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[Page 767]

The Survivors of Zgierz


[Page 769]

Our Fellow Townsmen after the Holocaust

by W. Fisher

(A survey)

The Desolate Hometown

When the meager remnants of the Zgierz survivors, liberated from the death camps, dragged themselves alive to their native city – they could no longer find a home there. There was not one trace left of Jewish life; sections of the Jewish neighborhoods lay in ruins or were completely torn down; the synagogue and Beis Midrash – the central holy sites for the Jewish community – had been burnt by the Germans; the earth upon which they had once stood so reverently – now lay in shame, ploughed up and destroyed in accordance with the lament of the prophet: “Zion will be ploughed like a field”… (Jeremiah 26:18). The cemetery that had for generations so closely bound up the current generation with their forbears had been completely covered over with earth – it was no more. A cold strangeness blew from the houses, streets and alleyways. The former Jewish windows, from which the peaceful joy of the Sabbath and festivals would shine in former times, now grieve over the destruction.

How would it be possible, people thought to themselves: is it possible to continue Jewish life here, on this soil?

From time to time, old images appear on the street… The survivors for the most part were ill, physically broken and spiritually spent. They were living scraps. They were desperately in need of assistance – medical, social, moral. The refugees who had returned from Russia were in a somewhat better state. There as well, Zgierz lost a significant portion of its Jews. Therefore it was natural that it was from those repatriations that the first temporary Jewish assistance committees in Zgierz were formed.

I wish to mention here the open and warm home of Aharon and Dina Zeidel – who were themselves saved in a bunker on the Aryan side, near Warsaw. They were among the first to return to Zgierz. Many refugees enjoyed a meal and a warm bed at their home. During the first days and weeks, this house was a center for visits and meetings. Who did not visit there at the time? The committee was set up in that house, and Mrs. Zeidel served as a secretary. The following people also belonged to the committee: A. D. Grand (chairman), Itshe Zelgow, Feivish Moszkowicz, Gershon Benet, Yosef Korczej, Grynbaum (of Riga), Shlomo Przedworski, Mrs. Jakubowicz, the writer of these lines, and others.

The tasks of the committee were dictated by the needs of the moment. A two room dwelling in Taubert's house was restored for the new arrivals. A second place was set up as a communal free kitchen. The kashruth was supervised by the Hassidic youths Yosef Korczej and Shlomo Przedworski. Clothing that we obtained from the Lodzer regional committee, as well as food parcels, were provided to those in need.

Naturally, the ill were given first priority in the assistance activities. The city physician Wansowicz, who was put at our disposal, displayed a great deal of sympathy and took interest in his former patients. Many ill people were restored to health by him.

An important area of activity of the committee was assisting those who attempted to repossess their former dwellings. Through our connections with the city administration, the generally complex process was made easier. The committee also assisted in those areas that were now once again under control of the Polish authorities.

The committee set up a prayer hall in another home. This meant that, despite everything, we continued in the ways of our fathers, and bound ourselves, from the distance, with the lot of our people. The memorial gatherings and anniversary of the expulsion from Zgierz were also conducted in that prayer hall. Zgierzers from Lodz and other places would come to such events.

Within a brief period of time, approximately 30-40 refugee families succeeded in obtaining employment in various workplaces in Zgierz or Lodz. Mention should be made of the initiative of some weaving guilds to set up a weaving cooperative in Zgierz, which developed well and served as a source of livelihood for several families.

Already in the first year after returning to the devastated home, the majority of the returnees had succeeded in finding employment in various enterprises, albeit in a temporary fashion. I say temporary because, despite the spontaneous and natural joy of remaining alive, many of the survivors nurtured hopes of better times, and the majority of them did not believe that a Jewish community could be set up on that blood soaked earth and deathly hateful surroundings. That pessimistic thought was painfully strengthened in the Jewish frame of mind after the murderous pogrom in Kielce [1]. Suddenly, things once again seemed lawless and insecure, especially in the smaller cities. There were terrifying shadows in the evenings… Anyone who was able to do so moved to Lodz, which was at the time the “metropolis” of the survivors of Polish Jewry. Those of the destroyed cities and towns who survived began there to seek each other out and form “Landsmanschaftn” [2], so that they could maintain their communal existence, even symbolically.

