by Yakov Szperling
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
My uncle, Borukh Szperling, was an artisan, a tinsmith by trade. He lived in Czenstochow, where he occupied two rooms for his entire life. In one room was the tinsmith shop and the other one served as a reception room, a salon, an eating room.
Reb Borukh always was seen going with a pail packed with tools, blackened with soot, his hands scorched. He added gutters to the roofs or smeared them with pitch. My uncle Borukh was never embittered by his labor. He greeted everyone with a bright sholem aleykhem [Yiddish expression peace to you used as a greeting], asking about everything, about the entire family. For his entire life he did not stop banging with his hammer. He loved his trade. He did not mix in kehile [organized Jewish community] matters but he and his three sons, who were able to study as a result of his toil, were well known in Czenstochow.
The oldest son, Yantshke (Jan), graduated as a lawyer and after several years became a judge in the Czenstochow appeals court until antiSemitism grew sharper in Poland (193637). During the course of antiSemitism, it was proposed that he convert; then he would be able to continue in his office, as a Jew, [he could] not. Jan resigned from his post, opened his own office and prospered.
The second son, Groinem, graduated as an engineer and, the third son, Yitzhak a doctorsurgeon. It should be understood that the simple Jew, the artisan had great satisfaction from his three sons and daughter. The educated sons with academic professions were bound to their parents, to their father, the tinsmith and to their mother who wore a sheytl [wig worn by pious women]. The oldest son often was seen with his parents in the synagogue. This was Borukh's delight and pride. He prided himself that with his banging with his hammer in his tinsmith shop he had given his sons the opportunity to study and to graduate from three different university divisions.
None of the sons survived. Two were murdered by the Germans. The doctor, Ignac [Yitzhak] Szperling, was
the chief doctor in the HASAGfactory [Hugo Schneider AG a German metal goods manufacturer that ran a forced labor ammunitions factory] in Czenstochow during the German occupation and survived the war. After the liberation, he and his wife were murdered by Polish Fascist bands.
by Yakov Szperling
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
When I start to write, or more correctly said to say Kaddish [prayer recited for the deceased] for my father, mother, brother and sisters and their families, the images of my large, manybranched family who were mercilessly tortured, float before me eyes. Here I see them all: my father and my mother, my brother Mordekhai and my sisterinlaw Hinda and their four children; my sister Chana and her husband Berl Szmulewicz and their only daughter Tsesha; my sister Rywka and her husband Shlomo Unglik and their two sons Moshele and Itshele; my sister Tseril and her husband Yerakhmial Markowicz and their child, whose name I have forgotten. It was born at the outbreak of the war. And, finally, my youngest sister Manya, who was barely 14 years old when the war began.
My father, the sixth of his brothers, was the liveliest child, the most ingenious in his family. He had an example, an aphorism for everything. He always boiled over with humor even at the saddest moments that often happen in a family. He found the necessary sayings that brought out happiness and cheering up.
It seems that all of his undertakings succeeded because of his constant optimism. There was no lack of income. Before the First World War my father tore down a small house and built a large house in which he occupied four rooms.
We moved into the house in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. When the war broke out, we left everything and ran because the first confrontation between the Germans and the Russians was in our shtetl [town].
Several days later, the Jews began to return to their
apartments and their houses. Most of the windowpanes were knocked out, the goods in the stores looted. However, life again calmed down. There were other ways of earning a living. Reb Hershl Szperling again did not lose courage. He adjusted to the new situation and continued to live.
One son lives in Israel
Except for him, all were tortured by the Germans
In independent Poland, my father resumed his earlier line of business [making] cheap clothing and remained with it until the end. He went to fairs where he sold his goods. He never made out any promissory notes and if it rained or snowed, he left the fair. The promissory notes would lead to not being paid, he would say.
After the new year, when the season ended and there was little work, that was the time for communal matters. Reb Hershl
was the treasurer of the Artisans Bank, Eliayhu Wajchman chairman, Yitzhak Zajbel vice chairman, Avraham Asher Szmulewicz secretary.
Deliberations took place in our house, both about hiring a KhazanShoykhet [cantorritual slaughterer] and about designating a chairman of the kehile [organized Jewish community]. When it was necessary to unseat the mayor of the city managing committee and to choose another one the decision was made in our house.
My father was the gabbai [sexton] at the large house of prayer, where the common people prayed through all the years. The money from the contributions was combined to make Kiddush [prayer recited over wine before a Sabbath or holiday meal] on Shimkhas Torah [autumn holiday celebrating the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings and the start of the next cycle]. This continued year in and year out. It is worth describing a characteristic shidikh [matchmaking] story in our family that illustrates the relationship of the artisan parents to their children.
