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[Page 75]

The First World War and its
Effects on Klobucker Jews

 

Fear of a Pogrom During the Bellis Trial

by Moshe Wajnman

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

The effects of the Russian-Japanese war in 1904, and the revolutionary movement in 1905 were not felt in shtetl. A few Jews from Klobuck, who served in the Russian army and took part in the war, talked about their experiences, when they fought against the “Japanishkes” (derogatory name for Japanese), many years afterwards in “Port-Arthur”. The Jewish “Achdut” (Jewish socialist movement) had no special influence in the year 1905. Very few people from Klobuck, who became active in the socialist party in Czestochowa, were arrested and deported to Siberia.

In 1912-1913 Jews in Klobuck felt a special shock during the blood-libel trial of Mendel Bellis in Kiev. Bellis was charged with murdering a young Christian boy in order to use his blood to prepare (Passover) Matzot. During preparations for the trial in the summer 1913, as always, during the harvest, religious Poles went to the “Holy Mother” in “Jasna Góra”[1] in Czestochowa. At that time the Jews in Klobuck lived with deathly fear. On all of the roads to Czestochowa there were processions (of Poles displaying) holy images. In Klobuck people waited for their arrival and anticipated and prepared for a pogrom.

Despite the (highly charged atmosphere), no pogrom actually occurred. People said that a pogrom was averted because the religious, anti-semitic, Poles had something else to divert their attention. During the preparations of the Bellis trial, another trial

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was being prepared against a high level priest from Czestochowa, Macoch[2] (pronunciation Matzoch), who was accused of stealing a jewel from the eye of the “Holy Mother” in “Jasna Góra”.

During these times, when non-Jews shouted at us (young boys): “Bellishe”, we answered back with: “Macoch”. Later, after the exoneration of Bellis, we added a rhyme in Polish: “Bellis ¿ywy, a Macoch zgni” (Bellis is alive and Macoch is rotting). This was an allusion to the fact that Bellis was freed of the blood-libel accusation, while Macoch was rotting in jail.

Translator Footnotes

  1. The Jasna Góra Monastery (Polish: Jasna Góra, Luminous Mount) in Czêstochowa, Poland, is the most famous Polish shrine to the Virgin Mary and the country's greatest place of pilgrimage – for many its spiritual capital. The image of the Black Madonna of Czêstochowa, also known as Our Lady of Czêstochowa, to which miraculous powers are attributed, is Jasna Góra's most precious treasure. (source Wikipedia) Return
  2. Damazy Macoch was a monk in Czenstochow's Pauline Convent. He killed his cousin and confessed to the murder, which took place after the monk, his cousin and his cousin's wife had committed a robbery at Jasna Góra, desecrating the robe and diamond encrusted crown of the “Black Madonna” and stealing and selling the jewels (source Jews in Czêstochowa Up to the First World War, Yiskor Book of Czêstochowa). He died in prison in 1916. Return


The Difficult Experiences of the First World War

by Moshe Wajnman

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

The Jews of Klobuck lived through a difficult time at the beginning of the First World War, in August 1914; the shtetl made almost no preparations for the coming war. Very few people read the newspapers then. We spoke about a war in the future. Although nobody believed it would happen, the Jewish population's hearts were filled with fear. Jews saw in the red flares of the sunset, a sign of a coming war.

Suddenly, on a Sunday morning in Av we heard unusual thunderings. It was the morning of the outbreak of the war. The German army got closer to Klobuck, and took strategic positions around the shtetl, while shooting at the Russian garrison, which was fortified in the Zagorz “Prince Castle”. Klobuck, from the first days of August 1914, experienced all of the horrors of the war.

The battle lasted for more than two hours. There were dead and wounded people. Houses of Podkamenicz were burning, the flames rose, the sky was full with black clouds of smoke. The Germans invaded Klobuck. Their first order was to give all of the inhabitants two hours to leave the shtetl. This resulted in a panic. Rumors were wide spread that the village would be torched by the Germans, so as to drive away the Russian military and the spies that were supposedly hiding in the houses. Anyone that was found hiding would be shot.

