The complete destruction of Polish Jewry became a reality at the beginning of 1970, actually by the Communist regime in the country.
Many of the people from the town where I was born, Lipno, are attempting to create a committee to write a Memorial Book about the time of Hitler's destruction. But it is just as important and necessary to write and immortalize the everyday life the people, the Chassidim, movements, customs religious, political, social that existed until the dark arrival of Nazi devastation and tragedy.
I remember the street where we lived in Rikla Takovich's house. My father had a Chayder (school) for grown children and also, as an auxiliary source of income, books of Law. Often at night, when he had free time, he used to play chess with Moishe Aaron Weinmacher and Mukher-Sforim, a well-known Chassid. The climax would come when Reb Moishe Aaron would say, "Truly, Reb Bartek, the Messiah is finished" or my father used to say, "Well, where are you going now?" Steady on-lookers were Nochem-Megasha Burstein and Reb Abram Ring.
I remember when I began to go to Chayder, at Reb Leib Falshak, a religious Melamed for very small children. One of the Senders, with the Pike daughters, Feigl, stood me up on a bench, took measurements for a coat and underwear, and I began my Chayder years at Leib Dobriger's.
All at once, a great disturbance involved our town. The peasants gathered on market day, the town's Polish workers, and the Intelligentsia, openly demanded "revolution" and many Jewish young people said, "Down with Nicholai long live the Constitution."
Our street, the "Koze" (Goat) street, had on its east side the Polish church and on the west side, Goldman's house, with a large wooden balcony. Afrim-Schloime-Zalman Weingott the then rabbi of the town lived there.
I remember how, one late afternoon, there began a tumult in the street. "We must set out the Sabbath candelabra, with lighted candles, in the window." The Czar had decreed a "constitution." The Marian priest is leading a procession through the street!" This was in the well-known year 1905.
But it did not take long. The Czar declared a state of war, so that the Simchas Torah ceremony required a special permit from the police and in the "Zavierster" house, where we prayed, four dragoons came in with their guns, to warm themselves during the Simchas-Torah ceremony.
On our street there were three little houses: Henech Lefkowitz's house; the house of the Zaviertcher-Strikover Chassidim; in the yard of the same house, the Alexander's small dwelling; across the way, the Schloime Liftker's house the Gerrer Chassidic house.
In the summer Friday evenings, when it was still too early to honor the arrival of the Sabbath, the Alexander Chassidim used to be in the yard and we, the Saviertcher-Strikover, on our side of the yard.
We boys used to look to the west side at the setting sun and the shape of a big, round circle, and say, "These are the bad people out of hell" as our way of givng honor to Shabbes.
At that time I was about six years old and I was very religious. I remember that in the night of Rosh Hashana, the whole crowd of praying people would wait until the tall Daniel would say, at the end of prayers, the chapter of Tehillim and when he used to come to a certain passage, he used to weep profusely and the crowd used to remain dead silent.
Reb Levi Kroyanick, a rich Jew, a leather merchant, was the President of the prayer-house and his well-built succoth for Simchas-Torah had wide acclaim.
Before I leave our prayer-house, I need to remark on an argument between Reb Wolf Gelbart, the watch-maker, a Litvak, and Reb Shalek, a Jew who had a Chayder and had a name as a great scholar, very different and special in his manner. Reb Wolf was the permanent Torah reader. But when Reb Shalek came to pray with the Minyan, he was honored by Reb Wolf allowing him to read from the Torah.
One time when he heard him read some part of the Torah with an "oy", Gelbart pushed him away from the Sefer, yelling, "Don't insult the Torah"! Reb Wolf was a Litvak so he read "oh" but the great interpreter said it must be read, "oy."
In the shtetl, it was known that there was an organization that wanted to overthrow the Czar. In the year 1906, a cousin of my father came from the shtetl of Gastinen to present himself to the "military", since he was a native of Lipno. His name was Itzrock Yusef Lachs (or Lax). He had a talent for drawing and painting pictures, especially landscapes. One of his paintings hung in our house many years. He used to eat at our house but he slept at friends.
All at once a gendarme made an appearance and inquired after him. It appeared that a "Bundist Organization" had a secret "gathering". They captured and arrested them. The next morning they led them through the streets among eight dragoons with guns and bayonets, a lot of children from good families. I remember a few of them: Manya Roitman, Gitl Goldstein, Itshock Yusef Lachs, Mordecai Yusef Scop, Yechil-Meyer Kurtzman, and a few others whose names I don't'remember.
They led them to the brick prison with its heavy iron gate and very thick walls with "points."
Whilst remembering Gitl Goldstein, I begin to bring in family relations, things and happenings that left a commotion in the shtetl. Gitl was the daughter of my great-uncle, Reb Joel-Wolf Goldstein, a Jew, a highly regarded Gerrer Chassid, the owner of a faience business dishes, porcelains, crystal, lamps, chandeliers, crystal hanging lamps, etc. Among his customers he had Polish merchants. Besides that he had a small factory of colored cotton padding for clothing.
I loved and respected him very much from my youngest years on. In his religiosity there was humanistic integrity. When I became older and started to read modern Yiddish literature, he alerted me to Peretz's "Monish," describing the old owners who lived at that time, with their metal-rimmed spectacles, their silver buttons and gold watches and powerful minds. So I saw in front of me the appearance of my uncle, Reb Joel-Wolf Goldstein.
