Translated from the Yiddish by Martin Bornstein
Our Friend M. Klenowski sent us from Lodz an interesting fragment that is taken from the volume of memoirs from the known Polish Revolutionary fighter and writer Lucjan Rudniczki, dedicated to the Belchatow Jewish revolutionary Moshe Goldfish.
At the end of October there arrived a new group of prisoners from all corners of the Piotrkower industrial region. Also from Belchatow there was found a revolutionary in the personage of the shoemaker’s apprentice Moshe Goldfish. He was placed in a cell, in captivity, together with me, and all those honored members, that was in those days set aside for political prisoners. The guards from the prison however were not acquainted (in agreement) with the ideology (concepts) of the prison administrator and were ready to deal out (bless) discipline, as Moshe now became acquainted with, as a political prisoner. The prison commander and his helpers avoided encountering him (the guard) and when they had to meet up with him, they closed their eyes or turned around. The smaller prison administrators were often not able to control things and because of that there constantly came about (events of) social friction.
Goldfish proud came to express himself to Ambultzin, when he used to go through the long corridor on a walk or on an exploration. The guard(s) didn’t tolerate his bad walk (gate), with slow steps, and constantly pushed him to move faster. On (receiving) not correct (fair) notices Moshe answered with a grand lordly manner of indifference.
One of the guards, wanting to use strength to compel Goldfish to carry out his will, gave him a slap. We heard the struggle and the cry from Moshe: Slave! How are you guarding? I am a political (prisoner)! Hearing and partly seeing the conflict, I began to beat with a bench on the door of my cell. Upon (hearing) the echo of the beating sound, other guards came running. Moshe, the person making a stand, was pushed in by his stomach into his cell, but then his door also began to thunder. The (prison) commander was called along with one of his helpers, the so called by us horses-head, had called for the military. Several minutes later the guards came into the cell and took out all the valuable things. At the same moment a resounding sound was made in the whole prison. These were the remaining friends, numbering 30 men, proceeding to (the) assault.
When Moshe had been dragged into the dark punishment cell, he screamed to them:
- Friends they are beating Political (prisoners)!
The atmosphere was very strained, because upon the call from Moshe all the prisoners simultaneously began to demonstrate. Early the next day the prisoners began a hunger strike.
With the understanding (accordance) of the other friends I demanded the immediate release of our friend Goldfish from the dungeon, as well as the resignation of the (prison) commander and of the section (division) guard. I paint here (for you) the proud stance of Goldfish, as a Jew and Revolutionary. While fighting against oppression of people and social suppression, Moshe Goldfish simultaneously fought against racial discrimination.
Goldfish wore a long frock, from his face shined forth pride. So much attention and self importance did he have, that the pitiful long cloth coat, looked on him like a mantel of a Roman Patrician. . .
a Holocaust survivor from Belchatow
Translated from the Yiddish by
Arthur Haft, Rosa Rynski Haft and David Haft
Edited by Martin Bornstein There was a road from Piotrkow that went through fields, woods, and villages, which spread out between the rivers from the Visel and Varta (Worta) until Prussia.
The road led to Belchatow. It was spring. The small fields around the village were blooming. They were growing potatoes and growing corn; and growing barley (used for flour) and growing oats. The gardens and orchards were close together (like things in the shtetl were wedged in), cows, calves, goats, and poultry could be heard from near by backyards.
The houses on the main street of the town were made of wood and bricks, most of them small and low with pointed roofs, covered with gray wooden shingles, on which was growing moss, and others were already covered with tar paper covered with tar, and were hung with shutters, on which the Shamus from the Shul (synagogue) knocked, calling people to go to Shul; they stood in front of a large courtyard and the courtyard was facing the fields.
The main street was not the only one, as there was another one. It went in transverse, where the main street ended at a market place. The other street, which did not have a name, like the first, and one side stood in the Jewish town and the other second was facing the highway.
