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Pioneers in Industry

 

Samuel Adler

He owned one of the largest leather factories in town, with the latest modern equipment. Adler supported Radom's charitable institutions with considerable donations. He was widely respected and also known as an adherent of the Enlightenment ideals and patron of the arts.

 

Dr. Joseph Adler

Samuel's son, born 1882 in Radom, increased the family estate and was also a leading figure in community life. In 1916-17 he was president of the Kehillah and member of the City Council. For many years he was president of the Polish Engineers Association in Warsaw. In the period preceding World War II, Adler was a member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. He was killed by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto.

 

Israel Jacob Diament

He was one of the most outstanding industrialists and community leaders of Radom. Diament was born in Radom in 1880. An expert accountant and able economist, he contributed a great deal to the development of industry and trade in the city.

Diament owned a large foundry and iron works in Radom, but devoted considerable time and energy to community affairs. For 35 years he headed the Savings and Loan Association, from its inception to its very end. A man of complete integrity, he enjoyed great popularity and confidence and was respected by the entire Jewish population.

Throughout his adult life, Diament was identified with the cooperative movement. Thanks to his efforts, the Jewish cooperatives grew into a mighty instrument of economic self-protection in the extraordinarily difficult conditions of Jewish life in Poland. In this work he was aided by the American Joint Distribution Committee and by “Centos”, the central agency in Warsaw. The continual support by these agencies of Radom's institutions was credited to Diament's reputation as a leader of high moral standards.

Israel Diament and his wife Emilia (the daughter of Israel Frenkel) were active in the Zionist movement. They were chief supporters of the pioneering organization, whose purposed was to prepare Jewish youth for immigration to Palestine.

In 1937 they both visited Palestine and made arrangements to settle there. They returned to Radom to liquidate the business, but a stroke of fate prevented them from realizing their dreams. Israel died shortly afterwards, in July, 1939; Emilia was killed by the Nazis, who invaded Radom weeks later.

Their son Felix lives in Israel. Their daughter, Paulina Stieler, a high school teacher in Radom, has been teaching in Haifa high schools for the past twenty years. Their younger daughter, Sara Kleiner, is a prominent physician in Paris.

 

Mordechai Den

He distinguished himself as an enterprising manufacturer and devoted community leader. Born in 1886, he was the oldest son of the town's popular philanthropists Abraham and Reisel Den. In his youth, Mordechai left his home secretly in order to enroll in a yeshiva in Russia. His career as a Talmudic student was short-lived and he returned to Radom to embark on an industrial venture, which at the outset seemed to be doomed to failure: the utilization of leather waste and scrap from the local tanneries for industrial purposes. Nevertheless, Den was highly successful in his enterprise.

When the Russians removed the equipment from Radom's tanneries on their retreat during World War I, Den followed them into Russia and started leather production on a large scale in Russian cities.

After the war Den returned to Radom with considerable wealth and diversified experience. He built an industrial empire in Radom that included leather manufacturing, brick factories, and steam-powered flour mills.

Extremely capable, Den introduced many innovations in his plants and managed to keep his industries going despite several economic crises.

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Next to his preoccupation in the industry, Mordechai Den had a keen interest in community affairs and devoted a great deal of time and money to the Kehillah and its welfare institutions. Thanks to his tireless efforts, the Jewish hospital in Radom was completely renovated. He was active in the maintenance of the orphanage and home for the aged.

Mordechai Den was president of the Kehillah in Radom from 1936-1939. He died a martyr's death, beside his son Alexander, during the Nazi massacre of Purim, 1943. His daughter Halina miraculously escaped the tragedy. She is now doing science research in the United States.

 

I.M. Leslau

One of Radom's outstanding personalities, he achieved national prominence as a leader of orthodoxy Jewry. Leslau pioneered the veneers industry in Radom. He also founded a lumber mill, employing 160 workers.

A pious man, with great erudition in Jewish learning, he had a synagogue erected on factory premises for the use of his employees. They were given time off from work to attend daily services. The synagogue also served as a school for religious instruction, under Mr. Leslau's personal supervision.

I.M. Leslau was a generous supporter of Radom's welfare institutions. He was widely known in Poland for his charitable deeds, with special emphasis on traditional education.

A man of patriarchal appearance, he was extremely modest and humble. He refused to accept public offices or any honors. He was well liked and respected.

I.M. Leslau died in 1937 at the age of 72.

 

Mordechai Eisman

He founded one of the largest leather factories in Radom and operated it successfully. He was greatly devoted to Jewish tradition and customs. A follower of the Hasidic movement, he organized one of the Hasidic clubs in Radom, where he conducted the services.

In addition, Mr. Eisman helped organize several charitable and welfare institutions. For many years, he was head of the Talmud Torah School.

He took an active part in Jewish community affairs and was several times elected officer.

Mordechai (known as “Mottel”) Eisman, his wife and two daughters died as martyrs at the hands of the Nazis. His three sons now reside in the United States. Gabriel, the oldest, is the honorary president of the Radomer Mutual Society in Detroit, Michigan.

 

Elias Tenenbaum

He was one of Radom's most prominent industrialists. He founded a large nail factory which supplied a great part of Poland and was considered a pioneer in this branch of Poland's industry.

Elias Tenenbaum participated actively in Radom's welfare and social institutions. He was curator of the Jewish hospital after Beckerman's death. He was also for several years head of Radom's Kehillah.

His two sons now live in Australia.

 

Benjamin Hochman

A man of talent and initiative, he started as an artisan with a small sheet-metal shop, which grew into a large factory with a mass production of diverse household appliances and machine parts. Hochman's precision-built portable burners were in use all over the Russian empire up to World War I.

His business activities brought Hochman in contact with industrialists and bankers in Europe's largest trade centers. Despite his preoccupations he remained loyal to his fellow artisans and was instrumental in the founding of the Artisan's Club. On weekends and holidays he lectured the club members on subjects of general history and literature. He represented the artisans in the Kehillah Council.

 

Lazar Margolis

A prominent merchant in town, he made a name for himself as an untiring social worker. During World War I he organized and conducted several relief projects for refugees, including the erection of temporary housing facilities and dispensaries. He personally toured the countryside to collect food stuffs and clothing for the needy war-torn refugee families.

L. Margolis was among the founders and active supporters of the “Linas Hatzedek” (shelter for the poor) organization, which later grew into a larger welfare institution.

After World War I, Margolis devoted himself to the Jewish Merchants Association. He was for many years one of its most active officers.

Margolis was killed by the Nazis at the age of sixty. His surviving family participated in Israel's war of independence. The oldest son, Hanina, is one of the leading officers of the Radomer Association in Israel.

