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Hard years

The First World War caused severe damage in Łopuszno. In the vicinity there was a front line of Austrian, German and Russian troops. From December 1914 to Mai 1925 there were battles fought for the area around Łopuszno and the village itself became a front line. In December 1914 the Germans occupied Łopuszno and till February they fought there against the Russians. In February 1915 Łopuszno was almost completely burnt by the artillery fire. The Jewish synagogue and a church were burnt at that time.

During the military operations the civil records of Jewish inhabitants from the years 1913-1919 were destroyed. Only the “Book of death” was preserved, in which barber-surgeons and “corpse observers” Mordka Krajskopf and Szaja Jakubwicz recorded the causes of death of Jews from Łopuszno. Thanks to that book we know that the military operations didn't cause losses of the Jewish inhabitants because according to the records the people died then in natural circumstances.

In 1916 in Łopuszno died the following Jews: Chaim Gancarski of “heart aneurysm”, the baker Izrael Lewkowicz – of consumption (tuberculosis), Sura Frajman – of “old age” and Toba Grynbaum – of scrofula (lymphonodular tuberculosis).

In 1917 12 people died, among others: 100-year-old Laja Borensztajn, 93-year-old Jojne Oblęgorski, and also 18-year-old Icio Szkło and 2-year-old Herszla Brajbrot - of tuberculosis, 17-year-old Moszek Blumenson and 43-year-old Chaskiel Wikiński, who died of typhoid.

In 1918 three Jews died in Łopuszno: 32-year-old Jankiel Lewkowicz, 66-year-old Chil Linke and 45-year-old Moszek Strawczyński – of pneumonia.

Typhoid and pneumonia were the most frequent causes of death in 1919. Fifteen people died at that time, including two little children.

From the preserved certificates issued by the communal board we know that during the war there were also marriages contracted. In 1918 Haskiel Weltman married Idesa Podlińska and Judka Żelazo married Estera Cukier.

In 1919, after Poland had regained independence, life in Łopuszno began to return to normality. Five couples got married: Szlama Kenigsztajn with Sara Sosnowska, Moszek Podliński with Ruchla Borensztajn, Nuta Ścisłowski with Rajza Żarnowska, Syma Cukier with Krusa Aleksandrowicz and Calel Laskowski with Rachela Czerchowska.

On March 13, 1920 an incident took place in Łopuszno that shocked the Jewish inhabitants. In Piotrkowice, a village that belonged to the Jewish department, 9 Jews and 1 Pole were murdered and robbed. The investigation was conducted by the head of the investigating agency in Kielce – Zygmunt Krężel. The course of the robbery and the murderers – recognized by 9-year-old Cywia Piast - were soon found out. It turned out that the crime had been committed by three criminals together with Gypsies and the leader was a sergeant of a spare battalion who was later convicted by the military investigating magistrate. The other delinquents were convicted by a civil court. The murdered people were: Chaja Gromnicka, Fajgla, Chana and Jankiel Rozenzwajgl, Motel and Majer Zilbering, Moszek and Alter Szejer, Fajgla Pięta and Ludwik Smolarczyk.

 

Hardship and toil

The war caused great poverty among the inhabitants of Łopuszno. Its results were felt even long years after the war. In the whole commune the number of inhabitants significantly decreased – from 10038 people in 1913 to 6290 in 1921. Because of limits imposed on the local market many people lost their source of income, first of all craftsmen and Jewish merchants, who had to look for a job in other villages and towns. The number of Jewish inhabitants decreased over twice: from 1375 people in 1913 to 574 in 1921. During the whole 20 year-long period between the World War I and the World War II the commune didn't manage to reach the state of 1913. This process can be clearly seen in the table of the natural mobility of Jewish inhabitants of Łopuszno especially when analyzing the number of births from the years 1911-1912 and 1920-1921. Many families left Łopuszno in order to find a job in Kielce, Sosnowiec or Łódź. The census of 1921 showed that 5004 Catholics, 574 Jews and 716 Protestants lived in Łopuszno at that time. (Remember that in 1913 only in Łopuszno there lived 1115 Jews!)

597 Jews from the commune of Snochowice also belonged to the Jewish religious department of Łopuszno. Those who stayed in Łopuszno occupied themselves first of all with rebuilding their houses. With a lot of effort, a new temporary wooden synagogue was built at the expense of the whole Jewish community on the place of the burnt one.

The religious and social life deteriorated almost completely. The duties of rabbi were still performed by Majer Chil Kopel. The life of the religious department during the war was organized by a board, whose members were: Berek Feldsztajn, Zajnwel Wajnsztok, Ardorf Borensztajn, Godel Cukier, Moszek Aleksander and Emanuel Weltman, confirmed by the Austrian authorities on July 12, 1918. Because after Poland had regained independence Berek Feldsztajn went to Łódź and Ardorf Borensztajn died, the board continued its work in a limited committee and wasn't very active. In June 1920 there was a conference on organizing Jewish Communities in free Poland. From Łopuszno nobody participated in the meeting, neither the rabbi, nor any member of the board.

Such situation prevailed until the following elections of the board of the Jewish religious department, which took place on Mai 19, 1924. There were at first two lists of candidates presented but later on one was cancelled for formal reasons. On 26 September 1924 a new board led by cap maker Lejzor Rusinek took over the duties and the properties of the commune, which consisted of: a wooden synagogue, the rebuilding of which wasn't completed, rabbi's wooden house, the commune's stamp and seal, seven Pentateuch rolls and a velvet cover for the Pentateuch rolls. The board had 11 members. Apart from the president of the board – Rusinek other board members were: Herszel Rajzman, Dawid Borensztajn, Godel Cukier, Jakub Lewkowicz, Herszel Kenigsztajn, Szlama Zajączkowski, Moszek Aleksander, Chaim Weltman, Mnyl Waldsztajn and Chaim Lejbuś Żarnowski.

The budget of the commune for 1924 was particularly low. On the list of the fees paid for the maintenance of the commune figured 103 people who were to pay 755 zloty. The remaining source of income constituted fees for the kosher butchering – 876 zloty, for the cemetery – 20 zloty and for the ritual bath – 40 zloty. The most important expenses were: the salary of rabbi Majer Kopel – 720 zloty, of the ritual butcher Abram Luftman – 480 zloty, the salary of the secretary Roman Przeniosło – 200 zloty. Only 30 zloty was reserved for the repairs of the synagogue and for its heating and lightning – 50 zloty.

To the poverty of the residents of Łopuszno testifies the fact that great majority paid the annual fees of 2 to 5 zloty, which still constituted considerable amounts for many of them. The highest fees – 50 zloty were imposed on Lejzor Rozenberg – a sawmill owner in Ruda and on farmers and tradesmen from Snochowice and Wólka. The highest annual fee of all residents of Łopuszno had to pay Lejzor Rapport -15 zloty.

