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[Pages 1, 3 and 6]

Foreword[1]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

If any person sheds tears because of a worthy
man, the Holy and Blessed One counts them and
places them among His Treasures.
(Tr. Sabbath 105 b)

A group of persons originating in Przytyk (Pshitik) have undertaken, in a spirit of awe and veneration, to record memories and collect documentary material and evidence for this Memorial Volume. During almost a decade they have assembled information and noted facts, until they reached the point where they finally felt they had completed their task and could present the work to the reader.

No fine writing will be found here, no gripping or thrilling romances. These pages have not been prepared by professional writers or authors, but by simple folk who describe as best they remember and as best they can the quiet and sometimes stormy life of the Jews who lived in their small town: How they worked, how they behaved and how they tried to solve their problems. The writers portray the spiritual experiences of their fathers, mothers and teachers; and the longing of the younger generation for creative activity and for productive change.

Memories of our secret yearnings and longing take us back to our little town with its Jews, its old folk, its leaders, its townsfolk of every kind. They were not reckoned among leaders or representatives, nor were there writers and spokesmen among them. Yet their essence was their uprightness, their simplicity and straightforwardness. They took burdens on themselves, they were prepared to make any sacrifice required to preserve what they held to be precious and for the principles they felt were of benefit to community and individual alike.

There are various definitions of the term “heroism”. Some claim that only open struggle, revolt, physical resistance, fearless and courageous face-to-face combat constitute heroism. Others claim that it includes acceptance of a situation, acceptance of an inevitable decree without fear or flinching in order to hallow the Divine Name; that being prepared to go to the sacrificial fires without hesitation constitutes the highest form of heroism.

In this Memorial Volume the reader will find both forms of “heroism” in our home-town. Men and women rose with superhuman bravery against

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pogromists, old and young, a tiny handful against a bloodthirsty mob. All of them alike went fearlessly forth and saved many lives by doing so. At the time this act of heroism enthralled the whole enlightened world.

Yet our fellow-townsfolk also displayed their heroism when they trod the road of anguish together with our European fellow-Jews under the Nazis. When there was not even the faintest spark of hope of remaining alive, they dedicated themselves to the Holy Name of God and went to the flames.

When they heard that a Partisan Underground was organizing in the forests of Kielce a number of men, women and children fled there, only to find an internal enemy, the Poles, who handed them over to destruction or destroyed them with their own hands.

*

Our forefathers first settled in Przytyk almost six hundred years ago. For close on thirty generations they dwelt there, developing the town and living creative and productive lives. Their relations with their neighbors were satisfactory, Quiet and peaceful contacts came about. The peasants of the region had their Jewish friends and called them by their first names: Yosek, Moshek, Shmulek as the case might be. The first local synagogue was built by a wealthy non-Jewish land-owner.

During the years before the Second World War, however, a kind of struggle raged between the Polish authorities and the Jewish townsfolk. The latter, who were the majority of the urban population, did their best to develop the town and deepen their friendly ties with the surrounding villagers. The local anti-Semites did their best to slow down the development and growth of Przytyk, though it was a major junction for the whole region and had all the possibilities of becoming a large city. This seems to have been the real reason for the anti-Jewish riots in the middle of the Thirties, when peasants incited by reactionary Polish nationalists attacked the Jews.

Six hundred years are no brief period, not only for a small town like ours but even in the life of great nations. Yet throughout this period the Jews preserved their traditional garb, their culture and manner of living, and passed them down from one generation to another.

When the Nazis came they destroyed all this and blotted out a history that went back all those centuries, leaving not even a vestige of that Jewish life, leaving nothing but the venomous hatred of Jews. After the War, when a survivor came to discover the fate of his family and friends, he was found

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dead in an alley. Another survivor who concealed his identity spent a few hours there and fled for his very life. A third, who had always regarded Poland as the land of his birth and home, was expelled in 1969. No memorial has ever been raised in memory of this group of human beings, who lived and toiled there for six hundred years.

Let it be said. There were some five thousand Jews in Przytyk when the war broke out. It is doubtful whether as many as a hundred and fifty survived.

We, the handful who are left, have decided not to allow our fathers and brethren to be forgotten or their memory to be blotted out from the face of the earth. And so we are offering them a Memorial in the form of this volume. It is our hope that it will serve as a kind of Eternal Light. Here the reader can establish communion with the memory of his family and kin who were destroyed. It can provide material to be read aloud at Memorial Meetings, and so on.

As far as lay within our power, we tried to include all that is still known and remembered by those who shared in the preparation. If we have forgotten someone, or if we have not portrayed him as he deserved, we are not to blame. Matters might have been more satisfactory if all those we appealed to for information had come to our assistance and provided it.

But let us be grateful for whatever we have achieved. We offer our heartfelt thanks to those offspring of Przytyk in all the lands of our dispersion who have helped us to produce this volume, and more particularly to: Shlomo Meir Pshetitski and David Freedman and his wife of USA; Dr. Shalom Honig of Indiana, who sent us microfilms from the YIVO Archives and pictures from the world press, dating from 1936–37; Shalom Velvel Tsimbalista, Haya Kirshenzweig of France and Hayyim Malzmacher of England.