The Landsmanschaft in Poland

Since the majority of Zgierz Jews found their place of refuge in Lodz and reestablished their lives there, it became clear that Lodz should be the center of communal and social assistance activity for the benefit of the Jews of Zgierz. They occupied themselves particularly with the dozens of repatriated families who moved along with the Russian troops straight to Lower Silesia – to the cities of Dzierzoniow, Walbrzych, Wroclaw and others – and were in need of immediate assistance.

In January 1947, the founding meeting of the Zgierz Landsmanschaft in Poland took place in one of the rooms of the Lodz Jewish regional committee. After the stirring memorial for the four and a half thousand murdered Jews of Zgierz, the discussion focussed upon the current situation and our severe problems, which required immediate solutions. A committee was chosen, consisting of: L. Weinstein (chairman), Engineer H. Gibralter (vice-chairman), Mrs. Dora Frogel and V. Fiszer (secreteries), Bialystocki (treasurer), Szerakowski, Z. Fogel, M. Akerman, M. Srebnik, Y. Cincinatus and M. Glazer.


{Photocopy on page 772: A call to the natives of Zgierz that appeared in Lodz in 1947, regarding the collection of material for a memorial book to the community of Zgierz. As follows:}

APPEAL
To All Zgierz Natives!

One of our important tasks that we have taken on is to create and publish a book that, aside from the memorial segment, will serve as a general historical overview of the Jewish community in Zgierz from its inception until its cruel destruction, that is until the terrible expulsion from Zgierz on December 24, 1939.

This book will display the entire creative Jewish live of our city in all of its manifestations: economic and cultural, social and religions, educational and communal. This book rescue from forgetfulness and oblivion all of those who, with their foresight, energy, industriousness and culture, forged the spiritual character of Zgierz Jewry, and caused it to spread out far beyond the borders of the city in a glorious and exemplary fashion.

We cannot neglect to mention here at least some of those noble personalities that our city gave to the Jewish world. These include such Gaonim, writers and scholars such as: the first rabbi of the city (known to everyone as the “Alter Tzadik”), the last rabbi of Zgierz (the author of “Sefer Hatchuna”), David Friszman, Yaakov Kahn, Tovia Lipszitz (the author of “Nitfei Tal”). As well, there were such unique people as: [3], Moshel Eiger and many, many others, who, with their spirit and culture, influenced not only the community of Zgierz, but also a great part of Polish Jewry.

Finally, the book must serve as a symbolic mass grave for the former pulsating, industrious and culturally creative life of our thriving community, which was so mercilessly destroyed and annihilated by the Hitlerist murderers.

Unfortunately, we do not have the appropriate material that is needed to conduct that task. We also realize that the city archives were severely damaged during the occupation, to the point that no documents or chronological data about the Jewish settlement in Zgierz can be obtained from there. As well, all of the Jewish libraries, communal archives and private collections of documents have been plundered. Even the gravestones were broken and carried off by the despicable people. Therefore, our work is quite difficult. We must start anew.

We therefore turn to you, natives of Zgierz, wherever you are found, with our warm appeal:

Help us in our difficult, responsible, and very important task!

Send to our address:

Sz. Frogel, Lodz, Gdanska 44 m. 14
All kinds of material that is related to the Jewish life in Zgierz, such as: notices, documents, statistics, information about important events, memories, articles, photographs, etc. Inform us about Zgierz personalities in the Zionist movement, workers' movements, as well as in the Hassidic and scholarly world. Write us about organizations; institutions; groups; unions; clubs, kloizes; dramatic, musical and artistic circles – even those which did not exist in the latter period, such as “Hazamar”; the Yagdil Torah Yeshiva, and others. Write about a slice in time in Zgierz culture, social, industrial, factional, communal and sport life that is known to you.

Give every contribution and brick to build the literary monument in memory of the destroyed Jewry of Zgierz.

Lodz, October 1947:

The committee of the Zgierz Landsmanschaft in Poland

020522 x. 622

{Photo page 773: the first meeting of the Zgierz Natives after the liberation, in Lodz, January 1947.}

From among the important decisions that were taken at that time, two were of ethical-moral and social significance: a) to recognize and uphold the day of the expulsion of Zgierz (15th of Tevet) as the day of mourning and memorial for all of those who came from Zgierz; b) to publish a book that will perpetuate the memory of the exterminated Jewish community.