He was an exceptionally good father to his children. When his youngest daughter, Roiza, was very sick around Succoth, 1916, in the time of the German occupation, he got the permission of the rabbi of that time, Reb Schmuel Halevi Bradt (Honored be his name) and he sat himself on Simchas Torah in the morning, on a specially rigged wagon, and said, "To save a life is higher than Shabbes and holidays" and drove with his daughter to see a renowned doctor in Germany.
They were three sisters: my grandmother Gnendl, my aunt Rifkele, and my aunt Rochl, the daughters of my great grandfather, Moishe Lachs (my father's grandfather after whom I was named.) He was a respected person in town, my great-grandfather. They called him, "Reb Moishe Dozer." When I would sometimes go into our well-built artistically decorated shul, Reb Ben-Zion Karp, the Shammes, would come to me, "Go to your great-grandfather's seat" and lead me to the seat with the etched metal plate, "Reb Moishe Lachs."
I listened to the sermons of Reb Afrim-Schloime Zalman Weingott in my younger years. He wept when he led a sermon, appealed to the younger generation to go in the way of Yiddishkeit. In the later years of his life, he was so sick that he could not go to shul anymore, even though he lived across the street from the shul. Friday evening there would be a Minyan in his house to welcome the Shabbes.
When Weingott died, the shtetl was shook up and shivered. At the funeral, the whole shtetl, everyone, was in the street. It was the first time in my life that I saw such a large number of rabbis who came to honor and give their last respects to a great rabbi and friend.
After a short time the town selected Reb Shmuel Halevi Brodt as the "Lipno Rabbi", who, under this name, became very famous. In the time of the first World War and after the War, he played a big part in the social and religious life of Polish Jewry as a "Misrachi" leader as well as Deputy in the Polish Parliament.
Speaking of the rabbis in Lipno, I have to mention Reb Yehuda Leib Shwartzburg (Blessed is his Memory), a great personality in his time , a predecessor of Reb Weingott (Blessed be his memorty.)
My father was his pupil and he never talked about him without mentioning his great human virtues and scholarship. He was, for his time, secular. He maintained a correspondence with noted "Maschlichem" (The Enlightenment), with Eliezer, the Cohan, Zweifel and with Avrum Papierna, who was an Education Director in Plotzk, our County seat (a rare achievement for a Jew in the Russian government of that time)
Several years before the First World War, Reb Anchel, the Schoichet, became weak in the eyes and had to give up slaughtering. So the community began to seek a Schoichet.
All these community posts demanded a greater monetary recompense to the departing title holder, which left less money for the person hired to replace him.
At that time there was a schoichet in the shtetl, Tsakratschim (?), my father's uncle, Reb Pinchas Segalovich. His son, Yusef, was schoichet in Plansk, and his grandson, Alihe Itrock Segalovich, was schoichet in a shtetl, Zegshe. Alihe Itzrock's father was not a schoichet. He had a factory of mother-of-pearl buttons. So the family in Lipno got together with Uncle Pinchas Lazer and started to negotiate the higher shoichet-post for his grandson, Alihe Itzrock.
Many candidates came for the post but the Chassidim didn't want one another wasn't wanted by the community, etc. It was also a question of raising several thousand rubles to pay the old shoichet. For this, my two uncles, Itzrock Scheinberg and Yusef Scheinberg, came forward to help.
Before Alihe Itzrock Segalovich was hired as schoichet, my uncle, Pinchas Lazer, came to Lipno for about a week's time. He was at uncle Itzrock's house. Saturday afternoon he came for schalasudas [the "third meal" of Shabbat] to our house. Uncle Joel-Wolf Goldstein also was there as Gerer Chassid. He reported the rumors that they were saying, "Alihe Itzrock is a 'collectnik', a 'socialist.'" Uncle Pinchas Lazer said quietly, "You, Reb Joel-Wolf, should report such things about my grandson, who is a schoichet in a community for Jews." Uncle Joel-Wolf raised his bushy eyebrows, drew out of his nightrobe a large, colored handkerchief and wiped his eyes. Before they made havdollah there was already peace between the brothers-in-law.
Alihe Itzrock Segalovich was the Lipno schoichet for many years. He was a fine prayer leader, with a fine tenor and was a very sensitive man. Several years after the first World War, he came to America. He lived all his years in Memphis where he was schoichet, managed a restaurant and a large delicatessen business.
He came with his charming wife, Gitle, and their children. His older son, Baruch, excelled all the years in all his studies, won scholarships, and became well-known in America. He graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary and held respected posts, as Rabbi and as an active Administrator in the Theological Seminary and as a recognized leader of Conservative Jewry under the name of Bernard Siegel.
The younger son, Ruben, is the famous Cantor, Robert Siegel, renowned throughout America for his singing on the program "The Eternal Light" and he is also the Cantor in the famous temple 'Maydeny Yeshurim' where the respected rabbi, Dr. Israel Goldstein, Zionist leader and leader of 'Keren-a-Hayesud' was with him for many years.
It is truly a great pleasure to hear him sing lovely liturgical music. I often listen to him on Station W.E.V.D. His 'saying' Kol Nidre in the homey, old-fashioned way, reminds me of Alihe Itzrock's praying in our Bes Midrash in Lipno that has been devastated.
