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[Page 290]

Majer and Anna BOZHIKOWSKI

Majer Bozhikowski was born in Kutno in the year 1880. Since early youth, he was active in the General Zionists, occupied the position of chairman of the Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] in town, was a member of the sponsors of the training place of HaShomer Hatza'ir [Young Socialist Zionists] in Kutno and was active in the special commission, in partnership with the Jewish community, to support the poor pioneers, who had requested to emigrate to Eretz Israel.

His wife Anna was a prominent social worker in Kutno, chairwoman for many years of “WIZO” [Women's Zionist Organization] in town.


Jehuda (Juliusz) LIPSKI

Juliusz Jehuda Lipski, the son of Luzer Lipski, was known in Poland as one of the leaders of the Jewish sports-organizations and of the shooting-club, where he obtained his participation in the Olympic team.

During the war, he went to France and joined the French Resistance. Anna was a prominent social worker in Kutno, chairwoman for many years of “WIZO” [Women's Zionist Organization] in town.


[Page 291]

My father, of blessed memory, Avigdor GROMAN

by Ester Volfskal-Groman

Translated by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Out of my extended family, the image of my father, may he rest in peace, is engraved deep into my memory. I did not remember him from he was young, because when I was born he was already the grandfather of two grandchildren. His great beautiful beard, his serene, serious face always showed his respectfulness.

A Radzyner chasid, born to elderly parents, he was left an orphan at the death of both parents a short time after he was born. He was brought up in the home of his eldest brother, Hershel Groman, who ran the largest paper business in Warsaw, and possibly even in Poland.

Reb Avigdor married Dacha, a grandchild of Reb Yehoshuale Kutner - and his family became became respected from that day on. He believed in God and was a good person, always ready to sympathize with others' distress. I remember him once, crying with great sadness. This happened when Schuster Street caught fire, when Jewish old age homes and property were burned down; this demanded more help and comforting words for the afflicted.

My father used to hear secret confessions: who could not afford to marry off a child, or who did not have the means to celebrate the Sabbath or a holiday. Avigdor went straight away to some well-to-do Jews and everything was done to wipe away a tear and diminish the hardship.

Every Passover eve and the second night of the New Year he organised the traditional feast to which all the Hasidim came. Everyone sang and discussed the Torah.

My father was very religious but taught the children that honesty and a good will are more important than religious observance. My mother, may she rest in peace, was a great help to my father in his community affairs. Out of us ten children, only my brother and myself, the youngest daughter, survived.

May these lines be a remembrance candle lit to the memory of all other martyrs.


[Page 291]

Laybel PANKER

Translated by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

In the small Jewish town of Kutno, into a shoemaker's family of six children, on the 2nd of April, 1902, the seventh child was born; he was given the name of Laybele. Two years later another child was born to the same family and Laybel's father had to work hard with his hammer to provide for the ten people. In the needy, hardworking home, Laybel had to work until he was 10 years old. After that he was sent to work with a baker. “The best thing about the baker was eating the bread, which was never enough at home.”

In 1914, the Jewish bakers' union was formed in Kutno with the help of associates from the great working city of Lodz. In 1916 Laibel Panker, aged 14, could be seen among the organized workers. He belonged among those who sought to understand the world of commerce, giving up his free time [how much free time could a unionised baker have?] to teach himself to read and write. He was one of the professional bakers who had, at that time, a certain amount of knowledge of both the Yiddish and Polish languages.

Owing to his advancement in labour matters, in 1920 he became the head of the professional bakers' union in Kutno.

The drive to live in a large working class neighbourhood brought him to Warsaw in 1923. This opened up an active professional prospect. Laibel took an energetic part in the strong professional bakers' union in Warsaw. The extreme conservatism in Poland and the constant unemployment in the baking trade was a problem and young workers were forced to leave. In 1929 one finds Laibel in Paris, where he is again exactly organizing the Jewish bakers' unions. Laibel was equally at ease in the local organizations, as a member of the trade commission until he was arrested by Hitler's criminals.