The committee understood the full seriousness and great responsibility needed to conduct all of their difficult tasks under exceptional circumstances and abnormal times. However, everyone at the time felt and attempted to fulfil their fateful duty with their full heart and dedication. Thanks to this, almost all of the decisions and tasks were able to be realized during the years of 1947-1949. We only mention a few:

A group of women would participate willingly and intensively on the day of the various communal events and assistance activities – headed by the indefatigable and industrious Dora Frogel.

{Photo page 774: A Chanukah party for the Organization of Zgierz natives, which took place in Lodz, 1947, at the home of A. Boaz.}

In order to encourage and cheer up the gloomy mood, from time to time a gathering or party was organized in private homes over a glass of tea, sometimes in Lodz and sometimes in Zgierz. The survivors would tell over their miracles of being saved from death, and others would sing songs from former days that would evoke tears, and at times also joy and hope. Some of these gatherings were arranged around special occasions, such as festivals or other days of celebration. At such times, the significance of the day would also be discusses.

A particularly difficult albeit important job was the returning of the gravestones to the cemetery. Engineer Henryk Gibralter was particularly involved with this. In the name of the managing committee, he arranged that the plastered over gravestones be taken from the civic places and brought back to their former place. This effort lasted for several weeks, and was performed by youth of Zgierz industriously and with goodwill, as a holy task.

The chief task of the committee in those years was the fencing of the cemetery – a responsible and costly job. It was the warm and devoted desire of the surviving Zgierz Jews that the place that was sanctified for generations should be fenced in and protected from desecration by barbarians. The committee selected a special commission to conduct the work as quickly as possible. The contributions to this end were intensive and made with goodwill. Various appeals and fundraising events were also conducted.

After a year of strenuous work, the day of the reconsecration of the fenced in Zgierz cemetery took place. It was Sunday, 22nd of Elul, the first day of Selichot [4] 5607 (September 7, 1947). This event was combined with a general memorial service for the martyrs of Zgierz. The powerful, emotional speech by Aharon Cincinatus left an unforgettable mark upon all of the participants. This was a historic day for the Holocaust survivors of Zgierz, who gathered together from all over Poland for the first time after the war.

{Photo page 775: Holocaust survivors are re-erecting gravestones in the cemetery. The Germans had used these gravestones to pave sidewalks in Zgierz.}

{Three photos page 776: Re-fencing the cemetery of Zgierz after the liberation (22 Elul, 5607, September 7, 1947).}

{Photo page 777: The Committee of Zgierz Natives in Poland after the liberation. From right: Z. Fogel, V. Fiszer, M. Glazer, Y. L. Weinstein, Mrs. Dora Frogel, Bialystocki, H. Gibralter, M. Sribnik, Sczaranski, Y. Cincinatus.}

The Beginning of the Yizkor Book

One of the most important tasks that was begun at that time, but was not able to be acted upon for various reasons was the preparations for publication of the Yizkor Book. We managed only to collect material that was related to the history and development of the Zgierz Jewish community. We searched in the archives of Zgierz and the Lodz civic archives for any document that was related to Jewish Zgierz. The fruits of that effort, which went on for several months, were bountiful.

In that year (1948), Poland was already blowing with the malicious winds of the Stalinist regime. All communal efforts, particular Jewish ones, including charitable efforts, came under political control. We heard about searches of the residences of communal or political activists, which cast a pall over the already terrified Jews. We distanced ourselves from open communal work, and we even removed from our houses any material or document that could be seen as connected to communal or Zionist activity. Thus did the record collecting activity of the Zgierz Holocaust survivors go up in smoke… At the same time, the rumors and the hazy information about the creation of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel began to crystallize – the 2,000 year dream of the return to Zion. Here is not the place to discuss the stormy feelings of the Holocaust survivors when the independent Jewish State in our old homeland was established. Youths who had so recently returned from the death camps, the Siberian taigas or from the Polish military units, went to help the people against the Arab invaders by any possible means. Jews once again started up along their way – for how many times already?

{Photo page 778 and 779: Marble tables on the gate pillars of the cemetery that was reconsecrated and re-fenced by the Holocaust survivors. The inscriptions are in Hebrew and Polish.

