by Naftali Lenczner
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
I don't remember almost anything of my childhood, as if it hadn't existed at all. It seems that my life skipped the period of childish mischievousness, games and children's amusements, and I had gone directly into the world of youth.
In our city there was no Jewish school. A small portion of the Jewish youth
studied in the Jewish school in the nearby city in Będzin. I, like most
of the Jewish youth in the city, attended a Polish school. Amongst the fifty
students in the class we were three Jews. In the higher classes of the public
school, the Jewish students stood out as the best students. Celebrations were
organized in the school for the parents on any date related to a national event
in Polish history, such as: the 11th of November and the 3rd
of May. The students had to prepare lectures on a topical subject and the best were
selected by the teacher to be heard at a public celebration. My school friend,
Moniek Neufeld and I, submitted the best work of all the children in the class
and, for a change, both of us were selected to talk in front of an assembly of
teachers, parents and students at a national celebration. The principal of the
school once came into our class and preached morals in approximately this
language: I had hoped to hear a lecture on Polish heroes who fought
gallantly against foreign invaders from a Polish child, and here, a
number of times a Jewish youth has stood before the assembly of three hundred
Poles and lectured in front of them in good taste, with enthusiasm and
fundamental knowledge of the historical theme and the Polish language a
chapter in our history, as if it was the history of his people. I am proud of
the Jewish students who have learned Polish history and language, but I demand
from the Polish children: You are to excel in these subjects!
For most of the years we lived in the Reden colony, on the 1st of May Street, opposite the Bet Midrash [house of religious learning]. We had a coffee shop. Amongst our clients there were Jews and also Christian Poles. For Purim, Simchat Torah and so on we supplied drinks to most of the synagogues and shtiblech [a shtibel is a familiar community synagogue].
The coffee shop was filled with Poles during the week, who sat for hours and
hours over a cup of drink and a dessert. Two days a month were difficult and
filled with tension, and they were: in the middle of the month and at the end
of it. These were days that the industrial workers, the factory and the coal
workers received their wages. Most of workers were simple people and their
twice-weekly [should be monthly] wage they squandered, for the most part as
they received it, on food and gluttony. The city streets were filled with
drunks who rolled in muck and mud, whilst screaming, squabbling and fighting.
In our coffee shop, as well, quarrels between clients broke out, when the heavy
drinking began to take effect. Sometimes I witnessed drunken rioting in our
shop, whilst bottles, glasses and furniture were broken, with bodily injuries,
till we were compelled to call in the police. The drunks usually didn't harm my
parents, however, it did occur that my father mistakenly received punches
whilst trying to come in between the quarrellers.
Chairman of the Bund party in Dąbrowa
|B. Lenczner's announcement
about the relocation of his kosher restaurant Tel Aviv
from 3 of May Street to Sobieskiego Street
During the same years in which lived in the Reden colony, we prayed in the central synagogue on the 1st of May Street, that was filled and brimming with worshippers three times a day during the week. In the morning they began praying at sunrise. For most of the day Jews sat in the Bet Midrash and studied. In the evening, when the Mincha and Ma'ariv prayers approached, the synagogue was once again filled with worshippers. Between the Mincha and Ma'ariv prayers the congregation split up into two groups: one said psalms with their cantor, and they were the majority, and the second individuals, continued reading through the Gemara by long tables. After the evening prayer they remained bending over the many books of learning for an extended period, in groups and individually.
Most of the public actively participated in community life and responded
vigilantly to the community leaders. More than once I heard heated arguments
amongst the customers, regarding who should be honored as the Chatan
Torah [person called up to the reading of last portion of the Torah on
Simchat Torah] and who deserves the Chatan Bereshit
[person called up to the reading of the Torah on Simchat Torah] Or
on the eve of Simchat Torah who should be honored with the
Achat Hareot prayer. There were also vocal arguments about
aliyot [going up] to the Torah readings. These worshippers left a
lasting impression on me with their delightful prayers on Saturdays and
holidays and I remember Icchak Oks zl, Alboim and Lemkowicz who passed in
front of the ark during the Shacharit [morning] prayers with lively
melodies and with the congregation participating in singing the chanted
sections; also Rabbi Jakob-Tuvia Kozoch, who usually sang the Mosaf
[additional] prayers in a low, serious and resonant voice. In particular, the
Mosaf prayers during the Yamim Hanoraim [intermediate
days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur] of Rabbi
Szalom Judkewicz left an indelible impression on me. Even today I am full of
respect and reverence for this dear man who provided me with hours of spiritual
uplifting that came from the heart and rose up to the heavens.
