Demblin-Modzjitz 50 Years Ago
by Chaim-Traler / Paris
That which I will tell here about my home town isn't taken from any archival
material, but it's from personal memories, as well as the things my own
grandfather, Shmuen Zilberman (Shmuen Faker) and my father, Itche Pesach, used
to tell me.
A Young Community
Demblin was situated about 50 60 kilometers to the east of Warsaw, on
the road between Warsaw and Lublin. The official origin of the community comes
from the fortress, which was built by the Czar Alexander, after Russia had
annexed most of Poland's territory. The Russians gave it the name of Ivangorod,
the city of Ivan.
In general, our city had the good fortune to acquire names. Officially it was
called Irena. The local Poles called it Pezjedmeyeshtese (little
subject). Among us, the Jews, it was called Modzjitz, a name to recall sweet,
Hasidic melodies, not only among the Jews from Demblin, but the whole Jewish
world. Demblin is a name that was given by the Austrians, in 1915, when he
troops of Franz-Yozef marched into town thinking that they would forever be its
But, however many names it had, Demblin belonged to the newer Jewish
communities of an ancient Poland. But, because of its youth, the community had
its own face, its own identity, its uniqueness the life of the people
who lived there. It was a very pretty and productive community, with several
hundred Jewish families, from various strains and directions, with a lot of
different organizations, who of course, disputed among themselves, but were
united in the face of danger.
The Fortress and Train Center
In the majority of towns and cities of Poland in that time, Jews made a living
mainly from trading with peasants and from different kinds of crafts. Demblin,
in hindsight, was an exception, because there, the most important sources of
livelihood for the Jews were the fortress and the train center, which
stimulated the growth of the town and her inhabitants, including the Jews.
the important sources of Making a Living
A number of Jews, the rich ones, were suppliers for the daily needs of the
clothing of the garrison at the fortress and for their families which lived
there with them. Other Jews, the poor ones, carried out illegal business in the
liquor trade with the Russian soldiers. They, the Russian soldiers, would
receive as part of their personal supplies a certain list of things they needed
to use, like boots and leather. They'd get it for half year or a whole year and
then have a drink. However, the simpler, common soldiers, were afraid to go
into the liquor store and buy something to drink. The liquor store in those
days was a state monopoly. So they let the word out that they'd pay Jews if
they'd go in and buy the liquor for them. As a reward, the Jews would get the
empty bottles which the state liquor store would refund for 3 kopeks a bottle.
Lets take note that in those times the liquor store was a monopoly which
belonged to the regime which provided the concession to one of their servants.
In Ivangorod, the person who ran the store was a very mean, lame person, a
Russian chauvinist who hated both Jews and Poles although he lived among them
and made a living from them.
The business of the liquor monopoly store of the state was found in the
courtyard of Yeshoshe-Asheres where a little prayer house was also located.
When my father used to go through the courtyard, the lame butler used to stop
him and conduct long discussions about the Talmud. This person thought of
himself as quite an expert on the Talmud and wanted to show off.
A second source of income for the Jews in Demblin, was, as I've said, the rail
center, which included both the train station and a very important rail head, 2
or 3 kilometers from the town. There was always quite a bit of movement there,
lots of passengers had to get on there or they would change locomotives there.
Meanwhile, people would come into Demblin and they'd spend a night there, do a
little shopping. There were a lot of people employed at the rail station, in
different ways. Some of the people were workers, others were suppliers and
contractors. There were people who had wagons which were made available to
carry things back and forth. People who were porters would carry things on
Demblin Jews, of course, traded there, and worked for the surrounding peasants,
supplied them with things. All in all, making a living in Demblin really wasn't
that bad, while in other places, it was really, very, very hard. And the fact
that it was relatively prosperous drew Jews from surrounding communities. Young
Demblin grew, as if with yeast. It became, even in the time that I remember it,
a substantial place because of all the new people who were coming in. In my
family, for instance, my great-grandparents and my grandparents, 95% of them
were people who had come from someplace else. My grandfather, Shmuen, used to
often show me the houses which were built during the first Jewish immigration.
The first Dembliner Rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Taub, wasn't a native Dembliner.
The Religious Life
This young community was first dominated in the early times by the Hasidic
world, perhaps even more than other Polish towns in the same era. The center of
spiritual, religious life was the synagogue. The majority of the people of
substance who owned things in the community sent their sons there to study. But
there was no lack of boys who were the sons of craftsman or just common
workers. Demblin brought forth a big number of scholars who became Rabbis,
Shochets [ritual slaughterers]. They went and served in other communities. For
instance, Reb Gimaliel, who became the Rabbi in Chelm; Reb Zilka, who was the
Shochet in Kojenitz, and others.
