B. Demblin (Taitelboim)
From The Lexicon of New Jewish Literature, 2nd
Published by the Old World Jewish Culture Congress (together with
New York, 1958
Born on the 13th
of September 1897, pen name of Yosef-Benyamin Taitelboim. Born in Modzjitz,
Poland, studied in heder. At 11 years of age, he went to Radom, apprenticed to
a hat maker. He worked from dawn until after midnight. He endured all of the
sorrows and blows of an apprentice in that era. After a long day of hard work
with just a very faint little lamp, he studied writing and taught himself to
write and began to read Yiddish literature. In the days of the First World War,
he lived and worked in Warsaw. After 1919, he set out for Paris where he lived
for over a year. In January of 1921, Demblin emigrated to the United States and
he began to write around the year 1916. At that time, he published as a
reporter in a journal of the professional workers' unions of Warsaw.
From Paris he sent a reportage to Life Question [name of a magazine in Warsaw].
In New York he published skits and stories in a variety of magazines:
Gerechtikeis, Forsrit, Frei Arbeter-Shtime,
Forward, Tzokonft, Yiddisher Kemfer,
Onzer Tzait, a book of collected work of different writers that was
collected and edited by H. Laivik [famous Yiddish poet] and Joseph Opatosho
[famous Yiddish writer] and in other smaller journals in other parts of the
country. He also contributed his work in the People's Newspaper in Warsaw, the
Press in Buenos Aires, and the Latest News in Tel Aviv and other places.
In book form he published On the Threshold under the name Binyamin
Taitelboim, Warsaw, 1933, 256 pages; West Side, New York, 1938, 201
pages; Two and a Third, New York, 1943, 195 pages; Before
Night (the first book of a trilogy), Tel Aviv-New York, 1954, 299 pages
(won a prize from the Luis Lomer Fund); Flickering Candle, a novel,
New York, 1957, 320 pages. West Side in 1954 was printed in Tel
Aviv in a Hebrew translation by Simson Meltzer. In 1939-1943 he pro-edited the
anthology Continuation of Tradition in New York.
In Poland he was active in the Bund and in the Workers Union in the needle
trades [garment industry]. In 1938 he was the secretary of the Yiddish pen club
in New York. In 1939-1946 he participated in Joint and worked for
the United Jewish Appeal.
His literary name originates from the fact that he was born in Demblin. Other
pseudonyms that he took were Y. Burlak and Yosef Warshavsky.
B. Demblin belongs to the prose writers, who honestly earned their
reputation. He possesses unrestrained style. He very seldom falls into the
pathetic tone, but his style has temperament. (Shlome Bikel)
B. Demblin arrives straight away with a very powerful impression, his own
kind of step. From his first book on, he has a very sharp eye for social
developments in the broad context of America. He's someone who is a very
careful craftsman who takes a great deal of trouble with each sentence.
(Y. Glatstein [a very famous Yiddish poet])
B. Demblin lives in New York.
by G. Kersel
Lexicon of Hebrew Literature, Sifriat Poalim, 1967
Tene, formerly Taitelboim; Binyamin, son of Arye-Leiv and Primmet of Licht,
Born in Demblin on December 10, 1914.
He studied and was educated in the heder and the Hebrew Academy
Chinnuch [education] in Warsaw. Graduate of Hashomer Hatza'ir [the
young guard socialist youth movement] and trained in Slonim. Emigrated in 1937,
joined a kibbutz in Petach Tikvah, and settled with the group in Ayalon in
1938. He lived there until 1948. He was envoy to Poland in 1947. Since 1948, he
is editor of Mishmar Liyladim [guard for children, the children's weekly of Al
Hamishmar, Hashomer Hatz'ir's official daily].
[See PHOTO-B37 at the end of Section B]
He began publishing his songs in 1933 (In Hashomer Hata'ir in Warsaw), and
since then in He'atid [the future] and newspapers in Israel. His poetry books
include Homeland (1939), Load in Galilee (1941),
With the Chisel of Sorrow (1945), Yesterdays on the
Threshold (1947), The Nightingale Songs from a Forest
(1963). His poetry for children: Danny Dan and a
Tricycle (1952) and The Wonder Crop (1957).
Translations: Flames by S. Bzhezhovski (vol. a and b., 1939-1940),
Hymns (1942) and The Best of the Land by Y. Witlin
(1943), Songs of the Ghetto (1946), Songs (1957),
Ketina and the Whale (1956) and Wonderful Wonders by Y. Tovim
(1958), Flames in the Ashes by R. Korchak-Rozhka (1946), One
from the City and Two from a Family, anthology of one thousand biographies of
children in Poland, Holocaust refugees, editing and translating (1947),
Candles that Ended by M. Strigler (1958), The Golden Jug,
popular myths and folklore (1956), History of One Year by N.
Nossov (1956), The Great Adventure (1958), Hello to the
Jungle by Y. Bzhecheva (1959), The Eighth Day of the Week by
M. Chlasko (1958), One Hundred Years of Polish Prose (with S.
Har-Even, 1959), The Fury and the Heart (with Z. Arad, 1959),
The Inquisitors (1961), Climbing over Mountains (1964)
by Y. Andzhievski, Tricky Trick by Y. Bzhecheva (1963), Sea
of Life and Death by A. Rodnitzki (1964), Legends by H. C. Andersen
a and b 1964), and with H. Peleg: Half the Way to the Moon (stories
by Soviet writers, 1964). 1967 Songs and Poems his
verse collection for 30 years. 1969 translation of Songs and
Ballads by Itzik Manger.
Brother Ze'ev lives in Paris. Sister Rivkah lives in Warsaw. Sister Sarah
perished in Auschwitz with the father (transported from Paris via Dransee).
by Wolf Tenenboim, Paris
To honor a good person
I believe that Chaim Traler deserves the following little epigraph,
when one remembers the great turn out of people who came to accompany him on
his last way.
