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[Pages 158–160]

The Flood

by Natan Krelman

Translated by Zulema Seligson
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

It happened in May 1936, on a Saturday afternoon, when the whole town was taking a rest after the Shabes meal. There was a meeting of the committee of Keren Kayemeth scheduled, coincidentally, at that time, at the headquarters of the Zionist organization Hattechija [The Revival].

A very light rain started suddenly, which immediately became a downpour, then a cloudburst.

From the hills around the town, rivers of water began to pour down, and a great panic developed.

I started out for the other end of town, where the young people were. I understood that one had to be on the alert to rescue the town from the flood. When I got to the courtyard, the water had already reached 25 centimeters [10 inches]. Before the young people noticed the true downpour, everything was already covered by water. The water divided the town into two parts. When I wanted to communicate with my parents on the other side, it became, indeed, impossible.

Suddenly, there was a large bang heard near the bridge at Moszek Beker's. It turned out that the bridge had been destroyed by the rushing waters, and, at the same time, the two-story house had also been dragged down and collapsed. Many other small houses in the flooded area had collapsed.

I decided to go back to the youth organization; I attempted to calm them somewhat, and, at the same time, I organized them to climb out through the windows and go toward the hills where the cemetery was. There were approximately 60 to 80 young people there. After I was able to get the remaining young people to the hills and position them there, I remembered that the tailors' association of the Poale Zion [Labor Zionists] were meeting in a two-story wooden house that served as a retreat. Every Saturday afternoon, the place was full of young people. Without thinking too long, we rushed over there, and using ladders, we were able to rescue dozens of friends who were gathered there.

It is truly impossible to describe the scene, the terror and panic that gripped the whole town as they watched the great destruction that the flood was causing. The hysterical screaming of the people accentuated their powerlessness––not being able to fight against nature turned savage.

We had at that time no communication with the other side of town. It had become dark all around, the lights had gone out. There was nothing to see but small houses floating in the water, with great impetus, until they were destroyed by the waves.

We only saw light in one of the houses as it happened to flow past.

Later, when we were able to work our way across Skalbmierz Street, I and a few friends––Icze Rubin, z”l, Chaskel Frajman, z”l, and some others––crossed over the hills on the property of the Dziekanowice landowner Spiro to look for a way to connect through to that side of the town, but to no avail. Like all the other fields, the Szczotkowice meadows were immersed in water. The reason for that was that these were the low lying areas, and the floating small houses, cattle, and a lot of Jewish goods and property had drifted there. The books from the bes hamedresh [house of study] were there, among them the prayer book that the khazn [cantor] had received as a gift from my grandfather, Reb Moszek Krelman, z”l, of Warsaw, when he officiated at the wedding of his daughter to Sender Ryba.

I remember well the day when the flood struck. It is indeed impossible to describe. This natural disaster caused a major portion of the population to lose the roofs over their heads. Many families abandoned the town. A few simply walked around the neighboring towns asking for charity to cover the necessities for their families.

Some of the [Zionist] movement's young men immediately set themselves the task of distributing help to the victims. They started a communal kitchen where those who had no means could come for their midday meal. We appealed to other communities and immediately received quantities of clothing, shoes, provisions, and other articles for daily use.

I feel a sacred duty to recognize the warm generosity at that time of the brothers Kaczka, brothers Kamelgar, Josek Szulimowicz, z”l, and others. Alter Frydman and I, with a few other companions, gave up days and nights to alleviate the disasters caused by the flood.

Within a short period of time, the town slowly recovered. The organizations again took up their activities. The professional societies also renewed their work, and the economic and social life in the town returned to its normal appearance with its usual worries and events.


[Pages 164–166]

Grandfather's House

by Chaim Cycowski

Translated by Rochel Semp
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

In the village of Trzonów, a distance of 10 kilometers from the town of Działoszyce, lived but one Jew, my grandfather, Reb Symcha Lautersztajn. He was a lone Jew in a sea of thousands of gentiles. He was in a village among dozens of other villages and farms dispersed within an area of dozens of kilometers.

He was God fearing and generous of heart, and his entire goal and mission in life was to provide hot food and lodging to the passersby and to merchants who got stuck in their business travels from town to town. His house was also a lodging along the way for the poor who went begging from door to door––a Jewish house that provided hospitality to guests. His was a warm house in the cold wintertime and a shelter and shield from the steamy heat of summer.

Even in his old age, when his children got married and left the house and everyone left the village, Grandfather did not abandon his home and place. He remained in the village, not because of his livelihood, but only to observe, as before, the mitsve [good deed] of hakhnoses orkhim [hospitality to guests] in its fullest sense. It is necessary to note that this Jew did not take a step in all the days of his life, whether small or large, without consulting his rebbe. Formerly, he was one of the close Hasidim of the rebbe Reb Chaim Majer Zalc of Pińczów, and after the rebbe's passing, Grandfather continued traveling to his son, Reb Eliezer, the Admor [Hasidic religious leader] from Pińczów, and after that also to his grandson, Reb Pinkus, zts”l [of blessed righteous memory], who perished during the horrible Holocaust. My grandfather wouldn't take a small or large step without the counsel of this chain of generations of the Admorim of Pińczów.