Us little kids learned in heders, although they were technically forbidden by
the Czar's government. From time to time, a school inspector would come into
town. The religious teachers had usually been forewarned about such an
inspection, and we used to take the day off from school. As a result of this,
when we had the day off, we were extremely happy little kids, we didn't have to
go to heder. In later times, the heders were tolerated by the regime, with the
condition that they would teach Russian. My grandfather, from my father's side,
Pesach Melamed, had such a heder, in a big house. On the walls hung a portrait
of the Czar. The whole house was full of unfinished wooden desks and benches.
Twice in a week teachers came to teach the kids Russian. We did not, as a
result, become very proficient in Russian.
That's the way it looked, once upon a time, in our town of Modzjitz. Life went
its way. One day was very similar to the next. It gave the appearance of water
that didn't move. But that was something else. Over the land, the storm of 1905
had begun to come closer. Its echo and winds reached us and penetrated even
into the synagogue.
When the revolution of 1905 broke out, its greatest adherents among us were two
yeshiva students, the sons of Reb Elis, Yankev Shmeltzstein and others. After
the revolution was squashed, they went out into the world. But the sparks that
they had spread continued to simmer. Lots of students lost interest in their
religious studies, started to wear short coats instead of Hasidic ones, and to
read forbidden, secular kinds of books. In the town they were known as
Apikorsim [people who renounce their religion]. (Leibel Brownstein,
Moshe Puterflam). A lot of different groups and organizations sprang up. Some
of them revolutionary, some of them Zionist, some of them territorialists. It's
interesting that the adherents from all of those different groups cane from the
yeshiva. Shmerl Rappaport is now in England. Efraim Traler, Alter Rubenstein,
David Cholovinsky, Yichiel Shorfharz, Leibel Bubis (all of these people were
killed by the Nazis).
As I was told, my father, the son of Itche Pesach, and Reb Nuach Siegelman,
were among the first adherents of the enlightenment in the town. In the
evenings one was able to come together, talk about a number of different things
that were going on in the world. After my father's death, Reb Nuach would often
stop me in the street and talk to me with great respect about my father. In
this way, I was always known as the Rebbitzes son, not by my own name. This
was, I presume, a way of honoring my father, who was respected as one of the
great Torah scholars of the town. Let me take the opportunity here to recall
that my father died at the very robust age of 47. Our family knew, as well as
the whole town, that he had been working over a translation of our bible into
Russian. The manuscript later disappeared under very mysterious circumstances
after my father's death.
The spiritual leader of the Zionists in town, was Avramela Shmeltzstein
(Avramela the Purim Socher). He started a little prayer house and he would give
a sermon there every Sabbath.
Modzjitz was well known and famous in the whole Jewish world because of the
melodies of its Rabbi, Reb Yisrael, who was a very, very talented and original
creator of many Hasidic pieces of music, which he collected and presented in
his very unique way.
The Rabbi had a big courtyard. In the front of it stood one building where he
lived with his family. In the courtyard was the Rabbi's synagogue, behind it,
an orchard with fruit trees. In the synagogue, one didn't study and read like
one did in other synagogues, but everyday, a minyan [10 men] of Hasidim would
come together there and pray. On the Sabbath there were quite a few others who
would come together and pray. The person who led the prayers, as well as being
he Cantor, was the Rabbi himself. Every Friday night he ate at the head of the
table in the synagogue. The whole evening was filled with his song, accompanied
by a choir of his children and grandchildren, who he directed. When this
happened, during this singing, lots of children would collect under the windows
outside, so they could hear what was going on. To our great resentment, we were
always driven away.
In the fortress there was an ethnic Cossack with his own orchestra, who used to
march through the town and play different marches. The Rabbi, at times like
this, used to go out onto the balcony and pay close attention to the different
tunes. The next Friday night one would hear new melodies from him in which he'd
incorporated the motifs and worked them in, in his own way.
In the First World War
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, a hell began for the Jewish
population of Ivangorod. Once, at this time, there was a lack of small change.
Various shadowy personages took to going around to the Jewish stores, buying
little things and demanding that they get their change in 3 ruble coins. When
the Jewish storekeeper explained that he didn't have that much change, they
called the police, these people would come to haul out the Jews and beat them
up. Just such an occurrence happened to my father. The customer,
when my father told him that he didn't have any change, brought in a Czarist
gendarme, who whipped out his sword, waved it around over my father's head,
screaming, You Jewish spies, you're hiding money for the Germans!