His sons dressed in black silk clothes assisted him, the traditional dress of Chassidic Jews. He immediately conquered me with his Hinneni Hani Mamash prayer, the prayer of the cantor before the Mosaf prayers. Quivering and in trepidation, he begged the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He speed the way give mercy to the Jews. In a quiet voice, filled with lament and supplication he requested from G-d:
and gradually his pleading voice grew stronger:
The voices of the sons merged well with the father's supplications, and together they created a pleasant blend of voices, that was a cry from the depth of the heart:
Our grandfather, Reb Zacharija Granatman, who prayed in the Radomsk
shtibel, had a claim on the Shacharit
prayers during the Yamim Hanoraim. The grandchildren helped him
with the prayers and grandfather's preparations before the Yamim
Hanoraim prayers, had an affect on us from the beginning of the month of
Elul. The Chassidic congregation was very pleased with his prayers. Grandfather
received many bravos for his delightful praying, and we were pleased with him
and saw ourselves as part of his success.
In the family
We were six brothers in our home: Aaron-Icchak, Chajm-Lejb, Herszko-Naftali, Josef, Izik and Dawid. The two young brothers were killed in Auschwitz together with Mother. The parents paid a deal of attention to bringing up the sons, and did not spare labor or financial means to provide us with a general education and religious study.
Father Jakob son of Aaron Icchak Lenczner
Mother Brajndl daughter of Zacharija Granatman
Mother despite the fact that she was always busy at home and in the shop took care of our every need and took interest in every detail of our lives. If on every weekday both of them were immersed and occupied in the onus of a livelihood, running frightened from the drunks' disruption, and full of fear that the frightening scenes that the children witnessed in the shop would harm our youthful innocence and purity when Shabbat came a new world opened for them, a world of tranquility and joy. On the Shabbat evening, on coming home from synagogue, a tastefully arranged table awaited us and the lighted candles gave a festive feeling. Mother received us at the door with a face shining with pleasure. In reply to our joyous Shabbat Szalom, she placed a warm kiss on every one of our faces. Father immediately stood at the head of the table and began singing Shalom Aleichem Malachei Hasharat [Welcome ministering angels] and each of us participated in welcoming the ministering angels and the other Shabbat songs. Over the faces of Father and Mother floated a smile of joy and thanks for the greatest gift given by G-d, called the Shabbat, in which there is no worry about livelihood or fear from drunks.
On Shabbat evenings, during the wintertime, I sat with my mother till late and read from the Good Book, stories from the sermons of the Torah sages. Mother was very sorry that she hadn't undertaken religious studies, and the bible was closed and sealed for her, (her parents did not value religious studies for a girl). I felt a pleasant duty to provide her with a few hours of contentment in opening a small access to our past riches. My mother was very shocked by the selling of Joseph episode, and stressed that the brotherly hatred to Joseph was a result of envy of the fact that Jacob loved him more than the other sons. Indeed, my mother was careful to show the same bond of love to all of us. Tears ran from her eyes, when I read the torturous and hellish path that Joseph underwent with the people of Ishmael on his way to Egypt.
On one long Shabbat evening, after the meal, Uncle Nachum Granatman (my mother's
brother) visited us. He was the chairman of the Bund in the city, a
very educated man. A lively discussion began on the state of the Jews in
Poland. My older brother, Iccak, belonged to the Hashomer Hatzair
[Young Guard] movement, Chaim-Lejb to the Zionist youth
movement, and Josef and myself to the Hashomer Hadati
[Religious Guard] movement. At almost every opportunity that we sat
together, lively arguments took place on the importance of each movement and
the type of government that should be established in the Land of Israel. Our
parents became used to these conflicts of ideas and once in a while were forced
to calm the stormy spirit of their sons, calming us by noting that firstly one
needed to reach the land of our forefathers and after that to argue about the
type of administration. This time the argument became extremely heated being
influenced by the extreme opinions spoken by our uncle. In his opinion we
needed to fight for an honest and just regime wherever we were situated. The
Jewish worker was obligated to fight a struggle for survival wherever he was.
