« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 173]

SECTION 3

Parties and Institutions

 

The Zionist Organization to 1933

by Zvi Madanes, Tel–Aviv

On Warsaw Street was a big house owned by Yisroel Zifferman, on the ground floor of which was located the Zionist organization's meeting hall, consisting of a large hall with a dais, in the centre of which was a picture of Dr. Herzl. The dais is where the organization's governing body, headed by Pinkhas Freilakh and Alter Bornstein, sat. Alter Bornstein was head of the Zionist organization until the establishment of Betar.

The meeting hall was adorned with Hebrew slogans: – “If you want it, it is not a legend”; “If I am not for myself, who is for me?”; “Redeem the Lord” – and pictures of the land of Israel.

There was a small room with bookcases at the side of the hall which served as the library. It was open twice a week.

The Zionist organization carried on wide–ranging, many–branched activities in all areas of Zionism.

 

Miriam Kirshenblatt Worked for the Keren Kayemet

In my time, Miriam Kirshenblatt was in charge of Keren Kayemet activities. Every month she decided who would empty the pushkes.

It is worth mentioning that the young members so chosen received particular satisfaction on going to Khayele Freilakh or Tova Mandel, from the Mintzberg family, who is now in Israel. Their blue and white pushkes were overflowing with money.

Or else take Mendel Zemach. He was a little out of the way, but it paid to make the trip. He received the young members amiably, and the Zemach family was among the first with their money.

As I recall, Zelig Shabbason from the sawmill was also among the major contributors to the Keren Kayemet.

Many people used to come in the summer to enjoy the fine air of the beautiful Kozienice forests. At that time we would arrange flower days for the benefit of the Keren Kayemet.

 

The Cultured Youth

Our Zionist youth in Kozienice was cultured and conscious of its merits.

We would often arrange symposia rich in content and well–attended by the membership.?

[Page 174]

Hebrew was taught intensively, and many members attained a perfect mastery of the language.

The Zionist organization used to put out a Hebrew broadside, edited by Mordekhai Donnerstein, now in Israel, Frisch and Buchner.

The drama group led by Bezalel Madanes also formed part of the organization's cultural activity. He was known in the town for his great dramatic talents, and, as leader of the group, he always played the leading role.

It is also worthwhile to mention the services of Mendel Zemach (Moniek). He was a youth of great education, intelligence, and Jewish pride. He organized the Maccabee sports organization with the instructor Yosef Lichtenstein at its head.

When I recall all these names, their persons – the symbol of refinement, the pearls of the city – stand before my eyes as if alive.

 

Alter Bornstein, The Dynamic Force

The dynamic force of the Zionist organization was Alter Bornstein, a Zionist patriot and a fine speaker. He was the founder of Betar in Kozienice. This was the first Zionist youth organization to have a standard uniform, a splendid blue and white flag and a menora. Our marches through the Jewish streets awakened joy and envy.

The Kozienice Betar arranged meetings in neighbouring towns and carried on wide ranging activities. When Dr. Ben–Shem (Dr. Feldszu) and his retinue used to visit the Kozienice Betar, it seemed to the town that Jewish generals had arrived.

I should like here to mention our member Shmuel Gelberg, who is now living in Tel–Aviv at Nakhlat Binyamin 130. He distinguished himself with his devoted labour, thanks to which many young Jewish men saved their lives.

 

The Wizo Activities

Wizo, the Zionist women's organization, organized lotteries and bazaars, the profits of which were used for Zionist purposes. The head of the Wizo organization was the wife of Dr. Abramovitch. The publications of the Tarbut school were also covered by Wizo.

I recall the beautiful summer evenings when we would set up the benches from the meeting hall in the woods, and all together sing splendid songs of longing for our land. The notes floated through the depths of the forest till late at night.

[Page 175]

Alas It is All No More

Alas, it is all no more. As all Jewish communities, the community of Kozienice was exterminated.

Millions of Jews were taken to their death, and the world stood silently by. The Nazi murderers were able to do everything dictated by their animal instincts, for “Jews can be killed.”

Alas, the Zionist leaders and instructors of Kozienice did not live to see the fruit of our work, the realization of our dreams, the liberation of our land and the Zionist flag flying high and proud.


[Page 176]

Haszomer Ha–Tzair in Kozienice

by Yaakov Lahat, Ein Ha–Mifratz

A cell of Haszomer Ha–Tzair was founded in Kozienice at the beginning of the thirties in the following manner. In the summer of 1931, the Rutman family arrived in Kozienice from Radom. One of the sons, Zvi Rutman, a dynamic young man of 16 or 17, at the time a student of the Tarbut high school in Radom and an instructor in the Shomer group there, decided to establish a cell in his new place of residence, Kozienice.

He decided, and he did it. Thanks to his talent for leadership, his knowledge of sports and scoutcraft, he succeeded in concentrating a number of youths about him.

During the summer, the meetings were held in the woods by the town, and with the onset of winter we received a room in the quarters of the Zionist organization, which was then housed in the brickworks, di tzegelnye.

 

Three “Tribes” in 1932

More youngsters joined the movement during the winter, and in the 1932 Lag–B Oymer parade there were three “tribes” of the “Sons of the Desert”, the youngest class of membership, for children from 11–13. Each “tribe” had from eight to ten members.

In the early years, Zvi was the only instructor. He devoted every night of the week to the organization, and conducted activities with each group twice a week. On Friday nights and Saturdays there was a common activity for the entire cell.

Every year, new “tribes” were added in.

In 1934 Khaytshe Bornstein, Khane Karpman, and Khavele Rosenzweig took the leadership of the younger group upon themselves, and Zvi turned to intensive activity among the “scouts” (the second class of members) and to local leadership.

The cell's activity was great and diverse. It began with sports and scoutcraft, and finished with seminars on political economy, Darwin, and Gregor Mendel. Of course, the history of Zionism, Jewish history, study of Eretz Yisrael, and the learning of Hebrew were not neglected. And above all these, education for the realization of our independence in Eretz–Yisrael and the kibbutz.

 

Our Own Headquarters

Beginning in 1934, the organization rented a room with an entrance porch. Although it was in a wretched house at the edge of town, the room was always decorated and clean, several beds of flowers and vegetables, symbols of agriculture, were planted in the courtyard.?

[Page 177]

There were many trips to the neighbouring forests, those in the summer very early on Saturday morning, those in the winter lasting until dark.

We would often meet with other Shomer groups from the area, such as those of Radom, Pszitik, and Zwolin.

So far, we have mentioned the achievements, but problems and failures were not lacking. Zvi Rutman left the city for family reasons, and the local instructors failed to carry the burden of the cell. The upshot was that the cell broke up and ceased to exist at the beginning of 1937. A small portion of the membership went over to other organizations, but the majority remained unaffiliated.