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Everyone ran away, filled with fear. Everyone took what he could carry from his apartment, and ran away, without looking back. The roads leading to the neighboring villages were full of the refugee waves. Fully packed carts were dragged, and filled with the small part of the lives of poverty that could be saved. Sick and tired people were scattered throughout the country; the hungry and thirsty, knocked on peasants' huts and asked for a piece of bread or some water.

The few Jews that did not want to leave their home, afraid that their possessions would be looted, were found by the Germans. All of the hidden Jews were gathered and brought to the Christian cemetery to be shot. This was before Hitler's time, and during the First World War, so then, things were different. The Germans were not caught up in an anti-Semitic madness. The Landowner of Libidcz, who had German origins, intervened on behalf of the Jews with the German Authorities. The executions were postponed. In the end all of the Jews were let go and expelled from the shtetl.

The front moved eastward. Two weeks later, we slowly came back to our homes, to find that that they were looted. Slowly by slowly, life progressed on a war standard of living. Some of the traditional tradesmen and newcomers adapted to the new situation, and became involved with smuggling foodstuffs and trading with the military. A number of Jews worked for the Germans. But the vast majority of Jews from Klobuck were left without a livelihood. They were starving. A typhus epidemic broke out, and many people died.

Although the German occupation then did not specifically focus on the Jewish population, the Jews endured many harsh decrees. Jews had to keep their shops open on Shabbat so that German soldiers would be able to buy goods. Another decree ordered that observant Jews were required to be photographed, bare headed, for their identification papers. Jews were also ordered to cut their beards when they underwent delousing

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at the Zagorz distillery building, which, during the Russian period, produced liquor called “Monopolke”.

The groceries and bakeries had a lot of trouble from the German sanitary inspector. The officer, a little man with a short beard, that Jews called “Dos Beardel” (the small beard), harassed all of the groceries and bakeries for the slightest speck of dust. For the smallest infringement he closed the food enterprise for eight days. Slowly, the Jews became used to the German occupation authorities of that time, and it was better than the Czarist pogrom reign.

After the defeat of the German army and the armistice, Poland became an independent country and for the Jews in Klobuck a new political and economic era started, based on the equality of rights that the Jews received from the Polish Authorities.


Memories of the First World War

by Baruch Szimkowicz

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

Tisha BeAv 1914, Thursday morning, the German army marched toward Czestochowa without encountering any resistance from the Russians, who had left the city earlier. The Russian forces also left Klobuck, and the firemen (strażak), together with the Poles, Klepacz, Socinski and Dzemba, assumed leadership and took over the administration of the shtetl.

The Jewish population lived with great fear. People anticipated attacks on Jews, and the fear increased because of the wide spread rumor that organized gangs, who called themselves “Kosarjes”, because they were armed with scythes (koses)

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and sticks, were in the region. People did not know who these gangs opposed; but we were sure that the first scapegoats would be the Jews.

For approximately one month, Klobuck was administered by the firemen. Then without warning, a German scout section, which was comprised of several horsemen, arrived in the shtetl. They summoned the leaders of the village, and asked about the whereabouts of Russian soldiers. The Germans requested that the leaders assure and encourage the population to stay calm, and immediately report to the Germans if Russian soldiers were present. After this announcement the scout section left, and Klobuck remained under the watch of the firemen, who guarded the village during the night.

Two weeks before Rosh HaShanah (New Year), on a Sunday morning at 8 o'clock, Russian Don Cossacks[1] entered Klobuck, and marched through the village in the direction of Dzialoszyn. The inhabitants were full of fear. We knew that nothing good could come from this. There was nowhere to go because the roads were filled with the military personnel of both sides.
Two hours later we saw that the German cavalry was coming from the direction of the Czestochowa road. A few of them entered the village, and ordered the people to remain inside their houses.