 

Ludwig Briliant

A native of Warsaw, he spent his entire lifetime in Radom. He came of a family of distinguished

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Polish patriots, fighters for Poland's independence in the uprising of 1863 and revolution of 1905. Two of Ludwig's brothers were executed for their active part in the revolutions against Tsarist Russia; a third brother was a prominent leader in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1918.

In contrast, Ludwig devoted his efforts to amore constructive career in Radom' community life. He was among the founders of the Jewish Artisans Association and for many years its first elected president. In this capacity he was a member of the City Council, which later elected him vice-president.

Briliant contributed to the cultural life of the community as the founder of the Drama Circle. A man of versatile talent, he directed many stage productions in which he played major acting parts.

 

Jacob D. Stroftchinsky

He distinguished himself as an organizer of the Jewish artisans in Radom. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Artisans Association and its cooperative bank.

A man of great energy and compassion, Stroftchinsky organized effective assistance to the Jewish political prisoners of the 1905 revolution and their destitute families. During World War I he helped organize a large scale campaign of immediate help to war refugees, orphans and families of Jewish servicemen. As administrator of the Artisans Club, Stroftschinsky turned the club premises into a kitchen and dispensary.

In the period between two world wars Stroftchinsky worked unselfishly for the club, turning it into an outstanding cultural institution by adding a large library and reading room. He made successful efforts to attract the youth by expanding the club's facilities. In a period of officially tolerated anti-Semitic excesses, Jewish boys and girls could not enter Polish libraries or gyms without seriously endangering life and limb. The Jewish populace was, therefore, indebted to men and women like Stroftchinsky.

Jacob D. Stroftchinsky perished in the crematorium of Treblinka in 1943.


Jewish Education in Radom

 

Traditional Schools

For centuries Poland was the most important Jewish spiritual center. One of the factors that contributed to this distinction was the great care and attention paid to the education of the young.

Children were introduced to Judaism even before reaching school age, which began at five or six. Often they were sent to the Heder just to sit in the teacher's presence, in order to imbibe some of the atmosphere of learning and Torah.

 

The Heder

The Jewish educational system comprised the Heder and the Yeshivah, the former including the elementary Heder for beginners, the Humash Heder and the Talmud Heder.

Children spent the entire day in Heder with only short intermissions for meals. The subjects taught were: reading of Hebrew, the Pentateuch and other parts of the Bible. Sometimes the pupils had to attend Heder for a short session on the Sabbath. They would then recite psalms and study the laws concerning the Sabbath or a forthcoming holiday. The teacher would frequently accompany his pupils home and quiz them before their parents. The larger Hederim had, in addition to the regular “melamed” or “rebbe”, one or more assistants (behelfers) whose task was, apart from assisting in instruction, to pick up and bring home the younger children and keep an eye on them in the classroom.

Parents had to pay for the education of their children in the Hederim, which were private undertakings. Parents made great personal sacrifices and actually scrimped on food in order to pay school fees. Children of poor people were exempt from tuition payments and attended the Talmud Torah.

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Talmud Torah

Radom had two Talmud Torah schools, one located on Walowa Street, the other in the suburb of Glinice. Both were maintained by the Kehillah and supported with private funds. Some wealthy parents made it a point to send their children to the Talmud Torah in order to prevent it from being labeled a school for the poor.

Under the influence of the Enlightenment period, the Hederim and Talmud Torah in Radom, with their purely religious character, yielded to outside pressure and introduced instruction in languages, history and mathematics. Eliezer Finkel, for example, advertised that he had engaged a teacher for the instruction of algebra in his Heder.

By 1922 the Talmud torah in Radom grew to the status of a modern educational institution. It was housed in its own building, which was donated by two charitable women, Sara Zysman-Sova and Brandla Neiman. The school was supervised by a committee of Radom's prominent citizens, including Motel Eisman, David Koper, Raphael Kozienitzer, Shaya Goldstein, principal of a government school, was in charge of secular education at the Talmud Torah.

There were numerous Hederim in Radom, with hundreds of teachers who spent a lifetime providing education to the young of their people. Their profession was far from materially rewarding. Most of the “melamdim” had to look for additional sources of income for a modest livelihood. Eli Farbman (“Kazanover”) who had a goodly number of wealthier students had to sustain himself by dealing in cigarettes. Marcus, a specialist in Russian and Polish, became a bank clerk. David Katz and David Grosverstand decided to emigrate to the United States.

Mr. Leib Rychtman, secretary of the Association of Radomers in Tel Aviv, after extensive research, compiled a list of “melamdim” who were active in Radom from the late nineteenth century to the end of the Jewish community in Radom. Their names will be found on pages 112 to 116 in the Yiddish section of this book.

 

Yeshivahs

Primarily serving as academies for the study of the Talmud and Talmudic commentaries, the Yeshivahs had undergone many changes and become centers for Jewish higher education. They also served as institutions for the training of orthodox rabbis.

The earliest Yeshivah known to have been established in Radom was founded in 1908 at Starokrakowska Street 12 and headed by Meir Rubin. In 1916 a group of citizens established a small Yeshivah, restricted to twenty students from 17 to 18 years of age, with the specific purpose of training them as future spiritual leaders. Both the students and their instructors were supported by private funds.

In 1918, a committee of prominent citizens founded a Yeshivah in Radom; the enrollment of students grew so rapidly that soon two branches were opened, one in Bialski's house in the Glinice section of the city, the other in the Dzierzkow suburb. Named “Torath Chaim”, the Yeshivah grew in stature and became one of the foremost academies of Jewish learning in pre-war Poland. Among its founders, teachers and supporters were: Eliezer Margolis, Joel Kleinman, Noah Kampel, Rachmil Bialski, Matys Koper, Elias Kazanover, Faivel Burstyn and others.

The Yeshivah later introduced courses in several secular subjects with emphasis on mathematics. Many of its students have emigrated to Israel and the United States where they now hold positions as rabbis, or successful businessmen. The Yeshivah was closed by the Germans in 1939, but during the war years groups of students continued to hold clandestine meetings in private homes and small prayer-houses and thus carried on the thousand-year-old tradition of Talmudic learning.

 

Modern School System

One of the proudest achievements of Polish Jewry during the years between the two world wars was the establishment of a large and diversified network of schools. Within this network were schools in which either Hebrew, Yiddish or Polish was the language of instruction, or two of these languages simultaneously.