Day by day, throughout ten years, Laibel remained in the workers' syndicate. The little knowledge that Laibel had, he used completely in the interests of the Jewish worker. This comes out at all the meetings of the trade. At one of the trade meetings he said: We do not understand what the French worker says to us: He , the French worker, understands what are our needs and requirements. We are here in the country without a language and with little knowledge of the work. After working and earning not only for my own keep, we can from time to time give financial help to our families in Poland.

In September 1939 he voluntarily enlisted in the French army. Following the collapse of the French military forces, he avoided capture by Hitler's army. Despite the dangers in his connection with the French workers' union, Laibel kept his position in the illegal trade commission of the Jewish bakers' union, He was arrested in 1941. In July 1942 he was transported to Auschwitz. In August 1942, a month after he had entered Auschwitz, he threw himself on to the electric wire fence and was killed.

Taken from the book: “Fighting for freedom”; Published by the Jewish Workers Syndicate Commissions in Paris.


[Page 292]

Noah GURKER

by Abraham Lustigman, Holon

Translated by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Noah Gurker was well known as a chauffeur for the city council of Kutno. We called him “The Jewish Official”. Even Gurker was very proud of his position. He used to walk elegantly down the streets, wearing his uniform with a round crowned hat. From his shoulder tabs dangled two tassels from which hung a little whistle. By his side hung a long sword, and he marched with a military step, wearing his shiny boots…

The children were only delighted when they looked at the dignified “Jewish Commander” with the long sword. Even the bolder boys used to stand to attention and salute him. He used to stop next to the children and give their heads a loving caress, offering some kind words. And I myself, like every child, had great respect for him and dreamed of being a commander like him when I grew up. When Noah Gurker stopped, I was also among those surrounding him, stroking his sword, touching the silver buttons of his uniform and asking him to show us the whistle.

Noah Gurker was friendly with my brother Yosef. He used to come to ours to buy wood and charcoal and to keep up with my brother. All the time he was conversing with my brother, I, with great pleasure, played with his sword.

And even more, Noah Gurker told us of his friendship with Fajwisz Izbicki. When Noah came to our store, the lame Fajwisz used to creep forward on his two wooden boards and start discussions with Noah. I had no idea what they were talking about.

The lame Fajwisz had a kiosk with newspapers and cigarettes in a corner of the old market. He used to sit in the kiosk on a high bench next to the window and sell newspapers. Noah Gurker often used to sit with him in his kiosk and help him sort the newspapers and package them up. The friendship lasted many years.


[Page 292]

The Public Health Sanitary Worker Mosze Lajb ZAK

by Abraham Lustigman, Holon

Translated by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Mosze Lajb was a sanitary worker in the First World War. He worked in the “Steam room” [Sauna] in the bathhouse, giving haircuts, disinfecting clothes, and spraying carbolic into the houses where there was a case of typhus. The Germans, who had then occupied Poland, had strict sanitary controls over the state population. When typhus was diagnosed the whole family had to be isolated, kept away and held in quarantine, near “Petka's” factory. The house was disinfected. A special sanitary team dealt with this and Mosze Lajb was appointed head sanitary worker. A German police officer was in charge of the committee, and was in charge to ensure that everything was in order. Also with us, when my brother Haim David fell ill with typhus, the whole house was disinfected and everyone was held in isolation.

At that time Mosze Lajb excelled in his aid work. Some years later, therefore, he obtained from the town council the concession on a small kiosk. Indeed he built a big kiosk in a corner of the old market where he sold cigarettes, ice creams , and all sorts of sweets for children.


[Page 293]

The Righteous Villager

by Abraham Lustigman, Holon

Translated by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

I do not remember the family name of the village peddler from Beilawa. Everyone called him the righteous man of the village. He lived in the same house as the Kalman family, in our neighbourhood. The righteous villager was a modest, quiet man, with a grey beard, great blue eyes and heavy eyebrows. His face was pale and worried. He was pushed like a shadow right against the walls. Before sunrise, when the sky began to turn light gray and everyone was still asleep, he would go out of his room with his bag on his shoulder and his stick in his hand.

In the winter even in the greatest cold and snow he would go round the villages, trading poultry. In the summertime he would rent a small fruit orchard and stay in one place. While the righteous villager was walking around he would recite psalms by heart or a prayer for the road. The Christians who met him greeted him and also regarded him as saintly man. Even the village youth did not pester him but showed him respect.

