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[Page 417]

Zator

Ch. Simchoni


Zator was a town in the Oshpitzin district lying on the left bank of the Skawa River approximately five kilometers before it joined the Vistula. It was located about 17 kilometers southeast of Oshpitzin near the railroad tracks of Skawina-Oshpitzin, and four kilometers distant from the Spitkowice railroad depot on the line connecting Skawica [?] and Trzebinia.

The earliest historical records of Zator, then an established village, are from early 13th Century sources. Later on, the village of Zator became the property of the Benedictine Church, when Prince Wladyslaw of Opel [?], granted it the privilege of German Law. Fairs were held in Zator in the 13th Century and a customs station was established. Zator was recognized in 1292 as a town in the Lower Silesian pattern of townships.

The town was pillaged and destroyed in 1445, and after the rise of the “Zator Principality” the erection of a fortress was begun. The ruins of the town were rebuilt and the locality developed and expanded. In 1468, a suburb named Blych [?] was started and populated by weavers, tanners, furriers, and the like. In the latter half of the 15th Century and in the 16th Century, Jews constituted the majority of the residents of the suburb that were near the Bugaj, and in Kamenec which was beyond the Zator Fortress.

Prince Janosz sold this miniature principality to King Ulbrecht, with the stipulation that it remain in his possession until his death, so that only in 1513 did Zator return to Poland when it received from King Zygmund the Elder the customary rights. To these were added a number of additional ones in the years 1524-1581. In addition to the rights to hold two fairs annually, Zator was granted the privilege of two more per annum, and in 1569 King Zygmunt August granted it the Magdeborski [?] Rights of Jurisprudence.

The “Hospice” (hospital) was erected in 1510 and in the middle of the 16th Century it is already recorded as some type of school.

Zator was classified as one of the intermediate group of towns. It had four areas zoned for agriculture, 11 fishponds, and more than 50 workshops (12 shoemakers, 11 bakers, 8 butchers, 7 weavers, a number of jewelers, etc.). At that time a number of Jewish craftsmen are already mentioned. They took an active part in the rebuilding and the development of the town. By 1629 there were 195 houses in Zator. Later on, the town was nearly wiped off the map once more in the great deluge that engulfed the town and known locally as the “Flood”, to the extent that in 1662 there were only 400 inhabitants. This number included a total of seven craftsmen, most of the houses were in ruins, empty and forlorn, and the area under cultivation was tiny. Soon after, however, the town underwent rapid development and almost total transformation, since only ten years later there were 51 craftsmen there (31 of them in the agricultural crafts).

At the end of the 16th and the turn of the 17th Century Zator was granted new privileges for additional fairs, but in 1711 the population began once more to wane due to the outbreak of swamp-fever, and still later, in 1769, a major conflagration destroyed a number of the buildings (most of them were made of wood), and among them the church as well. Recovery came in the beginning of the 18th Century, as the local economy developed and expanded, especially the fish farms and the trade in fish. The social and cultural aspects developed as well; schools were established and a library which contained more than 5000 volumes.

After 1772 the Austrian authorities limited the number of fairs to two. The Starosta (district governor) Pyotr Donin purchased the property of the district authority and built a fortress in which to live and for his offices. (The fortress was renovated in 1836 by the well-known architect P. M. Lanco [?].)

The total population of Zator in 1811 was 1296 inhabitants, primarily engaged in agriculture. The area looked more like a neglected village than a developing town, as it had been one hundred years ago. At the end of the 19th Century there were two flourmills, two brick-works, which later also manufactured roofing tiles; a workshop for the manufacture of soap, and 29 craftsmen. The local authority – the City Council – founded a trade school to teach basket weaving.

In 1921 there were 275 houses with around 2000 inhabitants and the city limits contained 11.5 square kilometers. The town did not grow much since then, not in population, and not industrially. The population never passed the 2500 mark, with more than a third engaged in agriculture; a third in small industry and household goods, while the remainder were not categorized as to occupation.


Jewish Zator

There are no exact sources about the beginnings of Jewish settlement in Zator. In any case, there were more than just a few Jews there at the beginning of the 16th Century, since in 1502, when Janosz, Prince of Zator, renewed the franchise of the Lords of Brzeznice to raise the rates of the custom duties, Jews are mentioned as being liable to pay the levy – according to their [polls] numbers.