Primary education in Poland was compulsory and the government supported or maintained the public school system. The Jews, however, were the only minority in Poland which had to support all its schools by its own resources. The Jewish schools in Radom were maintained by local committees and were compelled to request tuition fees. Most families found these fees beyond their means and were forced to send their children to the public schools. Nevertheless, the majority of Jewish children in Radom received an adequate Jewish education – some of them in day schools, others in supplementary schools.

In addition to the parents' desire to give their children a basic education in Jewish traditional subjects, there were some compelling reasons for the establishment of Jewish day schools: the public schools required attendance on Saturdays; Jewish pupils were usually subject to maltreatment and derision by the Polish students, which was tolerated by the anti-semitic teachers.

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The Frenkel School

Israel Frenkel laid the foundation for schools with pronounced national aims and for the cultivation of Hebrew as a modern language. In Frenkel's school, science and modern languages were taught along with Hebrew and Bible instruction. Frenkel's pioneering methods of education were later adopted in many communities throughout Poland. The school was maintained by private funds and only part of its three hundred students paid any tuition at all.

After Frenkel's death in 1890, the school was continued for some time by his students and followers such as: Shalom Diament, Pelta Muskatblit, Meir Maltzman, Samuel Weinberg, Jacob Potashnik, and Abraham Goldsobel.

 

Nursery Schools

The first kindergartens to be opened in Radom for Jewish children were those founded by Rachel Landau and Hannah Gostynska. Several more nursery schools were established later.

 

Primary Schools

One of the favorite day schools in Radom was “Shul-Kult”, identified with its principal, Isser Lipshitz. Partly supported by the School and Culture Association, its aim was to raise Jewish children in the tradition of their rich historic past combined with the current requirements of their surrounding life. The school was accredited by the Polish government and had a staff of state-approved teachers. Besides Polish, both Hebrew and Yiddish were languages of instruction.

The school was closed by the Nazis in 1939. Isser Lipshitz and his assistant, Jacob Hechtman, risked their lives by illegally continuing educational work in the Ghetto. Both were killed by the Germans.

There were several more primary schools in Radom, some privately owned, some maintained by political organizations such as the “Yavne” school of the “Misrachi” Religious-Zionists, or by citizens committees such as “Tvuna”, “Kultura”, “Chinuch” and others. An orthodox organization maintained a popularly attended supplementary school for girls in Radom, “Beth Yakow”; almost all the pupils of this institution attended regular public school as well.

 

Courses for Adults

Under the influence of the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement, which summoned the Jew to0 break away from spiritual isolation, Jewish men and women were earnestly seeking to get some secular education. Israel Frenkel's sons and his students Diament and Muskatblit organized free evening courses for adults, called “Sabbath School”, for in addition to instruction of the “three R's” on weekdays, the students attended classes in Hebrew and Bible on Saturdays. Because of lack of classrooms and teachers, the courses were limited to 120 persons.

Esther Melchior, one of the Haskalah pioneers in Radom, founded the Society for Advancement of Education, which also conducted free courses and lectures for adults.

 

School for Artisans

On the initiative of Ludwig Briliant and David Frenkel, the Artisans Club in Radom organized the “Israel Frenkel Artisans School”, with the specific aim of giving the young workers of Radom a general education, coupled with instruction in Hebrew and Jewish history.

 

Vocational Education

The “ORT” organization for vocational training, under the leadership of engineer Goldblum and Dr. Szenderowicz, maintained a state-approved trade school for boys and girls. There were departments for mechanics, carpenters, locksmiths and many other craftsmen. The girls between the ages of 14 to 18 were trained in sewing, dressmaking and related trades.

The nearly 100 children of Radom's Jewish Orphanage received vocational training in various trades, aside from the general curriculum of their day school.

 

High School “Przyjaciol Wiedzy”

The only Jewish high school was a source of great pride for the Jewish community in Radom. Named “Przyjaciol Wiedzy” (Friends of Knowledge), it was established in 1924 by a committee of parents and teachers headed by Yechiel Frenkel. It took over the premises and equipment of the former Temerson High School, which had to close its doors due to financial difficulties and lack of recognition by the parents for its assimilatory tendencies.

The newly established school joined the national network of Zionist schools, supervised by the Central Association of Jewish Schools with headquarters in Lodz. The bi-lingual Hebrew-Polish schools were known throughout the country for their excellent organization and high scholastic standards. The program was the same as in the government schools except for 12 additional hours weekly for Hebraic subjects. Both the general and the Hebraic curriculum were on a high level.

The peak enrollment in the high school was six hundred students. This was at a time of intense anti-Jewish excesses in state schools.

The high school had an outstanding faculty of

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well-trained teachers, many of whom were authorities in their field of instruction. Among them were: engineers Borenstein and Eisenberg (physics), Mrs. Bala Speisman-Goldberg and Rafael Holckener (mathematics), Messrs. Friedman and Schuetzer (Latin), Mrs. Pola Stieler (natural science), Miss Haber (history), Mlles. Rosen and Frenkel (German), Miss Gliksman (Polish), Miss Samgarten (social studies).

Hebrew subjects (grammar, literature, Bible, Jewish history) were taught by Pelta Muskatblit, Elchanan Schuetzer, Leib Milman, Dr. Grayewer, Isaac Wortsman and Joseph Korman.

The school principals were, in succession, Messrs. Einhorn, Zielinski, Russak and Hurwitz.

Most of the teachers were killed by the Nazis. Mrs. Stieler and Miss Gliksman are the only surviving members of the “Przyjaciol Wiedzy” faculty. The latter now lives in Poland. Mrs. Stieler, who was fortunate enough to emigrate with her family to Palestine in 1936, continues to teach in Haifa.

We wish to make special mention of the very able Isaac Schuetzer who, in addition to teaching Latin, held the government post of commissioner for the district of Radom, the highest position ever

 

The Last Class of “Przyjaciol Wiedzy” High School

rade025.jpg
This photograph was taken in 1936 on the occasion of Mrs. Stieler's emigration to Palestine
Back row, left to right, are: Sarah Neidik, Aaron Finkelstein, Nechama Koenigsberg, Ben Kleinman, Eda Margolis, Moshe Korman, Mrs. Pola Stieler, H. Swiatlo, Mrs. Bela Speisman-Goldberg (official class teacher), Hela Rosenzweig, Hela Abramowicz, Isaac Eichenbaum, M. Rosen, Ch. Weitzman, Isaac Aisenman.
Front row: Abram Gielberg, Joseph Weich, Joseph Landau, Alfred Lipson (Alter Lipshitz), David Goldberg, Joseph Rychtman, M. Steinberg. Only seven persons in this picture survived the war.

