|Drawing by Yaacov Guterman|
Its members were granted loans on easy terms from a special fund for that purpose, called "Gmilut Hassadim".
The organization carried out its functions in times of widespread poverty, when
many shops were closed by their owners. The last session of its committee took
place three days after the Nazi invasion, when the remaining cash was divided
among the community's poor shopkeepers.
It contains a description of this narrow and dark street, its inhabitants who
were doomed to live "between the ghetto-walls", the synagogues, small
retail shops, and longings of the youth for a better life, for freedom, escape
from the ghetto and for a Jewish State.
Twelve sewing machines were acquired and an instructor was hired. Courses for tailoring, stitching and weaving were opened, and the small traders who participated in them were turned into artisans.
After the Nazi invasion all the machinery of the "Ort" schools was
confiscated and handed over to a cooperative of Polish tailors.
Anti-Jewish measures did not always succeed in Plotzk. The Polish "Intelligentsia", although by nature anti-Semitic, never participated in riots and could not be influenced by the slogans of "boycott", since they appreciated the Jewish merchants' ability to supply all kinds of goods at cheaper prices that the new Polish merchants, who were specially brought from other parts of the country with the purpose of competing with and ruining Jewish trade.
The authorities protected Jews against anti-Semitic riots, yet supported economic pressures against them, with the aim of eventually taking over their shops and enterprises.
A certain Gustaw Novak from Plotzk wrote a pamphlet "How to clear Poland from Jews" and brought in the thirties Polish merchants from Poznan district to Plotzk, who attempted to take over the Jewish trade. Novak later collaborated with the Nazis and after being used by them, was eventually shot.
The Polish daily "Glos Mazowiecki" which appeared in Plotzk, used every opportunity to accuse Jews of disloyalty to the State and of extending loans at exorbitant rates of interest, etc.
Even on the eve of the Nazi invasion certain Polish circles continued with
their anti-Semitic campaigns, ignoring the German threat to the existence of
the Polish state. These anti-Semites were so filled with hatred towards Jews,
that they did not see where the real danger lay. Many of them later
collaborated with the Nazi invaders against Jews in particular and the Polish
case in general.
|Drawing by Yaacov Guterman|
The second part deals with the cordial relations between the Germans and members of the Convent and the special status they enjoyed during the German occupation.
Finally, facts are mentioned concerning the monks indifference to Jewish suffering, who did not help a single Jew in spite of the fact that they would have been able to do so. Jewish property was left in their hands by many Jews who trusted them, but consequently perished.
The article expresses deep disappointment over the fact that the members of
that Convent, who maintained good relations with Jews before the War, were deaf
to their anguished cries for help in the hour of distress.
The Gymnasium was very soon incorporated in the organization of Jewish schools in Poland, whose chairman was Mordechai Braude, and which maintained and supervised many similar national Jewish schools.
Among the Hebrew teachers of the "Jewish Gymnasium" were Hayim Fridman (Avshalom), Yakir Warszawski, Pua Rakowska, David Eisenberg, Skarlat, Choronsky and Flam.
Their educational influence on the Jewish youth in Plotzk and neighborhood was noteworthy. The school was recognized by the Ministry of Education as equivalent to Government-Schools, which enabled graduates to continue their studies in universities. Many Jewish parents preferred therefore to enable their children to get there a Jewish as well as a secular education.
The Jewish public at large assisted the school financially and its founders and directors were devoted to its cause, yet their efforts were not always crowned with success. It existed only till 1936. The number of pupils constantly decreased in the thirties until the school was forced to close its gates.
There also existed a "Cheder Metukan", a reformed elementary school, which taught modern Hebrew and prepared its pupils for higher secular studies.
A Hebrew kindergarten was established in Plotzk during the First World War, where Hebrew was taught as a living language.
Other schools were added to the network of private schools during the twenties:
a religious "Mizrachi" school, a school where Yiddish was the
language of instruction, the "Yesodei Hatorah" school founded
by the Aguda and various others.
Thanks to his pedagogical qualifications, his lessons were favored by his many pupils who adored him and owed him their knowledge in Judaism, Jewish history and Hebrew.
The author, one of his pupils, describes the death of Penson in 1939 and the
funeral which took place already under Nazi rule and adds: "We were all
satisfied that our beloved teacher Penson died of natural causes before the
Nazis succeeded to turn Jewish life into hell. His memory lives in the minds of
his pupils, wherever they are, in Israel as well as in other countries of the
|Drawing by Yaacov Guterman|
The author urges the members of the Jewish middle class to contribute
substantial sums in order to enable children of poverty-stricken families to
benefit from secondary education.
Kravietz was very poor but never cared about that. When he once received a rare manuscript as a present, he would not even think of selling it and thereby improving his deplorable economic situation. Years later, when Jewish community representatives were invited to a reception held by a Catholic bishop and wanted to present him with a suitable gift; Yehiel Meir did not hesitate to offer his precious manuscript to the community for this purpose.
He was killed, as many others, during the Nazi massacre.
The author shows that the "Hazamir" library served as a useful
instrument in spreading general education and culture among the poorer segments
of the Jewish population. The library, a non-party institution, succeeded in
being of service to all classes of the population, and especially to the
he author further describes the "melamdim" of Plotzk who gave their pupils an elementary Jewish education. They were mostly very poor but devoted to their holy task. One of them was the unforgettable Fishel Posner, a very strict and demanding person, whose "Heder" was situated in "Altman's courtyard".
The "Little Beit Hamidrash" was an institute of higher Jewish
learning whose graduates possessed a
solid knowledge of the Talmud and other religious books. But many of its
students began to show an interest in secular education, obtained textbooks for
the study of Polish, German and other subjects. Some of them became later on
active in various political movements.
Rabbi Shapiro had been falsely accused of spying for the Bolsheviks, and was put to death in
1920 by a Polish Military court.
Nahum Sokolov was regarded a genius and at the age of 15 already had a good knowledge of five languages : Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German and French. He played a role in public life and at a young age already became a friend of the Russian Governor, who took a great liking to him.
The visit of Nahum Sokolov, the prominent Zionist leader, was a holiday for
the Jews of Plotzk, who were proud of him as of one who had grown up in
their own midst.
The author met Shalom Ash in London in 1953. When he told him what had happened to him during the holocaust period, Shalom Ash listened with great interest for many hours. He called Plotzk "our Plotzk", and related how it inspired him to write novels about Polish Jewry and how much he had liked his stay there.
Shalom Ash is quoted as having said in that conversation "The beauty
of Plotzk in indescribable. Everything there was so lovely and Yiddish. The
town and the countryside inspired me to write
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