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Families of the Shtetl

 

My Father's House

by Miriam Scheinbach-Braff

When we approached Miriam, asking her to participate in this memorial volume, she was already quite ill. She promised to make an effort and write something, keeping her promise in spite of the torments of her disease which made it almost impossible to concentrate on her writing. Sadly for all, she died far sooner than she expected, leaving her work unfinished. She passed away on October 15, 1983 and the rough draft of her work was given to us by her sons.

May her memory be blessed!

A.L.

Ours was a large family of ten: three brothers and five sisters. Being the youngest I was, of course, the most spoilt.

Father, handsome and white-bearded, was a man of learning and a devout Hassid (the rest of the sentence is unclear. Ed.) Like most of the families at the time, ours was a patriarchal home. Father had a special chair at the head of the table in which he would sit during meals and it would never occur to one of us to take it. We accepted this naturally and without questioning, so that it was never necessary to reprimand any of us in the matter.

I well remember the Friday nights when Father, may his memory be blessed, would return home from the synagogue, bringing a guest with him. The table, Sabbath candles ablaze, was royally set. Though funds were not always plenteous, our home was “ba'al batish”. Even today friends of mine, who lived near us, tell me how they used to stand in the yard behind our windows, listening to the music. We all joined in the choir and my brothers were very good singers. As for the girls, though they were generally not permitted to sing with the boys, Father, for all his devoutness, had nothing against it.

It was a habit of Father's to bless the boys on the eve of Yom Kippur by laying his hands on their heads. He would then turn to the girls and bless them as well. There was something rather frightening in this picture of Father with his white beard and white robe (kittel), wearing white slippers as he blessed us with a worried expression on his face. The ceremony was repeated every year. But one year Father changed his custom, and as he blessed us, boys and girls alike, he shed a tear, something he had never done before. He was not to live out the year. He left for a sanatorium at Schiavnitz and died there.

The news was somewhat late in coming. Father's death changed our lives greatly. Mother was completely shattered and did not recover for a long time. She took the burden of the business upon herself and we, the children, helped her, particularly on market days. As to continuing with our studies beyond public school, this was forbidden to us for it involved the desecration of the Sabbath. I was the only one who broke the rule, but this was after Father's death.

Mother was a special person, kind and sensitive, always worrying about others. I shall never forget how she rushed around with my elder sister before Purim, distributing “mishloa'h manot” which she had prepared for the needy, with a substantial coin wrapped in paper hidden under the goodies, so as not to cause shame…She was always ready to grant a loan, never asking when it would be returned, if at all…

Mother did not oppose my leaving for Eretz Yisrael as I was joining my sister, Shoshana, who had gone there ten years before. I was very close to Mother and when the time came for us to part I ran to the cart, to ease the pain. I was afraid to look back and see her face once more, well knowing that this was just as difficult for her as it was for me.

My sister Shoshana, accompanied by a relative of ours of her own age, went to Israel in 1925, the year the Hebrew University was inaugurated in Jerusalem. They were the first “olim” from the shtetl, and everybody came to see them off.

Before the World Ward my brother Mendel fell

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ill and went to Belgium for treatment. He was there during the holocaust and was saved.

Feige, my brother David's daughter was saved in France and is now with her family in Israel.

The rest of my family perished.

When I got married in 1939 I received a letter full of good wishes from the whole family. That was the last contact I had with them.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


My Father's Home

by Moshe Amit-Seelenfreund

 

In the town of Rimanov, at a distance of 15 km from Brzozow, there lived a Jew, whose name was Shlomo Seelenfreund. His family originated in Poland and Moravia, and according to tradition they were descendants of Spanish Marranos. In the graveyard of Rimanov was a tomb with the inscription “Hilo” (the former name of the family). The name “Seelenfreund” was bestowed on the family by the Austrian authorities, at the time when the entire Jewish population

 

Dr. S. Seelenfreund

of Galicia was given surnames, some 200 years ago.

Shlomo Seelenfreund was the son of wealthy Jews. The family's income was based on the so-called “Rougatka”; i.e. a certain tax levied on roads and bridges (a sort of toll). Shlomo grew up and studied at the “Heder” and was designated “Rabbi” – though he never actually engaged in that profession. He was one of the founders of “Mizrahi” in Poland, and was elected as a deputy to the third and fifth Congresses. He was a member of the Austro-Hungarian parliament, and for some time acted as mayor of Rimanov. He had two sons; the eldest son, Shmuel, (my late father) was born in 1882 and studied at the “Heder” till he was 15. At the age of 16 he went to Sanok to attend the secondary school there, which he completed with excellence. Then he was sent by his father to study law at the University of Lwow, where he spent two years and then continued his studies at the University of Vienna. The influence of Dr. Herzl and his newspaper “Neue Freie Presse” caused him to engage in political activities in the circle of Jewish students.

Shmuel Seelenfreund concluded his studies and acquired a Doctor's degree – “Summa cum laude”. In 1910 he was married to my late mother, Francisca of the house of Schiper from Tarnov, who had graduated at a teacher's seminary. The Schipers of Tarnov were a very able and talented family and had many children. Among them were Dr. Yitzhak Schiper who had graduated at the faculty of law in Vienna; he was one of the founders of “Poale-Zion”, deputy of the Polish “Sejm”, a famous historian and a scholar in Judaica. He was also one of the leaders of the Zionist movement in Poland. Genek Schiper was one of the famous surgeons of Poland. Henek Schiper, was one of the leading figures of the Viennese “Schutzbund”. In 1933 he was rescued after

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the revolt against Dollfuss. One of the younger brothers taught Latin and Ancient Greek at a secondary school.

Prior to the First World War, while my parents were living in Vienna, a son and daughter were born to them. When Vienna was besieged at the beginning of the war, the family immigrated to Przemysl, a fortress town, which successfully resisted several Russian attacks. Afterwards Dr. Seelenfreund joined the lawyers' corps of the Austrian army, and was transferred to Brzozow, a small town in the vicinity of his former hometown Rimanov. In 1918 a third son (myself) was born to the family, and in 1920 another daughter, my younger sister.

Those turbulent years were characterized by the founding of the Polish state and the invasion of Poland by Trotzky's army after World War I. At the same time some remarkable events were taking place; such as the payment of retribution; distribution of inheritances; recognition of rights, especially those of invalids and orphans (all these were executed by the new regime). These reforms provided full employment for a young lawyer, who had completed his military service by that time.

The juristic work and Zionist and public activities were the basic sources of the Seelenfreund family after World War I. One of his chief aims was a well organized Jewish community in his town. He also took an interest in the municipal administration of the town.

Until 1929 there was no electricity in town. At his initiative a contract with the Siemens Company was signed, and in order to establish the electric network, a motor-generator was installed. He proposed the founding of a bus company to connect the town with Sanok and Rimanov, the two nearest railway stations. He initiated the erection of a large secondary school and the installment of the telephone line. His own phone number at home was “7” (supposedly there were less than 60 subscribers in the whole town).

At this time a stadium with a large shooting range was built. The voluntary fire-brigade was founded. It was equipped with fire extinguishers, hand-operated pumps, and pulled by horses. But whenever there was a fire, people had to pull them by themselves, because of lack of time to fetch the horses. Until the beginning of the thirties a part of the sidewalks in town wee made of wood and needed to be replaced by concrete sidewalks. Some of the wooden bridges were rebuilt, and the dirt roads were improved. (There were no asphalt roads in the district). There was no central drainage and no central water supply. Water was pumped from wells, and there were “water-boys” and “water carriers”.