 

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emotion; long disrupted friendships were renewed. Mrs. Diament-Stieler, the only surviving teacher who attended the celebration, was moved to tears by the ovation given her by hundreds of her former students, now accomplished scientists, authors, professors and high-ranking officers in the Israeli armed forces.

The committee called upon all fellow alumni in other countries to affiliate themselves with the organization, in the tradition of their great school.

 

Gisser's School of Music

In 1917 Mr. F. Gisser established in Radom a school for music which grew, in the following years, to the status of a nationally recognized institution. Among its most talented students were Messrs. Backman, Tinowicki, Seidenshnir, Bialski, the Rubinstein brothers, Stelman and Glatt. The students gave frequent concerts in the city, which were considered major cultural events.

Several graduates of Gisser's school later achieved world fame as musicians.

Educational Circles and Clubs

 

“Hashomer” Scout Troup

Founded in 1912, it originally comprised Jewish boys and girls attending Polish high schools. Their aim was, aside from scouting activities, to counteract the assimilatory trends among Jewish youth by spreading Zionist ideals and knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish history.

Many members of the “Hashomer” group were among the first pioneers to arrive in Palestine in 1918. They were led by Chaim Rosenzweig (now Ben Menachem, the Postmaster General of Israel), Joseph Stieler, Chaim Rosenfeld, Rose Muskatblit, Hanka Weisman and Deborah Golembiowski.

 

Association of College Students

Restrictions against Jews in the Polish universities were one of the notorious features of Jewish life in Poland. The increasing discrimination and physical violence were a source of great hardships to hundreds of Jewish students, mostly graduates of the “Przyjaciol Wiedzy” high school. Many left the country to continue their studies abroad.

University students living in Radom numbering between 150 and 250 organized an association as part of the Zionist movement. The students strove to keep up with Jewish traditions, organizing lectures and discussions. As a group, they also hoped to resist the attacks of the Polish students.

 

Jewish Libraries

One of the largest libraries in town was the Zionist Library, organized before World War I. During the war, the building was requisitioned by the army and thousands of volumes were destroyed. In 1925 the library was reopened with over 7,000 volumes, mostly in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew.

The Artisans' Club had a library, which circulated about four thousand volumes, predominantly printed in Yiddish.

The “Hashomer Hatzair” scout organization maintained its own circulating library for youthful readers. Initiated in 1919, it was named the “Peretz Library”.

The “Bund” socialist party had its own library of Yiddish books, serving members of the party. The “Mizrachi” religious Zionists also had a circulating library for the benefit of their adherents.

As soon as they entered Radom, the Germans closed the Jewish libraries and later seized all books. These were for the most part destroyed.


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Radom's Contribution to Literature and Art

 

The Jews of Radom were proud of their distinction of having had an unusually large number of writers, poets and journalists, who contributed to Poland's reputation of being the world center of Jewish literature.

Following are brief biographies of Radom's foremost writers; excerpts from their works may be found beginning on page 219 of the Yiddish section of this book.

 

Joshua Perle

Perle was born in Radom in 1888 and began his writing career at the age of 16. His first attempts were at poetry in the Russian language and translations into Russian of Yiddish poems. In 1908 he published his first novel, “Sabbath”, and soon became one of the most productive and widely read Yiddish novelists of modern times.

Perle wrote dozens of novels depicting Jewish life in the large cities. In portraying his characters, Perle revealed a deep knowledge of the Jewish middleclass, especially Jewish women. The novel “Yidn Fon A Gantz Yor” is a tale of the author's childhood and adolescence in Radom; “Di Goldene Pave” is based on actual events and characters in Radom.

Joshua Perle's novels and essays have been read the world over and acclaimed as outstanding contributions to modern Jewish literature. He received several literary awards.

This distinguished author spent the war years in Lwow and Warsaw and died a martyr's death in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

 

Leib Malach

Born in Zwolen, near Radom, in 1894, Malach was a self-educated man who made a name for himself the world over as a talented playwright and poet.

He began his colorful career in Radom, where he lived from 1914 to 1922, as the founder and editor of the weekly magazine, “Radomer Zeitung”. He then emigrated to Argentina and led a passionate campaign among the Latin American Jews for a revival of Jewish cultural values. He organized libraries, delivered lectures and published the “Jewish Almanac” and a weekly, “Far Grois Un Klein”. Among his first major works were “Opfal”, a trilogy based on life in Warsaw, and a drama in four acts, “Ibergus”, depicting crime and white slavery in Buenos Aires.

Malach's numerous ballads and dramas, including plays for children, were published in book form. One of his most successful plays was “Mississippi”, presented on stage in Warsaw and New York. In 1930, his 600 page novel “Don Domingos Kreitzwek” was published in Wilno.

Leib Malach traveled extensively. Frequently analogies were drawn between Malach's career and that of the famed Russian writer, Maksim Gorki. Both died on the same day. Malach succumbed at the peak of his creativity in Paris in 1936, after an operation.

His widow, Lotti Malach, also a Radomer, now lives in Los Angeles, California; she is a teacher and an author in her own right.

 

Moshe David Gisser

Born in Radom in 1893 to a poor workman's family, Gisser struggled all his life for means of support. He was a talented poet, whose published works were widely praised by critics. Since 1924 he lived in Argentina and Chile and died in 1952.

Gisser's family now lives in Israel and carries on his literary tradition. His sons Uri and Robert write poetry in Hebrew and Spanish. Tamar, his 17-year old daughter, is also planning a career as a writer.

 

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Leo Finkelstein

Born in Radom in 1895, Leo Finkelstein studied literature and philosophy at the Krakow University. He started his writing career as a playwright in 1916, with two Polish-language dramatic plays. While in Warsaw, he became a leading literary critic; his essays and philosophical studies of modern Western literature were publish by both the Polish and Yiddish press. He lectured on literature and art and was on the executive board of the Union of Jewish Writers and Journalists.

At the outbreak of World War II, Leo Finkelstein escaped to the Soviet Union, where he suffered a great deal. After the war he settled in the United States, where he edited an anthology entitled “Yiddish Prose Between Two World Wars”. His major work, “Megillat Polen”, was published in Buenos Aires.

Leo Finkelstein died in New York on July 29, 1950.

 

I.L. Wollman

A man of many talents, Wollman excelled as an essayist and playwright. His musical comedy “The Straw Widower” had more than 300 performances on the Warsaw stage alone.

In 1924, I.L. Wollman emigrated to Palestine and was for many years correspondent for the Yiddish press in Poland, America, Canada, Latin America and South Africa. His home in Tel Aviv was the meeting place of the Jewish literary greats such as Bialik, Tschernihowski, Fichman and others.