Mendel Honig
For the Publication Committee

Tel-Aviv, January 1973


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This Foreword was transcribed from the English by Melvyn Maltz. Some typographical and grammatical errors were rectified. The English, Hebrew, and Yiddish versions of the foreword are equivalent translations of each other. Return


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A.
Between the Two World Wars

 

[Page 11 (H), 54 (Y)]

Przytyk in Historical Sources

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Przytyk – originally a city, and now a town, and the seat of the local council, located 19 kilometers northeast of Radom.

Przytyk is mentioned as a town in the 13th century. It received the rights of the city in 1333. For a long time, the city was owned by the Podlodowski family, from which the wife of Jan Kochanowski stemmed. In the 16th century, they laid the foundations of the Calvinist Order.

After the Swedish invasion of the year 1662, the city had 299 residents. On the land, which was then the property of the city, there were three estates that belonged to noblemen. There was a fourth estate with a small palace, “Portalitium Ostrow”, outside the city. There were 25 residents near the palace, and another 24 at the four mills.

There were 26 houses in Przytyk in 1667. In 1778, there were 130, and in 1827, 94 houses with 1,050 residents. In 1838, insurgents perpetrated a slaughter against the Russian Army next to the city. Przytyk lost its rights of a city in 1869.

Przytyk was destroyed completely during the Second World War. In 1960, after a partial restoration, Przytyk had 691 residents.

(From the book “Miasta Polskaja v. Tysiaclecie” (Polish Cities Throughout a Millennium), published by the Ossolinskich National Institution, Wroclaw-Warsaw-Krakow, 1965.)

Przytyk is an agricultural town, built of wood, founded in 1333 by Piotr of Podlodow (Janina Emblem). His son Jan already had a Podlodowski seal from Przytyk. The church, which was of Protestant affiliation, reverted to the Catholics in the 16th century. Most of the Jews of the area settled there. They conducted a wide range of commercial activities.

Przytyk is located next to the Radomka, 18 miles from Radom. The Podlodowskis headed the town until 1731.

(Franciszek Siarcinski, “A Description of the Radom Region”, Warsaw, 1847)

Przytyk lies on the Radomka River 19 kilometers from Radom. The entire population of Przytyk was emptied out during the occupation. This settlement served as a maneuver zone for Hitler's air force. The town was destroyed completely. Today it has been restored from the foundation.

Przytyk became a town at the beginning of the 14th century. In 1704, the Swedish King Karl XII passed through Przytyk with his army. On August 11, 1831, units of Earl of Württemberg fought with the Polish units.

(T. Blodorczak: Radom and its Region, Warsaw, 1956)


[Page 12 (H), 55 (Y)]

Jewish and General Factors in the History of Przytyk

by Jerzy W. Halbich

Translated by Jerrold Landau

When we began to collect material in 1963 for the memorial book of the community of Przytyk, our first activity was to turn to the town council of Przytyk. To our joy and surprise, we received an immediate response that the leadership of the town council had appointed an editorial committee to prepare the sources and photocopies in accordance with our request. Later, we received four articles and many photographs. The first article is a historical survey written by Jerzy W. Halbich. The second article, by Dr. Jozef Urban-Holan, deals with events in Przytyk. The third article is actually a collection of testimonies of Poles about the era of Nazi occupation. The fourth article discusses Przytyk of our times, Przytyk without Jews. For that reason, we did not include it in our book.

Of course, all of the aforementioned articles were written in 1963-1964 from a unique perspective with a clear intent of “historical emendation”. Nevertheless, we decided to publish the three articles in Yiddish and Hebrew without any commentary, as we received them. The reader, similar to a historical researcher, is responsible for sifting the grains of truth from the distortions.

There is no doubt that expressions of great thanks and gratitude are due to the group of authors for their work and positive desire to enrich the Przytyk book with historical material of great worth. We must thank: Jozef-Urban Holan, the chairman of the editorial committee, Stanislaw Czechowski, the chairman of the town council; Jerzy Halbich, the secretary of the committee; Franciszek Kocharski, the secretary of the town council; Jozef Czus and Genowefa Wyszycka. Danuta Kozel transcribed the articles, and Professor Jan Wysocki prepared the photographs.

1.

The Town of Przytyk, 17 kilometers from Radom, is located on the Warsaw-Radom-Opoczno-Lodz route, moving westward from there. The Radomka River, which used to be nicknamed the Radomisz, is within the bounds of Przytyk. There used to be many forests around the town, however after many years the forest was cleared and the area was turned into arable land. Only remnants of forests remain, called Zameczek, Ablas and Konar.