By the beer brewery another street went by, which went out to the highway, which started on the other side of the village and went past wealthy Polish people and over green fields and woods with gold trees reaching the sky (that held the sky (heavens) on their head).
This town in Poland, from this Poland, which was partitioned to the Russian Empire, was occupied by Jews. The small numbers of non-Jewish Polish population were the Sabbath Goys. They really enjoyed the fish prepared for the Sabbath, which the Jewish women only cooked for the Sabbath. For a piece of gefilte fish that was specially prepared for the Sabbath, the Sabbath Goy would gladly remove the metal candelabras from the table and would start the fire.
Like any Russian-Polish town there was no freedom, or civil rights, and it was entirely under the authority of the military rule of the Russian Czar, the Czar and the despot of the Romanov dynasty.
We did not know about books, or newspapers, or of periodicals. All that was printed with Jewish letters, were the old religious prayers and books, which held the Jewish people in fear, depression, and subjection. Nobody thought that it would ever come to an end. We held ourselves as a minority status and we did not feel the disgrace (humiliation). That is how we pulled our yoke, just to overcome the bitter years of this world.
In the synagogue Jews whispered. Somewhere in far away Russia the aristocracy wanted to assassinate (made an agreement against) the King, the news even went to the actual Petersburg that they even shot at him alone. There were further rumors from the revolutionary organization Narodna Wola (The National Will), which were carried into the Church, within the Jewish shtetl in Poland, but the Jews in the shtetl were indifferent to them and didn’t give it any thought. In Shul on the Sabbath they prayed for the King’s speedy recovery before reading the Torah.
From the terrible Great Russian Empire, to whom the shtetl belonged, of her political regime, of her politicians (advisors), and of her institutions, who in the Jewish shtetl knew about this? They did not even know they lived in a ghetto. A large ghetto, which consisted of all Russian Poland, White Russia, Lithuania, Bessarabia, the portion of the Ukraine, but a ghetto from the largest part of the country, where the Jews could not live unless you were a businessman of the first guild (class), which Belchatow did not have. Who only pondered political regimes - from democracy and freedom, from culture, from citizen (townspeople’s) rights, from people’s rights, from protests, from opposition, fighting, and revolution. These were for the Jewish shtetl terrible, foreign, outside words that had not yet entered into the shtetl and that they did not even know of their purpose (meaning).
In their own, only natural mother tongue Yiddish, in which we learned nothing of these words, which were worldly and expressive of worldly things, (these words) completely didn’t exist.
The shtetl was completely open around it, but the world did not enter into it. The Jews, with the consciousness of the great One Shouldn’t, above all else with body and soul moved into itself. In itself, it saw to it, that with every strength, one should not transgress against One Shouldn’t; one should heaven forbid not revolt against the correct way, and that is how one lived locked into their own ghetto.
They even traveled outside, and they did not make a mass leaving, an exodus, or a wandering out – heaven forbid. When they left, they drove on market day in an uproar, they went to Piotrkow and to Lodz. They purchased material, carried off the material, thereby bringing new thread for the Belchatow cloth weaving plants (textile mills). They traveled to arrange marriages for children, because arranged marriages were also done with other localities. One traveled to weddings with the grooms, to brides, that did not even know their matches and did not even see them till the chupah (marriage canopy) (if they even did see each other under the canopy). The grooms with their parents traveled, when the brides lived in other places, together with their fathers and mothers, who had married off their daughters. They also traveled to look for boys that wanted to learn a trade (apprentice), who they hired (took on) for 4 years. They also looked for year boys, that is those that had just completed the apprenticeship and had not yet been taken on for a term as Journeymen, and they also looked for completed Journeymen (professional tradesmen).
The wife of Hershl Bliachorsz, who was the capable runner of the household and the provider of everything, made in those days a journey as far (much) as to Tomaszow, to bring back for herself a whole Troika (trio of all 3 classes of workers). In Piotrkow she just managed to get an apprentice, in Tomaszow she got a Journeyman, but she wasn't able to get any professional (completed) tradesman. It was after Passover, in the springtime, when the term (Journeymen) people (experienced tradesmen), that are hired during half holiday (Passover – mid week, during which time you are permitted to work), were already taken and when the Bliachorsz's became overloaded with work.