 

1939 – Re–establishment

At the end of 1938, several members of the “scouts” who had grown up in the meantime convened and decided to renew the activity of the cell. We were surrounded by misgivings as to our success, and thus, before the announcement of the official opening, we organized youth groups, collected money for quarters, and, at the beginning of 1939, we used this momentum to activate the cell at quarters on Lubelska street, across from the water tap.

On Tu Bi–Shvat we collected the largest sum for the Keren Kayemet from the sale of sacks of dried fruit from Israel. Every winter there were regular activities and the drafting of new members.

On Pesakh the adult members went to a conference in Kielce, at which the establishment of a new training kibbutz near Bialystock was announced.

After Pesakh, Khytshe Bornstein and Ephraim Kreizberg went for training. We also began preparations for going to summer colonies.

In the summer of the same year we had a joint colony for the youngest members (“Sons of the Desert”) with the group from Zwolin, and one member was sent to the central leaders’ colony.

 

The Outbreak of the War

At the end of the summer, there was great activity in the organization. We received a visit from a member of the Shomer leadership in Galilee, and the question of their going to Bialystock for training was discussed among the adults. Many of them intended to do so, but the war broke out first.

At the outbreak of the war, some of the adults went to Russia, others joined the Polish army. The rest, as well as those who had returned to the town, attempted to reorganize. The youngest group no longer met, but the Scouts and the adults used to meet in private homes.

[Page 178]

Difficulties increased with the establishment of the ghetto. Ghetto housing was crowded, and most of the members were forced to work hard in order to support their families. Nevertheless, the adults succeeded in meeting every Saturday over a prolonged period.

 

The Visit of Mordekhai Anilewicz

Towards evening one day in the summer of 1941, a boy from the younger members appeared beside me and whispered that a messenger was waiting for me with the wagon driver who went to Radom (Per Garbatker).

I ran there immediately, and was very surprised to meet Mordekhai. He kissed and embraced me as if we were relatives, and loudly gave me regards from my aunt. While doing so, he drew me outside and asked me to keep his identity and his visit a secret. This was my first lesson in conspiracy.

I went home with him, and he asked that even there I present him as a friend from the colony. The next day, about fifteen people from the adult membership met at the home of Khaytshe and Yissokhor, and listened tensely to Mordekhai's words. They included:

  1. A report on the situation in Israel.
  2. Notice of a national council in Warsaw.
  3. A proposal to continue the Shomer activities in the ghetto and underground.
  4. A proposal to obtain pistols and grenades, and to practise with them.
  5. A mutual aid organization.
We separated from Mordekhai, who continued with his trip in the neighbouring towns, encouraging the members and giving them the movement's decrees.

After his visit, activity and mutual aid among members of the cell intensified, but the difficulties increased from day to day. Some members were sent to work camps and concentration camps, while others toiled to support their families. And thus, the activity of the cell approached an end

But in any event, not one adult member of the cell was persuaded to serve as a policeman or functionary for the Germans.

Of the 70–80 members of the cell most were killed with their families in the Holocaust.

 

Members Who Survived

Shalom Cohen (U.S.A.), Khavale Rosenzweig, (Washington U.S.A.), Yaffa Medallion (U.S.A.), Zelig Erlichman (Belgium), Yaakov Likverman (now Lahat) and Zvi Avenstern (Israel), survived in concentration camps. Ephraim Kreizberg (Brazil), fled to the Soviet Union. Two are now in Israel. Yaakov Lahat (Likverman) in Ein Ha–Mifratz and Zvi Avin (Avenstern) in Nir Yitzkhak.?

[Page 179]

The Names of the Adults and Workers Who Were Killed

Shabtai Oboge, Khaytshe Bornstein, Yerachmiel Bergman, Yitzhak Greenspan, Khaim Weisbrod, Yissokhor Salzberg, Yoisef Salzman, Dov Karpman, Khane Karpman, Dov Kreizberg, Yissokhor Resenzweig, Zvi Rutman.

May their memory be blessed!


[Page 180]

Betar in Kozienice

by Ephraim Horowitz, Brazil

As one of the co–founders of Betar in Kozienice, I consider it my sacred duty to recall my friends with whom I struggled for an idea.

Before proceeding to the matter at hand, I would like to open a page of memories of my youth, when Betar was our only hope for solving the Jewish national question.

It was in the years following the First World War. Parties were being organized in the town: the Volkspartei, the Bund, Agudas Yisroel, the Zionist organization, the Left Professional Society, Left and Right Po'alei Zion. Each party strove to enlist the youth in its ranks.

A large portion of upper and even middle–class youth joined the Zionist organization, and bound their belief to the Zionist ideal. We young people did not understand the difference between Betar and mainstream Zionism. Everything connected with Zionism was dear to us.

As has already been indicated, our town was famous throughout Poland for shoe manufacturing. The greater part of the youth employed in this industry, as well as poor artisans, joined the labour unions, in order to improve their economic condition.

At that time Betar developed throughout Poland with lightning speed. Middle–class youth, especially those educated in high schools, was engulfed by an immense enthusiasm.

The young people felt enthusiastic about the Zionist idea and the belief in the rapid establishment of a Jewish state. The blue and white insignia, the marching through the streets like proper, trained soldiers called forth joy and hope among the youth. In Betar they saw the future Jewish army of the land of Israel, the liberators of the Jewish people.

The name of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the leader of Betar, became very popular and beloved among the young. Splendid heroic legends formed around his name. The young saw Judah Maccabee in him, and would go to hell and back at his command.

 

We Dream of a Jewish State

We dreamt of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan. We greeted one another enthusiastically with the words, “Tel–khai”. 1928.

The enthusiasm in our town embraced a number of young people: Alter Bomstein, Mania Zemach, Yoyne Reisman, Moishe Fligelman, Popelnik, Rochman, and the writer of these lines. The Kozienice Betar was formed with great ardour and enthusiasm.

From time to time instructors from the larger towns came to give us instruction about the Betar movement.?

[Page 181]

Masses of young people from other parties, as well as older people, used to attend our lectures. They would carry on discussions, and sometimes interrupt the speaker.

Although we were a small group, we were very active, and were an important factor in local Jewish cultural life.

Boys and girls, students from mercantile and hasidic circles, and also the children of craftsmen and the middle–class joined our ranks. Comradeship ruled in Betar, and we felt like one family. This, incidentally, led to persecution from religious, hasidic circles.

With pride and honour we wore the Betar blouse and marched through the streets of the city like real soldiers.

We turned Betar into a school. Every evening, Hebrew lessons and lectures on various topics were held in our hall. We strove to make Betar into a second home for the young. Alter Bornstein, Nakhum Teitelbaum, and others who were instructors in the Kozienice Betar, dedicated great effort to the organization in Kozienice.