In Demblin he was called Chaim Itche Paisachs [Chaim, son of Itche Paisachs].
Who in town didn't know his father, a man of great learning, Itche Paisachs. He
was, after all, one of the most knowledgeable Talmudist in the city, because
Demblin in those years was really a center of Torah learning.
When it was necessary to have someone examine a young man, Chaim Traler's
father was the one who was called upon, Iche Paisachs. Also, when a young man
wanted to receive a religious certification, at that time, there was a yeshiva
in Demblin, where a hundred or so men would study. They had come there from a
variety of towns. The examiner was Itche Paisachs and his brother Shmuel
Under the influence of his great scholarly father, Chaim studied in the study
hall, in the synagogue, until he was 18 years old. I believe that as a result
of that he always retained a great love of the Jewish word and Jewish culture.
After, new winds began to blow around and new ideas. Chaim left for Warsaw and
began to work. He remained his whole life as a worker.
[See PHOTO-B38 at the end of Section B]
Here, Chaim, you fulfilled the teaching which you learned when you were
studying Torah: that when you live from something that you do with your own
hands, that is the source of your livelihood, you'll be happy in this world and
in the world to come.
You remained true your whole life. To your very last strength you remained a
worker and worked.
The Second World War broke out which cost us Jews terrifically. We lost a third
of our people. Our town of Demblin was wiped out, the town that Chaim loved so
At the outbreak of the War, Chaim was in Poland. Fate wished that he should
share the road of suffering of our unhappy brothers. From there, he managed to
go to Russia where he joined the Red Army and fought against the barbaric
But, at the same time, Chaim found time and strength to devote to different
social and cultural work. He also found time to give to the Yiddish theater.
Chaim was a profounder of our association of people from Demblin and a
We remember Chaim's talks, his lectures and his beautiful speeches at our
evenings, especially our evenings or remembrance.
He always remembered his childhood years and studying in the synagogue and that
gave him strength and courage to work for Jewish culture and for Jewish
theater, to which he gave his last strength.
Of our Personalities
by Benjamin Zilberman, Holon
Yarmeyohu Vanapol (Yarme)
Who even wants to try and take on the task of describing Yarme. He was beloved
by all layers of society. He was revered both as a doctor and as a human being.
As a doctor he had a reputation not only in Demblin but in the whole vicinity,
among both Jews and Christians. There was always before his door a line of
peasant men and women from distant little villages in the countryside. They
believed in him. They revered him almost as a God because of his medical help
which brought them back to health. The fee for his work wasn't something that
he collected as you would for most jobs. He knew who he should ask for money
and who he shouldn't. He took from people who could afford it without exception
and spared others who couldn't, among both Jews and gentiles. Quite often
people received treatment without paying a penny.
Thanks to him the town had its clinic for poor people. He gave quite a bit of
his strength and time there. In recognition of his dedicated work, he was made
honorary president. People in town spoke about his party affiliation, but that
didn't in any way stop or interfere with his humanitarian attitude towards
every sick person. Nor did it interfere with their feeling comfortable in their
going to him. He provided his services to people who were going to Israel
without asking for any money. The writer of these lines, before traveling to
Israel, received medical treatment from Yarme and he wouldn't take a cent for
it. He took an interest in me. He was very curious about the Hashkera Kibbutz
and about Eretz Israel. Not withstanding the fact that his father, Zalman
Vanapol, was a nationalist Jew [Zionist], the children still loved him dearly,
even though they themselves were far from his ideology. Bu they always felt
close to his warm, Jewish heart.
Yarmeyohu, or Yarme, as he was affectionately called, was a man of such stature
and so valued that we should remember him and honor him for his humanitarian
He was a religious man of some property and also a Talmud scholar. It was said
of him that when there was a ceremony for a person who had died, his heart felt
words moved everybody to tears. He was somebody who was both very astute in
matters of the Torah and in matters of business. When you came into his store
to buy buttons or things that you needed for writing, pencils and erasers, or
little sewing accessories, a little bell would ring in the kitchen. But, Reb
Nuach didn't exactly run out of the kitchen and into the store. With very soft
and measured steps, he always took his time. He always treated his customers
with great respect. The store was big. All of the walls were covered with
shelves and they were subdivided into little rows of different kinds of big and
small packages. He would take down a little box with buttons in it, or with
needles, for a customer. The customer had to have enough patience to wait for
this process to take place, because he did everything very slow, very
meticulously. He would take off the little binding that held the box together.
He wanted to make sure that nothing got rumpled or torn. He was very concerned
that he box itself didn't get damaged in any way at all. He was completely
oblivious to whether or not the customer was in a big rush, it was not of his
concern. He always did his work, very easy going and very careful, in a precise
manner. But, the customers, by and large, didn't get insulted, and they always
came back to buy something. There were actually hundreds of little boxes and
packages on his shelves covered with dust. It had been years since a human hand
had touched them. Looking at them all, one could think that they'd actually
grown into the shelves, somehow. But, Reb Nuach used to say that, and he was
really very proud of it, There were really true antiques up there.
He didn't use them now, but they had great worth. Most of them were buttons for
clothes that our grandmothers' wore and little accessories for the wedding
clothes that had been used generations ago and other little antiques like that.
Curious people use to come in and look at how Reb Nuach used to stand on his
step ladder and sort through and take notes about each little box, whose little
labels had become unreadable because they'd been there so long. Everybody was
always quite amazed at his slow pace and his great patience.
Moshe Hallelis Anglister
He was a Guerrer Hasid, but not a very ostentatious one, a very simple honest
Jew, and not a fanatic. He made a very poor living, but always had a very
cheerful attitude. He had a lot of different trades. He could do just about
anything, but it was hard for him to make a decent Sabbath for his family.
Despite all of that, he was always very cheerful and would tell jokes and was
very witty. Actually people didn't realize, most of the time, how poor he was.