The inscription reads as follows:

In the years 1940-41
Our cemetery, which had existed for
120 years, was razed to the foundations
By the Nazi murderers
The graves were desecrated by their hands
The gravestones were broken and used to pave
The streets of the city.

In the year 1947
The Jews of Zgierz, Holocaust survivors
Enclosed the cemetery with a fence,
Gathered the gravestones that had been taken
To the streets of the city and renewed
The sanctity of the cemetery.}

Like the vast majority of Jews, the Zgierzers ran to the offices to obtain papers and passports. The family of the chairman of the Zgierz landsmanschaft in Poland, H. Leibish Weinstein, with his wife and son, were among the first Zgierz families to set out from Lodz to the Land of Israel (via Paris). For that occasion, and also to mark the era of Zionist activity in Zgierz, the committee arranged a warm farewell evening for him.

Jewish communal activity in post-war Poland came to a standstill. Many prepared to emigrate. New problems and challenges arose. However, even given our preoccupation with our “old” life, we did not forget the over 200 typewritten pages about the history of the Jewish community of Zgierz. As some of us went to Israel, we brought with us the basis for a Yizkor book about a vibrant, creative Jewish life that had been so cruelly annihilated.

[Page 780]

Jews of Zgierz in the Land of Israel

The remnant of the Jews of Zgierz came to Israel with the mass-aliya of the Holocaust survivors of Poland in the years 1950-1952. The conditions for the new immigrants during the first years of the State of Israel were particularly difficult. The path to an organized life in the Land would have been hopeless for many immigrants without the assistance of the communal organizations. The situation of those immigrants who did not have close friends or relatives here was especially difficult.

The situation in 1953 was so full of difficulty that the veteran Zgierzers in the Land became convinced of the importance of creating a society that would concern itself with offering assistance to our fellow natives who were new immigrants.

At a large meeting of the former communal activists that took place in the home of L. Weinstein, the following important objectives were set:

  1. To help the new immigrants from Zgierz with advice and deeds, so that they could acclimatize in the Land and to ease their absorption difficulties.
  2. To mark the anniversary of the destruction of Zgierz by reciting Kaddish and Yizkor, and to observe the day of mourning for all those who came from the city.
  3. To continue with the work of publishing a book that will perpetuate our exterminated community in a significant fashion. This will be a book that will serve as an eternal testimony of the mass murder of our people, a book that will call attention and remind.
  4. The name of the organization will be the Organization of Zgierz Natives in Israel.

The founding meeting of the organization took place on Saturday night, January 5, 1952, in the home of Nathan Nekricz. A temporary committee was selected, consisting of Yoav Katz, Nathan Nekricz (treasurer), Leibish Weinstein (chairman), Menachem Zakon, Yitzchak Glowinski, Aryeh Tenenbaum and Zeev Fiszer (secretary).

The first memorial gathering of the Zgierzers in Israel took place on the 7th of Shvat 5712 (February 3rd, 1952) in Beit Hachalutzot in Tel Aviv. It was a spontaneous demonstration of an awakening feeling of closeness among the Zgierz natives in the Land. This had an effect on Zgierz natives who had been in the Land for decades already, and who had even forgotten their native city. However, the wonderful power of the old home, the reminder of their years of youth and the dawning realization that all has disappeared in blood and fire shook up the deepest recesses of their souls, and everybody came. The joyful, heartfelt reunions and the falling into each other's arms with spasmodic weeping demonstrated that the world had been deeply shaken.

That gathering was a stimulating factor for the plans to actualize in Israel all the tasks that had been impeded in the country from which we came, with the hope that they would all be realized positively and speedily.

Unfortunately, the tempo of the work was not as quick as the founders of the organization would have liked. Not everybody understood the deep aim and importance of the planned goals. Furthermore, youthful temperament and power were lacking. Nevertheless, in the first year of its founding, the fundamentals of the organization were created, and connections were forged between the Zgierzers in the Land and in the Diaspora.