Before the outbreak of the first World War, a cousin of my father's, Chaim Cara, used to come from Warsaw almost every two years. He came with a son who had to report to the military enlistment center. He had eleven children, almost all sons, registered in Lipno. One was a druggist, a second was a business executive, a third was in the leather business all "Polishized" dressed in 'civilian' attire. But the last son that I remember, was tall, thin, with a dreamy face, with long sideburns and a little beard, dressed like a well-to-do Chassid. He was a few years older but passed himself off as younger for the military. Chaim Cara said that he had a post in the courthouse in Bialystock.
His singing Jewish songs impressed everone in the succoth. I never forgot his prayers and songs for Friday evenings. Chaim Cara loved his last son very much and called him "Schloimele."
His brother, Chaim Zelig Cara lived in Wloclawek [prononouced Vlodslavick in Yiddish] His sons were the sons of Reb Natan Baruch Cara, a brother of the famous Wloclawek rabbi, Reb Yosef Chaim Cara, the author of a book explanatory of the Torah and also the translation of 'Pirke Ovis' into German. He made an explanation of the 'Pirke Ovis' in Hebrew and called it "Sulat Leminche" and translated it into German under the title,
"Livone Zaiche" Before he became the rabbi in Wloclawek he was the rabbi in two towns near Posen, Germany. He garnered his pedigree from Bet Yosef, the author from "Schulchen Oruch" rabbi Yusef Cara.
Yakov Selig's daughter, Hendel, was the wife of my uncle Vunem Goldberg, the Skempfer schoichet's son.
My Skempfer grandfather, Reb Abram Hersh Goldberg, had a large family. My mother, the oldest daughter, lived all the time in Lipno. My grandfather, a short man but very energetic, every Saturday evening after Havdole, would sit himself in a horse-drawn wagon or small wagon and rode to slaughter, to the Jewish tree-markers, merchant overseers in that area. The Skempfer butchers used to come to sell meat in Lipno. They always brought a package of silk for my mother.
In my young years, I would almost always go every Chal-Hamoyed Passover to my grandfather to be "tested" on the Song of Songs. He used to love my interpretation of a certain prayer. He used to look at me with a special look when I sang the excerpts of a book with the special melody that my father had taught me. My grandfather used to reward me with nuts and honey cake. Chal-Hamoyed Succoth, my grandfather would listen to Kohelat and he would listen thoughtfully to my interpretation. I would do it enthusiastically.
After eating in the Succoth, my grandmother served tea with lemon. A neighbor's son almost raised a rumpus, "Oy, father, the neighbor's grandson is sick. His grandmother gave him tea with lemon!"
The Hitler murderers destroyed this whole large family, from my grandfather, Avroham Tsvi Goldberg, the Skemfer schoichet. A few grandchildren saved themselves and are now in Israel.
The son of my mother's cousin, Mordechai Karmel, went away as a pioneer to Eretz Israel a few years after the first World War. Among ourselves in the family we said that Nochum Sokolov had studied in Bazoin Bes Midresh and would eat one day in my aunt Sarah Schwer Carmel's kitchen.
In Israel there are also a few surviving grandchildren, rescued from Hitler.
My father was the eldest son in the family. When I was still very small, I used to address him just as my dear mother used to address him, "Hertz-Leib" and I used to address my mother as "Raizel." There were three other brothers: Itzrock, Benyamin, and Yosef and a sister, Chaya. Out of all of them, only my immediate family that came to America after the first World War, escaped from Hitler. The rest, with their children and grandchildren were destroyed by the Hitler murderers.
My uncle Itzrock was always in good material circumstances. He had a sewing business and owned his own house in the marketplace. His only daughter, Sarah, was the wife of the Skempfer rabbi, Ben Zion Blumerg (later the rabbi in Chiromin.) The Nazis destroyed him and his whole family, wife and five children.
My father's second brother, Yosef, ran a sewing business in Lipno and sold finished work on the market. In later years he had a business of ready-to-wear coats and also sold rug goods. His oldest son, Schloime, was an intelligent boy who had traditional upbringing and studied a lot privately withthe traveling Hebrew teacher from Lodz, Galant. He was his pupil for a long time. In later years, Schloime became a "Folkist" and later, a quietly modest community activist and leader of the Tsisho shul movement in Lipno.
My uncle, Yosef, his wife and six children were destroyed by the Nazis. One daughter was left alive after the war in a Hitler camp, was taken to Sweden and today she and her family live in Montreal, Canada.
The third brother, Benyamin, lived for many years in Lodz where he was the Administrator of a number of houses belonging to a rich owner. During the time of the first World War, Lodz, as a large center of weaving factories, became paralyzed, and my uncle Benyamin, with his wife and three children, came to Lipno. His eldest daughter, Yetchka, studied in the German gymnasium, and had great talents. She was still a very young girl when she received permission to open a "Skola" with the rights to open a two-class school in Lipno. (Naturally, a private school) and she earned the living for her family.
Uncle Benyamin and his family went back to Lodz after the first World War. This same daughter later married a distant relative, Abram Goldberg, who finished the Breslau rabbinic seminary and who studied philosophy in Wurzburg University, who became a government-sponsored rabbi in the town of Chemnitz, Saxony, Germany.