[Page 182]

Ozrot Ha–Aretz in Kozienice

by Khave Shapira, Kfar Hasidim

Many girls sought my friendship, perhaps because I was the daughter of the rebbe, perhaps because I treated them with gentleness and delicacy. In any event, they were all desirous of my friendship.

I rejoiced to greet my friends and, greeting me, they did likewise. We were a happy and merry group, resembling the children of the land of Israel whose exultant voices fill the air of our land.

 

My Two Friends

Things were different as I grew older. I chose myself two friends like to myself, Golda, the rabbi's daughter, who was older than I, and Khayele, daughter of the sharp and clever hasid Reb Elimelekh, who was younger.

We three were bound by bonds of faithful friendship. I appeared to them as if I were the urim and thummim on the breastplate of Aaron. And why? Perhaps I really did have a pure heart in which love of mankind dwelt, according as my parents planted this virtue in the hearts of all their children; and perhaps I also had a healthy commonsense, my tender years notwithstanding. Therefore, my words always found an echo in their hearts, according to the rule, “Heart speaketh unto heart.”

 

We Would Read and Study Together

Such was the nature of our connection. Everytime we met we would read and learn together, one of us reproving the others. In this way, we passed our time pleasantly, and each meeting turned into an experience.

I tried to bring them near to Torah, our homeland, and the treasures of Judaism. With them I read Ahavat Tzion, Zikhronot le–Beit David, Emek Ha Arazim, and so on. I imparted to them my love for the land of our fathers, which had always been a lamp unto the feet of my father's house.

Before any child born to my father's house learned to utter a single syllable, our parents taught him to say Eretz Yisrael. The bond between them and our land was that strong. These are the qualities I implanted in the hearts of my good friends Golda and Khayele.

 

Holding Hands is Not Enough

But I was not satisfied with this. I said, we can't stop at holding hands – we have to begin working among the girls of the town. A sacred duty is imposed upon religious girls to educate the daughters of both pious and assimilationist homes. They must be roused from their slumber; their eyes must be opened.

[Page 183]

At night I turned up on my bed, spinning various plans to attract these girls to my circle. We expected trouble when their parents learned that we were going to influence their kosher daughters, take them beyond the portals of their houses in order to teach them Torah or love of the homeland. We knew that we would be judged severely.

The religious zealots believed that “Everyone who teaches his daughter Torah, it is as if he taught her foolishness.” The assimilationists believed that they had to walk in the ways of the gentiles which they preferred.

Indeed, we knew that we would bring trouble upon our parents, who were dearer to us than our very lives, but the fire of love of our land burnt within us, until its flame burnt out.

 

Thus Do Free People Live

One summer day in 1922 I sat with Golda and Khayele at the foot of the mountain which abutted the lake known as Jezore. The sun was spending its last rays, which reddened the water of the lake. The birds leapt from bush to bush, raising their voices in song. On the other side of the lake, families of farmers were harvesting the golden–brown wheat. Their white clothes, made of simple cloth and handknitted by their wives, grew whiter as the day sank towards evening.

When their work was done, the men collected their tools and put their scythes on their shoulders. Their wives loaded the infants onto their backs and went singing to their small, peaceful houses.

We sat as if fixed to our places. Jealousy burned in our young hearts. We gazed into one another's eyes without speaking, and a sigh burst from my heart, accompanied by the cry, “My dear friends! This is how free men live on their own land! Do you see their tranquility of spirit? And what have we?”

At that very moment we decided neither to rest or to keep silent, but to begin concrete activities. Even if our flesh were torn by scorpions, we would work, we would devote our lives to our people and our land.

That same evening we went down to the tunnel. By word of mouth we summoned ten or so girls to a meeting. By some miracle, hordes of girls began to stream to us. We worked together in joy and understanding. We did not have many funds at our disposal; therefore, I taught Tanakh, and my friends taught other subjects.

Hebrew was taught by a teacher who was the only male in our organization.

 

Moishele the Teacher

Moishele the teacher was short and thin, with sparkling blue eyes. A light laughter was spread over his face, and signs of suffering could be seen on him.?

[Page 184]

He as an ardent Zionist; the fire of love for the homeland flamed in his heart. Moishele was born to poor parents who lived in a dilapidated wooden house behind the bath–house in the poorest part of town.

He lost his father while still a boy, and his mother was left destitute. Despite his great suffering, Moishele was very diligent and excelled in his studies. He sat bent over a gemore in the bes–medresh, and was known as a masmid. On nights when there was a moon, he studied outdoors by its light; on dark nights, he studied by the light of a candle obtained from his friends. In this fashion, he perfected his knowledge of four languages, all of which he knew perfectly. He was outstanding as a grammarian, even unto the details of the soul.

I recall the time he appeared in a new suit, the first of his life. He was then about twenty–five. There was no end to his joy. He did not wear the suitcoat, but hung it over his shoulders like a collar, in order not to spoil it. Woe to whomever dared touch the hem of this coat! But not from evil–heartedness, for he was gentle and good–hearted by nature, and would never harm a fly.

His students loved to joke, feeling the fabric and examining its quality. How much pain we caused him! We were too young to understand how much toil and sweat had been invested in this suit, how much he suffered to save the sum required to buy it and to get rid of the rag he had worn all his life.

Let all of us who knew him extol his memory. He gave his body and soul for the sanctity of every word, every letter of our language, and he taught its laws to many in our town.

 

We Hope to Make It Bear Fruit

We bore the yoke of the organization with our own strength. We called it Ozrot Ha–Aretz (Helpers of the Land). We cultivated it and hoped to make it fruitful. We contacted the Mizrahi in Warsaw and asked them for help, but we did not really receive any. What we did get were Shekels – membership certificates – which we were supposed to distribute. We fulfilled our task faithfully.

Perhaps the Mizrahi was also short of funds at that time. We therefore worked with our own forces. With great labour we piled one layer of bricks upon another, until the structure was completed. Were it not for the incident which revealed our activities to the townspeople, we would have continued until we attained to the realization of our ambitions, the emigration of religious pioneer girls from Kozienice to Israel.

I wrote a play entitled The War Between Sisera and Deborah the Prophetess. I did not know at the time that I, too, was prophesying the future, for several years later the Kozienicer Rebbe purchased Harosheth–ha–goyim, now Kfar Hasidim, for purposes of settlement. I wrote out the parts and read them to my friends, who became quite enthusiastic. We collected some money, which barely covered the expenses involved, and prepared energetically to mount the play. It was presented with great splendour, and its success exceeded all expectations. Its praise was the word of the day.

[Page 185]

The Secret Revealed, The Troubles Begin

The secret seeped through the walls of our organization, marking the beginning of our troubles. When word of our activities, which were not to their liking anyhow, reached the parents of the girls, especially the very religious and the assimilationists, they forbade the girls to participate in the organization.