All public activities were the work of volunteers. My father's practice was chiefly in the civil law. He almost never dealt with criminal cases; he felt a strong aversion to this kind of work, except for extraordinary appealing cases, or those which involved his Christian friends. For instance the case of his former schoolmate Dudinski (a Polish nobleman), who was accused of selling alcohol to a dentist and to a local pharmacist; or two murder cases among the Polish population.

In the course of time, Dr. Seelenfreund a leading expert in Poland in the field of contracts and the granting of concessions for oil exploration had to appear frequently at the district court of Sanok and sometimes at the High court of Law in Warsaw. These matters required long and frequent absences from our home. He had to travel all over the district in legal proceedings connected with land registration. (Mainly in summer, accompanied by court-officials, lawyers and land-surveyors). These journeys were called “Commissions”, and sometimes they lasted for several weeks.

One of his famous cases involved a right-of-way, which passed through a forest between a Polish village and the lands of the Bishop of Przemysl. No Christian lawyer dared to defend the people of the Polish village, for fear of the Bishop and the Church. The length of the road was only 4 km, and the people of the village had used it for more than 100 years. After the trial, which went on for 4 years, the local court, the district court and the superior court decided in favour of the people of the village. Of course part of the clergy under the authority of the Bishop directed their wrath against the Jewish lawyer.

My father's frequent absence from home, his manifold activities in public, and his work as a jurist, forced my mother to concentrate on the management of our home, and to take care of its proper functioning. She fulfilled her task willingly (with the help of several maid-servants), with much ability and talent. Our home was always full of life and gaiety. We took our meals day after day together with many guests, young and old. At our table many lively debates and conversations were held (sometimes even

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too loudly). But there was always an air of tolerance and of civilized behavior.

In 1929 the eldest son concluded his studies in town, and went to Warsaw to study law. In 1930 my elder sister completed her studies and went to the same university, and the same faculty. My younger sister and I continued our studies at the local secondary school. There were family gatherings during vacations and holidays. In 1933 the elder son completed his studies and married, and shortly afterwards, in 1934 went to Eretz Israel, together with his wife. After a few months he was killed in an accident at work in Haifa. He had been one of the leading figures in academic and political circles and had been recognized as one of the future leaders. Meanwhile my elder sister completed her studies of law, and returned to Brzozow for her probation period at my father's office.

In 1936 I concluded my studies at the secondary school, and in 1937 I came to our country to study at the “Technion”. Our youngest sister went to study musicology in Lvov. Music was one of the cherished subjects at our home. Each one of us played some instrument, and excelled in musical knowledge,

Our home was full of culture, and as mentioned above, a centre of social life, vivacity and gaiety.

In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, our family fled from Brzozow to Strij. Only my elder sister, who was married to a lawyer, remained in Warsaw.

Thanks to my mother's extreme alertness, and inexhaustible energy the Seelenfreunds (my parents, my younger sister, and my cousin, who had arrived for the summer holidays) were able to overcome hard times in Siberia. Thus they succeeded in escaping from certain death.

My parents and my sisters returned to Poland after the war and settled in Kattowitz. In 1946 my father was appointed legal counselor at the Ministry of Industry, and after retiring, served as a legal counselor in Kattowitz. My mother died in 1946 and my father in 1961.

Today only a few members of our family are left: my two sisters, living now in Kattowitz (the younger sister together with her husband and son; the elder has been a widow since wartimes). My cousin and her husband are living in Haifa, and so am I together with my family.

In the graveyard of Kattowitz are the tombs of our parents visited every week with loving care by my sisters.


My Family

by Ge'ulah (Lusha) Selenfreund

 

My father of blessed memory was born in December, 1882 and died in December 1963. He came of a patriarchal family and received a national and traditional education.

My grandfather, Reb Shlomo Selenfreund, God rest his soul, was a well-known, highly respected man. He participated in the first Zionist Congress in Basel.

I well remember an interesting experience in Grandfather's house:

On Friday afternoon, before the Sabbath, a window was opened at the side of the house and people began to appear there. Each one received a package containing fish, challa and raisin cake. The needy ones who were too embarrassed to go to the window, came to the terrace and they, too, received similar parcels.

Our father, God rest his soul, was an extraordinary person and much given to charity. He held most of the influential posts in our provincial town: Deputy Mayor, Head of the Jewish congregation and member in all kinds of committees and important institutions. He was active in bringing electricity to the shtetl and the beautiful building of that local Gymnasium was built with his help and as a result of his enterprise.

He utilized his influence and connections to help others regardless of their religion, nationality or political views. His house was open to all. In helping others he was modest and unassuming, never expecting thanks for doing what came naturally to him.

Many years went by before we, his children learnt of the many people he had helped and rehabilitated. I remember how once the Mother Superior of the Stara Wies monastery came to ask for legal help in

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the matter of some orphans in her care. Father took the case to court with his usual devotion, and won. He refused all payment for his trouble.

It has come to my ears that Sarah Bieber, my God avenge her, father's devoted secretary, turned to those nuns for help during the German occupation. The nuns, who knew her from her work with father, did not turn her away, thus paying their debt of honor to him. To our sorrow Sarah was not spared.

My mother, Francesca, was of the famous Shiffer family, sister of Itzhak Shiffer, God rest his soul, a historian and scholar who wrote many books on the history of Polish Jewry in past generations. Our cousin, Genek (Gershon) graduated in medicine and became a renowned surgeon.

It is impossible to speak about our family without mentioned the tragic event we suffered. The day we learnt of the death of our eldest brother Leon (Lushek) in an accident while at work in Haifa, mother's hair turned white and she never overcame the blow. Lushek was the pride of our family. He was gifted, was noted for his pleasant ways and gave promise of a glowing future. He graduated from the Warsaw University with a golden diploma and was a gifted orator. At one time he appeared at a mass meeting on the first of May in the theatre square and spoke after the social leader Niedzialkovski. After Lushek's speech he crowd shouted “Long live the workers of Palestine!”

This was a period of extreme and violent anti-semitism, and a special group of political Jewish resistance had been organized by the socialist to protect this “golden youth”, as he was called.


My sister and I lived through all the horrors of the war. Henrika (Risha), my senior, studied law before the war. She witnessed the burning of the Warsaw ghetto and her husband perished in Maidanek. As for myself, Ge'ula, I spent the war in my parents company, until their deaths. Our brother, Moshe Aharon, who immigrated to Israel before the outbreak of war, served in the British Army and fought against the Nazis.


The Oestreicher Family

by Haim Bank

 

The head of this family was Reb Aaron, God rest his soul, and there were many branches in the shtetl, even though the name Oestreicher itself disappeared after the son, Avraham, left Brzozow.

Reb Aaron Oestreicher was a tradesman, a tinsmith, besides managing a business of household goods, some of which he produced himself.

He was a learned man, careful to observe the tenets, and he brought up his children to do the same. He died after the First World War.

Besides his son, Avraham, there were five sons-in-law in the Oestreicher family: Reb Ha'im Leib Diller, Reb Naftali Feit, Me'ir Brakha, Asher Doppelt and Ha'im Dick. The daughter-in-law was Galla Wielopolsky. May God avenge them.

The children of the family were already old enough to establish their own families in the shtetl but the harbingers of death cut down this prodigious family and only a small remnant managed to escape from the Nazis.