The town had six working days from Saturday night after havdalah (the ceremony ushering out the Sabbath), until Friday night before candle lighting, when the Shamus (caretaker of the synagogue) walked in the street and called out Jews go to synagogue.
The weekly days were full of work. One worked so much, just as if life in this world would be condemned to work, or as if in working you would find the entire interest and the entire enjoyment (out of) from life. It was as if eating and sleeping almost only existed in order to be able to work. Even a son-in-law being supported by his in-laws worked… (his work was) sitting day and night pouring over (studying) Gemara (Talmud – Jewish Law). One would have also worked on the Sabbath and holidays, if it would not have been a sin, but the forbidding of work on the Sabbath and holidays was part of the core (essence), and it was only after all better for the work. One was able to be a little rested for her (the work).
The large yeshiva (Jewish parochial school) that was in the town with a group of young boys, the boys considered themselves professionals by reading and studying the Torah ( old testament), and doing mitzvot – work of G-d, holy work, for the town. In exchange for which, they were rewarded with eating days by the town's hostesses (housewives).
With the exception of the cloth makers, almost all professions worked for the use of the town alone. One worked for the other and all worked for one and one worked for all.
The cloth makers, the weavers, worked through Lodz, for the Inland Mark (local currency - the Mark is the German name for their currency), which the town also depended upon to buy material to cloth themselves. They did indeed have through the earnings from their work, the currency to pay for their use of the town's production and carried with them through that, the possibility of the town to import what it needed.
All occupations had enough to do for the needs of the town alone.
The population grew. At fifteen years old (a girl) becomes a prospective bride, at eighteen years old (a boy) becomes a prospective groom, and such a pair (couple) gave the town a child each year. Wealthy townspeople, rich men, had children, not so many, but they still had. One was not permitted (allowed) to not have (children). All of the Jews in the town were observant (religious), even the wealthy people were religious. Jewish people would divorce after 10 years of not having children. Who knew about preventing (contraception) having children. The life did not have anything that would inform them about abortion, not to prevent (conception) and not after (conception). If the rich ones, after which they full filled their mitzvah (good deed) of having children, had carried out a known control against (contraception) their further procreation, this was not the case with poor people, who in their field of knowledge were rich (by having children). Rich Jews in the town were few in number, the congregation of poor people were many, almost everyone
It was necessary to continuously build: kneading lime and carrying bricks; putting up walls and covering roofs; sawing wood and making furniture. It was also necessary to shoe people with all types of shoes and boots (completely made by hand). People needed to be clothed with long wide dresses, to cover their sun exposed bodies. Hair coverings were needed, kupkehs (pieces of crocheted lace or kerchiefs tied around the head), wigs on the heads of the women. For men kippahs (scull caps), hats with low coverings (caps), and shtreimls (larger Chasidic style fur hats) were needed for their heads.
Talisim (prayer shawls), tefilin (phylacteries), tzitzit (fringes for prayer shawls), mezuzahs (parchments used in amulets on the door), sidorot (prayer books), and other holy articles were imported. Jews from the shtetl fabricated on their own Sabbath candles, havdalah candles, huppah (marriage canopy) candles. The shtetl was also serviced by its own ritual slaughterers (shochet), who perform the ritual slaughter (of animals). Through her own mohels (ritual circumcisors) circumcisions were performed. The Klezmorim (musicians) were also the town's own, performing for the shtetl's own weddings. Today the main work concerns the mikvah (ritual bath) and the cemetery.
This all created a lot of work, besides which in these years the synagogue was completed on the street where the Bet Hamidrash (Medresh) (study house) was, where the Yeshiva was.
