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The Second World War and the Holocaust {Cont.}


To emphasize the hatred for the Jews, here is a story about the treatment of a young Jewess, Gitel Shlosman, by a few Christian girls in Strzyzow. Shlosman left the town a few years before the war. She lived during the German occupation on Aryan papers. At the end of 1942, after the expulsion of the Jews, she came to Strzyzow to buy hides from the butcher Mr. Gocek on behalf of her Christian employer. Upon arriving in town she was recognized by a few Christian girls her age, who asked for her purpose for coming to a place where there were no Jews. Not withstanding her pretense that she did not know them, the girls did not leave her alone until she reached the butcher's store. They waited for her outside the store, and she was finally forced to escape through a back door to a village where she stayed overnight in a farmer's house. She left town early morning amidst great danger again, because the man who bought her the train ticker at her request had recognized her at last moment. The girls reported the incident to the German police, and the butcher complained to the merchant in Krakow for sending a Jewess who caused him entanglement with the German police.

That is how isolated Jews were pursued and hunted by the Poles, helping the Germans in their destruction.

The Rzeszow ghetto was set up in those streets which had been mostly inhabited by Jews before and the Nazis had concentrated all the Jews from Rzeszow and the nearby towns and villages. The living conditions in the ghetto was as in all other ghettos. The crowding was terrible. They suffered starvation, sickness, and hard labor, plus daily edicts and many other misfortunes. The worst of them was the frequent "Actions" the selections of transports to the annihilation camps.

The young people, upon arrival in the ghetto, were issued labor cards. The laborers were forced to work mostly in the stone quarry in Zarnowo.

The Nazis began the liquidation of the ghetto soon after the arrival of the Jews from Strzyzow. They were helped by Polish policemen and also by Jewish "Kapos" imported from Warsaw, Kalisz, and other cities.

The elderly were not sent to the annihilation camps but killed locally. If the younger family members refused to separate from their 1oved ones, the Nazis killed them together.

That way the whole family of my sister Nechama was killed together with my mother Yocheved, refusing to separate Killed were: My sister Nechama Bernstein, her husband Reb Yacov Itzhok, their two sons, David Dov and Elimelech Shlomo, and the little girl Bina. May G-d avenge their innocent blood.

The families of the people who worked outside the ghetto were put in the transports which passed Rzeszow on their way to the annihilation camps. They were taken to the railroad station at Staroniwa which was the second station to Rzeszow, on the Rzeszow-Jaslo line, where they joined the transports. Before boarding the train, they had to line five in a row. The first in the row had to pay fifty zlotys, per person for the fare, in total two hundred and fifty zlotys, despite the fact that all their money was extorted from them before in different ways and the possession of money was prohibited. People were killed for possession of money, Chaya, the daughter of Reb Aaron Deutch, was killed in the ghetto for possessing cash. Also Chaya Scheinman, Reb Chaim Mandel's daughter, and her daughter Frumet died for such a crime. And now on their last voyage to their extinction, whoever could not pay the fifty zlotys was killed on the spot. The wretched were led to the train in broad daylight in the middle of the street surrounded by S. S. men and Gestapo who kept hitting them with truncheons and riffle butts indiscriminately, women, children, and elders. If somebody stumbled on the way, he or she was shot and killed immediately. If the victims did not march in a straight line, they were beaten savagely. Relatives of the fallen were not permitted to stop for a moment to help their dear ones. They were forced to continue in line to the death train.

While the Jews were marched to the trains, sidewalks on both sides of the street were crowded with Poles who cheered this calamity of the Jews and jeered the afflicted, as it should be recorded for eternal abomination – the Jews were led to die to the sound of: "Your end has come, Jews!" After each such action, the road to the Staroniwa station was strewn with corpses.

After each selection, the lucky ones who remained to continue to work, were transferred to the eastern part of the ghetto until the next selection. It was called the ghetto of life. There were instances when those who remained in the ghetto succeeded in bringing with them family members and hiding them. But in their absence, the Nazis kept finding them and sent them away to their extermination. This happened to Chaya Rosen, the mother of the Rosen brothers.

The Jews knew about their fate. Nevertheless, they hoped, or deluded themselves, and believed, rather wanted to believe, the words of their tormentors, that the deported were only resettled to other places where they would be working. Upon arriving in the annihilation camps and before their annihilation, the Nazis forced their victims to write letters to their relatives who remained in the ghetto saying that they were working and feeling well. These letters were distributed all over the ghetto.

On December 11, 1942, only four thousand people remained in the Rzeszow ghetto which had thirty thousand people before, consisting of Jews born in Rzeszow and nearby towns and villages. On that day, the last transport was shipped out to an unknown annihilation camp. The camp in Belzec, where the majority of the Galician Jewry, including the Jews from the Rzeszow ghetto, were sent, had been liquidated already. The remnants of the ghetto in Rzeszow were put into a passing transport from the ghettos Tarnow and Bochnia. One hundred fifty people had been squeezed into each car. There were seven cars containing one thousand and fifty people.