His chief occupation was to paint signs. But in a town as small as Demblin,
that was a very thin kind of source of livelihood. But he lived the whole week
in a very spare and frugal way and he put together all of his earnings so that
he could make a Sabbath as luxurious as possible.
Besides his work as a sign-painter, he also gave lessons in Yiddish writing and
basic arithmetic to those children who did not attend the Povshechne school
because of religious reasons. It was his goal that the children would learn no
less than the pupils from the Povshechne school. Even the non-religious people
had a lot of pleasure in talking to him, not just about the Torah or religious
matters, but also about worldly matters. He always could respond in a very
matter of fact, to the point, way. He had a very objective way of talking. He
wasn't the type of person who would scold or make fun of people who were not
like him, that is, very pious, so he could live with everybody. His own sons,
who did not follow his path, he understood, and there wasn't a big conflict
between them, like one could often find in other households.
[See PHOTO-B39 at the end of Section B]
A distinguished man of property, a Guerrer Hasid, he rarely traveled to the
Rabbi, but he supported him generously from afar. His material situation
enabled him to do that. He was one of the wealthy men in the town. People used
to say of him that just when you think you know how much he's worth, he's worth
even more. Nevertheless, he was a person without any arrogance. He never puffed
himself up like other wealthy people in town. His way of conducting himself was
with dignity and respect and he never refused anybody who needed help. Many
people came to him and he never refused any of them.
His children were Peretz, Chaim-Rueben, Shloma, Shaindel and Lipe. The Jews in
town use to say about them that he's going to need to go someplace else besides
Demblin to get them mates because in Demblin there weren't enough rich people
around to make an appropriate match for his children. Still he did marry off
all his sons to rich brides respectable families, and his sons as well, became
very rich. The youngest was inclined towards Zionism and he talked about
Palestine, but later just thought about it. The grandfather, Biyomele (even his
family called him that with affection), died a very good man at the age of 106.
His children inherited the orchard, but fate brought his descendants to
nothing. The majority of his children and grandchildren were killed by the
Nazis. Whole families were wiped out. Lipe, the youngest son of Hallel, was
active in the Zionist organization. He traveled to a Practice
Kibbutz [in Poland]. As happened to others, he fell into the hands of he
Nazis, running along the road to Ryki.
Yankel der Ryker that's the way he was called, because he was from the
neighboring town of Ryki. He arrived in Demblin with his brother and he found
acquaintances in the synagogue. While founding the Zionist organization, he
became one of its most active members. His ability to organize and to speak was
quite well known in town. One said of him that he is someone who speaks
to the masses. He helped his parents in their work. He traveled to
country fairs with their little tailor business, but this didn't hinder him
from giving a tremendous amount of his time and energy to the organization. He
traveled to Warsaw to attend the Tz. K.; he'd been elected as a delegate to
attend a conference there. Yankel never refused any mission for the
organization, even when it affected his personal comfort. He was in the first
of many Zionist actions, at a time when they were associated with getting
knocked around. He was afraid of nobody. He used to say that the sacred work
which he was involved in would rescue him. Also, after getting married, he and
his wife, the active comrade, Rivka Yom-Tov, together formed a partnership and
worked very hard for the movement. They were both murdered by the Nazis.
He dedicated all of his years to Zionist activity. He spared neither his
strength nor his money. Whenever there was a crisis and a lack of money, he was
always the first to give generously. When one left a meeting a night, one
didn't walk home but one walked to David Goldfinger's door. There, one would
eat ices or drink soda water with Halva and there one would continue the
discussions until midnight. David was active in all kinds of work and even the
thought of getting knocked around by his opponents physically, didn't scare
him. He used to brag that his ability to make ices would come in very handy
once he got to Israel. Later though, he didn't live to see the dream realized.
One of the founders of the Zionist organization in 1929. Although he was
occupied in helping his parents in their bakery, he found time to be active in
all sorts of Zionist work. I, every once in a while, would call him to
activities for KKL, when, he was occupied in the bakery. He used to say to me,
Look and see if my father's looking. And when he slipped out of the
bakery, his father noticed and screamed after him, Avram, where are you
running? I'm here all by myself and I won't give you any advice her in the
bakery. Avram pretended no to hear him, just as if his father were
talking to somebody else completely. He used to say on these occasions,
The actions that we've got to do in the organization can't be put aside,
have to happen now, but, I can always help in the bakery.
There weren't many people who were so devoted in the organization.
Better a close neighbor than a distant brother
[Book of Mishlei, Proverbs]
Yankel was employed in providing half of the town with soda water and beer. He
used to provide drinks as well to the fortress. Nevertheless, somewhere among
all these activities and his professional work, he was able to find time for
the Modzjitzer Rabbi. He was a very pious Modzjitzer Hasid. He frequently used
to lead morning prayers during the High Holidays. He was very highly praised by
the very learned Hasidim and everybody had great pleasure hearing him pray.
The little kids were very delighted by his mountain of ice which grew greater
and greater during the winter in preparation for the warm days to come. During
the summer, one would chop off pieces of the ice and lay it around the
balconies. The little bits of ice would fall down and the children used to
catch them and suck on them in their mouths. Yankel used to scream and warn
them, not with anger, because he wasn't, God forbid, a mean tempered Jew, but
with love, Children, that stuff, God forbid, can make you sick. But
the little children had no desire to understand what he was talking about. The
best Yankel could do was look away as if he'd seen nothing.
His son, Moshe Kamiyan, a Zionist for many years, dreamed for a very long time
of taking the whole soda water factory to Israel. But, because of family
reasons, he wasn't able to do that.
His wine and liquor store was known way out in the countryside. On market day,
Wednesday, the store was full of peasants who bought a little flask of Vodka
and right there, on the threshold of the store, emptied it. This is because
there was a law against actually drinking inside the store. Quite frequently
they would stumble back into the store, quite drunk, wanting to buy another
little bottle. When they started to go out again, they couldn't find the door.