He used to wake up on a Friday morning, take his prayer shawl under his arm, and say to Grandmother, “I am going to the rebbe.” Grandmother didn't ask or make any inquiries, because she knew that her husband wanted to spend Shabes near his rebbe, zts”l. Grandfather didn't look for any means of transportation; he left with his prayer shawl and cane and walked on foot with the goal of sanctifying the Shabes and taking joy in the holy heavenly spirit in the court of the rebbe.

I especially remember a miraculous episode that Grandfather would tell to the entire family at every opportunity and which became engraved in my memory forever. The incident took place as follows:

In his young years, Grandfather leased from a wealthy landowner all of the milk production of his farm. A contract was written up and signed according to all the necessary regulations. Grandfather received from this landowner also a house in which to live, and all of his other needs were to be provided for, as well. This was a customary thing among the landowners. The payments were made on a monthly or annual basis.

According to the contract, the landowner could at any given time cancel the agreement if he found it necessary. In spite of this provision, many Jews knew how to manage; they raised children and educated them in the old Jewish traditions that had been passed along from generation to generation.

Grandfather was a talented man who knew how to get along with people, and that's why he was able to get along not only with Jews but with gentiles as well. In spite of the fact that the landowners were generally mean people with peculiar demands, Grandfather would stay on the best of terms with them.

One time, Grandfather was requested to come immediately to the landowner. He arrived hastily and worried. The landowner demanded, without any explanation, that at the end of a week's time he should leave the farm. In other words, he had until Wednesday of the following week. This sudden news had the effect of putting Grandfather in great shock. This sudden expulsion meant not only that he would lose his livelihood but also that he must leave his home. What was he to do with his family of many children without a roof over their heads? His mind kept on ceaselessly reverberating with questions. What to do? Where to go?

Grandfather, of course, immediately found the answer. He would go to his rebbe and ask him what to do. He came to his rebbe and told him the story and, while doing so, gazed at him beseechingly. The rebbe asked, “What is the final date that this landowner gave you?” And Grandfather answered, “Until Wednesday.” The rebbe answered him with a question, “Until Wednesday?” and told him to go back home. Meanwhile, nothing had changed at home. The time drew closer, and Grandfather stood to lose his house and his livelihood. Sunday passed, Monday went by, and nothing changed. The verdict was pending and was intact. Grandfather, with a bitter heart again ran to his rebbe and repeated his request, and the rebbe again responded with a question, “Until Wednesday?” Grandfather burst into tears. “Today is Monday and altogether there are only two days until the date of my expulsion. What should I do? Where can I turn with small children? And the rebbe stood his ground, “Until Wednesday?”…

With no other choice Grandfather went back home, with hope and trust that finally, finally, salvation would come from the merit of his rebbe, zts”l.

On Monday, very late in the evening, a messenger arrived from the landowner and informed my Grandfather that he was to appear immediately. The landowner received him in his reception room with a pleasant countenance and related to him all that had transpired during that fateful week. It became clear that another Jew had come to him and offered him more money for the right of acquiring the lease of the milk production on his farmstead. The landowner agreed to the Jew's offer. However, his peace of mind was taken away from him. The entire week, he had experienced sleeplessness. The end result was that he left Grandfather in his house. And not only this; he didn't add a penny, and the contract between them remained without change. The rational was that Grandfather was a good and devoted Jew.

Grandfather merited very good children, God fearing, lofty, noble, of distinguished character, who continued following his ways with devotion and dedication. They excelled in giving charity and caring for their fellow beings. His daughters especially excelled in their virtuous good deeds and served as role models to others. It is worthwhile to note that the girls did not receive an education in a Jewish school, for example at a “Bes Yaakov” [school for girls]. Instead, their Jewish spirit was acquired through the books that were in their parents' home. They remembered by heart the Tzeina U'Reina [book for women explaining weekly Torah portions] and many of the chapters of Psalms as well. Grandfather said that his daughters also helped to bring in income to the household. One of them was a seamstress who sewed nightgowns and coats for the farmers in the area. They paid very handsomely for her work, which was very much in demand. The second daughter, by the name of Frymet (it is my honor to be her son), used to work the entire day and, in the evening, would sit near the big stove (in the farms there used to be wide and tall stoves that could hold heat in them for a long time) until the wee hours of the night and study the Torah portion of the week along with chapters of Psalms. When his daughters reached marriageable age and it was necessary to marry them off, Grandfather suffered greatly, since he wanted them to marry men who were Torah scholars [talmide-khakhomim]. The girls, of their own will, were willing to forego money and external appearances, since they only wanted to marry yeshiva boys. Their desire was granted them. My father, z”l, Judka Lejbus, was a Hasidic young man, a great Torah scholar and God fearing. Also my uncle Chaskel, z”l, was blessed with these virtuous characteristics. Both belonged to the sect of the Ger [Góra Kalwaria] Hasidim in Działoszyce.