It is also known that during the reign of the Oswiecim-Zator Principality it was permissible for Jews to live only in the capitals of the principality. After the acquisition of the principality by Poland the entire area was opened to Jewish settlement. The 1564 census lists only one Jew in Zator, who paid the “poll-tax” of one Groszy. Somewhat later a group of Jews settled behind the Zator Palace. The district governor, Miszkowski, even leased the Zator inn to Jews until, in the wake of a complaint lodged about it, Bathory intervened and ordered the return of the inn to the [non-Jewish] citizens. Some 100 years later, in the 1765 census there is a notation that the Jews who had settled in Kamenec near the palace had paid a “protection-tax” in the amount of 260 gold coins, and that those Jews who had but recently come to Zator paid 240 gold coins.

From the end of the 18th Century on there were increases and decreases in the Jewish population of Zator, paralleling those of the town in its development. More than once it was nearly devastated by natural disasters (floods, epidemics, fire, etc.) and each time it was restored. The Jews suffered from these disasters in equal measure with the rest of the population, but always remained despite the difficult conditions and did not leave the town. Even at the peak of development, the Jewish population of Zator never quite reached 1000. The Jews were involved in the economic, social, and cultural life of the town, and they were mainly occupied with trade and agencies, and some were craftsmen, manufacturers, and professionals.

This was a small Kehilla of great quality with good and upright Jews. There was one large synagogue in town, which was destroyed by the Nazis, and a Bes Medrish from which the sounds of Torah, chanting, and prayer echoed from early morning until midnight. (The Germans turned it into a “Cultural Club”). In the ancient synagogue there was a designated, reserved seat, known as the place where the Rabbi R’ Elimelech of Lejask sat when he stayed in Zator during his wanderings of “Exile Redemption”. Jewish life in Zator was brisk and fruitful. Always leading the Kehilla were select people who strove with all their hearts for the benefit of the community. The Kehilla Council was generally chosen by the Jews of Zator and of those nearby villages which according to the district governor belonged to the Zator jurisdiction. Sometimes, however, the authorities intervened and appointed the council delegates to suit themselves.

Among the villages that officially belonged to the Zator Kehilla were:
Przajczow [?] with 17-20 Jewish families.
Gremca [?]  with 2-5 Jewish families.
Pietrowice  [?]with 2-4 Jewish families.
Welisznice [?]1-2 Jewish families.
Osiek2-3 Jewish families.
Wajprsza  [?]3 Jewish families.
Wilamowice [?]1-2 Jewish families.

One of the last Kehilla leaders was R’ Shlomo Zalman Grinapfel, admired and well liked by all of the town's Jews. He faithfully and devotedly saw to all of the community's needs. He founded the “Gmilus Chasadim” Society, after having solicited the former Zator residents living in the United States and receiving funds to establish the fund. He also was active in the “Chesed Shel Emes” Society, being one of the heads of the “Chevra Kadisha”.

There were many more activists who toiled for the good of the community, and gave their time, energy, and substance, each according to his means, such as Pinchos Künzlinger, a scholarly Jew and Talmid Chacham, a wealthy merchant who set up a Yeshiva for Bachurim in his home and supplied all their needs. I should mention R’ Leizer Lipshitz [?], R’ Chaim Lieblich, Lipel Blum, R’ Ahron Levi son of Rabbi R’ Yakov, Av Besdin of Trzebinia, who was among the uppermost cadre of ten at the Admor Rabbi Elazar of Oshpitzin, R’ Yosef Hofstein, in whose home the town's elite would gather, and where all who wanted to eat the Shaleshudes together on the Shabat would congregate. Then, too, there was R’ Shmelke Scheller [?] and his son-in-law Yitzchak Dranger [?], and last, R’ Pinchos Hofstein, who died young at the age of 38. He was one of the aristocratic Avrechim and the pride of the town. It is told about him, that at the end of the First World War, after the cruel pogrom when all of the Jewish property was pillaged and robbed – there were then also murdered victims – when R’ Pinchos and his household, his wife and nine children returned from their hiding place to their ransacked home and could not even find a chair on which to sit nor a bed to put the children to sleep, nor food for the children. The only thing left standing was the bookcase with its books, and he lifted his eyes towards heaven and called out: I thank you! Blessed be the Holy One for that, the little bit of Yiddishkeit remained!

The Rabbinical post at Zator was occupied by famous and prominent Rabbis. Previously, filling the post was Rabbi Yakov Scharf, author of “Darkei Yosher”. After he left for Oshpitzin he was followed by Rabbi R’ Avrohom Gutwirth, and he was followed by his son Rabbi Zvi. When Rabbi Zvi died, his son-in-law, Rabbi R’ Moishe Salz was chosen. He was the last Rabbi of the Zator Kehilla. He perished in the Shoah together with the members of his Kehilla. HY”D.