 

Dr. Isaac Weinberg

He was born in Kozienice, near Radom, in 1878. A student of the Israel Frenkel school in Radom, he later attended many European universities and made a name for himself as an expert linguist, especially in classical languages and oriental dialects. Among his published works were studies of Coptic and Ethiopian manuscripts relating to early Christianity, which Weinberg translated into Latin and German. Dr. Weinberg also wrote several popular books on Greek and Roman literature.

Dr. Weinberg's contributions to Jewish literature were his translations into Yiddish of Oscar Wilde's stories and popular scientific essays, syndicated for both the Warsaw and New York Yiddish press. He had teaching posts at the universities of Berlin, Krakow and Warsaw. He died in the Warsaw Ghetto on July 19, 1941.

 

Rabbi Yeschaya Zlotnik

A leader in the “Mizrachi” Religious Zionist movement, Rabbi Zlotnik began his writing career with anthologies and commentaries on rabbinical literature. He was later known as author of his famous “lexicons” on Jewish humor, wisdom and folklore, and for his major works, “Jewish Ethics in Our Literary Heritage”.

Rabbi Zlotnik was a steady contributor and correspondent to the Jewish dailies in Warsaw, New York and Montreal.

Both Rabbi Zlotnik and his wife died as martyrs during the executive of intellectuals in Radom on Purim, 1943.

 

Samuel Bennet

A graduate of the Jewish High School in Radom, he later became a noted historian. His research ad publications on the history of the Jews in Poland drew the attention of Professor Meir Balaban. Bennet became Balaban's secretary and colleague; his works were published in both the Polish and Yiddish press.

Samuel Bennet edited together with Leib Malach, the first Jewish newspaper in Radom. He was also an ardent Zionist and member of the organization's Central Committee in Warsaw.

 

The Jewish Press in Radom

The first paper to be published in Radom was the weekly “Radomer Zeitung”, edited by Samuel Bennet and Leib Malach. It was later continued and improved by Pinchas Fogelman (now Gal, living in Tel Aviv) and was considered the official publication of the Zionists in Radom.

“Dos Radomer Leben”, which began publication around 1925, was a modern weekly with no party affiliation, published and edited by Meir Hertz.

“The Radomer Shtime”, another weekly, with a high ethical and literary standard, and was ably edited by Lazar Fishman (now living in Tel Aviv).

The “Trybuna”, published weekly in the Polish language during 1930's, was edited by S. Goldfarb. It distinguished itself by intelligent reporting and a serialized history of the Jews in Radom.

“Neie Winten”, a literary publication, was the testing ground for budding authors and journalists, many of whom later became contributors to national magazines.


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Yechiel Frenkel
A Portrait of a Civic and National Leader

 

Yechiel Frenkel, son of the famous scholar Israel Frenkel, was born in Radom in March 1883. His early studies were at his father's school and later with Prof. Dickstein in Warsaw. After receiving his high school diploma he attended the Sorbonne in Paris. His wife Ziporah came from the talented and scholarly Szwarc family. Her father, Isachar, was a known writer and Zionist leader in Zgierz, Poland. Her brothers were prominent in many fields: Samuel Szwarc of Lisbon, Portugal, a famous historian, Mark Szwarc of Paris, painter and sculptor of international repute, Symcha Szwarc, engineer in Haifa and Alexander Szwarc, chemist in Montreal.

For some years Yechiel was a teacher, but later became an accountant at the Bank of Riga in Radom, and was the first Jew to be a member of the Town Council. He was also interpreter at the District Court. In his last twelve years in Radom he was Director of the Johann Kohn furniture factory.

He was active in community work and particularly in Zionist causes. He was the founder of the “Young Zion” organization in 1902, and president of the Zionist Organization in Radom for thirty years. He was also chairman of the local and district committees for the Jewish National Fund, Palestine Foundation and the Palestine Office, as well as chairman of the board of Directors of the local high school. He was a delegate to all National Zionist Conferences and a member of the Central Committee of the Zionist Organization of Poland.

At the invitation of Usishkin he participated in the secret conference in Odessa, under conditions of great danger. He was a delegate to the following Zionist Congresses: Eighth Congress in The Hague in 1907, Twelfth Congress in Carlsbad in 1921, Fourteenth Congress in Vienna in 1925. He frequently served in important Congress committees. With the establishment of the Jewish Agency he was chosen a member of its council.

Yechiel Frenkel was a member of the Relief Committee of the American “Joint” during World War I, chairman (from 1921 to 1934) of the city councilmen from all progressive parties, the only Jewish member of the City Control commission, a member of the National conference of Polish Municipal Governments. In the years 1923-1931 he was president of the popularly elected Kehillah of Radom.

In 1935 he moved to Palestine, where he continued his welfare activities. He joined the Cultural Committee of the General Zionists in Tel Aviv as well as other community councils and organizations. He founded the “Association of Veteran Zionists”, the “Organization of Radomers in Israel”, the “Radom Loan Association” in Tel Aviv. He was also one of the leaders of the Union of Polish Jews in Palestine.

He was an avid and constant contributor to the Jewish, Hebrew and Polish press. He also translated many important works and published the exchange of letters between his father and Rabbi Mohilever, augmented with his own commentaries. He died in Israel October 7, 1953.

After Frenkel's death, his apartment on 6 Goldberg Street in Tel Aviv was turned into a meeting place for the Radomers in Israel and their spiritual center. Called “Beth Frenkel”, it contains his large library and offices of the Credit and Loan Association.

 

Excerpts from Tributes to Yechiel Frenkel

by Moshe Rotenberg:

…We found in him a constant teacher and guide. His presence at a meeting ensured that a solution would be found to our most difficult problems.

I now recall the multitude of Zionist and communal activities in which we engaged together throughout the years. He was bound to our Kehillah by the very threads of his life and labored unceasingly, body and soul, for its development and progress.

For three decades the Zionist Organization in Radom was completely identified with his name and deeds. I still remember the day when he was chosen as delegate to the Zionist congress at The Hague. Each day we received from him his interesting impressions and reports.

[Page 30]

He was the first to restore normal operation of the Kehillah after the First World War. Frenkel's name on the election ticket was enough to insure victory for the party he represented.

He was successful in securing many emigration certificates from the Central Palestine Office in Warsaw which held him in high esteem. Thanks to his efforts a significant number of Radomers could leave Poland before the war.