My father became very sick as a result of this encounter.
In our store we had as a steady customer, the Commander Colonel, from the fort
at Modliner. Every month he used to come and get supplies. This time when he
came into the store he did not see my father, and he asked my mother what had
happened. Her reply was that he was in bed. She didn't say anything else.
At that point, the Colonel went to our house, took a look at my father and said
to him straight away, What happened? Why are you sick? Tell me, who did
this to you? My father let him know that he wasn't going to tell, because
he was afraid of revenge. I watched this whole scene happen. The Colonel got
really mad. In sharp words he disciplined the people who had done this to my
A few days after this incident, the Jewish population of Demblin got an order
to get out of the town. My mother and the children went to Miechov-Luvelsky,
but the majority of Jews went on foot to Ryki, spent the night there, and then
continued their wandering into the surrounding little towns. Everything that
they owned remained behind without any protection.
I and my father, because of an accident, remained in Demblin until the evening.
As soon as it got dark, we went to Ryki on the highway, on which thousands of
Cossacks were riding on their horses. Soon we started to hear cursing and
threatening, and they were cursing and threatening us. Who knows what would
have happened if it hadn't been for the intervention of my young Cossack,
Let the old guy and his kid go on their way! The other Cossacks
quieted down. We tried to stay as close as we could to this particular horseman
the whole way. In this way we were able to arrive in Ryki after midnight.
Early in the morning, together with my grandfather, Shmuen, who had a wagon
with a couple of horses, my Uncle Avram and his family, we went off to Miechov,
on the highway that led from Ryki to Kotzk. On both sides of the road, there
were thick forests.
Along the way we parted. My grandfather, grandmother and Uncle stayed in
Liserieg. My father and I went to Miechov where my mother was with the other
children. We stayed there a little bit of time, waiting until we were allowed
to go back to our home town. The same sense of longing and hope was shared by
all of the Jews who had been driven away from Modzjitz, who had scattered
abroad in other little towns. We hoped that better times would come. In the
meantime we suffered hunger and sickness and the like hardships of the War.
A little bit later, when the Russian army pushed away the Austrians from
Ivangorod, they allowed the refugees to return. Coming back home we saw a
really horrible sight, as if an earthquake had occurred. Every little bit of
the possessions of the Jews had been robbed and plundered. In many houses they
took away the shutters, the windows and the doors. But we didn't allow
ourselves to despair and we set out to fix our dwellings up again. But, just as
soon as we got on our feet again, a second offensive by the Austrian army
began. The cursed Czarist rulers, as they were getting knocked around
considerably on the battlefield, couldn't focus on any other thing but driving
us Jews out of town. For us it was a repeat of the tragic chapter of our
wandering and homelessness. This time, we went to Zjelechov. Other Jewish
families who were driven away went to Kotsk, to Baranov and a lot of them went
to Warsaw. The hunger and need of those who had been driven away is
indescribable. Some of the sorrow and suffering was alleviated a little bit
through the help received from the Jews in Russia. But that was a drop in the
A New Source of Income Smuggling
Driving Jews away was done under the excuse that we were spies for the Germans.
But their driving the Jewish spies away did not prevent them from suffering a
terrible defeat. The Russian military was driven out of all of Poland. The
Austrians came into Modzjitz. The refugees began to return home. Once again the
same sorrowful picture greeted us when we returned. A part of the city had been
burned. In the sections that had remained, there were many houses which had
been wrecked to the ground. The people who came back tried to make a place for
themselves, any way they could. But for the older people, as well as for the
young people, a question immediately arose of, how do we make a living?
Especially since most of the normal kinds of commerce and sources of livelihood
had ceased to exist, because of the war conditions. It was a very, very
difficult time. There was literally nothing to eat. After awhile things started
to get back to normal, somewhat. Demblin was a border town between the zones
which were occupied by the Austrians and the Germans and for her inhabitants, a
new way of making a living opened up, and that was smuggling. Lots of Jewish
families became involved in this. They simply had no other means of making a
Smuggling of course was not a good thing to do. But, in time, you did what you
had to do, whether it was a good thing to do, or whether it was an illegal
thing to do. Under the existing conditions, people didn't dare engage in normal
types of business. Performing any type of work was risky, because the occupying
army managed to lay its hands on all goods, if they were farm goods, or
leather, manufactured goods, sugar, wheat. They would just confiscate anything
that you tried to deal with for their own soldiers.