May their memory be preserved for goodness and blessing!


[Page 421]

The Beginning and the End
of My Shtetl Zator


[Yiddish]

Eizik Elias


Just like neighboring Oshpitzin, Zator, too, was a town with long-standing Yichus and fine substantial Balebatim, Hasidim and scholars, merchants and truly hardworking Jews who lived from honest labor. The sounds of Torah always issued from the Old Shul where the Rebbe R’ Elimelech of Lejask had once Davened. There was a Balebos in Zator, R’ Shmelke Scheller, that had completed the entire Talmud several times. The town's Rabbi was a rare, fine man and loved all Jews. For this attribute he was greatly beloved by both the Hasidic scholarly factions as well as the simple “Amcha” types. His son-in-law and his successor, R’ Moishe Yosef Salz was also a renowned Talmid Chacham, a disciple of the Gaon, R’ Meir Arak [?] of Turna. The Rabbi also conducted a Yeshiva of older Bachurim on his premises and they were supported by the town.

Among the elite of the town's Balebatim should be mentioned: R’ Pinchos Künzlinger, R’ Ahron Levy, R’ Shmuel Edelman, R’ Ahron Shimon Weinberg, R’ Moishe Hofstein, R’ Moishe Lipshitz, the coal merchant who donated coal for heating the Bes Medrish every winter; R’ Eliezer Schneider, a wealthy Jew who cherished the Mitzvah of Gmilus Chasodim and would loan money to all the needy merchants before the time of the fair; R’ Lipa Blum, R’ Moishe Geiger, R’ Avrohom Ritter, and many more who led a nice Jewish life, and all perished as martyrs at the hands of the German murderers.

When the Germans arrived in Zator, all the Jews were soon obliged to leave their nice homes and to concentrate in the poorest section of town in peasant shacks and even in cow sheds. The Rabbi got a little room, too small to even turn around in, but he sat day and night and studied Torah. The villains searched for him and found him. They beat him murderously and dragged him mockingly through the streets. They took him out of town and killed him. This was also the fate of the Shochet and Mohel, R’ Mordechai Yitzchok Elias, the son of R’ Eli Elias of Sanok, and the son-in-law if R; Boruch Nichtborger of Limanowa. This Shochet had his own Bes Medrish and founded a “Kove'a Itim La Torah” Society [daily study] where several hundred people would study and Daven. He was devoted to the education of Jewish children. His wife Blume assisted him in his holy work. Although there were good Melamdim in town, he imported several learned Bachurim from out of town to help educate the Jewish youth in the spirit of Torah and Hasidism. The Germans happened on him as he was slaughtering a chicken. They beat him mercilessly, bound him in chains, and brought him to the Wadowice jail. He was under the threat of the death penalty by hanging. After much exertion and monetary costs he managed to gain release from jail and he immediately fled to Trzebinia. Later on, he and his wife were transported to Auschwitz. Miraculously, his two sons survived and are now living in New York.

The Germans declared Zator a border town in 1943 and deported all its Jews to Wadowice.

So it was, that the lifeline of Zator, a nice Jewish Shtetl, was severed.


[Page 423]

Brzezinka

Mordechai Schindel-Frei


Adjacent to the city, yet a separate entity, near the railroad station of Oshpitzin, which in administrative terms was a part of the village of Brzezinka – infamously known as Birkenau – there was a Jewish settlement of some 100 Jewish families consisting of more than 700 souls. Most were concentrated in a number of buildings, nearly completely inhabited by Jews only, with the remainder scattered nearby. A few of them were the merchants who ran the shops opposite the station, craftsmen, manufacturers, and professionals, while the rest of them – like a great proportion of the Jews in Oshpitzin – made their living as peddlers in Silesia.

These Jews were like a separate community with a public and social life of their own. There were two Botei Medrish, and for a certain time also had a Rabbi of their own, Rabbi Shmuel Bombach, the son of the Chief-Rabbi of Oshpitzin, who left before the war for Bedzin, but the Kehilla services were obtained from Oshpitzin. There was amity between them, and they were closely associated. They supported each other in times of distress. They participated in each other’s celebrations and miseries, in a type of family closeness.

The Jewish children attended public school in the mornings with the other children of the area. In the afternoons, both in the heat of the summer and in snow and frost, they went to the city – a distance of two kilometers – to study in Cheder.