Thus the first structure of its type – of religious Zionist girls in Poland – crumbled, despite the fact that the rav of Gombin, Ha–Rav Avida, who was known for his love of every manifestation of religious Zionism, praised us at one of the congresses.

“Among the women present,” he said, “there is a unique representative who has been sent by an organization of religious girls founded by the daughter of the Kozienicer Rebbe. A revolution has broken out among the pure women of Israel, and the girl who brought this revolution about is called Khave.”

“May all the daughters of Israel walk in her path. Let them work together with us in order to educate a generation faithful to our people and our land … Let us help them in this exalted task, let us hold their hands with all our might.”

 

The Candle Goes Out

His voice was that of one crying in the wilderness, for his call did not lead to action. The persecutions on the one hand, the help we failed to get on the other, weakened us and caused our hands to shake.

The candle lit by girls devoted to their people and religion in the great darkness prevailing in Poland went slowly out. The destroyer mounted the wonderful structure erected by me and my enlightened and active friends.

I am sorry for my dear friends Golda and Khaye, and for the rest of the girls destroyed by the terrible cruelty of the enemy.

My heart sickens that you did not attain to live in our liberated homeland, for which you sacrificed the best part of your youth.

Your memory will not leave our hearts forever.


[Page 186]

The First Two Khalutzim Make Aliyah

by Elimelekh Feigenbaum, Ramat–Gan

In March, 1921, I left Kozienice and went to my brother Moishe–Hersch in Warsaw.

In July, 1922, I found myself in Radom with my father. He told me that Itche Blatman and a young man from Radom named Goldberg were preparing to go to Israel illegally.

 

We Fantasized About Israel

As is well–known, our family was inclined to Zionism. As early as 1917, at the time of the Austrian occupation, a branch of the Mizrahi organization was formed in Kozienice. Its meeting hall was not far from Magitowa Street.

We young men who were learning in the bes–medresh went over to the Mizrahi hall with our gemoras in our hands; but there was a great distance between being a Zionist in Poland and actually going to Israel. We always talked a lot about Israel, sang Zionist songs, and fantasized about the country, but none of us thought of making aliyah.

We were bourgeois children. We never thought about work – our parents had already thought about it for us. We dreamed of rich matches and a couple of years of free study paid for by our fathers–in–law; of opening a store after a while, like all good Jews.

We had heard that there were pogroms in the Ukraine and that Jews were fleeing to Israel. This we could understand – those Jews had to go to Israel; we, the Jews of Poland, still had time. But all of a sudden, the question was put to me: there is a chance to go to Israel. There is no time to think – you have to decide right now. So we met with Itche Blatman and decided to go. But how was it to be done?

 

We Go

Goldberg from Radom proposed that we should go to a good acquaintance of his in Bielica and consult with him.

So we went to Bielica. There, we were introduced to a woman who had connections with the police, and who was going to supply us with passes and visas for Czechoslovakia.?

[Page 187]

We let ourselves be talked into it. We gave her our pictures and a sum of money, and she promised us that we would receive the passes within a week. After ten days had passed with no sign of passes or visas, we realized that we had been cheated. We no longer had any choice – we would go on and try our luck.

 

In Szczecin

So we left our money behind and went to Czechoslovakia. The border between Poland and Czechoslovakia was found in Szczecin.

We arrived in Szczecin at evening and went straight to the bes–medresh, where we found 14– and 15 year old boys sitting and learning gemora. They received us cordially, and began to ask us where we were from. We told them we were from Congress Poland, and they asked, “From Russia?” for until 1915, we were in Russia and they were in Austria.

One boy said that his father was also from Russia, and I asked him from where in Russia. “From Grica.” His father was a shoykhet, and he told me his name. I told him that I had known his grandfather and that we were related, and he immediately invited me home with him.

 

How Can It Be?

When I got to his place, I met his father's mother from Grica there. When I told her who I was, she told me that she knew my father, for my sister–in–law, Tzippoire, was a sister of her son–in–law, Yehoshua Werzheizer.

Needless to say, I was well received. I was invited to eat and sleep with them, but when I told them that I was on my way to Israel, the shoykhet became another person. How can it be that Itche Mordekhai Notte's son is going to the Zionists, sinners, the goyim in Israel? I explained to him that I paid no attention to such matters and that my father had agreed to my going, and he calmed down.

 

My Relative Did Not Want to Help Zionists

Szczecin was divided between Poland and Czechoslovakia. A small river spanned by a bridge flowed through the middle of the town. If one crossed the bridge, one was in Czechoslovakia. All the Jews living in Szczecin had passes and were able to cross the border.

Of course, my relative the shoykhet could have taken me across the border without any trouble, but to my great disappointment he did not want to help me cross it because he did not want to help the Zionists and he did not want me to become a goy at their hands. No matter how much his mother pleaded with him not to talk foolishness and to help me, it did no good. He did, however, promise to put us in touch with a man who would take us across the border for money.

[Page 188]

Crossing the Border

Since we had no choice, we agreed. We remained in Szczecin for a week. Sunday afternoon, Itche Blatman and I went out of the town with a sheigetz, into a small grove where Christians went strolling. The river which served as the border was not far from this grove – its other side was already Czechoslovakia. We wanted to cross it, but how? Among the strollers there were policemen who made sure that nobody crossed the river.

The smuggler told us to walk around with everybody else, and to follow when we saw him go into the water. When it had grown a little dark, we followed him into the water and crossed the border with no trouble.

It was already quite dark when we reached the other side. The smuggler led us into a dark room. On awakening next morning, we saw that we were with a Jewish family. They received us hospitably, taking an interest in our trip.

We stayed with them all day. That evening, we went with the daughter to the train. She bought us tickets, we got on, and we were in Pressburg the next morning.

 

In Pressburg

In Pressburg, we turned to the Mizrahi and the Agudas Yisroel because we had letters to them saying they should help us get to Vienna.

There was a Jew named Greenwald at the Agudas Yisroel who promised to help us, but that it would take a few days.

We stayed in Pressburg for a week. All the Zionists there belonged to the Mizrahi because they were all religious, but not as in Poland: they wore short jackets and had, almost all of them, been Germanized – they had shaved their beards.

We found a yeshiva where bokhurim were learning, all in short coats and Germanized. This was something new for me; clean–shaven yeshiva boys.

After a week, Herr Greenwald from Agudas Yisroel went with us to the police in Pressburg, who sent us out of Czechoslovakia, but to Austria, not Poland, and gave us safe–conducts.

 

How to get Into Austria?

The safe–conducts would take us to the Czech border and allow us out of that country, but how were we to get into Austria?

We got in touch with a Jew who introduced us to some Christian smugglers who would take us across the border into Austria. We gave the Jew a sum of money to be paid to the smugglers when they brought him a note saying we had crossed the border safely.?