The shtetl also worked for the Goyim (Gentiles non-Jews), for the Polish peasants and their wives, who came travelling in on their country style horse and wagons, as well as by foot. They came in their colorful clothing, and four cornered hats on the men, and the women wearing red and white striped pleated clothing, which hung down from their head on downward. They came to the shtetl's market place, which was held once a week. They brought their goods to the market, which included bark tied bundles of straw for mattresses and for the beds, bundles of wood to burn (fire wood), young calves for the slaughter, eggs, poultry, and branches for the sukkahs (huts built for the holiday of sukkoth, which are covered loosely with branches). They also brought butter, which was wrapped in cabbage leaves, baskets of black and red blueberries, and baskets of mushrooms.
No squabbling or evasive person simply left the town without buying anything. Tables were loaded with brand new goods, colorful peasant clothing, striped belts, aprons, boots, laced up low boots. Others had sponge cakes with candies, white-blank tin dishes, small lanterns, lamps, horse whips, horse collars with reins, and sztarawidla (blinders). Still other tables had cut pieces of fabric, lace, ribbons, beads, all of which the Jewish handworkers and merchants, who new well the Polish peasant taste, set up in a very appealing fashion. It attracted the peasants and their wives and very often a peasant couple left in the town a few gulden (coins, zloty) that they had brought along with them from the villages, tied up in a kerchief.
Hershl Bliachorsz was also standing with a table at the market, a Jew, a capable townsperson, an influential person, and a common person. He gave out slaps, which were quite hearty, to those who were rebellious to him, with regard to quarrels concerning synagogue matters. These were also for quarrels about the town's rabbi, the defects of the mikvah (ritual bath), concerning maftir (the additional torah portion read), and the torah (Old Testament) given mitzvot (good deeds).
Hershl Bliachorsz was a steadfast Jew with a black beard that gave the appearance of having been cut under, and having grown out around the lips and on the cheeks of a meaty face. He had a low brow, from under which looked out a pair of hot black eyes, as if they were filled with tar, like the tar that Hershl Bliachorsz had brushed on the tar paper roofs. He more over and for the most part stood by that which was permitted, rather than that which you were not supposed to do.
His feet were wrapped with rags (wrapping) and placed inside a pair of light black boots, which were smeared with castor oil before every Sabbath eve and holiday eve. He wore a wide small tallit (worn under clothing), which hung down from his shoulders to below the stomach, and the tied white tzitzit (fringes) dangled down to his knees. He also wore a wide black kapotah (a long frock coat) with long wide arms, which covered him, such that when he was going and standing only a nose was visible in the midst of an overgrown face from under a black flat Polish hat. Certainly from Hershl Bliachorsz there exuded a passion for everything.
Hershl Bliachorsz had the work to cover the roof of the new synagogue with black tin and to make the ledges, culverts, and pipes (gutters and leaders) from zinc sheets (galvanized). He had a lot of work to do by correcting (fixing) the peaks, spires, and cupolas of the local church. The church stood with its front facing the main street and with its back side in a grove (orchard) of plums, raspberries, gooseberries, currants, grapes, pears, and apples, which teased your appetite and were not forbidden fruit for those who worked there. Hershl Bliachorsz had the work (contracts) by the town's large apartment buildings. There were not a lot of these, but those that existed were his. He also had work in the surrounding lordly fields. As a result of that he dealt with woods (forests), as did non Jews (gentiles), which they leased from Hershl Bliachorsz. They copped down overgrown pine (trees), oak (trees), and birch trees. They hewed them, and sawed them into blocks, into poles, and into boards for building. As if that were not enough he also put up a stand (table) at the market. He did not stand at the table, but rather his wife did, as she sold things better. Hershl Bliachorsz also stood with a table at the market, not because he needed it, but such was the manner of a town Jew, a craftsman, and a very capable proprietor. He did not want to leave out anything that could give a golden living. As a result of that Hershl Bliachorsz, to actually have more for himself, had a Blind bar after the Sabbath nap (rest) and also on religious holidays in the afternoon. Due to this, the apprentice brought on Friday before sundown, into the basement, a barrel of beer from the brewery. One did not heaven forbid sell for money on the Sabbath, and did not write down a tally, but rather kept records in your head of what one had treated others and what one requested for himself, allowing people in for this through the back door.