Every year, when the days of slikhes [penitent prayers] would come, Grandfather would make preparations to travel to Działoszyce for the slikhes prayers. As I have already mentioned, in his village there was no minyan [group of ten men needed for prayer]. It was not a small sacrifice to get up in the middle of the night so as to arrive before the morning for slikhes. In the dark of the night, the citizenry of Działoszyce would suddenly hear the noise of wheels traveling on the paved road. They immediately guessed that this was the carriage of Reb Symcha Lautersztajn, a sign to all the Jews in the town to get up and go to slikhes.


[Pages 167–170]

My Memories

by Menachem Lasker (New York)

Translated by Zeva Shapiro
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

Szental's Garden

Not far from the market square, just after going through the wide gate of Lasker's and Meryn's house, you already found yourself in Szental's garden. It is interesting that there wasn't actually a garden there, only the name remained. Here and there a tree remained from the good old days, a witness that there had once been a garden here. And if one can believe the old people of Działoszyce, there was once a very lovely garden here with many trees and flowers. The garden was tended for many years. The residents of Działoszyce really enjoyed the garden in those days. Jews used to take walks there on Shabes after their naps, as befits respectable balebatim [houseowners/men of stature]. More than once a Jew dozed off under a tree and snored, to boot. Even later, the solitary trees served the same purpose––in the hot summer days, people still dozed there. Naturally, they also snored respectably. Nobody knew why the garden became neglected. It has stayed in my memory for a totally different reason.

My grandfather, Moszek Lasker, z”l, lived in Działoszyce. When my mother was still alive, we used to come from Łódź to Działoszyce to spend the summer vacations. But in 1934 my mother, z”l, died, and after that I was raised in Działoszyce at my grandfather's, z”l. Only then did I find out what kind of a place Działoszyce was. I used to study my immediate surroundings––and that meant Szental's garden and the two streams.

The Streams

There were two streams in the garden, right next to each other. Only a small path divided them. Szental's garden barely had more than a few trees, and in the streams, there were no fish. It is possible that there had once been fish there. In my day, we only caught small prickly fish (kalkes) and frogs. The streams did not dry out because a spring, which came from a nearby hill, always filled them.

Can there be anything better for children than water creatures––kalkes and frogs? I spent my youth in this area. Together with my friends, summer and winter, we played near the water and passed the time away. Summers we splashed around in the water, caught tadpoles, or just simply sat and talked with friends. This was no small thing, as there are, after all, enough problems in the world that need to be solved. So we discussed, we argued, and then made up. Not infrequently a friend would suddenly go flying into the stream while clowning around; somebody had pushed him in. He emerged not just wet, but like a black person––black from mud. The stream was not deep, but the bottom was muddy. There was no reason to envy such a dupe. For weeks we talked about it. In the daytime, life revolved around the streams, but at night, the streams themselves came to life. As soon as it was dark, a real frog symphony began, or, better said, a frog cacophony. The croaking of the frogs was so great that throughout the market square only “kva-kva-kva” could be heard––from millions of frogs. We always wondered where the frogs were all day long There were many of them in the streams, the croaking was so resounding, but we did not see them during the day. Frogs come to life at night.

In the winter the streams had a different appearance. The Polish winter is not easy. As soon as the freezing weather set in, the streams were covered over with ice. In the beginning, when the ice was thin, it was dangerous to slide on it, but later, when the freezing temperatures became greater, the ice became thick enough to support us, and a new life began on the streams. If someone owned skates, he was really a big shot and went gliding on the ice––if only he could. If he couldn't, he rode more on his bottom than on the skates. But those who didn't have skates also had the time of their lives, gliding on iron horseshoes. And everybody was lively on the streams.

Our enjoyment was often disturbed. Suddenly, on a beautiful bright day, when it was particularly cold, workers with axes and saws chopped up the ice cover and dragged great pieces of ice out of the stream, putting them together not far from the stream until quite a fine ice mountain rose up. The gentiles poured water on the ice. In the evening, when the freezing temperatures increased, the ice and water froze together. After that, they would cover the ice with sawdust, and the pile of ice was ready for the summer. This is how the Jews of Działoszyce enjoyed a bit of cold weather in the wintertime and also saved it up to use on hot summer days. With the removal of the ice from the streams, our skating would also come to an end. But sleds were long active on other slippery paths and roads.

Hardware stores in Działoszyce

Being young, I did not understand business, but day in and day out, I hung around the business that my grandfather, Moszek Lasker, z”l, ran in partnership with Tuwia Meryn, z”l, and so gradually, I caught on to the business. Działoszyce was the commercial center for the surrounding villages. Here the peasants bought everything that they needed, from a nail to threshing machines. A business had to have everything in stock. What didn't they have in the store? Chains and bars of iron of various thicknesses and forms, screws, nails, locks, iron for blacksmiths, materials for barrel-makers, parts for machinery, etc. In fact, it was a small supermarket; everything made of iron was there. In town there were, however, two more hardware stores. What I liked most of all was that although they actually competed with each other, yet they helped each other and lent each other different kinds of iron that the other didn't have. I liked to spend time in the store listening to the stories that were told there.