[Page 189]

Very early on Friday, all four of us went out of the city and into a forest. We proceeded quietly until we came upon the border guard who was sitting behind a tree and holding a rifle.

The two smugglers took off. The soldier shot, but missed. Blatman and I stayed where we were, and he arrested us, but when we showed him our safe–conducts, he freed us at once and let us go.

We didn't know where to go, so we went back to the soldier and told him that we were on our way to Palestine and wanted to go to Vienna and proceed from there, but that we didn't know the way. We asked him to show us where to go.

The soldier understood and told us to go out of the forest to the Danube. If anyone was to ask us who we were, we were to say that we were out for a walk.

 

We Go To Vienna

We did as he told us. When we got to the Danube, we saw a mill with two men beside it in the distance. We went up to the men and asked them where the Austrian border was. They laughed at us – we were already in Austrian territory and had nothing more to fear.

We told them our whole story, that we wanted to go to Vienna, and from there to Palestine, but we didn't know the way and we had no Austrian money.

The elder Christian told the younger to take us to the train and buy us tickets to Vienna with his money. He bought us the tickets and warned us not to go into the station but to wait downstairs. We should go up only when we saw the train approaching. He waited with us until it arrived. An hour later we were already in Vienna.

 

Where Do You Sleep in Vienna?

When we arrived in Vienna, we began to look for Yekhiel Littman from Kozienice, whose address we had. We found him after great effort, and he was delighted to see us, but immediately began to think about a place for us to spend the night. In a big city, you have to show a passport to obtain lodgings, and we had no passports.

This was on Friday. It is worth pointing out that times were hard in Austria then. After World War I there was a great deal of inflation, unemployment, and hunger. There were Polish Jews from Galicia in Vienna, and the swastikaniks so agitated against them that every Jew was afraid to give shelter to an illegal Jew.

Yekhiel ran around looking for a place for us to sleep. Having no other choice, he had to take us into his room.?

[Page 190]

I Learn Carpentry

On Sunday we went to the Palestine office and told them that we had come from Poland and wanted to go to Israel. After great trouble and influence we were taken into Bet Ha–khalutzim.

This was an Austrian military barracks in which khalutzim who wanted to go to Israel and were waiting for certificates were housed. We finally had a place to sleep – but what now?

My friend Blatman left for Israel after two weeks. He had been assigned to a family … I didn't know what to do.

I had already met returning khalutzim in Vienna who told me that things were very hard in Israel. There was no work, and inasmuch as I had no trade, I should stay in Vienna, learn a trade, and then go to Israel. I let myself be persuaded, and stayed in Vienna learning carpentry for almost two years.

 

I Go To Israel

In May, 1924 I departed for Israel. During the two years in which I was in Vienna, I heard a good deal about what was happening in Israel and how hard the life there was. Many khalutzim who had gone to Israel, many of them suffering from malaria, were returning to Poland by way of Vienna. They cautioned me not to go, because I would not be able to endure the difficult conditions, but I was firmly resolved to go to Israel.

I arrived in Haifa a week before Shavuos. There were men standing in the port, laughing at us and yelling out, “Fresh victims!”

 

We Plant Tobacco

From Haifa we were sent to Rosh Pina, which has been founded by Rumanian Jews in 1883. There were forty colonists living there, and each one had Arabs working for them. The arabs received ten pounds a year, and used to work ten to twelve hours a day. They went barefoot and lived like animals.

We began planting tobacco in partnership with the colonists. They supplied soil and water, we supplied the labour. We received seven groschen a day, not in cash but in notes from Ha–Masbir. We bought things with these notes, but of course the merchants gave us whatever merchandise they wished to – rotten tomatoes and stale bread.

I spent an entire year in Rosh Pina and was married there.

In May, 1926 we went to Haifa because there was no longer any work for a Jewish worker in Rosh Pina.?

[Page 191]

Kozienicers in Haifa

In Haifa, I ran across the first Kozienicer Jews who had come to Israel with Rebbe Yisroel–Eliezer in order to settle the colony which the rebbe wished to found near Haifa under the name of Avodat Yisrael in memory of the Kozienicer Maggid.

As I had no work, and as my parents and brother, Aharon–Berish, had bought plots in the colony, the rebbe suggested that I go with them.

 

At the River Kishon

We came together one fine afternoon, about twenty Jews from Kozienice. We had rented a truck, and we took some produce and some boards with us.

When we reached the historic river Kishon, we all got out of the truck and the rebbe gave a fiery speech. He compared us with the Jews who came into Israel thousands of years ago under the leadership of Joshua. This day we were crossing the Kishon in order to found a colony of Kozienicer Jews and perpetuate the name of the holy Maggid.

In the distance we saw hills with old, broken–down cabins on them. It was explained that Arabs lived there. At once we began to prepare ourselves for night. First and foremost, we had to think about security, lest we be set upon at night.

 

One Big Swamp

Rebbe Yisroel–Eliezer was the commandant. He was responsible for security and decreed that each of us must stand watch for two hours. Our first night in the new colony was spent sleeping under the stars.

In the morning we got up and went to work. We had to put up barracks to live in, for in the meantime our families were still in Haifa, and some even in Poland.

We bought a horse and wagon to bring water and foodstuffs.

We started to look around, and saw that the whole terrain around the hills where we found ourselves was one big swamp created from springs of water and the winter rains. The swamps were home to malaria–carrying mosquitoes, and one of our members indeed became ill with it.

We built barracks, and our families came to the new colony. My wife did not wish to stay there, so we went to Haifa.

 

Difficult Conditions

The conditions in the colony were very hard. There was no money available with which to continue our work. The money brought from Poland had been spent and no new money was coming in.?

[Page 192]

They stopped sending money from Poland. The thought was that the Jews who had come to Israel first would prepare the site for those who would come later, but conditions were very difficult. The people were not accustomed to the harsh climate and the work in the fields.

Naturally, this was all sent back to Poland. This made a bad impression there, and the members stopped sending money. And so, thoughts of going to Israel were entirely forgotten.

Many people in the colony were dissatisfied, and several went back to Kozienice.

 

The Colony Builds Itself Up

But the colony built itself up. The Jewish National Fund came to the rescue: it helped drain the swamps and sent new people.

Kfar Hasidim stands there today. Beautiful houses have been built on all the fields and a big yeshiva and other institutions have been founded.

For all of this, we have to thank the fantasists, the “foolish Zionists” who dreamt of the land of Israel and whom the smart–alecks of Kozienice used to laugh at and ridicule.

Truly, it was at the cost of many sacrifices. I, too, offered up a sacrifice: my eldest son, Levi, was 23 years old when he fell along with thousands of other Jewish boys in the 1948 War of Independence. But all those who did not want to suffer and went back to Poland were, unfortunately, killed by the German murderers.

