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[Page 3]

Foreword and Pre-Holocaust Period

 

Foreword

These memoirs and articles, which have been included in this book, were written some years ago; however they have not lost their relevance to today because they tell about the martyred death of our Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) community. Although ten years have passed since their [Jews of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn)] annihilation, for us it seems as if it happened only yesterday. They will be eternally engraved in our memory. These memoirs and articles, which were written with grief and tears, will forever remind us of our beloved and dearest ones, who were so tragically and ruthlessly wiped from the earth.

For financial reasons we delayed the publication of the book, and then we had a visit from one of the daughters of our town, the esteemed Mrs. Chaye-Leye Sender Khelkhovski from America, the daughter of the now resting Borukh Khelkhovski blessed be his memory[1], and the sister of the now resting Avrom Yehoshua Khelkhovski, Z.L. – the Hebrew teacher of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn). She made it possible that this book, "The Destruction of the Jewish Community of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn)," should see the light of day.

Mrs. Chaye-Leye Sender Khelkhovski contributed the largest portion of the funds necessary to put out this book.

I believe that all former Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) inhabitants throughout the world, and not only those who reside in the Land of Israel, are very grateful to Mrs. Chaye-Leye Sender Khelkhovski for her fine deed helping to erect a monument to our dear and beloved ones.

While we were preparing to put out the Yizkor Book[2] a years ago, we turned to our fel1ow townspeople all over, requesting-that they send us obituaries of their families and a list of names of those who had been killed. unfortunately only a small number of the remaining survivors spoke up and responded, and So, in order that there should not be any complaints the committee decided to put out the yizkor Book in a small format, and not to publish any obituaries.


[Page 7]

Jews in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Until Their Destruction

Skubelski, Yeshiah

We often ask ourselves this question: Why do we feel compelled to write and talk so much about the small shtetl[3]of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) which has ceased to exist as a Jewish settlement?

There is a simple answer to this question: We must not forget that there, in that Polish town, was a Jewish community which was destroyed and wiped out by the Germans and their Polish anti-Semitic collaborators. We will never forget the rich Jewish life there, which existed over hundreds of years. Each time when we – the children of that community – assemble, we recall our most cherished and dearest friends and family with whom we were raised, with whom we spent the best years of our youth learning together in the khedorim[4], yeshivas[5] and schools, later in organizations, and so on for scores of years, for better or for worse until fate led each one along a different path. Some meanwhile, had the privilege to leave the shtetl and wander in the greater world. Others realized that great dream of settling the Land of Israel; and thanks to that, saved themselves from the Jewish extermination by the Germans. It is our task-we who have survived-to immortalize through memories recorded, those who remained behind and tragically ended their lives on that path, at the height of development of Jewish life in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn).

In the following additional lines I would like to give a brief survey of the town, in sacred memory of those who died there, as well as to serve future generations.

Not far from the then German border lies the shtetl Shtutsin (Szczuczyn), 14 kilometers from Grayeve (Grajewo) and 21 kilometers from Stavisk (Stawiski), on the way to Lomsa (Lomza). Jews there engaged mainly in commerce and trade. All businesses were Jewish. Only a few were of Christian proprietorship. Two days in the week were market days: Tuesdays and Fridays. The peasants came to these fairs with their products: eggs, chickens, butter, potatoes and so forth, and sold them to the Jews. With the money they receivedthe peasants would buy from the Jews: clothes, drink and the like. Life went on in this manner until Hitler came to power. Anti-Semitism grew stronger and commerce was taken out of Jewish hands.

There were two Houses of Study in Szczuczyn: the new House of Study on Vesaler Street, and the old one in the newer section – a large synagogue with a beautiful Holy Ark.

Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) was famous for the Gaon[6], Rabbi Yosele, blessed be his sacred memory[7], whose activities on behalf of the community are well familiar to the older generations. Following his death, people threw notes upon his grave [as is the custom for a great person]. Today there is no sign even of his, or other graves, in the cemetery. The Poles plowed the cemetery and planted potatoes there.

After the demise of Rabbi Yosele, Z.TS.L., the community council turned to his son Rabbi Lie Chaim, Z.TS.L., and requested that he take over the rabbinate; however he turned it down. Later the Vishniever Rabbi was chosen, Rabbi Eliyohu Tsvi Efron, Z.TS.L.. He, together with all of the Szczuczyner influential men were led to the cemetery and there tortured.

Before anti-Semitism infested the shtetl, Jews had felt like their own masters and prided themselves with their Yiddishkayt[8]. Everything had been open to the Jews: City Hall, government institutions and all other offices. Szczuczyn's municipal government had 24 councilors; of these, 16 were Jews and 8 were Poles. There were 3 Jewish clerks working at city hall. These aldermen were: Hillel Ber Sheynberg Z.L, Avrorn Chone Finkelshtayn Z.L., and also, may he live a long life, Borukh Fishl Zeml.

The Jewish alderman in the courts, my unforgettable father Avrom Chaim Skubelski Z.L., worked together with Polish judges on trials and investigations. His proxy was Slutsky Hersh.

******

Education held priority in Jewish cultural life. There were 3 private khedorim where the children were taught in a religious atmosphere. There were also public religious educational institutions like the Talmud Torah and the yeshiva. Children of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) parents, as well as those from the neighboring shtetls, studied there. The visiting children took their meals in the homes of wealthier families. Both Torah institutions were sustained by donations and financial funding from the Kehillah[9] and the municipal government.