From the ceiling of each car a rope was hanging, and the S. S. man announced that anybody who was tired of living can put an end to it with this rope. But the people still clung to their hopes. The last members of the Judenrat with its leader Reb Abraham Brav were also on this train.

Reb Samuel Felt, the young man, Itzhok Leib Rosen, his brother Samuel, and Chaim Adest, who were from Strzyzow, and one man from Bochnia who had jumped from trains several times before were in the same car. It was two o'clock in the morning. As soon as the train left Rzeszow, the man from Bochnia climbed over the heads of the people to get to the little window. Because of the density in the car he could not have done it otherwise. Then with pliers, which he had hidden in his clothes, he cut the barbed wire over the window and jumped from the train. After him two more from Tarnow or Bochnia jumped out. Zechariah Yaffe from Czudec, a little town near Strzyzow, followed them. He was the fourth man. Yaffe had survived the ordeal. Samuel Rosen and his older brother Itzhok Leib were the fifth and the sixth, the last ones to jump. They jumped despite the protests and shrieks of a few women who were afraid that on account of their escapes, the S. S. men would take revenge on the remaining victims. Chaim Adest, a healthy young man from Strzyzow had refused to jump despite the coaxing of the Rosen brothers. He was convinced that having a vital profession for the war economy (he had learned the plumbing and mechanical trade while preparing to make aliyah to Eretz Israel), he would get work wherever the Nazis sent him. Reb Samuel Feit refused to jump because he did not want to live anymore his wife Rachel, and their only son, Joseph, had been sent away in a previous transport. His younger daughter stayed behind in the ghetto and his older daughter escaped from the ghetto with Aryan papers, as it will be told further on.

About one hundred fifty people jumped from that death-train, Including the Rosen brothers from Strzyzow, Yaffe from Czudec, and the young man Ritter from Lutcha. Ritter was a grandson of the hero from blood libel in the days of the Kaiser Franz Joseph I, a story written earlier in this hook. This young man fled back to his village Lutcha, where he was later killed.

Far two days after jumping the train, wounded and bleeding, the Rosen brothers and Zachariah Yaffe circled around in the area until they succeeded to sneak back into the Rzeszow ghetto and were happy to be among their brothers again.

All the Jews who escaped from that death train returned to the get despite the fact that their lives in the ghetto were in constant danger. For the moment, this was the safest place. Outside of the ghetto, with a few exceptions, they were surrounded by Polish enemies who were ready to hand over a Jewish body to the Germans for the price of a half kilogram sugar, or even without being rewarded at all. The Poles were happy to help in the annihilation of the few remaining individuals who were hunt like wild animals. When during the dismantling of the barracks in Strzyzow, Elazar Loos, the son of a respectful family, was asked by the mailman, Ludwiz Kolodziej, why he did not run away? He responded: "Where to, and far how long will I succeed to be alive? There is no escape for a Jew."

Most of those who jumped off the train on November 15, 1942, survived and safely returned to the ghetto. Upon arriving there, the three from Strzyzow found the remaining Jews still there.

Characteristically, the behavior of the Nazis was such that the Director of the ghetto accepted favorably the escapees, and even more so they were accepted by the local projects foremen, despite the fact that they knew that these people had escaped from the death trains. Although the Hitlerites were united in their goal of the oppression and killing of the Jews, still, everyone looked out for his own interests and the job he was responsible for. Every German was afraid that not having a job, he would be sent to the eastern front. At this time neither woman nor children were deported, but only young people, this caused them to be short-handed. Therefore, they were happy to accept the returnees in order to continue to use their labor and remain on their jobs. Nothing would be lost by killing the Jews later.

There were no incidents of organized resistance in Strzyzow. The town Jewry went as did the majority of European Jewry towards their deaths without active resistance. Jews had fought as soldiers in the Polish army against the Germans. After the Poles' defeat, no resistance was possible or rational. Before the German defeat in Russia, no one rebelled. Even people who lived on their own land did not rebel, and rebellion was impossible for the Polish Jewry who lived among a hostile population. Even though the Poles were enslaved by the Nazis, the majority adapted themselves to the enslavement without their individual lives being in danger. Not only did the Poles failed to help the Jews, in many cases they helped in their annihilation.

In addition to the above, the strong rulers, the Nazis, planned the killing of the Jews with deceit and hypocrisy. Before they directly attacked the powerless and defenseless Jews, they broke down their spirit and power of resistance gradually. They proclaimed their strong hatred for the Jews but the decision would have caused an armed resistance even in the difficult conditions of the Jews as the remnants of the ghettos and the partisans did. This was not a war with the Jewish people but contemptible murder by ambush.

Whenever possible, they took the aged, the women and children for annihilation, at the time when the men and youth were at work. By lying to the victims, they hid their true intentions and induced in them hope until the last moment. Any resistance, the smallest one, was a sure death, and every Jew hoped that by endurance he would survive until the end of the war. They believed that the killings were only partial and not aimed at all the Jews. On the other hand, there were many people who waited for death as a redeemer after loosing their families. Many men from Strzyzow, when the Nazis asked them to remain in the ghetto in order to exploit their labor until their turn would come, did not agree but joined their families on their last journey.

