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[Page 50 - Hebrew]

Memories

by Gedalyahu Frajdenberg

Translated from Hebrew by Jerrold Landau

We are unable to put the memories of those dark days in the annals of the nation of Israel into writing; when the German enemy, the modern-day Amalek, murdered a third of our nation. However it is holy obligation to erect a monument to those communities of Israel that once were and are no more – to set up an eternal flame in memory of our families and the natives of our town of Zuromin who died the deaths of martyrs. It is our duty to remember and not to forget, and to transmit this to the future generations.

Zuromin was a small town in central Poland in the areas of Sierpc. It is one town of the many that existed in Poland prior to the Second World War. It was a typical Jewish town of Eastern Europe, with a Beis Midrash, various charitable institutions, Jewish youth movements, etc.

Our family, the Frajdenberg family, wide-branched family in Zuromin, was one of the families which lived in Zuromin prior to the war.

Our grandfather Reb Netanel came to Zuromin from the city of Rypin, where he was a teacher of holy subjects and Russian. He married Chana Sheindel, and together they established a family in Zuromin. Their sons were Hirsch-Tzvi, Yissachar, Gedalya, and Shlomo. Their daughters were Sara, Ella, Yocheved, and Mindza. The sons and the daughter Yocheved established their families in Zuromin. Sara and Ella immigrated to the United states where they established their families. The youngest daughter Mindza moved to live in the city of Zakroczym where she established her family.

Our father was Grandfather's eldest son. He married our mother Chaya of the Oberfeld family of Sierpc. Our family was blessed with eleven children. The sons were Yitzchak, Shlomo, Gedalya, Natan, and Yoel. The daughters were Henya, Bluma, Tova, Ella, Malka and Chana. Father was an upright and G-d fearing man who set times to study Torah and times to work. He worked in the manufacture and sale of men's clothing. He was assisted by all of the members of the family. He was a member of Mizrachi who lived by the motto of “Torah Vaavoda” (Torah and Labor). Father educated his children in the spirit of Israel and Grandfather. He sent his sons and daughters to study at the cheder with the teacher Skorupa. Of course, they studied in the public school that was headed by Brodcki.

From an economic perspective, Father was not able to let us continue studying in high school. There was no high school in the town, and we would have had to travel to another large town such as Mlawa or Warsaw in order to study. This would have involved an expenditure of vast amounts of money which we did not have. I recall that my sister Malka, may G-d avenge her blood, wished to continue her studies in high school. She saved every coin in order to be able to take private lesions with the teacher Kasian, who gave private lessons at the high school level.

When all of the Jews in the region of Sierpc, including the Jews of Zuromin, were expelled, our family was also deported to Warsaw. The conditions in Warsaw were difficult. Most of the Jews lived in the synagogues. The crowded conditions, the hunger and poverty are difficult to describe. When we saw this difficult situation, my brother Yitzchak and I decided to do something to help our family, so we escaped to Russia. When we did not return quickly, our brother Shlomo went out to search for us. When we had something to bring to our parents to sustain them, we decided that I would return to Warsaw, and the two of them would remain where they were. I intended to give my parents what I had, and return to Russia.

When I arrived in Warsaw, I found out that the situation had worsened and was now more difficult. According to my plans, I had intended to return to Russia. When I reached the Russian border, with great personal danger, I met Jews who had returned from Russia. They told me that the Russians were deporting to Siberia anyone whom they caught stealing across the border. If I ever wanted to see Poland again, it would be best if I would not cross the border. Of course I did not want this, since my entire family was in Poland. I did not imagine the bitter end of the Jews of Poland; therefore I retraced my steps to Warsaw.

We remained in Warsaw for approximately one year. In 1940, our family decided to move from Warsaw to Legionowo.

The situation was no better there. We youths went out to work at all types of jobs outside the city, and we only returned on weekends. One weekend when I returned home, I was informed that our father had taken ill and died on the second day of Shavuot, 1941[1].

When the situation in Legionowo got more severe, we decided to escape to the Mlawa Ghetto. My mother and sister Chana remained there. In order to sustain ourselves, we worked in smuggling: news, mail, money, and other valuables. The smuggling went from the Mlawa Ghetto the Warsaw Ghetto and vice versa. My brother Yoel and sister Malka were the primary functionaries in this smuggling. They performed the smuggling themselves at great personal danger. On more than one occasion, the Judenrat used the material that they smuggled to pay bribes to the German police in order to free Jews who they had captured. When they began to send the Jews from Legionowo to Treblinka, my mother and sister Chana decided to escape, first to Plonsk and then to Mlawa, where we hid them.

At that time, the head of the Jewish police in the Mlawa Ghetto was Shalom Gutman. He was known as “the informer”, and his treachery was known to all. Anyone who was concerned about their life would flee when they saw this man of iniquity.

Shalom Gutman found out that my mother and sister had snuck into the ghetto, and he informed the German police about this. The police along with Shalom Gutman came to search for them in our house. When they found them, they brought them to the police yard, and all trace of them was lost. As far as I know, they were shot to death there.

At the time of the liquidation of the Mlawa Ghetto, all of the Jews, including us, were taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. At the camp, we worked at all types of backbreaking work for the Germans, including the paving of roads, gardening, sorting the clothes of the murdered people, etc. The conditions in the camp were difficult, the food was scanty, the cold was intense, the clothing was meager on our bodies, and the work was hard. Aside from the difficult conditions, there was the constant fear about whether one would be alive the next day. I cannot describe the tribulations and suffering that I endured in the Auschwitz camp, in addition to the hunger and the work. To this day, I have no explanation as to how I was saved from the hands of the evildoers and from the gas chambers.

