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[Page 128]

Dr. Laykher[1]

by Shimon Malovantczyk[2]

Translated and funded by Frida Cielak nee Grapa Markuschamer (Mexico City)

He was an intelligent, able, and very respected person in the city (Wyszków). He was in close contact with the Polish local intelligentsia [intellectual group], but he always considered himself a national Jew. It happened more than once that he did not charge a visitation fee from a poor, sick person. As an elected member …

[Page 129]

… of the city fund, Dr. Laykher took personal interest in Jewish poverty and provided aid there where it was really needed.

When the Germans occupied Poland, Dr. Laykher, along with other Wyszkower Jews, was deported to the Wégrow[3] ghetto. There, he set up extensive medical and social activities among the depressed, dejected Jewish population. All his strength was devoted to help the suffering, and he sacrificed himself for the sick.

In the Wégrow ghetto, Dr. Laykher was the head of the underground movement.

A separate chapter of his life was his active participation in organizing the uprising in the Treblinka death camp, about which Yankl Wiernik,[4] who was able to escape, wrote: It is a pity that we have so little knowledge and information about Dr. Laykher's activities during the occupation years.[5]

Shimon Malovantczyk

Italics in parentheses are translator's remarks


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Dr. Berek Laykher's surname was registered officially as LAJCHER in Polish. In Polish, the letter ‘J’ is read as ‘I’ or ‘Y’ and the ‘CH’ is pronounced like ‘J’ (as in Jim). The Lajcher surname transliterated from Yiddish, according to Yivo transliteration rules, is written as ‘Laykher.’ Before this, and because of the absence of vowel signs in some Yiddish printings, the name would sound like ‘Leikher’ or ‘Leykher.’ This could certainly be why, when his surname was transposed phonetically into Roman letters, authors would use various spellings of the name, such as: Leycher, Leicher, Leichert, or even Leichera and Laycher.
    Many survivors of the Treblinka camp where Dr. Lajcher spent the last days of his life, wrote their memories after their escape in August 1943. Different versions of his name were used in these records, as were names on registered lists of survivors and prisoners of Treblinka. From all the writings reviewed, we know that the camp inmates often used nicknames among themselves to avoid becoming too friendly with newly arrived inmates. They feared too much intimacy since the SS Nazi camp commanders could shoot any of them just for fun on a daily basis. The use of nicknames or only surnames was customary in Treblinka, as in many other camps. Therefore, when referring to Dr. Berek Lajcher's activities, we can find his name and surname written in many different ways, including Leicher, Leycher, Leichert, etc. Also, he was referred to as: Dr. Beck, or Beniek, and even registered as Dr. Marius Leichert.
    (In Yitzhak Arad's book “Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka,” chapter 28, p. 219, he was registered as Dr. Beck. Among the list of names at Yad Vashem, and at the Alphabetical Listing of Treblinka Survivors and Victims site “Treblinka Remember Me,” the three different given names contained descriptions coinciding with Dr. Berek Lajcher. Similarly, his name was registered as Dr. Leichert by Stanislaw Kon in his “Revolt in Treblinka and the Liquidation of the Camp.”) Return
  2. Shimon (full name: Shimon Zakharyeh) Malovantczyk, the son of the Wyszkow hairdresser on Rynek, F. Malovantczyk, a hairdresser and a popular city feldsher doctor [“fake” doctor, rural practitioner of medicine without medical degree, an old–time barber–surgeon; a doctor's assistant). F. Malovantchik/Malovantczyk was considered to be the top in his field, and enjoyed talking with the Jewish doctor Leykher (Berek Lajcher). Malovantczyk used to say that doctors could not tolerate intelligent feldshers… (p. 156 Wyszkow Yizkor Book [“Der Feldsher Malovantchik”] “The Rural Doctor Malovantczyk”). Return
  3. Wegrow is about 27 km from Wyszkow, and it is there that Dr. Berek Lajcher moved when the Germans invaded Poland. (*Note: Because he arrived with the Wegrow ghetto people, he became known as the doctor from Wegrow. Dr. Berek Lajcher was born on October 12, 1893, in Czestokhowa, Poland, studied in Warsaw where he also served in the Polish Army as an officer, moved to Wyszkow where he married and had his only child, and became one of Wyszkow's prominent citizens and a popular doctor among Jews and non–Jews. He moved to Wegrow with the sole intention of helping the Wegrow ghetto Jews, and was, from there, deported with all of them to Treblinka. There he was commonly known as the doctor from Wegrow, where he worked at the camp infirmary replacing the late doctor Julian Chorazycki who, until his death, was the commander of the Camp Underground Organization, in which Dr. Lajcher actively participated. (Stanislaw Kon, in his “Revolt in Treblinka and the Liquidation of the Camp,” wrote: “Dr. Leichert from Wegrow was selected by the Germans from a new transport, and replaced Chorazycki.”) Return
  4. Yankel Wiernik /Jankiel Wiernik, is the author of a Yiddish manuscript titled “A Year in Treblinka.” Wiernik was born in 1890 in Biala Podlaski, Poland. He belonged to the Bund Socialist Jewish Organization in Eastern Europe, was arrested and sent to Siberia. After completing a term of service in the Tsarist Army he settled in Warsaw, where he became a building contractor. On August 23, 1942, he was deported to Treblinka. Almost a year after his deportation, he escaped from Treblinka during the uprising of August 2, 1943. In 1944/45, he wrote his memoir in order to let the world know what went on in Treblinka. Wiernik was also a witness at several trials against the German Nazi commanders who were captured. Wiernik's manuscript was translated from Yiddish to English, and it can be found at: http://www.zchor.org/treblink/wiernik.htm Return
  5. The “Biography of a Martyr: Dr. Berek Lajcher (Leicher)” manuscript is being prepared by the historian Enrique Krauze, assisted by his researcher Frida Cielak (nee Grapa Markuschamer). Return