I have come to the end of my writing, and I hope that I have helped to immortalize our town and all its precious Jews whom the German killers so murderously destroyed.


[Page 193]

The Shul and the Bes–Medresh

by Yissokhor Lederman, Rio de Janeiro

In the memorial books published since the Holocaust, the two religious institutions of the shul and bes–medresh have been described and sung with love and respect. These institutions also occupy an honoured place in Yiddish and Hebrew literature.

It seems impossible to commemorate a Kozienice without the shul and the bes–medresh, for they occupied an honoured place in the life of the town.

I consider it my sacred duty to immortalize our bes–medresh as we remember it from the days of our childhood.

Every Jew – merchant and artisan, the poor craftsman and the worker – spent some of his time between minkha and maariv in the shul or bes–medresh. These two holy, religious institutions, located close to each other, were mentioned in the same breath. But what a difference between them.

 

The Shul was Tall and Made of Brick

The shul was tall and made of brick, with high, wide windows which were built two hundred years ago by the Maggid, and looked like a fortress from the outside.

There was a wide iron door at the entrance, which led to a large, wide, and dark anteroom. To the side of the anteroom was a dark, windowless chamber in which the stretcher for corpses, purification board, and utensils for washing corpses were kept.

Two large iron hooks were stuck on the side of the anteroom near the entrance. Old Jews said that years before a great iron chain in which great sinners were locked up had been welded to the hooks. This threw fear into children and adults alike.

 

Tales and Legends

Many stories were told in Kozienice about demons, spirits, and dead people who davened in the shul at night.

It was said that a Jew named Moishe–Mekhel was going by the shul in the middle of the night when he heard himself called to the Torah. He ran with great fear and trembling to the Rebbe Reb Moishele. The rebbe called the shamas, put the Maggid's cane into the Jew's hand, and said, “Knock on the door with the cane and go straight up to the table on the platform where the Torah is read. Without looking around, make the blessing for the Torah and go out backwards. But remember one thing: Don't let the cane out of your hand, and the shammas is not to go in with you.”?

[Page 194]

Fear to Pass By the Shul

Fear would prey upon those who had to go past the shul at night. Even those Jews whose houses were near the shul avoided the way by the shul, and used to go either from the side of Rebbe Reb Zelig Loser's or else from the side of the bes–medresh.

On this latter side, stairs led to the women's gallery of the shul in which there were half–moon windows from which the women could look down into the shul, hear the davening, throw nuts and candies at an ofruf, and on Simkhas Toyre throw down flags with red apples for the children. This was an old custom.

Everyone who visited the shul was taken with its beauty and suffused with awe.

 

The Shul was Famed for its Artistic Style

Before the great fire, the Kozienice shul had a reputation in Poland for the artistic style in which the Maggid had built it.

I recall how the old shul used to look in my childhood. On the eastern wall, in the middle of the ceiling, there were painted pictures representing the moon, stars, constellations, the Western Wall, and various animals. The pictures of these last were accompanied by biblical verses, for instance, under the deer, “Run like a deer, ” under the lion, “And mighty as a lion,” and the like.

Stairs led to the lovely platform from which the Torah was read. The chair of Elijah the prophet, used by the sandak (the godfather, who holds the baby) at a bris, stood near the table for reading the Torah.

On both sides of the amud and also by the ark were two large brick chests full of sand. They were used for the foreskins from the brisses, as well as for yorzeit and Yom Kippur candles.

Several chandeliers of varying sizes hung on long chains from the ceiling. Iron lamps and candlesticks were riveted to the walls. There were also round brick holes in which tallow and oil lamps were put on Yom Kippur.

The shul was so lit up on Rosh Ha–Shana and Yom Kippur as to throw fear and terror into people.

On Yom Kippur, generals and high Russian officials used to come into the shul for Kol Nidre.

 

Rebbe Yerakhmeil – Moishe Rebuilt the Shul

After the old shul burnt down, only the walls were left. Rebbe Yerakhmiel–Moishele rebuilt it, but without its former beauty, and even without the fear and terror of the tales and legends of the dead who came to daven and seek reparation for their souls in the middle of the night.

[Page 195]

In accordance with Jewish law, the shul had no mezuza on its entrance, and no stove for heat.

The shul was almost closed in the winter, being open only for shabbes and yontef both in the morning and for minkha – mayriv. The crowd was small, only simple Jews who considered it a mitzva to daven in the shul in winter. The khazan and Torah–reader were also simple Jews.

I myself was a Torah–reader for a certain time after my bar–mitzva when I was learning in the bes–medresh.

On shabbes, the rebbe learned in the shuL Of course, we always drank a le–khaim after the davening to warm ourselves up.

There were two siddurim and two makhzoyrim – a metre in length! – for the rebbe and khazan on the Torah–reading platform, as well as a register in which improvements to the shul were inscribed.

In summer, during the counting of the oymer, the shul was open in the morning and for minkha–mayriv.

On Shavuos and the Days of Awe, the shul was full to bursting with local worshippers and hasidim from all over Poland who had come to the Kozienicer Rebbe, Reb Yerakhmiel–Moishe.

The women's gallery was also full. They all came to hear how the rebbe said Akdamas or blew the shofar.

 

The Soldiers' Shul

Before World War I, the shul also contained a smaller shul for Jewish soldiers serving in the Smolensky regiment which was stationed in our town. They davened there on shabbes and yontef, and celebrated the Pesakh seders and yontef meals. This was supported by the congregational treasury. The soldiers had their own khazahim (cantors), a Torah–reader, and two sefer toyres.

The shul was filled with women and girls for the hakofes on Simkhas Toyre. They went to see how Jewish soldiers made hakofes and sang Yiddish and Hebrew songs. Many of them fell in love with and married Jewish girls, and remained in Kozienice, where they established their families, as for example, the Tabachnik, Zamoiski, and Spiro families.

 

The Two Shamosim were Absolute Masters

The two shamosim Oyzer and Khaim Frisch were the absolute masters of the shul. Khaim Shammes was a great wag who loved a drop of the stuff. He used to say that he was not afraid of the dead. True, he heard voices when he went to open the door of the shul, and these were certainly the voices of the dead; but before he knocked three times on the door, he took a good, stiff drink and went in spiritedly.?

[Page 196]

Thus did the old brick shul, Kozienice's holy of holies set, in its solitude and mysticism, apart from the daily bustle, act and serve as a ray of light in the life of the town.

Weddings were held only in front of the shul.

 

The Bes–Medresh was a Second Home

The bes–medresh influenced the entire life of a Kozienicer Jew from his birth until the last day of his life. The bes–medresh served every Jew as a second home; it could be said that it was the general committee in which every shade of spiritual and religious life was concentrated.

Everyone had his place in the bes–medresh, whether in the east, not far from the rav, as a fine, rich Jew; on or near the Torah–reading platform, or else by the western wall near the washstand where people washed their hands.