Unlike the city children, who were the vast majority of the students in their [public] school – we were a small minority among the Polish children. Although we lived in peace with the Poles of the area, and had never had the conflicts as prevalent in other places- except for a solitary Goy drunkard, who cursed or threw stones – between the children at the school it was otherwise. There were always scuffles or “wars” between us and the “Shkatzim” at recess, and at times we even quarreled during class. At times we beat each other up. The “major wars” were generally in the evenings when we returned from Cheder and passed the meadow where the Polish lads pastured their cows. Then the “war” was fought in earnest. The “Shkatzim” were waiting for us with their bags full of stones. We also were not unprepared. We had banded together and went home together from the city, and before reaching the meadow – we filled our pockets with stones and approached the “battlefield”. On those days when there were not too many Polish boys in the meadow, we passed by peaceably without a fight, but on the days when they were many – the “war” went on for about two hours until it began to get dark. At times we were late in getting to the Bes Medrish for the Mincha prayers.

It should be pointed out, that the adult Poles almost never intervened, except for a reprimand to both sides. This was a war between Jewish and Christian boys, when occasionally a boy returned home with his head bloodied by a stone, as a war memento. So it was during the summertime, but in the winter the wars waned as we were at Cheder until 8 o'clock at night. Then, too, we would gather together and come home as a group carrying paraffin or carbide lamps. The Shkatzim were then at home.



The Village and the Villagers

I will attempt, as well as I can, to describe the entire settlement, including the Jewish residents, as I still see them today with 40 years hindsight, when I was a young lad. The station, the hub of the settlement's life, was vibrantly alive almost 24 hours a day. From early in the morning until late at night, crowds of travelers passed through, mostly Jewish peddlers who traveled to Silesia to earn a livelihood. In the last years, there were also many youths who traveled to the textile mills in Bielsko.

The square fronting the station was crowded with carriages (fiacres), most belonging to the town's Jews, which brought the passengers to the train and back to town. On Shabbat the station was still and you could hardly see a living soul in or nearby, except for the station personnel or a lone Polish traveler.

This is the same station which millions of Jews saw on their last journey. The building was long, one-storied and contained enormous waiting rooms, separated by each class, restaurants, snack-bars, kiosks, ticket-booths, offices, and all the station services. On both sides of the building there were three-story structures, where aside from railroad offices, there were also the post-office, the telegraph bureaus (from which we took – when we were little, the rolls of telegraph tape that were hundreds of meters in length, to play with), and the residences of the upper-level railroad clerks – which included two Jewish families: Mr Blumenstock, the stationmaster, who was ordered to convert to Christianity in the 1920's, if he wished not to lose his position. Mr. Blumenstock rejected this condition, but in spite of it he was not fired, seemingly due to his ability. Mr. Ferster [?], the stationmaster in charge of freight trains was the other Jew who lived there. On the platform you would almost always find Mr. Ziterman [?] in his red hat signaling instructions to the locomotive engineers with his red flag to stop or to go. In his later years he attained the post of stationmaster in Haifa, and was very proud of that, despite that this was picayune compared to the Oshpitzin depot.

At the exit stood the ticket puncher with his large, thick mustache, and he was still there one Sunday several months after the war. After standing there facing and looking at each other – I with my heart trembling with emotion, thinking: Nothing has changed, everything is like it was a few years ago, years as long as the Exile, but there was only a “minor” change. The station which had always been full of Jews, not a single one could be seen! – and he recognized me in spite of the different way I looked and was dressed, opened his eyes wide and asked in amazement: Mordechai, is that you?! Someone standing there voiced the famous saying “Jeszcze Rzejesz [?] ?” (Are you still alive?!). They gathered around me in a circle and told me that of all the Jews who had lived there – only a few had come, looked around, and went back where they had come from. The carriages stood in the square in front of the station – not one belonged to a Jew.

On the right side of the station steps led to an overpass of the tracks which led to the village Brzezinka. Nearby lived Moishe Wolf and his family, an old Jew who ran a grocery where the farmers could find almost everything they required; the large Rosner family – the family head had been a high-ranking officer in the Austrian army during the First World War – ran a large tavern, and also Hershel Zirer [?] ran a grocery store there.

On the corner before the steps leading to the overpass, opposite the post-office, there was a little building with the spotless store and apartment of the Klinger family, an elderly couple. Opposite the station there were two three-story buildings. On the right, the Haberfeld House, which was the business center of the village, and in it (in order) the vegetable store of Mrs. Reicher, and next to that the textile shop which had in the last years belonged to R’ Shloime Grubner. He had nine children and grandchildren, and after the Shoah only one daughter, Esther, survived, now living in Even Yehuda. Next to it, was the grocery belonging to R’ Shloime Nachman Gaenger, from whose family only one remained, Frimke, living in the United States. Then there was Dovid Dunkelblum's store, he was an extremely zealous Jew with five children – all of whom perished in the Shoah. In the enormous corner store, Mrs. Geller and her children maintained a bar which was bustling with activity all day long. There were quite a few drunkards which Mrs. Geller knew well how to handle. Most of the Geller children survived and made Aliyah. Her grandson, Shimon, fell in the Six-Day War.