There were two incidents of resistance in Strzyzow which ended in the death of the resistant, in fact, they hastened their end.

The young man, Moshe Thim, was nabbed by a few German soldiers while they were washing their military vehicles at an open well. They tried to force him to do their job. He forcibly resisted and hit them back with their own weapons. At the end, they overpowered him and brought him to the commandant. This happened in the so called "good days" of Commandant Keller. When the boy's father, Reb Kalman the tailor, who worked for Keller and the rest of the officers, found out about it, he went to Keller and pleaded for the life of his son. Keller could not forgive the young man for having the audacity to strike the superior German soldiers, or maybe he was afraid to free such a person. On the other hand, Keller could not withstand the pleas of the unfortunate father who had served him faithfully all this time. He did not pronounce his sentence but he sent the boy to the District Commandant in Rzeszow. Moshe Thim never came back to his parents.

The second incident occurred during the actions in the Rzeszow ghetto when the family of Reb Samuel Saltzman from Niebylec was led to the railroad station, Staroniwa, for deportation. Reb Samuel Saltzman was strong and young, and the Nazis wanted him to stay behind and continue to work for them.

However, he refused and joined his family. On the way, an S. S. man who escorted the transport, struck his wife. Reb Samuel the Jew, a native of Niebylec whose Jews were known for their pride and strength, of whom the peasants were always afraid, had already escaped once from the Germans for some small infraction of their decrees. He could not endure the mistreatment of his wife by an S. S. man. He attacked him and struck him with severe and powerful blows. Another soldier from the convoy who marched behind, shot him in his neck like the "heroes" of that period, and killed him instantly.

In the forest near the village Pstrongowa, on the road between Strzyzow and Sendziszow, small groups of Jews with their families were hiding. They oftentimes attacked Nazis. But these were people Rzeszow, Czudec, Niebylec, and not from Strzyzow. In 1943, one of these groups attacked the police in Strzyzow and demolished the Station. In this action, a partisan by the name Vilf was killed. Officially he belonged to the Jewish police in Rzeszow, but secretly he was a member of the anti-Nazi underground and helped his brothers. Part of those in hiding survived and came out together with their families after the Red Army liberated the area.

The heroic deed of a native of Strzyzow who settled in another town should also be mentioned. This was Reb Menachem Groskopf, the son of Reb Samuel Moshe, a known silver ornaments maker for taleitim. Reb Samuel Moshe Groskopf came from Sassov, whose people were well-known as ornament makers. Reb Menachem was raised in Strzyzow and was an alumnus of the Belt Hamidrash. He married a daughter from Brzostek near Tarnow and settled there. He lived the traditional life of the older generation, namely, he studied Torah mornings and evenings, and in the daytime he was engaged in commerce to feed his family. Menach Groskopt was also active in the community. When the Germans occupied the town he was nominated as head of the Judenrat. As usual they demanded that he supply people for the forced labor camps. Reb Menachem, the warm-hearted Jew, could not do it, and he told them that he will not hand over Jews for hard labor and affliction and, if it is necessary, he himself was ready to go. This was at the beginning of the German rule and Reb Menachem could have hoped that by obeying the Germans, he would not be harmed. Nevertheless, he performed his heroic deed and the Nazis killed him right there for resisting their edicts.

Somewhere else in this book, Reb Itzhok Leib Rosen reported a very strong resistance to a Jewish "Kapo," despite their brutality in helping the Nazis to inflict pain on their own brothers, there existed some possibilities for a favor by influencing them through their relatives and through the inner Jewish rulers. Because of that fact, Itzhok Leib was saved, as he told in his article.

After the above-mentioned deportation, there were no more families in the ghetto. Only men and youths remained who were sent in groups to work in the area and later to forced labor camps where the conditions were similar to death camps. Being in the ghetto, the few lonely people from Strzyzow stayed together and, if possible, lived together until they were separately sent to other camps. The Rosen brothers, Elazar Loos, Yacov Adest, Nechemiah Felber, two sons of Reb Levi Kalb, Menachem Lieberman, Naphtali Diamand and others lived together.

Naphtali Diamand was once sick and could not go to work, which often happened to many others. But this time, on returning from work, his colleagues did not find him in the room and on his bed there was a bullet and blood stains. During the daily inspection, the Nazis could not forgive him his absence from work because of his illness, and they killed him in the room.