Many documents testify that Przytyk was declared to be a city in 1333, during the days of Piotr Podlodowski. In the early days, Przytyk was leased by the Podlodowski family of Podlow, whose coat of arms was Janina. This family gave rise to political leaders, mighty people, and influential senators. At first, the family members lived in Ostrow, today called Zameczek. The name testifies that this was a small-scale fortified city. Remnants of the defense ramparts can still be seen. Later, members of the Podlodowski family lived in Podgajak. Rights from the kingdom,

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which were received later, added to the importance of the town. Among other things, King Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk decreed at the Sejm of 1448 that that two annual fair days would take place in Przytyk (on the day of St. Wyt and on the day of St. Mikolaj[1], as well as weekly market days on Monday. This custom is preserved to this day.

In the ancient memoirs of Przytyk it is written, according to what is recorded in the memoirs of the Franciszek Monks of Lublin, that the brothers Franciszek and Szymon of Brzeźnica worked in Przytyk at making thin parchments for windows, which were used instead of glass in those days.

2.

It is a historical fact that in the 14th century, King Kazimierz the Great settled Jews in Przytyk, who occupied themselves in bee-raising and honey production. Their honey was known throughout Poland. The kings of Poland demanded Przytyk honey for their tables during their festive meals. Often, and with great will, the rulers of Poland would grant special rights to Przytyk, thanks to the efforts of the landowners, the Podlodowski family and later the Kochanowski family. Thus, for example, Przytyk was granted the right to collect the bridge taxes at the rate of four dinars from every wagon laden with merchandise. On the other hand, they collected six dinars from every horse or ox owner that crossed the bridge (Mytes).

{Photo page 13: The market square in Przytyk.}

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The Podlodowski family donated to the construction of the church, which was made out of wood. This building was burned down three times, and was re-erected from scratch each time. This continued until the year 1932. The worst fire was in 1894, after which the church was rebuilt anew. From that year, the residents stopped building their houses out of wood, and began to build them out of bricks.

As had been said, the Podlodowski family attempted to expand the city and to obtain additional privileges from the kings for that purpose. For example, Mikolaj Podlodowski, who was the regional minister in Radom, obtained from King Jan Kazimierz the right to establish czachs (guilds – a type of professional organization) of hide-sewers, tailors, shoemakers, weavers, smiths and various traders. The population of the “court” of the noblemen and the city grew, for a large portion of the population were Jews, whose main occupation was commerce. Many documents discuss the obligation of the residents of Przytyk to the “court” of the noblemen and the state.

Przytyk was designated as a city throughout several centuries. The kings of Poland would hasten letters[2] to Przytyk on days of vacation and holidays. They would often pass through the town at the head of their armies.

The final rights – the privileges – were recorded in the annals of King Stanislaw August, who in 1777 allowed eight annual market days in Przytyk (in accordance with the request of the kasztelan Kosweri Kochanowski). In the privilege it says, “Without causing damage to neighboring cities and towns, Przytyk is allowed to conduct commerce on set days”. In that document it also stresses that merchants of other nations, without any discrimination based on origins, are permitted to participate in the annual market days.

At the fairs they would sell grains, cattle, shoes, boots, textiles, and other merchandise. Life in Przytyk was organized in accordance with laws and statutes that had been set for hundreds of years.

After the fire that affected a large portion of the city in the year 1795, and as a result of the bans and taxes that were collected by the various armies that passed through the city, the population of the city dwindled. The residents were not able to regain their strength and status for a long time.

3.

There are several documents about the obligation of the Jews toward the “court” of the Kochanowski family, as is recorded in the year 1803:
  1. The Jews are required to pay to the “court” 8 zloty of “zasniowa” (crop income), 8 zloty of “płacowy” (wage tax), and five zloty of “bożnicy” (synagogue tax), totaling 21 zloty, for each lot.
  2. In order to retain a lot, the Jews are required to pay the price of four planks, the length of each being 9 cubits, for bridge repair.
  3. They must physically assist in the harvest for 200 days a year. The “court” will pay them 12 Polish groszy for each workday.
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  1. The Jews must undertake many missions, on foot or by horse, of a distance of two to three miles.
  2. The Jews must pay the “court” 7 Polish zloty per each 100 zloty that they receive for any lot that is sold.
  3. The Jews must give a special gift for Christmas and Easter – one funt[3] of spices from outside the country. The butchers must sell meat to the “court” at a low price.
  4. Every Jew who purchases a field and meadow (distributed by the “court”) from a Catholic must pay the “court” in the same manner as the Polish population.
  5. When the area of the cemetery is enlarged, the Jews must pay in proportion to the expansion.
  6. Jews are obligated to purchase vegetables from the “court” and to pay two zloty for each funt.
  7. The price of grains – wheat, cereals and barley is set according to market prices as prevail between the secular New Year and Easter. Payment is due on St. Marcin's Day.[4]
  8. For the liquor distilleries and the butcher shops (that are located outside the bounds of the “court”) the Jews must pay an annual fee of 6,500 zloty, in addition to spices (pepper, cinnamon, and other spices).
  9. It is forbidden to sell the manure of the stables and barns. It must be given to the “court”.
  10. The Jewish and Catholic bakers must mill their wheat only in the mill of the “court”. Similarly they must give over other raw materials. Any person who mills in an outside mill must pay a percentage to the “court”.
  11. The butchers in the butcher shops of the “court” must sell their meat and pay a fee according to the mutual agreement.
  12. Every rabbi of the city must pay 600 Polish zloty to the “court” each year.
  13. The Jewish merchants and shopkeepers must pay an annual fee of 500 zloty to the “court”.
From the above, we see that the Jewish population had large financial obligations to the “court”. However, throughout hundreds of years, the mutually coexisting Jews and Christians did not experience any disturbances or out-of-the-ordinary events. Incidentally, the Polish population of Przytyk and the nearby villages also paid taxes and donated workdays to the benefit of the “court”.