When Hitler came to power, all the "Polish Jews" had to leave Germany. She went over to a neighboring Czech town. Her husband, "Rabbiner" Goldberg used to visit her often. She then went back to Lodz, where, together with her father, mother, and younger sister, Rochele, were destroyed by the Hitler murderers. A brother, Yeshia Scheinberg, managed to rescue himself and later came to Canada.
My father's only sister, Chaya, was the wife of Meyer Horvitz, a Jew. In my childhood, I heard something about a rabbi in his family but he himself worked bitterly hard to make a living, sold cut goods in the nearby villages and in the market. The whole family, three sons and four daughters, a few married ones among them, were destroyed by the Hitler bestialitites. There was not left even a sign of any of them.
Writing the details, all these facts, I ask myself, "What use is it? It happened to hundreds of thousands, millions of Jewish families, to the whole three million Jewish population of Poland."
The answer is, "It must serve as a reminder to coming generations and to the world that wants to forget the great debt which is owed to the Jewish people."
I want, in the following lines, to picture the community life of Lipno from my youngest days until I left the town after the first World War.
The center of Jewish life was the Jewish Street, the Schul, the Bes-Midrash, the various service groups, "the library for everyone," even the Polacks [sic].
During the time of the first World War, all the parties and movements woke up and were enlivened. The newspapers from Warsaw used to come: "Today" (Heint), "Moment", and several news magazines and journals.
For many years my father subscribed to "Hatskira" and "Hatsufa" and piles of them would be stacked up in our house. Nuchem Sluchts and Feitelovitch wrote about Jews in far lands, the Falashim from Abyssinia and the Indian and Chinese Jews.
Nachem Menachem Burshten, Henech Lefkovitch's son-in-law, used to come and see my father. He used to live with his wife's parents, studied a lot, read a lot. He used to send me to Michel Lipsker to get the "Hashkarv" and other Zionist publications. Lipsker was known as a Zionist. N.M. Burshten was a son-in-law, non-paying boarder, so my delivery had to be secret. I greatly admired M. Lipsker for his knowledge. He interested himself less in his clothing accessory store than to influence the youth toward Zionism.
The town youths read, discussed, and dreamed, lived with complaints and arguments against the Czarist regime, against the lack of Jewish rights, against Polish anti-semitism, and was shaken by the "Beiliss Trial."
Many of the adolescent youth left for larger cities or other lands, such as France, England and, principally, America.
For the intelligent young peopple, the city library was the nerve of the Jewish cultural life. The managers of the library, like Gershon Fersht, Itzik Tatz, Abram Schwartz, Itzick Opatovsky, Hersch Broin, and later, younger people and others, represented among themselves all the political points of view and "classes" Zionists, Poeli-Zionists, Bundists, and ordinary Jews. The reading material was the best that the Jewish publishers and presses produced.
The towering, famous "Beilis Trial", instigated and openly supported by the Russian government, took the foremost place in the daily consciousness of the Jewish population. It was a well-spring of enmity, brewed up against the Jews by the Polish anti-Semites and priests, but a counteractive means against it was the famous "Matsoch Opera". On the prosecutor's bench sat the priest, Matsoch who had stolen the brilliant eyes of the Holy Mother from the famous monastery in Schenstochov.
A very hard time began for the Polish Jews. For supporting Yagellon as a deputy from Warsaw to the Russian Duma, the "Narodova Democracy" declared a boycott against the Jews with the slogan "Svoy do Svoego" and organized "Business Cooperatives" through the priests against Jewish goods. And the Jews throughout Poland began to feel the pressure. This movement went on very intensively during the first World War.
The first World War broke out on Tishe Beov [9th of Av, a Jewish day of mourning], 1914. Two years earlier my father gave up the Chayder and occupied himself solely with "application" writing and appearing in court. With the outbreak of the War and the arrival of the Germans there was, at the beginning, a very insecure situation, until the Germans occupied our part of Poland and, later, all of Poland until the end of the first World War.
The Germans promised the Jewish population equal civil rights and an end to the Jewish powerlessness under the Russian government, naturally, the sympathies of the Jews were with the Germans, but the Poles, all of a sudden began to "fall in love" with the "Moskales", called them "Nashi" [ours] carried false accusations against the Jews and thus helped to move large numbers of Jews into deep Russia, to Siberia.
When the Germans installed themselves, there began to function an almost normal life, even though the War was going on. The youth had, willy-nilly, to remain in place. A lot of them were taken by the Germans as forced labor but the majority, remaining in town, had to use their energies there.
The population of the smaller towns grew markedly. The proximity to the villages, where it was easier to obtain certain food-stuffs brought in a lot of people from Lodz, and Warsaw into Lipno. The community had to give assistance to the needy and many young people in town participated in helping the poor. Wolf Bornstein was one of these who led with active assistance for the "arrivers." (i.e. those who came into Lipno from other towns.)
When the German occupation of all of Poland became an acknowledged fact, an organized cultural life was begun by the Jews. The War was far, far away.
The first was the "Agudat Hatikva", a Zionist group, led by Chaim Kirstein, Wolf Bornstein, and others. Out of this later came the Zionist organization. With organized Zionism in the country arose the "Macabee" sport movement.
Lipno created a wonderful "Macabee" Union with a very talented sportster from Warsaw as teacher, Schklar, a "Polandized" Litvak, but a strong Jew.