The name of the Brakha family has been mentioned. Special mention must be made of Beileh, daughter of Me'ir and Ethelleh Brakha who, when the assassins drove her to the slaughtered in the forest, jumped from the truck with her baby in her arms and was shot on the spot. May God avenge her.

I also wish to mention Ha'im Dick, may God avenge him. Running away from the Nazis, he was shot in prison in Lvov by Hitler's allies at the time, the Soviets, who accused him of spying for the…Germans. The only survivors of the families mentioned above are Reb Naftali Feit's daughter, Haya (Helen) and the young son Moshe. Two sons of Reb Asher Doppelt, Feivel and David, were also saved.


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The Schwertz Family of Brzozow

by Haim Bank

 

The Schertz family was large and well-established in Brzozow. It would take an intensive genealogical research to account for all its members, something which cannot be done without written material and depending on memory alone.

It should be noted that there were a number of families of this name who did not belong to this large branch, even though it is possible that some connections existed between the, of which they were probably unaware themselves.

I shall do my best, of course, to mention them all. Reb Ha'im Eliezer Schertz, his wife Ettel, their son Shlomo and their two sons-in-law, Reb Naphtali Kuflick, may god avenge them, Dr. Yossele Bobker and their families.

Reb Mendel Schertz, his wife Dina and their sons: Eliezer Schertz, God rest his soul (died in Russia), his wife Zissele, daughter of Reb Kalman Wilner of Yatchimir. Their son, Moshe, died in Auschwitz. The girls, Sheindel and Sheva were killed with their mother in Brzozow. The elder daughter, Eidel, God rest her soul, married Reb Yehoshua Roth, may he rest in peace, and passed away in Israel.

Reb Shmerl Schertz lived with his family in Yaslow till the war, becoming refugees in Kozova under the Russians. They were killed after the Nazi occupation. Their younger son, Reb Hersch Schertz, was killed in the Przemysl ghetto. Mindele, Reb Mendel Schertz' daughter married a cantor, Reb Kalman Zuckerman, God rest his soul (saved in Russia and died in Canada). They had two children: their son Leibush died in Russia and Sheindel, their daughter was killed with her mother in Brzozow.

Reb Itzhok Schertz and his wife, Malka, had eight children, five of whom were killed. Shimeon died in the Russian camps and Reuven was killed in Auschwitz. Aaron, who managed to hide in Brzozow till the Russians came to the shtetl, was killed by Poles. The youngest son, Yoseph and one daughter were killed with their parents in Brzozow.

Reb Yankel Schertz and his wife Miriam. Their daughter Minna, Moshe Parnes' widow, is in Israel. His eldest son, Michele, died while still young, leaving a widow, Breintsche and five children. Of these only the eldest, Yudel, survived and now lives in Israel.

There was another family, that of Avraham Schertz, his wife Miriam and a daughter living in the neighbourhood.

Then there was the family of Avraham Schertz, nicknamed “Der alter Avraham” (he died in the twenties).

All the families I have listed above wee inter-related. There were more of that name but they did not belong to the large family.

There was Reb Shlomo Ezra Schertz, God rest his soul, a hat maker and owner of a hat shop. He was a highly respected man of learning. After the pogrom in the shtetl at the end of the First World War he immigrated with his family to America, and so they were all saved.

Reb Melech Schertz – a family with a number of children all killed in Brzozow. The eldest son, Michael, was a refugee in a shtetl in the Tarnopol area during the Russian occupation and married there, only to be destroyed with his family when the Germans entered.

There was a Schertz family in “Lavkes”. One of the sons, Hannan Schertz, was an active member of the Judenrat. There were also three Schertz brothers: Mordechai Schertz (nicknamed “Lubiner”), Menieh Schertz and Shlomo Schertz.

Then there were two Schertz brothers: Ha'im Shmuel and Melech, whose sister Yutteh immigrated to Canada. They were the offspring of Ben Zion and Hanna Schertz who died before the First World War. For some time the brothers were in partnership in the egg export business. Melech, the younger, was one of the first “modern” youths in the shtetl. He later went to Katovitz and thence to Italy where he was married. His son, Bruno is now a doctor in Massachusetts. He was born in Italy.

In the war, during which the Italian Fascists collaborated with the Nazis, he was imprisoned in a camp in Italy, and the anti-fascist underground hid him after helping him to escape. Melech died in the U.S.A. in 1972.

The elder brother, Ha'im Shlomo, served in the Austrian Army during the First World War. He had a beautiful singing voice and was a “singer” for Reb David “Shochet” (Lampin). He was killed with his family in Brzozow.


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The Ringel Family of Holidna Village

by Haim Bank

 

The father, Reb Mordechai Ringel and the mother, Bluma, Naphtali Tzvik's daughter, made their living on a farm.

The Ringels were an Orthodox family and their home was kosher enough for the most demanding. Reb Mordechai was a scholar and served as Gabbai and “ba'al tefillah” in the small village synagogue. He also performed the circumcisions in that small congregation.

Their five children were brought up in the traditional and religious spirit.

There were fifteen Jewish families in Holidna, all somehow making a living. Relations with the Gentiles were good and in the village, anti-Semitism was far less acute than in the town. Thus the Jews lived peacefully and unpretentiously until the arrival of the murdering gangs who poisoned their lives and cast a pall of fear over them.

In July 1942 the Jews were evicted from all the villages and their property was looted by the Nazi swine. The Holidna Jews, together with their brethren in the whole region, arrived at Brzozow completely destitute. The joined their brothers there and all died together.

A list of the Jewish families at Holidna and Wessela:

Me'ir Ringel, his wife and two sons, killed at Bulkhov.
Miriam Ringel-Tepper, her husband and son, killed at Bulkhov.
Mordechai Ringel, his wife Bluma and daughter Rachel were all killed together.
Mendel Tag and his family.
Bunim Tzvik and his family.
Itzhak Bukhman and his family.
The Werner family.
The Brenner family.
Avraham Tag and his family.
Hirschel Tag and his family.
Mendel Brenner and his family.
David Rubinfeld and his family.
Mendel Ritter and his family.

May God avenge them.


The Trachman Family

by Haim Bank

 

The two brothers, Reb Hirsh (Zvi) and Reb Ben-Zion Trachman came to Brzozow from the village of Duckla. Hirsh Trachman dealt wholesale in foodstuffs such as flour, sugar and the like.

In the early twenties Hirsh Trachman suffered a great tragedy in his family – his wife and son died of blood poisoning within a few days of each other. After this catastrophe Reb Hirsh left Brzozow for Sanok.

Reb Ben-Zion and his family remained in Brzozow, where he had a baked-brick factory as well as the monopoly for selling brandy wholesale.

Reb Ben-Zion's wife, Rechtshe, was known for her wisdom and kindness. She kept an open house – every pauper and unfortunate who came in hungry left replete, with additional supplies for the road and some money as well.

Reb Ben-Zion, besides his business dealings, was also active in public works and served as the chairman of the village congregation for a certain period.

He had a pleasant voice, was an excellent prayer reader and his praying during the “Yamim Nora'im” was famous in the shtetl. The congregation's heart would melt to hear him singing the “Piyutim” such as “Ya'aleh tahanunenu”, “Ki hineh kahomer” and others.

But it would seem that a man also needs a measure of luck.

Anti-semitism was rife among the Poles in the shtetl and some Jew-haters began an unceasing campaign of incitement against the Trachman family, the object of which was to deprive it of its livelihood – the agency for the wholesale brandy business.