It is interesting to note that in 1815, an agreement was made between the “court” and the residents, with the goodwill of both sides, that instead of taxes and fees, a one-time annual payment of 1,200 zloty would be paid in two bi-annual installments. According to this agreement, the Jews would pay 1,000 zloty, whereas the Catholics would pay only 200 zloty. This money would be used to support the civic official and cover his office costs.

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{Photo page 16: The first electric mill in Przytyk, owned by Mendel Soltis (Malcmacher) – on the left.}

A. Wrotanowski, who served as the government appointed mayor of the city, arrived in Przytyk in 1818. During those days, the residents were worried about the decision of the authorities to turn Przytyk into a town. They were obliged by the district officer to sustain the civic administration with a payment of 1,200 zloty a year. The “court” then succeeded in actualizing its right. In 1824, the landowner of Przytyk-Podgajak opened a loan fund in order to help the residents. It is obvious that the bank took interest for its loans. The Jewish and Christian residents were unable to repay the loans and the interest, so the fund was liquidated. The Jews and gentiles complained strongly to the authorities about the high fees.

Another factor in the decline of Przytyk was the new road that was constructed from Szydłowiec, through Radom to Białobrzegi. The transport of merchandise took place along the new road, without going through Przytyk.

As is known, the city belonged to the Podlodowski family for a long time. Later

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the Kochanowski family took over the lease of the town and kept it until 1835. Since the Kochanowskis participated in the Polish revolt against the Russian rulers, their property was confiscated and sold to Lukasz Piura, a lawyer of the tribunal in Radom. In 1856, Piura sold Przytyk to Jozef Papajewski. In 1862, Przytyk was transferred to Rafael Konarski. In 1871, the leadership of the credit union bank sold Przytyk in a public sale so that the sums of the bank loans would not be disrupted. In this manner, the guardians of the Roszkowski, Sogotinczki and Golinski children became the owners of the city. Later, the city was sold to Jews. The new owners left the liquor still of Przytyk as well as the mill in Podgajak for themselves. They parceled up the land. The settlement of Podgajak was established in this manner.

5.

Przytyk was conquered by various armies throughout the centuries. There were the Tatars, Swedes, Russians, Germans and Austrians. Przytyk was conquered, its property pillaged, and large areas of the city were burned each time a war came to Poland.

In 1704, the Swedish army, headed by Karl XII passed through Przytyk, leaving pillage and destruction in its wake. In 1831, the Russian army of the Earl of Württemberg fought against the Polish insurgents in the fields of Przytyk. In 1863 as well, during the January Revolt, those same groups of insurgents fought against the Czarist army. The residents of Przytyk registered a fine page of history with respect to the two revolts against the Russian occupation. As a punishment for this, the Russian authorities revoked Przytyk's rights of a city. The city turned into a settlement, and it was forbidden even to set up a school there.

Przytyk took pride in the frequent visits of the well-known Polish poet and leader from the Renaissance era, Jan Kochanowski of Czernelica. The poet visited there frequently, especially when he was courting Dorota Podlodowski, who later became his wife.

I wish to bring down the following story, as told in articles and columns in Warsaw newspapers from 1881, such as Kurier Warszawski, Gazeta Warszawska and Nowieny.

In March 1881, the funeral of Dr. Adam B. Halbich took place. He was a unit commander (Polkowik) in the Polish army in 1831, and a communal activist who healed poor Jews for free throughout a period of 16 years. During the funeral, the Jews closed their shops, and the members of the community headed by the rabbi conducted a prayer in his memory. Then they accompanied the coffin of the deceased toward Radom with fiery torches. This is how they expressed their honor to Adam who related to them in a heartfelt way and saved the lives of many. In addition, he would readily assist impoverished Jewish ill people.

Dr. Halbich was brought to burial in the Powonzak Christian cemetery in Warsaw.

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6.

After the destruction of 1939-1945, it is now difficult to find any relics or memorial places of any historical value for both the Jews and the Christians. However, I will mention some that remain:

The small palace on Zameczek, which was built in the 18th century; the Lamos in Podgajak; The wooden altar in the local church; the place of the wedding of the poet Jan Kochanowski[5]; the inscription on the monuments of the Podlodowskis; a small memorial monument from 1842 in Podgajak; a memorial monument from the 18th century of the owner of Zameczek – Dzokota, who owned it for a temporary period.