As far as illness is concerned, it was the manner of the town Jew not to run to a doctor right away, when you felt that you were out of sorts. One first used up all the home remedies. A wet handkerchief was used for a headache, china (a bitter grass) for vomiting, penechal tea and castor oil for a stomach ache, and garlic with pepper and ground horse teeth on burning coals for a toothache. When things did not improve, one went to the pharmacist, so that he should give you something. Afterwards when one had to apply leeches, chopped cupping glasses (to draw blood to the skin), or to have a tooth extracted, a feldsher was called (an old time barber surgeon with some medical training) who had already taken along a shear. This was done in case a Jew wanted to shave himself (his beard and side curls), as a last resort, after which had been exorcised an evil spirit. The presidents, at that point, were already in the synagogue praying for (petitioning to G-d) for a complete cure, in front of an open holy ark. Then after all that, at that point, the doctor was finally called.
The town had its' merchants, shopkeepers, and small shopkeepers that supplied the shtetl's needs on a daily basis. The main occupation though was manufacturing: weavers, tailors, shoe-makers, and hat makers, bakeries, peddlers, machine shops, and blacksmiths. Where this kind of work took place, which was in hand manufacturing, was together with the family living quarters and was united with the household life of the family. This is where there were carried out apprenticeships and the apprentice professional system way of life.
The trade apprenticeship began with a youngster as an apprentice. These were years of pure slavery.
There were only young male apprentices and not young female apprentices, because Jewish girls did not learn a trade. They did homemaker things, household type things, and they helped out with the trade work that was occurring in their own home. They also helped out in the shops (their husband's or father's). The girls from very poor families went to work as maids for the very wealthy families.
The apprentice was 13 years old when he was hired (taken) on, and he was hired (taken) on for a 4 year period on a verbal agreement. It was understood that you take on an apprentice with providing food, sleeping quarters, and clothing. It was not however written anywhere what type of food, what kind of place to sleep, or what type of clothing had to be provided. The little bit of food that was given for the apprentice was just enough to sustain life. Sleeping several hours a night consisted of a place just to lay down on, in the workshop itself, where one also ate.
When the common cheap quality clothing, which was worn by the apprentice, was falling apart on him, they were changed completely. This was done, so that it shouldn't be said for example, that by Moshe Meir the furniture maker or by David Chatzkl the low boot maker, their apprentice is going around in torn clothing. All in all the clothing for the apprentice cost the Master just a few rubles, as the proprietor was called, the artisan, during the course of all four years.
[Further translation will be added at a later date]
Translated from the Yiddish by the late Morris Horowitz
Translation donated by Lisa Webne-Behrman
The Jews of Belchatow lived in peace with their non-Jewish neighbors, but it was not at the expense of unwarranted expediencies - like refraining from reacting against injustices, lest it displease their non-Jewish neighbors. The Belchatow Jews were proud Jews conscious of their rights and of their status of being first class citizens.
There are some events which are deeply impressed upon my memory and I wish to record several of them, especially those which show how the Jews of Belchatow stood up for their human dignity.
The story which I am about to tell I heard when I was yet a small child.
The Chief Officer of our town (equivalent to an American mayor) was replaced by a harsh Russian. This new officer was from Siberia. He clung relentlessly to the harshest interpretation of the municipal ordinances. He was very stubborn and all negotiations to divert him from issuing his strict edicts had failed. In order to show his authority this Siberian despot made life for the Jewish inhabitants of Belchatow extremely difficult. In their effort to free themselves from near bondage, the Jews of Belchatow had devised a resourceful idea in combating their dictator.