I remember Yakov Bornstein's two younger sons, Beryl and Chaim because they were outstanding athletes in "Macabee" as were also Moishe Aaron Zhichlinsky and Shalik Mitzner. Yosef Brodsky, a member of a wealthy "Polandized" family, was enlisted to be chairman of the "Macabee" Union.
I, as a little one, became a member of the "Macabee" but I was a bad athlete. The teacher, Schklar, was often very angry with me when he began to give the quasi-military orders , "Look alive, turn left, turn right, one, two, three, four." When I almost always stepped out on the wrong foot, he yelled at me, "Boulvan!" [oaf!] put out the left foot, but as we began to march, singing "The Flag of Jehuda" he forgot about my mistakes and enjoyed himself. (I sang the whole song to the end.)
Moishe Aaron Diener's son, Michel Berman, often had his wife's brother, Mayer David Alter, visiting from Wloclawek. He was a Bund activist.
In Lipno there were several people who belonged to the Bund as early as 1905. Almost spontaneously there began to be organized the Bund, Poele-Zion, and later, Folkists. The Zionist movement was the first and had a big influence on the rich youth.
Of the formerly mentioned youth, I was closest to Moishe Dobszinsky's youngest son, Kasriel Yakov. He was in Wloclawek in the paint business with a brother-in-law. He used to come to see his parents in Lipno for Pesach and Succoth.
He was already a member of the Poele-Zion. When he came home, he used to try to influence me politically. He greatly influenced me, talking to me everyday.
One day he said to me, "Moishe, although not consciously, you are a "Bundist" in your thought processes and it is better to be something than nothing." When Raisie Berman's brother, Mayer David Alter, came to Lipno during Pesach, he had a meeting in the city garden.
The organized social life in Poland, in that time, proceded at a rapid pace. In the whole land, there developed separate Party Unions in Lipno the "Cultural Social Program". I became very active in the Bundist movement and secretary of the Union. In the midst of all this, I had a lot of "petit-bourgois consciousness" that I could not rid myself of for example, to drop into the Bes-Midrash on Friday night to hear Aliya Itzrock Segalovitch welcome the Sabbath, or Saturday morning to hear Reb Feivitch Hamburger read the Sefer at the second Minyan.
From the time I was little, I was a great admirer of our magnificent Shul. On a hot Saturday morning it was a pleasure to sit down and absorb the still atmosphere and the singing of our cantor, Reb Lazerovitch and the "reading" of the reliable "Torah Reader", Reb Abram Kovadla, a quiet, handsome person, neat and well-dressed. Sometimes Reb Shmuel Halevi Brodt would preach. It's all a vanished idyll.
My socialism was strongly influenced by what I learned in Tanach [the Bible] from our great prophets. When, in my younger years, I used to get up, go to the Bes-Midrish to learn simple Gemorrah, I used later to look up Joshua, Jeremiah, Amos, etc. and try to find a justification for my socialist thoughts. I used to discuss with Benjamin Mandral, a very earnest and lovable boy, a true student, and with Ezra Kirshstein and others. But upon coming out to the street, reality, the daily poverty of a large part of the Jewish population, would accompany my every step.
All the movements created "courses." The Zionist "courses" had a teacher named Yehuda Kaufman, an earnest and refined person. The "Culture Society Progress" created courses in Yiddish, for boys and girls, who simply learned to read and write Yiddish.
There were also scientific lectures and literary readings. For a long time there lived in Lipno with the family Opotovsky (the richest in town) a relative by the name of Frishman, a student in the Judiciary faculty, a nephew of the famous writer David Frishman. He used to give interesting lectures. Also, a second student from Lodz by the name of Buki, a relative of Reb Mendel Adler's. There also used to come lecturers from Warsaw.
The "Culture Society Progress" established its own nice library in a part of Yakov Skaf's house. In the reading room could be found all the newspapers from Warsaw, the Bundist paper, "Life's Questions", "Today", "Moment" and various weekly publications and monthly journals. The influence of the Bundist group grew and had an influence on socio-political life.
The German occupation gave the town "magistrates" (city councils) certain autonomous rights such as, for example, local police, town government by elected council members and the Jewish population had a few council members. The Bundist representative and council member was Hechazkla Beijnish, and Ihial Maier Ruda was the only Jewish policeman. There used to be a lot of problems, like, for example, to protect the Jewish population against German "orders" and Polish wrongdoing. A big role in these cases was played by Horeb Schmuel Halevi Brodt. With his personality, realism, and tact, he had an influence on the chief circle and on the Polish magistrate. He also took care that the Jewish merchants and food handlers should, as far as possible, not gouge the poor Jewish population. In this sense, the impoverished of Lipno were also helped by the big-heartedness of Reb Moische Leib Opotovski, a Jew, the richest man in town, a "capitalist" but with a great sense of social responsibility to the community.
On summer evenings it was a pleasure to go to the municipal Lipno garden which was famous in the whole neighborhood. I used to love to go there alone or sometimes with friends and to look down from the hill to look down on the fields and the Plotsk landscape. Also there on a bench, Brodt and Kaufman, the Hebrew teacher, always sat and chatted.