What memorial remains of the Jewish population?

There is a Jewish cemetery with several monuments that were not destroyed. One of the residents has an oil painting that depicts the well-known Rabbi Szapira and his assistant as they are studying the Talmud. Several Torah scrolls also remained, which were sent to Radom in 1961.

There are two houses in the market square which are built in the unique style that was called “The style of Esterka”. Apparently, King Kazimierz the Great ordered that these two houses be built in honor of his beloved Esterka. Today there are two new houses in their place…


[Page 18 (H), 62 (Y)]

Memories of my Old Hometown

by Chaim Maltz of London

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I left Przytyk thirty years ago and arrived in London via Paris. I live there to this day. However, the pictures of my native town are deeply etched in my memory, and are unforgettable. I wish to put down on paper for our Yizkor Book some of those memories from my childhood and youth. Therefore, my memory takes me back somewhat to that era of childhood innocence, and of youthful enthusiasm and faith. I belong to the generation of the destruction – therefore let my words serve as a memorial candle for the elevation of those personalities that were with us and are no longer…

Two Generations of Jewish Soltises (a type of Leader)[6]

As I remember, Przytyk had always been a Jewish town, for its Jewish residents were the vast majority. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 95% Jews in contrast to 5% gentiles. In this context, it was natural that the Soltis was a Jew. However, how was it possible for such an important position to be in the hands of

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a Jew? Therefore the Czarist government and later the Polish government decided that there should be an additional Soltis, a gentile. It was forbidden to have full Jewish authority, even in Przytyk…

Approximately 60 years ago, my grandfather was the Soltis. This “legacy” passed on to my father of blessed memory at around 1910, and Moshe Pachanowski was chosen.

It would be possible to write an entire book about the term of my grandfather as Soltis. The following is an event that lives in my memory: The candlesticks of a poor Jew were confiscated due to a tax obligation. The confiscated candlesticks were in the hands of the Jewish Soltis. On Friday toward evening, my grandfather went to the Polish Soltis and explained to him the value of the blessing over candles. He asked him to “lend” him the candlesticks and promised that he would return them to his hands at the conclusion of the Sabbath. This indeed took place. The Jew indeed did not have the money to pay the taxes, but his wife had somewhere to place her Sabbath candles and recite the blessing upon them.

Przytyk, like other Polish towns, continued to develop, and should have already reached a higher status, that of a city, some time earlier. The giving of the entire administrative authority to the hands of the Soltises clearly demonstrated the intention of the central government – Russian as well as Polish – to maintain our town in the status of a town settlement. The Jews understood that a change of situation would mean giving the town a civic leadership with a decisive Jewish majority, with a Jewish mayor. The anti-Semites could not agree to this. Perhaps this is why Przytyk was one of the curiosities of pre-war Poland – a large civic settlement that was increasing in size, but that was lead by an official whose duties were appropriate to that of a town. Therefore the task of the Soltis in Przytyk was so important. My grandfather and father fulfilled this role with great dedication, serving the interests of all of the residents.

The Expulsion to Radom in 1914

In the first year of the First World War, Przytyk was turned into a strategic military point, according to the reckoning of several Russian generals. They deliberated and realized that the army of Kaiser Wilhelm will conduct his march on Warsaw through Przytyk. Therefore, they decided to fortify the town and to evacuate its residents. At the time I was a seven or eight year old child. I will never forget the image when the entirety of Przytyk, from its youth to its elders, Jews and Christians, men, women, and children with their meager belongings, set out for Radom. Some went on wagons and some by foot. Przytyk was completely emptied of its civilian population, of its residents who lived there for generation after generation. In their place, a great number of military men arrived.

A unit of Cossacks entered the town at one time even before the expulsion. They pillaged the shops, beat Jews, and lived up to their “reputation” through their wild behavior.

Even before the tribulations of the Cossacks were forgotten, Przytyk was conquered by the German army. They seemed like saviors in contrast to the Russians. However, not too long passed before they ruled the town with a strong hand. They set up a military police. They issued an order that potatoes, flour, hides, and various products and merchandise must be provided to the army.

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They treated Jewish smugglers with cruelty. However, in general, it was possible to reach an accommodation with them and to conduct business. Most importantly, there were no evil deeds and baseless attacks as there were during the times of the Czarist holiday.

In the interim, the Russians once again were victorious on that front. After the occupation (from their vantage point – the liberation) of Przytyk, the command to evacuate the town was issued, as has been stated.

The distress of the exiled Jews in Radom was great. Those who had some money in their pockets rented a dwelling or a room, and at least had a roof over their heads. On the other hand, those who were homeless – and these were the majority of the deportees – were not looked after by anyone. The situation was created that those who did not have a dwelling place or could not find employment were arrested and deported to Russia.