Throughout the first ten years of its existence, the Landsmanschaft conducted a wide range of communal endeavors in the economic and social realms. First of all, it created an address to which one could turn in case of need. In truth, the financial means that the committee had at its disposal were limited. Nevertheless, the charitable fund, founded under the initiative of L. Weinstein with the assistance of N. Nekricz, L. Tenenbaum, M. Zakon and others, was the first actual assistance-offering institution for the absorption of many Zgierz immigrants in the Land. Many families of weavers were set up in their profession. The loans also helped them to set themselves up in dwellings, establish their sources of livelihood, etc. The assistance offered by the secretariat in aiding divided families in searching for family members or acquaintances, and in easing administrative matters, was also a great service that was offered.

At this opportunity, it is worthwhile to mention the role of the tailor workshop on Lilienblum 20 in Tel Aviv and its owner Shmuel Slodkewicz, which was so popular among the Zgierz immigrants in those difficult years. This served as the meeting point for the newly arrived immigrants from Ander's army and from the last aliya from Poland. Here, they could find the address of a neighbor or a friend. Here, one could obtain the first information about work, dwellings, material help and other matters, which greatly eased the first steps on the new soil.

In truth, not everything that needed to be done was done. Our help did not reach every ill or isolated person. Our words of comfort were not able to comfort every pain. However, that which we did do was with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, our means were limited.

From the time of the beginning of the organization, we turned with a heartfelt request to the Zgierz Landsmanschaft in America and informed them of the situation of the Holocaust survivors and new immigrants in the Land. Unfortunately, the leadership there was not attuned to the great task of that fateful period of time. They also did not answer the frequent letters requesting help in publishing the Book of Zgierz. Later, we heard that the Landsmanschaft had completely disbanded.

The work of our organization was conducted in our own style. In general, the activity of each committee was discussed at the annual general meeting of the Zgierz in Israel, which was always connected with the memorial. With the passage of time, the memorial gatherings became an important component of the communal life of the Zgierz community in the Land. There, the leaders were elected. There, the upcoming work was proposed and assigned. There, the Zgierz veterans from the Second Aliya intermingled with the new arrivals.

Aside from the yearly meetings, we also attempted to arrange get-togethers of a different character, with a lighter atmosphere. Such undertakings included the Purim evening in 1959 that took place in the Maksim Hall, with a full program. Another get-together of that year that remains in my memory was the gathering on Mount Zion in Jerusalem to dedicate the marble tablet in the “Holocaust Cellar”, with the participation of a large number of Zgierzers. That tablet was a gift from the Zgierz native Avraham the son of Shalom Tzvi Szewach of Jerusalem.

The visit to Israel of the well-known communal activist and former city councilor Fabian Grynberg and his wife caused a great reverberation among the Zgierz family in Israel. The committee organized a friendly gathering with important guests in the hall of “Beit Lissin”. Over a glass of tea, and with lofty spirits, the guests were greeted by Yosef Katz, W. Fiszer and others.

In discussing the “organization” as an active force in the Zgierz family in Israel, we must also mention with gratitude all of those from the committee who played an active role in all fields of endeavor of the Landsmanschaft, through the entire period of its existence until today:

Y. Katz, Y. Weinstein, Z. Fiszer, N. Nekricz, Y. Michowicz, A. Tennenbaum, Ch. Halperin-Szperling, Y. Zylberberg, A. Szewach, R. Katz, A. and P. Sirkes, Y. Lewin, T. Szifkirsztejn, D. Frogel, B. Bar, A. Abramowicz, Sh. Slodkewicz, Sh. Szapszowicz, and others.

[Page 784]

About the Zgierz Yizkor Book

The social efforts did not remove the matter of a Yizkor Book from the order of the day. The book was the main theme at every memorial meeting. As well, it was the center of everyone's interest. We continued the work that was begun in Poland. In our free hours after our daily work, we would sit in the archives and libraries and rummage through the dusty, forgotten papers, journals and books in order to find an article, a notice, or a mention that could serve as material for the book. Thus transpired the first years of collection of material.