Reb Motl Broder

by Shimon Malovantchik

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

A great God–fearing man, who bore all pains and suffering without blaming anyone, and least of all, the Lord of this world. He never parted with his Book of Psalms. No one ever heard a bad word out of his mouth toward anyone. He found something to say in everyone's favor and was very careful and considerate in his speech

Reb Motl Broder was the trustee of the Hevrah Kedisha (Burial Society) and everyone said that he was the right man in the right place.

His wife, Reitse, the daughter of Reb' Shloime, official slaughterer of Nasielsk, was truly a holy woman, always with good traits and joy. They both were able to raise their children in their own spirit. One son–on–law was Reb Mendl Kolner, a slaughterer and great Torah scholar and God–fearing man.

When the Germans came in to Wyszkow and led many Jews to the outskirts of the town to shoot them, among them was Reb Motl Broder. Soon afterwards, the other members of his family were also martyred there, except for his two sons, who had emigrated before the war.


Reb Yakov Dovid Pszetitski

by Shimon Malovantchik

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

He always sacrificed himself to help the needy, and had the rare virtue of listening to other people's sorrows and worries. His ear and his heart were as open to others as his purse, For everyone who came to him for help or for advice, he tried to think of the best means to help them. Meanwhile he never delayed taking care of whatever came to him. In such a case he left all his own occupations and any business; did not think about his own family, and brought the help that was needed – but with respect and in a discreet manner, so the recipient would not feel embarrassed or ashamed.

Yakov Dovid Pszetitski, like a father, showed his interest and concern for those who needed a one–time loan to greet the Sabbath or a holiday, or to prepare for the winter with appropriate clothes and a quantity of coal.

He was a counselor to the congregation and chairman of the treasury of the free–loan institution in Wyszkow. In these two realms he was able to develop his philanthropic and social activities, and those who benefited from his help will always remember him.

With the breakout of WWII, his wandering life began. After many years of suffering and wandering, he was granted the joy of realizing his dream; to migrate to Israel. There also he undertook his social aid activities and again became the address for the survivors from Wyszkow, who had begun to reach the Jewish land. He immediately contacted the residents from Wyszkow in America. He was active in the local aid organization on behalf of Wyszkow. He was one of its founders and treasurer until death took him in Tel Aviv in 1956.

May his memory be blessed!


Mordkhe Tchekhanov

by Tch. (Khane) Appleboim

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

Mordkhe Tchekhanov was a warm person and a wonderful Jew. A quiet, calm, polite speaker, but every one of his words was spoken wisely. Thus quietly with no unnecessary loudness, he accomplished a great deal of work. His house was an institution in itself. There was no important organization on the Jewish street that was not connected with him and with his life's companion, his devoted wife Molly, who with a generous hand supported all those who came to them for help.

