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[Page 193]

Anti-Semitism in Klobuck

 

Murderous Attacks on Jews

By Fishel Feige

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

From my earliest years in the shtetl I remember that people talked about thieves and murderers who attacked Jews from Klobuck on the roads. As frightened children we listened to these stories. Later we realized that they were not stories, but real accounts of murders, perpetrated by gentiles (goyim) against Jews. I will recall below a few murders, that are fixed in my memory.

In our house, close to the mill, lived a Jew, Yaacov Chode. Since he did not have a job, he moved to another village, Borowe, with his family, where his father had a (grain) mill and a saw mill.

During the First World War, in a dark night, a band of thieves attacked the Chode family house, and killed Yaacov Chode and his father, and seriously wounded Yaacov Zuckerman, who was formerly in charge of the mikveh (ritual bath).

*

Yitzchak Tshochne, an elderly Jew, went to the village to buy a carpet of skin animal, a calf, a few eggs and a hen. Two gentiles (Shiktsim) from Klobuck followed him until they arrived the forest, which was called “Makom-Wald” (The forest place) or “Mokra Wald”(The damp forest). In the forest the two gentiles attacked the Jew, killed him, and stole the few kerblech (roubles – Russian money), he had with him, and ripped off his boots.

The murder was discovered. The murderers, Karkotek and Albert, were tried in court. After they were sentenced and served their prison term, they returned to the town.

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Albert became a policeman in the independent (country of) Poland (after WW I). A guardian of the Justice ...

*

A few Klobuck horse merchants were returning from the market in Czestochowa. On the bridge between Grabuwke and Lgota, their carts were stopped by two Poles, who ransacked everything. One of the merchants, Yitzhak Zachs, was late, and when his cart arrived it was the last one. By the time the cart arrived it was already night, and the two murderers had shot Zachs. None of his money was taken by the murderers, and the cart with his dead body was driven into the city.

*

Wolf Eizner lived in the village of Ostrow. He was born in Klobuck. Murderers attacked him in his house and killed him.

*

A weird story happened to Yaacov Reiber, the cattle merchant, who lived in Kamyk. He bought and sold cattle amongst the villages, so that most of the time he was on the road.

One time while traveling through the forest, he met the well-known highway man Slomtshinsky, who was wanted and hunted by the police for a long time. The police could not catch him, because it was said that he hid in a cave deep underground. From time to time he sent threatening letters to rich merchants and landowners with the following demand: bring a large sum of money to a designated place in the forest, or he would shoot them.

When Slomtshinsky saw the Jew (Reiber), he stopped him and asked where he was going. Reiber answered that he was on his way to a village to meet a peasant who asked him to come to sell a calf. Instinctively the frightened Jew took out his insubstantial amount of money and presented it to the thief. Slomtshinsky asked him if he had any more money.

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Upon hearing a negative answer, the thief took out enough money from his own pocket to buy a cow, and gave it to the Jew, because not much of a living could be made from selling a calf.

It was said that the thief Slomtshinsky only robbed rich people. When he came across a poor Jew walking to a village, he gave him some money, in order to meek out a living.

Finally, Yaacov Reiber, the cattle merchant, was assassinated by murderers. About his death it was said:

One day he went away and did not return when he was supposed to. His wife and children kept weeping and lamenting. We looked for him on all the roads, but could not find a trace of him.

One day, the Rabbi of Klobuck, HaRav Yitzchak Chanoch, righteous of blessed memory, called a meeting of a few Jews from his closest circle. When they came in, the Rabbi told them that he had a dream: Yaacov Reiber was killed and was laying in the forest at a specific place, covered by twigs. The Rabbi asked his followers to summon more Jews and go to the forest to the specific place, where they would find the dead man.

The Rabbi never went to the forest, but because his word was revered by everyone, the Jews went to the place identified by the Rabbi, and sure enough, found Yaacov Reiber's corpse.

*

Close to Hersh Szperling lived a Jew. He was called The Big Eliyahu. He was not rich. He made a living from trading in the villages, had a lame, sick wife and young children. He was a native of Miedzne where he was trading.

Once he went to the village and never came back. After a few days he was found dead. Later the lame widow made a living by selling vegetables in front of her apartment.

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In the village named Fasseidowke lived a rich and powerful Jewish man named Shidlowski. One night burglars attacked his house. The burglars did not occupy all of the rooms. Family members started to yell. The attackers became frightened and ran away. Nevertheless they had managed to stab Shidlowski.

The rich and powerful Jewish man left the village the next day and moved to Klobuck. He lived near us in a house close to the mill.