Uncle Nachum negated our long-awaited aspiration of reaching Israel; the Land
of Israel had no special meaning and its main task was, in his opinion, to
organize thousands of Jewish workers into the framework of various trade
organizations, and through them to strive for a fair existence for the Jewish
This time all the brothers were united in their vigorous opposition to his opinions and set out on an overwhelming attack against the Bund: How was it possible to agree to the opinion, that there was no Jewish nation in the world? That only the working class was vital and the most important? Each of us fervently expressed our viewpoints the viewpoint of each of our youth movements, on the timeless desire of a people dispersed throughout the world to go up to the Land of Israel, and re-establish a national homeland, to learn the Hebrew language, learn the glorious past of the nation and continue the customs of generations. Very excitedly each of us expressed our opinion and the argument became more and more heated, till Mother stopped us by saying: Today is Shabbat, why squabble? You know so well how we eagerly look forward for the Shabbat to come. You know that is it written in the holy books, that two angels come to us on Shabbat: one good and one evil. When they come into our apartment and see the table laid out, Shabbat candles lit, tranquility and joy dominate the home, the good angel would say: May it be His will that the next Shabbat will be like this, and the evil angel reluctantly replies Amen. If, G-d forbid, it is different the evil angel says his May it be His will and the good angel reluctantly replies Amen. Do you want to drive off the Shabbat from our home? Thus the argument ceased.
by Efraim Lenczner
Translated by Dr. David Dubin
Of ten measures of political, and especially Zionist, activism given to Dąbrowa, nine were taken by the Reden Colony.
Most of the initiatives, organizations and activists of the various parties arose from the Reden Colony, and among all the neighborhoods of Dąbrowa, they may have held a relative majority in each party and institution.
The axis around which the social issues' noise, activity and tempers revolved in Reden Colony was the study hall. The study hall was not merely a place of prayer and Torah study. But rather it was a meeting place for the Jews of Reden, young and old. Whether regarding political and public issues or whether they involved social or charitable issues.
We well remember the battles that raged between the walls of the study hall before political events, such as elections to the Polish sejm (parliament) or city council, with the appearance of speeches from all streams up to and including the secular Bund.
It is clear and inherently obvious that an emissary from the Land of Israel visiting Zagłębie regarding the Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal) or Jewish National Fund such as Leib Yaffe or Uri Zasławski from Nahalal, were expected to appear before the Jews of Reden at the podium of the study hall in order to extend them regards from the Zionist project in the Land, to inspire and encourage them in their love and fervor for the Land of Israel.
As stated, the study hall podium was not only for those coming or going, or for electing a rabbi or ritual butcher, but also for social needs, occasionally summoning and calling various public figures and the lion in the group was Ruwen Lichtcyer of blessed memory to remember and emphasize the indigent. I remember Szlomo Halpern of blessed memory ascended the podium and delayed the Torah reading until the congregants pledged to donate the funds needed for an emergent matter.
The base for most social action, as noted, was the study hall, and the season when most of the action took place was around the holidays: On Purim via the platters arranged on tables at the entrance, or via various activists, volunteers and donors who went door to door collecting money for the needy who were down on their luck and those who needed funds in secret so as not to embarrass them and for others who found themselves in financial straits.
On Simchat Torah a large fundraiser was from pledges made by those called to the Torah, and the Jews of Reden gave with a generous hand because winter was approaching and it was necessary to prepare warm clothing and shoes, potatoes and charcoal for the furnace. Prominent in his philanthropy was Nachman-Gutman of blessed memory who gave serious sums to charitable causes and also to Zionist causes.