Mordkhe was a cultured man, with a fine demeanor, heeded and loved by everyone. He founded and built the compatriots' organization in America. Everyone came to him for advice. His whole family looked up to him, held him in high esteem, and he had full authority over them.

[Page 130]

With his death, not only his whole family found itself orphaned, but also his Wyszkow compatriots everywhere.

His whole activity was – benevolence. For years he led the Wyszkow relief works. He sent tens of thousands of dollars to Wyszkow for the maintenance of kitchens, institutions, schools, etc. On his own, he gave a great deal to charity, even when he himself did not have very much. As a dedicated Zionist from early times, he was a generous supporter and believer in the land of Israel, and he was fortunate to be able to visit the Jewish land and see the realization of his dream. This visit gave him a push to increase his activities on behalf of Israel.

Mordkhe died with a smile on his face, knowing his physical sufferings were over, and with the certainty that his dear wife and his children who were brought up in his own national spirit, would continue his noble work.

Honor to his memory!


[Page 131]

Motl and Sore Baharov

by Yitszkhok Baharav/Barab

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

Reb Motl Baharov was a well–known personality in Wyszkow. For more than 50 years he was the slaughterer in the town (therefore his name Motl Shoikhet [slaughterer]), a respectable, true Khasid. His father, Reb Faivel Baharov, had been a rabbi in Wyszkow for fifteen years. Afterwards, he held the rabbinical chair in a larger town, Nowy Dwor, for 25 years.

Sore Baharov, Motl's wife, was well–known in Wyszkow for her honesty, modest behavior, and …

[Page 132]

… religious devotion. Her father, a learned man and a scholar of the Talmud, was well–known in Warsaw by the name, Reb Yosele Kaftal.


A Very Ramified (Well–Branched) Family

by Yitszkhok Baharav/Barab

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

Motl and Sore Baharov had ten children, nine sons and one daughter, Gitele, who married Khaim Leib Kliger from Pultusk. He was the slaughterer there until WWII broke out. Motl and Sore's sons were Leibl, Yosef, Moishe, Faivl, Barukh, Velvl, Itche, Hershl, Yisrolyk. Leibl and Yosef had died before the war. Perished among all the saints and martyrs, either at Treblinka or in the Ghetto, were:

Yosef Baharov, a true Khasid, president of many institutions in Serock. (He and his wife, two sons and two daughters, perished. One daughter lives now in Israel).
Faivl Baharov and one of his sons perished. (Two other sons were rescued: one is now in Israel and one in Argentina)
Hershl Baharov perished with his wife, two sons, and one daughter.
Yisrolyk Baharov perished with his wife and one son.
Gitele Baharov perished in Treblinka with her husband, Reb Khaim Leib, two sons and a daughter. (One son is now in Israel)

In 1930, Motl Shoikhet died. All shops in the town were closed as the funeral cortege passed on its way to the cemetery. The coffin was carried the whole way. In the middle of the street, for the first time ever, the eulogy was delivered by the Rabbi, Reb Yaakov Yehuda Morgenstern; the second eulogy was delivered at the open grave by the deceased's son–in–law, Reb Khaim Leib Kliger. Nearby following were his children and their mother Sore, who was muttering during the whole walk “Motl, Motl, I envy you. I wish that some day I could have such a funeral and my nine sons and my daughter and their families would be able to accompany me…”

Unfortunately, Sore Baharov was not fated to be buried in a Jewish grave. At the age of 83, she, together with her children and grandchildren (27 in all) perished in martyrdom.

 

The survivors

From the far–flung family, the following survived: Velvl Baharov with his family (in Israel); Itche Baharov with his wife Feige (Israel); Rivke Baharov and her family (Argentina); Yehoshe Baharov (z”l), who died of a heart attack in 1961 at the age of 39 in Buenos Aires, survived by his wife, two sons, and his parents; from Barukh Baharov, a son in Israel; from Leibl Baharov, a son in Argentina.