After my visit in Jerusalem to the former Sejm deputy, chairman of the Aguda and long time chairman of the Zgierz communal council Reb Eliezer Sirkes of blessed memory, and after a long discussion with him, I came to the belief that the perpetuation of Zgierz is not only a question of interest or insight, but above all – a matter of historical, communal and moral requirement. Eliezer Sirkes also promised me material for the book (in the form of the minute book of the Jewish community, which we later acquired through his son Avraham; these minutes indeed take an important place in the book). During my second visit to Jerusalem, I heard warm words of encouragement from the well-known activist, founder and chairman of Mizrachi in Zgierz, who was one of the most well-known scholars in the city – Reb Yisrael Frogel of blessed memory. One of his relatives, Reb Hirsch Frogel, was one of the first Jews who built up the Jewish street in Zgierz. Reb Yisrael's family heirloom house was located there. His discussions about Zgierz were full of love and anguish. He said, “Such a city as Zgierz must never be forgotten. Upon you, the Holocaust survivors, rests the duty to tell, to write, as the verse states: 'write this down as a memory in a book' [5]. This is not only a personal, ethical duty -–but also a national one.”

The sought-after material later arrived, but the chief burden of the work rested on one or two people – until the public call for material for the Zgierz book that was issued in 1960. In 1963, we first decided to request the editor A. Wolf-Jasni to edit the Zgierz Yizkor book. In 1963, the prospectus of the book was edited very successfully, and was distributed to the Zgierzers in Israel and the Diaspora. In the interim, A. Wolf-Jasni studied (in the Polish original) and worked on the material that we had brought from Poland – more than 200 units copied from the civic archives of Zgierz and Lodz regarding the history of the Jewish settlement in Zgierz.

At the general meeting in 1964, a “Committee for the Book of Zgierz” was selected, and “Keren Hasefer” fund was set up. The expanded committee also had representatives from Jerusalem and Haifa. We were in need of their services, for they were closely connected to the Zgierzers in those cities.

The new committee, as well as the call to Zgierzers for material and financial support for the book, brought an upswing in the work, but only for a brief period. Later, the burden once again fell upon two or three people.

The book of Zgierz would have already found its way onto the book shelf when everything came to disorder again. Apparently, one must have luck for this too. When the editor A. Wolf-Jasni, whom we had contracted, finally started to work on the book, he became ill, and passed away. We sincerely regretted his death, for he was a dedicated friend and had special sentiments for our city. He, an activist from Lodz, was connected to it.

Too much time had passed. Here is not the place to detail all of the disturbances and tribulations, interlinked with a measure of personal anguish, disappointments, bitterness, and unrealized hopes. However, we never fell into despair. Our gaze was always focussed upon the goal. If a researcher were to ever take interest in the method of writing of Yizkor books – he would be able to find sufficient material in our archives.

It would not be a full description of our work for the book if we did not mention the important and valuable work of one of our lofty people, the scion of those personalities who grace our book. We refer here to our friend Fabian Greenberg. He worked tirelessly for us in America. He sent interesting material for our book. Along with our friends Leon Rubinstein and David Wechsler, he created a committee to coordinate the work for the book. They visited Israel a few times, and became closely acquainted with our work. They helped bear the burden.

As we write these lines, the greatest portion of our creative difficulties are behind us. Driven by our dynamism, led by our editor David Stockfish – we have come, step by step, very close to the goal.

Thus have we, the survivors from the generation of the Holocaust, fulfilled our duty of relating and remembering Jewish Zgierz, which was destroyed along with European Jewry.

Finally, let us express our thanks to those who helped, in whichever way, in creating this work. Special thanks go to the members of the “Book Committee” who traveled the long route together wish us, fraught with difficulties and bumps. Special thanks also go to the editorial committee, who conducted their work with diligence and dedication, each in accordance to his task. Special warm thanks go to Mrs. Chaya Halperin for her untiring, dedicated work in creating and publishing the Book of Zgierz. She was an encouraging example to us in difficult hours of despair.

We also remember with grief all of those Zgierz Jews who hoped to see the memorial book of their city, and did not merit to do so. Among those are the following members of the committee: Avraham Eiger, Aryeh Lipshitz, Menachem Zakon, Yoav Katz, Menachem Engel, Moshe Grand (America), and Aharon Cincinatus – may all their memories be a blessing.


[Page 787]

Zgierz Natives in Israel [6]

by Zeev Fisher

The remnant of the community of Zgierz, who remained alive after the terrible destruction, came to Israel with the mass-aliya of the Holocaust survivors of Poland in the years 1950-1952. The absorption of the new immigrants in the first years of the State of Israel was particularly difficult by all accounts. The path to economic independence in the Land would have been hopeless for many immigrants without the assistance of the communal organizations and benefactors. Many immigrants, who did not have friends or relatives here in the Land, did not even have any address to which to turn for guidance and advice, and they certainly had no means of support and help.