Before the Flour for Passover campaign an appeal for those in need of Passover items such as matzos, wine fore the four cups etc. the public servants prepared lists in the study hall and sent the donors from there. It is interesting to read a paragraph from a 1935 letter from Dąbrowa written by the well known activist philanthropist and public servant Lajbl Szeczinowski of blessed memory to Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg of blessed memory in Tel-Aviv: The flour for Passover comes together through Mosze Bitner and Isaac Guterman.
I remember the Jablona incident. On one Sabbath in 1920 it became known that Jewish soldiers in the Polish army who were imprisoned and sent to Jablona under suspicion of espionage would be passing through Dąbrowa by train. With the speed of lightning a collection of Challah bread and other comestibles was assembled, and despite the prohibition of carrying objects outside the city limits on the Sabbath (The saving of lives takes precedence over the Sabbath), the supplies were brought to the study hall and from there to the hungry soldiers at the train station.
A visiting the sick society was formed which had as one of its functions ending volunteers to help the sick at night to lighten the load of the family slightly and to encourage them. The society had its home in the study hall and there the rotations of volunteers were determined.
Since we are dealing with societies, it is also worthwhile to
mention the society for purchasing and repairing books that had as one of its
functions to acquire holy books and to submit torn books for binding. On the
front page of each book was the stamp: The society for purchasing and
repairing books Study hall of the Reden Colony. When someone in
the Reden community died, the mourning fell on the entire Reden family. Yaakov
Szalom Fiszel of blessed memory would prepare the boards for the coffin in the
study hall, nailed them together with one of the neighbors when necessary,
until Reb Vova of blessed memory came and took care of the arrangements for the
purification of the body and the funeral.
At the left of the entrance, on the eastern wall next to the Holy Ark a Jewish National Fund charity box was fixed. One of the JNF's activities was screening a film with photos of Jewish settlements on National Fund land in the Land of Israel. This activity took place in the women's section of the study hall.
The study hall was the central location for placing notices, especially at the holidays, of Keren Hayesod and Jewish National Fund appeals, annual or other business evaluations, and also announcements for Zionist activities or raising the shekel donation. It is understood that there were also announcements and other activist materials from the other parties, and there were also anti-Zionists, but their influence was relatively minor, and therefore I am elaborating in the portrayal of Zionist activities, also because I was closer to the Zionist movement and served for a time as a delegate of the Jewish National Fund.
In the Reden Colony there were no Shtiblach (one-room synagogues) or other regular prayer groups during the year other than one or two for the Sabbath prayers and especially for the High Holidays. One of them which was especially prominent in the fastidiousness in pronunciation and understanding of the themes was that held in the home of Reb Chaim-Lajb Ingster, of blessed memory. The prayer leader was Majer'l Grajcer; Reb Majer'l was a prosperous and God-fearing Jew, and he was known as a divinely inspired prayer leader, who intoned the prayers and hymns, mostly in his own tunes, accompanied by a choir he assembled and trained beforehand as required. Among the choir members from 1914 which even as a young child I remember being moved by were: Aron Lemkowicz of blessed memory, Herszl Gliksman of blessed memory and Icchak Oks of blessed memory. They formed a unified harmony of beautiful and varied voices, which during other holidays would rise to the podium and regale the congregants with their mellifluous tones.
About fifty years have passed, and I still remember the Hineni (introductory prayer on the High Holidays) with Reb Majer'l's unique pouring out of emotions at mi-mekomecha in the Kedusha prayer, the Mechalchel chaim be-chesed, etc. These tunes are etched with pain and sadness into our minds and hearts with the loss of our beloved, our martyrs, our relations and acquaintances, God should avenge their blood.
Two eyewitnesses, survivors of the Holocaust, attest that Reb Majerl's (ob blessed memory) sister was among the group of women assembled for deportation to Auschwitz on the eve of Yom Kippur, and she prayed before them the prayer of Kol Nidre with emotion and fear and pain over the bitterness of their fate. An awesome cry erupted in the death camp, and the unfortunate women cried heartrending tears with prayers on their lips to the vengeful God.