When the Russian Army approached the Auschwitz camp, the Germans began to prepare us for a journey to distance us from the front. On January 18, 1945, we received a command to leave the camp. We started marching on what became known as a “Death March”. This included men and women from among the prisoners of all the camps around Auschwitz. Many who weakened were shot on the way. Those who survived the march were transferred by train to Mauthausen in Austria or Grossrosen and other camps in Germany. I was brought to Mauthausen. I remained in this camp for two weeks. I was sent from there along with 200 other prisoners to the Ebensee Camp in the Tyrolean Mountains in the Austrian Alps. This was the hardest of the camps. People wandered around as shadows and not as humans. The living conditions were difficult. There was lack and difficulty, with the daily rations being 100 grams of bread and thin soup. The cold was fierce, and our clothing was sufficient for warm countries but not for the cold of the Alps at that time. All of this caused great suffering. Many of the prisoners weighed approximately 40 kilograms. We worked in digging tunnels for the construction of factories that would manufacture weapons for the Germans. The factories were never built, for on May 6, 1945, tanks of the American army broke into the camp and liberated us.

After spending a year in Italy, I made aliya to the Land of Israel as a Maapil[2] in 1946 on the Amiram Shochet Ship.

From all of our extended family in Zuromin, the only survivors were my brother Shlomo who lives today in the United States with his family, my sister Tova who made aliya to the Land in 1935 before the Second World War, and I. Also surviving were my cousin Shlomo Beilis, the son of Yocheved and Yaakov Beilis may G-d avenge their blood, who lives today with his family in Canada; and my cousin Hirsch-Yaakov the son of Gedalya and Rachel Frajdenberg may G-d avenge their blood, who immigrated to the Unites States after the war. He started a family, and later became seriously ill and died in 1958.

May the memories of all of them who are no more be blessed.
May G-d bind their souls in the bounds of everlasting life.

[Page 52 - Hebrew]

I wish to add a few things to the words of my brother. As my brother already related, there existed in Zuromin all of the Jewish youth groups that existed in Poland at that time. My sister Malka, may G-d avenge her blood, and I were members of the Zuromin chapter of the Hechalutz Hamizrachi youth movement. Its chairman was the member Cholwa. My sister Malka was a member of the leadership of the chapter. Our objective was to make aliya to the Land of Israel.

Father strongly objected to any of his sons and daughters making aliya to the Land of Israel alone. I, who then wanted to make aliya to the Land of Israel, found a way to actualize my desire. Since there was no trade school for girls in Zuromin, I informed my parents that I wished to study sewing so that I could assist my parents with their livelihood. This was acceptable to my father. My parents agreed that I should move to live with my aunt Rivka Luftka, my mother's sister, in Sierpc. There, in addition to studying sewing, I was a member of the chapter of Hechalutz Hamizrachi. I was one of the first to receive a permit to transfer to hachshara to prepare for aliya to the Land of Israel. In 1933, after spending two years in Sierpc, I went to hachshara to the kibbutz for seamstresses of the Mizrachi movement in Pabianice, and I made aliya to the Land of Israel in 1935.

My late father accompanied me to the train station n Warsaw. We bid farewell to each other at the station, without either of us thinking that this farewell would be forever, and that the end of Polish Jewry would be so bitter and terrible.

News of what was going on in the Land of Israel, of the lack of work and the violence between the Arabs and Jews in 1936, reached Poland. My parents wrote to me to return home to Poland, and even sent me money to return. It goes without saying that I refused, and I returned the money to my parents. In order to demonstrate at home that the situation was not as bad as they thought, I would always send small gifts and even small amounts of money. The final letter that I sent home in 1939 was returned with a German seal: “Moved to an unknown address”.

Tova Hendel (nee Frajdenberg), Tel Aviv, 1989.

 

A photograph of the graduating class of the public school in 1933

Top row: 3 Polish students, the teacher Podrozani, a Polish student, Rivka Radzik,
Bluma Frajdenberg, Ruthika Groszka.
Second row: 2 Polish teachers, Chana Szlesinger, Perl Rozensztejn, Esther Fuchs,
Miller, Yehudit Rozovi, the Jewish teacher Tehilimowna and Zajdowna.
Seated: 3 Polish teachers, the Polish principal Brodcki, the priest, the teachers
Przystop and Goralowski, students, Hadas Ber, Poles

 

Graduates of the public school, 1932

From right to left, top row: Sheina Drobiner, Shifra Lanet, Itta Bieles, Freida Usman, Freindl Maj,
Chaicha Kronenberg, 3 Poles.
Second row: 3 Poles, Frimet Kurtzman, Rivka Karta, Chana Lewenthal, Malka Frajdenberg,
Chocha Rizowi, 3 Poles.
Sitting: the gym teacher, the teachers Przystop, Zydowna, and Goralowski, the physician
Zaworowski, the priest, the principal Brodcki, the teachers Kassin, Tehilimowna and Polnja.
Bottom: Shalom Gruszka, Karpinski, Janek Karpinski, Zukrocimski, Kazimierski

 


Translator's footnotes

  1. The actual date here is given from an Israeli perspective, where the festival of Shavuot lasts only one day. It says that he died “on the second Diaspora festival day, which is Isru Chag Shavuot, 1941”. Return
  2. The Haapala (a person participating in this would be called a Maapil) is the illegal immigration to the Land of Israel under the British Mandate. Return

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