Why my father, Nuchim Chaskel Lasker, z”l, did not remain in the hardware business and left Działoszyce as early as 1921, went to Łódź, and went into another line of work––spinning––is not clear to me to this very day. But in time of trouble, he came home, together with my brother, Abraham Benjamin, who was married to Rajzl Lorya and had a little girl, Surele.

Troubles

In Działoszyce it was possible to live peacefully. Unfortunately, the war broke out and there was no shortage of troubles [tsores]. Nonetheless, we managed to live, one a little better, one a little worse.

The worst and most tragic began with the deportations. The Germans, with the help of the Poles, cleansed the city of its Jews. My grandfather, z”l, still had the privilege to die a normal death in bed. Thirty-two days before the deportation, he returned his soul to his Creator, being 84 years of age. We followed the funeral procession, but in our hearts, there was apprehension, pain. What was still to come? Terrible rumors abounded. To believe them or not? Fear ate at our hearts. Unfortunately, they were true. Ten days before the deportation, I was sent to Kostrze, to the Strauch factory. I was still a child, but I carried the yoke and suffered. I heard about the first and second deportations from Działoszyce. Silently, I suffered equally with all the others, not knowing what happened to my family. Two weeks after the second deportation, my father and brother, z”l, came to Kostrze. In the interim, they had been hiding in the attic of Moszek Wajnsztajn's home and had come to me through Wolbrom. All the [surviving] Działoszycers were together working for Strauch. When they liquidated the Strauch camp, we were all transferred to Plaszów. From there, we went to Kielce, Birkenau, and Buna. However, a great selection occurred in Buna in 1944. At that time I lost my loved ones forever. My father, Nuchim Lasker, z”l, together with Zale Wajnbaum and Icek Kruk, z”l, died.

The measure of affliction was not yet complete. I was sent further, hungry and cold, naked and barefoot, until I arrived in Gliwice. From there, I was sent with other surviving Działoszycers to Buchenwald, skeletons in the form of human beings, chased by wild animals. Further marching, together with Jechiel Krycer, until Ehring. The troubles never ceased. Who can possibly endure such pain and affliction? Three thousand of us Jews were marched from Buchenwald. In the course of the march, almost all died from exhaustion or were shot.

Extremely exhausted, I survived until the end of the war. Unfortunately, I was unable to rejoice. The destruction for me had been too great, as it was for all Jews who had lived until the moment of liberation. Only 128 Jews [from Działoszyce] had the privilege of being freed.


[Pages 171–174]

Memories

by Bracha Pozner (Zając)

Translated by Rochel Semp
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

After my 34 years of living in Israel, I am trying to recall from memory the varied spices and flavors that characterized the existence of the Jews in our town in Europe.

Many and varied are the memories about these things that colored our lives and caused them to be full of interest, aspiration, and strong faith.

The Jews in the town constituted a substantially high proportion of the residents of the town, about 90 per cent. There was only a small stratum of Jews whose livelihoods were secure and who lived a comfortable life. As a matter of fact, on the contrary, the majority of the Jews barely earned a living; their working conditions were poor and their circumstances quite miserable. Their dwellings were primitive, and their livelihoods very meager.

I don't want to dwell on descriptions of the material situation in our town. This I will leave to those more capable than myself. However, I do want to focus on the other side of the coin and describe the spiritual aspects, the Jewish heart and soul that beat in our town.

Everyone was busy with pressing daily problems, some with earning a living for their household, some with dealing with the disabled, such as retarded children, or with marrying off a daughter. There came into being organizations whose goal and mission was to give support and help to the needy. A public assistance fund and a Women's Histadrut [Zionist Federation] were started, organizations that supported the needy, gave aid to the less fortunate, and prevented those without families from feeling totally alone and isolated. Women used to collect money and supplies and distribute them to the needy. Individual sick people were fortunate that members of the organizations supported them in their illness, and things reached such a state that the problem of the individual became everyone's problem. Anyone who was able tried to help and became involved to lighten the suffering. I am certain that these actions lifted the spirit of the needy and raised their hope and faith that tomorrow would be better and their faith would be strengthened. I recall an incident when I went in the evening hours to Izak, the shoemaker in the town––he lived in a dark cramped cellar and a small stool served as his workbench––to pick up my shoes that he had promised he would repair in the afternoon. He replied that he didn't have a chance to get them ready yet. I complained to him, “You promised me to fix them this afternoon.” Izak started laughing and said, “You are right. However, it is not yet afternoon here, since I haven't even eaten lunch.” And he immediately turned to his wife with the promise that when they became the winners of the lottery for such and such amount of zlotys, then they would have a hearty, sumptuous meal. When I asked him if he had a lottery ticket, he replied in the negative. Thus, you see that even though he didn't have any ticket in his hands, he trusted that he would win those valuable zlotys.