As mentioned, there were no private prayer services or Shtiblach in Reden Colony, but there were members of various Hasidic sects with their own traditions and prayer versions, and of course this necessitated a certain level of tolerance on the part of the other congregants. In general, the Jews of Reden were outstanding in their democratic inclinations. For example, when Chaim-David Herszfeld led the Sabbath prayers he sang the Hakol Yoducha in the style of Radomsk, while at the time all the other prayer leaders only sang Kel Adon (the last, poetic section of the prayer).
While we are mentioning prayer leaders, it is impossible not to mention the learned prayer leader Szalom Judkowicz who besides his beautiful prayers also read the Torah divinely. Whoever heard him sing his tune of the Tisha B'Av dirge Eli Zion Ve-Areha, would feel and almost be able to visualize the Holy Temple in its destruction, but also whoever heard Reb Szalom of blessed memory recite (from the Torah) the Song of the Sea Thus sang Moses and with what enthusiasm and victorious shouting he chanted Horse and rider were cast into the sea felt the feeling of salvation then as now upon him.
Reb Joska Rozenfrucht of blessed memory (Joska Dinah's) my mother's brother may he rest in peace, a faultless and God-fearing Jew, was a moving prayer leader, his High Holiday prayers would elicit heartrending weeping and conversely with his enthusiasm could be joyful and make joyful with song: Be cheerful and happy on Simchat Torah, for joyfulness is better than any business (Sahra is better than sehora), and the congregation followed after him and poured out joyous voices in powerful song to celebrate the Festival of the Torah.
In the study hall there were several habitual Torah learners: First and foremost should be mentioned Herszl Kajzer of blessed memory from whom words of Torah did not cease, day or night, even though he barely eked out sustenance of his family with mere bread and water. The tale is told that once, while everyone was singing and dancing on Simchat Torah Herszl Kajzer stood aside, lost in thought as usual. Reb Szlomo approached. Szlomo Halpern of blessed memory approached one of the congregants and asked: Can you guess what Reb Herszl Kajzer is thinking? 'It is my Torah, yet they are happy.'
At various times other occupants of the study hall included young unmarried and married men who learned day and night. One of them, Josef Ruwen Rubin of blessed memory, who was learned and shy, modest and enlightened, also, the most upright of men and righteous Reb Tewel of blessed memory and the pious Riwke'le may she rest in peace the sister of my mother may she rest in peace. There were others like these who peeped only at the early morning lecture before leaving for their occupations, or between the afternoon and evening services.
On the holidays, especially the eve of the second days of holidays in the
Diaspora, the tables were surrounded by those studying, or those who knew
the book delving into a page of Talmud or the Ein Jakob
(Talmudic legends) while the study hall buzzed with people celebrating and
talking even about secular subjects.
Some of the founders and first members of the Zionist organizations passed through the study hall school: Menachem Wajnszel (The Menachem) of blessed memory, Mosze Hirszfeld of blessed memory, Juda Lancner of blessed memory, Juda Barzeli of blessed memory, Abram Grosfeld of blessed memory and Mosze Trajman of blessed memory. Also, the first Zionist union library, which was in the home of Abram Mosze Ruszink of blessed memory, was founded by graduates of the study hall who bought the newspaper Heynt [Today], and by redeeming all the coupons that they collected they acquired all of Mendel's books. This was the origin of the Zionist union library which underwent many transformations, was at first called Ezra and then Ezras Mosze named for Mosze Hirszfeld of blessed memory.
In 1914 Mosze Hirszfeld of blessed memory was shot and killed by a German soldier as he passed near the train tracks. This tragic event greatly impoverished his family and all of Dąbrowa and especially all the residents of Reden. His friends in the study hall decided to perpetuate the name of Mosze of blessed memory via a charitable work called Ezras Mosze, which among its functions was to amass necessities and Sabbath Challahs for the needy. These activities took place mostly in the study hall.
Any traveling guest who appeared in the Reden study hall on Sabbath eve would be invited by one of the congregants for Sabbath eve dinner and Sabbath luncheon. Every Sabbath there would be several guests at the tables of the Jews of Reden.