The righteous villager was very religious and lived by himself. In the summer he sat outside in his little orchard, but on Shabbat he would go back home. Even on Shabbat he would pray alone by himself standing in the corner of his room. He used to avoid meeting people in order to not to speak to them, except for those he met through his business.

On Shabbat he used to stand in the corner of his room for a long time, wrapped in his prayer shawl and praying quietly. Sometimes I used to visit him at home, but the righteous villager's eldest daughter used to prevent me from talking to him because her mother did not feel well. It was a fact that the righteous villager's wife was not altogether stable in her opinions.

As far as I know no one had ever paid attention to this person. He never turned to any one for a favour or advice.

This modest man was living with us in the town for many years, a rare type, a mysterious image- the bygone righteous villager from Beilawa.


[Page 293]

Mendel RACK

by Abraham Lustigman, Holon

Translated by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

Everybody knew Mendel Rak. Everyone called him Mendel Sidelock*. He was a son of Henech Rak [Henech the sausage maker]. He caused Reb Henech much trouble. Mendel was a different sort of person, a little unusual in the town. He would wear a long coat with a Jewish hat** over his sidelocks. His ritual fringes poked out from under his coat. Summer and winter he wore cuffed boots. He drifted around the place aimlessly. In the Hasidic circles, everyone looked at him unfavourably, he even did not fit in with the modern youngsters. But Mendel was not ashamed to come into workers' meetings in his Hasidic outfits. He merely pushed his sidelocks behind his ears. Mendel had his own way, he considered himself to be something of a philosopher. He would come to the Kutno intellectuals for a discussion, to visit the Perets library, the “Bund” rally, leftists of Poale Zion and … he saw himself as a communist. He even hid an illegal pamphlet under his coat. He used to sneak into the communist club, but kept his Jewish hat in his pocket.

Mendel Sidelock used to creep about in hidden places, in the fields outside the town. The Poles set the dogs on him and several times they gave him a slap. Very often he used to sit behind the ritual baths, next to Past's garden, where he used to read booklets. From time to time he would go to Esther Yochet's candy shop in a basement. But he never had a single coin in his pocket. The friends in the group used to offer him tea, a biscuit. At first Mendel would wink and refuse but then he would straightaway agree.

People always said that he never knew what he wanted. He liked to talk about KarL Marx's “Capital”, Darwin's theories, Rambam, and various Greek philosophies.

My opinion on this subject is that Mendel was a lost soul, who could never be restored. Still, he was a great reader who understood serious work and methods of philosophy. It is possible that he was not understood and that he did not understand himself. Who knows ? He took his secret with him. He shared the same fate as the other Kutno martyrs who perished in the Holocaust.

*Religious Jews did not cut the hair at the side of the head. The long sidelocks hung down either side of the face, in front of the ears.
** A Jewish hat was a round cap with a small peak in front.


[Page 294]

In Memory of a Jewish Family

Translated by Jaime Grabinsky Steider

I, Jadzia Grabinsky, daughter of Szmuel Asz and Rifke Rabe-Asz, want to present several personalities from our greatly ramified family that the inhabitants of Kutno will, even now, certainly remember.

My parents were killed during the frightening Hitler-era in Żychlin, where they had to relocate due to the loss, by theft of their possessions. The death of my father (O'E) [Olam Emet; In the True World; In Heaven], happened thus: the Germans had prohibited Yom Kippur services in synagogues or in locals with a minyan. Such a sacrilegious transgression was unacceptable for my father and he prayed at home with a group of Jews. During Nehila, the Germans irrupted in the house and they forced the group of praying men to keep fasting for 24 more hours while remaining on their feet. My father's poor health couldn't stand this great effort and died after a few days, his soul went to Heaven…

Not long after his death, my blessed mother followed him. I will never forget the fine education and high culture that she gave her children; she taught the beautiful habit of Tzedaka and help to the needy. When I was ten years old, my mother used to wake up all her children very early each Shabbat morning, and gave everyone of us a package of food, sometimes clothing for poor and lonesome men. Each one had “his” poor person to care for. “My” poor was a dear old blind woman who lived in a cellar in Podrzeczna street. While I climbed the steps, she used to recognize me and asked: “Jadziele, is it you?” I stayed a long time with her. For me they were interesting and pleasant conversations. (I often tell my children and grandchildren of my mother`s admirable customs (O'E)).