Nuach was a very respected Jew. He did many good deeds and gave to charity with
a broad hand. He made a very good living, but his wealth didn't turn his head.
One used to say about him a quiet man of wealth. His good deeds for
others were done very quietly.
Motel and Yitzhak Shochet
The two kosher butchers of the town, very dignified and respected Jews who were
very learned in the Torah and of aristocratic descent. They were very modest
and didn't try to make a lot of themselves. Everybody in town loved them and
showed them great respect. Both for their very devoted work, as well as for
their very humane way of acting.
I could call forth many, many good Jews with soft and compassionate hearts,
always ready to help someone, Demblin had a great many people like that. All of
the Jews were destroyed by the hands of the Nazi brutes.
Moshe Aiglitzky was like the leader of the youth organization, HaShomer
Halomay. He put in a great deal of effort so that he organization would
grow and have more and more members. He also was concerned that the youth
should receive a worthwhile cultural education, and to be able to enjoy
themselves and spend good times together. Moshe was active in the organization,
not only at night after his work, but also during the day. One would see Moshe
hurrying along like a very pious Jew going to prayer. Moshe! Where are
you running so fast? One would ask him. He answered, We've got to prepare
for the young people a little excursion to Kazjimiyez. His concern for
the group was just like a father's concern for his children. The group was more
sacred to him than anything.
Often, he would complain that his father would throw it up to him that he
couldn't really work without his help and that the business was getting worse
and weaker. Moshe answered that the Zionist work that he was doing was the
ideal of his life and without it, his life would have no worth. He didn't even
bother to try to respond to the remarks of his detractors and opponents, who
would scold him with things like, You poor drudge. What are you doing
working so hard for a bourgeois party? It would be better for you to help your
father so at least he'd have a nice coat to wear on the Sabbath. But,
Moshe didn't answer such things. It was enough that his parents understood him.
Although his parents were very religious, he spent the Sabbath as well in the
Zionist work. They used to have marching drills with the young people in the
afternoon. He would take them on excursions outside of town where they would
have discussions about Zionism. He wasn't afraid either of his detractors in
the Jewish communities or the local Christian boys. All of his official
business like Left-Right-Attention, all of that was conducted in
Hebrew. People in the street were very thrilled when they heard him speaking in
Hebrew. When people hear a Hebrew word
They are really going to
take us to Palestine. Taking the children back from a gathering like this
with everybody singing songs did not please his opponents and Hurrah for
the Watchmen. But Moshe would defend his little flock, just like a bird
defending its nest. In a letter to the author of these lines in Palestine, he
wrote, The organization grows. It's always getting bigger, more people
are coming in all the time. The desire and the need to travel to Palestine is
very great. And when it comes my turn to make Aliyah, I don't know what I'm
going to do, because the organization really needs me, so I don't know if I'll
be able to make my agricultural preparation. After, he wasn't able to see
his dream realized.
Authorization for collecting coins from the JNF boxes inn Demblin
[Picture of ticket]
Translation of ticket: By this we authorize the member, Benny Zilberman, to collect the contents of
the Jewish National Fund coin boxes in Demblin. He should provide Jewish
National Fund receipts for the sum collected from the box. Jewish National Fund
[seal of the JNF]. Local Committee of Demblin. Licensee: Shalom Posher Bloom,
Commissioner of Boxes: Moshe Yaglitzky Tishre 2, 5691 
Translation of the border of ticket: Before collecting the coins, collectors
should read the printed instructions on collecting coins from boxes, issued by
the National Bureau.
One called him Lozerel. Not because of his small stature, but really out of
love and affection for his good deeds. When there was an action taking place at
the Zionist organization, was there ever an action in which Lozerl did not take
part? Despite the weight of his obligation to make a living for his mother,
brothers and sister, his father Yisrael had died before his time. Day and night
he devoted himself to Zionist work. When a pioneer or someone who was headed
for Israel passed through, on the way to one of these Kibbutzes in Poland, and
when they needed a few dollars, the first thing that they would do would be to
borrow it from Lozerl, and he would give them money out of his own pocket.
Later on people would pay him back and if not, he wasn't mad. It was with love
and a little bit of envy that he accompanied the comrades on their way to make
the journey to Palestine. Because of family reasons, he wasn't able himself to
realize his dream. His detractors and enemies hurt him and criticized him. What
they said was, Lozerl, the poor toiling drudge, you work so hard, give
all your time and energy to a middle class organization, you don't get a penny
for any of it. But, Lozerl, with a smile, never really got mad at
anybody, no matter what they said. He would answer very calmly, You'll
see, after awhile you're going to belong to the organization too. Your pals,
who right now find themselves in Russia, aren't even going to be able to come
back. His words turned out to be very true. Lozerl, with his good heart,
wanting to help everybody more than he could, never refused anybody a favor.
Everyone of the comrades who made the trip to Palestine promised Lozerl with
tears in their eyes that they would always think of him and somehow return his
favors. And Lozerl did not forget the comrades after they had traveled away,
and he stayed in contact with them. In each letter he would remind people with
hope that he would make all possible efforts in order to fulfill his own dream
of many years. But like so many others, devoted as he, he was killed by
Comrade Puterflam was one of the founders of the Zionist organization in 1929.