Next to the bar, Mrs. Shainowitz and her two daughters ran a dairy products shop. Passersby who were coming to and from the station would have a snack there. One daughter survived who came to Israel. Next to that was a candy store belonging to R’ Yosef Schindel and his wife, Binah. This store was a kind of meeting-place where you would always find Jews in conversation or playing chess. Both of them perished in the Shoah. Beyond that there was the Meisels drugstore  [?], and the last one was Dovid Lichtman's clothing store. Attached to this building was Neuman's barbershop. I don't think that anyone of these last two families survived.

Living in the building were the families Enger, Dunkelblum, Geller, and Lichtman. Joachim Lieberman, one of the founders and owners of the tarpaper plant “Emil Kuznicki, Inc.” also lived there. He was a Jew with aristocratic bearing, upright, philanthropic, and a Zionist. I must mention the way Mr. Lieberman behaved towards his employees, not at all bourgeois in his dealings. The two following incidents will illustrate this: With the outbreak of the war, Mr. Lieberman fled to Lwow, where he also had a similar factory, and after the Red Army entered Lwow – his employees at the plant chose him to be the plant manager. Also, when he returned after the war to Oshpitzin – the plant's employees chose him to be the manager there. All of this indicates his noble character in relating to his employees. Some years before the war Mr. Lieberman made a trip to K'far Saba to visit his daughter, Mrs. Oppenheim, and bought land and orchards there. After the war and a short stay in Oshpitzin, he and his wife made Aliyah in order to join their daughters, Mrs. Oppenheim and Mrs. Lucia [Druks]. The latter, wife of Dr. Iro Druks, who had been the leader of the Revisionists and a member of the Oshpitzin City Council and had come to Eretz Yisrael with the Anders Army, served for many years as a Military Justice and a [city] Magistrate, and in his last years as a City Magistrate in Holon.

Mr. Hans Loew lived in the same building. He was a gentle person, a clerk at the “Emil Kuznicki, Inc.” plant, and a recognized authority of the Zionist leadership in Oshpitzin. He also made Aliyah in an unusual way and settled with his wife in Kibbutz Usha, where he died in old age. The Secretary of the Oshpitzin Kehilla, Dr. Oster, whose entire family perished in the Shoah, also lived in this building.

The other three-story building stood just opposite the station plaza and was owned by Mr. Moishe Wasserberger. It housed a big bar which was managed by his son, Arthur, a hotel (Hotel Zator), and a restaurant which were managed by Mr. Leiman. One could find there the elite of Christian Oshpitzin and the army officers stationed in Oshpitzin.

The extended family of Moshe Wasserberger, including his son-in-law, Dr. Tillinger, a dentist, and his son Jacob, also a dentist, lived here as well.

Further down the road leading to the barracks lived Dovid Levy and family, Gustav Haberfeld, and the Blumenfeld family.

On the left of the Wasserberg House there was a hut which housed Mr. Schnitzer’s barbershop and a candy store whose owners kept changing. Beyond that was the enormous store (a type of department store) belonging to R’ Shloime Weintraub, a rich Jew whose avocation was charity, and mainly G'milus Chasodim [Free Loans], and his sons, Yishayahu (who lost his family and is now in Israel) and Yosef who perished with his entire family. Nearby was the “Zator” cinema which belonged to the Wasserberger family, of whom one son, Fridek, survived and is in Israel. All the other family members perished in the Shoah. Behind the hut, Weintraub's store, and the cinema there was a park where the members of “Gwiazda”, a Jewish sports club comprised of locals, practiced track and field sports. On the other side of the Wasserberger House there was Getzel Metzner’s butcher shop whose entire family perished in the Shoah.

Behind the Wasserberger House there was a small building which used to house the candy store belonging to the Levy family, and some five years before the war, a large addition was constructed which was turned into a factory for making jam, and belonged to Isidor Wasserberger.

East of the jam factory there stood a structure resembling a long barrack, in which one part housed the bakery and residence of my parents: Yechiel and Pessel-Beile Schindel. This house was open to every passerby all hours of the day: facing all who came to town, to warm oneself and have breakfast, or for peddlers to leave their bundles and bicycles. Bicycles – I mention my youthful sins – on which I learned to ride without getting permission to do so. From this family of 11 souls, only my brother Eizik, who lives in New York, and I, survived.