The most important item that people smuggled in our region was kerosene. People
constructed special four-sided square tin cans with double bottoms and double
walls, which were filled with kerosene. And loaded down this way, people made
their way through forests and swamps, to the nearby town, Ryki, which at that
point was part of what was called greater Germany. Each group of smugglers had
their watch person and in case of danger, he gave special signals, which they
already had agreed upon. Carrying these cans, one grew to fear, more than any
kind of wild beast, the two footed brutes of the border police. It's true, some
of these people would even shoot them, and then rip off what they were
carrying. Two Jews died from their bullets.
A second root of smuggling was on the railroad. Flour and other food articles
were smuggled to Warsaw and from there, materials and other kinds of things
were brought back. So this was a two-way smuggling operation: from the
surrounding little towns to Demblin, and from Demblin to Warsaw. The
manufactured goods and the food stuffs, which one smuggled from one place to
another, were wrapped around one's own body. The Austrian police, more than
once took everything that we had, carrying out searches in our houses and just
plundering whatever they could get their hands on.
The New Epic
Nevertheless, we never gave in to the occupying forces nor the bitter fate that
we suffered during the war. Quite the contrary. We, the young people, used the
little bit of freedom that we had, by comparison to the Czarists regime, to put
together a real social and cultural life. We established a culture group with a
very, very nice library, where the activists part of the youth used to come
together. We rented a place, which was very close to the house of Lozer
Ashminer. There, we would meet almost every evening. On Friday evenings, we
used to have question times, or readings, often with speakers who had been
brought down from Warsaw, and they would hold court on political and literary
themes. A drama circle was created under the leadership of Rafael Baigelman.
In this way, passed the first two years of the Austrian occupation until 1917,
when, from Russia, we received the news about the great revolution. Even
Demblin sensed the winds of a new era. We used to have discussions about the
events in the neighboring country of Russia, where the revolution had just
taken place, especially from the perspective of Jews. Trying to catch our
breath, with great interest we followed the events in Russia and around the
Meanwhile, the autumn of 1918 rolled around and with it the defeat of the
German-Austrian forces. The occupiers left in a hurry, almost in a stampede of
confusion. But, just as soon as they left, Pilsudsky's legions showed up and
began to act out in a very ugly way, mainly against he Jews. With terror, we
received the news about pogroms, which had taken place when these fellows came
to Lymberg. Among us as well, the dark forces began to raise their head. It got
even worse when General Haler's army arrived in Poland. The members of General
Haler's army came into Demblin and they cut Jews' beards. It was a very tense
and uneasy time. But none of this would crush our aspirations to a better and
more meaningful life. We, the youth of Demblin, were dedicated to broadening
our horizons culturally and politically and through professional activity. We
created unions and professional and working associations for tailors and
shoemakers and carpenters. The first strikes broke out on behalf of an 8 hour
day, for better conditions and for higher wages and other things like that.
Not long thereafter, another war began, this time between Poland and Soviet
Russia. Poland had just received her independence, after 150 years of being
divided up under foreign rulers. The land was ruined as a result of warfare. We
needed to rebuild the country and to take care of the population, provide them
work, give land to the peasants. But the new rulers, especially with Pilsudsky,
considered it their most impressing and important task, to start a war with
I was, at that time, in a group called Priziv-Elders [like an ROTC
program]. Like a lot of Demblin youth, I was mobilized into the Polish army,
where I served from 1919 until 1922. After coming back from the military I
remained in Demblin just a few months. I was drawn away, like a lot of young
people, into the broader world.
Of the First World War, and afterwards
by Velvel Tishman / New York
I was born in Demblin in 1898. I remember the town at the time. There were
Hasidim and business people and crafts people. It was a fine town. On holidays,
the Hasidim would come to the Modzjitzer Rabbi. It was one of the greatest
pleasures to hear him sing. The Rabbi was renowned as a great singer of Hasidic
and secular melodies and songs. His melodies inspired everybody.
When the town was under Czarist rule, Jews suffered plenty. When the First
World War broke out, a new chapter of sorrow began for the Jews in Poland. The
Russians accused the Jews of being German spies. Many Jews were arrested and
sent to Russia and thrown in prison there. The general situation for Jews was
quite bad. In Demblin especially, Jews suffered because there was the Ivangorod
fortress. The Jews received an order to get out of town in 2 hours. Of course
this created a panic. A lot of people had to go on foot because there wasn't
any time to get a hold of wagons, and of course in this situation we weren't
able to take anything with us. People spread out in the surrounding little
communities of Baranov, Zjelechow, Garvolin and a small group made its way to
There weren't any dwellings available. We had to make do in cellars and in
attics. There wasn't ant way to make a living either. We did not have what it
took to buy even a little piece of bread.