My father and Reb Moshe Szmulewicz arranged a marriage. My sister Chana was to be the bride of Berl Szmulewicz, who was captivated by the communist ideology. When it came time to discuss the terms of the wedding, Reb Szmulewicz requested a dowry of 10,000 zlotes for his son. Then a conversation between my father and his soninlaw's father took place:
Perhaps it is better that your son should wait for his inheritance. It is not nice that a communist is involved with commerce.
My son is not even an artisan; he must have money to open a small shop.
My father laughed hard at this. At Reb Moshe Szmulewicz's question as to why he was laughing, my father answered:
I am laughing at this, that you have raised strange communists that have not even learned a trade. But you want them to do business and I, who have worked all my life, am a bourgeois…
All of this was said in good humor. Reb Hershl Szperling did not permit the marriage to be broken off because of a dowry. He gave the appropriate dowry and, with luck, the time of the wedding was decided.
On the 1st of May, when all of the communists in Klobuck were arrested, my brotherinlaw also was not treated with respect. [His father] came to us
with a complaint, How could it be that they can let them sit [in prison]. We need to free him. For money, he can be freed. My father answered: It is your son, so you give money. Nothing helped. Moshe Szmulewicz gave ransom money and his son was freed.
My BrotherinLaw, the Communist, Travels to Birobidzhan and I Emigrate to EretzYisroel
Once Berl said that he had received a post in Katowice. He barely said goodbye before leaving. And two weeks later, we learned that the soninlaw Berl had traveled to Birobidzhan.
My father sent for my sister, Chana, and asked her: What does this mean? Berl has traveled to Birobidzhan; did you find it necessary to be quiet so that strangers had to tell me?
My sister disagreed and assured [my father] that he [Berl] had received a post. It seems that she had received a strong message to keep the matter a secret so that the regime would not learn of it.
Several weeks later, when I was waiting at the main train station, I was surprised to notice my brotherinlaw Berl. It turned out that he actually did travel to Birobidzhan, but the Soviets sent him back. He asked me to keep this matter secret because he easily could be arrested.
When I already was on the way to EretzYisroel, the Polish police arrested him for crossing the Soviet border illegally. Later, he was freed.
I emigrated to EretzYisroel on the 28th of August 1934. Accompanying me to my departure were my parents, my sisters, my wife's family, all of my comrades from the party, my brothersinlaw and sistersinlaw.
It was not easy to leave the house. A strange distress enveloped me when I looked around the four walls among which I grew up and was raised. Every item in the house, the bed, the closet, the pictures on the walls, the brass candlesticks, over which my mother blessed the candles every Shabbos [Sabbath], everything, everything was beloved and dear to me! Today, a chill goes through my entire body when I remember the moment of parting from my home.
We already were at the Polish cemetery. The chairman of the HaHistadrut [labor Zionists] organization gave a farewell speech that moved [me] to tears. Everyone began to say goodbye to me. Everyone wished me the best. It was very difficult for me to approach the separation from my sisters and brother and from my father. He was never so moved by an experience in his life, so sentimental as to shed tears. I do not remember ever before seeing my father cry. When I heartily said goodbye to him and both our lips began to move, he simultaneously broke out in a moaning cry. I also cried.
With tears in his eyes, my father said as follows: I already am old and broken, already in the 70s. I can no longer work. Everyone has gone. Your mother and I remain in our old age and who will help? We remain alone! In the end, he added: Who knows if I will have the good fortune to see you again…
I do not remember what I answered to this. I only know that I cried intensely.
The parting with my mother was a little easier. She cried loudly because a mother always cries at every opportunity, particularly when separating from a child and she does not know if she will
see him again. With tears in her eyes, my mother asked me to write at once, not to just think about it…
Thus, I parted with my family and with the shtetl, Klobuck.
A new chapter began for me and for all of those closest to me. My leaving for EretzYizroel with still other travelers stirred the world at that time. We wandered for weeks and months on a Greek freighter on the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. All ports were closed to us. We had left lightly dressed, in the summer. We continued to wander aimlessly on the water during the months of January and February. We suffered from hunger, cold and various illnesses. Three Jews [fell into the water] trying to disembark; one died. Our leaders were the comrades from Mapai [acronym for Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisroel Worker's Party of the Land of Israel] Swerdlow and Tsbik. Our hardships and suffering were terrible. We had our first opportunity to write home from a city in Greece.