A Jewish tradesman or professional was able to find work in Radom and to earn a livelihood for his family. My father worked as a shoemaker, even though he still held the title of Soltis. All of our family and our relatives, approximately 20 people, lived in one room.

We returned to our former dwelling place in Przytyk at the conclusion of the war. The town was empty. Slowly, life returned to its normal cycle.

The Cheder and School

I wish to return in my memory to the cheder. I began to study with the aleph beit with the teacher (melamed) Velvel at the age of four. Rev Velvel was short with a flowing beard. He was poor, and he, along with his wife and children knew the pangs of hunger. Two of his children went crazy.

My second teacher, for Chumash and Rashi, was Reb Mota, a father of a son and two daughters. He was very poor, and his wrath was very great, which he poured out upon his students. Aside from this, he suffered very greatly from a foot ailment.

When Poland became independent in 1918, a government school was established in Przytyk. At first, the entire school was in one large hall, where all of the students studied together. As the school developed, they rented several rooms, with one room for each class.

This school was not at all representative of the population of the town. Orthodox parents did their best to avoid sending their children to the gentile school, even though there was a law of compulsory education for children of school age. However, an Orthodox Jew knew that there was an icon of the crucified Jesus or a picture of the Holy Mother in every classroom, so they attempted to the extent possible to not have their sons and daughters set foot in such an “unkosher and invalid” school. Therefore, the number of Christian students was almost equal to the number of Jewish students.

I was one of the first Jewish students in the public school. My father sent me to that school because he was the Soltis, even though he was not an expert in the craft of writing. Later, I would help him in his official office work. The principal of the school was a Pole,

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Zytzak. My first teacher was Swierczynska. When we reached the higher grades, only four students remained – a boy and three girls. The only Jewish student who completed all seven years was the writer of these lines.

The Zionist Organization

A Zionist group began to consolidate in the town already in 1918. Its members were Hershel Minkowski, Chaim Aharon Berkowicz, the Ryba family, Moshe Cuker, Yosef Duzy, and Yaakov Goltszewski. The first Zionist organization in the town was founded only in 1920. We obtained one room in the dwelling of Yaakov Golczewski, and began our activities. A library was also created in that room. We brought the books from Warsaw; however we did not have sufficient quantities for all who wanted them.

Reading books became quite fashionable at that time. Even more so, walking with a book under the arm became quite fashionable. On Sabbath afternoons, when the youth would gather in a forest outside the town, everyone had a book. Since the library director was not completely sure if the members truly read the borrowed books, she decided that when the book is exchanged, one must tell over the content of the returned book to the librarian. Otherwise, one would not receive a new book.

{Photo page 21: The means of communication between Przytyk and the places in the region.[7]
A wagon driver with passengers in Przytyk, setting out for Radom. The photograph was from the 1930s. One would travel by horse and wagon over small distances between nearby towns.
(One would travel over longer distances with covered wagons or buses.)
The town of Przytyk is known in Jewish history on account of the pogrom against the Jews that took place there on March 9, 1936. The Jews put up a strong defense. From the YIVO archives.}

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Once a week, on the Sabbath, lectures took place with the participation of local or visiting lecturers. The lecturers included Moshe Cuker and Chaim Berkowicz. The latter was one of the most active in our Zionist organization.

We would distribute shekels[8] in advance of the elections to the Zionist Congress. On every 20th of Tammuz, we would observe the anniversary of Herzl's death, and collect money for the Zionist funds. The hall was open every evening except for Sabbath eves, for we did not want to anger the Orthodox parents too much.

The Zionist organization, which was preceded by activists from the Czarist era (a few members of the Chovevei Zion organization), influenced the Jewish youth throughout the town through its wide-branched activities and its library. The youth began to think about and search for idealism, and to take interest in societal and political problems. Most importantly, the idea of national independence began to penetrate our hearts. The political lectures and the lectures about political topics attracted large audiences. The idealistic unity, which pervaded during the early years, also did its part in creating the attractive force for the movement. The friction and divisions in the central organizations, the schism with the Revisionists, the dispute between Yitzchak Grynbaum and Dr. Gotlieb, the consolidation of the workers' factions of Zionism – all of these left recognizable footprints in our city.

A Beitar[9] organization was established in Przytyk, which attracted a large proportion of the youth. Yitzchak Frajdman was among the most important of the founders of Beitar. The activities of the General Zionists were weakened because of Beitar on one side and Poale Zion on the other side.

Poale Zion and the Professional Organizations

The general situation of the Jewish youth in Przytyk during the 1930s looked approximately like this: If the father was a shoemaker, he wanted his children to continue in that profession – and he would indeed seat them on the shoemaker's bench. If the father was able to give his child over to be a student of a tailor, there was no bounds to the happiness of the father, even though he knew that the child would not earn anything for three years.

In our town as well, the Jews took hold of the traditional Jewish trades such as tailoring, shoemaking, fur working, and carpentry. There were two Jewish smiths, and a recognizable number of tinsmiths, butchers, village peddlers, milkmen and clergymen. Commerce was for the most part in the hands of Hassidic Jews.