The following prices of the basic groceries illustrate the standard of life in August 1924 in the Kielce poviat:

 

Name of the article price unit
Herring 20 grosz unit
Egg 5 grosz unit
pearl barley 50 grosz kg
Rice 75 grosz kg
Wheat 24 zloty 100 kg
wheat bread 60 grosz kg
whole-meal bread 20 grosz kg
Butter 2 zloty kg
cheese 1 zloty kg
Hen 3 zloty unit
chicken 2 zloty unit
turkey 10 zloty unit
Duck 2 zloty unit
Beef 40 grosz Kg
Soap 1,10 zloty Kg
Salt 20 grosz Kg
Sugar 1,10 Kg
coffee 5 zloty Kg
Cacao 2, 50 zloty Kg
Onion 40 grosz Kg
potatoes 4 zloty 100 kg
notebook 5 grosz unit
newspaper 10 grosz unit
kerosene 30 grosz liter
Shoes 19 zloty a pair

 

Six years after the war there were only 14 registered craftsman's workshops in Łopuszno. There were no machines there and the products were hand made. Only tailor Calel Gruszka and shoemaker Icek Cukier employed 3 workers each. The following shoemakers employed 2 workers each: Jankiel Kenigsztajn, Lejzor Szczerba, Herszla Fruchta and Iser Trawa. Other shoemakers worked alone in their workshops. Surely there were also craftsmen who didn't register their activity. As late as in 1925, when the controls became stricter, they registered their workshops. In the first half of 1925 there were already over 40 registered workshops, ¾ of which belonged to the Jews.

Their own workshops had among others:

  1. Mordka Karjskopf – hairdresser (or actually the commune's barber-surgeon)
  2. Szaja Jakubowicz - hairdresser
  3. Samuel Rot – butcher
  4. Izrael Kapitulnik – baker
  5. Abram Luftman – butcher (or actually kosher butcher)
  6. Abram Ryng – glazier
  7. Manela Aleksander - glazier
  8. Szmul Szczerba – leather-stitcher
  9. Aba Goldberg – rope maker
  10. Lejbuś Promnicki – shoemaker
  11. Herszlik Frucht – shoemaker
  12. Szmul Cukier- shoemaker
  13. Iser Trawa – shoemaker
  14. Icek Aleksandrowicz – shoemaker
  15. Nuchym Zylberberg- shoemaker
  16. Lejbuś Borensztajn- shoemaker
  17. Berek Żarnowski – shoemaker
  18. Majloch Sosnowski – shoemaker
  19. Jankiel Kenigsztajn - shoemaker
  20. Aron Promnicki – shoemaker
  21. Aron Laskorczyński – shoemaker
  22. Mordka Grinbaum - shoemaker
  23. Chawa Aleksander - tailor
  24. Szlama Zajączkowski - dyer
  25. Calel Gruszka – tailor
  26. Szmul Frajmna – tailor
  27. Lejzor Rusinek – cap maker
  28. Izrael Weltman – leather-stitcher
  29. Sima Cukier – tailor
  30. Mendel Żarnowski – tailor
  31. Chaskiel Weltman – tinsmith
  32. Majer Sosnowski - tailor

 

After the death of rabbi Majer Kopel on August 17, 1925 the Jews of the religious department in Łopuszno didn't have a rabbi for over a year and the commune didn't have permission to hold elections. The board consisting of Lejzor Rusinek, Godel Cukier, Herszla Rajzman and Dawid Borensztajn led the economy in a very inefficient way. The president of the board – Rusinek used to leave Łopuszno for long periods of time. Irregular meetings of the board took place in his house because the commune didn't have its own seat. The records were kept by the Polish secretary of the communal office – Józef Przeniosło, who received a modest fee for his work. The only source of the board's income constituted fees for the kosher butchering and membership fees and as the Jews living in Łopuszno couldn't afford to pay the collector's salary, this function was performed by 3-month-long turns by each member of the board. The members of the commune were very reluctant to pay fees, mainly because of their poverty. In 1925 the amount of only 336 zloty was collected from fees whereas the amount of 1550 zloty was expected. Even the members of the board didn't pay fees. Out of the 3000 zloty expected from the kosher butchering 2705.25 came in. There wasn't any proof of illegal kosher butchering and the low income from slaughter was caused by conflicts between the board and the butchers, who for a few months sold kosher meat imported from Kielce, as a protest against too high prices for the kosher butchering in Łopuszno.

For slaughtering oxen and cows the butchers paid to the commune a tax of 6 zloty, for a calf and sheep – 2,50. For the kosher slaughter of a goose the inhabitants paid 40 grosz and for a hen 20 grosz. The money from the kosher butchering and the fees constituted actually the only source of the communal income. The money paid for the ritual bath and the fees for cemetery didn't come in to the board of the commune but was kept by the undertaker, the religious attendant and the manager of the mikveh Berek Żarnowski. The fees for marriages (40 zloty in 1925), for circumcising (20 zloty) and for koshering stoves 920 zloty) constituted the rabbi's income.

No wonder that the buildings that belonged to the commune that is mikveh and the prayer house, were in miserable conditions and needed an immediate renovation.

The function of rabbi was informally performed by religious attendant Majloch Ejbuszyc. He received from the commune a salary of 150 zloty a month. Majloch Ejbuszyc, who came from Szczerców in the Łask poviat in the Łódź Province, had been taught by rabbi Chmielnik, who testified that he possessed all the needed qualifications and could act as a rabbi. The words of a renowned rabbi were sufficient for the Jews of Łopuszno. Despite the official standpoint of the Ministry of Confessions and the Public Enlightenment requiring elections of a rabbi, the commune was reluctant to hold elections because a rabbi would have to receive a higher salary – Majer Kopel received the salary of 3000 zloty – and the commune didn't have enough money.

In February 1926 the staroste of Kielce commissioned an inspection of the economy of the Jewish Community in Łopuszno. It results from the report made by Edward Trznadel that the commune worked unskillfully and the Jewish residents of Łopuszno still felt the results of the World War I.

In the reports on the inspection apart from the command to put the management of the finances in order it was also required that the election of a rabbi should be held. The commune couldn't postpone the elections any longer.

 

The election of a new rabbi

On August 8, 1926 the starosty of Kielce ordered rabbi election in the religious department of Łopuszno. The preparations for the election lasted for over six months. There was appointed an electoral committee consisting of 7 members and 3 deputies. The president of the committee was Mnyl Weltman, son of Herszla and grandson of tailor Izrael. The right to elect a rabbi had all male Jews over 25 who had been living in the commune for at least a year. The electoral lists prepared on the base of nominal declarations were hung in the seat of the commune for 8 days. The candidates for a rabbi had not only to submit a certificate entitling them to teach the Jewish religion but also had to prove their command of the Polish language.

On February 10, 1927 a list of candidates for a rabbi in Łopuszno was hung. There was only one name on the list – a young, 23-year-old religious attendant Majloch Ejbuszyc. Why were there no other candidates? Because the Jewish Community was poor and the rabbi couldn't expect a good salary. The document certifying the command of Polish was issued by the principal of the school in Łopuszno – Czesław Kalita, who had been a private tutor of Ejbuszyc and who had written in his opinion that Ejbuszyc “made a significant progress in relatively short time.”

Later on, in the same public school Mejloch Ejbuszyc, already as a teacher employed by the local school authorities was teaching Jewish children their religion.

The elections took place on Mai 20, 1927 in the communal seat from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m. There were 83 voters, 78 of whom voted for Ejbuszyc and 4 against. One vote was void. The rest of the Jews who had the right to vote didn't participate in the elections.

In connection with the election of Ejbuszyc Jewish butchers Zsyman Gołębiowski, Jankiel Podliński and Moszek Podliński applied to the commune with a request to appoint a new religious supervisor who would control the kosher meat because the Jewish inhabitants began to buy meat in the neighboring towns not being sure if the slaughter was done according to the religious ritual. There was, however, no response to the request because the commune had not enough money to employ a supervisor.

 

Time of stagnation

In 1927 the board hired a room for an office of the Jewish religious department. The president of the commune Lejzor Rusinek used to leave Łopuszno for a long time and his duties were performed by Godel Cukier. Although not all members of the board were interested in the communal affairs, the board drew conclusions from the previous inspection and began putting the management of the finances in order. First of all, they reached an agreement with the butchers and for 1926 into the communal cash box there came in 6176 zloty out of expected 6500. It was, however, still impossible to make the members of the commune pay the overdue fees.