When in Palestine, he devoted all his energy to the welfare of his townspeople who settled there. He instilled in them a spirit of brotherhood. He was always ready to assist his fellow Jews, using frequently his wide influence and connections with personalities and institutions. In particular he did a great deal for the new immigrants by helping them to get adjusted and start a new life after the State of Israel was created. Rarely can we find an individual with such unselfish devotion to an ideal who would do so much for others, often beyond his physical strength.

 

by J.L. Zucker:

…He was a worthy son of his great father. A man of Torah and wisdom. Our honored teachers, a kind hearted comrade, an inspiring leader.

He was an aristocrat, yet one of the people. While he held many honorable and exalted offices, his relationship to the “man in the street” was one of friendliness and humane understanding.

When the survivors of the last war arrived in Israel he literally guided them through the streets of Tel Aviv in search of housing and jobs. Despite his failing health, he was always on his feet on a mission of assistance to those who needed him. He earned the respect and love of all of us.

 

by Rabbi Dr. S. Treistman:

…The blessed name of Yechiel Frenkel is an inspiration to all who remember him. They should follow in his way, learn from his example, follow his great deeds. He sacrificed himself for our land and our people. He was a Zionist not only in the Diaspora, but also in Zion. He strove until his dying day to lighten our lot in this new land of ours. May his memory live among us forever.

 

by Pinchas Gal (Fogelman):

…It was Frenkel's constant desire to draw the intellectuals into the Zionist camp. In his early career he felt hurt when the local Zionist youth group conducted a campaign against the assimilationists. In this controversy Frenkel proved himself as a tactful leader and a man of vision.

Aside from his great qualities as a community leader, we will remember him for his good heart, gentle manner and tolerant attitude toward his fellow men.

 

by L. Rychtman

…A top rank social leader, who initiated monumental institutions in Radom and in Israel, he was at the same time a man of great personal qualities and charming manner. He incorporated the highest ideals of humanity. He possessed a great store of goodwill towards men and tolerance for his opponents.

Radom's leader for several decades, he sacrificed the rest of his life to the welfare of his brethren in Israel.

We still carry in our hearts his good council and kindness.

 

by Shalom Stroftchinsky:

…Israel Frenkel's three sons inherited from their father no material wealth, but a legacy of high moral standards, unusual talents and missionary qualities.

The oldest son, David, was active in the Polish Socialist Party, which waged a war for Poland's independence from Tsarist Russia. Piotr joined the ranks of the Jewish socialist party “Bund”, the revolutionary movement of the Jewish masses. Both suffered considerably for their beliefs and were forced into exile. Upon their return to Radom during World War I both became leaders in the economic field and cooperative movement, in which they occupied positions of trust.

Yechiel devoted himself to the Zionist cause and to community affairs and was considered the spiritual heir of his father.

For a period of six years I had the opportunity to observe him closely as a colleague in the City Council. I admired his wisdom and courage in the face of growing bigotry and anti-Semitism.

Frenkel deserved our admiration during the distribution of limited amounts of visas to Palestine, a job entrusted to him. Yechiel was above petty party politics. He insisted: “It is our desire to facilitate Jewish emigration to Palestine, regardless of party affiliation. We will settle our differences there.”

There was another quality I admired in the Frenkel family. For nine years I lived as a boarder in David Frenkel's home. I was overwhelmed with their friendliness and admired the close family ties. Every time the brothers met – and they lived only a few blocks apart – they would greet and embrace each other with an outburst of love as if they had just returned from a long ocean voyage.

[Page 31]

by Shoshana Muskatblit-Cohen in “Al-Hamishmar”:

…He was the protagonist of an entire period in the history of Polish Jewry. He became a symbol of the Zionist movement and its strive for national independence.

A man of great compassion, he carried the burden of Jewish destiny on his shoulders.

 

by Dr. I.M. Grintz:

…In addition of love of Zion, Yechiel Frenkel inherited from his parents' house love of Torah. On his bookshelves I found, aside from German, French and Polish classics, a collection of Jewish traditional literature both in Hebrew and Yiddish.

 

by A.I. Brzezinski of the “Veteran Zionists”:

…He was able to raise funds from all over the world with the mere mention of his name. He was more than a personality; he was an institution.

Until his dying day he devoted himself to the welfare of the new settlers in Israel, and founded our organization to care for them.

 

by Israel Grintz in “Hatzofeh”:

…He was respected and loved not only by Jews but also by the Poles who saw in him a true leader and man of the people.

 

by J. Taubman of the Jewish National Fund:

…A great era in the history of Judaism ended with the death of Frenkel.


[Page 31]

Municipal Affairs

 

The Community Administration:[1]

The Jewish population of Radom was organized into a Kehillah (community), governed by a Council. Members of the Jewish Council were elected by the male taxpayers by secret ballot.

When the Polish Republic won its independence after World War I, the government issued a decree which incorporated the differing laws of the various Polish regions concerning the Jewish communities. The new decree regulated in detail the procedures governing the Kehillah, its functions and fields of operation.

Accordingly, the Kehillah was given the status of an autonomous institution, to which all Jews were obligated to belong. The Kehillah had the right to impose taxes on the Jewish population; in collecting the taxes, the Jewish Community was assisted by the municipal authorities. In addition to direct taxation, the Community derived its income from fees for ritual slaughter and cemetery services.

The funds were used by the Community to carry out the following tasks: maintenance of the rabbinate, synagogues, ritual baths and cemetery; the religious education of the youth; providing the Jewish population with Kosher meat, and the maintenance of the Jewish Hospital and charitable institutions. The budget of the Kehillah was subject to approval by the government.

The first post-war general and free election for a Community Council in Radom was held in 1924. The campaign was conducted along party lines and the results gave the Zionists an overwhelming majority. Yechiel Frenkel was elected Council President and Yacob Teitelbaum, Vice President. In accordance with the rules, the Council elected an Executive board with Joseph Kenigsberg as Chairman and Simon Mulier as Co-Chairman.

The new administration went to work vigorously to organize all aspects of Jewish community life and to rebuild its institutions, deteriorated by years of war. Considerable subsidies were approved for the maintenance of the high school, Talmud Torah, the Orphanage and Home for the Aged; a fund was established for interest-free loans to small business owners and tradesmen. The Social Welfare Committee worked out plans to coordinate all charitable institutions. The Education Committee prepared a program with a new curriculum to modernize the Jewish school system.

The activities of the Kehillah administration were hampered a great deal by its long-time preoccupation with the selection of a chief rabbi. The community was split into two opposing camps over the candidacy of Rabbi Yechiel Kestenberg. The conflict grew to enormous proportions and had an ill effect on the conduct of community affairs.