Intensive socio-political activities spread through all the towns and stetlach. For example, a non-political group brought down Reb Hillel Zeitlin for a lecture. Young and old, even Chassidim, came to hear him. Likewise, the famous writer, H.R. Gomberg, the Nicholai Chasn, came through town and prayed in the shul. His prayers were sung even by the atheists. The famous Chazn, Sirota, prayed in Lipno and gave a concert.
But time went on. The unforgivable German disasters of the first World War were beginning to be felt in the air.
The Polish population prepared for the "Day." Semi-military organizations began to be active throughout the land. The insecurity of the Germans began to be noticed and the disarming of the German military was begun by the "P.O.V" (Polish Military Organization).
When the Germans left Poland, there arose overnight a well-organized Polish power, which immediately took over the administration everywhere. In Lipno, even though there were enough anti-Semitic manifestations against Jews, there arose the impression that the Jews were being taken into consideration and that the "Wilson Formula" and the forthcoming elections for the Polish "Constitutioners" would give Jews, not only full citizen rights, but also "national cultural autonomy." All the parties in the Jewish street named candidates. The Zionist Mizrachi slate in our neighborhood won and elected Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Brodt, who for many years was one of the main representatives and senator in the Polish parliament, active nationally and known throughout the Jewish world as the "Lipno rabbi."
But, with the establishment of the Polish state, there also began the wrongdoing, the repressions, the beard-cutting, the throwing of Jews from moving trains (by Polacks, especially the holertchickes) and the erosion of the economic base of the Polish Jews. Even under the Germans, the Poles created "spulkes" taking over and forcing Jews out of long-established businesses, as, for example, Kaufman's wine, tobacco, and import business and later pushed out of the many years-old existing business of Abram Kovadla, from the prominent rug, Paviotavi in the Polish street -- both of them noted for quality and unusual products.
There began political-social depressions. The honey days of the Marachevski illusion were gone. The Posnantchikes began to show their true colors. The police chief in Lipno became a well-known enemy of the Jews, Damsky Nievrodofsky.
Large numbers of Jewish youth throughout the land left Poland. They went away to Germany and from there they went to America, Canada, Mexico, etc. The foundations under the Jews began to shake.
But 3,000,000 Jews still lived in Poland at that time and led a social, organized, cultural, religious life not only in Poland but also in the neighboring Eastern European countries, benefiting from national cultural autonomy, according to the Versailles Peace Treaty.
The Russian October revolution seduced maof the best Jewish folk. Believing that we stood on the threshold of the "last days," they sacrificed the realization of their long-awaited political and national beliefs, later to go perish, to be murdered, both as individuals and as fighters for Jewish rights. Stalin, in the name of the revolution, shot, tortured, destroyed thousands of the best brains and strength of our Jewish people.
The Jews in Poland, under the most difficult circumstances, created a spiritually rich Jewish life. Newspapers, publications, richly-illustrated writings, were printed. Arthur Ziegelboim, at that time, brought to America, big chests of works from the "Tsisho" and "Culture-Liga" publishers. The volumes were drenched with the love of the Polish Jews for the great works of Eastern-European Jewry.
The youngsters in Lipno lived an active cultural life under the most difficult circumstances. My cousin, Schloime Sheinberg, wrote to me often snd sent pictures (for example) of the "Jewish Schools Organization", of the "Maccabees" and of their orchestra. Moishe Aaron Flarman (a deep-thinking person who later, according to what I learned, became deeply religious) also wrote to me. Also Chaim Kruk wrote to me (a physically weak boy who carried on himself the entire burden of being the breadwinner after his father's premature death). He was the cousin of Pichas Kruk who later, under the name of Pinchas Schwartz, helped to found the "Yiddish Culture Congress", was an active Bundist and journalist.
I must also mention Zalman Lichtenstein who lived in Lipno with his relatives for many years. His first political schooling was acquired in the Bundist group, by the "Arbi Culture Society Progress." Later he was active in Warsaw and in America in the "Jewish Worker Committee" and, in his last years, of the "Old Age Golden Clubs."
Among the many Lipno people who left for Canada, I would like to mention two who were very close to me. The refined Ali Wolf Rosenberg, Shmaya Schneider's son and brother of Mordecai Hertz, with whom I was brought up in his parents' house in our childhood years.
We were badly burned in his parents' house. I was seriously ill for a long time, unable to see, with closed eyes. During this time, several young people, our neighbors, in the cold wintertime, were up and took care of me, watching that I shouldn't loosen the bandages on my hands and scratch the scabby sores.
Shmuel Schivek, a friend of my brother, Jedediah, (a polite person, a Poel-Zionist and one of the leaders of the "Landsmanshaft of Lipno" in Israel) and Faivel Shperling (the youngest son of Tuna Shperling) who I remember from my earliest years as an honorable, religious, and refined woman.
Tuna Shperling had an oil-press and also sold wood. Her older son, Alisha, then already lived in Ripin, the younger son, Mordecai, managed the oil-press. The youngest, Faivel, was a very refined and aware person with a lot of inborn intelligence. He lived in Plotsk after his marriage, was very respected in town. At the time of the Hitler tragedy, the Nazi storm-troopers put him into the "Juden-Rat" and forced him to do things which went against his refined, sensitive characteristics. He ran away to a small village and died of hunger.
Tuna Shperling's only daughter, Freyda, was the wife of a distant relative of my father's, Berish Gutenberg. He had a watch business. When my father decided that I should learn a trade, I went to Berish's as an apprentice, was there several months, and decided to change to sewing gaiters at some relative, Yakov Blum.