The work of the board was criticized for its being limited only to collecting money with no understanding of the religious needs of the society. The criticism concerned no interest in keeping the ritual bath and the prayer house in good conditions. Only under the threat of closing down the bath because of sanitary reasons the board decided to give 1000 zloty for its renovation.

The money was to be collected from raising the prices of the kosher butchering: 8 zloty for a cow and an ox, 3.50 for a sheep and a calf, 70 grosz for a goose. There were fixed also the prices of funerals – from 5 to 20 zloty depending on the wealth and of marriages – from 5 to 10 zloty. The poor didn't have to pay anything. At that time the salary of Mejer Kopel's widow was of 1740 zloty annually (she should therefore pay 145 zloty monthly but she had to provide for 7 children), kosher butcher Abram Luftman earned 2580 zloty, fee-collector Moszek Aleksander – 150 zloty and undertaker Berek Żarnowski – 50 zloty. Out of expected 1000 zloty from the communal fees for 1926 only 433.29 zloty came in. No wonder then that the communal budget still lacked money and the communal officers got their salaries very irregularly. Another inspection of April 1927 showed that in the communal cash box there was only 1.41 zloty.

The following year brought no change. The board of the commune, in order not to discourage members of the community, didn't synagogue fees but charged the fee to tradesmen coming from other towns to the market in Łopuszno. It brought about many conflicts because the tradesmen had to pay higher fees than the Jews from the commune. An average annual fee was of 10 zloty. More money was collected from the kosher slaughter. In the whole 1927 butcher Luftman killed 150 cows, 1000 calves and sheep, 700 calves not older than 7 days, 414 geese, 2000 hens, ducks and 301 chickens. The meat was consumed mainly by the Jews from Łopuszno. Non-kosher back parts of cows, cheaper than the kosher ones, were willingly bought by the Poles. After the following inspection the staroste of Kielce wrote in his report to the voivode of Kielce: The inhabitants are very reluctant to pay the synagogue fees, which have to be collected by force. The impossibility to pay the fees is explained by the argument that due to the wartime military operations the village had been completely burnt, which caused pauperization of its residents. The income from the kosher slaughter is so low that it is hardly enough to remunerate the butcher…”

The overdue fee for the years 1925-1927 were of 3115.21 zloty, whereas the communal expenses were increasing. The starosty of Kielce didn't agree among others to raise the pay of butcher Luftman explaining that he had additional annual income from feathers and other things of about 450 zloty a year.

In August 1928 the staroste ordered the commune to begin a renovation of the synagogue, which had already been in appalling conditions: a new floor should be put in the hall and a door; inside the walls should be plastered and painted and the stove needed repairing. The property of the commune constituted, apart from the wooden synagogue temporarily built after the war, also a wooden house in bad condition, where rabbi's widow Dwojra Kopel lived; 0,5 morg of land (morg – unit of land measure = 5600 cubic meter) used by the widow and religious attendant Berek Żarnowski. An equally rigorist order concerned the ritual bath. It was exceptionally agreed to continue the kosher butchering in a rented shed, inappropriate for that purpose.

In 1929 about 750 people belonged to the Jewish Community in Łopuszno but the number of inhabitants was systematically decreasing. The residents of Łopuszno and the neighboring villages still had to look for a job in bigger towns because small trade and the markets couldn't give many people sufficient income.

At that time the activity of Zionist organizations intensified. The greatest influence among the Zionists enjoyed rabbi Majloch Ejbuszyc, who led a fraction of the party in Łopuszno. The group had about 30 members, mostly young ones. Their activity consisted in raising funds in order to buy lands in Palestine and help immigrants. Another social organization in Łopuszno was a branch of the Central Union of Jewish Craftsmen in Poland. It was set up by: tailor Zyndel Goldbust, baker Chaim Lejbuś Zwierz, baker Izrael Kapitulnik, undertaker Szlama Zajączkowski, tinsmith Chaskiel Weltman, baker Szmul Berek Zajączkowski, tailor Szymon Cukier and shoemaker Mordka Fiszel Grynbaum. Łopuszno was a village of craftsmen. As many as 21 shoemakers worked there, a part of who produced shoes on order of larger producers; 13 tailors, 5 butchers, 3 bakers, 3 leather-stitchers (sewed tops of boots on order) and 12 glaziers. There were also representatives of such occupations as: undertaker, tinsmith, saddler, cap maker and barber. It was thought that a union of craftsmen would be quite active in such circumstances. However, the organization didn't show much activeness and from 1937 on it entirely stopped its work and was therefore dissolved with the decision of the starost. The constant pauperization of the inhabitants was parallel to the deterioration of the religious department. The board wasn't still interested in development of the social life, upbringing of the youth and the religious life of the commune. For example, they didn't give any money for charity. The society got stuck in stagnation.

Among the members of the board only Godel Cukier and Herszla Rajzman did anything in order to maintain the Jewish Community in Łopuszno. The others, busy with earning money, weren't interested in the social life at all. Even rabbi Mejloch Ejbuszyc himself didn't show much concern about the social life of the Jews. His activity was limited only to care about his regular salary and he often wrote petitions to the authorities for a pay rise. The starosty knew the situation of the Jewish residents and didn't comply with his requests. There was not enough money even for regular obligations of the commune. The rabbi's widow, who was provided for by the commune and who received her money very irregularly, started a small outfitter's shop so as to keep herself and her family.

In 1930 there was hardly any life in the religious department. There had been only two meetings of the board in the whole year. The situation could be changed only by appointing new people as leaders of the commune. Such an opportunity arose in May 1931, when the board elections were held. The electoral campaign that started at that time and the invalidation of the elections by the staroste made Łopuszno famous not only in the poviat.

 

Disputes in the commune

The old board of the commune, although not interested in organizing the life of the Jewish community in Łopuszno, didn't want to give up control to other, more active members of the commune. There began conflicts also between the poorer and the richer. For the first time in the history of the commune in Łopuszno a real electoral fight started. At first, the conflicts concerned the composition of electoral committee, which finally consisted of the representatives of both groups. On Mai 1,1931 two lists of candidates for the board were registered. Soon afterwards, however, the committee dominated by the board cancelled list number 1 supposedly because it included close relatives: Jankiel Gancarski and his uncle Aba Płuciennik. The other reason constituted the fact that on the list there were signatures of Jews who couldn't write: Mendel Żarnowski, Jankiel Poliński, Dawid Zylberberg, Izrael Strawczyński and Eliasz Frajman. The electoral committee applied for permission to approve an election without voting since only one list was submitted. However, the staroste of Kielce didn't make such decision because after Berek Całczyński had announced that he had collected the signatures himself it became clear that it was a case of electoral manipulations. On list number 2 – of the poorer craftsmen figured: Chaim Lejbuś Żarnowski, Izrael Kapitulnik, Herszla Rajzman, Icek Aleksander, Moszka Grinbaum, Lejzor Rusinek, Jakub Josek Lewkowicz and Zajnwel Wajnsztok.

On Mai 12 the staroste ordered elections based on two lists. The elections were held on Mai 20. Out of 125 Jews entitled to vote 94 made use of their right. List number one received 73 votes and list number 2 - 21. In the new board were the following representatives from list number one: Jankiel Gancarski, Aba Płuciennik, Icek Finkler, Jankiel Oblęgorski, Mnyl Aleksander and Szmul Berek Żarnowski, and from list 2: Chaim Lejbuś Żarnowski and Herszla Rajzman.