The Rosen brothers were among the few from Strzyzow who remained alive. They were sent from camp to camp. From the labor brigade in the ghetto, they were transferred to the labor camp Huta Komarowska, which was affiliated with the Rzeszow ghetto and administered from there. The Lieberman brothers, Itzhok and Leibush, the sons of Reb David Lieberman, and Nechemiah Felber were also in that camp. A day before their arrival, the young man, Mordechai Beitler, Reb Leibush Beitler's son, was killed during an attempt to escape. The two Lieberman brothers became sick with typhus, and were taken back to the ghetto, but were never seen again. The Rosen brothers together with Menachem Lieberman and Nechemiah Felber were taken to the camp Kochanowka and later to Pustkow. From there the oldest Rosen Yechiel, was sent to a camp unknown to me, and the young men Itzhok Leib and Samuel Rosen, Menachem Lieberman, and Felber were sent to Plaszow, and from there to Mielec. In this camp, which was exclusively Jewish, worked about three thousand men in the airplane industry. When the Russians were approaching, the above-mentioned four from Strzyzow were sent to a salt mine in Wieliczka and later to the famous annihilation camp Auschwitz. Luckily, there was no room for their transport, so they were sent to Limeritz which was in the Sudetenland. Menachem Lieberman was sent from there to Dachau and was not seen again. The two Rosen brothers and Nechemiah Felber were transferred to the Mathausen camp, which the guards themselves called "Murderhousen." This camp had three branches, the main branch, Branch No. 1 and Branch No. 2. Branch No. 2 was the worst of the three, and was burned by the Americans as soon as they came, with the intention of wiping such horror off the face of the earth. However, with their action, they did a service to the Nazis who were interested in forgetting their treacherous actions. In that camp, the people from Strzyzow encountered two more from Strzyzow, the brothers, Wolf and Nechemiah Hauben. Both of these men and Nechemiah Felber succumbed a few days before the liberation, after years of pain, hunger, beatings and hard labor. They collapsed under the last horrible edict which was bestowed upon them.

This was the decree of disinfections ("Entlausung"), which was done in the following manner: Lining up thousands of people naked for six hours outside in thirty degrees below zero temperature, and having to walk through rows of cold showers. For each four persons, there was only one blanket, and only a few fortunate people had on a pair of torn shoes.

Three thousand five hundred people succumbed to this blow, and the three people from Strzyzow among them. In the labor camp Shiwna, Yacov Felder succumbed. He was sent there from Rzeszow, after his family was deported to the annihilation camp in one of the transports.

The two Rosen brothers were liberated by the Americans on May 5, 1945, and met in the American Hospital another man from Strzyzow, Eisik Welisz-Guttenberg, who lived in Zmigrod before the war, and is currently in the United States.

Of all the inhabitants of Strzyzow who were under the Nazis, only eight survived: The Rosen brothers, Yechiel, Itzhok Leib, and Samuel Reuven Greenbaum, Elazar Loos, David Schefler, Pearl Rosen, the Rosen's sister, and Hinda Felt.

Stone quarry in Zarnowo, the Rosens and Samuel Feit obtained two Christ birth certificates – the Rosens for their sister Pearl, and Samuel Feit for his daughter Hinda. With these documents they escaped to Krakow. After the arrival of a few young Christians from Strzyzow to Krakow, these girls were in danger of being recognized, so they left Krakow and went to Berlin where they posed as Polish girls until after the war. There they found themselves many times in danger as a result of the allied bombings of the Germans.

Reuven Greenbaum was also moved from one camp to another. From the Rzeszow ghetto he was sent to Bieszadka, from there to Pustkow, to Auschwitz, Glejowice, Grossrosen, Limeritz and, finally, to Mathausen the worst of them all. With his luck, they did not let his transport in for lack of room. Ultimately, he was sent to Theresienstadt, where he met Elazar Loos, and there he was liberated. After the liberation, he was sent to Buchenwald, which by then became an American camp for the liberated. Thanks to his youth, he received an entrance permit to Switzerland, and later immigrated to the United States.

Elazer Loos who went through hell-fire in the German camps was liberated in Theresienstadt. He visited Strzyzow after the war, but as a result of all the sufferings he went through, his health failed and he did not realize his dream of going to Eretz Israel and joining his sister there. He died in the Displaced Persons Camp in Landesberg, Germany. About David Schefler, his sister Shoshana Ginsberg will write about him. Natives of Strzyzow who were stranded in the German occupied eastern part of Poland and survived were the following: Gitel Shlosman whom we mentioned before, Joseph Reich, a grandson of Reb Eliezer Loos, Shimon Mandel, a grandson of Reb Yeshayahu Mandel, Joseph Weinberg, and Dr. Tzvi Hersh Eisner.

Joseph Weinberg, who lived in Lwow until the outbreak of the war, was in the camp of Janow, which was named the "School of Murderers," because that was where the S. S. men and the Gestapo received their education in murder and brutality. It was reported that the commandant of the camp used to stand on the balcony of his house armed with a rifle and, surrounded by his family, he showed off his marksmanship by shooting Jewish children who were thrown in the air by his subordinates. His little daughter stood near him and begged her father to continue to play which so amused her. The commandant ordered the Jewish inmates to turn around and killed them with a shot in the neck as it was customary with the Nazis. He imposed such a terror on the inmates that they always obeyed his orders despite the fact that they knew that obeying was sure to bring their death. Joseph Weinberg had prepared himself for a long time for such an order and he decided to disobey. When he did, the commandant slapped his face, but did not kill him. Joseph was later in Auschwitz and there he was active in helping his troubled brothers. According to the testimony of one of the witnesses, an inmate in that camp, the architect M. Kubowitzki, Joseph Weinberg jumped from a train transporting him to an annihilation camp. He ultimately survived by a miracle from the Russians who wanted to kill him together with a group of Jews as German spies. The group was looking for a resting place after being liberated.

