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[Page 160]

Brzeziner Jews in the Wide World

brz160a.jpg -   Jehuda Fuks

by Jehuda Fuks

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

According to all reliable sources, the number of Jews in Brzezin in 1939––that is, on the eve of the Second World War––reached about ten thousand.

At present, there is information that in Brzezin, all told, there is only one Jewish family left––which, according to the old tradition of our town, is engaged in making cheap clothing.

This is, unfortunately, the horrible truth, which says that this town of ours, about which we write this very Yiskor book, remains Judenrein [free of Jews], orphaned. There is not even anyone to take care of the destroyed cemetery. After Hitler's bombardments, which left the town in ruins, the Poles paved the streets with the gravestones that had been torn out of our holy cemetery. The Jewish institutions have been destroyed; only the name “Brzezin” is left.

According to the map of our town that was in use, Jews occupied residential streets according to their occupation and financial status. The magaziners [owners of clothing enterprises] lived on these streets––Koluszki, Rogow [Sienkiewicza], and a part of the marketplace up to the corner of Rogow Street. Merchants took up the entire main marketplace up to Synagogue Lane [Joselewicza]; smaller shops were on Apothecary Street [Sw. Anna/St. Ann].

The tailors, the majority of the town, were concentrated on the poorer streets, where rent for an apartment was not exorbitant––for example, Pig Street, Zielinski's [Moniuszki?], Cloister Street [Reformacka], Court Street [Staszica], Small Street [Krotka?], Lodz [Kosciuszki] Street, and New Town [Nowe Miasto].

How do we look today? Where are those who, by a miracle, survived the ghettos, concentration camps, and Siberian taigas [forests]? To be precise, how many Brzeziners are left spread far and wide over the entire world?

The number of remaining Jews is, unfortunately, terribly small in comparison to the Jewish population of our town before the war.

Of the ten thousand souls, approximately four thousand remain in total who can be found today in the following lands:

CountryFamiliesIndividuals
1. United States of America4502000
2. Canada40160
3. South America (Brazil, Argentina)30120
4. Australia1550
5. France50160
6. Belgium1548
7. Sweden1030
8. Germany2045
9. Poland1548
10. Africa1025
11. Israel350850
12. Russia        (probably?)50
Total10053536

During the past ten years, the writer of this article visited a series of countries and personally met with the majority of Brzeziners.

 

brz160b.jpg -   A group of Brzeziner Jews in Australia with guests from America, Dr. Esther and Jehuda Fuks
A group of Brzeziner Jews in Australia with guests from America, Dr. Esther and Jehuda Fuks

 

brz161a.jpg -   The gathering of surviving 'landslayt'
The gathering of surviving landslayt [fellow townsmen] on
the fifth yortseyt [anniversary] of the liquidation of the Brzeziner ghetto, Lodz, 1947

 

When, why and how were our Brzeziner people dispersed so far and wide, even to Australia? The emigration of the Brzeziner tailor-workers had begun some sixty years earlier. At that time, the most popular land was, of course, America. In 1896, sixty-five years ago, the number of Brzeziners in America was already large enough that the Brzeziner Sick and Benevolent Society was founded in New York and served all those years as a gathering place for newly-arriving immigrants.

Brzeziner families who could not readily obtain American visas settled in Canada. A number of families went to South America, Brazil, and Argentina at the urging of friends or relatives. France attracted young people as they aspired to the greater world; so also did Belgium and Germany, where the number did not increase. The approximately twenty families that are now found in Germany consist of those who were rescued from Hitler's concentration camps and remained on German soil.

There are a number of Brzeziner Jews in Poland who settled in Upper Silesia, those tired of wandering and also a number of people repatriated from Soviet Russia. A total of fifteen families went to Australia, several through China-Shanghai and others who left France as soon as they could when there were rumors of a third world war in Europe.

The Brzeziner Jews in Australia are concentrated in one city––Melbourne. Among them, there were already several independent contractors and magaziners. All are employed and make a good living.

In another part of this book there are details written about the Brzeziner Jews in Israel. Eretz Isroel [land of Israel] attracted a number of young Brzeziner Jews in 1918, right after the Balfour Declaration. Individual Brzeziner Jews who have already raised two generations born in Israel can be found there. The Second World War caused the number of Brzeziner families to increase by various means to three hundred fifty.

It should be emphasized here that we have in Eretz Isroel a “little Brzezin” that the American Relief Committee built. This is the Shikhun Brzeziner (Brzeziny Apartment Building) in the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael resort in a suburb of Tel Aviv, where we built dwellings for Brzeziner families, with a common room in which there is a rich Jewish library (for details see “Shikhun Brzeziner” in the reports of the Relief Committee reprinted in this book).