Another source of pride was the youth of the city, young people who gave their elders much joy and pleasure [nakhes], since they were active and accomplished young people. The young who got involved in youth organizations would come together, and during the course of long hours, they would listen to stories told by Israeli emissaries. They would dance stormy horas [Israeli national dances] and sing our nation's songs. There were also several parents who, because of their religious beliefs and their reliance upon the coming of the Messiah for salvation, opposed this Zionist movement. One of the organizations was the Revisionist movement Betar, where differences of opinion would be raised that at times turned into bitter fights. Sometimes, these differences became magnified. One day, my uncle arrived from Canada––he was a representative in the Zionist Congress and was invited to speak in our town. He did not bother to get a permit, and he started talking about his representation in the Congress in front of a hall fully packed with Jews who had streamed in from all parts of the town and filled the hall from corner to corner. He ignited the anger of these Revisionists, who didn't look upon his lecture with a favorable eye. In the beginning, they tried to disrupt it, but when they couldn't accomplish this, they turned to the police, who hastened to arrive at the place to disperse those assembled and to arrest my uncle. He was only freed the next day thanks to my grandfather's connections.

Another source of light in the town was the drama circle that had been established by young people. The creation of this circle met with many problems. Some of them were technical, caused by inappropriate equipment that was vital to the establishment of such a group. Another was the opposition of some parents who didn't view with favor the fact that their children would appear on stage. In spite of this, and in spite of all those other obstacles, the group did become established and succeeded during its existence to produce many, many plays and performances. My grandfather was among those heads of household who opposed this circle. Once, there erupted a controversy between the musicians and a stage manager who wanted his sons to perform in the play. They turned to my grandfather and tried to put pressure on him to intervene, although he was troubled by the fact that his granddaughter was appearing on the stage. But, as I mentioned, in spite of all this, I continued to perform, and the other youths did as well. This drama group continued to exist and produce serious plays that were met with very great success.

Even though 34 years have passed since then, one cannot forget the holidays in the town. Well ahead of the official holiday, they would be sensed in the atmosphere of the town. Each holiday with its special colors, each one with its special atmosphere, permeated the town. The activity that ran like a red thread throughout the town regarding all the different holidays was the aid and assistance that was extended to all those who needed it. They saw to it that their tables were set as they were supposed to be according to halakha [Jewish religious law] and that nothing should be missing from their tables for that particular holiday.

Despite my wishes not to relay too many stories about my immediate family, I must say that I cannot remember even one holiday where a guest who was without the means of celebrating the holiday on his own was not sitting at our table. My grandfather would go to the bes hamedresh and look for homeless people who would hang around after prayers were finished, and he would invite them to eat at his table and celebrate with us. All of this, in spite of the fact that my grandfather was not considered one of the prosperous people in the town and had more than a few worries about earning a livelihood.

Even today, it is difficult for me to comprehend the link between the many daily worries, hardships, and obstacles and the warmth and deep caring for others, along with the readiness and willingness to help and support the needy.

As I have already said, the coming of the holidays cast a special atmosphere that united our town. I want to pause here for two of them––the High Holy Days and the holiday of Passover and all that was connected with them. The atmosphere between the night of slikhes [penitent prayers] until after the holiday of Sukes [Feast of Tabernacles] lent an air of repentance and the asking of forgiveness for the sins and transgressions that were committed between men and heaven and men and mankind, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

During those days, all the people in the town would stream into the synagogue. Among them would also appear those who during the other days of the year were not in the habit of attending the synagogue.

On Rosh Hashanah, we girls were instructed to be present in the synagogue only during the blowing of the shofar and the ceremony following it. After that, we would go back home where a hearty meal awaited us, and afterward, we went to the river for the prayer of tashlikh [casting off one's sins].” Along the embankment of the river, the people praying would stand and empty out their pockets into the water, as though they were emptying and throwing into the ocean all their sins and transgressions. Along the banks of the river an atmosphere of pleasantness and calm prevailed, and from each and every corner, the laughter of children was carried in the air. The eve of Yom Kippur turned into the height of anticipation and holiness that I felt everywhere. This intensified with the arrival of dusk. My excitement and nervousness grew to such an extent that I worried whether or not I could stand it. As a matter of fact, the High Holy Days would start to be felt in our home yet an entire month before their arrival. All of this was because my grandfather was the shaliakh tzibur [prayer leader] who stood before the reader's stand for the Kol Nidre [plaintive prayer on Yom Kippur eve] and Neilah [closing of the gates], etc. He used to train groups of young lads to sing in the choir and accompany him with the prayer melodies. These boys used to be in rehearsals for many hours. We girls were restricted in our movements because of this, since we were totally forbidden to draw their attention to ourselves. When the eve of Yom Kippur arrived, the preparations became more intense and the pace quickened in order to be prepared with everything for the concluding mealtime and the arrival of the holy day. Throughout the day, dozens of friends and acquaintances would come to visit us in order to bless us with a good and happy New Year. These visits would always be accompanied with tears and the pouring forth of the soul. The scenario would reach its peak when our mother would take us children into her arms, raise her eyes toward heaven, and with intense pleading, ask God for well being, health, and happiness for her children.