The other part of the building and in adjacent buildings there was the fish-processing plant owned by Mr. Schanzer [?], from whose family also no one survived. Left of Schanzer’s plant there was a meadow (lunka [?]) where we played soccer (with a rag-ball). There, too, we roasted potatoes in the autumn evenings. This was a recreation area for children without any equipment.

On the other side of the road, west of the meadow, there was a field used to store silage, belonging to the Wasserberger family, and beyond that the home of R’ Dovid Goldstein, a Talmid Chacham and a Maskil, and next to it an enormous wooden structure, where a goodly number of the town's Jews lived: Dovid Goldstein and family (one son survived the Shoah), Meir Schwechter and his two sons, the eldest of whom drowned in the Sola on a summer’s day and his parents never stopped grieving to the end. His brother, Shimon Schwechter, his brother-in-law Yakov Glaser, Yosef Schindel, Menashe Lichtman, Schlüssel, Binyamin Schwechter, Eli Sterman [?], Yisroel Leib Sterman; all of these families with their elders, wives, and children perished in the Shoah. Also living in these buildings were, Dovid Jaffe, Mordechai Hammer, the families Nemet [?], Alter, Asch, and Sterman. Only a few survived and most of them live in Israel. All of Noach Feiler’s family perished, and he alone survived to live in Israel.

In this building there had been a Bes Medrish as well until about eight years before the outbreak of the war, when a nice, new building had been constructed for it, which the Germans demolished. There, too, the location of the Borochov Hachshara training center was founded and it operated until the war broke out.

Left of the Goldstein House, some distance away, was the Rosenzweig House, populated by Jewish families only, and I will list them one by one: The family of R’ Ahron Yudel Levy, whom I hardly remember since he died in 5689 [1929] and left a wife and ten children. From stories I heard, he was a Talmid Chacham and a gentle soul who taught a study-group at the Chevra Mishnayes in the city every Shabbat, and would never refrain from making the long trek to town in either the hot summer days or when it rained, snowed, or when it was extremely cold. Mrs. Levy managed to make Aliyah after much wandering with all of her children except for her daughter Manya Lichtman, who with her husband and children, perished in Lwow. Mrs. Levy died at an advanced age in Bnei Brak in the embrace of her nine children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In our lifetime this should be considered a unique privilege granted to the very few.

Also living in the house was R’ Shloime Grubner and family, whom I do remember, and Chaim Jungwirth and his wife, Feigele. Her avocation was visiting the sick and acts of charity. Leib, who lives in Ramat Gan, is the only one of their five children who survived. The elderly R’ Naftoli Neufeld, who purportedly managed the affairs of all the world's governments in the Bes Medrish between Mincha and Ma'ariv, also lived in this house. Additionally, Mordechai Bachner, the old shoemaker and active member of the Chevra Kadisha, with his son-in-law, the tailor Yehoinoson Knobler and their families lived there. Surviving were two daughters who live in Australia and a son living in Ra'anana. There was also a Mrs. Reicher, who as far as I know had one daughter, Gera [?], who survived. In that house there also lived R’ Shmuel Ruven Schiffman and family, the Kleinberger family, the young couple Jungwirth – all of whom perished in the Shoah.

On the other side of the road, near the meadow, stood the Flessner [?] House. In it lived the elderly Flessner, Schantzer [?] and their families, all of whom perished, and Ahron Horwitz, the son-in-law of R’ Ahron Yudel Levy who made Aliyah after the war, and the Schnitzer family, whose two daughters are now in Israel.

Next door to the Rosenzweig House there was the one-story home of the Mandelbrot family. The head of the family, R’ Dovid, was a Talmid Chacham who sat at home studying Torah and his wife and eldest son, Ben Zion saw to the family's affairs. Their younger son, bearded and slovenly dressed, had had no formal education but did achieve a secondary-school equivalence certificate after taking a course of accelerated study in his early twenties. Like his father, he was self-taught and had such vast knowledge that Polish students in chemistry and physics at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow would come to him for tutoring in these subjects. Had this fellow studied in an orderly fashion, he would certainly have been a famous genius. He prepared his sister for the matriculation and university entrance exams, and she was accepted and studied chemistry at the university in Krakow. Living in this house were R’ Avrohom Schiffman with his family of five. His younger son, Yosef, was a prodigy, and it was a joy to hear him give a lesson or lecture. No one survived from these two families. The Geller family also lived in this house, of whom one son, Arye, survived, and he died recently in Ashdod. The Geiger family also lived in the house at the time.