*

Thus the Jews in our region were constantly exposed to life threatening dangers. In the last years before the War, all of the Jews living in the surrounding villages left and settled in Klobuck. Only in the village of Miedzne did Jews still live.

All the victims remembered above were laid to rest in the Jewish cemetery of Klobuck.

 


Endek [Polish National Party] Terror
and Boycott of the Jews

by Yaacov Szperling

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

In the 1930's, when the anti-semitism increased in Poland, Klobuck was not spared. In Klobuck, the leaders of the “Endek” anti-semitic movement[1] were among the local Polish “intelligentsia”: the notary Boganski; the pharmacist; a Polish doctor; and the priests. The Endek members, as everywhere in Poland, had a special group of hooligans and pugnacious gentiles (shiksim) called “Boyuwke”, who organized hooligan attacks on Jews. The leader of this group was a limp and fat Pole who worked in the mill.

During Purim 1933, the hooligans attacked a group of Jewish young people. The young Jewish people were leaving Moshe Szmulewicz' house, where they had spent the evening. Three Jews: Aaron Szmulewicz, David Tzigelman and Wolf Kirtzbart were seriously injured. (Other) Jews came to help them and to save the injured, who were between life and death.

The wounded were taken to the state hospital, which was located close to the site of the attack. The Christian hospital attendant did not want to admit the injured Jews, without an order from the doctor, who lived near the hospital. Doctor Woytshick, an “Endek” member, did not want to open his door (it happened in the middle of the night). Nothing helped, despite knocking on the door, or shouting for help; the doctor remained “deaf”.

There was no other alternative but to call Czestochowa (by phone) for help. Dr Geisler came immediately from Czestochowa, and after administering first aid, he ordered

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that the wounded be transported to the Czestochowa hospital. For two of the wounded it took many weeks to heal. David Tsigelman recovered, but Aaron Szmulewicz became an invalid.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Czestochowa newspaper, “Die Zeit” (The Time), about the hooligan attack and the anti-semitic doctor, and his unethical attitude. I described the attitude of the doctor, whose behavior contradicted everyone's humanity and medical ethics. Doctor Woytshick was very upset by the publication of my letter and he “left no stone unturned” to have the newspaper publish a denial. Since I refused to retract my account of the true events, Mr. Moshe Zigelbaum, a member of the Klobuck city council (ratman), came to the help of the doctor.

Mr. Moshe Zigelbaum, a friend of my father, who was also a member of the Klobuck city council, asked my father to influence his son to write a retraction to the Czestochowa Jewish newspaper. But my father could not influence me to publish such a letter. Consequently, Mr. Moshe Zigelbaum published a letter of denial in his own name, and thus exonerated the anti-semitic doctor.

The Jewish member of the city council (Zigelbaum), by doing so, intented not to exasperate and incite the gentiles (goyim). But it did not help. The terror and the boycott against Jews spread to our shtetl.

*

Shlomo Birenbaum, who was present at this hooligan attack, wrote in his memoirs:

I was a member of the Zionist Young Organization, “Gordonia”. I left that organization with a group of friends to participate in the “Hitachdut” (Union), which conducted a wide range of Zionist activities and owned a library with a few thousand books. I was elected to the “Hitachdut” committee.

In October 1938,[2] on Friday night, there was a important meeting, which lasted until midnight. When we came out to the street from the meeting, we were attacked by gentiles (shiksim),

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and beaten up mercilessly. We had wounded people: Aaron Szmulewicz, Aaron Tsigelman, David Rypstein, David Yossef Zeibel, Shimshe Zeidman and myself – Shlomo Birenbaum - the writer of these lines. Aaron Szmulewicz suffered the most, and became an invalid

This hooligan attack created turmoil among the Jews in the shtetl. The next morning, on Shabbat (Saturday), the atmosphere was like Tishe B' Av (the day of mourning for the ancient Temple's destruction). The wounded were in the hospital. As soon as we recovered, we renewed the activities of the “Hitachdut” (Union) and directed the organization until September 1939[3], when the German armies attacked Poland.