He found himself in Warsaw with a group of friends from Demblin who had left
their home in order to find work in the city. He showed them the way to
Zionism. After work he would, with them, deal with the question of establishing
a Zionist organization in their home town. On returning to Demblin for
Shavuoth, he got to work on establishing a Zionist organization. He was elected
the Chairman and a delegate from the KKL and he was active for a long time in
both offices. For material reasons, he has to go back to Warsaw to work. But,
when he came for the holidays, he remained a longer time in town. Neglecting
his private work in order to help the organization, especially the
establishment of Hashomer Haleumi. He was also an organizer of the drama circle
of Hashomer Haleumi and the members used to wonder at the enthusiasm and the
ability with which he was able to conduct a whole range of activities and
From his childhood, Zionism had interested him. Although he lived in a
household with a variety of ideological persuasions, from the right to the
left, he remained faithful to his youthful ideals of Zionism. During
discussions with his opponents, everybody was always quite impressed by his
tactful responses. It was often that he, from his meager wages, would spend far
more on the organization than people who really had money in it. Later on, he
did not live to see his dream fulfilled.
Zalman, the folk doctor of the town for many years, enjoyed the trust of people
as well being trusted for the remedies that he produced. Every one of us wished
him eternal life for his goodness and his warm Jewish heart. He would take
stock of the financial resources of the sick people and often provide them his
help without asking them anything in return. And this is a quality his sons
inherited from him.
Zalman was a nationalist Jew. He prayed in the Zionist synagogue. He interested
himself in Zionist work and he financially supported the cause very generously.
Despite his reputation as a folk healer who would use Bankus [glass stuck on
the skin that creates suction and draws blood to the spot] and leeches. He also
indulged in bleeding people and things of this nature, but he also had a great
treasure in real grandmother [folk] remedies.
For instance, spider webs applied to a wound in order to stop blood from
flowing, sour milk on a swelling, chamomile for stomach ache, mother's milk for
an ear ache.
Religious Jews didn't just rely on Zalman's recipes and grandmother remedies,
but they also used their own little means of getting well, like spells against
the evil eye, or they would say or sing psalms. They would cry or pray by the
open door of the ark. They would leave no stone unturned. They would even
travel to the Rabbi with a little order form to beg for a divine remedy.
Zalman, who himself was quite a pious man, succeeded quite a bit in using these
religious remedies when his own remedies didn't help quickly enough. Zalman
didn't make a whole bunch of money from his medical practice, but he did have a
great interest in healing people and he derived satisfaction from that and was
He was a respected person and gave his children a good education and made
available opportunities for them to study.
They use to call him Yonele, the Zionist worker, who was always on the run. He
was always running to every action or activity, just like a pious Jew to
prayer. Each day he came to the headquarters and took new responsibilities upon
himself. That which for another person would have been considered a really
difficult chore, he gave himself over to it completely and carried it out with
tremendous devotion. He spruced up the headquarters, he put sayings up on the
wall and inscriptions. He also took a lot of interest in the little Zionist
prayer house. He gave a lot of strength and time, together with Zalman
Orlovsky, to this prayer house. He wanted it to look good, to have a pleasant
appearance, and he devoted a lot of time to that. Often, with his meager
earnings, he would spend something for the improvement of the prayer house. He
also devoted a lot of time and energy to making sure that the Zionist
newspapers, Today or World Mirror, should arrive at
their subscribers' doors with regularity. Every day he would run several
kilometers to the train station in order to pick up the newspapers. That's how
he made his paltry living, but always with a smile. He always had a little joke
for everybody. Not everybody knew just how hard things were for him,
financially that is. He was somebody who always took part in discussions at
Joseph Gilibter's store. He was little and weak, but with a tremendous amount
of courage and energy. During the election campaigns, he was busy night and
day, writing placards and slogans on behalf of the Zionist list. Thanks to his
active work, one of his pals, Shmuel-Nachum Luxenburg, was elected Chairman of
the Jewish council from the Zionist organizations.
Yoneleh, with great devotion, took on his chores for the movement.
Zalman came to Demblin from Shedlitz. He quickly became known for his virtues.
He prayed in the Guerrer prayer house with his father-in-law, Avromele
Feldfeber. There, they asked him to lead prayers, to read the Torah in the
synagogue. The prayer house soon became very cramped because there were so many
people coming to pray. The youth, who were not religious, from the Zionist
organizations, also came to hear his beautiful praying and reading of the
Torah. Zalman was no religious fanatic, but he did know a lot. He really had
the learning of a Torah scholar. One used to call him, the silken young man.
And Avromele Feldfeber, his father-in-law, really took great pride and relished
the fine reputation that his son-in-law had acquired for himself.
The Zionist organization elected Zalman as a Chairman, not because they wanted
to bestow honor upon him, but because they saw in him really the most
appropriate person for the job, at that particular time. His devotion was
amazing. Even though he was occupied with his own business, he never held back
his time when asked to participate in some action for the organization. And the
organization did, at that time, grow rapidly and in a very positive way,
developed further. He was valued and respected, even by people who were
ideologically opposed to him. He never tried to insult anybody. He just tried
in a very calm way to explain the error of people's thinking about matters.
People really understood him because he respected the other person's thoughts
and feelings. And so when he prayed with his father-in-law in the Guerrer
prayer house, nobody thought any of the fact that he wasn't from that Guerrer
sect. He was someone who was very well acquainted with the small letters, just
like a Torah scholar, and people really said of him, to God and to other
people. And there were stories told about him and also his good deeds in
the Demblin ghetto.
Yosef belonged to the old Zionist guard and was an active worker in those days
and also during the founding of the organization in 1929 by the younger
members. Not thinking of all the energy that he put into it, he served very
faithfully and in an admirable way in order to make sure that all of the
activities were successful.
His soda water business was a meeting point for the Zionists and also for their
opponents. It was kind of a parliament. There people would have debates along
party lines and then hear about what was happening out in the world. Yaacov
Faigenboim use to lead a lot of these discussions, he was an activist in the
Zionist organizations. Thanks to his presence and his influence, the
organization grew greatly in just a short amount of time.
Yoseff Gelibter along with Zalman Orlovsky and Yonele Borstein prepared
material in the soda-water factory for the lively newspaper, The
Observer and for the banquet in honor of the departure to Palestine of
this writer of these lines in 1933.