Reb Gimpel Trajman stood out in his unique hospitality, a tinsmith who lived by the work of his hands. Among the other mitzvahs, he chose to do the good deed of taking in pious people and those down on their luck. Year after year he would accommodate the Rabbi of Hrubieszów (Rubishuv). After about a week, the Rabbi's presence would be felt in the study hall, his appearance was singularly patriarchal, and quiet reigned in the study hall as the Rabbi recited the Shema prayer at length with a pleasant and trilling voice So that you will remember and do all His mitzvahs and only then would the leader of the prayers end with the Lord is your God It is true. It is understood that the Rabbi also accepted kvittlach (inscribed individual requests) in Reb Gimpel's home, and for those unable to visit the Rabbi, the offices of his sexton accompanied by a good Jew, resident of Reden, would act as his messengers and bring his blessings to the Jews of Reden, according to a fixed list.
Another annual guest would come to Reden and be housed by Reb Gimpel: Fiszel the blind (Der Blinder Fiszel). He recognized everyone by voice, would spend about a week in Reden, would collect his contributions from all the Jews of Reden from a list that was prepared for him, and on the Sabbath would honor those praying in the study hall with his rendition of the morning & supplementary prayers at the podium. The study hall was on the right side by the entrance, through a hallway passing the apartment of Judel Rozenblum of blessed memory and his family. During holidays his home became a second room, for Torah reading. On the left was the residence of Majer-Natan Śliwka of blessed memory and his family whose home would also take in some congregants on the holidays, especially on Simchat Torah as a third room. His apartment was southeast of the study hall and was used as a congregants' Sukkah for the requisite Kiddush on the sukkot (Tabernacles) holiday.
The apartment of Jakob-Szalom Fiszel of blessed memory was close by the women's section in the north, next to the all-year sukkah with the shlag a roof covering the vegetation on the sukkah all year long able to be raised on hinges and opened on the Sukkot holiday. His apartment was connected to the study hall, and he himself was connected to its congregants, and when they had personal troubles a not insignificant number of them would often receive in his apartment their first aid, and there were two drawers in the counter of his shop of which one was reserved solely for charitable causes and giving secretly (as per Chanoch-Gerszon Szpilberg of blessed memory).
People also came to the doorway of Reb Jakob-Szalom of blessed memory for medical help, and if the ailing person or his relatives determined that the illness was caused by the Eina Bisha (evil eye), Reb Jakob Szalom of blessed memory knew a remedial formula via recitation of an appropriate prayer while holding a handkerchief which he received from the relation or the messenger of the sick person. After the prayer he gave the handkerchief to the messenger, who on the way home was forbidden to speak a single word if he met someone on the way. When the messenger returned home he would place the blessed handkerchief of the sick person's head, and this miraculously helped very frequently.
Reb Jakob-Szalom of blessed memory, who many called Der Vetter Jakob-Szalom (Cousin Jakob-Szalom), was a great lover of Zion, dedicated and true to the Zionist ethos, recruiting and encouraging the youth working for the Land of Israel, was held in esteem by his relations, the children of Mottel and Simcha'le Liberman, all of whom moved to the Land. His eyes beamed with happiness when he read aloud in the study hall a letter he received from Cwi-Juda Barzilai (Liberman) of blessed memory in which he described the lives of the pioneers in the Kibbutz, the work of creation and settlement and Jewish defense during the events of 1929.
Every Yom Kippur Reb Jakob-Szalom came to the podium to lead the Neilah prayer,
reciting Open up the gates for us at the time of the closing of the
gates prayer with great emotion, and perhaps he also meant that the gates
of the Land of Israel which were locked in the face of the (potential)
immigrants longing for Zion.
In the western courtyard of the study hall were stairs leading to the second floor, to the apartment of Frimet'l Śliwka of blessed memory, widow of Reb Szymon of blessed memory one of the founders of Reden. The study hall was owned by them, and when Frimet'l of blessed memory immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1925 to be with her son Josef of blessed memory as a member of the second aliyah and a resident of Nahalal and with her son Jakob of blessed memory who was before his immigration a very active Zionist and donor to the Jewish National Fund she entered the study hall and bade farewell to all the congregants. The remainder of her life she spent in Nahalal. She was steeped in the village life and died at an old age.
