruits, turned over stands and began beatings. Wagon drivers and fishermen stood in opposition to them with whips and poles, butchers from the butcher street arrived. Nakhum Yankl Frydman, the Yumete's Hirsh Leib, Meir Riz, Melekh Kutner mixed in, brought wagon shafts from the wagons and struck back. However, so many hooligans arrived that could not stand against them.

The wild mob went through Warszawer and Krakower Streets and looted shops, broke window panes. Messengers ran through the factories to stop work because Jews were beating Christians.

A wild mob poured out of all of the factories at twelve o'clock noon. The market was already cleared out, shops shuttered. No Jews were seen in the street. The violent people who later arrived from the distant factories – Hantke's, Pelcer's and Szpogatszarnje's – carried out a pogrom in the Jewish streets in the wildest manner with stones and iron bars. They created the first and largest ruins on Warszawer Street. Pinye Kaminski's barbershop was broken into pieces.

It is clear that the pogrom was well organized earlier by the Polish anti-Semites and scheduled for the time when the military was not in the city. The police also did not appear in the street. A few soldiers were in the city.

Markisfeld[5] sent several telegrams to Warsaw that the military should be sent to Czenstochow before there were mass victims. Warsaw let it be known that it was sending the military immediately. Meanwhile, the pogrom continued undisturbed with the shout of Bi Zydow (Beat the Jews). The streets were covered with broken glass and feathers. Jews lay hidden in cellars, in attics, many with Christian neighbors.

Around one at night, Markusfeld was still standing at the new market waiting for the military. The mob had then invaded Tilne and Ogrodowa. Suddenly

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the military appeared, marching through the First Alee to the new market and placed themselves there in straight rows to the church. The pogromists, behind the stone fences of the church, pelted the military with stones and shouted: “Beat the Russian soldiers!” The first salvo came after the military marched into Koszczol's courtyard. The hooligans ran away. Around five in the morning, the military was spread throughout the city. Around six, gentiles with looted goods were being taken to the police station.

Friday was terrible for Jews. Many Jews scattered to the neighboring cities. It was said that the actual pogrom would begin Friday at night; no Jew would remain from the three crosses to the Gecewizner. Janow, Myszków, ¯arki, Kozieg³owy had guests for Shabbos. A dead quiet reigned in the streets. No one dared to sit at the market and in the Alees. Military patrols marched back and forth.

Chaim Leibele, the writer of these lines, found himself in the street the entire day and night, many times in the very middle of the wild crowd. In the morning he found the Teper Street covered with feathers and down. In many houses, the little bit of poor furniture was broken; looted stores were sealed with boards. When Chaim Leibele knocked on his parents' door, he did not get any answer. Later, the people came out of their hiding places. Shabbos, he traveled to the small towns to calm the Czenstochower Jews there.

The trial of the pogromists that took place in the middle of winter was a tragic farce. Many were entirely freed. Several received a few days in prison and several – six weeks, but actually in the Czenstochow jail so that, God forbid, they would not lack for food and drink.

The Polish Warsaw newspapers wrote that the pogrom was organized by the Jews themselves. The Petersburg Fraynd [Friend] was satisfied with just a few lines. Therefore, Chaim Leibele dedicated a song to the pogrom:

Just listen, people, to what has happened.
What has occurred to us in the city.
We Jews have encountered a misfortune:
Burned, beaten and robbed.
There has not yet been such a lament
As there was in Czenstochow,
In the month of Elul, the 9th day,
The misfortune happened to us.
Nine in the morning
A Christian woman came
She ordered plums.
Suddenly she shouted: Zyd [Jew],
They are not good,
Give me back my money.
Letters went like telegrams
Into the factories:
When the whistle sounds at 12,
You should go into the streets.
As the 12 o'clock whistle blew
They went out of the factories
With shouts, force and noise,
To the market and the streets
Beat, broke,
Became wilder and wilder,
Goods laid out, shop counters turned over,
Broke into poor houses.
The hooligans' hands
Set fire and burned,
Bedding plucked and torn.
The pogrom song immediately spread across the city. The song was supposed to be sold by the publisher, Benyome (Benyamin) Libeskind in Piotrkow, but Henekh Lapidus anticipated this and paid 10 rubles and published 200 copies. Avraham Hon (Szwarc) went around the market with the song and sang it out loud.

The same year, Josef Hirsh Grajcer was taken into the military. With his departure, the young group lost one of its leaders.

In 1903 the struggles among the various still small party groups began. The Russo-Japanese War broke out and people scattered. The majority to London. The writer of these memories also left his home city then.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Playwright Abraham Goldfaden, considered the founder of Yiddish theater. Return
  2. The term Cantonist is derived from a German term for recruiting district. Jewish boys were drafted into the Russian army for 25 years of military service at age 12 starting in 1827; they were pressured to convert. The length of service eventually decreased to 12 years plus 3 years in the reserve. A Nikolajever soldier served during the reign of Czar Nikolai I. Kiddush haShem is the act of sanctifying God's name. Return
  3. Purchasers of a Zionist shekel received a yearly membership certificate in the Zionist movement. Return
  4. Until 1908 and the First Yiddish Conference in Czernowitz, Yiddish orthography was not standardized and the song below was written in non-standard Yiddish orthography. Return
  5. This name is spelled elsewhere as Markusfeld. Return

 

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