Meanwhile, the Poles robbed everything they could get their hands on in the
town we had left behind.
When the Russians drove the Germans away, we went back in to town. The town was
desolate, everything had been plundered. The houses looked as if a pogrom had
hit. Even the windows and doors had been torn out. Everything looked horrible.
We started to put everything back together again, but after a few weeks they
drove us out again. We suffered on the road until in 1915 the Germans took
Poland. Then things got a little bit better for the Jews and that's the way
things went until 1918.
When the Polish-Bolshevik War broke out, a new chapter of suffering began for
the Jews. They beat and hunted down Jews and imposed very, very harsh taxes on
them. They really wouldn't even let us live.
In this way one suffered until the Second World War, which of course hit the
Jews harder than anybody. Six million Jews died and the whole world remained
* * *
I, my wife, and our child of 5 months, left Demblin for America in 1921. We
left parents and a sister in Demblin. My father was named Shmuen, my mother,
Kreindel, and my sister, Yenta. She married Itche-Berrish Shtif. When the
Second World War broke out, they had 4 children. He was a tailor.
My father had his beard torn out by the Poles. From shame and grief, he died
later. My mother died in Demblin. My sister and her husband and their 4
children were sent to a camp. One child survived. She got married and is with
us in America. My wife's parents were from Demblin. Her father was Simcha, the
hat maker. She had two brothers, Shmuel and Shloma, and one sister, whose
husband was called Moshe Nayman. They were all killed with their families.
Shmuel had 9 children. Shloma and the sister had a big family. Not one of them
remained alive. (Their family name was Wartzman.)
by Mindel Zinger / Brazil
The bare 50 years which separate me from the town of Demblin make my memories a
little bit rusty. By a certain measure, maybe not so interesting. But for this
book of recollections, which needs to be a monument to the brotherhood of our
town's murdered Jews, I want to write something down anyway.
I will only focus in on 4 years of social activity in the town.
1914. Just after the outbreak of the First World War, the Jewish population,
according to the orders of the Czarist regime, had to get out of town and leave
behind whatever possessions they had. They were under orders to evacuate to the
surrounding little towns, to get far away from the battlefield. It was very
difficult to survive, to find a place to lay your tired head, or get a bite to
eat. The situation was very, very difficult. Jews went around quite desperate.
But not the youth. They formed bonds and friendships with the youth of the
towns in which they found themselves. Together they hatched plans for the
After a little while, the Russians succeeded in driving the Germans from the
territory that they'd taken. After a little bit more wandering, we returned to
our ravaged homes. Our homes at this point lacked the most basic necessities.
But the youth refused to get all hung up in this sense of need, and they felt a
different kind of need which was a need for culture. Their thoughts were full
with ideas. They decided they had to do something in order to feed their
cultural hunger. We decided, a group of young people, to create a library. When
you say a library today, it sounds like a very simple thing. But in those days
there were considerations, like what will our parents say about it and where
are we supposed to get the money for such an idea. But our will to accomplish
this was so strong that all of the little difficulties vanished, as if by magic.
Before very long we were able to raise the money we needed. One of us took on
the responsibility to buy the things that we needed. At the same time we began
to plan different kinds of activities which would raise money for the purchase
of more books. We were able to get these books together quite successfully. And
even though we didn't have any money, we were able to bring a new kind of life
into the town.
But our fathers and mothers didn't sit by silently. They made scenes, they were
extremely worried, they threw obstacles in our path, they did whatever they
could to try to frustrate what we were trying to do and see that the library
didn't become legal. They exposed the library to the danger of having the books
confiscated. But none of their shenanigans, in any way, slowed down the ever
increasing numbers of new readers who would come in.
But with this accomplishment alone, the youth of Demblin wasn't satisfied. We
decide to establish a cultural union. Before very long we rented a site. In
just a few days it seemed, we were able to furnish it a couple of long
benches, a table, a couple of pictures that brightened up the bare laws. It
took planning by many different people and different forms of activity to
prepare all of this. We started a drama circle, a choir, we brought in
different speakers. We even put out a newspaper. At the same time that the
cultural activity was going on, the political activity of the group
intensified. There were daily discussions and arguments, if you want to say it
correctly, which paralyzed the normal activity and in the end created a schism.