The new board took over its duties on June 21, 1931. The communal property comprised: a square of about 0.25 hectare, wooden synagogue, a 3-room-flat of the religious attendant, 3-room rabbi's flat, ritual bath, cemetery, 8 Pentateuch rolls (5 in the synagogue and 3 rented without charges), 18 pews and 5 tables in the synagogue, a samovar in the bath, a kettle a cupboard and a wooden case for money.

There were, however, protests against the results of the elections and the staroste started an official investigation in order to explain their course. The most objections were against Jankiel Garncarski. The investigation lasted for almost a year.

Majer Sosnowski claimed that he hadn't sent the electoral protest to the staroste and he didn't know who it had been written by, although the signature was his. He announced that there was no agitation in the communal office but Gancarski and Gawryl Kopel tried to talk him into voting on list number 1 outside the office. He could also see Jankiel Gancarski – as an electoral committee member - carefully examining the envelopes against the light by the window and earlier, in the rabbi's house he had threatened that he would remember how people voted.

Chaim Szmul Sosnowski testified that he didn't know anything about the case but he signed the complaint to the staroste because other Jews told him that second elections would be held if he did so. He himself, as a tailor-workman, would rather see in the board more representatives of the second list since list 1 included only the names of rich merchants.

Berek Izrael Borensztajn admitted that he wasn't satisfied with the presence of Garncarski and Płuciennik in the board, either. He saw Garncarski observing the envelopes against the light, too. On 14 Mai 1932 the staroste declared the results of the elections of 20 Mai 1931 null and void. Jankiel Oblęgorski and Szmul Berek Żarnowski appealed against the decision but the voivode supported the staroste's decision and the elections had to be held again.

During almost one year of its governing the board under the leadership of Gancarski caused disagreements among the people and wasn't able to organize the life of the commune. According to inspectors from the starosty, the people still lived in misery because their houses had been destroyed in the war and they didn't get any compensation. An income of the commune came mainly from the kosher slaughter and very low fees of the inhabitants. The synagogue and the bath were still in miserable conditions, although the material for their renovation had already started to be collected. The commune was still behind with the payments of the rabbi and Dwojra Kopel, who was treated badly and who still hadn't received 2300 zloty. The board moved a proposal to increase the prices of kosher slaughter. The rise, according to the board, shouldn't influence the prices of meat but it would help to pay the debts. The butchers immediately protested against the proposal. In nearby Radoszyce, where the kosher slaughter of a cow was more expensive than in Łopuszno and the butchers bought meat not from peasants but from agents, the prices were lower. In Łopuszno three butchers from one family fixed the prices of meat, which were lower than in the vicinity. The rise of prices wouldn't influence the non-kosher meat because in Ùopuszno, where ¾ of the inhabitants were Jews, there was very little demand on non-kosher meat. The butchers who were against the rise of prices explained that due to the long lasting crisis the demand on meat was lower and the prices of cattle were minimal, whereas the fees were too high in comparison to the prices. In Łopuszno, as it was written, mostly small animals were slaughtered, which was caused by the lack of consumers of larger amounts of meat. Because of high fees the butchers would have to limit the slaughter.

Some Jews started even having hens and geese slaughtered by a kosher butcher, who lived in Mnin, 7 km away from Łopuszno. Therefore the income from the slaughter fell instead of increasing. Also the butchers, attracted by lower fees, started going with their cattle to Mnin, which affected the finances of the commune. From 1 to 18 January 1932 in Łopuszno 18 oxen, 13 calves, 16 geese, 56 hens and 14 chickens were slaughtered. In the whole 1932 238 oxen, 538 calves and sheep, 456 geese, 2533 hens and ducks and 1480 chickens were slaughtered in Łopuszno. The situation improved only after the negotiations between the butchers and the board of the commune.

In the conflict concerning the income there came even to a fight between president Garncarski and butcher Abram Luftman about slaughter fees and the incident ended up in court in Niewachlów.

Moreover, Garncarski was accused of bribery and of ordering the communal officers to give him a part of their salary. To make the matters even worse, he demanded from the owner of a sawmill in Ruda – Lejzor Rozenberg – free services in the sawmill for lowering his high communal fee of 800 zloty.

On the list of the communal taxes prepared for 1932 from the 565 living in the commune Jews 232 were ordered to pay. On the list there were only 56 residents of Łopuszno, 68 tradesmen coming to the markets from Włoszczowa, 36 – from Radoszyce; there were also tradesmen from Małogoszcz, Przedborze, Krasocin and other towns, even people from Kielce. It brought about new conflicts and complaints about the high fees, the more that the tradesmen had to pay much higher taxes than the residents of Łopuszno, who usually paid 5 zloty. They were indeed poor, which can be proved by the fact that they didn't pay for graves at the cemetery simply because they didn't buy any! At that time a goose cost 7 grosz, a hen – 2 zloty, a turkey – 9 zloty, beef – 1.25 zloty a kilo, an egg – 7 grosz, pearl barley – 55 grosz and rice 80 grosz a kilo; a kilo of bread cost 40 grosz, a kilo of sugar 1.70 zloty, tea - 20 zloty and coffee 8 zloty a kilo. The situation of the Jews was strongly influenced by the economic crisis in the world and in Poland. First of all, the markets for the craftsmen's goods were shrinking because the village had less and less money. The only attempts to put the financial policy of the communal board in order under the leadership of Jankiel constituted an application for a loan in the starosty to finance the building of a synagogue and allocating 400 zloty to educate children from the poorest families.

 

Only one list

After the voivode cancelled the decision concerning the elections in the religious department in Łopuszno the following elections took place on 26 Mai 1932. This time only one common list was presented. The list included the following names: Jakub Josek Lewkowicz, Herszla Rajzman Chaim Lejbuś Żarnowski, Chaskiel Weltman, Herszel Kenigsztajn, Herszel Frucht, Mnyl Waldsztajn, Moszek Aleksander, Moszek Zylbnerberg, Eljasz Frajman, Zajnwel Wajnsztok, Icek Rozencwajg, Lejzor Rapoport and Szmul Szczerba. Jankiel Gancarski wasn't on the list. People described him in their complaints in the following way: 'He is such a man that everybody is afraid of him but everybody is also afraid to reveal what kind of a man he is.” Gancarski told people that if they didn't vote on him he would cause some unpleasantness if he could. He is said to have urged members of the Association of the Perec's Library in the previous elections to vote on him. As a security for fulfilling his promises he deposed with Chaim Lejbuś Żarnowski a golden chain, earrings, watch and the members indeed voted on him and persuaded people to follow him. Also the Association “Kultura” is said to have received 100 zloty for agitating for him. The cause why Gancarski didn't figure on the list was first of all the fact that in 1931 he was sentenced by the district court in Kielce to one year of imprisonment for forging bills of exchange, for illegal trade with hunting equipment and for selling ammunition to poachers.

Because only one list was presented there was no voting and the new board was composed of: tailor Jakub Josek Lewkowicz – as the president and Herszel Rajzman, Chaim Lejbuś Żarnowski, Szlama Zajączkowski. Chaskiel Weltman, Herszel Kenigsztajn, Mnyl Waldsztajn and Moszek Aleksander – as members of the board. It was a board of mainly young people (the oldest was respected in Łopuszno 60-year-old Herszel Rajzman, a farmer, owner of 17 hectares of land). All were loyal to the Polish state, only 32-year-old tailor Chaim Lejb Żarnowski was described as a communist hostile to the state.