Once on a dark evening some strong hands got a hold of their oppressor, there was a sack over his head and dragged him down to a deep well which was near the mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath house. There they told him as follows: "if you change your tactics and become more human, you will lack nothing among the Jewish people, you will have plenty of vodka, gifillte fish, chicken soup and chicken necks, but if you persist to remain as brutal as ever,
you will be thrown into this well and no one will ever know your whereabouts."
After this lesson this man became as soft as butter and Belchatow lived in peace.
In 1905 Belchatow was all shaken by the revolutionary spirit which prevailed in Russia at that time. Strikes street demonstrations and the display of red flags were common occurrences of the day. Jewish youngsters were prominent participants in the revolutionary movement. Carrying loaded guns they would shoot at government officials. The police were in mortal fear of these revolutionaries and instead of resisting them, they were hiding.
I distinctly remember one such revolutionary demonstration. I was then a child attending cheder. My teacher was Berish the Melamed. What I am about to tell happened several months past the holiday of Sukkoth, when the days are short and the nights are long. We used to Judy in cheder, by the light of small kerosene lamps. One day my regular teacher became sick and his substitute was his son, Elie, who had a self-inflicted chopped off tip of his right thumb. He did it in order to avoid service in the Russian army. Yet with this disfigured thumb he would nick us whenever we dared to look out of the window instead of looking into our books.
When on that day I came home for lunch from cheder, my brother Shmuel told me that a demonstration would take place in that same day. Shmuel was a member of the P. P. S. and he never moved any place without a loaded revolver.
It was evident that on that day I had not been at peace in cheder. I kept looking out of the window to see whether the demonstration had started. It was already pitch dark and the kerosene lamp was burning and spreading its dim light at the open books of the Talmud in which some of the students were absorbed. I found an alibi and asked to be excused from the rest of the students. All of a sudden I began to notice lights of lanterns approaching, it was indeed a demonstration, a sensuous and a quick one with flags draped in black. When I saw that, I hastily opened the door of the cheder and announced in great excitement, "they are coming." My rabbi did not like my actions at all. On the following day I was severely punished and received a torrid slap on my face.
This is how Belchatow had taken part in the revolution. Belchatow was one of the cities high on the list of the insurrectionists and had, therefore, been singled out for suppression. From time to time the government would send into Belchatow about 15 selected Cossacks, who would roam the streets on their swift horses and with heavy clubs in their hands would beat up all suspicious people. This evil practice was especially executed on Friday evenings when young Jewish people would go out for walks.
I remember that on one Friday evening they arrived drunk and ordered all to raise their hands and they began to beat them brutally with their clubs. The streets were then quickly evacuated and people began to hide in their homes, locking the doors behind them and looking through the crevices of the closed shutters outside.
While this was happening a sixteen-year-old weaver was walking on the sidewalk erect and unafraid, facing the Cossacks. When the Cossacks saw the young man they began to scream wildly ordering him to raise his hands, but the teenager whose name was Moishe, did not mind them and kept on walking with his hands in his pockets. He cursed them and looked them straight in their eyes and exclaimed "I am not going to raise my hands." The people who saw and heard this, while looking through the crevices of their shutters, were mortally afraid. What was going to happen to Moishe they wondered fearfully. But before the Cossacks were able to do anything to Moishe, he got mixed up with the crowd in the street and the Cossacks were not able to find him.
Yitzchak Uri, the son of Leibush, also a weaver was not that lucky. One day the Cossacks spotted him and ordered him to raise his hands, but he defied them and showed them his behind. The Cossacks caught him, they beat him up brutally and then they exiled him to Siberia.
However, this heroic and fearless resistance of the young weavers, instilled some heroics in the hearts of the rank and file who also began to rebel against their merciless task masters. It raised the morale of the people, the authority of the oppressors was downgraded and this is what had eventually happened:
During one night when the Cossacks had ostensibly slept in peace in Kasteletzkis' house - a group of fearless revolutionaries overpowered the guard on duty. Another group broke into the house and took away the uniforms of the sleeping Cossacks and also their arms. The young revolutionaries then got dressed in the cossack's clothes and ran away riding on their horses. When the Cossacks awakened they found themselves without clothes, horses or arms.