Berish Gutenberg became ill with lung problems and traveled several times to Nervi in Italy (where our great Scholem Aleichim used to travel) and in the end died young of tuberculosis.
We lived next door to the Akiba Hertz family. He was a rich grain merchant with a large grain storage facility in his yard. Mordecai was the older son. Reb Akiba Hertz died during the first World War. His wife, Miriam, with her two younger sons and Mordecai left for Canada where Mordecai Hertz became well-to-do through hard work but, at the same time, remained close to Jewish social life.
In Makovitche's house, where we lived, there also lived two elderly women, Chaya Bakursky and her daughter-in-law, Sarah Danziker. Chaya Bakursky's son, Yakov Joseph Bakursky, was the founder of a semi-secular Chayder in Wloclawek, was a Hebrew teacher and, in later years, was the director of the "Tarbud Gymnasium" in Wloclawek. When he came with his family to America, he was the librarian of the Yeshiva University, almost until the end of his life, beloved and honored by all.
The Danzigers were very successful in America. One of the brothers owned a very large stationary factory and became very rich.
A very interesting person was their sister, Sarah Danziger, a home-grown intellectual, a revolutionary in her younger years, a close friend of my cousin, Gitl Goldstein, who made her peace with life in America.
Being acquainted with Yakov Yosef Bakursky's son-in-law, Stanley Mirels, his wife (Bakusky's only daughter) and son, Herbert, I used to meet with the family in Mirel's house, where he lived together with his wife almost all his years.
One asks one's self again, of what use are all these memories? The answer: to try to come to the conclusion that we Jews, of all persuasions, are a strong people, except for the few, we are believers in a victorious Israel, that even if we are physically disturbed, burned, killed, with the destruction of hundreds of cities and towns, the Hitlers and the Nazis were unable to erase the rich past of Polish Jewry. And Gomulka also will not succeed in doing it now, in our time. Nor will the present rulers, the "World Emancipators" in the Soviet Union with their methods of rooting out the Jews as Jews, inheritors of the dark years of Czarism, succeed in destroying down to the roots everything, everything that smacks of Jewish spirit and content, either secular Jewishness or religious Jewishness or the Jewish state of Israel.
In conclusion, I want to confess that I know very little of the details of what the Jews of Lipno suffered from the Nazis and their assistants, the Polacks.
To denote these details, we must rely on the rescued Jews, both in America and, principally, in Israel, who are able to write about it for all the world to know.
But I was very moved when "Ed Rice", from Lipno, who almost two years ago went back from America to visit Lipno, told me that he had seen there only a very few Jews and that those who remain are those who have either a Polish wife or a Polish husband.
In the place where there stood the beautiful Lipno shul, where Reb Aaron Vigder Freilach, the shammes of my childhood years, used to go out on a Friday night, calling from the middle of the Jewish street, "Jews, into the shul!' there's not even a sign of a shul. Of the fine "Bes Midrash" where Reb Shia Nissen Shamos used to light the emud lights every night in the wintertime, to warm up the big stove for the first minyan there's not a sign left.
This same Reb Shia Nissen who used to wear his glasses to the Simchas Torah hakoles, either on his forehead or on the end of his nose, who never forgot to greet everybody (big or little) with a hakofe, his Bes-Midrash was obliterated down to the ground. The reality of Jewish life is destroyed. It is covered over with gardens and houses for Polish tenants and, in place of the Moisheles and Schloimeles of our memories, in the place of the school grounds, other children are playing.
These facts were told to me by Wolf Kovadla, about his seeing this with his own eyes.
And stilled forever is the joy which this Jewish street once had; lost are the Jewish chupas which were placed under the open skies, the "Yellow" (i.e. blonde) Beryl, the assistant shammes, the "mute" with the drum and the "blind" one with the cymbals which was the way the bridal procession went along the Jewish street to the school yard or to Goldman's house. Dear memories obliterated and destroyed forever forever and ever.