From the widely-known tailoring center in Brzezin, Poland, a series of small clusters in twelve countries from all parts of the world remain, with barely one-quarter of the souls compared to the number in 1939.

 

brz161b.jpg -   A group of Brzeziner 'landslayt'
A group of Brzeziner landslayt in Israel at the reception for a guest, Jehuda Fuks.

First row, below, from right to left: Peretz Zagon, Krongrad, A. Najman, I. Sulkowicz.
Second row: D. Rozenberg, Lemel Horn, Aron Fogel, Jehuda Fuks, S. Sulkowicz,
Dawid Zicher, Z. Szajnbach.
Third row: Fiszel Benkel, Fiszel Krongrad, Mrs. Krongrad, Mrs. Guta Mer-Goldkranc,
Mrs. Sulkowicz, Jakob Rozenberg, Gerszon Frankensztejn.
Fourth row: Mrs. Zicher, Mrs. Szajnberg, Mojsze Szajnberg, Gedalia Waldman,
Bronia Sulkowicz, and Frajda Sulkowicz.

 


[Page 162]

Jews in Brzezin Before and After the Hurbn (Destruction)

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

The document that we publish here is in answer to a questionnaire that the historical section of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research distributed to the survivors of the various towns and cities just after the war.

The name of the provider of the information from Brzezin is not known. It appears that several known details are not entirely accurate, but in general, the document is an important one.

Those rescued from Brzezin gave the following answers to the questions presented:

1) In 1939 there were up to six thousand Jews in Brzezin. The major sources of income were tailoring, various handcrafts, and small businesses, mainly in the clothing industry.

2) There existed there: a kehile (organized community), the Society for Workers' Evening Courses, a great synagogue, eighteen bote-medroshim [prayer and study houses], a beysakvores [cemetery], an old-age home, a children's home, lines hatsedek [shelter for the poor and sick], a seven-grade secular school, six libraries, four drama groups, two cooperatives, two banks, gmiles khsodim [interest-free loan] funds, a professional workers' union, and two artisans' unions. Among the political parties were the Leftist Poale Zion, Rightist Poale Zion, Bund, Hitachdut, Agudah, Mizrachi, various Zionists, WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization], revolutionists, and communists.

3) The most important event in the town from the beginning of the war (September 1) until the Nazi occupation was the annihilation of dozens of people during the bombing.

Under Nazi Occupation

On the ninth of September they took as hostages the former moyre-hoyroe [town rabbi] Jekutiel-Zalman Borensztajn, Dr. Klajnhaus, Dr. Erlicht, and attorney Jakubowicz. The Nazis confiscated all Jewish possessions, created a ghetto, and cut off beards. On November, 18, 1939, a decree was announced that one must wear the gele late [yellow patch]. Jews were taken for forced labor from the first day of the occupation.

The Jews from the town of Strykow were brought to Brzezin.

At the very beginning of the occupation, eighteen-year old Eframowicz was murdered. Ten Jews were hung at a forced assembly of all the Jews of the town.

On May, 14, 1942, all Jewish children from the age of one day to ten years of age were taken away. Together with the elderly people, they were sent to Majdanek and Treblinka.[1] On May 15, 1942, the Jews of Brzezin were sent to Lodz, except for three hundred people who remained in town. Not one of those three hundred Jews is now alive. How they were killed, we do not know. Those who were sent to Lodz had the same fate as the Lodz Jews. In August 1944, the remaining Jews were deported from Lodz to Auschwitz.

The number of Jews from Brzezin who were left alive is two hundred sixty. They survived all the concentration camps: One hundred seventy were rescued from the camps, and ninety were in Russia; a total of two hundred sixty.

Important Jewish leaders in Brzezin before the war:

Agudas Isroel––Izrael Dawid Sulkowicz, Chanine Janower, and Lipman Szulc

Mizrachi––Josel Zylbersztajn, Jozef Zyskind, and Dzialoszynski.

Zionist––Chaim Baruch Szulcinger, Ginzberg, and Jukiel Sulkowicz.

Poale Zion Right––Budkowski, Mitelsztajn, and Dan Aszer Kujawski

Poale Zion Left––Chaim Rafal Rozenblum, Mojsze Zygmunt, and Dawid Szymkowicz.

WIZO––Rywcia Sulkowicz, Mrs. Erlicht, and Mrs. Dymant.

From the Bund––Abraham Opatowski, Herszel Rozenblum, and Majer Holc.


  1. Both Warhaft and Tuszynski state in their accounts that the children were taken to Chelmno. Return

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