Translator Footnotes

  1. “Endekes” 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
  2. The authors Szperling and Birenbaum obviously recounted the same incident, but their recollection of dates and certain other details are inconsistent. Return
  3. In the book it says 1938 it is obviously a typo it should be 1939. Return
  4. Składkowski spoke out against physical violence against Jews, adding, however, “but yes to the economic struggle” (against Jews). “Yes (Owszem)” became the symbol of the economic competition against Jews in Poland at that time.
    From translation excerpt of the following Wikipedia Polish page http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicjan_Sławoj_Składkowski Return

 


[Page 199]

Fear of a Pogrom in Klobuck

by Yaacov Szperling

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

It was well known that during the years 1936-37 the pogroms against Jews increased. These attacks were provoked by the pretext of brawls between Jews and Poles. The anti-semitic hooligans in Klobuck engineered a pogrom on a wider scale by using, as a pretext, the scuffle between a Jewish butcher and a policeman in Brisk, during which the policeman was killed. As it happened, the policeman was from Klobuck, and from a well known anti-semitic family, by the name of the “Kendjares”.

Immediately after the “Brisk affair”, on Friday night the hooligans began attacking the Jews. The hooligans (first) broke the windows of Jewish houses. The next morning, on Shabbat (Saturday) when the Jews were praying in the shule (synagogue) and in the “shtiblech” (small prayer house), the Endekes (Polish national anti-semitic party) members gathered close to the “Kosciol” (church), and from there with the Gentiles (Shiksim) and the “Kendjares” at the lead, armed with knives, marched towards the shule. The Jews, aware of the danger, fled to their homes. The hooligans were able to hit a few Jews with stones. The Jews

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hid in their homes, and did not return to the streets for the remainder of the Shabbat.

The leader of the community, was my father, Mr. Baruch Szperling, (read page 170-176 about his activities). Ignoring the danger, he went to the police station and asked that the Jewish population be protected.

The police refused to help, using the pretext that they were not capable of subduing the seditious bands. However, the police commander did not find it necessary to ask for help from the police of the town of Czestochowa, which was close by.

Mr. Baruch Szperling assumed responsibility for protecting the Jewish community, and he drove to Czestochowa in his own car, and went directly to the county police. Once there he emphatically demanded protection for the Jewish population of Klobuck from the pogroms and attacks. His intervention was successful. The commander of the county police sent several squads of policemen, armed with steel helmets. They patrolled the streets day and night and re-established order. The leaders of the gang were arrested and the Jews again were able to return to the streets.

The police from Czestochowa left. But the Jewish community remained afraid of new attacks. They did not repair their broken glass windows. Instead they nailed them shut with wooden planks. The broken windows gave the town a frightful feeling. It looked like a silent protest against the Polish power. The burmistrz (mayor) called the leader of the community, Mr. Baruch Szperling, and demanded that he use his influence to instruct the Jews to remove the wooden planks from their windows and to re-glaze the windows with glass. The leader of the community promised to influence the Jews in that direction, but as a condition, the police behavior had to change, and the police needed to protect the Jewish population. The police commander refused to give a clear response.

My father, together with the Rabbi, travelled to Warsaw, and with the help of the Jewish members of parliament, the two representatives of the Jews from Klobuck, met the Prime Minister of the

[Page 201]

Polish government, Sławoj Składkowski, who was known for his “Owszem Polityk”[4] (Yes Policy) towards the Jews. That policy segregated Jewish economic life (from the greater Polish population and economy). It prevented Jews from prospering, and sought to interfere with their means of subsistence. “Owszem” was permissible; but not pogroms. Składkowski was not really motivated to protect the Jews; rather he feared that the unrest would spread and his government would be jeopardized.

For whatever reason, the intervention of the Rabbi and the community leader with Składkowski brought good results: the commander of the Klobuck police was replaced. The new police commander was a more liberal person. As soon as he arrived, he reassured the Jewish representatives that came to welcome him that the Jewish population would be protected against hooligan attacks. At his request, the Jews assembled in the shule, and the police commander comforted them and told them that as long as he remained in Klobuck calm and order would be enforced.

The new police commander kept his word. He initiated police night patrols, which protected the shtetl during the night. The situation again became calm. The leader of the community, Mr. Baruch Szperling, then asked the Jews to remove the wooden planks from their windows and replace the broken glass panes. The Jews obeyed and the shtetl got back its normal appearance.

*

After the pogrom the “Endekes” from Klobuck started to implement the “Owszem Polityk” of Składkowski. They started by encouraging the Poles not to buy from Jews. Then Jewish shops were picketed, “Piketnikes”. The same activities occurred on market days. The “Piketnikes” did not allow the peasants and the Christians to go into a Jewish shop, or to have any contacts with Jewish merchants. On market days the “Piketnikes” stood on the roads from early in the morning and shouted to the peasants: “nie kupuj u ¯ydów” (don't buy from Jews).

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The Jews from Klobuck who went to the market to trade were beaten and stones were thrown at them.