Beyond this building stood the Silpan [?] House, which contained a soft-drink plant and cold-storage unit. Yakov Silpan was the only survivor of the family. Nachman Goldberg and his family lived there, as well. I heard some time ago that one of the Goldberg sons had been seen but I do not know where he is. The rest of his family perished. Close by was the Wisoglond [?] House. The family of Moishe Wolf lived there, but I don't know what became of them.

Further on down, on the road leading to the Nathansohn tarpaper plant was the Betar Hachshara collective, and in the house next door lived the Boxer family, of whom none survived.

Not far from the Wisiglond House, on the path leading to the main road was the home of the family of Joachim Adler, one of the directors of the Emil Kuznicki factory. The Paster [?] family's grocery store was located there. Both of these families survived the war. In that area also lived the Rosenfeld family, Yisachar Wolf, Willy Kupferman, of whom none survived. The Zitterman [?] family lived there as well. On the main road leading to the city, R’ Shloime Weintraub had built his house after the First World War. He lived there with his sons, and sons-in-law, Adler and Lichtman. Of these five families only a few survived: His son, Yehoshua, his daughter, Bluma, and his granddaughter, Nechama Lichtman. In that area also lived the Zhernowitz [?] and the Engineer Greifinger families.

Further down the road, between the Goldstein House and the “Rekord” pharmaceutical plant, in the direction of the leather-processing plant, lived the Barber family. Two family members survived and made Aliyah; the family of R’ Hershel Teitelbaum, a quiet Talmid Chacham with his five children, of whom none survived, and Chane-Keile Einhorn who had a small Bes Medrish in her home, and behind her home the splendid new Bes Medrish had been built. Both of these houses were destroyed by the Germans. Behind the synagogue, in two separate structures, lived the Getzel Metzner [?] family and his son-in-law Jakubowicz, of whom also no one survived.

Further along the road to “Gerbernia” [?], in the Königsberg House, lived Mrs. Königsberg with her sons, and Shloime Goldberg and family. Two of their sons, Yakov and Zyga are in Israel. The Isisdor Enoch family lived there, too, but their fate is unknown. After the turn [in the road] to the left, towards the city, some years before the war, the industrialist Wolf from Bilice had built his beautiful villa in which he lived. I recall that the Police-Chief told my father that he had an official order to deport him to Czechoslovakia – after it was conquered by Hitler, since he was a Czech citizen. My father informed Mr. Wolf of this. I don't remember if he was able to flee or if he was deported. Further on there was the Kestberg dwelling and grocery. This entire family perished in the Shoah.

My intentions in this report has been to raise a memorial for the Brzezinska Kehilla, for most of whom there is no one left. Perhaps I have forgotten a family, maybe I have been mistaken here and there. Possibly I have lengthened the description in one area and shortened it in another – but it was not done in malice. I have written from memory of reminiscences of 40 years ago.



[Page 429]

Brzeszcze

Some nine kilometers southwest of Oshpitzin lies the village of Brzeszcze, near the Oshpitzin-Dziedzice railroad spur (in 1956).

This was undoubtedly a very old village, appearing in the records of the last third of the 15thCentury. At first it belonged to various kings and princes and later was transferred to the administration of the Oshpitzin governor (Starostwo). In the middle of the 16thCentury there were 15 – 20 estate holders, who also functioned as the garrison of the fortress and castle, and guarded the fishponds. In the middle of the 19thCentury, when the village belonged to the Habsburg principality, there were 1434 inhabitants, and in the 1921 census this had risen to 3505 inhabitants and 294 houses. This marked increase was due to the opening of a coalmine in 1905 and the erection of two flourmills, as well as the distillery and the factory of medical supplies. The coal mined in Brzeszcze was of excellent quality and contained high caloric content. During the Second World War, the Germans pillaged all of the local treasures, they overworked thousands of the arrested and war-prisoners in the digging of coal, from which they also derived fuel for vehicles.

Jews had been in the village practically since it was founded, but their numbers were small, most of them occupied with trade and crafts, and some in industry and clerical work. Jewish names are to be found in the management of the mine.

Among the affluent families of Brzeszcze before the war are the Finder family, who owned the distillery, and the Berger family who were both wholesale and retail merchants. Most of the village's farmers and miners owed them money for merchandise that they took on credit. They were all deported from the place immediately after the German occupation and their property confiscated.