Joseph Reich, the son of Adela Loos, who was the daughter of Reb Eliezer Loos from Strzyzow, moved with his parents from Rzeszow, the town where they lived before the war, to Jaslo, his father's birthplace. The pursued Jews falsely believed that by changing towns, their luck would also change and they would be able to survive. Details about his survival will be in the article of his aunt, Miss Leah Loos.

Shimon Mandel, Reb Benjamin's son, found himself at the outbreak of the war in Strzyzow, at his grandfather, Reb Yeshayahu Mandel's house. After a while, disguised as a Christian boy, he successfully reached his parents' house in Dombrowa near Tarnow. Having been moved around in German concentration camps, he was liberated in Theresienstadt, where he met Elazar Loos, and later settled in Israel.

Dr. Tzvi Eisner, Reb Yacov Eisner's son, who grew up in his parents' house in Strzyzow, together with his wife, were hidden in a bunker during the Nazi occupation. At the end, he left the bunker, and with Aryan documents in his hands, he moved into the lion's den in the Ukraine, place of arduous hatred of the Jews, and survived. Presently, he lives in Poland and works as a doctor.

Also in Western Europe, France, and Belgium, many from Strzyzow perished, and only a few were fortunate enough to be saved from the Nazi hands during the occupation of those countries. One of them was Moshe Mussler who lives in Israel with his family and participated in writing this memorial book. He also wrote about his and his family's sufferings and rescue during the Holocaust.

In the life-threatening days and destruction, the strong family ties expressed themselves with exaltation. Sons did not abandon their parents, grandparents, but went with them to the annihilation, even though occasionally they could remain in their places and stay alive, according to the false hope instilled in them by the Nazis. Parents who could no escape the Nazi hell, tried to extract their children to prevent their suffering and pains. It was told in this book by Rabbi Chanan Lehrman that his parents who were forced to return to Galicia from Hitler's Germany, succeeded in smuggling out a young girl together with their own children. Shulamit Greenwald nee Hasenkopf tells how her father, Reb Michael Hasenkopf from Strzyzow, (the translator's uncle), who could not leave Germany, implored her: "Do not remain here. Leave as fast as you can." The only request of Reb Samuel Feit, who remained in the death train during the escape of the Rosen brothers, was that they watch over his young daughter Hernia, who was left in the Rzeszow ghetto.

Yenta Gertner, the daughter of Reb Israel, stayed in Germany until she succeeded, after much hardship and great effort, to take out her three sons and sent them to the western countries. Only then did she come to Strzyzow to join her husband Reb Joseph Berger. Strzyzow had seemed to them to be temporarily safe. Their fourth son had been sent before to Eretz Israel where he lives now and, from him, r obtained the details of his mother's effort. The youngest, Zachariah, went with a group of children to Holland on August 31, 1939, one day before the out break of the war, and, from Port Hak-Van, two hundred fifty children sailed in a Dutch ship to the British port of Dover. Upon the arrival of the ship, under the darkness of night, the British refused to permit the children to disembark, until the Christian Dutch captain threatened to sink the ship, with its passengers and staff, to the abomination of the whole world. Under this menacing pressure, the manager of the port contacted his superiors in London. When the leaders of the British Jewry, including Lord Herbert Samuel, found out about it, they successfully interceded with the Interior Ministry and obtained the necessary permit.




Children in Captivity

During the Holocaust, many Jewish children were handed over into Christian hands to rescue them and keep them from the inhuman sufferings that was the fate of their parents. Further on, I will tell about two cases of handing over children from Strzyzow to Christians.

The first was the child Aryeh, the son of Mordechai and Vita Popper, the daughter of Reb Eliezer Loos. When his mother, Vita, found her tragic death, as it was told before, the child was four years old and lived with his father in Przemysl, where most of the expelled Jews from Dynow lived. After the city was occupied by the Nazis and the tormenting of the Jews began, the father was sent to work on the railroad and could not keep the child with him. To give him to another Jewish family became dangerous and, therefore, he gave the child to a Polish family which, for a sizeable financial reward, took care of him. At times when Mordechai was marching to work in a convoy under the escort of the Nazi soldiers, his nanny would bring Aryeh out to the street so that the father could see his dear son. According to Mordechai's sister-in-law, Miss Leah Loos, the father was sent with his nephew, Joseph Reich to Auschwitz and his son remained with the Christian woman. Until this day, his whereabouts are still unknown. Whether he lives somewhere as a gentile, not Children in Captivity.

The child Aryeh, the son of Mordechai and Vita Popper; the grandson of Reb Eliezer Loss from Strzyzow.

Nechama Gertner with her son Israel, the grandson of Reb Israel Gertner, from Strzyzow knowing about his Jewishness and the great respected family from which he originated, or, whether he was handed over to the Nazis and murdered, nobody ever found out.