The bes–medresh was there for old and poor Jews, locals and visitors to warm themselves by the hot stove on cold winter days. Whoever had a cold house and a broken oven, whomever the poor life had chased from his house, went to the bes–medresh.

 

Zalman–Borukh Gives the News

Between minkha and mayriv, Jews from all classes used to meet in the bes–medresh to hear the world news from old Zalman–Borukh who read Ha–Tzfira and knew every minister or enemy of the Jews by name. He used to tell wonderful tales of far–off America, where they ate khalla during the week, and explain his hypothesis that the ten lost tribes had once lived there and that the river Sambatyan was certainly, located there.

People would listen and groan. A dear land, but what was the outlook for yidishkayt there?

Even Yoysef the judge would lend an ear and listen to all the news, and then brush it off. “A goyish land, America. Even the stones there are treyf.”

Elderly Jewish householders used to come to the bes–medresh to read a page of gemore or a chapter of mishna.

All year round, Jews would drop into the bes–medresh in the middle of the day to say a chapter of Psalms or look into a book of ethics.

On shabbes and yontef, a rabbi would learn khumash and medresh with the simple crowd. As payment, they supplied him with a living, with meat and fish for shabbes and yontef.?

[Page 197]

The Students Played the Most Important Role

The young students supported by their fathers–in–law played the most important role in the bes–medresh. Every father – even craftsmen – who but had the opportunity did all he could so that his son might learn with the rav or a good teacher in the bes–medresh.

The boys felt free from all constraints in the bes–medresh. They could come and go as they pleased, learn, or play cards with their friends to pass the time.

In the last years before World War I, the bes–medresh boys began to look at life through the eyes of secular books which they would read under their gemores. More than one scandal took place in which a boy was caught with a secular book. Slaps fell like rain. Nevertheless, the life, the nationalist and revolutionary movements of the Jewish street called the bes–medresh boy to help build and create a new spiritual life, to found libraries, learn a trade, and study in the big cities.

 

Two Maskilim

Bes–medreshniks were found on every level of political life. The bridge leading them to community life was Itche Krishpel and Simkha–Nossen Kestenberg.

Before World War I, Itche Krishpel had a food shop not far from the bes–medresh; the first library was established in his house. There, with the shutters drawn tight, he learned Yiddish and Hebrew with bes–medresh boys and workers.

Simkha–Nossen Kestenberg had been one of the hasidic youth around the rebbe, and even sang Menukha Ve–Simkha at the shabbes table. He later became one of the most devoted maskilim (enlightened ones) in town.

He rented an apartment back of the town in which bes–medresh boys and girls from religious families used to meet clandestinely. Simkha–Nossen gave them Hebrew lessons, ardently studied the philosophy of Nakhman Krochmal and Jewish history with them, and led discussions of religious and political questions.

Naturally, this made an impression in town, and more than one scandal broke out between parents and children.

Simkha–Nossen left Kozienice for Drilz, divorced his pious wife, and got married to the daughter of a wealthy man who came from Kozienice.

He founded a volkshule in Drilz, and his wife became a teacher of Polish. Someone from Drilz told me that he and his wife had two well–educated sons who were killed in the Spanish Civil War. Simkha–Nossen himself shared the fate of all Jews. In Treblinka.

[Page 198]

The shul and bes–medresh gave us all this. They raised generations of Jews in Torah and wisdom: scholars, rabbis, maskilim, heretics, nationalists, revolutionaries, and plain, ordinary Jews who built in all areas of Jewish life.

An evil storm–wind has torn it all up by the roots.

O for those who are gone and cannot be replaced.?


[Page 199]

Orthodox Kozienice

by Shmuel Reisman, New York

The history of Jewish Kozienice cannot emerge without reference to the activities of its Orthodox residents.

I will attempt to devote some few lines to the Orthodox Kozienice of the 1930's insofar as my memory does not lead me astray.

As is known, Kozienice gained a reputation in the hasidic world in the first years after the foundation of hasidism. One of the central pillars of the hasidic world was Rabbi Yisroel Hopstein, a student of Rebbe Ber of Mezritch, who became famous as the Maggid of Kozienice.

Jews from every corner of the world flocked to the town to take shelter in the rebbe's shadow and to ask for his help in times of need and distress.

 

Hasidic Communities

As in every city in Poland, there were different hasidic communities in Kozienice, each bound to its own rebbe, customs, and manner of prayer.

Hasidic life was organized around shtiblekh where the hasidim used to pray on shabbes and yontef, each community according to its fashion and melodies. Hasidim also went to the shtiblekh to learn Torah together, to listen to conversations and hasidic tales, to sing zmiros until late at night, and to take a morsel at the shaleshides.

On Saturday nights, especially in the winter, they prepared special, traditional food: potatoes with beet borscht and salted fish. At melave malkes they sang, made blessings, and rejoiced communally until the wee hours. The song Ish Hasid Hoyo was especially dear to them.

Similarly, the hasidim would go to the shtibel on the rebbe's yorzeit to rejoice their souls with a drink for the raising up of the rebbe's soul.

Particularly worthy of mention are the Gerer hasidim and their shtibel, which took in a large number of worshippers. It was first in the house of Pinye the builder, next door to the great prodigy, Reb Eliezer Reichappel (Eliezer Menashes), and later in the house of the gov Mlastek on Lublin Street.

Reb Moishe–Leib Dua was the gabbai. Among the worshippers were such acute and learned scholars as Reb Eliezer Reichappel, Shmuel–Moishe Korman, Yoyel Weinberg.?

[Page 200]

Porisower Hasidim

The Porisower hasidim must be singled out from the other hasidic communities. Their gabbai was Eliezer Bornstein. They used to come together on shabbes and yontef to pray and study Torah, and, according to their custom, on shabbes morning they would drink coffee together, learn Torah, and speak of hasidic ideas.

Their shtibel was in the courtyard of Reb Naftoli Rubinstein, who was outstanding in his expertise in Torah, gemore, and toysefos. Among the hasidim of Porisow I recall the prodigy Reb Yitzkhakl Pinczover.

 

Other Hasidic Communities

Aside from these two communities, there were also Kolibel and Piaseczna hasidim in Kozienice, as well as Rebbe Yankele's hasidim.

Even the Kozienicer hasidim were divided into two camps, the hasidim of Rebbe Arele, and those of his younger brother, Rebbe Elimelekh.

There were also societies for studying the mishna before davening. In the house of the rav from Czepelow, they also used to gather on shabbes and yontef – to pray.

On shabbes and yontef there were also minyanim in private houses, at Berel Rochman's, Bezalel Khlivner's, Nossen Flamenbaum's, and Pikolek the butcher, but by far the greater number was absorbed by the shul and bes–medresh.