Yosef was loved also, by people who were not Zionist. He willingly gave
everyone a little bit of advice if they asked. Often he acted as an arbitrator
between craftsmen or businessmen. With his keen intelligence, he was always
able to come up with some kind of decision or solution so that both sides left
feeling content. He was widely respected for his humane way of dealing with
everybody. One used to say about Yosef Gilibter in town, that he was the man
who was able to come with a compromise. People didn't walk away from his place
of business there, dissatisfied, and that's why he was so highly valued.
Yehoshele The Baker (Shtamler)
His bakery was famous for its extremely tasty cakes and bread. Even Christians
from the outlying countryside used to come to buy his baked goods. While
preparing the braided challah for the Sabbath and High Holy days, Aunt Blume
really distinguished herself (Yehoshele's wife). She worked in the bakery
together with her husband, my uncle, and often a lot more than him. When
Yehoshele finished his work and went to synagogue for morning prayers, she
stood around there and continued to tend the oven and take out the last baked
bread. They used to say about her that she was one of the truly worthy and
pious women. She also distributed bread and challah without asking for money on
the Sabbath to the needy. When she did these good deeds she was very discreet.
During my childhood, on hot summer nights, it was a real pleasure to go to
Yehoshele's and get an empty sack of flour and lie down on it in his courtyard
and go to sleep until midnight. During the winter, when the cold would creep
right into your bones, little kids used to climb up on the coal holder. When
Aunty pulled out a little bit of cracker, or a roasted potato from the oven,
the kids were really in paradise, chomping on it.
[See PHOTO-B40 at the end of Section B]
When the chimney was being cleaned at the bakery by a chimney sweep, we
children used to look on with great interest when the chimney sweep would get
up on the roof, the rope with the iron bucket wrapped around his neck and one
broom in either hand. Yehoshele would stand watching him, very, very
frightened, afraid that, God forbid, the man should stumble and fall. After
finishing his work, Yehoshele used to invite the sooty chimney sweep into his
house and pay him a little tribute with a glass of schnapps. Also, very rare
piyak [wildberry] which the whole town supplied with white sand on the floor.
The custom was that after washing the wooden floor and drying it one would
scatter white sand over it. Reb Yehoshele, the baker, would get together in one
of his storerooms a whole wagon full of the piyak. Because of this he received,
besides money, a good drink of schnapps. He would ask people for it when they
were going to bring another wagon load in.
Friday evening, when the
was put in the oven, Yehoshele used to hum a little Russian song. He had
served in the Russian military for 3 years and even had been in captivity. He
was in a much better mood on this occasion. It was a lot easier for him, than
when he had to take the cholent out of the oven, on the Sabbath, after prayers,
because at that point, all of the children and the women used to come to claim
their pots. But all of their little markings and tags, like the color of their
paper, or a little piece of newspaper they had attached, or ribbon, had all
been burned. So everybody was in an uproar, screaming, and nobody knew which
pot belonged to who, nobody could agree, nobody would take any advice, and
finally it was agreed that Yehoshele's suggestion should be followed, which
was, to lift off the tops of each of these pots and look inside for the real
clue to see if inside was
lokshen kugel, or
challah kugel, or
kishke. Of course when one took the lids off these pots, it was the best opportunity
for all of the curious women to see what their neighbors had been preparing.
Despite all of the signs and all of this research, people walked away with the
wrong pots and soon came back to exchange them. And so, Yehoshele took
absolutely no pleasure in the Sabbath meal.
Once, in the middle of putting in the cholent, Moshe Hollels showed up, out of
breath, panting, and said, Yehoshele, do me a favor and lend me, well,
how shall I say it
lend me a wheel barrow. Yehoshele stood by the
oven and wanted to finish his work with the cholent. He looked up in great
astonishment and asked, Moshe, are you going crazy? What are you
bothering me for? It's Friday evening, I've got to take care of the cholent
here, and I've got to go to the bath house, and you come here, acting all
crazy, wanting a wheel barrow. What are you doing here? I don't understand
this. On a Friday evening!
I have to lead in the Sabbath, he answered.
The yearly feast of the burial society always gave Yehoshele great pleasure and
he liked to see it done with a tremendous amount of pomp and ceremony and
noise. He worked very hard in the preparation of this feast. He made sure that
each member of the group received substantial portions to go back home with
him. For this yearly feast, food and drink was prepared in a truly royal
manner. Many people looked at these celebrations with a very critical eye.
Still, everybody used to pray that there would be more feasts and fewer burials.
On a day like that, Yehoshele shown with the spirit of joy and celebration,
because the whole year he struggled hard to make a living and his livelihood
had been undermined with Christian bakeries being established in the country
side. His children didn't follow the path that he desired and his daughter had
to be married off. But on this particular day of the feast of the burial
society, he was just as happy as he could be.
With the departure of his older son, Shmuel, with his family, for Palestine, he
thought that he would also like to go to the land of his forefathers, but fate
had it otherwise. He and his wife Blumela, his son Avrom with his family,
Rachel with her family, Raizel and Laibela all of them were killed by
Reb David that's how he was called with affection, because he was one of
the most beautiful personalities in the town. His appearance and his bearing
evoked a feeling of respect. A modest person and a person with self restrain,
he was a Modzjitzer Hasid and one of the most learned of them. He prayed in the
Modzjitzer prayer house. But on the High Holidays, Reb Gershon Rabinovitch
invited Reb Davidel to come and pray at the main synagogue, which at that time
would be overflowing because the audience had great pleasure and really loved
to hear him sing. His powerful and lyrical voice reached into every corner. The
women especially were quite grateful because his singing reached into the
balcony where they were singing.
Reb Davide was somebody who was a supporter of the whole Zionist proposition
and more than once he would ask the Jewish youth in Demblin, What are you
doing here? Why don't you go to Israel? Live on the land. And he himself,
actually, strove to make Aliyah. When the first group of pioneers from Demblin
went to Israel, we received letters from him in which he asked for help.