Nechema and Moshe Gertner's son,Israel, who was just recovering from scarlet fever, prevented his mother from leaving Strzyzow before the Germans approached, as she planned to do. She wanted to protect him from the hardship of travel. The father Moshe, escaped by himself to Lwow. He was not exiled by the Soviets in June 1940, but returned to Strzyzow after the Germans occupied the eastern part of Poland in 1941. Their fate, his wife's and his, were the same as the rest of the town's Jewry.

After our return from Russia in 1946, we heard unconfirmed rumors, that before their deportation to the ghetto, the mother handed over the child Israel, who was then six years old, to her Christian maid who came from a village near Niebylec, and who had taken care of him in his childhood.

In Strzyzow which I visited for a short time, I was not able to find out anything, and, it was unsafe to loiter around in the remote villages. With the savage hatred of Jews which prevailed at that time, only death could have been found. Then and after my arrival in Israel, I did promise a sizeable amount of money to several Poles in Strzyzow as a fee for helping me trace down the child, without results. Neither were the many Jewish institutions which were active in Poland able to obtain any positive results.

In 1966, a cousin of the boy, Moshe Berger, from New York, without the knowledge of the Polish language, visited Galicia and reached the village near Niebylec, in order to search for a trace of his lost cousin, Israel. From conversations with the villagers, he concluded that surely the child was given to the Christian woman, but he could not find her. Therefore, the child's fate remains unknown.



After the War and the Holocaust

Some of the Holocaust survivors and repatriates from Russia visited Strzyzow after the war. There were different motives for the visit, but the main motive was the yearning for home, the spiritual need to bid farewell to the birthplace which, along with everything that was dear to them, they had "temporarily" left years before. Before leaving the native land to begin their new life, they wanted to see for the last time all those places which reminded them of their dear ones, and of the good life when they were young. I was one of those visitors.

I went to Strzyzow not without fear. A big part of the Polish Population related with open hostility to the few Jews who came out from hiding. The Poles were particularly hostile to those Jews who had returned from Russia whose number seemed to the Poles ten times greater than it was actually. Hostile remarks were often heard about the large number of surviving Jews. The popular rumor spread among the Poles was that Poland supplied Russia with coal in exchange for their supply of Jews. There were incidents in which Jews, women among them, were taken off the trains by force and killed. Individual Jews, while visiting their hometowns for the same sentimental reasons as mine, were killed. The murderers did not know nor did they care, that those lone ones rescued from fire, the Holocaust, were leaving their homeland en masse and, that to the majority of refugees that returned from Russia, Poland served only as a transit station on their way to the wide world. From Szczecin, where thousands of repatriates were concentrated Jews were escaping nightly in trucks and sometimes by ship through the Oder-Elba Canal to West Berlin. This escape was carried out with the silent agreement of the Polish authorities and by the bribery of the Russian-German border guards. The Jews had to beware only of the Jewish-Communist activists because the escapes had undermined the existence of all kinds of committees, which the Communists had organized. The enemies of the Jews did not take into consideration that through the open Polish-Czechoslovakian border, a continuous stream of Jewish refugees was flowing to Austria and Italy. In their strong hatred of the Jews, the anti-Semites murdered Jews at the borders during their escape, though they knew that in a few hours they would have left Poland forever. Such a killing occurred before the mass exodus through Szczecin and Klacko, while the Jews were still Looking for escape routes. As soon as we crossed the Polish border on our return from Russia, we were shocked to hear the news of the murder of a group of young men who tried to cross to Slovuakia on their way to Eretz Israel.

In Rzeszow, where a small number of survivors had settled after they came out from the bunkers and tried to find some livelihood, a pogrom took place in 1945. These Jews were later transferred to Krakow under the protection of the Red Army, and there they became victims of a pogrom, which occurred shortly after their arrival.

My niece Henia and I came to Rzeszow on Our way to Strzyzow in 1946, a short time after the pogrom in Kielce. The air was saturated with hostility toward the Jews but in Rzeszow itself all was quiet. A few native Jews who returned from Russia had settled in a Jewish house and had organized some kind of a Jewish committee, which drew support from Jewish welfare organizations. The committee had a small cafeteria and provided lodging for the needy. In addition, there were in Rzeszow people from the surrounding towns and villages who waited for the liquidation of their affairs in their hometowns. The new Polish merchants, perhaps some of those who had mocked and jeered the Jews when they were led to their deaths in 1942, and who had organized the pogrom in 1945, now enjoyed this concentration of Jews who had no intentions of staying, but meanwhile were good customers in their stores, restaurants and lodgings.

As soon as entered the Primitive train on the Rzeszow-Jaslo line which passes through Strzyzow, we immediately encountered strong hostility toward the Jews. In the car, three “innocent" Peasant women were talking about the Jews who had disappeared. Of course, they did not realize that those who were sitting nearby were Jews. During the conversation, one said to the other with an expression Of satisfaction, "Their end has come," and the other responded, "I am glad."

We traveled the road well-known to us from before the war, and got out at the dilapidated Strzyzow station. As soon as we left the railroad station, we saw the last Jewish cemetery, which was located on a hill not far from the station. There was no sign of the concrete wall, which surrounded the cemetery nor the gravestones. In one place where Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz was buried, a Pile of rubble was visible. That is all that remained of the Rabbi's tomb.