The Yiddish newspapers in Poland had reported about the disappearance of the ship Vallos that was carrying 400 pioneers, and all signs indicated that it had sunk. One report ran counter to another. My mother did everything she could; she could not sleep entire nights. Later, she wrote to me that they did not want to tell her the truth. My mother was relieved when my first letter arrived.
I received many letters from my comrades: Asher Wajchman, Shmuel Glikman, Ayzyk Leib Birnbaum all consoled me and expressed sympathy for my suffering. My sister and brother wrote to me that I should hold up because I have a great purpose in my life to arrive in the land of the Patriarchs.
My father had complaints in his letters to me! Why does it happen to him that his children have to endure immense problems? Berl went to Birobidzhan and returned; Shlomo returned from Sosnowiec drained, but the worst would
be if you have to return. What will the gentiles say? I wish for you that you will quickly arrive on the shores of EretzYisroel and our hearts, which are broken by your troubles and have bled so much, will rejoice and the true redemption will come.
We returned from Greece to Poland, to Zaleszczyki [Zalischyky, Ukraine] through Constanza [Romania]. We waited there for two to three months for the legal emigration.
I endured and did not return to Klobuck. My father had advised me that I not come home. It is not fitting he wrote to me to say goodbye twice, to break our hearts twice. He did everything so that my wife could come to me.
He wrote to me in 1938 that black clouds were drawing near the skies of Poland and the scapegoat would be the Jews. He expressed the idea that he would sell everything and come here.
In 1939, when trenches already had been dug in Klobuck, he wrote that the Jews already had missed the train. The end of Polish Jewry draws near. And I received the last letter in 1940, sent through America. All of my sisters wrote; my father added, in short, about all of the cruelty of the Germans and that now everything is lost. We received no further information. The end had come.
When the Judenrat [Jewish council created by and beholden to the Germans] began to be administered by the Klobuck kehile, they started to persecute the former, honest communal workers. So I was told by eyewitnesses, who felt the affects of the Judenrat on their own skins. Borukh Szperling, the prewar chairman of the kehile, was persecuted by the Judenrat. My brother, Mordekhai, who was a dozor [member of the synagogue council], had to hide with gentiles in the villages, in Lobodno, Kolaczkowice and Wilkowiecko. My father was thrown out of his house, everything was broken and with my mother, he was chased far away to the factories. There they lived in a broken up, wet cell. That is how the members of the Judenrat treated the
honest, communal workers who did not want to serve the Germans and help in the extermination of the Jews in Klobuck.
None of my closest relatives survived, only I who has lived in EretzYisroel since 1934.
by Dora Wajs
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
My uncle, Moshe Szperling, lived in Klobuck for all his years and was an esteemed businessman in the shtetl. He was elected as a dozor during the German occupation in the First World War. Later, the kehile elected him as chairman of the Jewish gmina [municipality]. When Reb Dovid Hersh the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] died and the majority of Klobuck Jews asked that his son, Reb Shlomo, succeed him, Reb Henekh Goldberg and all of the Gerer Hasidim were against this because Reb Shlomo was an Aleksander Hasid. A bitter clash flared in the kehile that lasted for months. It even came to blows and to trials. Until Reb Moshe Szperling, who had a decided influence as chairman, stood up on the side of the common people and Reb Shlomo was appointed as shoykhet.
After being shoykhet in Klobuck for several years, Reb Shlomo the shoykhet could not overcome the difficult struggle that the Gerer Hasidim had carried out against him and he left the shtetl.
In 1934, when I already was on the way to EretzYisroel, they wrote to me that my uncle Moshe had become ill. He was taken to the Jewish Hospital in Czenstochow. On the second day, he asked to be taken home. He thought that he would die. He wanted to die in his own bed. He breathed out his soul on the way home.
At the funeral, the entire shtetl cried over the death of Reb Moshe Szperling, who had been chairman for about 30 years of the Jewish kehile in Klobuck, which he had served greatly.
Six sons survived Reb Moshe Szperling: Ayzyk, Elihu, Yosef,
Berl, Yakov, Wolf and one daughter, Basya. All perished with their mother Hena. They ended their painful lives some in German camps and some at Treblinka. No trace of their children remains. Only a son of Ayzyk Szperling remains. He is in Glasgow (Scotland).
the son of Dovid Hersh the shoykhet
with grandchildren perished
Standing next to it is her son, Chaim Dawidowicz,
who with his family, was tortured by the Germans.
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