For this kind of anti-semitic behavior there was no solution. The economic boycott of Jews was also combined with “mild” hooligan attacks, and they were not stopped by the Składkowski government. There was a need to find another way to help the Jews avoid losing their means of making a living.

Mr. Baruch Szperling, the community leader, devised the following plan: he knew the leader of these anti-semitic acts and decided to bribe him. The leader was the Polish employee of the Jewish mill: Meyer, a limp and fat gentile. He was a blood thirsty anti-semite, who became a “Volks Deutsch” (German people) during the German occupation.

Mr. Baruch Szperling took advantage of an opportune time and met with this person, who accepted a determined sum of money to leave the shtetl, and the boycott actions against Jews stopped.


[Page 203]

A Summary of the Jewish Life in Klobuck
between the Two World Wars

by Moshe Wajnman

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

During the first election of the Sejm (Polish Parliament) in 1922, the Jews of Klobuck were greatly divided. Influenced by the publication of the Balfour Declaration, which recognized the right of Jews to have a national homeland in Israel, Zionist ideas found support in Klobuck. Abraham Yakubowicz announced and advocated his candidacy as the Zionist candidate for election to the Sejm. This represented the first time that a large segment of the Jewish population of Klobuck “rebelled” against the Rabbi.

At an election meeting of the religious block, which was held in the great shule (synagogue), the Rabbi called Yakubowicz a “Sheigetz” (gentile). Yakubowicz confronted (the Rabbi), and answered him back. A great scandal ensued. The respected iron merchant, David Zigelman, who had always remained silent and had his permanent seat close to the mizrach[1] wall in the great shule, together with his seven sons, started to express their public opposition to the Rabbi and the frume (religious) supporters. David Zigelman and his friends, Moshe Szmulewicz, Shlomo Mordechai Green, Itzik Djalowski and Shime (Simon) Linter, started to influence the simple craftsmen, who did not really like the frume tradesmen, who were part of the religious block. In that way a political war flared up during the first Sejm election between the religious block and the Zionists.

*

The educational activities of the progressive secular Jewish parties and their cultural activities had an influence on the small Klobuck Jewish community after the First World War. The Jewish community of nearby Czestochowa also had a strong influence. The thinking and mindset of the Jews from Klobuck underwent a revolution.

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People no longer were ashamed of being craftsman, and the craftsmen stopped aspiring for their daughters to marry Beit Midrash Bachurim (Beit Midrash students). In addition, Chasidim parents approved and encouraged their teenage children to learn a profession.

The number of Beit Midrash Bachurim (young men) decreased, and those who still engaged in religious learning started to “smuggle in” secular Jewish books, which were first read in secret, but later these Bachurim read books in the reading rooms.

But the new way of life for the Jews from Klobuck, and their thirst for enlightenment and science, did not bring any economic improvement to their lives. On the contrary, after the First World War the economic condition of the Jews from Klobuck worsened. First, there was inflation, which lowered the value of money. Later, the Grabski[2] tax system, which was largely a way of confiscating the hard earned Jewish possessions, greatly impoverished the Jews of Klobuck. The small shops and the little merchants lost their bank credit. The market sellers: tailors (ready-made), cutters, milliners, shoemakers lost business.

The anti-Semitic propaganda spread across the villages and reached Klobuck. The Endekes (Polish National Party) slogan “swoj do swego” (the same ones to the alike ones), which meant that Polish villages buy and sell only to Poles, reinforced the boycott of Jewish trade. The good relationship between the Polish peasants and the Jews from Klobuck and its surroundings, which had lasted for decades, deteriorated. The local peasants, who always had a difficult and poor life, were incited against Jews during the 1920's and 1930's, by the propaganda that the Jews were the only reason for their poverty.

Jewish young people, who belonged to the Communist Organization, advocated Communist propaganda in the villages, but they risked their lives. The Polish reactionary regime vigorously persecuted them, and there was a great Jewish emigration from Klobuck.

The first Jewish emigration started with the failed 1905 Revolution.

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Later there was another emigration during the years 1912-1913, before the First World War. The last flow of emigration occurred during the 1930's, when anti-Semitism became stronger. At the end was the German extermination of the Jews from the grounds of Klobuck and other Polish shtelech (villages). The Jews of Klobuck were persecuted and the community was wiped out.

Translator Footnotes

  1. Mizrach wall is pointing to the east, the closest wall to Jerusalem, usually a reserved place to most respected people in a synagogue Return
  2. The authors Szperling and Birenbaum obviously recounted the same incident, but their recollection of dates and certain other details are inconsistent. Return

 

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