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[Page 145]

The Days of Anti-Semitic Rioting and Defense Against the Rioters

Translated by Miriam Bluestone

Edited by Rona G. Finkelstein

After the pogrom in the city of Psitik in the district of Radom in March of 1936 on the day of 'The Fair', on which were killed the Jewish shoemaker Yassil Menkovsky and his wife Chaya, and many Jews were wounded, some seriously, the anti-Semitic rioting increased all over Poland. The anti-Semites were annoyed that the Jews of Psitik had had the nerve to defend themselves, and had even given the rioters a beating, to repay them as they deserved. The uncontrolled outbreaks against the Jews covered a sizable numbers of sections in Poland. In Radzymin too, it seemed that anti-Semitism was increasing. In the streets were gangs of young Poles wearing the uniforms of the violent organization “Nara,” who provoked Jews and sought a pretext to physically harm them when they met them. Then the local leaders of these groups began to arrange gatherings in our city of groups from nearby villages, and they had speakers who incited against the Jews.

One evening in 1937 at the end of Shabbat, 8:30 PM, and the festive opening of the bazaar of the Jewish National Fund, to which were invited hundreds of citizens of the city, a telephone message was received from the starosta (head of the city), courtesy of his colleague in Wyszkow, that a convoy of hundreds of Naravitsim had passed through Wyszkow as the sun was setting, and they were heading for Radzymin. “I am certain that they are about to make a pogrom on the Jews of your city,” warned the head of Wyszkow. The starosta of Radzymin was a non-Jew, lenient towards the Jews and a devotee of the General Skladkowski (who at one time came out with the slogan, “to pogrom against the Jews -- definitely not. To destroy their stores and stalls please!”)

The starosta alerted Michael Kosover and explained the severity of the situation. He advised Kosover to cancel the festive opening of the bazaar to prevent the gathering of Jews in the streets. He advised them to shut themselves up in their homes and not go out during the night. It was not known at what hour 'they' would arrive from Wyszkow.

This news traveled fast among the Jewish inhabitants, who began to disappear from the streets. Gershom Hendil, who had accompanied Kosover to the starosta's house and had waited outside until the end of the meeting, advised Kosover not to depend on the words of the starosta, who had advised the local police officer to mobilize the police and to remain on guard, but to telephone the Senator, Rabbi Dr. Professor Moshe Shor and to inform him of all that was happening. From the house of the starosta the two of them hurried to the news office on Third of May Street. Michael Kosover as chairman of the local Zionist organization called Senator Shor and asked him to urge the head of government, General Skladkowsky, to intercept the convoy of Naravitsim on their way to Radzymin. Senator Shor calmed Kosover and assured him that he would take immediate action.

Within half an hour, armed police units in special closed trucks sped from Warsaw on the road to Radzymin and Wyszkow and overtook them. They met the column of hooligans about two kilometers north of the city, close to the house of Hanoch the blacksmith on the edge of the road from Wyszkow. They forcefully demanded that the Naravitsim disperse; when they refused, they beat them with clubs. They confiscated their vehicles, and many of the “braves”, thirsty for Jewish blood, scattered into the fields and between the houses and in the villages.

A night of dread and trembling enveloped the citizens of Jewish Radzymin. They all locked themselves up in their houses out of fear, and without knowing what had happened to the approaching convoy of Naravitsim. Many of them did not shut an eye the whole night. Young people stayed close to their old parents to protect them in case of trouble. Meanwhile, a few members of the Zionist youth groups and sport groups advised their companions to organize in groups, and in case of an attack, to prepare to defend themselves until the police responded, in hopes that the police would defend the Jews. It is said that the threat also became known to the city and to neighboring villages, and that people there were getting ready to help their friends.

In our area there lived about twenty Jewish families in five houses. From among them, fifteen people were organized, including my father, Abraham Kosover and his sons. The youngest of the group was eleven. Also with us were Leibel Yonish, Shimshon Dembsky, Aharon Leib Ribek, the blacksmith, the brothers Lerner, the shoemakers, two sons of Asher Gottlieb, the two brothers Florkovitch, the sons of the butcher, Meir Grosbard and others. Each of us had a 'weapon' in his hand -- some, a hammer, an ax, or others simply an iron pole or a heavy stick. We also had two pistols, one in the hand of Aryeh Leib Ribek and the second in the hand of Shimshon Dembsky, who was elected leader of the group of defenders in our area.

We separated into four units. Each one stood guard by the four nearest houses to be ready for the approaching mob. We agreed among ourselves that when a screeching whistle was heard, all the units would rush in that direction.

Meanwhile we learned that police reinforcements were patrolling the city, but nevertheless, several units of Naravitsim from the scattered convoy were successful in infiltrating the city. They reached the area of Stary Rinek, and they threw heavy stones into Jewish homes. Here and there they tested their strength and tried to break into houses, but they found the doors locked and bolted. They then decided to leave the area because of the noise and screams raised by the residents. Nevertheless several Jews were wounded because of broken glass. Wild Naravitsim also came to our area, with two riding horseback at their head. They tried to break into dwellings, but found the doors bolted. Shimshon Dembsky blew a whistle when he saw the riders and their followers. We advanced with the axes in our hands and with one revolver. Hearing the sound of the whistle, the rioters retreated, fearful that an armed unit was about to attack them. The next morning the wounded were brought for medical treatment to the local physician, Dr. Zeslavsky.

In this kind of environment we lived in Poland in the thirties. We, the Zionist youth, and many of the older generation understood clearly that the Jews had no future in this land, and that a bitter fate awaited them. We knew that our place was in the land of Israel. But we were not able to bring the mass of people to Israel, and the price we paid was annihilation.

Photo p. 146: Shepsel Radziner and Bunim Zisman, who defended the Stary Rinek area

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