It is worth dedicating several words to Jakob Shalvi (Śliwka) of blessed memory. After the First World War the active, young Zionist group dispersed, with the enlistment of a large proportion of them into the Polish army and with others leaving for the Land of Israel or elsewhere for the purposes of getting to the Land of Israel in a roundabout way. Among them were: my brother Cwi-Juda Lancner of blessed memory, Juda Barzilai of blessed memory, Lipcia Grosfeld (Hirszfeld) of blessed memory, Abram Grosfeld of blessed memory and to be distinguished for living a long life Naftali Rechnic, Mosze Trajman, Szmul Wajsholc, Jakob Federman and others. Jakob Śliwka of blessed memory, a remnant of the group left in Dąbrowa at that time served to arrange activities and Zionist fundraising and as a youth leader. This writer served for a while as secretary of the Jewish national Fund during his term as officer and after his immigration I was chosen to replace him. It is incumbent upon me to note that he gave me inspiration and guidance in Zionist work in general and the Jewish National Fund in particular. His memory should serve as a blessing.
At the entrance to the study hall, along the hallway at right next to the women's section, wooden steps led to the eastern part of the second storey, residence of Bluma Rozenfrucht of blessed memory, widow of Reb Mosze-Leib of blessed memory, brother of my mother may she rest in peace. He was one of the first sextons of the study hall, and died in the prime of life, leaving behind Zelda-Bajla may she rest in peace wife of the Canadian Reb Lejbusz of blessed memory, the Maskil (Enlightenment follower) Reb Ruwen, Malka and Fridel (God should avenge their blood) and Liba (God should avenge her blood), the last born after the death of her father and received his slightly altered name. Her daughter Aliza, a Holocaust survivor, lives with her family on a Moshav in Israel.
I would not be fulfilling my obligation to my parents if I did not dedicate a few lines to their memory.
My father Szmul Zanwel (God should avenge his blood) was a traditional,
religious Jew, but at the same time relatively progressive in the spirit of the
time, tolerant of his children who with their politics of various Zionist
streams slightly overstepped the usual bounds. Humble and honest in business,
he was among the first donors to the Zionist funds, but he did not merit
immigration to the Land of Israel as he died with the six million, God should
avenge their blood.
|Forced labor during the Holocaust
Zanwel Lenczner, Jonatan Neufeld, Cukrowski, Mendel Ostrowiecki, Herszl Liberman
My brother Elimelech, God should avenge his blood, was a founder and activist of the Torah & Toil (Bnei Akiva) movement in Dąbrowa, whose only aspiration was toward Zion, but he did not merit it. From an eyewitness: In the labor camp a notice was publicized that any slave laborer who felt fatigued could sign up to be sent to the infirmary. Elimelech's condition was quite bad, but he hesitated about whether to sign up, because he feared for his life and suspected an evil motive for the announcement, yet he nevertheless appeared and enrolled. The Nazi murderers deported him with other unfortunate Jews, God should avenge their blood.
Two lovely, young, cheerful and noble sisters: Libcza and Hinda-Zelta, God should avenge their blood. They were also members of the Zionist youth and were preparing to immigrate, but they also were victims of the evil verdict to Auschwitz.
Two ten-year-olds: Israelik God should avenge his blood, my sister Sara's son who was orphaned of his mother at birth and my brother Aron-Icchak God should avenge his blood. What was their crime? And why did they become victims of their fate?
Also, my aunt, second wife of my father God should avenge his blood, was not
saved by her acts of kindness and generosity for her late husband and his
children, and she went with them to Auschwitz.
by Josl Charif (Jerusalem)
Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal
Dąbrowa of my childhood is engraved in my imagination. When I was just a small boy, in our hut in the village of Piotrkowice situated near the Austrian border in Miechów Powiat [county], I would hear talk about Dąbrowa. The peasants would talk about Dąbrowa when they would come into our canteen. Dąbrowa, it turns out, was a new world for them, with a different non-rural way of life. Those who wandered away, leaving the village and going to Dąbrowa, we called Dąbrowniakes. And to this day Dąbrowa remains foggy in my memory. I knew the town less well than Będzin or Sosnowiec. We called the area Zagłębie Dąbrowski, which added a special dimension, not of the surface, but of the viscera of the earth and of everything under the earth.