The incitement finally succeeded and Reb Ben-Zion lost his agency which had given him a respectable living hitherto. The family began to deteriorate.

When the German army was approaching the shtetl, Reb Ben-Zion ran away, making it with difficulty to Dinov, some 40 kms. From Brzozow, only to be killed there, with 200 other Jews, refugees and inhabitants of Dinov, by the German assassins.

His wife, Rechtshe was lucky – for in those tragic and fearful days it was considered lucky – she died a natural death.

Hers is the only whole tombstone left in the desecrated cemetery of Brzozow.


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The Kintzler Family and its Offsprings

by Haim Bank

 

One of the veteran figures of the Jewish population of Brzozow whose name was mentioned while we were still children was Grandmother Loytze, Reb Menashe Tzvik's sister.

Loytze was the wife of Reb Shmu'el Kintzler, God rest his soul. One of their daughters, Beyltshe, married Reb Ephraim Stiglitz, and the other, Hennia, was the wife of Reb Ya'acov Katz, God rest his soul.

The two sons-in-law, Reb Ephraim Stiglitz, may God avenge him, and Reb Ha'im Ya'akov Katz, God rest his soul, came from the shtetl's most well-to-do and prestigious families. As we have already mentioned, Reb Ephraim Stiglitz left the shtetl to settle in Reishe. Of this large family only Bluma, the youngest daughter and her husband Reb Moshe Berglas, also of Brzozow, survived and are now in New York. They hid in Belgium during the war.

Ha'im Ya'akov and Hennia Katz were childless and adopted a girl in the family – Haitscha, who later married Reb Yo'el Markel, eldest son of Reb David Yona Markel and Brosha, the daughter of Reb Eliezer Fass, God rest his soul.

Reb Yo'el Markel and his brother, Eliyahu, are in Israel, the only remnants of the Markel and Katz families.

Reb Ha'im Ya'akov was lucky enough to die a natural death. The fate of his wife, Hennia and their daughter Haitscha is recounted in another chapter.

Reb Shmu'el Kintzler's daughter, Tzilla, married Yehoshua Wolfman, the son of Reb David Wolfman. One son Leybush, settled in Krakow and the other Eliezer lived with his family in Brzozow. Of Eliezer Kintzler's family two daughters and the son, Moshe, came to Eretz Israel.

Reb Itzhak Fass, son of Reb Eliezer Fass, opened a flourishing used-clothes store after the First World War. Reb Itzhak and his wife, Gittele, were renowned for their charity and gave much help to the needy. Reb Itzhak was the “Bikkur Holim” Gabbai (visiting the sick) and many times, when the till was empty, would pay the doctors out of his own pocket for treating the sick as well as buying the medicine. He died in 1936.

The only survivor of the Fass Family is their son, Eliezer, now with his family in New York.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


A Letter

by Betty Berglass, formerly Bluma Stiglitz

 

My name is Betty Berglass, formerly Bluma Stiglitz. I was born in Brzozow and was the youngest of seven children in my family.

My father's name was Ephraim Stiglitz and during the last few years he lived in Reishe. He and my step-mother were killed together with my sister Hanna and her husband Ravhun, as well as their six children and my sister Esther.

Those who died in Brzozow were: my sister Sarah, her husband Ya'acov Fiderer, my sister Minna, her husband Dr. Henrick Fett and their two daughters.

My aunt, Hennia Katz, her daughter Clara Markel and her two sons were hidden by a brave and noble Polish woman, Zophia Gorgasch. A local doctor, called upon for help, informed on them and the whole family was killed.

I also lost my brother Hersch-Zvi Stiglitz and his wife in the shtetl of Kolbashov.

A total of one hundred members of my family were lost in the Holocaust.

It is my wish to thank Mr. Ha'im Bank for taking upon himself the great task of perpetuating the memory of our martyrs.

New York, 19.10.81
Betty Berglass


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A Letter

by Celia Kaplan

 

Dear Friends and Fellow-townsmen,

I would like to have the names of the Freund family included in the memorial book for Brzozow – those of my dear parents and sisters. It is true that my parents appear in the memorial book of “Yad Vashem” but your book commemorates the shtetl where my dear ones and their children were born and where they met an untimely death.

How well I remember my happy home, Israel Freund, my father, and Rachel, my mother. The girls: myself Celia the oldest, Nusha (that's what she was called in Brzozow) are now living here, in the U.S.A. My other three sisters: Mania, Machtchia and Shprintza were killed.

Mother was always worried about her 5 daughters, but Father would say: “Rachel, don't worry, 'mir wellen zei farzuckern'” (farzuckern – a Yiddish expression meaning to make an unexpected sale at a high price).

I loved my father for his benevolence and optimistic attitude. He would say: “One has to show God how one should live. Demand a turkey and He will supply you with one; but if you only ask for a few potatoes – that's what you'll get!” He had such innumerable come-backs for his wife and daughters.

He was a kind-hearted man who knew all the officials and magistrates in the shtetl. When a Jew had a problem he would bring it to Reb Israel Freund to see if he could help. Mother and the five daughters were very proud of him. Our house was a haven of love and tranquility. Today I am still proud of being Israel Freund's daughter.

The above are the facts I wanted to see included in Brzozow's memorial book.

Wishing you all health and success.

10.12.82
Celia Kaplan


A Forgotten Family

by Eli Weiss

 

Our shtetl Brzozow was constructed in the style of all other similar towns in Galicia. In the center of town, standing as if just naturally grew there was the city hall with its high tower on top of which was the “town clock”. Around the city hall was the marketplace and in the middle was a well with a large wheel. The water from the well was pumped by means of a turning wheel.

All the Jewish houses, the wooden ones as well as the brick, were concentrated in an area called “Rynek” and included the neighboring streets. During the entire week the Jewish shopkeepers looked forward to Monday, the weekly market day, in hopes of customers. The Jews lived together in this small area and knew one another well. They would meet in the synagogues and also in the public bath. They helped each other by lending a “Gemilath Chessed” (loan without interest).

I would like to mention a family which was among the Jewish inhabitants, but because it was outside the Jewish section, I am sure that not too many people remember them. It was the family of David Segal. The Segal family lived in an exclusively non-Jewish neighborhood on the side of the “Town-River” on the Borkowka. The Gentile inhabitants of the “Borkowka” belonged to the lowest level of the general population of Brzozow. The section of “Borkowka” was mainly occupied by poor craftsmen, people without a steady job, and without any specific occupation. These people worked occasionally, perhaps two or three times a week, doing all kinds of work. Some of them had a goat and a few chickens. It is difficult to imagine how this Jewish family was able to take root in such a section, considering that David Segal was a typical Jew with a beard and earlocks, wearing traditional Chassidic clothing. Probably the level of destitution of this Jewish family was the main quality of merit which created the possibility of landing in such a neighborhood. David Segal was even more destitute than the poorest of

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Gentiles in “Borkowka, so he evoked no feelings of jealously or envy…

The reason that I know David Segal and his family is as follows. As a child, every Friday my task was to bring the “Chaloth” ordered for Shabbath to our customers from our bakery. To the list of orders my mother always added the name of David Segal. I used to bring to them a package with “Chaloth” as well as other additional products. My mother, of blessed memory, would warn me not to mention this to anyone. She also told me not to wait, as with the other customers, for payment, but to just deliver the package, to tell them “A Gutn Shabbath”, and to leave.