Only in the year 1952, after a difficult and tiring task of explanation, was it possible to convince the veteran Zgierz natives of the great value of an organized body, which would concern itself with all of the perplexing problems that arose after the war, in the general realm of assisting those natives of our city who came to the land as soldiers of Ander's army and as new immigrants after surviving the Holocaust.

At a special meeting of the former communal activists that took place in the home of L. Weinstein, the following important objectives were set for the coming committee that would be chosen from among the Zgierz natives:

  1. To help with advice and deeds the new immigrants from Zgierz, so that they could acclimatize in the Land and to ease their absorption difficulties.
  2. To mark the anniversary of the destruction of Zgierz with a general gathering, at which the Zgierz natives would unite themselves with the memory of the martyrs. This memorial day would be observed every year.
  3. To energetically continue with the work that had been started in Poland – the task of publishing a book that will perpetuate in an honorable fashion Zgierz and its Jews, their deeds and way of life, for generations to come. This book serves as an eternal testimony to the terrible murder and the Holocaust of our people.
  4. To choose a temporary committee that would actualize the decisions, and arrange the general gathering that would convene for a memorial ceremony.
  5. The name of the organization will be the Organization of Zgierz Natives in Israel.

The founding meeting of the organization took place on Saturday night, January 5, 1952, in the home of Nathan Nekricz. A temporary committee was selected from among those gathered, consisting of Yoav Katz, Nathan Nekricz (treasurer), Leibish Weinstein (chairman), Menachem Zakon, Yitzchak Glowinski, Aryeh Tenenbaum and Zeev Fiszer (secretary).

The First Memorial Gathering

The first memorial gathering of the Jews of Zgierz in Israel, convened by the “committee”, took place on the 7th of Shvat 5712 (February 3rd, 1952) in Beit Hachalutzot in Tel Aviv. It was a spontaneous demonstration of an awakening feeling of brotherhood and closeness among the Zgierz natives in the Land. Zgierz natives who had been in the Land for 20-30 years, and who had practically forgotten their origins in the far-off Diaspora, came. Forgotten powers, which stormed into their soul with the memory of their forgotten birthplace in which they had spent the years of their youth, with all of their experiences and memories, were awakened in them. The frightening realization dawned on them that the entire old world, the world of their youth, was burnt and went up in smoke, along with their relatives, friends and brothers – the Jews of the community of Zgierz had passed away from the world in the flood of blood and tribulations – they were destroyed and were no longer!

All of these things awakened the slumbering spirit of the natives of Zgierz toward their birthplace, and they all came to the great gathering, from near and far. The meetings of Zgierz natives, who now met face to face and fell into each others arms, were particularly emotional. There were many tears of agony, pain, and joy, intermingled with the embracing of brothers and sisters at that gathering.

The feelings of the community that gathered reached their pinnacle with the communal recital of Kaddish and Yizkor, in a choked and emotional voice that broke forth from the depths of the soul. It is no wonder: for a large portion of those gathered were connected with family ties to the victims that perished in the great destruction.

The Selection of the Committee

This gathering obviously served as an impetus to all those people who planned to realize in Israel the objectives that were thwarted from realization in the land from which they came. These tasks were assigned at the meeting, and responsibility was transferred to the new committee, consisting of Yoav Katz, L. Weinstein, M. Zakon, A. Cincinatus, A. Michowicz, L. Tenenbaum, and W. Fiszer – with the hope that they would come to full fruition speedily.

However, for various subjective and other reasons, the tempo of the work and practical accomplishments of the committee were, to our dismay, not in accordance with the faith and hope that we put in the organization. Furthermore, youthful temperament and power of actualization were lacking. Nevertheless, it is appropriate to mention that in the first year of its founding, the fundamentals of the organization were created, its secretaries did all that was in their power to disseminate the knowledge of the existence of the organization to the public, and to forge many connections among Zgierzers in the Land and in the Diaspora.