 

On the verge of bankruptcy

The most important task of the new board was to put the communal economy in order and to find a cantor. The commune was involved in administrative lawsuits with tradesmen from Włoszczowa and Radoszyce concerning the fees. The debt resulting from the impossibility to collect fees was alarmingly growing; the people had not enough money to pay. Out of expected 1917 zloty for 1931 only 24 zloty came in. There was hardly any income from funerals, almost nobody bought graves. The communal budget was limited to the income from the kosher butchering, which was constantly deteriorating. The staroste ordered the constable of the state police several times to investigate if there was any illegal slaughter but it was never proved that butcher Abram Luftman was doing the slaughter without a receipt that a fee was paid to the commune.

In 1933 244 Jews were obliged to pay fees, only 63 from Łopuszno. From among the tax payers as many as 108 people paid the lowest fee – 5 zloty. 10 zloty annually paid 110 people. It is apparent that few people were able to pay more. The fee paid by the richest Jew from Łopuszno – Lejzor Rapport – was 50 zloty and the richest member of the religious department – the owner of a big sawmill in Ruda – Lejzor Rozenberg – paid 400 zloty. Every year 25-30 people were released from paying any fee because of their poverty. The total income from the taxes – 2550 - was enough only to pay the rabbi's salary. Other expenses were covered from the fees for the kosher butchering. On discussing the budget for 1933 the board had to take into consideration the pauperization of the inhabitants and fixed lower fees for the slaughter: from 6500 to 5000 zloty. At that time slaughtering of an ox cost 8 zloty, a calf, and sheep – 3 zloty, a turkey – 1.40 zloty, a duck – 50 grosz, a hen – 40 grosz, a chicken – 20 grosz and a dove – 10 grosz. Because of the fees for the kosher butchering the prices of poultry and kosher meat were higher for Jews than for Poles.

The commune owed in 1934 2400 zloty to the rabbi. Butcher Luftman received 1456 zloty out of 2360 zloty due. In 1935 he wrote a complaint to the starosty: “I've been a butcher for 28 years and never before have I lived in such poverty. They pay me 100-110 zloty a month, which is not enough for a family of 10 people. It's even not enough for dry bread. I live in misery and have impossible debts.” Also widow of rabbi Gabriel Kopel - Dwojra Kopel, who had 7 children and her mother-in-law to provide for, applied to the staroste to intervene about her payment because she didn't have any money to live on. The writing was sent gratuitously by Leonid Górski – the owner of an office where petitions were written. The staroste promised during his visit in Łopuszno to care for a regular payment.

At that time the debts of the commune exceeded 10000! The commune owed most money to Dwojra Kopel. The communal overdue debt for the …….skład!!! (jaki skład?-storehouse?) were of over 2000 zloty and this amount was impossible to collect. Neither the authorities of the commune nor the supreme authorities saw a solution. It was impossible to carry out the budget plan. The religious department was on the verge of bankruptcy.

The situation was even worsen by the fact that the starosty complied with the appeals of the neighboring towns and lowered their fees or released them from paying anything to the commune in Łopuszno. Tradesmen from Włoszczowa and Radoszyce had even ready models of appeals written in the same office. It made the situation of commune of Łopuszno even harder because its 75% of its budget plan concerned people without strong connections to Łopuszno. For example, tradesmen came to Łopuszno only once a week to the market and Lejzor Rozenberg – an owner of a sawmill in Ruda was a resident of Kielce. A tax was imposed also on the sawmill workers. A competition to the inhabitants of Łopuszno constituted not only people trading with cattle or flour but also tradesmen buying eggs, selling scythes or even soap. On each market there were 5-6 bakers from Włoszczowa and Radoszyce, tailors and shoemakers.

 

Conflict with rabbi

The commune of Łopuszno not only lacked money but there also existed a silent conflict with the rabbi. Finally, Abraham Luftman, who for 5 years had been an cantor in the synagogue and hadn't received any money for that, resigned and the commune was left without a cantor. Since the cantor's salary wasn't included in the budget plan it was impossible to employ anybody else who could lead prayers. On January 9, 1933 the board explained the need to find money for a cantor: 'A cantor is needed to conduct certain prayers in the synagogue, which don't constitute rabbi's duties. Due to lack of a cantor last year there were disorders in the synagogue because nobody wanted to lead the prayers for free.”

Rabbi Mejloch Ejbuszyc, although he was well known in the society, didn't gain any authority among the Jews in Łopuszno. He wasn't interested in organizing the communal life; his activity in the starosty of Kielce wasn't favorable, either. He was criticized by the inhabitants for frequent absence from Łopuszno without appointing his substitute. The communal board accused him of tolerating import of kosher meat from other communes impeding the income of his own one. Rabbi Ejbuszyc was interested only in his regular salary, which can be proved by his lengthy writings to the starosty with complaints about the communal board. He wrote that they didn't pay his salary on purpose although the income from the slaughter was regular. He even declared that he would become an honorary inspector of slaughter fees so as to control the income. There is preserved a unique and a very interesting record reflecting the relations in the commune of Łopuszno, testifying to how rabbi Ejbuszyc understood his duties. In December 1934, when the starosty didn't agree to give him a pay rise, Ejbuszyc wrote:

“I explain it to everybody who knows the Jewish law that the rabbi is obliged towards the Jewish Religious Department to fulfill the following things;

 

  1. Answer different questions concerning ritual issues asked by the Jewish people, which are frequently asked even several times a day (małes paskiene)
  2. Control over the ritual slaughter, everyday examining the knives
  3. Acting as an arbitrary court between the Jews almost every day (dyn-tojre)
  4. koshering stoves for the Pesach (Passover) and supervising the baking of matzoth
  5. wedding ceremonies and keeping civil registers

 

The above mentioned five points constitute my duties on the base of an agreement (ksaw rabonu) with the board of the religious department in Łopuszno. I can openly say that I do my duties faultlessly.

Moreover, there is only one butcher and I can't count on that he sees to everything, therefore I have to be present 5 times a week at each kosher butchering, which takes me about one hour.

Frankly speaking, the members of the board limit me in many ways not allowing to see many illegal things. I suggest that I should receive 50% of the monthly income from the slaughter because otherwise I won't be able to feed my family.

I inform you that I'm often absent from the board's meetings because the board is hostile towards me and I can't bear it as a clerical.”

The starosty knew, however, the relations in the commune and the state of the communal cash box and didn't comply with rabbi's request. What is more, it ordered him to explain his frequent absence from Łopuszno without formal asking for a day off in the communal board. He was also reminded that he had regular, although small income from teaching religion in the primary school in Łopuszno.

 

No chances for improvement

In 1936 new elections of the boards of religious departments took place in Poland. In Łopuszno a new committee was appointed under the leadership of Herszla Rajzman. Two lists of candidates were presented, the first of which was prepared by the communal board and the other was proposed by rabbi Ejbuszyc. On 27 August the electoral committee decided to cancel the second list because there were signatures of people who supported also the first list. After crossing out those people it turned out that the list was supported only by 11 people whereas the required number was 15. The rabbi didn't manage to find more supporters. Because one list was cancelled there were no elections held and the list was approved by acclamation. On November 30, 1936 the control over the commune was taken by a new board including: Jankiel Gancarski – the president, Izrael Kapitulnik, Chaskiel Weltman, Zajnwel Weltman, Mnyl Aleksander and Chaim-Lejb Żarnowski. The board took over the small communal property and faced a very difficult task to prevent the department from liquidation. The number of Jews in Łopuszno was decreasing. Moreover, the poverty was growing and there were less and less people able to pay synagogue fees. On the list of tax payers there were more and more people out of the commune. The starosty began to consider the liquidation of the department of Łopuszno and transferring the inhabitants to a bigger department of Chęciny.