Four souls were waiting for that package. The father, David Segal, with an expression of anxiety in his half closed eyes; his wife, a sickly, thin woman with a kerchief over her forehead covering her shaved hair; the daughter, dressed in a long badly fitting dress and a pair of old men's shoes; and the son also wearing clothes of the same sort, a pair of large pants with patches and a torn shirt. The boy's “Payoth” (earlocks) looked out from the middle of his shaved head which was covered with a threadbare cap. His hair was cut by someone who was definitely not a barber. The entire house in which the family lived consisted of one room with a kitchen that had an iron top to cook on and an oven to bake bread in, but nobody knows when and how many times they used the kitchen and the oven.

On Friday, before noon, when I entered the house, I noticed a broken table standing in the middle of the room, covered with a tablecloth full of patches, waiting for the time when a couple of “Chaloth” for Shabbath would be placed on it just like in all the other Jewish homes. David Segal was sitting at the table whispering the “Tefiloth” from the prayer book. What he was asking the Almighty for we will never find out. However, what he really needed is not difficult to guess.

Near the house of David Segal there was a windmill. It always appeared that when the wind was blowing, David Segal had nothing to put into the mill to grind, and vice versa, when he had something to put in it, the wind probably stopped blowing… Before Pesach the windmill came back to life. Strong winds started blowing and people brought wheat for grinding into flour for “Shmirah Matzoth”. The “big” and most important season for David Segal was during the few weeks before Pesach. At that particular time he ran around occupied with the “business” and with the hope that from now on a new and happy life was beginning for him. Unfortunately it was only a dream, and everything reverted to the earlier state… The mill was the only source of “Parnasa” for David Segal, and at the same time it was the source of is destitution. Could it be that the windmill in Brzozow is still running? But it is not grinding any more flour for “Shmirah Matzoth” because the man who put the mill to work, together with the users of the “Shmirah Matzoth”, have all found their resting place in the Brother-Grave in Brzozow.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


My Family

by Eli Weiss

 

My great grandfather and grandmother – Shraga and Mishkit Lachman – were born and lived in Brzozow. Seven children were born to them, two sons and five daughters, called “Mishkit's kinder”. One son, Shim'on, left for America and the rest remained in Brzozow.

The Lachman Family

The second son, Reb Naphtali Lachman, may God avenge him, fathered ten children, four of whom immigrated to Eretz Israel and another son, Shmu'el, managed to survive in Russia and died later in Tel Aviv. Reb Naphtali, his wife and other five children were all killed in the Holocaust.

The Spindler Family

Of my great grandparents' daughters, Sima was the wife of Reb Gershom Spindler, may God avenge him. They had eight children and their eldest daughter, Toybe, came to Eretz Israel. One son, Yoseph, was killed in France, leaving two small children in the care of a Catholic institution. Toybe succeeded in getting them to Israel. Two sisters, Mishkit and Sonia, are now in America. The parents, their sons

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Feivel, Hirsch-Melech, Mendel, and their daughter Mala were all killed in Brzozow.

The Tisser Family

Hentshe, their daughter, married Reb Yoseph Tisser, God rest his soul. They had two children: Shmu'el who went to America and Malka who came to Israel.

The Rubinfeld Family

Their third daughter, Feige, married Moshe Rubinfeld of Birtsch. Their son Feivel and his family were killed in the Krakow Ghetto.

The Levi Family

Huleh, their fourth daughter, married Reb Naphtali Levi. Both were killed in Brezow. Their daughter, Esther, survived and is living now in Israel.

The Weiss Family

The fifth daughter, Chaya, married my grandfather, Oren Weiss of Borislaw. My grandfather was among the founders of the “Hevrat Linat Tzedek” synagogue. He made his living from a small bakery and had five children. Leah, his daughter, went to America and his four sons lived in Brzozow, all owners of bakeries. The eldest son, Eli Hersch Weiss, married his cousin, Libba, of the Lachman family, and they had nine children. The four daughters, Miriam, Esther, Sonia and Hannaleh were killed together with their parents. The son, Yoseph, was killed in Russia. The eldest son, Me'ir Wolf, died in the U.S.A. Manes was saved in France; Mishkit went to America and Shlomo, the youngest who had been wounded as a solder in the war with the Nazis is now in Israel. Oren's second son, my father – Bereleh Weiss married my mother Esther. We were ten children, of whom six have survived. Five of us – Me'ir, Yosske, Ha'im, Uri, Eli (myself) and Totzi (Naftali) managed to survive the camps of Siberia. Our brother Me'ir enlisted in the Polish army which was being organized in Russia and fought against the Hitlerists. Natan who was in Brzozow during the Nazi rule there, was taken to the Plashov camp, spent time in Auschwitz and survived. Four brothers are in Israel and two in America.

The parents and four other children were killed.

Oren's third son was Maniss Weiss (Maneleh). His wife Eideleh came from Sanok. After the German occupation they crossed the San River to the Russian side and were banished to Siberia. This was the only family whose members all escaped from the inferno and were all saved. Maneleh, God rest his soul, died in Germany after the war, in a refugee camp. Eideleh, who died in Israel, lived to a great old age. She participated in many memorial services held in honor of our shtetl's martyrs and enjoyed everybody's affection and respect. She was the only shtetl “Mother” among the participants.

Two of the family, Yutta and Yosseph, lived with their families in Israel. Yutta married her cousin, my brother Me'ir.

The fourth son, Feivel Weiss, his wife Sarah, their daughter Esther Rivka ad son Oren, were all murdered when the Jews of Brzozow were liquidated.

May God avenge them.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


My Shtetl and Family

by Bracha Wolfman-Hann

 

It has been forty eight years since I left the shtetl of Brzozow where I was born and spent my youth. I still remember the “potchines” – long rows of houses roofed in front where we could walk back and forth when it was raining. There was the “delicatessen” belonging to Mashe Feingold, a small, intelligentent woman, always smiling, who welcomed her customers with characteristic quietness, serving everybody pleasantly and patiently. It was a special treat to go in there. She had become widowed while still young, a mother of small children, and everybody respected her for the way she brought them up. The eldest daughter, Etka, went to Lvov, there to be killed with her family. The three older sons, long may they live, were saved and there is no need to write about them, they are so well known.

I remember the days of “Slihot” when the Shames would go knocking from door to door in the small hours of the night, waking the people: “Jews, get up for slihot!” those were the Days of Awe, frought with fervor and much weeping in the synagogues.

I remember Purim, with Father sitting at the head of the table. Masqueraders going from house to house would enter sing and make music, and

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Father would pay them with coins he took from under the tablecloth.

There was intense activity in the shtetl on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. I remember one event, a ball held in Krentzler's Hall when I stood on the stage and sang a solo number, accompanied by the violinist Lanner. The song was called “Eretz Yisrael is my homeland”.

There was a Hebrew school in the shtetl whose first teacher was Miriam Sobol of blessed memory, later a member of Kibbutz Affikim. The teacher who came after her was Eliezer teacher who later married one of his pupils – Glickel Braff; were both killed in the Holocaust.

Let me say something about my family: my father was a man of learning, an exemplary father, husband and human being. He had lived a few years in America where he had two daughters, Clara and Gittel. He returned to Brzozow some years before war broke out.

My brother, Ya'akov, had gone to Eretz Yisrael but, to my regret, couldn't adapt himself to conditions here and returned home a few days before I immigrated to Israel. My brother Oscar used to live in Cracow but came to Brzozow during the wear, hoping the Germans wouldn't reach such a small village. He was killed there. His two sons, Dolek and Salek, survived. I had two other brothers – Yehoshua and Yossef and two sisters – Zippora and Leah. All were killed.