Until this very day, a shiver runs through me and a very strong nostalgia is awakened in me when I remember all of these moments that have gone by never to return. The entire population streamed to the prayer of Kol Nidre without any distinction in their level of observance. Hundreds of Jews wrapped in their prayer shawls [talesim] appeared to the light of hundreds of candelabras and candles, like a very strong force. The prayers, along with the boys' singing, reached toward heaven and penetrated deep into each and every Jew's heart and awakened in all of them hope, faith, and courage for the morrow.

The scene in the synagogue and its praying congregants during the prayer of Kol Nidre is one that cannot be forgotten.

The next day passed by with prayers and fasting that caused more than one of the people who were fasting to faint. At the end of the day, the men used to go outside, dressed in white and holding candles in their hands in order to bless the new moon, while the women would hurry to go home and prepare the meal that was to be eaten after the lengthy fast. After the meal, the Jews used to hammer in the first beam for the building of the suke [booth], and with this, they actually began the preparations for the holiday of Sukes. For this holiday, several neighboring families used to prepare a suke together. They would bring trees, poles, wood, and roof coverings to erect the suke. Right afterward, when the suke was already built, the boys would start with the decorations and interior arrangements. During the holiday itself, as already said, the neighboring families would celebrate together, with the men folk eating together in the suke.

From the holiday of Sukes, let us pass with one jump to the holiday of Pesakh [Passover].

The preparations were deeply felt. A long time before the holiday itself arrived, massive preparations would be conducted in the homes, which were turned inside out. In the doorway of the homes, dozens of objects would be seen that were put outside for scrubbing and cleaning. The house would be emptied of many dishes, and inside the house, the essential cleaning work would begin. This included a special whitewashing and intense detailed inspection of all the corners in the house. All of the dishes that were used during the entire year would be hidden away, and a new array of shining ones would adorn the apartment––everything would be new, shiny, and festive. The preparations did not skimp on the food being prepared for the holiday. Emphasis would be placed on the preparations of the special Passover holiday dishes. And the preparations of the matse especially turned into a very impressive event. In our home, they used to bake the matse on the moytse-shabes [close of Shabes] after the ovens had rested during the course of 24 hours. Some of the bakeries would kosher their ovens for the upcoming holiday and burn out all of the leaven so the ovens would be kosher for even the most stringent. On moytse-shabes, the entire family, without exception, would go out to the bakery and bake the matse. The workers in the bakery were not allowed to interfere; we did the entire job ourselves. Everyone would work with gusto and zeal in the job of baking, while my grandfather would oversee and direct the operation with great strictness and adherence to the laws. The work was done with enthusiasm and extended until the morning. Then we would wrap the matse in white bags and store them in prepared places with great strictness.


[Pages 175–177]

Memories from the Old Days

by Clara Waks (Kajla Akerman)

Translated by Zulema Seligson
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

Alas, my Działoszyce, my dear little town!

Many years have gone by since I left you, but as in the old days, you have remained deep in my heart. Often I wish to see the little town in my dreams as it looked 35 years ago with its special way of life as a typical small Jewish town.

I remember Kraków Street, my small one-story house on whose other side the little river flowed.

Not far from there, there was a well at which the water carriers gathered every morning. There, they argued and wrangled; they each wanted to be the first to draw water from the well. Through the windows I saw the people who were going to the train station. With all this, I did not need an alarm clock.

The childhood years passed like a dream. The hours free from lessons were spent in the fields, between flowers and fields of corn. In the spring, we wove fragrant flowers into garlands and sang all the way home.

In the summertime, we greatly enjoyed bathing in Lisowice. How wonderful everything was then. I didn't yet understand what anti-Semitism meant or the difficulties of earning a living. Our livelihood was connected to many Christians in the surrounding area. When I grew older, I was often required to call on them, and that is when I felt how false they were to us, how they sought various ways to bring us down.

When I was 12 years old, I joined a Zionist youth organization. We got together in the evening and passed many enjoyable hours dancing and singing. We also spent time in cultural pursuits. We joined with other towns around us and made excursions to summer camps. A few also went on to hakhshara [pioneer training] as khalutzim [pioneers].

When one of us was able to actually make aliye [immigration] to Eretz Yisroel, the whole town was proud. We were very envious of the happy oylim [immigrants], and each one of us dreamt and thought, "Oh, if only it were our turn."

In 1934, I left Działoszyce. We moved to Nowy Targ, a larger, more modern city in Galicia. But I did not forget my little town of Działoszyce. I used to go back and visit from time to time to see my friends, boys and girls, and would leave with tears in my eyes.

The last time I saw the town was a month after the war began. That time I had a whole different sense of it. Everything looked different already, as if from a distance, not the way I remembered it from my childhood. I walked almost 50 kilometers, hungry and thirsty. I went through several villages and saw how the farmers were working their blossoming fields, as if there were no war going on.

When I approached a house and asked for some water, they laughed at me. "Jewesses can drink blood, not water. Look at all the Jews lying around on the roads, and she wants water." I choked down my sobs and walked on.