 

There is No Forgetting Elul 12 and 13

Can any Kozienicer forget the days of Elul, and especially the twelfth and thirteenth, the yorzeit of the Kozienicer rebbe? Thousands of Jews flocked to the cemetery to pray and beg for deliverance. The Maggid's street was full of Jews in shtreimelakh, their silken capotes flapping in the wind.

Who is able to forget the Days of Awe at the time when Rebbe Arele and Rebbe Elimelekh lived in Kozienice? Or the way to tashlikh on Rosh–Ha–Shana with its singing and dancing, when the rebbe and his intimates walked at the lead of the procession, with almost the whole town behind them?

There were also bes–medresh students who studied day and night, among them authorized teachers such as Khaim–dovid Fruman, Moishe Katz, Herschel Weinberg, Moishe Bornstein (Alter Bornstein's younger brother), and Hillel Mintzberg, the son of the rav.?

[Page 201]

A younger group studied with the teacher Reb Bainish. Outstanding among them: Yoysef Gottlieb, Avrum Weinberg, Yoyne Gelberg, Shmuel Schwartzberg, Moishe Wildenberg, Avrum Katz, Mordekhai Korman, and left alive, Shmuel Reisman and Khaim Flamenbaum.

On occasion, Reb Bainish would take his students to the slaughterhouse to teach them when animals were kosher and when treyf.

 

The Activities of Agudas Yisroel

The vast majority of hasidic Jews belonged to Agudas Yisroel, which conducted extensive political activity. It invited lecturers, took part in elections to the Polish Sejm and the congregational board. Its representative in Kozienice was Moishe Goldzweig. It had been started by Yoyel Weinberg, the chairman, and his deputy, Leibish Reisman.

 

A Girls' School

With their initiative, the Bes Ya'akov girls' school was established, with Leibish Reisman, Yitzkhok Korngold, and Pinkhas Danziger at its head. The school was located in the house of Herschel Berman on Koscielna Street.

A teacher with a diploma from the Bais Ya'akov teachers' seminary in Cracow taught the religious and non–religious girls to read and write Yiddish, Bible, prayer, Jewish history, and modest behaviour.

The school ran cultural activities: plays and field–trips, and from time to time a presentation in the cinema. For these, religious mothers would put on their wigs and holiday clothes, and go to shep nakhes from their daughters. The plays I can recall are: Hannah and her Seven Sons, Judith and Holofernes, the Cantonists, Haman and Ahasuerus.

The religious girls revealed extraordinary artistic talent. Among those who stood out in this respect I recall Khane and Khaye Zuckerman (the granddaughters of Itche Leibishes), Yokheved Gozyczainski, Sarah Popielnik, Rokhel Brandschaft, Gittel Katz, Tzimel Zidenwerm, and others.

The school was on a high level thanks to the devotion of the administration and of the chairman of Agudas Yisroel, Reb Yoyel Weinberg, who neglected his own interests and devoted himself solely to those of the school. With state support lacking, the school based itself on contributions from its organizers, and especially from the Gerer hasidim, and attained a very high level.

The older girls were organized into the Bnos Agudas Yisroel, under the guidance of the teacher from Bais Ya'akov. They participated in all the political activities of the Aguda, established a library, and also sent girls to the vocational school for religious girls in Lodz, among them Mindel Medallion.?

[Page 202]

Tze'irei Agudas Yisroel

Male religious youth were attached to Tze'irei Agudas Yisroel, led by Yitzkhok Kestenberg and Herschel Weinberg. They conducted extensive political activities, such as gathering funds for Keren Ha–Yishuv, the distribution of the newspapers Togblatt and the Hebrew Darkenu, as well as the weekly Bais Ya'akov. They sent members to be trained in preparation for their emigration to Israel. Among them I recall Herschel Weinberg, Shmuel Reisman, and Nettel Goldberg (now Natan Gilboa of Tel–Aviv).

Moishe Katz was sent to the Agudas Yisroel teachers' seminary.

Tze'irei Agudas Yisroel ran a small yeshiva of 35 to VG students, with the famous scholar, Reb Yoysef Nashelski, as rosh yeshiva.

 

Mutual Aid

The care for one's own extended by Tze'irei Agudas Yisroel during the illnesses of Moishe Erlich (son of Nossen the blacksmith) and Moishe Goldberg (Natan Gilboa's brother) is worthy of note. Such aid also expressed itself financially.

In 1941, an epidemic of typhus broke out in Kozienice. The writer of these lines also fell ill with the disease. My parents gave way under the strain, but the members did not tire of helping me. Members both young and old sat at my bedside twenty–four hours a day, looked after me, and helped, me. Worthy of note among those who devoted themselves to saving me were Reb Moishe–Leib Dua, Reb Shmuel–Moishe Korman, and the younger, and older members of Agudas Yisroel. For weeks they did not leave my bedside. With the help of God, and thanks to the devotion of my friends, I recovered, and was fortunate enough to go to Israel and establish a family there.

There were also disagreements among the hasidim, in particular the political dispute between Ger and Porisow. The latter were opposed to the political ideas of Ger. According to the Porisowers, a religious Jew was forbidden to belong to a political party, and Agudas Yisroel was, in the opinion, an obviously political organization.

 

Reb Moishe–Leib Dua

I should like to take this opportunity to devote a few words to the activities and devotion to others of Reb Moishe–Leib Dua. Even in distant exile in Siberia, I was unable to forget him. He constituted the hospitality committee of Kozienice. Every Friday, the poor of the city visited his house, and he, in his patience, listened long to their cries, worried about arrangements for shabbes and Friday night, and put many of them up in his own house.

[Page 203]

He also specialized in medical help. His signature was famous. He ran around every day, sometimes late into the night, in order to extend aid to the needy. And he did so with no thought of reward.

He was also the town moyel. Eighty percent of the circumcisions in Kozienice were performed by him.

He also served as gabbai of the Khevra–Kaddisha, and tended to each corpse with his own hands in order to fulfil the mitzva of “the loving kindness of truth”. Reb Moishe–Leib accompanied the Kozienice Jew from cradle to grave with help and devotion. Even when the Polish government nationalized the tobacco trade and Reb Moishe–Leib's fortunes declined, he did not leave off his holy work. He extended help and advice in silence and in secret.

Jewish life in Kozienice flowed thus in its accustomed channels until the outbreak of the war when the Germans – may their name be wiped out – conquered Poland and destroyed the effervescent life of Jewish Kozienice, which was completely destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth.

We, who have survived, are obliged to remember. As it is written: “Remember what Amalek did unto you.”

Let us remember our brothers and sisters, our parents, our elderly and our babes who were slaughtered and burnt for the Sanctification of the Name because of their one sin – they were Jews.

May their memory be blessed.

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
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.

  Kozienice, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 15 Jul 2014 by LA