When the war came to an end, only the aged Mrs. Berger and her son Moishe-Munik survived out of all the local Jews. In spite of all the persuasion and efforts directed at this young Jew not to settle back in, a solitary Jew, in a village, he paid no attention to us, saying, that if he could only succeed in getting back a bit of all the debts that the residents owed him to enable him to somehow secure the wherewithal to support his aged mother, he would immediately leave the place. They, indeed, remained among their “friends and neighbors”, as Munik called them. One night, the miscreants who apparently were concerned that they would have to return a bit of what they had stolen, came and murdered them both.

The victims were buried in the semi-destroyed Oshpitzin cemetery, in the earth that had absorbed the blood of millions, and again opened its maws to swallow the bodies and blood of the surviving few who had been murdered by villains.

May their memory be a blessing, and may the Lord avenge the spilled blood of his servants!



[Page 430]

Libiaz

(Libionzh)  

This is a village some ten kilometers distant from Oshpitzin and belonged to the Chrzanow districts. The Jews there, however, had always kept close contact with the Jews of Oshpitzin, in family ties, business relations, and on matters of public and Kehilla concern. More than a 150 years ago, R’ Yosef Libionzher was a prominent figure. His son, R’ Leibel Scheinberg was the father-in-law of Rabbi Chaim Zvi Kupferman who served more than 40 years as the Av Besdin of Oshpitzin. R’ Yosef was called “Libionzher” because he was an owner of an estate, fields, and forests in Libiaz.

There are records of Libiaz from the end of the 13th Century. In the 15th Century there were two settlements: Libiaz Wielki (the greater) and Libiaz Maly (the smaller) next to each other, both surrounded by forests stretching many kilometers reaching as far as Oshpitzin.

The 1789 census reports 632 inhabitants and 118 buildings including a beer brewery and liquor distillery, and an inn owned by the above-mentioned R’ Yosef, but the census does not mention Jews by name.

The village, like the surrounding area, passed from one ruler to another, from the Austrian conquest to the Warsaw principality and the Krakow Republic, and when the latter disintegrated, was returned once more to Austrian rule. At the time the estate and mine belonged to the Benfeld [?] family. In the years between the two wars the ownership of the mine was transferred to a French company. Owing to the poor quality of the Libiaz coal, the production was low, only 200,000 tons a year, and only several hundred miners were employed in its production.

There were about two dozen Jewish families in Libiaz before the Shoah. Most were engaged in trade or in the crafts. There was a significant number of Jews in the top echelon of the mine administration and in industry. The bakery, the big store (in which the residents got nearly all they wanted – on credit), and taverns – were owned by Jews. There was a synagogue there in a picturesque wooden building surrounded by a well-tended garden, in which regular Shabbat and Festival prayers were held. All the other religious and communal requirements were obtained by the Libiaz Jews from nearby Chrzanow and from Oshpitzin, close to their hearts.


[Page 431]

Chelmek

Chelmek was an industrial settlement, which administratively belonged to the Chrzanow district, but because of its location, it was closer to Oshpitzin, altogether 5 – 6 kilometers distant. Everyone regarded it as part of the Oshpitzin district and as far as Kehilla and community services were concerned, the Jews of Chelmek availed themselves of the Oshpitzin institutions.

The settlement was located on the left bank of the Przemsze [?] River, some two kilometers from the Trzebinia – Oshpitzin railroad line.

There are records of the settlement only from the middle of the 15th Century, and its area was quite small then. As of 1795, when the Austrians occupied the area, it was listed as a village with more than 500 inhabitants and nearly 100 dwellings. Next to the new bridge that had been constructed over the Przemsze there was a customs station.

In the 1921 census, the locality had 1314 souls and 230 buildings.

There were small industries, a quarry, and sawmills. In 1920, the Czech industrialist. J. S. Bata [?] built a large shoe-factory, “Bata Shoes”, which expanded rapidly and by 1938 employed about 2000 workers.

There had always been a few Jewish families in Chelmek who were engaged in trade and industry. Among the “Bata” employees there were also Jews, but not all were locals. From the long-time Jewish families that are known to us were: Yitzchak Mandelbaum, Kalman Wulkan, Waldner, Schönherz, Krakauer, and Bochner-Sonnenschein.

The synagogue was located in the Mandelbaum family home, in several rooms set aside by them for this special purpose. They greeted all comers to the House of Prayer affably and would distribute sweets to the children.

Administratively, Chelmek was affiliated with Chrzanow, and belonged to its district, but because of its proximity, the Jews of Chelmek preferred to obtain their communal services in Oshpitzin.

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