The new board wanted to increase synagogue and slaughter fees but it met with a decided protest of craftsmen, who appealed for lowering the fees: “We kill only small animals, not heavier than 60-70 kg and we are in critical conditions because we can't even pay 5 zloty from such small animals.” Moreover, Jankiel Gancarski started using his position of the president of the board for his own purposes. In February a group of people from Łopuszno wrote a complaint about Gancarski: “Jankiel Gancarski makes people who he is angry with pay a fee that is three times higher than it was fixed. He says that he fears no one and boasts that as a leader of the board he must profit from it. He charges for iron things as much as he wants because he has many of them to sell.” The petitioners asked the starosty to organize a secret investigation. The complaint was signed by: Lejzor Rapoport, Icek Finkler, Chaim Szmul Sosnowski, Estera Gruszka, Ela Frajman, Jakub Oblęgorski and by members of the communal board: Izrael Kapitulnik and Jankiel Josek Lewkowicz.

In June 1937 the board decided to lower fees for the kosher butchering on the proposal of Izrael Kapitulnik, who explained “The people here are so poor that they go to other towns to kill the poultry since the prices are lower there.”

Another hindrance in governing the commune constituted the introduction of an act limiting the kosher slaughter in 1937. Jankiel Gancarski resigned explaining that the limits would allow, according to the fixed quota, an income from the kosher butchering of only 840 zloty, which absolutely wasn't enough to make a budget plan. The fees would bring 2000 zloty whereas only the rabbi's salary was of 2400 zloty annually, the salary of butcher Abram Luftman – 2350 zloty and Dwojra Kopel was to receive 500 zloty a year. Besides, there were also expenses on the secretary of the commune, the collector of slaughter fees, heating and lightening of the synagogue.

The resignation of the president wasn't accepted. Soon the authorities limited the force of the act concerning the kosher butchering and postponed the discussion for the following years. Nevertheless, the question whether the existence of a religious department in Łopuszno made sense was becoming reasonable.

At that time people lived mainly from small trade and craftsmanship. A source of income constituted the weekly market but the competition of small tradesmen from the vicinity was growing. There were no warehouses and no bigger magazines. One of the biggest craftsman's workshops – Izrael Kapitulnik's bakery was equipped with a 1.5 square meters brick oven, two wooden stirrers and he produced 320 kg of rye bread and 160 kg of wheat bread a week.

Before the war the Jews owned several dozens properties. At the market place lived: Izrael Kapitulnik, Mnyl Aleksander and Josek Proszowski. In Kielecka Street: Chaskiel Blumenson, Aba Płuciennik, Izrael Rozencwajg, Herszel Wikiński, Zysman Gołębiowski. The greatest number of Jewish properties was on Przedborska Street, on the area determined for Jewish settlements by heir Dobiecki. On Przedborska Street there was a synagogue. On that street there were houses of: Lejzor Rapoport, Ruchla Łaja Rapoport, Abram Waldsztajn, Jankiel Gancarski, Szaja Jakubowicz, Jankiel Podliński, Moszek Aleksander, Chana Cukier, Zajnwel Wajnsztok, Godel Cukier, Hersz Kenigsztajn, Majer Kenigsztajn, Josek Wrocławski, Majer Sosnowski, Majloch Sosnowski, Aron Promnicki, Berek Promnicki, Mendel Żarnowski, Abram Żarnowski, Abram Ryng, Moszek Podliński, Moszek Sosnowski, Wolf Sosnowski, Całel Gruszka, Szmul Frajman, Moszek Zylberberg, Eljasz Frajman, Jankiel Oblęgorski, Lejzor Rusinek, Moszek Goldlust and Eljasz Frajman. Rabbbi Majloch Ejbuszyc lived in the rabbi's house on the ground that belonged to the synagogue.

However, even owners of the houses weren't well-off. The situation of the Jewish inhabitants was getting difficult. More and more people were looking for a source of income out of their home town. The economy of the religious department crumbled into ruin. This situation prevailed until the World War II.

 

Towards extermination

September 1939 is a tragic date. Hitler's Germany attacked Poland. Already on September 5 German soldiers reached Łopuszno. An occupation began. The village belonged to the district of Radom. Since the beginning of the war there had been a gendarmerie station in Łopuszno. Soon afterwards the Polish and Jewish residents met with severe repressions. For the Jews of Łopuszno, just like for all Jews in the occupied Poland a time of ordeal began. Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews was being consistently carried out.

We know the tragic fate of the Jewish residents only thanks to scarce and scattered memories. Nobody recorded the war tragedies and the human memory turned out to be transitory.

In 1939 some Jews left Łopuszno and moved to their families in Kielce, Chęciny and Włoszczowa. In the village there stayed about 150-200 people. They were allowed to stay in their homes and to do their job. The school year didn't begin until October. The Jewish children didn't start school at all. One of the first restrictions imposed on the Jewish inhabitants concerned secret slaughter and illegal trade. Adolf Karl Landl, a gendarme cooperating with the Polish resistance movement, recalls that “No proofs were necessary, even anonymous denunciations were enough to convict a Pole or a Jew without a court procedure. Finally, the term 'secret slaughter' meant every slaughter of a pig or another animal, because the Polish inhabitants didn't have the right to kill any animal for themselves. I don't want to embark upon the horrible fate of the Jews.” The ban on slaughter meant that the Jewish inhabitants were deprived of kosher meat and the ban on trade – also of the source of their existence.

In the course of time the Jews weren't even allowed to leave Łopuszno. Their houses were marked with the Star of David. One of the tragic events is related to Janklowa's (Jankiel's wife, whose surname nobody remembers) excursion to get some food. She was on her way back from a neighboring village when she was noticed by gendarmes. At first, they beat her mercilessly and then threw her into a cage where they kept a trained wolf-hound, which bit people. The dog literally tore her. Her screams could be heard in the whole village. She was buried on the Jewish cemetery. Even long after the war people talked about the wolf-hound that terrified the whole vicinity.

Younger Jews were forced to work on building roads, on digging drainage ditches and on collecting ears of corn after the harvest on the court's field. They were watched by gendarmes. On their way to work the Jews had to sing in Polish. The Poles remembered the words of their song:

Śmigły Rydz didn't teach us anythin'

Then golden Hitler came and taught us work”

In 1940 Jews from neighboring villages were displaced to Łopuszno: from Piotrowiec, Olszówka, and Gnieździsk; among others the family of Rachmil Rajzman consisting of 7 people, four-member family of Welwa Szkło and 5 other families from Piotrowiec They moved into homes of Jewish families. The living conditions of the displaced families were critical. In the same year the gendarmes killed 10 Jews hiding in a bunker near Korczyn.

In 1940 the Jewish cemetery was destroyed. The stone graves were broken and used for a pavement of in front of the gendarmerie station on the market square. In 1940 three Jews, among them Jakub Oblęgorski, were arrested and transported.

In 1942 a horror began. The repressions intensified. The Jews were mercilessly abused and persecuted for minor infractions, for example for collecting ears in the fields and grinding corn in hand-mills. Among others the hairdresser Aniela Gołębiowska was arrested. There also began, in the beginning sporadic, and then more and more frequent shooting of Poles and Jews. Even a small offence was a good reason. One of the residents of Łopuszno witnessed as a child shooting of some older Jews. He says that he could see that horrible scene in his nightmares for several years. He may have seen the shooting of 13 Jews, whose names remain unknown, buried later in a common grave.