Poale Zion grew out of this economic background. It attracted the working element that had a proletariat-Zionist outlook. Therefore, the party decided to establish its own professional union. The founders and activists of the union included Yosef Dozy, Mota Bornsztejn, Moshe Cuker, and Chaya Karszencweig.

They rented their first hall not far from the marketplace. They established a library whose books had social content. As was customary, they arranged lectures, clubs, discussions, and “question and answer evenings”.

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In 1930, the professional union, under the influence of the right leaning Poale Zion[10], declared a strike against the Jewish “factory owners” and … oppressors. Everyone, from young to old, stopped work, demanded a raise of salary and, first and foremost, an eight hour workday. During the strike there was no shortage of clashes, slander and scandals. This first general strike had great influence on the inter-factional relationships and raised the profile of the professional union and the party which backed it. On the other hand, the General Zionist organization was completely weakened. Several activists of the General Zionists could not make peace with its decline and the simultaneous rise of the professional union. In the town they murmured against these people; they whispered that they were the ones who slandered to the police, that they employed children and youths led to provocations, disturbed the public peace, and severely threatened the employers; they did not even let them work themselves.

Stormy spirits were awakened in town when several youthful members of the professional union received summonses to appear in court. There was a need for two trustworthy witnesses in order to prove that the accused were innocent of wrongdoing. On the day of the trial, tens of families hovered around the courthouse, for each child or youth had to prove to the Polish judge that he did nothing illegal during the time of the strike. To the good fortune of the townsfolk, the judge did not punish even one of the accused, for every imprisonment or even fine increased the stormy spirits of the incited Jewish population.

Jewish Communists

Young Jews with Communist outlooks belonged to the organization. To them, this was not just merely a professional organization, but first and foremost, a place where they could conduct their political activities despite the illegal conditions and persecutions that were their lot in pre-war Poland. There were rumors in the town that it was certainly several hot-headed Communists who perpetrated the theft in the Zionist library, and transferred the books to the abandoned and ruined depot belonging to Frankel, which was later set on fire. It was difficult to prove the connection between legitimate slander and fabrication regarding the professional union – and the act of revenge upon the books in the depot which was set on fire… It was difficult then to determine whose hand was indeed involved in all of these events.

After all this, the Zionist organization remained almost bereft of power.

After some time, the police closed the central professional unions and forbade their activities. The pretext was that the Communists ruled over the union. At that time, Beitar was one of the most active legal organizations in town.

The Mizrachi

The Mizrachi organization was also active in the town. It had followers among the religious youth and the Orthodox Jews with nationalist outlooks. The Mizrachi even had its own Hachsharah locale in a different town,

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for a youth who passed through Hachsharah had the rights to obtain a certificate for aliya to the Land of Israel. In order to obtain the maximum number of certificates, they would even fictitiously enlarge the number of participants in Hachsharah. A special emissary from Warsaw exposed the forgery, and the Hachsharah locale was closed down.

The Mizrachi youth and the older members of the Mizrachi party excelled in their dedication and action toward the idea of Zion. They had influence on a large portion of the Orthodox youth who would have otherwise come under the influence of the anti-Zionist Agudas Yisrael.

Poale Zion

If my memory does not mislead me, a Poale Zion chapter was founded in Przytyk in 1930. Its founders were the members Michael Pacanowski, Moshe Fuerst, Moshe the painter (I do not remember his surname – he was known by this nickname due to his profession), Blatman, Alter Kaufman (today in Paris), Hiller Strasman, and the writer of these lines (then – Malcmacher).

We rented a hall outside of town. We maintained our connection with Warsaw through Velvel Romanowski, a member of the central committee. As was usual, its beginnings were a library, albeit modest and small. There was no shortage of lectures. A ping pong table was brought into the hall in order to attract the youth. This was the first one in any party hall in Przytyk. We permitted ourselves to arrange dance evenings from time to time, but there were also serious activities, such as a mourning gathering and protest against the murder of Chaim Arlozoroff, and lectures on current events relating to happenings in Poland and the Land of Israel. The party also participated in the election campaigns for the Zionist Congress. Of the 250 shekels that were sold in Przytyk, the General Zionists received 70% and Poale Zion received 30%.

As in all of the towns in Poland, the party had to enter into a controversy with the Communists on one side and Beitar on the other side. Some youths, not from our members, participated in a gathering in honor of May 1, and were summoned to the police. We suspected that somebody from Beitar informed the police about the celebration of the Workers' Holiday. As a result of this, as the chairman of the Poale Zion organization, I was punished with administrative detention for seven days. Indeed, I sat in the police jail for seven days.

Self-Defense and Opposition

With the increase of the anti-Semitic winds in Przytyk itself, and after anti-Semitic incidents in the neighboring settlements of Klwów and Odrzywól, we made the decision to establish an independent Jewish Self-Defense organization for ourselves. Our member Moshe Fuerst (died in Israel) participated in the active committee as a member of Poale Zion. All of the factions decided unanimously that the Jewish youths of Przytyk will oppose the ruffians and not permit them to harm Jews.