We walked to the town, feeling as if we were returning to the home which we only left yesterday Nothing changed, everything was so close to our hearts. This can only be expressed with a Yiddish word, "Heimish." Then the pain awakened with more strength, and the wound which was not healed yet opened again. The same house, the same courtyards, and the same stores, only our brothers and sisters were missing. From the Poles only a few were missing, those who passed on in a natural way, but not even one Jew could be found. All the stores had new owners, but many stores still had the same merchandise as before. In our store I found merchandise which had been there when i left in 1939. All the Jewish houses and dwellings were occupied by new residents who also used the furniture of the previous owners.

Here are the changes that did occur. The house of Reb Aaron Kanner, the adjacent Beit Hamidrash, including the small house where the Christian "Sabbath Goy" used to live, were all demolished. This demolition had brought the end of the Beit Hamidrash alley, which had been the spiritual center of the Jewry in Strzyzow. Instead a broad street was opened which continues through the old Jewish cemetery all the way to the northern hills. The brick fence and the concrete wall, which surrounded all three cemeteries, were entirely destroyed. Only the old oak trees in the old cemetery survived. The two adjacent cemeteries were turned into a public park which is used by the neighbors. Nobody knew of the whereabouts of the old gravestones.

The shul remained intact, desolate, as an eternal witness to Jewish life for generations. In addition to the disturbance of the Jewish remains in their graves, the gravestones from the cemetery were used for pavement of the marketplace Maliciously, the gravestones were layed with the inscriptions up.

Witness to Jewish life in town were also the houses that were built by Jews, including the three structures which served the community: The kloiz of Reb Moshe Leib Shapiro and his son Nechemiah, the Talmud Torah and hostel for the poor, and the community bathhouse. The Jewish houses are now occupied by Christians who also inherited the household articles. The community buildings are serving the Christian population.

A few mute remnants also remained, namely, the copper candelabras and the brass chandeliers in the shul, which I mentioned before in the chapter about the prayer houses.

During the First World War, the Austrian authorities wanted to confiscate these candelabras. This took place during the action of collecting all the copper and brass articles for the war effort. The copper roof of the Catholic church in Strzyzow was then replaced with galvanized sheet metal. With great difficulty the Jews did succeed in preventing the confiscation of these candelabras, claiming that they were an inner part of the shul. Before the Germans occupied Strzyzow, a few young men hid those items to prevent their confiscation. The unfortunate did not know that they should first preserve their lives. Apparently, these articles are still hidden somewhere.

In one of the Christian cemeteries, there are graves of two young Jewish girls who were brought to town by the Germans after the expulsion of the Jews. They were killed and buried without markers on their graves. I was told that there are Christians who bring flowers to the graves on All Saints Day.

During our visit, remodeling was going on at the prayer house of Reb Moshe Leib Shapiro. The building to whose perfection he had devoted so much aptitude, was being prepared for the use of voluntary fire fighters brigade. And that is what it is used for at present.

On the eastern part of the marketplace, three homes were destroyed because the Nazis did not like their aesthetic looks.

In the center of the market is a tomb of Soviet soldiers who fell during the battle with the Germans for the liberation of the town. The tomb was surrounded with a small garden, and at present it is enlarged and engulfs the whole marketplace. For years the City Council and the clergy fought to liquidate the marketplace and turn it into a public park, but the Jews had opposed it. The store owners and tradesmen, with the help of the local inhabitants, succeeded to fail the idea, which would have meant deprivation of their livelihood.

At present, the park does not bother anyone. The town is asleep. No commerce, no traffic, perhaps because of the semi-Soviet regime, or because of the absence of the effervescent Jews. The weekly market is still on Tuesday. However, it lasts only two hours with a meager participation of peasants from the villages, and it does not last as before, from morning to evening.

We were received in town with politeness. The offices, which we had visited to arrange the return of our home, did everything to alleviate the formalities as quickly as possible. The meager funds which we had received from the sale of the house provided us just enough money to buy food and lodging during our stay in Poland, and provisions for the trip to a safer shore. We stayed in town three days, but we slept only one night in the house of Dr. Adam Patryn, the nephew of the deceased Doctor Joseph Patryn, the ex-mayor of the town. Like his uncle, he and his family were friendly towards the Jews. During the anti-Jewish boycott campaign, his mother took in as a business partner Reb Heshel Diamand, and for that reason, the stop of the annual religious procession near her store was cancelled. Dr. Patryn himself attended a wounded Jew who was hiding in the forests during the German occupation, which was a very dangerous act.

We left the town never to return, like all who visited their hometowns after the war. Few individual Jews returned and settled in the towns of Galica and Central Poland, and, from a Jewish perspective they live atropic lives, almost like the Spanish Marranos crying to hide their Jewishness. Some even paid with their lives, for yearning to live in their birthplace. In Strzyzow nobody settled. The heir to the Jewish community was the Town Council, and later the Soviet Style City People Committee. This is the situation on town at the present.