Subsequent elections for Radom's Community Council were declared voided by the supervising government authorities due to complaints by op-

[Page 32]

posing parties. Provisional administrations were headed, in succession, by Judge Joseph Beckerman, Sumner Adler and Mordechai Den.

Despite the lack of funds due to the effects of the economic depression of the 1930's, and the Polish government's discrimination against its Jewish citizens, the provisional Community Councils did their utmost to maintain all community institutions and even increase the extent of their activities. They organized vocational courses, distributed free food and fuel to the impoverished families. At the same time, the Council encouraged training of pioneers for the settlement of Palestine and established an award for talented Jewish writers.

The last election of Radom's Community council was held in May, 1938; Jonas Silberberg became Kehillah President. These were times of anxiety for the Jewish people, for they heard of the ruthless persecution of German Jewry by the Nazis. Polish-Jewish residents of Germany were forced to return to Poland and leave all their possessions behind. The Jewish Community of Radom raised funds and collected food and clothing for the unfortunate refugees. Many exiled families were brought to Radom and given shelter and employment.

As the blunt Nazi threats of war overshadowed everything else, the Jews knew their allegiance and contributed to the defense of Poland beyond the call of duty. The Jewish Council and Rabbi Kestenberg led patriotic campaigns aimed at strengthening the country's defenses.

 

Jewish Participation in the Municipal Government

The Polish Constitution guaranteed equal rights and representation to all its citizens, without regard to their religion or nationality. This, however, did not prevent the government from anti-Jewish discrimination. Anti-Jewish policies were also echoed by municipal governments, especially in the economic field.

Though the Jews generally constituted between thirty and fifty percent of the city dwellers, the voting system and apportionment of election districts were so devised as to greatly reduce the Jewish representation.

In comparison to the overall picture in Poland, Radom was considered to be an exception, by having a powerful Jewish representation in the municipal government. This was accomplished in a struggle that lasted for years and led by men devoted to the welfare of the community. Foremost among them were: Moshe Rothenberg, who ably represented the Jewish community as City Councilman for two decades, also serving some time as Assistant Mayor and Commissioner of Vital Statistics; Yechiel Frenkel, long-time chairman of the Jewish faction in the City Council and chairman of the City Control Commission; David Studnia and Abraham Finkelstein, devoted fighters for the rights of the Jewish workers, and others.

The Jewish councilmen generally cooperated with their colleagues of the Polish Socialist Party, the majority group in the city government, on all major issues and legislation; in exchange they received certain concessions on behalf of the Jewish community. Thus they were able to gain subsidies for Jewish welfare institutions and to secure employment for Jews on public works. Thanks to their efforts, the city maintained two public schools for Jewish children with no classes on Sabbaths, and included Jewish children in the summer camp program. More than two Jews held Civil Service office jobs in the municipal government in Radom, an unprecedented occurrence in Poland during the two decades between the world wars.

Hard times set in for the Jews in the late 1930's. Anti-semitic excesses reached their peak; the Polish press carried slogans, imported from Nazi Germany, suggesting a “solution of the Jewish problem.” The Jewish councilmen now faced hostile opposition in the city government. Their struggle was no longer for economic equality, but for actual existence. They demanded police protection against hoodlums in the streets and parks, the removal of anti-Jewish posters from city billboards.

The last municipal elections were held in April, 1939. Out of a total of 48 council members, only 10 were elected on the Jewish tickets. The new administration never took office, for on September 8th of that year the Nazis occupied Radom.

Typical of the subjects that preoccupied the Polish press in the weeks preceding the collapse of the Polish Republic, is the following excerpt from “Wieczor Warszawski,” a Warsaw newspaper, dated May, 1939.:

“The Socialists, who up to now have held a monopoly in the city government of Radom, suffered a decisive defeat in the recent elections. The Catholic organizations were the winners.

“The newly elected council did not convene because of alleged irregularities in the election. It is believed that the state will reject the protests and approve the new council.

A spokesman for the United Catholic faction said that the group will demand at the first session:

“To discharge all Jews from municipal posts;

“To cancel all subsidies to Jewish institutions;

“Not to employ any Jews in city plants and public works;

“To dismiss the Jewish doctors from city and school clinics.”


[Page 33]

Pogrom in Przytyk[2]

 

Jewish Community in Armed Resistance Against Anti-Semitic Bands

The Nazi holocaust overshadowed many years of persecution in Poland prior to World War II. Time and again Jewish men and women were forced to defend themselves against well-organized and armed Polish groups, who attacked Jewish homes under cover of night, or sometimes in broad daylight, with tacit approval of local authorities. These instances of heroic resistance to their oppressors were surpassed only by the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The events of 1936 in the town of Przytyk were outstanding examples of the Jews' struggle in defense of their lives, property and dignity.

The small town, located on the outskirts of Radom, had a long history of Jewish settlement, dating back to the Middle Ages. As a matter of fact, Jews lived in Przytyk even before they were permitted to take up residence in Radom. Later, Przytyk was still the communal center of the Radom Jews, who were denied the right to establish their own synagogue and cemetery. It was also the nearest place where Jews from Radom could obtain kosher food.

In modern times only a few hundred Jewish families lived in Przytyk, mostly artisans and merchants, supplying the needs of the surrounding peasant population; they lived in harmony with their Christian neighbors for many generations.

 

Economic Measures

In the years preceding World War II, the Polish government, partly under the influence of the Nazi ideology spreading like an epidemic in the hearts of Europe, embarked on a policy of economic strangulation of its Jewish citizens. State authorities encouraged boycott and picketing of Jewish stores by hooligans and members of the National Democratic Party, the Polish counterpart of the German National Socialists.

 

Reign of Terror

Picketing proved of little effect, for the Polish population was accustomed to trading with the Jews who, as city dwellers, were the major consumers of the former's products. In most cases the farmers, in their own interest, refused to obey the Jew-haters and continued to patronize Jewish merchants. The anti-semitic bans then turned to violence as a means of isolating the Jews. On market days they would incite riots and demolish and loot Jewish stores, under the very eyes of the local police who were instructed not to interfere. The gangs constantly terrorized both the Jews and the farmers. They set up roadblocks around town and forcibly collected levies from farmers who insisted on bringing their products to market.

By early 1936, the town of Przytyk and its surrounding villages were under a reign of terror. Many Jews were beaten and wounded. The police arrested the victims only, on the grounds of “provoking disturbances.” A Jewish delegation went to the District Chief in Radom to plead for protection. However, they were chided for exaggerating the situation. “I have no reason to intervene as long as no one is being killed,” he replied indifferently.