The executions took place usually near the Jewish and Catholic cemetery. There were at least a few executions next to the Jewish cemetery. In the records there is also a case of arresting and shooting a Jew by a Volksdeutsch - Otto Sufin. Behind the Catholic cemetery, where the Germans used to shoot people, there is now a monument commemorating the death of Poles and Jews, which was founded by the society of Łopuszno.

Officially, any contact between the Poles and the Jews was prohibited. However, acquaintances maintained contacts and traded with each other. The Poles gave food and the Jews occupied themselves with illegal craftsmanship. There was no distance between the inhabitants. Both nations suffered a lot from the occupier's repressions.

On March 17, 1942 the Gestapo and the police from Kielce together with the gendarmes from Łopuszno carried out mass arrests of several important residents of Łopuszno in order to intimidate the people. They imprisoned in Kielce chief of the commune of Łopuszno – Władysław Kaczmarczyk, the secretary of the commune – Roman Przeniosło, the priest of the parish Aleksander Jankowski, the headmaster of the school Jan Rubi as well as members of the board of the religious department – Jankiel Gancarski and Izrael Kapitulnik. From Kielce they all were transported to a camp of extermination.

In August 1942 in the General Government there began an action of displacing Jews to 65 designated towns. The tragedy of the Jews from Łopuszno began with an action of the Kielce Gestapo. All Jews were ordered to leave their houses. They were driven onto the market square. They believed that they had to go to the ghetto only for some time; they believed that they would return.

However, they never returned. 30 people, old and disabled were shot by the wall near the gendarmerie station. A few days later, already in September 1942 everybody was driven to Chęciny. Older people and children were transported by provided carts. From there they got to a extermination camp in Treblinka. One of the Poles, who was a child during the occupation, recollects: 'Before the transportation a neighbor came to my parents, undertaker Garlicki. He only said: “God bless you” and never returned.

The property of the Jewish families was given to families of German settlers from neighboring villages: Eustachów, Marianów, Ludwików and Antonielowo. After the war none of the former Jewish residents came back to Łopuszno. Such was the end of Jewish Łopuszno – the world of a difficult, industrious and common existence. In people's memory remain only creatures wandering about on muddy streets somewhere in heaven:

Janklowa, who delivered herrings on credit. “You'll pay when you have money” she would say and she could always rely on her poor customers.

Fiszel, who used to buy beans; some of which he managed to sell earning his living.

Izrael , who could bake such good bread that the Poles would buy it willingly

Manels from the shop at the bus stop on the market square, who always had a sweet for children.

Josek, who traded in oats with the heir.

Płuciennik, who had in his shop fabrics straight from Łódź

Gancarski – he had threads and material

Hunchbacked Szmul – he used to buy calves and sheep. He would wander about the villages and ask: Gotta'a ram for a pagan? And only this saying outlived him.

Zjawel – he made ice-cream loved by children.

Hairdresser Gołębiowska – good-looking, well-groomed. She and her husband weren't very religious, they had no children.

Before the cruel war there were no disputes and no distance between the Poles, Jews and the Germans living in the vicinity. They used to trade together, sell, and buy fluff, feathers, corn and fish. They used to have their old clothes re-knitted by the Jewish tailors even four times. Sometimes people say that at summer nights one could hear clink of keys in Łopuszno. This is the ghost of strange Chaja, who would go about Łopuszno clinking with keys and saying her strange poem:

Buy a green tail coat,

Warsaw tail coat,

It's goin' to be so

Buy, buy a Warsaw tail coat

Green tail coat…

Jewish Łopuszno doesn't exist any more.

 

The memory survived

Jewish Łopuszno didn't survive the extermination. After the war none of its previous residents came back to Łopuszno. Those who had lived there during the war - died. But the home 'shtetl' hasn't fallen into oblivion. Its memory survived thanks to sons and grandsons of the Jewish residents of Łopuszno, who searched for bread and work in Poland and throughout the world. Not only in Kielce but also in distant Argentina did they remember their grandmothers and grandfathers who once led their poor and industrious lives in the peaceful villages of Świętokrzyskie.

One of Abracham Kotlicki's sons – Mosze, a tinsmith, settled in Kielce with his wife Chaja née Grafinkiel. In 1920 he died of typhoid. He was then 38. His wife took over his tinsmith's workshop.

Almost everybody knew her in Kielce. Her nickname was Chaja Tinwoman. People were poor and would constantly have their leaky pots repaired. And she was very good at her trade – remembers in 2004 90-year-old Sinai Laichter – a honorary professor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who used to live on Mała Street in Kielce, near Chaja's workshop.

The Kotlickis were poor. Chaja's son Herszel, whose passion were bicycles, didn't feel like learning and began a traineeship with Josef Goldszajder – a master, a valued in Kielce painter and a known activist of a craftsmen's union. He learned a trade which proved very useful in his later life.

On August 26, 1938 Herszel Kotlicki married Sura Goldszajd ( born in Lopuszno in 1916), the daughter of a known in Kielce car businessman – Jakub – the son of already mentioned in our story Berek Goldszajd – melammed and a member of the religious municipal department of Łopuszno. Soon after the wedding Herszel Kotlicki went to Bolivia to look for a job. He returned at the end of August 1939. Then the war broke out. The Goldszajd family moved to the east but finally decided to come back. Herszel wanted to stay. Jakub and Rywka told their daughter Sura – you must go with her husband. They stayed. The family who returned to Kielce didn't survive the war. They all died in Treblinka.

With Herszel and Sura went Sura's brother – Aba Goldszajd. They were transported to Siberia, and worked in a mine in Czelabinsk. Already being there they still received postcards from their family in Kielce, sent from ghetto. Then the contact broke off.

In Leninabad in 1945was born Mosze Kotlicki. After the war they happily managed to return to Poland, to Gliwice. Herszel Kotlicki and Aba Goldszajd returned to visit Kielce. It was on 6 July 1946. In the city there was a terrible pogrom of the Jews on Planty Street. They escaped…

By the building of the court on Duża Street an old janitor recognized Aba Goldszajd.

“I recognize you, you are Berek's grandson”, and he hid them in his cellar. In this way he saved their lives. They spent three days in the cellar. That is why Berek Goldszajd appears again on the pages of our history. Nobody remembers the old janitor's name.

In 1948 Aba Goldszajd went to Israel. Although he was a tailor by trade, he started a bakery there and then a sweet shop. He had two children with his wife Sonia.

In 1948, in Gliwice, Poland, the light of the day saw Yaacov – the second son of Herszl and Sura. In 1950 the Kotlickis moved to Israel, where Herszel provided for his family by painting houses. Their sons studied electronics and in 1972 they set up a small company named Visonic, which after years became a world's leading producer of modern electronic security and alarm systems.

Moshe Kotlicki died in 1995. In Israel live his son, daughter and grandchildren.

Moshe's brother – Yaacovaacov – is chairman of the board and the company's owner. In his office there is a family tree on the wall, which as well as his beautiful paintings, which were made by his father Herszel, although he had never studied fine arts. Sura Kotlicka née Goldszajd, worked in her sons' factory nearly till her death in 2000. In Israel live also Yacoov's three sons and granddaughter.

* * *

A handsome 24-year-old man looks at us from a photo in the issued in 1935 identity card No.61of the Kielce Association of Cyclists; a confident look, wavy, combed back hair; signed – Herszel Kotlicki, born in Kielce in March 1911. A cyclist amateur, who in his amaranthine-green T-shirt would often cycle the Świętokrzyskie routes, whose friends used to call him Henryk, and that name figured in the identity card of the Polish Union of Associations of Cyclists, which entitled him to participate in the most important amateur races. The bicycle was his true passion till the end of his life. After many years people in Tel Aviv still remember the posture of an older well built man riding his sport bike.