I looked outside from a crack in the window, and saw how the Germans took positions in the streets along the walls. Soon a troop of Cossacks came from the Zagorz road, and shooting from both sides started, which lasted for two hours. A daughter of Yaacov Fishel, Yaske Berlin's wife, was killed from a stray bullet.

When the shooting stopped we saw dead Russians and horses lying in the streets. A rumor spread that the Germans were going to shell Klobuck, and so it was. Around three o'clock the cannons thundered. The sky became red from the flames and black from the smoke. Fire surrounded Szmulewicz's house. When the cannon fire subsided, people panicked, and

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started to flee from the shtetl. People ran by foot or by horses on all of the roads that led to the surrounding villages. All of the Jews left. Only Reb David Hersh Shochat stayed with his family. He said: “Here neither drowse nor sleep the Guardian of Israel” (Verse of the Psalms). They had a very bad night. The Rabbi of Klobuck (finally) left with his wife and children (and went) to his family in Warsaw.

The next day, when things calmed down, little by little people started to come back to the shtetl. In the evening people returned to where they came from. At the end (of the day) a few people took the risk of staying overnight in their dark houses, under the (blasts from) the artillery guns. My father, with the entire family, also stayed overnight.

We had a bakery and seeing that people were coming back, we took the risk to bake bread, using flour taken from our strongly locked storage room. We were right: The Klobuck inhabitants came back to the shtetl, and carefully life in the shtetl returned, but we still did not have a stable leadership in Klobuck.

Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur went by calmly. Jews prayed in the Synagogue and in the House of studies. Before Sukkot, a section of Germans soldiers came with gendarmes (country police), and took over the buildings of the former Russian authority, and we found ourselves under German occupation.

After Sukkot the German Military went through Klobuck. The shtetl was an important stopover. The first decree from the German Authorities was that every household must accommodate German soldiers. The requisitioning depended on the number of rooms of each apartment. The population did not oppose this measure. An officer led groups of soldiers, and split them among apartments.

The Germans of the First World War had not reached the awful level of genocide. They did not have any biased attitude towards the civilian population or the Jews. In Klobuck war means of living were set up. People did business

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with the Germans. At that time, the butchers and the bakers earned very well by providing meat and bread to the German army. The German Authorities provided flour for the bakers and cattle to the butchers.

However, the Germans wanted to force Jews to desecrate the Shabbat.

Close to Chanukah the Jewish population representatives were notified to appear before the Commander of Klobuck. The representatives, Avraham Jakubowicz and Aaron Zaks, went to the Commander. They received an order that the Jewish bakers and butchers had to work on Shabbat. The Commander stated: “This is war time, the military must have bread and meat, so therefore the bakers must bake during Shabbat, and the butchers must slaughter and prepare the meat on Shabbat.”

The observant representatives did all that they could to revoke the decree. People went (to the Commander) to plead (that he reconsider), and ultimately it was agreed that the Germans would supply their people on Shabbat to work in the Jewish bakeries and butcher shops instead of Jews. I remember how comical it appeared in our apartment during Shabbat: we came back from Shul; my father said Kiddush at the Shabbat table; we sang zemirot (Shabbat songs); and in the bakery, bread was baked and the oven was operating. It was like this for several weeks.

A machloket (controversy) in shtel.

When the Germans took over Warsaw, The Klobucker Jewish refugees in Warsaw came back home, having left during the panic days. Among the returning people was the Rabbi of Klobuck, Rabbi Henech Goldberg. Upon his return a bitter controversy started in the shtetl. The controversy arose because the Rabbi requested that the shochatim (ritual slaughterers) pay him his part of the slaughtering fees during the full time he was not in the shtetl.

The shochatim objected and argued: “How come? Why is the Rabbi such a Rachash (Hebrew initials for Rabbi, Chazan, Shochet)”. First, the money was already spent, and not on luxuries, but merely to survive; second, he was not in Klobuck, so how could the Rabbi make such a claim and request?