After attacks in the nearby settlements, the news reached us that on a specific evening, the ruffians were preparing

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to attack the Jews of Przytyk. In the wake of this news, the entire adult Jewish population went out in order to beat the attackers and… teach them a lesson. Even bearded Jews wearing kapotes (Hassidic frocks) carried stones in their pockets. The ruffians did not show up!

On the day of the trial, when the ruffians began to wreak havoc in Przytyk, the Self-Defense displayed its organization prowess and its fighting capabilities.

Two months after the regional court of Radom issued its verdict on the appeal of the Jews and Christians accused of participating in the famous pogrom of Przytyk, I left Poland.


There Once Was a Town…

by Chaim Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

With awe and trepidation, I bring forth my memories that take me back to my town. It seems to me that everything took place only yesterday. Everything that took place has passed like a comet, not to return. In my memory, the town appears, and its people appear on the streets as wandering stars that disappear in shame.

Who does not remember the days of youth? They were filled with countless tribulations, poverty, hunger, and hard work. In retrospect, however, they appear as years of splendor. All of the difficulties and tribulations pale in comparison to the general memory of the town which is well-guarded in the depths of consciousness.

Przytyk! It is a town like many other towns scattered throughout the breadths of Poland. Nevertheless, our town had a unique challenge in those far-off days.

The name of the town turned into a symbol and a warning for what was to come, as a fateful call to salvation from the danger of extermination. This command did not frighten the hearts of many, to our anguish and tragedy. We paid a very dear price for this.

Who does not remember the newspapers from the years of the 1930s with the giant headlines of the “Pogrom in Przytyk”; about the bravery and power of the zealous reaction; the “brazenness” (chutzpa) of the Zhyd Yechiel Lasky, who was brave enough to point a revolver and shoot into the agitated crowd, thereby preventing the rioters from breaking into his house?

Yosef Minkowski and his wife, may G-d avenge their blood, paid with their lives and were murdered in a cruel fashion. The trial of Lasky, who was found guilty and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment, exposed to the world the blatant and tragic travesty that was perpetrated against him and against the entire Jewish community of Przytyk. The Polish population threatened

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revenge incessantly, but was afraid of carrying out its threats, considering the abilities of the Jewish Self-Defense. Many rivers of blood flowed in my town of Przytyk during those days.

The voice of the Jews of Przytyk is no longer heard. They will no longer stroll between the oak trees of the nearby forest. The theater hall in the open hall of the firefighters will no longer hear the joyous applause of the Jews of Przytyk, who knew how to laugh and rejoice even in their pain and agony. The central well of the town will be orphaned of its erstwhile Jews, who drew their water from it. The flourmill continues to mill slowly as it did during those good days – but will not give its wheat to the Jews. All of these things took place a long time ago, and today – there is only the sorrow and the pain of bringing forth their memory. Scorched, oh how scorched, is the heart.


A Bundle of Memories

by David Maltz of Petach Tivka

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I will attempt to bring forth my memories in brief. My mother died when I was 11 years old, and we remained as two sisters and three brothers. Our father served as a teacher and a cantor. We went out to work at a young age due to the difficult economic situation. I began to work as a tailor. I married Tzipora Poznanski of the nearby town of Klwów in 1935, and moved there.

The tribulations against the Jews began one year later, and many fled for their lives. My wife and daughter fled to Przytyk. I remained in Klwów along with my ill father-in-law and brother-in-law. My father-in-law Monish Poznanski died when he was beaten by the gentiles.

The pogrom against the Jews in Przytyk took place approximately two years later. The Christians began their wild incitement against the Jews and overturned our stalls in the marketplace and the streets. They beat us mercilessly. I knew that the ground was being removed from beneath our feet. I gathered together all of the money that I could and succeeded in making aliya to the Land and meeting my brother Moshe-Shimon who had made aliya one year previously. From the letters that I received from home, I knew that the anti-Semitic wave was increasing and strengthening. However, I did not possess the money required to bring my relatives to the Land of Israel.

The events in the town during the German occupation will certainly be described by the survivors. It is fitting that their stories serve as a sign and a portent for the entire House of Israel.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The former is June 15, and the latter is December 6. Return
  2. I am not sure of the meaning of this. Return
  3. An obsolete Russian unit of measure equal to 409.51718 grams (according to Wikipedia). Return
  4. November 11. Return
  5. See the Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Kochanowski Return
  6. A Soltis is the official title of someone who acts as an intermediary between the community and the authorities. Return
  7. The photograph is from a newspaper, and the following text is the caption in the newspaper. The preceding text is the caption in the book itself. Return
  8. The shekel was the token of membership in the Zionist organization. Return
  9. Beitar is the youth organization of the right wing (Revisionist) Zionist movement. Return
  10. The country-wide Poale Zion movement (Workers of Zion) had divided up into a right leaning faction and a left leaning faction. Return

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