The modern school also held a place in Jewish Szczuczyn. There was a kheyder metukin[10]and a Hebrew school, which were run by Yehoshua Khelkhovski Z.L .. Some Jewish children studied at the Polish trade school, referred to as one of the 'shabosnikes'. The school was attended by exclusively Jewish Children and therefore closed on the Sabbath. Velvl Bergshtayn Z.L., was in charge of the Polish school.

The Zionist organization, B'nai Zion (Sons of Zion), conducted a wide reaching cultural campaign. Their meeting place housed a reading room and a library with books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish. Evening courses were held there and one could study Hebrew, Jewish history and literature, Palestinian geography and English. Zilbershtayn the Hebrew teacher took care of these classes. Borukh Fishl Zeml was the chairman of the Zionist organization.

Aside from the general: Zionist organization, there were also a number of Zionist youth groups such as: Hertsaliah, Hechalvts (Pioneer), Hashomer Hatsir (Guardian of the Youth), and Hechalvts Mizrachi (Pioneer of the East).

The entire Zionist movement of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) participated in the work to settle Israel. They Collected money for Kerin Kayemet (Eternal Fund Committee for Israel), Kerin Hayisud (Establishment Fund Commission of the Zionist Organization), and took part in all Zionist activities. The Zionists had their representatives in the Jewish community, the city council and other institutions. in 1925 large groups emigrated from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) to Israel. In the same year a training program was held- for Hechalvts, in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and its environs. There were 150 participants, men and women, from cities nearby such as: Lomsa (Lomza), Ostrolenka (Ostroleka), Zambrov (Zambrow), Grayeve (Grajewo), Ugostov (Augustow) and others. The youngsters carried out their training with those who owned land in the area, and were later certified to emigrate to Israel.

The Jewish workers had their organizations and cultural institutions as well. Much political activity was carried on by the Bund (Jewish Socialist party), the left Poaley Zion (the Socialist Zionists), and the Communists (illegal in Poland) The Peretz library, with many Yiddish and Polish books, was a leading cultural center, and arranged lectures, readings and fund-raising evenings.

There was also a general drama circle to which belonged many young people from all the parties. Chaim Leyzer Bergshtayn and Motl Penzukh were in charge of the drama group. They performed various plays and the admission charges would go to Lines Hatsedek, Gmilos Khasadim[11] and other worthy causes. The Lines Hatsedek group which aided poor sick people see doctors, receive medications and basic financial support, had been operating since 1916.

******

In 1922 an interest-free loan fund was established, which gave loans to those who needed: small merchants , artisans and the general public, irregardless of their political directions.

This was Jewish life in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) until the Hitler hordes descended on Poland and destroyed the Jewish shtetls. Szczuczyn, that sacred community, was wiped away by the German murderers. We will never forget our closest and cherished ones – the martyrs of Szczuczyn.


[Page 40]

The Cooperative Bank in Szczuczyn

Borukh Fishl Zeml

At the beginning of 1926 a Jewish cooperative bank was founded by Borukh Fishl Zeml and Alter Bibliovits Z.L.. The bank was part of the Association of Jewish Cooperatives in Poland. its development and success was swift. In a short while it grew to 350 members (families) from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and from the surrounding closer shtetls Vanses (Wasosz) and Radzilove (Radzilow). Every member received a small loan at a low interest rate. This was important income for the members, for merchants and artisans. It was particularly helpful for the artisan because with this income of a few hundred zlotes, which was then a large sum of money, he could buy up raw materials, work them, and afterwards in the season, sell the goods at the fairs

The bank had at its disposal 25,000 zlotes which it had accumulated with time at a small percentage rate from the Association of Cooperatives in Poland. The bank also received savings from the city inhabitants, as much as seven thousand dollars, zlotes as well.

Aside from loans all financial transactions, such as payments and the crediting and collection of promissory notes, were managed through the bank. The bank gained the confidence of the entire Jewish population and took care of everything promptly and accurately.

The bank was managed by a committee of 3 persons and a board of 6. All members of the board and the committee worked without material compensation.

The last years before the War, because of the overall bad condition for Jews in Poland, because of boycotts against Jews – especially in our area – the bank, ceased to exist. All savings and debts were paid back.


Footnotes

1. When the name of a deceased person is mentioned the Yiddish speaker adds-Zekher Levrokhoh (blessed be his memory). Because this appears often in the text it will be designated by the abbreviation Z.L.- a transcription of the Yiddish abbreviation.
2. A book commemorating the dead. Yiddish terms having no equivalent in the English language will be transcribed, underlined and explained in a footnote if necessary.
3. The Jewish town with a market place at its center.
4. The traditional Jewish religious elementary school.
5. School of higher Talmudic learning
6. A rabbi renowned for his brilliancy in Jewish law.
7. Zekher Tsadik Levrokhoh (blessed be the memory of this righteous person). Used after the mention of a deceased important person. Will be designated by the abbreviation – Z.TS.L.
8. Jewishness.
9. The organized Jewish community.
10. A reformed kheyder which taught a wider variety of subjects including those of a more worldly nature.
11. An institution which saw to the provision of interest-free loans.

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