As I remember, he only spoke Hebrew on the Sabbath. He was also active in the
burial society and founded another society of a religious study group. Every
Sabbath, before dawn, in summer or winter, Reb Davidel used to be the first one
in the synagogue studying. And on Shavuoth, after eating, Reb Davidel would
sing in the synagogue the most beautiful melodies by the Modzjitzer Rabbi, and
the whole audience would sing along with him.
My father used to tell about how before the First World War, Reb Davidel was
the biggest leather merchant in town. He had two houses. But, when hte Russians
left the town, they burned everything, including everything he owned.
Davidel's wife, Surela, was well known as being a very kind and wonderful
person in the town. She helped out people in need very generously, but she
always did it in such a way that nobody knew.
Despite the fact that he himself took a tremendous loss when his business and
possessions went up in smoke, the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Wasserman, lived with
great hope and faith and prepared for the time when they would make their way
to Israel. But, the War broke out on the 1
of September, 1939, and that shattered everybody's plans.
Reb Davidel also prayed in the ghetto before the Ark. Yom Kippur of 1941, when
Reb Davidel cried out Kol Nidre, the congregation was moved and shared the
emotion of his prayer. It was a premonition, he felt, that this was the last
time he was going to pray. And the holy prayer was conducted with many tears
and a lot of weeping.
of May, 1942, the Modzjitzer scholar shared the tragic fate of the mass of Jews
in Demblin and went off in the final road.
Honored be his memory!
Shmuel (Oralis) Rubinstein
by Arye Buckspan, Tel Aviv
Shmuel Oralis (Rubenstein) was a religious Jew, a scholar and a lover of study.
He was interested only in Torah studies. He spent his days sitting at the Guerr
shtieble studying, from dawn to evening.
His wife Mechala was old. She worked at home and managed a store for selling
lye to support them both. I wondered many times how a sick woman like her,
whose hands and head shook in a strange spasm, could control so many customers
and manage the store so intelligently. Sometimes on the days of the fair
(Wednesdays), I would help her when the store was full. If she became ill, the
store would shut down because her husband was absorbed by his studies. Every
Friday Shmuel Oralis went to the mikve and prepared for the Sabbath. Since he
believed that he should not see the face of a woman, he would turn to the wall
and shout, a shirt, a towel, until he received what he asked for.
With him we my brother-in-law Ya'acov Rosenberg, myself and a few other
boys studied Torah. He taught us, because we were known as good
students, and belonged to the same Guerr Shtieble. He did not charge us for
studying, doing his work as a mitzvah.
His son Alter did not practice Judaism, and according to his father's terms, he
was a complete heathen. He was caught in the Communist idea and wanted to bring
salvation to the world, while at the same time not bringing salvation to
himself. First he traveled to Brazil, where he tried to write for a Yiddish
newspaper and held some odd jobs. He did not succeed. He married Chana
Ziegelman, an active member of Poale Tzion Left, and with her moved to Demblin.
The Demblin boys had their first Torah lessons with a Jew named Reb Zeidel. He
taught using a leather whip and according to the method of putting one to stand
in the corner. Later they continued their studies with Reb Leibel. He used to
rest his students by bringing them to the town's prominent figures, who would
question them. If the boys succeeded, they won much praise. The older kids
continued their studies with Reb Sanna the teacher. He would teach the boys
Torah, and his wife would take advantage of the kids for helping her at home.
All those teachers lived by the Great Synagogue.
Moshe Hillels (Anglister), a pleasant Jew, had talent for everything except for
making a livelihood. He was a carving artist, and adept in woodworking in
general. He knew how to paint very well, and was even a Hebrew and math
teacher. Nevertheless he lived in great poverty. He was lucky not to need much.
To the Memory of my Near and Dear ones
by Baila Shapiro-Brandshpigel, Paris
Memories about the town mean for me, first of all, memories about her people,
the dear, warm hearted Jews who the brutes in Hitler's army killed so savagely.
The following lines I truly dedicate to the memory of my near and dear ones,
family and friends from my youth.
My mother, Chana Shapiro, didn't have very much luck in her life. At the age of
30 she was left a widow with 7 children. When the German brutes took Demblin,
she had to witness the murder of her children and grandchildren until she alone
remained a victim of the beasts. The same tragic fate was shared by my brother
and his wife and children and grandchildren. My brother, Moshe, with his wife
Blumtshe, the good Golda, as well as my wiser sister, Yehudis with her little
My mother, Chana Shapiro, had very little luck in her life. When I was 30 years
old I left Demblin and emigrated to France. Although it was tough to make a
living we still felt like free people compared to the way we felt back in
Poland. With the outbreak of the Second World War, my husband signed up
voluntarily in the French army and he was taken prisoner by the Germans. After
he was liberated, he was not with us again for a very long time. The 14th
of May, 1941, they took him, along with the first 5,000 Jews from France. After
detaining him for 14 months in a camp, the 27th
of June, 1942, he was deported to Auschwitz and that's where he died. I
remained with my 2 children, one 5½ years old and the other 15 days old.
We were blessed with a miracle because all three of us survived after a lot of
sorrow and a lot of need and hardship in that terrifying period.
I remember also, so many of the friends from our youth with whom we struggled
together, dreamed together, hoped together in the union of workers and
in the library, different kinds of organizations, in the drama circle, Yarme
Vanapol, Malka Baitzman, Freida Ainshidler, the Baigelmans, Yisrael Yom-Tov,
David Cholevinsky, Yankel Bubis, Hindele Birentzvieg, Avraham Rozenzaft, the
Apelhoitz, Shloma Rappaport, Tzaduk Yom-Tov.
Honored be their memory.
by Tzvi Eichenbrenner, Tel Aviv
Nuach he was always a saint.