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The main controversy was between the Rabbi and Reb David Hersz Shochat. Moshe Shochat[2] did not want to get in trouble with the town Rabbi, who taught him how to be a shechita (ritual slaughter) in Klobuck. Soon there were two camps: The Chasidim and their supporters, who sided with the Rabbi, and maintained that he was entitled to get his part of the slaughtering fees, even for the time he was not in Klobuck. The common home owners from shtetl sided with Reb David Hersz Shochat, and defended him in his stance against the Rabbi, and not to give back any money.

The German demand to take photographs and the Jewish opposition on religious grounds.

In the beginning of the summer,1915, the German military had left Klobuck. A few gendarmes (country police), with a sergeant, remained and guarded the shtetl. Suddenly a new decree was issued to the Klobucker Jews: a notice asked that on a determined day all of the inhabitants of Klobuck had to bring a personal photograph of a specific size. For those who did not have a photograph, they had to come at 10 o'clock in the morning to the empty square next to the doctor, where designated photographers from Czestochowa would photograph the public.

This decree fiercely angered the observant Jews, who believed that photographing people violated Jewish law, because Jews should not make copies of people (or worship images). In addition, the non-observant were not thrilled to “be a human image”. In Klobuck, people were not photographed often. There was a Jewish photographer, Motel, the son of Gertner, but he worked only for non-Jews.

Although Jews were reluctant to be photographed, on the scheduled day, Monday at 10 o'clock in the morning, Jews gathered in the square next to the doctor, and they were photographed by groups of ten. For this we had to pay 50 pfenning (100 pfenning equaled one mark) per person. On that occasion it was the first photograph taken of the majority of the Jews in Klobuck. Later, Jews received a German passport and became citizens of the German occupation Authorities.

Translator Footnotes

  1. Don Cossacks (Russian: Донские казаки) were Cossacks who settled along the middle and lower Don. They had a rich military tradition, playing an important part in the historical development of the Russian Empire, and successfully participated in all its major wars. (source Wikipedia) Return
  2. There was two shochatim (ritual slaughterers) in Klobuck David Hersz and Moshe. Shochat may not be their family name, they are called by their trade. Return


[Page 83]

Quarrels Because of a Chazan [cantor]
and Shoychet [ritual slaughterer]

by Moshe Wajnman

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

A great scandal erupted due to social differences when the old chazan and shochet, Reb David Hirsz Dawidowicz[1], passed away.

Reb David Hirsz was of small stature; had a long white beard; was vivacious like quicksilver; and was profoundly loved by the common people. Virtually the entire shtetl attended his levayah (burial). Eulogies were made in the great synagogue where Reb David Hirsz was the Chazan for many years. The Rabbi also made an funeral oration.

Reb David Hirsz was survived by his sons and daughters. One son was a shochet in a small village, and did not make much money. (Many) Jews from Klobuck wanted that Shlomo, (the son), should replace his father. Two other sons, Yankel and Shmuel went to the Rabbi and asked that their brother become the chazan and shochet of the shtetl. The Rabbi refused to give his approval.

A quarrel flared up in shtetl. There were two camps. On one side were the Rabbi and the chasidim, and on the other side were the craftsmen and the poor tradesmen. Shlomo came to Klobuck and started to perform the duties of a shochet. The Rabbi forbade the eating of the meat from his shechita (ritual slaughter). A few observant butchers, nevertheless, sold the forbidden meat. Each day the controversy spread.

One Friday evening, Shlomo took the pulpit and prayed as chazan in the great synagogue. Although he was not a great cantor, he was popular with the common people, due to his Kabalat Shabbat (prayer songs on Shabbat eve). The congregation sang together with the chazan, and they were happy with his victory. The Rabbi, it seemed, did not want to exacerbate the quarrel during Shabbat, and so he did not come to the great synagogue. He prayed with the Gerer Chasidim.

The controversy lasted for another few weeks and in the end, the orthodox group stopped the quarrel, and Shlomo remained both shochet and chazan. His appearance reminded us of his father, and with this he gained the sympathy of his fellow citizens.

Translator Footnote

  1. It seems that it is the same person as Reb David Hersz Shochat from the previous chapter. Return

 

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