[Page 133]

To the Memory of my Father,
Simkha Mushkat

by YH. Mushkat

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

Dedicated to my parents, sister and brothers, who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto.

At the edge of the Senators' Garden, on the western side, there, was a road that led downhill to the Bug River. Near there, there was a house where two families lived: ours and our neighbor's, Velvl Fisher, who had grown sons and two beautiful daughters.

The boys from the Beth–Hamidrash would often come there in the summer, enjoy a swim and, perhaps, catch sight of Fisher's daughters. My younger brother once got into a small boat, pushed off from the shore with the oars and went off into the middle of the river. Fortunately, a few of the boys had just come over to swim in the river, and seeing the boat, swam out with the current and saved my brother. Another time, my father, Simkha Mushkat, rescued a little boat. But he was not a swimmer, and barely made it out alive himself.

This happened about 60 years ago, before Passover. The warm spring breezes had already arrived. On a certain evening, our house needed water; and as usual, when this happened, my father took the bucket and went to the still frozen river to knock out a hole in the ice and thus bring the water home.

After a good while, as my father had not returned, my mother went looking for him. Her voice cut through the quiet of the night: “Simkha! Simkha!” But there was no answer. She gave the alarm to Velvl Fisher and his sons, who also came down to the river to call for my father. To our great misfortune, we saw that the ice was moving. Desperately, Mother began to call even louder “Simkha, Simkha,” and broke down sobbing. With each shout, its echo reverberated all the way to the forest, on the other side of the river. But this time, because of the roar of the breaking ice, there was no response from the echo. Everyone was sure that my father was no longer among the living.

Disheartened, my mother lit candles and placed them in the windows, so that the lit up house could be seen from the distance. We, the children, walked around all night on the shore crying. As dawn came, we saw that Father had suddenly appeared. Full of joy and fear we pelted him with our questions: “Where were you? What happened to you”?

And then Father told us:

When he bent over to fill the bucket, the ice began to break up and move away, dragging with it a little boat that was standing there. Father, realizing that it was too late for him to jump to the shore, got into the little boat as it was carried away in the current. There was the risk that the boat would be destroyed by the ice that pressed and squeezed it on all sides. Father sought a chance to catch on to a breakwater, and he finally was able to, but he was by then quite far away, past the Lord's palace. With his greatest last effort he pulled himself up unto the rocky shore and also pulled the little boat out. This was a tremendous physical feat, because the ice was pulling at the boat. After getting it to higher ground and securing it from the ice, Father sat down to rest for a while.

All this happened on a very dark night.


[Page 137]

Their Memories Must be Forever

by YH. Mushkat

Translated by Zulema Seligsohn

Whenever we speak of Wyszkow, we always recall the magnificent natural beauty surrounding the town: the large forest, the quick–flowing river, the iron bridge, the meadows on its shores, etc. Indeed its natural beauties is one of the glorious recollections we took with us from our town, but it hurts when we think we should spend more time remembering the people among whom we lived and spent our youth––the movements that were created and added so much to the economic, political, and generally cultural development of our generation.

There exists a world of material waiting for a hand to be put to it to create something out of it –to spite our enemies who wanted to erase them, not only from this earth but even from our consciousness.

A whole literature could definitely be created from the Fishkes, Polukhlekh, Djuvags, Metch and his orchestra, the grass–goose, Ershinke the water–carrier (he recited psalms), Shie Kalatz, Urke with the clans and others. This is, of course, a very small percentage, from the hard worker to the most needy sort in our little town. And then the so–called middle class, the well–to–do Jews, the Deges, Jakubovitches, Shkarlats, and Eli–Meirs.

And why should we not mention our leaders, cultural promoters like Henekh Kalusky – Mizrakhi; Israel Asman, Itche Shkarlat – General Zionists; Yurman – Poale Zion; Israel Goldwasser – People's Party; Shimen Malavantchik, Sholem Shidletsky, Mordekhai Fridman of the “Bund”; Dzbanek and Motl Rinek from the Workers' Cooperative?

All of this must by any means possible be eternalized! I would like to bring out some of these people's types and their characters.

 

Yekhiel–Meir Dzbanek

Whoever in Wyszkow knew Srulke the gaiter–maker's son, and even those who did not, could not believe their eyes when they saw him on a clear morning walking around the market, dressed in a Russian military great–coat, sporting highly polished varnished boots, and on his head with its black forelock, a military hat.