My eldest brother Jacob Asz escaped to Russia. Later we learned that he wanted to come home, but he died in a mysterious way.

My youngest brother Isaac Asz, his wife and children didn't want to be dispersed — and they all died in a gas chamber.

The only one of my siblings who was saved from hell and survived the concentration camps was my sister Esterke, who lost her husband and child.

My heart suffers due to the loss of my uncle and aunt and other relatives. I often remember my uncle Chaim Rabe and my aunt Salcze; my cousin Frajdke Rabe, who married Moniek Rasz from Kutno. She was, from my earliest age, a very close friend…

In Kutno are the graves of my two beloved sisters, Balcze and Franie, who died during the “Spanish influenza” epidemic, in 1918.

These memories are sent to Israel where my beloved and honourable grandparents, Wolf Lajb Rabe and Ester-Fajgl from Konin, wanted to finish their highly esteemed lives. My grandfather studied in Frankfurt-am-Main to become a Rabbi and was a very close comrade and friend of Szyele Kutner and of I. J. Trunk. He informed his children: “Up to my 70 years of age, I will be together with you — but not even one more day, because I plan to dedicate the years that God will grant me afterwards to study (which he certainly always did…). I will finish my days in the Holy Land”. He kept his word, took his books and clothing, and divided his possessions among his children. They protested, because they didn't need his inheritance. He assigned the duty to fulfil his will to my mother, knowing that she was going to comply faithfully and honourably with all his stipulations.

I will never forget the farewell meeting. All his children, daughters and grandchildren from Kutno, Konin, Kalisz and Sompolno came home. My grandfathers' farewell words were:

“I have sown a beautiful garden and the fruits are good and mature. Now, I can travel in peace to Eretz-Israel with the hope that my children and grandchildren will follow my example”.

Jadzia Grabinsky
México


[Page 295]

Mr. Aharon LAMSKI

Mr. Aharon Lamski, son of rabbi Lajbusz – a shochet and inspector – from Gostynin, married to Mrs. Laja, daughter of rabbi Mosze Lichtensztajn. He was a successful cereals merchant in our town. In the year 1913, he emigrated to Israel, to settle there. When the First World War broke out, Kemal Pasha issued a decree to expel all foreign citizens from Eretz Israel. Mr. Aharon Lamski and his family were forced to return to Poland.

Aharon Josef, his wife Laja and their son Nachman died in the Kutno ghetto, [their son] Jakob in Warsaw. Another son, Fiszel, was killed in a train accident.


Dawid KLECZEWSKI (of Blessed Memory)

Dawid Kleczewski was the grandson of a Kotsk Chassid, Dawid Ampilner. However he did not follow in the footsteps of his grandfather. He was the first to bring to Kutno the [book] "Auto-Emancipation" of [Leon] Pinsker, which caused upheaval in the minds of the Chassidic yeshiva students.

After the creation of the Zionist Organisation, he shared his time between his main activities and the school Am HaSefer. Together with Jechiel Arbuz, they created the Artisans' Union, which was under the influence of the Zionist movement.

 


Dawid Kleczewski, of blessed memory

 

Dawid Kleczewski also worked to create cooperative banks to help the artisans who, with limited incomes, were always in need of money to fund their businesses.

Icchak Kleczewski


[Page 299]

Icchak Majer and Zyse Frajde SZPIRO z“l

My parents were renowned in Kutno as great philanthropists and good-hearted people. I remember that two foreign young yeshiva students stayed in our home for a very long time. My parents wished them to be able to study Torah in the town of Rabbi Szyjele Kutner. Help for the needy, a good word for the suffering – were the worries and efforts of my parents.

My uncle Henech (my father's brother) was also a hospitable and charitable Jew. His hospitality was renowned in Kutno.

We were five children living in Podrzeczna St 12, but only my sister (in Canada) and I (in Israel) escaped from Hitlerian savagery.

I will not forget the martyrs of my family.

Masze SZPIRO-ZHURAWSKI

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