My mother was the daughter of Menashe Tzvick, a well-to-do man and one of the important burghers in the shtetl. Those days are gone – parents, brothers and sisters, all gone as if they had never been.

It is my earnest prayer that those who have survived and are with us today will live in peace and plenty. Amen.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


The Henig Family

by Avraham Levite

 

Reb Moshe Yankel, God rest his soul, was one of the most colorful, original figures in the shtetl. He taught the children Humash (Torah) and Rashi, and initiated them into the Gemarrah. Being artistically gifted and good at painting and whittling, he produced various religious artifacts such as spice containers, Hannukah candlesticks etc. Te carved wooden mezuzoth and the “mishenikhnas” (Adar) drawings in the shtetl's synagogues were his handiwork, and any that were made by others were actually imitations of his work.

Famed for his wisdom, many of his adages that were full of popular insight, sharpness and naivety formed part of the local folklore, and were for years recounted in his name. With the passing away of his generation a veritable treasure trove of aphorisms and maxims was lost to posterity.

I dimly remember him in the last years of his life, sick and feeble. In his old age he had broken a leg and was laid low, never to rise again. Lying in bed with his broken limb he asked in wonder: “What could the Holy one, blessed be He, have been thinking of – was He afraid I would desert…?”

Of his children three sons lived in the shtetl. The youngest, Reb David, God rest his soul, a tall, handsome man with a well-tended reddish beard, died suddenly in the early 30's, leaving a wife, Dina and a son, Mendel who, handsome and athletic as he was, died suddenly like his father, at the age of 16. There was also a daughter, Esther, who married Avraham Kupper of Sanok (who passed away in Israel). Esther and her mother, Dina, were lost in the Holocaust.

Reb Moshe Yankel's two other sons were Reb Dov-Behr and my uncle, Rev Yom –Tov Lippa, may God avenge them. The brothers were also connected by inter-marriage: Behr's son, Pinchas, went to France, later taking his parents and family there – where they were destroyed by the assassins. Pinchas married Yom-Tov's daughter, Esther, and they lived in France until the Holocaust. Pinchas died in Auschwitz and his wife and three children were saved and are now in Canada.

Behr Hennig was a wise Jew, considered to be learned in the ways of the world, and his advice and balanced opinions, which were always to the point,

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were sought by many merchants and businessmen. He was often appointed arbiter in complicated business disputes, both sides depending on his integrity.

It was somewhat strange to see how this man, who laid down the law in business matters and could advise others how to handle their affairs, supported himself with difficulty and led a life of extreme poverty. His case appeared to prove the saying: “A prisoner cannot release himself from his cage…”

Here is a small episode involving Reb Behr, may God avenge him:

There was a scholarly youth, son of a highly respected family in the shtetl who, in preparation for his emigration to Erez Israel, was learning carpentry so as to be able to make a living there. At the end of his apprenticeship he was to appear for an examination at the Artisans' Union, presenting some specimens of his labor in order to receive an Artisan's License.

Wearing his best clothes he hired Sender the porter, to carry the stools he had made to the Union's Office at the other end of the shtetl, it being beneath the dignity if a man of good family to cart furniture in the street.

Meeting Behr Hennig on the way, the young man greeted him and Behr, in the homely spirit of the shtetl, asked him where he was going and what was the furniture that Sender was carrying before him. When the youth told him the story, Behr said: “My son, you will never be a carpenter!” “Why?” came the astounded answer. “Because a craftsman is proud of his handiwork while you, instead of proudly carrying the stools you made through the streets of the shtetl for all to see, have hired a porter to carry them…”

Needless to say, Behr was right, and the young man, on coming to Israel, never worked at carpentry…

My uncle, Yom-Tov Lippa Hennig, may God avenge him, was one of the respected “Baalei Batim” in the shtetl and an important follower of the “Sadigura” Hassidim in town. As a scholar he had fixed hours of study. He took regular part in the Gemarrah lessons at the “Sadigura” Clois' together with Reb Ya'akov Izhak Saltz, Reb Eliezer Shertz, Reb Shlomo Eisen and my father, Haim Herz Levite, may God avenge them. This lesson was held continually for many years, summer and rainy winter, up till the outbreak of the war.

Reb Yom-Tov Lippa had a rare sense of humor. From his father he had inherited his acuity and wit as well as his artistic talents, which, as was customary at the time, were left to be ignored.

As a child I was always showing off a beautiful lead Hannukah dreidel which he had cast for me. In Simchat Torah my flag, also his handiwork, was the most beautiful in the Clois: a flag with a Torah Scroll inside an open Holy Ark, with two “real” lions serving as royal guards on each side.

Romantic and sensitive, he loved music with all his heart. A beautiful melody played on the violin could bring tears to his eyes. He told me that it had been his childhood's dream to play the violin, a dream which had never materialized.

He was insatiably curious about the modern world and the discoveries of technology – a trait which, like his artistic talents, was nipped in the bud by the extremism of the Hassidic norms at the time. The well-defined limits beyond which one could not go were hermetically sealed and those who dared go beyond them in those days were few indeed.

As soon as the Germans entered the shtetl they closed down his haberdashery shop which was never reopened. My aunt, Sarah Gittel, God rest her soul, passed away naturally in 1941, the envy of the whole family. My uncle, who remained alone, lived till the Holocaust, only to be swept away with all the Jews of the shtetl, may God avenge their souls.

Their daughters, Leah, blessed be her memory, and Clara, long may she live, were in Canada. Esther and the son Abraham were saved in France. The elder daughter, Ethel Werner, and her family (of Sanok) and the two youngest daughters, Feige and Reizel (now in Holon) were saved in Russia.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


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A Tragic Family

by Rysia Seelenfreund

 

There was a second-class court house in our town, Brzozow – a municipal court or “Sond Grodtsky” in Polish. Only one Jewish judge served among all the others – Dr. Leon Horowitz, a man universally respected for his integrity and professional proficiency.

The family consisted of himself, his wife Amalia, a daughter Anna, affectionately called Andjia and a son, David-Dziushek, some years younger than his sister.

Just after Andjia began her studies at the Jaglonian University at Krakow tragedy struck the family. Dr. Horowitz, who had suffered from kidney stones, was obliged to undergo an operation, shortly after which he died. The widow left for Krakow with her children so as to make it easier for her to pay for their studies.

Andjia took a job as a high school teacher and went to Krinits, a famous spa, on her holidays. It was there she fell ill and her condition became so serious that when the doctors finally realized she had typhoid fever it was too late to save her and the young girl's life was lost.

I next heard about this unhappy family at the height of the war in 1942. The woman who had been my father's secretary for many years wrote to me in Warsaw that Mrs. Horowitz, her son, and their devoted servant had fled from the Germans to Eastern Galicia, a territory which was later taken by the Soviets. Dziushek, having completed his law studies before the war, worked there in his profession and supported his family. They lived quietly in their new home until the outbreak of the German – Russian War.

When the Nazis invaded western Poland, Dziushek was killed by Ukrainian nationalists (according to our information he was shot by the Nazis in Ternopol in his capacity of an official of the congregation, together with all the members of the Judenrat, Ed.).