Two groups were formed from the political parties which were operating among
Jews. In this way, the town, all of a sudden, started to move. Afterwards, the
winds of a new epic began to blow. The revolution in Russia, the defeat of
Germany, the independence of Poland, the Balfour declaration all of
theses events considerably raised hope in our young hearts. Later, of course,
the various disappointments didn't take long to happen.
The liberation of Poland, which had called up such jubilation among us, because
we had hoped that this event would be a blessing for the whole population, was
quickly transformed into a curse for the people of Poland in general and for
the Jews especially. The Jewish life in little towns became very rough. Every
local thug could get away with murder at the expense of Jews. General Haler's
famous and terrible Beard Heroes, these guys really went at it,
they whacked away at helpless, unprotected Jewish faces. Life became unbearable
and hopeless. The youth began to leave town and I was among them.
In 1918, I left Demblin and never went back. I'll never forget though, the
bright as well as the dark days which I lived through there. When I think of
the horribly brutalized town, its people I knew, rise before my eyes, as if
they were alive.
As if alive, the dynasty of the Modzjitzer Rabbi presents itself before me. His
melodies sound in my ears. As if alive I see the handsome, dignified Jews, our
grandfathers, fathers and uncles, our warm hearted aunts, mothers and
grandmothers, our brothers and sisters, and the children, oh the children; our
poor craftsmen, who always took one day out of their work week to make Sabbath;
our wagon drivers sand porters and carriage drivers and water carriers, nothing
remains. Just a few little rings thrown out from the whole chain of Demblin.
Demblin, my eternal sorrow. Yitgadol veyitkadash! [prayer for the dead]
A Town Like all Towns
by Meckla Kaplansky / San Paulo, Brazil
Demblin did not differ from all the Jewish towns in Poland. Our Jews were 95%
of the population. There was a market place in the middle of the town with a
big pump from which women carried water. In the market there was a magistrate,
the jail and the firehouse. The Justice of the Peace was a Jew
Yosel-Yidel, my uncle.
The town made its living primarily from the fortress and the airfield as well
as from the market which happened once a week on Wednesday. During the whole
week, the shopkeepers and the merchants looked forward to market day. That was
a joyous occasion. People from surrounding towns and villages poured in with
cloth, fabrics, shoes, garments that were already made, bedding, and other
kinds of goods. Peasants came from the surrounding countryside. They brought a
lot of stuff with them. They brought goods there. It happened fairly frequently
that a speaker would jump up on a wagon and hold forth to the peasants about
For the better Jewish youth in town, there was an Educational Association, and
for the simple workers, the Workers' Union. From time to time, speakers would
come from different political parties and they'd give lectures, they'd have
discussions and arguments, get all overheated about things, which is the way
things are done in a little town. From Warsaw, the Jewish theater would often
come and they'd play at the firehouse. There was a homegrown drama circle which
was led by Rafael Baigelman.
The youth at that time was left leaning. Before the first of May, they would
regularly arrest several members of the Workers' Union.
There weren't any big factories in Demblin, nor were there any Jewish factory
workers, really none.
I remember that hour when from the airfield and fortress, the officers with
their polished and elegant wives used to come to the Modzjitzer Rabbi's house,
in order to listen to the Rabbi, his sons and the Hasidim sing at the afternoon
meal on the Sabbath. It was joyous in the market place, Jews and gentiles used
to have a great deal of fun there.
[See PHOTO-A4 at end of Section A]
Sunday, the town was full of soldiers and flyers. Jewish girls walked with the
soldiers and their mothers would ring their hands in shame.
Demblin also had its wild youth. Jews were more afraid of them than they were
of the authorities.
The town also had its crazy people: Karlkole of Keler, Motel the crazy one, who
had a weakness for steeling fish which housewives used to set on their window
sills to cool on Fridays.
I remember the first electric lights which lit up our rundown wooden houses. It
was bright and joyful in our hearts when that happened.
Demblin had the reputation of being a big town. I remember one such episode, a
contractor came to Demblin for the first time. A carriage driver led him from
the station and into town. When he finally arrived and was standing in the
middle of the market place, he yelled to the driver, So! Take me to
In Demblin, people were not called by their names, because everybody had a
nickname. For example, Itchek Shtrik, who's the child of Malye Shmelkeles, the
Purim-Socher, Kreindel Hodeses, Moshe Milkes and Mekla, Moshe Milkes' daughter,
that's who I was, Mekla Kaplansky from the Buckspan home and I've lived now in
Brazil for more than 40 years.
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