Belchatow had no river, unlike its neighboring town Sterzer, but close to Belchatow there is the village, Binkoff. There, there is a clean transparent lake. In this lake young people used to bathe and learn to swim. On Friday afternoon elderly Jews would come to the lake to bathe in honor of the Sabbath.
The gentiles of the village did not like it and had tried many times to chase us away from there. As a result, many battles ensued between the Jews and the gentiles. We received blows and we landed blows, but they were not able to chase us away.
"New Way" was one of the widest and most beautiful streets of Belchatow. It was surrounded by grass and trees. Summer evenings and on Sabbaths the young generation used to constantly walk on this street, girls separately and boys separately. One could, however, notice the exchange of winks and hear some suggestive words between the boys and girls. When it became dark the males and females began to mix with one another.
Many of the anti-Semitic Poles could not stand our well-being of those pleasant evenings. One day a group of chauvinistic Poles from a nearby village attacked the hikers of the "New Way," some of them attacked with pointed knives. One young boy by the name of Meyer did not seem to be frightened. He faced one of the hooligans who threatened him with a knife, skillfully dispossessed him of the knife and stabbed him with his own knife, wounding him seriously,
A trial was held in Petrikoff and Meyer was exonerated. The court had ruled that Meyer acted in self-defense and was therefore freed. From that day on the hikes on "New Way" continued with much less intervention.
In the year 1911, Belchatow was captured by the Austrians. Prior to the entry of the Austrians, Belchatow was for awhile without a government. No harm was done to anyone, although there was no one to preserve order in the city.
However, this ideal situation did not last very long. Many idle goyim and drunks had felt that this was ---a good opportunity to plunder Jewish possessions. So they let out on such a course with the Chief of the Firemen at the head. His name was Nagurski. This "citizen militia" began to terrorize the Jewish Community in an effort to extort money from them. As time went on they became more intolerant. They arrested many Jews, they made their own laws, and they made it difficult for Jewish merchants to do business.
These gangsters grew more confident after their initial successes. The hooligans took the Jewish patience as a weakness. They became bolder with every passing day. Their motto was "beat the Jews".
At first Jewish leaders tried to intercede. Among them were a few aged and respected Jews. They were Kalman Skarpes and Tzemach, the Rabbis of Belchatow. They were able to somewhat appease "the rulers of the mob" and cool their heated tempers.
Rabbi Tzemach was the son of the Rabbi of Walbish and he caused some conflicts in the city when he took over the mantle of the rabbinate. The Hassidim of Ger had it against him because he did not get married through a matchmaker, but got married through love, just like the goyim. They never forgave him for that. Rabbi Tzemach was a tall, well, and healthily built person with powerful shoulders. He got a hold of the chief of the mob and shook him up like a lulav. Although the mob was more numerous than the Jews congregated, they nevertheless began to withdraw while Rabbi Tzemach held onto their chief. One of the mob even began to beg the Rabbi to let the chief go, but the Rabbi held on to Mr. Nagurski, the chief, and continually rebuked him for the evil which he had been doing to innocent people.
On that very evening a meeting was held in the field near the river. The meeting consisted of mostly young people. They decided to make an end to the wicked rule of the self-proclaimed militia.
All vowed that they would not go home until all the arrested Jewswere freed from prison. Hence, a march toward the doors of the prison began when they approached the gate of the prison. They ordered the guard to open the doors, but he refused. However, among the group was the strong Shimon, the cake-baker. He took hold of the guard, lifted him up high and warned him "either you open the doors or you will be thrown to the ground with your head down". The guard became immediately submissive, he opened the doors and all prisoners were freed.
Hence we lived up to our vow. The prisoners came home and the militia went out of existence.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Belchatow, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 07 Nov 2011 by JH