He was thought of among his town's people as on of the most luminous
personalities in that dark era of the destruction of our people. His bearing
and conduct in the camps in Demblin and in Czenstechov and his readiness to
help, demonstrated that even in the most terrible conditions of enslavement and
brutality one dare not lose sight of the image of God. The sinfulness of that
era did not change him for the worse in any way.
All of the painful pressures and sorrows in the camps moved him very deeply
although he personally wasn't the one who was suffering. He felt pain for other
people. That's why he attempted to bring about some kind of opposition to
comfort those who found themselves in deep sorrow and to encourage with a good
word those who were resigned and in desperation.
Whenever he had the slightest opportunity, Nuach would sabotage the work that
was being done for the Germans, and he would tell other people to do likewise.
In order to rescue a young Jewish boy from a certain death in the camp, he
risked his own life. His humane conduct didn't please everybody and his good
deeds became known to one of the lower echelon officers, Kattinger. That beast,
one morning very early, when the group of workers had already left the gate of
the camp on the way to their work place, stopped everybody and went directly to
Nuach, and with his whip he began to strike him in the face and on his body.
The erect posture of Nuach and his refusal to even blink his eye and his proud
silence only drove the German to increase his sadism, which only quieted down
when Nuach lay covered with blood, beaten to a pulp, stretched out on the
ground. These blows left a familiar mark on the health and mood of Nuach for
the rest of his life. He always suffered from head aches.
In Czenstechov I was with Nuach once again. The 15th
of January of 1945, the Red Army neared Czenstechov and the Germans began to
evacuate our camp. Sick Nuach dared to escape in a terrible frost and 2 days
later he was liberated by the Russians.
He made aliya to Israel. When the Germans decided to give reparations to those
who had been in the camps for their forced labor and their suffering, Nuach was
one of the only refugees who refused to take advantage of German money. He
complained that the very name that they'd given to the undertaking, To
Make Good Once Again, was enough for a Jew to refuse it. It made
absolutely no impression on him no matter how much you argued. He remained firm
in his decision and never took advantage of the reparations.
The place of his death is also symbolic and appropriate to the place that he
occupied in life. He died in the building of the Israeli highest court during a
trial in Jerusalem. All of a sudden he felt very sick and died very quickly.
Honored be his memory!
[See PHOTO-B41 at the end of Section B]
Shmuen The Hoarse One
Once upon a time when one walked down the long stone paved Warshavsky street
which reached from one end of the city to the other, one saw on both sides,
little wooden houses as if in a big circle. In each little house, one was able
to look in and with precision say in which of them lived the figs, the
sourcreams, the petticoats, the rats, the noodles, the matzos, the rattles, the
stallions, and so on and so forth. They were all very worthy, honest Jews,
working folk, their family names had nothing offensive about them. Basically
each person in the town had their family name and that's how you knew them and
that's how you called their children and their grandchildren, as well. From
where these names came, most of the people had no idea. In the same way lots of
the towns and villages didn't know where their names came from. For example,
the people in Warsaw were known as frasers [people who ate a lot], the people in Chelm were known to be fools, the
people in Kotzker blockheads, Koriv creepers, Ryki
slurpers, Baranov made cake in a bad way
In one of these little houses lived Shmuen, the hoarse one. He was called that
not because the Jew was really so hoarse that he actually wasn't able to speak.
On the contrary, Shmuen had a clear, beautiful voice. And on the Sabbath when
he would pray psalms in the synagogue, it was really a great pleasure to listen
to him. He was a very modest man and when people used to argue about something,
Shmuen wasn't one to join in. He didn't really like to get mixed up in
arguments and discussions. He listened but he kept silent. He would never, with
even one word, call attention to himself. That's the way he acquired his name,
Shmuen, the hoarse one.
Shmuen was blessed by God with three fine sons and a wise wonderful daughter.
When she was grown up just a little bit, she would write letters for all of the
women in the town to their relatives in America. Her letters were better than
the professional letter writers.
But getting a full belly was something that Shmuen couldn't provide for his
family. After all, how could he accomplish that since the whole living that he
made was from each summer's excursion to a little orchard that he rented from a
peasant? He would load up his few belongings on a wagon and sit his wife and
children on the wagon and he would go off there for the whole summer. There
they lived in a little straw structure and even in the heaviest rains it
thundered and there was lightning, they didn't leave that spot until everything
had been harvested. That was usually right around the beginning of the High
When one would talk to Shmuen, he never complained about his hard life. He had
no complaints to God. The only thing that he used to complain about was that he
was never able, as he was obliged to do as a Jew, to really pray with
conviction, because all the little gentile boys, in the countryside, knew that
when this Jew would start praying, the whole world could turn upside down and
he wouldn't move from the spot. When Shmuen was standing in his tallit and
tfillin, by a tree, and saying the
[18 benedictions], the gentile boys would appear out of nowhere, like a plague
of locusts attacking the orchard. However much Shmuen tried to concentrate on
his prayers, his mind would always start to wander and this made him feel very
When his children were grown up and emigrated, when the little orchard which
they used to rent had been chopped down, Shmuen remained with his wife and
daughter and also without a means of support. Every morning, summer and winter,
he and his wife Kraindel went to the countryside to get a couple of big cans of
milk, and they took them back to sell the contents of them in town.
Once early in the morning, when they were both passing with their cans of milk
through a little forest near the lakes, a Polish officer with some armed
soldiers stopped them on a pretext that they were spies. They stripped them
naked, searched them, they poured the milk out and they examined the empty milk
cans, and of course you understand they didn't find anything. Then they started
to beat up the poor couple, sadistically tortured them and abandoned them.
From then on Shmuen became sick and lay in bed until he died. Once his wife,
Kraindel, came into our house weeping and called my father to her husband. A
group of other neighbors went to Shmuen, who was barely able to talk. With them
he said his final prayers and soon afterwards he gave up his pure soul.
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