It was Herszel Kotlicki who to a great extent saved the memory of Jewish Łopuszno. At the end of his life he began a meticulous reconstruction of Kotlicki - Wikiński family tree. Following the branches of the tree I traced back the history of the shtetl Łopuszno. It was thanks to him that the names written in some dusty records came into life and turned into real people who had once lived in Jewish Łopuszno.

In distant Chicago Nancy Gilbert, the daughter of Samuel – the grandson of Abraham Kotlicki, who used to own an oil factory in Łopuszno, initiated the difficult work of reconstructing the family tree. She found and encouraged Herszel to work. He picked up the phone and started writing to people scattered all over the world. Step by step, he traced back the history of his family as far as to his and his wife Sura's great grandfather tailor Izrael Weltman, who started our story.

Samuel Kotlicki was Max's son, who left Łopuszno to look for a job in the United States. Max was one of nine children of Abraham. One of his sons – Emanuel Kotlicki – after leaving Łopuszno made a considerable fortune in Łódź. Before the war he had left for Palestine. He had two daughters: Rywka and Chana, who happily survived the extermination camp and after the war lived in Israel. Their children live in Israel.

Another son of Abraham Kotlicki from Łopuszno – Dawid – had immigrated to Palestine before the war. His wife Rajzel remembered a lot and told the family history. Dawid had a daughter – Hanka, whose four children and grandchildren live in Israel.

Josef Kotlicki - Chaja the Tinwoman's son and Herszel's brother - was carried by his fate to Paris before tha war. He was a tailor, established his own tailor's workshop and then a shop. He had a daughter Helenn, who died very young, and a son Michel, who lives in Marseille and has three daughters.

Herszel's third brother – Izrael with his wife Henia and their two daughters as well as his sister Chana, who stayed in Kielce, were murdered in Treblinka.

Before the outbreak of the war in Palestine arrived Ichaskiel Goldszajd – brother of Sura and son of Jakub, the car businessman from Kielce. His father jakub was a Zionist who sent his son to Palestine so that he could build Jewish homeland. It was Ichaskiel who took care of his sister's family when the Kotlickis came to Israel in 1950. The descendants of Ichaskiel's two children also have their roots in Łopuszno. In Treblinka were murdered: Jakob Goldszajd, Sura Kotlicka's father and Yaacov's grandfather with his wife Rywka Smycha, his mother Lia ( Berek Goldszajd wife) and their son Chaim, who used to be a barber in Kielce, and their daughter Hanka.

* * *

Sura Kotlicka used to talk in Israel about her wonderful childhood and holidays in the country at her uncle's home in Łopuszno. The uncle, Fiszel Wikiński - Rywka Smycha's (née Wikińska) brother - was a poor tradesman and had a house in Łopuszno on Kielecka Street. Fiszel had also six children. Only one of his sons - David survived the war. He was in Oświęcim and then got to Israel. After the war he didn't tell anybody what he had experienced. His three sons have never heard the name Łopuszno. All they knew about their father was that he was born in Poland.

Another member of the Wikińskis found his family in Łopuszno. Dwora, the daughter of Chaim Wikiński – the brother of Fiszel, a shopkeeper from Łopuszno – married Menachem Bracławski, who in Palestine changed his name into Barlev. Their son, Haim Barlev, was a general in the Israeli army. He commanded many battles and became the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army. When during the Yom Kipur war in October 1973 in the Sinai Became very difficult the Prime Minister Gołda Meir called him from his retirement and entrusted him the function of the commmander on the front in Sinai. In Israel he is said to have saved the country. Later on Haim Barlev was the minister of the interior, the minister of industry and commerce and an ambassador in Moscow. He died in 1994 at the age of 69. His son Omer Barlev was commander of the Elite a commando unit of the Izrael army. He participated in the famous operation of rescuing Israeli hostages from the airport Entebbe in Uganda – 4000 km far from the Israel's border – in July 1976.

* * *

Soon after Herszel Kotlicki left for Bolivia in search of a job, in April 1939 his friend Szmul - the son of a baker from Łopuszno Izrael Kapitulnik, whom we have already met – followed in his footsteps. Herszel returned to Poland whereas Szmul stayed in Bolivia and later on moved to Argentina. There he married Rywka Krysa from Włoszczowa. For many years he organized the social life and was secretary of Jewish compatriots of Włoszczowa and Łopuszno in Argentina. He possessed a wide knowledge of Judaism, which he acquired at “cheder” in Łopuszno. His son Haim, born in 1944 in Buenos Aires, immigrated to Israel in 1963. There he was received by his father's friend Herszel Kotlicki. Haim Kapitulnik is a professor of pharmacology in the institute of medicine of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has three children and five grandchildren.

Szmul Kapitulnik followed his son Haim and came with his wife to Israel, where they died. Their sons, Haim's brothers – Izrael and Szaul live in Israel and their daughter Miriam lives in Argentina. It was Szmul Kapitulnik who saved the family photos from Łopuszno, which were kept and rendered available by Professor Haim Kapitulnik.

Other photos, among them a photo of Berek Goldszajd and his wife Lia, were found in…Brazil. Berek Goldszajd's daughter, born in Gitel, after she was married, and got divorced in Kielce , she went to Argentina and then to Brazil, where she married again and had two sons, one of who was a very successful barrister. She visited her family in Israel several times. The photos preserved in family collections constitute a proof of rescue. It was thanks to them that the world of the Łopuszno Jews survived in memory.

Sometimes broken threads meet again and lead to a new trace. It turned out that it wasn't an accident that Herszel Kotlicki came across Josef Goldszajder's workshop to learn the painter's trade. Josef was his uncle as his wife and Herszel's mother were sisters. Josef's daughter Dora, born in Kielce in 1913, went to Prague to study medicine. In 1937 she obtained her degree. She contracted a factious marriage and as Sławka Kleinova she fought in the International Brigades in Spain. She worked in a field hospital till the evacuation of the brigades to France. Since 1939 she had been working there as a doctor in a hospital by Paris, where she met her husband Andrzej Lorski. She organized the Czech resistance movement and in 1943, arrested by the Gestapo, she got to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was in block 10, where German doctors did pseudo medical experiments on women – prisoners. She cooperated with the Resistance Movement. Thanks to her reports the truth about Auschwitz reached London already during the war. She was sent to Ravensbruck and then to the camp Neustad Glewe. She returned to Prague but she was directed to France as a doctor of a repatriation mission. Since 1947 she had worked as a manager of an outpatients' surgery in the Czech Republic but at the beginning of 1950s she was arrested and imprisoned at the accusation of espionage.

After her rehabilitation in 1956 she came back to Poland and became a member of PZPR. She started to work in the Institute of Tuberculosis in Warsaw, took up a scientific work and wrote a lot about Auschwitz. Exhausted by her experiences, the camp, the prison and her illness she died in 1965 at the age of 52. Her briefly described life reveals the complicated paths of human fate. How many similar paths did the descendants of the Łopuszno Jews have to follow?

* * *

Nobody knows today how many descendants of the Łopuszno Jews live in the world. Herszel Kotlicki meticulously collected scattered around the world pieces of information about the living and the dead members of his family. Sometimes one could come across dim traces of those who once left Łopuszno.

Maybe this book will help to find descendants of the Aleksanders, Borensztajns, Cukiers, Fruchts, Gołębiowskis, Gancarskis, Janklewiczs, Płucienniks, Podlińskis, Wajnsztoks and others, who used to lead their peaceful lives in Łopuszno.

 

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