Yekhiel–Meir Dzbanek could not be recognized. He had grown into a tall man with long hard hands, and a sun–burnt face with large brown eyes under a broad three–cornered hat. This was not the same Dzbanek who had joined the tzar's army at the outbreak of the First World War, with an open–cut coat, under which one could see the ritual four–cornered garment. But one thing was true: instead of a Talmud under his arm, he was surely carrying hidden on his person The Communist Manifesto. This was now a man…

[Page 138]

…with a sure step and a voice that could give orders rather than obey them.

From his first few meetings with the Wyszkow young people and the workers, Dzbanek immediately won their trust. These were the young people, whose names I will here incorporate as a memorial: Motl Rinek, the painter; Benyumin, Isroel–Mendl Becker's son; Mordkhe Loketch; Urke the driver; Leyzer, the ropemaker's son; and a few other Jewish workers, who comprised the first underground circle Dzbanek founded in Wyszkow.

In the town something was moving. On a clear beautiful morning, they distributed proclamations that called the Jewish workers to a meeting where a workers' cooperative was to be organized, and where Dzbanek would deliver a report about a committee that would help with the work. The meeting was a great success. After long discussions a managing group was chosen, comprising representatives from the “Bund,” “Tzukunft,” Poale–Tzion, and from the Jewish section of the Communist Party.

The tasks the cooperative undertook were as follows: to come to the aid of the suffering unemployed population by purchasing food products that they needed at discounted prices, such as bread, herring, potatoes, sugar, and others that were being sold at extremely high ones. The problem was where to get the first thousand zlotys for the first purchase. Dzbanek had a certain plan: to put together a list of wealthy property owners in town, who would contribute a specific amount every week until the cooperative could stand on its own feet; that is, until they had enough products to sell and didn't need their help any longer. Well, how were they going to be against this? And so, on the Sabbath, at the reading of the Law, they would play them such a merry tune that they would never forget it.

And so there came a Sabbath that all of Wyszkow could not forget for a very, very long time A few groups from the cooperative came to the great synagogue. Urke and Motl planted themselves by the doors. Some other young people went up to the reading–desk(bimah). The rest spread themselves out in the aisles, and didn't allow the prayers to continue, until the Rabbi promised that that very evening, after the Sabbath, a few of the more prominent property–owners would meet with the spokesmen of the cooperative to discuss the matter.

After the first meeting with the property–owners, no practical results were achieved. But the victory of the cooperative seemed assured. The property–owners bound themselves to call a conference of all the wealthy Jews in the town. At the conference, which took place in the Jakubovich's house, it almost became a physical confrontation; but a few of the property–owners, whose hearts were “broken (poor dears),” just had to contribute a few hundred zlotys, for which a whole wagon of potatoes was immediately bought.

This was in Winter. Around February 1918, on a frosty day, the first potato wagon arrived. But it was a pity to look at, as the potatoes were … pieces of ice. Because of the horrendous hunger that the population was then suffering, it is no wonder that the frozen potatoes were quickly grabbed and the wagon was soon empty.

The potato wagon showed the practicality and the possibilities of such an undertaking and gave a push to the work around the cooperative, so that it became the one great help for the indigent, starving Jewish population. And let us make it clear: the people of Wyszkow give honorable mention to the name of Yekhiel–Meir Dzbanek, who thanks to his indefatigable work, the dedication of his honest worker/fighters to the poor and to the alleviation of their needs; thanks to his wise leadership in founding and further direction of this undertaking, made possible the great success of the cooperative.

Dzbanek did not limit himself to the work involving the cooperative. Through his zeal and dedication, he became one of the most renowned leaders of the General Polish Communist Party, where no kind of work was too difficult for him or too menial. He was seen in Warsaw befriending the pavers that worked in the streets. He would sit on a rock or on the ground to talk to a worker, then move to another. He asked about their lives, their pay, their homes. He earned their trust and tried to organize them.

[Page 139]

The last news about Dzbanek were horrifying for his friends and companions. It was a terrible blow for us to find out that a murderous hand put an end to this hero, and especially in the Soviet Union.

Honor to his Memory!

 

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