In the oldest Jewish cemetery a public park was planted. On the second and the third cemetery, which were used by the neighbors as vegetable gardens, a school was erected. Since there was no vacant space around, and foundations in Poland have to be deep, the skeletons were removed from the graves and deposited in one place.

The shul was originally planned to turn into a flourmill, but instead it was turned into a storage room for the local cooperative. In 1959, the Peoples Committee of the town decided to destroy the shul and build a public building. However, the Commissioner in charge of historical landmarks from Rzeszow District opposed, and declared that the building is sound, despite being neglected since 1939, and should be preserved as a landmark. He suggested to improve the structure and to use it for administrative or cultural purpose. After painstaking intervention of the Strzyzow organization in Israel and with their agreement, it was decided, according to information received by us, that the shul became the regional museum.

During the compilation of this book, the shul is still used as a storage room, and it is not known which proposal will prevail – the Central Authority's, which helps to preserve Jewish landmarks in many other bigger cities, or the local authority. Particularly, in such a remote provincial place, which strives to erase the memory of Jews, and has not hesitated to destroy old buildings and the desecrate cemeteries, as mentioned before.

In 1959, the gravestones were removed from the pavement of the market, apparently, by an order from higher authorities and, also as a result of our organization's intervention. After the gravestones had been lying in a pile for two years, they were moved to the hill where the last Jewish cemetery was located, except the ones, which fell apart because of their usage as pavement for close to twenty years. The cemetery is being used for farming by different people, mainly city employees.

To the Talmud Torah building, another floor was added, and it serves as a medical clinic for the townspeople.

Lately, the Jewish bathhouse was also renovated, and it is used by the public under the People Committee's supervision.



1967

Ultimately, the central administration prevailed and the shul in Strzyzow remained intact. It was renovated in 1966. Some interior changes were made and it was turned into a city library. These are the changes that were made:

The two entrances from the south side were partially blocked and made into windows. The stairs which led to the women's balcony were demolished. Two new entrances were created, one from the east side, where the holy ark used to be, and one from the western side. Inside the main sanctuary, a balcony was build around all four walls with stairs leading to them from the inside. Only the center of sanctuary remained untouched.



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The four columns with the vaulted ceiling remained in its original height. The rooms around the main sanctuary were also remodeled. Out of the school room, the Kehillah room, and women's section, one large conference room was made. The interior of the shul was painted a uniform white color which covered up all the murals painted by the Garfulnkel family, and also the excerpts from Psalms which were engraved in the wall since the eighteenth century. Only the leviathan which was painted two hundred years ago and was recently restored with great effort by Polish artists remained in place. In front of the two entrances there are signs in Polish: "The Central Public Library in Strzyzow." The fact that this building served as a prayer house for the Jews for four hundred years is not mentioned because there was no one in Strzyzow to see to it, unlike Krakow or even a smaller town like Lancut.

Shortly, two other houses near the shul will be demolished. The house of Reb Reuven Saphire which is located on the right side of the lawn in front of the shul, and the house of Reb Yacov Kanner on the left side. On these lots the city intends to build a large commercial center. The city originally planned to construct such a building on the vacant lot, after demolishing the shul, but failing to get permission from the authorities, they still found a way to build the building which will include the lot in front of the shul.

During the renovation of the shul, when the brick wall on the south side of the structure separating the stairwell from the women's gallery was demolished, an opening to the stairs leading to the attic was found. There the Poles found the attic full of used and torn books. These books had been there since I was a young man, and they had kept piling up because of the large size of the attic. Nobody ever bothered to bury them as is customary with used and torn Hebrew books. Polish scholars who were conducting research about the Jewish life, which had disappeared, found out about those books and so did we. We heard rumors that four hundred holy books were discovered in the attic of the ancient shul. After we checked it out, the true character of this find became clear to us.

The presence of the Jews in Strzyzow is being forgotten. Once in a while, some Jew living in Poland reaches Strzyzow, trying to buy Hebrew books, candlesticks, and chandeliers, which can be found in gentile houses, the heirs of the Jews. One who recently visited Strzyzow was the brother of Reb Reuven Saphire.

It is understandable that our contact with our birthplace, which we still visualize as the effervescent Jewish town, will eventually cease because we have no interest in the new gentile Strzyzow.

One more person from Strzyzow survived the Holocaust. This is Joseph Baumel, the son of Benjamin. He and his brother Tzvi, lived in Krakow and, at the outbreak of the Second World War, attempted to return home to their parents in Strzyzow. Tzvi was killed in Preclaw near Mielec and Joseph came home.

A week before the expulsion of the Jews from Strzyzow to the ghetto in Rzeszow, he returned to the place where he worked before in Krakow, a big Jewish business, which was now administered by a German. He hoped to be able to work there. Unfortunately he was caught by the Nazis and was sent to Plaszow and other camps. During a transport he jumped from a death train, which was going to Auschwitz, winding up in Mauthausen, where he was liberated. After the end of the war, he met a girl co-worker from before the war, who was with him in one of the camps and who he thought was dead. He married her, and they immigrated to the United States of America.

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