But I became totally disillusioned when I arrived in Działoszyce… the lines for bread, the fears of the Jews. They feared speaking a word out loud. People were walking around as if they had been poisoned, helpless. Every one just wanted to make it through that day. The situation was dire. I could not bear it. Many of those close to me were no longer among the living.

I was chased away further. I joined a group of friends of my youth in order to smuggle ourselves over the Russian border. About the several years I spent in Russia, there is much to tell. They were years of hunger, hard work, fear for the future, etc.

Finally, there were rumors afoot that our Jews, Polish citizens, would be returned to Poland. At first we were happy, we thought that we would at last begin to live like human beings, but unfortunately, as soon as we came to the Polish border, the gentiles threw rocks at us, shouting, "You're still alive? We thought there was no one left of you. Żydzi do Palestyny [Jews to Palestine] !!!"

With great difficulty, we arrived in Szczecin. I immediately joined a Zionist organization, where I worked as a teacher with orphaned children who had lost their parents. We tried to give them everything they needed––education, knowledge, and, above all, love.

After three months, I was sent to Berlin with a group of the children I was in charge of. Later on we went to Rosenheim, where I lived with the children for almost two years. My hope and longing was to journey as soon as possible to Israel, the land of my dreams.

I decided to find a way for it to become a reality. I joined a group of older people. We went through a hakhshara, a preparatory camp. After a very long journey, we were able to get to Israel in 1948. Here I have built my home anew.

The little town of my birth has remained etched in my heart and mind as the place of the beautiful dreams of my childhood.

But my enmity for Poles has become ever stronger. I am amazed at the Jews who can live there and walk those streets that are paved with the gravestones of our near and dear ones.

When a wind blows there, I think it must be their souls asking that their bones and their ashes be freed from that blood-soaked earth.


[Pages 178–179]

From My Memories

by Benjamin Włoski

Translated by Sheva Zucker
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

I was born in Poland in 1901, in the District of Pińczów. Until the 13th year of my life, I was raised in a courtyard in a village called Pierocice. My father's name was Jojne Wloski, and my mother's, Taube. My mother bore him 11 children, seven of whom lived until the time of Hitler, may his name and memory be erased. My father perished at the hands of the Nazis in Działoszyce during the first "resettlement" [deportation].

We, Benjamin and Izrael, two brothers, miraculously survived. Both of us are now in Israel.


In 1919, I was drafted into the Polish army and sent to the front. I went on foot to just beyond Kiev and back. I was wounded suddenly and took sick and was sent to the hospital in Kraków. After that, I was sent to Warsaw, where I remained until 1924, when I was discharged.

In 1928, I married Chaja, the oldest daughter of Aron Slodki. I had five children with her.

From the Kraków ghetto, I was sent to the camp in Plaszów. There, Commander Pilarzik seriously wounded me in the stomach and in the leg. I then fled back to the ghetto until it was completely "resettled" on March 13, 1943.

My wife and five children were sent to Auschwitz, where they perished.

After that, I was sent to Mauthausen, where I worked even though I was sick. From there, I was sent to a work camp at Melk.

For 13 months I worked in the camp at Melk under very difficult conditions. Then, finally, I was sent to Ebensee, where I was liberated; at the time I weighed all of 28 kilos [62 lbs].

After the liberation, the Jewish Brigade sent me to Salzburg and from there to Italy where I was reunited with my brother Izrael.


My mother was called, “Taubele Jojne's.”[1] She was very pious and would share her butter and milk with poor but respectable people and gave generously to charity.

I recall an episode about the rabbi of Działoszyce, z”l. When my son was born, I went to the rabbi for a note that I needed to take to town hall in order to register him. At the rabbi's place, I met another Jew who had also come for the same reason. You had to give 50 groszen [coins] for the note, and the man complained that he didn't have the money. He also complained about the poor behavior of people at Nusyn the American's. The rabbi chided the man, saying, “Awramcze, one shouldn't speak ill of other Jews, because one never knows who will bring the redemption, whether it will be those who are completely virtuous or those who are completely sinful.” This story, I recall, happened in 1934.

In 1947, I left Italy and went illegally to Palestine. The English government exiled us to Cypress where I stayed for 18 months. I arrived in Israel only after the state was established in 1948. I was sent to work at the salt plant in Atlit.


[Pages 180–181]

Memories

by Majer Cudzynowski

Translated by Zulema Seligson
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

I, Majer Cudzynowski, am reporting on what I remember of the flood.

Hercke Topoler had wanted to beat up Alter Cudzynowski, because he had cheated him in connection with buying a calf from Skalbmierz. So we were standing on the Skalbmierz bridge and waiting for the attackers. It was a Shabes in the month of May. And while waiting for the tough guys, we got, instead of them, a powerful wave of water. First, the bridge was ripped off; later, Chaja Chaba's house was lifted up, turned over four times, went up and sideways, fell apart, and floated toward Grandfather Moszek Beker's house, which itself had lost a section torn off by the powerful stream.