|Mayer David Alter||Reb Anchel|
|Yakov Yosef Bakhursky||Reb Makher-Storem Bartek|
|Yechael Beijmish||Michel Berman|
|Raise Berman||Yakov Blum|
|Sarah Blumberg||Ben-Zion Blumberg|
|Beryl Bornstein||Chaim Bornstein|
|Wolf Bornstein||Yakov Bornstein|
|Yosef Brodsky||Reb Schmuel Halevi Brodt|
|Hersch Broin||Nochem Megash Burstein|
|Buki||Nachem Menachem Burshten|
|Reb Yusef Chaim Cara||Chaim Cara|
|Chaim Zelig Cara||Reb Natan Baruch Cara|
|Schloime Cara||Sarah Schwer Carmel|
|Sara Danziger||Moishe Aaron Diener|
|Leib Dobriger||Kasriel Yakov Dobszhinsky|
|Moishe Dobszhinsky||Feigel Falshak|
|Reb Leib Falshak||Feitelovitch|
|Gershon Fersht||Reb Aaron Vigder Freilach|
|David Frishman||Reb Wolf Gelbart|
|Vunem Goldberg||Hendl (Selig) Goldberg|
|Abram Goldberg||Avroham Tsvi Goldberg|
|Dr. Israel Goldstein||Rifkele Lachs Goldstein|
|Roiza Goldstein||Gitl Goldstein|
|Reb Joel-Wolf Goldstein||H.R. Gomberg|
|Berish Gutenberg||Freyda (Shperling) Gutenberg|
|Reb Feivitch Hamburger||Akiba Herz|
|Mordecai Herz||Meyer Horvitz|
|Chaya (Scheinberg) Horvitz||Mordecai Karmel|
|Reb Ben-Zion Karp||Yehuda Kaufman|
|Moishe Aaron Klarman||Benjamin Kirshtein|
|Ezra Kirshtein||Chaim Kruk (a.k.a. Pinchas Schwartz)|
|Pinchas Kruk||Yechiel Meyer Kurtzman|
|Reb Levi Kroyanick||Damsky Nievrodofsky|
|Herbert Mirels||Stanley Mirels|
|Shalik Mitzner||Rochl Lachs|
|Itzrock Yusef Lachs||Moishe Lachs|
|Gnendl Lachs||Reb Lazerovitch|
|Henesh Lefkowitz||Zalman Lichtenstein|
|Schloime Liftker||Michel Lipsker|
|Reb Moishe Leib Opotovsky||Itzick Opotovsky|
|Avrum Papiema||Feigl Pike|
|Reb Abram Ring||Manya Roitman|
|Ali Wolf Rosenberg||Ihial Maier Ruda|
|Moishe Scheinberg||Yeshua Scheinberg|
|Hertz Leib Scheinberg||Raizel Scheinberg|
|Schloime Scheinberg||Yusef Scheinberg|
|Itzrock Scheinberg||Yetchka (Scheinberg) Goldberg|
|Jedediah Scheinberg||Benjamin Scheinberg|
|Reb Yehuda Leib Schwartzenburg||Abran Schwartz|
|Shmaya Schneider||Shmuel Schivak|
|Schklar||Mordecai Yusef Scop|
|Reb Pinchas Segalovitch||Alihe Itzrock Segalovitch|
|Baruch Segalovitch (a.k.a. Bernard Siegel)||Yusef Segalovitch|
|Ruben Segalovitch (a.k.a. Robert Siegel)||Gitle Segalovitch|
|Yakov Selig||Mukher Sforim|
|Feivel Shperling||Tuna Shperling|
|Mordecai Shperling||Chaim Sirota|
|Yakov Skaf||Chaim Skarstein|
|Nuchem Sluchts||Nochem Sokolov|
|Reb Yehuda Leib Schwartzenburg||Itzik Tatz|
|Rikla Takovich||Reb Schloime-Zalman Weingott|
|Moishe Aaron Weinmacher||Arthur Zieglboim|
|Cohan Zweifel||Eliezer (The Cohan) Zweifel|
|Reb Hillel Zeitlin||Moishe Aaron Zhichlinsky|
A typewritten booklet, consisting of twenty-six pages, stapled together, and titled "Memories of Lipno" by its author, Moishe Scheinberg, was found among my mother's papers more than twenty years after her death. Since my mother died on December 1, 1977, it must have been written some time before that. Its language is Yiddish.
From the reference in the text to Gomulka's regime as if it were contempoary to the time of writing, it must have been written during the time when the Soviet hegemony over Poland still existed and before the Gdansk "revolution" led by Lech Walesa. This places the date of its writing somewhere in the late 1960's or early '70's.
How this booklet came into my mother's possession is a matter of surmise. My mother, Gitl (Jennie) Bornstein (nee Goldstein) and Moishe Scheinberg were natives of Lipno, Poland and, according to the text, were related. His grandmother and her mother were sisters.
I believe he must have lived, as she did, or visited, in Los Angeles, California at the time this document was given to her.. How they became re-acquainted, I do not know, but I vaguely remember her saying, with pleased surprise, that she had met a Landsman, and wasn't that amazing after all those years away from Lipno when she had lived so long in Paris, France, in Erie, Pennsylvania, and in New York City before coming to Los Angeles. Among her papers, I also found her written reminiscences of Lipno and I suspect he tried to enlist her to contribute to the planned Yizkor book of their shtetl. Whether or not her writings were submitted, I do not know.
My Yiddish is somewhat rusty. I'm in my 79th. Year, in 1999, as I work on this. I have not had any Yiddish instruction since I was a child who was sent to Kindershule and Mittelshule in the early 1930's. In fact, when I decided to tackle this translation as well as those handwritten reminiscences by my mother, I was surprised that I remembered as much as I did.
My difficulties in translating were mainly with Hebrew insertions either Hebrew words themselves or Yiddish words with Hebrew spellings. Some of this problem stems from the fact that, having been raised in a completely secular environment, I am ignorant of Jewish religious practices. For help in overcoming this ignorance, I am gratefully indebted, for their assistance, to Dr. Molly Shaw and to the eminent Yiddish teacher and translator, Yakob Basner, associated with the Arbiter Ring in Los Angeles.
One last caveat: I have transcribed the Yiddish names in the text into their orthographically English equivalents as accurately as I am able. Inevitably some "bloopers" will occur but I hope the names will prove recognizable to those who are interested.
Frieda B. Libaw, Ph.D.
Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Comment by Joyce Field, Translations Manager, Yizkor Book Project:
Anyone who can provide information on Moishe Scheinberg and his manuscript is requested to contact Frieda Libaw or me.
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