Mrs. Horowitz, suffering seriously from diabetes and broken in spirit, came to Brzozow with her servant, complete destitute. The town Jews did their best to support and assist her. Sara Bibber (then secretary of the town Judenrat) requested my help and I gave her some money. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Horowitz passed away, thus creating the Hitlerite hangmen of a victim.

I cannot speak of the Horowitz family without mentioning their faithful servant, a woman Mrs. Horowitz had brought with her from her birthplace, Tschortkow. She was a simple, illiterate Ruthenian who became a part of the family. A lonely spinster, she was devoted to the children whom she tended from the day of their birth, and loved them with all her heart. Such loyalty is truly remarkable – she accompanied her mistress to the bitter end in spite of the misfortunes of the family. Her name was Anna Tsaban.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


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Reb. Israel Feith

by Chaim Bank

 

By the 19th century quite a large Jewish population already occupied Brzozow. A “Kehillah” Synagogue, a “Chevrah Kedisha”, a “Bikur Cholim”, “Gemiloth Chasidim” and other organizations were established. The above mentioned Jewish municipal town branches were operated by Jews born in Brzozow. Among these inhabitants belonged Reb Israel Feith, son of Alexander Zusman Feith, who was born in Brzozow in 1858. He was the “Gabi” of the Bikur Cholim and a large contributor to the sick, helping them in every way possible. Reb Israel's mother died at his birth and he was raised by a poor aunt. When he grew up he was sent to learn tailoring and this remained his permanent trade.

Reb Israel Feith possessed initiative and an enterprising spirit. This he demonstrated by undertaking the responsibility of building the “Klois” “Chevrath Linath Hatzedek”. His main concern was that the new Synagogue be decorated properly with ornamentation and skillful paintings.

When the Jewish historian, Dr. Itzchak Shipper, came to Brzozow to visit his sister and brother-in-law, Dr. Samuel Selenfreund, they took him inside the synagogue. There he admired the originality of the paintings and commented that the work must have been done by a great artist. Actually the work was executed by an ordinary Jewish painter who worked while under the influence of alcohol…

Reb Israel Feith and his wife Sara had four children – two sons and two daughters. His oldest daughter, Reisel, and her husband Reb Itshe Fenster, were the first to have a wedding ceremony “Chupah” performed on the dedication “Hanukath-Habaith” of the construction of the Linath Hatzedek Klois.

Reb Israel Feith died in 1915. His wife Sara died on the seventh day of the Jewish month Adar in the year 1940, thus avoiding the trauma of the German atrocities. In the “shtetl” people whispered that Sara Feith died a righteous woman; first, due to her noble deeds, and also because she died on the day of Moses' passing (Moshe Rabbenu).

His two sons died in the U.S.A. The daughter, Reisel, her husband, and children perished in the Holocaust, with the exception of their son David. The youngest daughter of Reb Israel Civia, her husband, son and daughter-in-law, miraculously survived and are living in New York.


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Our Family

by Avraham (Rommek) Laufer
Ida Tratner, nee Laufer

 

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Our grandfather Shalom Laufer, may God avenge him, came to Brzozow in 1880 from the Slovakian town of Dzilburtsa. He married a Brzozow girl, Mirelleh Lerner, and established a highly diversified business which did well enough for them to build a spacious house in the heart of the town.

In time this building came to house the whole family, all its branches included, and grandfather's complex business transactions were also carried out in it. Grandfather was regarded by all as a wise, resourceful man and many people turned to him for guidance in their family and business problems.

When the German assassins annihilated the Jewish community of Brzozow, grandfather was 86 years old, one of the shtetl's oldest Holocaust victims. Unlike his parents and grandparents before him it was not given to him to die a natural death.

We lived in grandfather's spacious house with our parents, Ben-Zion and Pessel Laufer, may god avenge them, and they had their wholesale business there. Uncle Mendel Laufer and his family also lived with us.

Our family combined a high regard for Jewish tradition with deep Zionist convictions. Father was highly involved in the town's congregational affairs and towards the end, up to the outbreak of war in 1939, served as head of the congregation. We have a vivid memory of the presentation of a new Torah Scroll made by our parents to the Mizrahi Stiebel, when the scroll was carried in a procession from our house to the synagogue.

On that festive occasion our town was visited by one of the Mizrahi leaders from Cracow, and Father asked him to arrange some immigration permits to Israel for a number of our townsmen. The happy few, who did get these precious “certificates”, as they were then called, were, thanks to them, spared from the inferno.

Today it is difficult to conceive of the despair and helplessness of the Jews at that time. Not only were they outlawed from all public or national services, but the Polish anti-semites began crowding them out of their only source of livelihood – commerce and the trades, boycotting them and preventing Polish customers from entering their shops. They were in such dire straits that public-spirited Jews initiated the establishment of some modest funds for mutual assistance, both public and private, in order to give support where possible and prevent the closure of such businesses as could not withstand the pressure. Such a private charity fund existed in our house, where loans were given to the needy.

As a child I remember being sent with messages connected with such charity loans. Once, as I was walking in the street, an old, heavily bearded Jew approached, obsequiously bowing his head before me. I blushed with embarrassment and got away as quickly as possible, deeply conscious of the man's humiliation at finding himself forced to belittle himself in front of a child, hurrying to greet him as if his living depended on it. Thereafter I made a point of not meeting him face to face and if I spied him in the distance on the pavement I would quickly cross the road so that he wouldn't see me.

This incident gives some indication of the extent of the economic straits into which very many Jews had sunk.

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The German invasion brought an end to life in the shtetl. Their first objective was to destroy the Jews economically, and all Jewish businesses were confiscated immediately. Whole families fell apart, and many, especially men, escaped to the east. Our family, too, was divided: mother stayed at home with our brother Ze'ev while father, with our older brothers, Tsvi (Hersch) and Eliezer and ourselves fled from the Germans and stayed in the area captured by the Soviets, where we enjoyed personal freedom but became penniless refugees.

We managed to avoid being exiled to Siberia during a raid carried out by the N.K.V.D., among the refugees, but, having been left behind, we were caught by Germans who attacked the Soviet Union in 1941.

As soon as the Nazis entered Zlotsov, the town where we were staying, they encouraged the Ukrainians to make a pogrom on the Jews, and in a matter of days two thousand of the town's Jews – about half of the whole population, were killed with ferocious cruelty, and their corpses cast into a communal grave. Our brothers Tsevi and Eliezer, may God avenge them, were among the dead.

Jews were forbidden to move from place to place without a special permit, but so strong was our longing to return home and be reunited with our families that, thanks to our connections, we procured the desired permit. We even managed to take Ya'acov Tratner, a townsman of ours and the son of Mendel Tratner who, during a pogrom, had been cast into a pit with the rest of the corpses and by some miracle had crawled out alive.

The family reunion did not last for long. In the summer of 1942 the calamity struck our town and the Jewish community of Brzozow was completely decimated. The old and the children were murdered where they were and the others were taken to the death camp Belzits.

Our parents, aged 51 and 53 respectively, together with our brother Ze'ev, died together. Our uncle Mendel, his wife Shprintza and their daughter Feige were killed in the shtetl. Their son, Yossef, was murdered in a concentration camp. As for ourselves, Ida and Avraham Laufer, our Via Dolorosa took us to the Plaschov Camp to Prokotsim, the “Lunetsky Prison”, periods of hard labor and wandering, arrests and impossible escapes – all with very slight chances for survival.