Such a statement by an official representative of the government stunned the delegates. Joined by several prominent leaders of the Jewish Community in Kielce, the delegation appealed to the provincial government to take preventive measures in view of an impending catastrophe. They received the same evasive answer.

By March of 1936 it was clear that the mobs were preparing an all-out attack against the Jews. Encouraged by the passive attitude of government officials, the anti-semitic bands were recruiting hoodlums and arming them with axes, knives, iron bars and pipes, ready to strike at the next opportune moment.

 

Pogrom – March 9, 1936

Rumors had it that the nationalist bands were planning the attack for the next market-day.

The day came, laden with suspense. Most of the Jews, aware of the thousands of farmers and axe-

[Page 34]

rade034.jpg

[Page 35]

carrying thugs in town, deciding to stay off the streets and avoid a clash. The banks were getting impatient and eager to create an incident.

A group of young Jewish men met secretly to discuss the situation. Certain that the police could not be relied upon for protection, they decided to fight in self-defense and use all available means to protect Jewish life and property should the bands attack.

Surely enough it came – with war-like shouts of “Kill the Jews!”

 

Jewish Resistance

Many Jews ran for cover and bolted their home and shop doors. Others stayed outside and fought with their bare hands the onrush of armed, savage hoodlums. The defenders were soon joined b y many Jews, old and young: bearded scholars, students with ear-locks, all with fiery looks and iron fists, determined not to let the story of Kisheniev pogroms repeat itself.

This was an outpour of anger and despair, accumulated over a thousand years of oppression. It reached its boiling point in the streets of Przytyk and resulted in this determined and courageous stand. To the attackers, this fierce resistance of bearded Jews was an unexpected turn of events. They became frightened and fled in confusion. The Jews pursued them to the far outskirts of town.

It was a sight to behold; a few scores of Jews chasing a far greater number of robust Poles, armed with murderous tools, out of Przytyk.

But this sight did not please the police, hitherto hidden near the town-line, and this time they decided to intervene – in behalf of the bandits. With drawn pistols they forced the Jews back to town.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the day. Enraged by their defeat, the bands organized reinforcements from the surrounding villages, and into Przytyk marched a bloodthirsty mob of thousands, like a herd of wild beasts. With the blessing of the police they smashed windows and broke into Jewish homes, trampled and demolished everything in sight, and mercilessly beat Jewish men, women and children. Amidst the piercing cries of the helpless victims, several gunshots were heard. Stanislaw Wiesniak, one of the brutal hoodlums, laid dead among the severely wounded young Jewish men.

The news that a Pole was killed spread quickly. The policemen arrived at the scene and joined the hoodlums in beating the Jews, including women and children, destroying house after house and plundering Jewish property. The Jews made a desperate effort to defend themselves, but were overwhelmed by the multitude and savagery of the attackers.

 

The Victims

On the outskirts of Przytyk stood the isolated little house of the poor cobbler Joseph Minkowski. He lived there with his wife Haya and four small children. The wild mob broke into the house and killed Minkowski with an axe in the presence of his family. One of the madmen cut off his ears with a hatchet after his death, while others attacked his wife with axes. The children miraculously escaped, two of them severely wounded while trying to shield their mother. Haya Minkowski died the following day in a Radom hospital.

The Radom Jewish community learned of the tragedy only after a group of over 20 seriously wounded was brought to a Radom hospital for treatment, and only then did the government dispatch a detachment of police to restore…order. The Jews of Radom were in a state of shock upon hearing the news of the massacre. Hundreds of refugees streamed into Radom from Przytyk. The pogrom leaders had threatened to renew the violence despite the presence of police reinforcements.

The funeral services for the Minkowskis turned into a demonstration of protest and indignation. Over ten thousand Jews of Radom marched behind the biers of the martyrs. A proclamation was issued, warning the local fascists that the Jews of Radom will not stand idle if the attacks are repeated.

The events in Przytyk shocked the entire Jewish population of Poland and were interpreted as the initial stage in an all-out attack by the Polish fascists on the rights, property and very lives of Jewish citizens. All Jewish parties and rival factions were united in a common front against the ruthless enemy. A general strike was declared. In all of Poland, in every town and village, Jews stopped their work and closed their shops as an expression of mourning and protest.

 

The Trial

After a brief investigation, the authorities arrested and put to trial seventeen Poles and fourteen Jews for disturbing the peace, resisting police officers ad inciting to riot. Shalom Lesko was indicted for shooting and killing Stanislaw Wiesniak. Several Poles were indicted for killing the Minkowskis. All defendants pleaded not guilty.

The National Democrats recruited for the defense of their band Poland's most infamous anti-semitic lawyers. To the defense of the Jews came very prominent Jewish trial lawyers, aided by a group of Polish liberal attorneys who felt it was their duty to speak up unequivocally against the forces of

[Page 36]

reaction. The trial in Radom was widely reported in the world press. The indictment of the fourteen Jews from Przytyk was considered an indictment of the Jewish people of Poland as a whole, an attempt to deprive them of their right to self-defense and of their right to earn a living. The presiding judge conducted the proceedings in a fair manner; he frequently spoke up against “un-Christian acts of violence.” This had given the Jews some hope of a just verdict.

 

The Verdict

The court's verdict came as another shock. It was interpreted as an open denial of the Jews' right to self-defense and as an official encouragement to excesses against Jews. It was later reported that the presiding judge pronounced the verdict after he went to Warsaw in person to get instructions from the government.

The defendants accused of murdering the Minkowskis were freed for lack of evidence…The rest of the pogrom-participants were given light suspended sentences, ranging from six months to one year. Shalom Lesko and three others were given jail sentences up to eight years for carrying weapons. The remaining Jewish defendants were sentenced to jail terms up to ten months for organizing a self-defense unit.

***

Inspired by the Przytyk events, the poet Mordechai Gebirtig wrote The Village in Flames[3]
Following is an excerpt, as adapted by Sarah Feinstein:

Alas, the village's in flames,
Hurry, brothers, help in heaven's name Evil winds and tongues of fire
Rage in fury and in ire,
They are leaping even higher.
Don't forsake us now!
We are woebegone and carry
Bodies wracked with pain
If your helping hand should tarry
All will be in vain.

 


Footnotes
  1. Both this and the following chapter on the Municipal Government are based on a detailed report written by Mr. Moshe Rothenberg of Israel. Return
  2. The chapter on Przytyk is based on a detailed report compiled in Yiddish by Mr. Joshua Rothenberg of New York. Return
  3. From the book Fury and Flame published by the Jewish Education Committee of New York. Return

 

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