Although there were some rich farmers in the village who lived an honorable life, and also a remnant of a princely estate, most of the population was poor, owning small pieces of property that yielded insufficient livelihoods. The black coalmines of Dąbrowa, instead of the green fields and lawns, captured people's thoughts. New sources of income were opening up also for Jews. I remember still some of the Dąbrowniakes who had the courage to tear themselves away from their poor village homes. At first just the men. And afterwards, the whole family. With time, we, the single Jewish family in the village, also became Dąbrowniakes. But that is another story.
I used to listen to the letters that the Dąbrowniakes wrote to
their families back in the village. The wives brought the letters to my mother,
may the Lord avenge her blood, so that she would read them aloud and write
replies. Hearing about the various concerns, the hard labor in the coal mines,
and the longing for home in the village, my childish fantasies created an idea
of a different world, a world that was actually under the earth, where people
tear coal out of the depths, facing mortal danger, for which they receive a
ruble as a reward for their labors. On a holiday, or during the summer, one of
these workers would come to the village. It would also happen that a worker
would return enlightened, telling various stories about strikes and strikers in
the coalmines and in the iron foundries. A new world started to wake up and
take hold, with its fears and hopes. This also affected us, the only Jewish
house in the village. My two older brothers, Hercke and Fajwel, also left the
village, but not for Dąbrowa. Hercke, may the Lord avenge his blood, left
for Będzin, and Fajwel zl, the younger one, went to Sosnowiec. When
my brother Hercke, who had sympathy for the Achdut [unity] Society, would come
to the village for a visit, he would keep the peasants up until late at night,
enlightening them; I listened too. They were not only in the coalmines. The
peasants considered becoming Dąbrowniakes. My family also
followed in their footsteps. In 1910 we all left and settled in Sosnowiec. In
our village we were thought to be Dabrowniakes, although Jews from
Będzin and Sosnowiec were engraved more in my memory. Remembrances of
Dąbrowa, although cloudy, are always in my mind.
And whenever I visited Dąbrowa, it looked to me like I always imagined it in my village of Piotrkowice during my early childhood.
Coal dust, brick houses, which were once reddish, houses that stand on excavated earth. Also the Jews in Dąbrowa looked different from the Jews in Będzin, Sosnowiec, and the surrounding towns. An earnestness was poured in their faces, the burden of work lay on their backs, worries took over their gazes.
Yet, in those years of the First World War, in Dąbrowa too, there began to develop an intensive cultural and social life under the German occupation, even though privations and hardships went deep into the bones, especially Jewish poverty.
A very strong influence came from Zionist pioneer and social movements. The young, full of fire, threw themselves totally into social work. Living in difficult circumstances, they were fully devoted to higher ideals. We also took part often in gatherings of the Poale Zion. I remember our young friends, their lively discussions, and the cultivated awareness that sprouted from them.
It was a Jewish life of strivings and struggles in Dąbrowa, as it was in all of Zagłębie. Nothing remains of Jewish life in Dąbrowa, nothing more than a reflection. For Jews there is no more continuation there, not on earth, and not under the earth.
The Dąbrowniakes from my village, who settled, worked and changed their lives, still live, although under other circumstances, better or worse.
Jewish life is extinguished. Our memories are wrapped in coal dust. Not more is left of our near ones than their frightened looks, which were in their last minutes a confession of sins before dying, turned to us in the land of Israel. Let us in a yizkor melody always remember those who lived and hoped for better days, for the redemption they were not able to await.
We will remember these sunny characters who strove for a new life, together with us, without hatred, without envy, without fear, but did not achieve it.
And what we will create, renew and build, will be elevated with their dreams for a secure life on our own land.
The future generations, in their happiest moments, within the joy of security,
shall remember them.
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