Aunt Esther, holding a small child, was hanging from a half-open window shouting, “Help!” But she could not be reached because of the very dangerous situation. Afterward, Szmul Szpitz's house was also seen carried off by the water. In the house were Szmul Szpitz and his wife. I, with a few other firemen were able to extricate him and his wife with the help of ropes. Afterward, when the water had somewhat subsided, I noticed a telegraph pole floating by. I dragged it out, got it to the half-open window where Aunt Esther was and brought her and the child out. This was my first rescue.

The second rescue happened with Moszek Targownik. He had a coal storehouse at the Cukierman's, and the turbulent waters flattened the storehouse and carried off a flock of sheep that belonged to Menashe.

Menashe's son tried to run after the sheep. It was lucky that I caught up with him and saved his life. Sadly, he later perished under Hitler's gangs, ym”sh [may their name be erased].

The third event was the rescue of the police chief, who lived on the second floor of Szental's house in the center of the market square. The house began to shake like a tree in the strong wind. The police chief began to shout and call for help. So, using various clever tactics, we reached his balcony and carried him out of there and brought him to the firemen's coach house. From there, we took long poles and saved a lot of people with them.

Sunday morning, after everything was over, the emergency services arrived from Warsaw, sent by the Interior Ministry, but they did not have much to do.

For many years, the inhabitants of Działoszyce spoke of the miracles that occurred during the flood.


[Pages 182–183]

Stories from the Past

by Chaim Jakub Kac

Translated by Zulema Seligson
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

A Pogrom Averted

About 85 years ago, on a market day in the little town of Działoszyce, the peasants in the market square assaulted the Jews and simultaneously began to rob Jewish shops. Suddenly, an extraordinary thing occurred. Two young men, one, Izrael Kac, z”l [of blessed memory], a grandson of the rabbi of Stopnica, Reb Izrael Kohn, ztsk”l [the holy righteous of blessed memory], and the second young man, Josek Mardyks, whom they called Long Josel, grabbed lumber from the wagons and threw themselves on the gentiles, hitting them right and left. In a short time there were 50 or 60 wounded peasants lying on the ground. The rest ran off. The police came and arrested the two young men. The gentiles surrounded the police building and demanded that the police chief release the young people to them. When questioned by the police, they said that if two Jews could beat them up the way they did, they wanted to drink a true toast to them. The young men were freed, and at Maszka's tavern, they all drank barrels of schnapps. A market day like this had never before been seen in Działoszyce.

Social Assistance

About 60 or 70 years ago, there was a family living in Działoszyce by the name of Rozenek. The father of the family, Reb Abram Rozenek, z”l, who was known as “Avram the Redhead,” was the owner of the mill in Nieszków. His wife Fajgele, e”h [may she rest in peace], the sister of Reb Izrael Kac, was, personally, the social assistance in Działoszyce. There was cooking at her home 24 hours a day. If anyone was ill in town and needed some fresh soup, they would come to Aunt Fajgele. If there was an impoverished woman who had given birth, Aunt Fajgele made sure she had what was required, and when poor people got married, Aunt Fajgele made sure that the wedding would not be skimpy. She would prepare a meal fit for a king, and the joy of the parents and in-laws was without measure. The whole town rejoiced at the wedding. This is how Aunt Fajgele always lived her life. The main thing was that everything she gave had to be given secretly. No one knew who gave all these things. The father of Reb Izrael Kac, z"l, was Reb Michal Jerachmiel Kac, z"l, and their mother was Zelda.


Fajwel Rozenek, the son of Reb Abram and Fajgele, had seven children: Mejlech, Izrael, Hinda, Michal, Maryem, Jojne, and Golda. In the year 1905, Fajwel had a grocery business in Działoszyce. Thanks to his connection with Count Maszkowski, he became the representative of the chicory manufacturer in Labedz for the whole province.

As the representative of such an important firm, he was the first one to have a telephone in Działoszyce. In 1915, during World War I, he was accused of espionage because of his telephone. After strong intervention by the heads of the community, he was freed.

In 1918, the whole family moved to Łódź. There, they opened a wool and silk manufacturing plant, which was known for the quality of its products.

Hitler, may his name and memory be erased, annihilated Fajwel and his wife, Rywka, and their children Mejlech, Maryem, and Golda. The other children survived the Hell. Izrael settled in Israel. Michal, Jojne, and Hinda left for Argentina.

Various Characters

Chuna Gdal, the watchmaker, when they gave him a watch to repair and he found he had a tiny screw or wheel left over, he returned it immediately to its owner.

Reb Moszek, the Hasid, was a great God-fearing man and a decidedly strange one; in the summer, when it was warm, he would wear his winter coat and warm clothes underneath. He would say that if God sends heat, one should attempt to be warm… In the winter, when it was cold outside, he would put on summer clothes and a thin smock, with the same reason given: When God gives cold, it should be cold…


Editors' Footnotes

  1. It was common for people to be known by the names of persons to whom they were related. Taubele Jojne's meant “Taubele who belonged to Jojne,” i.e., his wife. This was in part due to the fact that Jews did not use surnames in Poland for many years, so it was a means of distinguishing one Taube from another. Return

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