How great must have been our ancestors' privileges to us getting through all this with our lives…

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


The Jewish “Intelligentzia” of Brzozow

by Moshe Amit (Seelenfreund)

 

There were very few academicians among the 300 families in the town, and most of them were lawyers. There were hardly any Jewish doctors – the three we had at different times left the shtetl.

The capital of the region boasted an extensive bureaucracy with hardly a Jew among them.

Judges:

Dr. Horowitz: He was a Court Judge and considered a brilliant man of law. A quiet man, he was dedicated to his work and his family. His eldest daughter was a teacher and his son studied law. In the mid 30's he fell ill and did not survive the operation. For a short time he had been a member of the town council but his position as a judge prevented him from being active in public life. His whole family was destroyed at the beginning of the war.

Dr. Rappaport: A temporary court judge. He arrived at Brzozow in the mid 30's and left after a few years for a post outside the town. He was an officer in the Polish military police force and there were rumors that during the war he had gone to England.

Lawyers:
Dr. Shmu'el l Seelenfreund: My father of blessed memory, whose life is described in the chapter called “My Father's House”.

Dr. Shechter: He was a veteran in the shtetl, a lawyer. His specialty, at which he was highly successful, was the criminal court. He was an active Zionist but avoided any special public activities. His son, Dr. Ya'acov Shechter (Kuba), long may he live, was active in the Revisionist movement even before the war. He is now a lawyer in Tel Aviv.

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Dr. Herzig: He was Dr. Shechter's brother-in-law and partner in their law firm. He was an officer in the Austrian army during the First World War and an active Zionist, particularly during election time.

Dr. Atlas: A veteran lawyer in the town, devoted to his family and office. He took no part in public life and was among the few survivors of the Second World War. Appointed as a judge in the new Poland, in the Katovitz region, he died in the early 60's.

Dr. Fett: A lawyer, son-in-law of Reb Ephra'im Fiderer, may god avenge him. He came to the town in the early 30's, was active in the Zionist movement and was killed during the Second World War.

Dr. Kuflick: A lawyer, native of the town and a graduate of the Brzozow Government Gymnasium. For many years he was apprenticed to the office of Dr. Seelenfreund and opened his own in the mid 30's. His sister, who also studied law (N.Rozner M.A.) worked in the office of the Gentile lawyer Dr. Dobrovolsky.

Sarah Rozner M.A.: A philosophy graduate who worked as a teacher for some time in a Gymnasium. Was saved by some miracle and, as soon as the Second World War was over, emigrated to the U.S.A.

Dr. Lusthaus: Son of a Jewish Government official, he came to the Middle East with the Polish army and even visited Israel. After the war he returned to Poland.

Prof. Korn: A great teacher and educator in a Polish Government gymnasium in the town, he excelled in teaching mathematics and physics, mostly in the higher 11th and 12th grades. Knew three languages well, including Hebrew. His service in the educational system of the government did not permit him to participate in any political activity, but he devoted himself to public welfare. After Dr. Seelenfreund's retirement from his job as chairman of the Congregational Council, Prof. Korn was elected to the post, serving in it till the outbreak of the Second World War. He and his whole family were killed in the Holocaust.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)


The Retarded and the Insane

by Avraham Levite

 

No “In Memoriam” of the shtetl is complete without mentioning the backward or insane, those who, because of their disability, had raised no families of their own and lived alone in some dark corner to which they were relegated by their relatives as though, God save us, they were domestic animals.

The faces of these unfortunates were strangely free of the deep furrows etched into all the others by their daily cares and anxieties. Nor could one discern the various stages of adolescence or of creeping old age so apparent in all normal people, affecting their appearance, behavior, clothing and social standing. This is probably the source of the adage: “A fool's face never changes”.

Members of the shtetl returning to it after some years' absence, would recognize them immediately – their motley clothing, queer walk, in short, all their “hoilech” (Yiddish denoting unkempt clothing and a bizarre appearance) gave them away immediately and, like malformed and distorted trees, they were prominent against the village background and formed some of its landmarks.

These unfortunates played a certain role in the village economy, though it was not, of course, one to their own advantage. Cruel though it may seem, this role seemed a natural one to a part of the congregation who made them the butt of fun and jokes, while only a few objected to the practice.

This was common practice especially in the prayer-houses, the “Cloises”, which, besides being a place of prayer, reading and Torah study, also served as a kind of “club” where the Jews spent most of their time. It was there that tales were told, wine glasses raised in “Le'chai'im”, politics discussed and jokes told to everyone's amusement. Among the reactions elicited from their victims there were often pearls of language and utterances drawing gales of laughter from their hearers.

These poor creatures, it must be noted, were very useful in society, doing the dirty work and the

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most difficult jobs shunned by others; and all for the price of a slice of bread or some left-over soup. On Sundays, the day of rest of the peasant women water-carriers, they brought water from the well to replace all the water which had been used up on the Sabbath. In winter they swept away the snow and in the summer banked up the mud from the entrances to the houses. They also collected the junk and the garbage which had collected in the backyards. Before the Holy-Days they were sent to the “shochet” (ritual slaughter) loaded with heavy baskets of fattened hens and ducks while the most they could expect for themselves in all these rich repasts were a few bones to suck.

They helped in times of trouble and in times of job. For family celebrations they carried in the benches and tables from the synagogues, cleaned up the mess and ran all the messages. When, God forbid, there was a death in the house and the bereaved family was prostrated – it was they who did all the chores, pouring out the water from all the pails and barrels in the corridor and covering the bed of the deceased and the mirrors in the room after he had been removed from the house. They fetched and carried, moved furniture and did all that was necessary in such contingencies.

Their living quarters were the “cloises” and “beis-medrash” which everyone was free to enter, and they had as much right to do so as anybody. In winter they would warm themselves at the lighted stove and in summer take short naps on one of the benches.

It was here they were to be found when their services were needed, returning when their tasks were done.

Besides these retarded creatures there was another group of wretches – the mad – who, for lack of adequate asylums, wandered round the street, mixing among the people who did their best to avoid them. The plight of these sick individuals was worse than that of the retarded described above, for they were incapable of taking care of their most basic needs.

The most fortunate among them had a family to look after them, doing as much as possible to help them preserve a semblance of humanity. Others were abandoned, lonely and forsaken, for people kept their distance from them. Kind-hearted women would hand them a slice of bread or a ladle of soup; at times they would get a torn shirt to change their clothing and some attempt was made to see that they were not totally abandoned.

The two groups, the retarded as well as the sick, lived among the sane and shared t he customs that ruled their environment. Like everybody else they kept the religious traditions and their ragged clothing was in accordance with that worn by their betters around them. They were a reflection, as it were, in a crooked mirror, of their own society, adding a certain shade to the local color.

When the war broke out they disappeared, holed up in dark corners, to be seen no more on the streets. They did not understand what had happened – events were beyond the comprehension of wiser men than they – only feeling the shock instinctively, sensing the approaching danger. Terrified they stared at the ground rocking beneath them, seeking in vain for something to support them. Their reaction to the helplessness of those surrounding them was like that of children, but there was o one to enfold them, try to calm them with fictitious words of comfort. There was no one to reply to their questions, questions they were incapable of asking. No one thought about them. Darkness and destruction were reflected in all the faces a round them and they were paralyzed by terror.

Those among them who did not die a natural death ended up like all the others, to be sunk in oblivion with the rest of the congregation.

As we respect them we will not mention their names, but let us leave these human beings a niche in the memorial monument dedicated to the shtetl to which they belonged.

(Translated by Herzlia Dobkin, Haifa)

 

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