The Paths of Activity

As we come to summarize the work of the organization throughout the first ten years of its existence, it was primarily in the area of broad based social assistance in the economic and social realms. First of all, it created an address to which one could turn in case of need. In truth, the financial means that the committee had at its disposal were very limited. Therefore, a great deal of good came from the charitable fund, founded under the initiative of L. Weinstein, N. Nekricz, L. Tenenbaum, and Michowicz and directed by M. Zakon and L. Zylberberg. It was the first actual assistance-offering institution for the absorption of many Zgierz immigrants in the Land. First and foremost, it succeeded in setting up those families who were in the weaving profession. These families received direction and advice from the organization, and found work in their profession in the Land. Loans from the fund of the sum of 7,000 Israeli Lira per year, with liberal repayment conditions, assisted many people in establishing sources of livelihood, obtaining dwellings, etc. Similarly, the secretariat of the organization helped Zgierz natives with the obtaining of documents, permits, and all administrative matters.

The organization offered a great deal of assistance in the restoration of ties between families that were separated and scattered during the time of the war. The organization did a great deal of work in searching for relatives who had become separated from each other, by establishing connections with various institutions in Israel and the Diaspora, and by publishing notices, producing documents and verifying information. At this opportunity, it is worthwhile to mention the role of the our fellow native Shmuel Slodkewicz and his tailor workshop on Lilienblum 20 in Tel Aviv, which served as an information center and meeting place for all Zgierz natives who wished to maintain contact with their fellow natives. This small shop was a fortress for new immigrants from Zgierz. There, the new immigrants found out all the information needed to set up contact with Zgierz natives and to organize themselves in the land. There they forged their contact with the organization, and the map of the Land opened before them. New immigrants and those who had served in Ander's army who were searching for relatives and friends, all those for whom the path of life in the Land was not smooth, went through their first acclimatization course in that place.

Slowly but surely, the work of our organization continued along its course. It broadened and widened, or narrowed and constricted depending on the makeup of the people who participated in the committee, and according to their level of dedication and ability. The activities of the committee were focused upon the main gathering of Zgierz Jews in the Land that was connected with the annual memorial day. With the passage of time, these gatherings became a main focal point of the communal life of the Zgierz Jews on an annual basis. There, the committees of the organization were selected, and tasks and directives were issued for their coming work. There, not only did Zgierz veterans in the Land intermingle with new immigrants, but also with Zgierz natives who were scattered across the globe, in all cities and communities. This was also the venue for Zgierz natives to come every year to unite themselves with the souls of their holy, dear martyrs.

{Photocopy page 790: The memorial tablet in the Holocaust Cellar in Jerusalem.

AN ETERNAL MEMORY
TO THE COMMUNITY OF ZGIERZ

To its people – men, women and children
Who were murdered and exterminated
In sanctification of the Divine Name and the nation
By the Nazi murderers, may their names be blotted out
In the years 5699-5705.

May their souls
Be bound in the bonds of life
And may their blessed memories remain forever

From the Survivors of the community of Zgierz, Poland.

Jerusalem, Mount Zion
3 Elul, 5719}

We cannot pretend that we were able to offer every kind of assistance to all who were in need. We were unable to reach every downtrodden and bitter soul throughout the Land, to participate in every joyous occasion of our fellow natives, to take part in their sad and sorrowful events; for indeed, the lot of most of the people in the Land was not always good, and everyone was immersed in their own matters and worries. However, the little that we did was done with the best of intentions and enthusiastic participation, with faithful brotherly feelings. We were unable to do much, for we did not have the required means. Lack of financial resources always troubled us, and prevented us from actualizing all of our proper and good intentions toward those in need.

Contact with the Zgierz Natives in the United States

Immediately from the time of the founding organization, we turned with a heartfelt request to the Zgierz Landsmanschaft in America. We informed them of the situation of the Holocaust survivors who had come to the Land, and requested their financial help to support those in need. Unfortunately, the leadership there was not attuned to the holy task of that fateful period of time. They also did not answer the frequent letters requesting help in publishing the Book of Zgierz. Later, we heard that the Landsmanschaft had completely disbanded and ceased to exist.

Special Events in the Life of the Organization

The leadership of the organization was very successful in its annual meetings. It also attempted to arrange get-togethers and social events with a pleasant, family atmosphere. One of the events that was quite successful was the large party in 1959 that took place in the Maksim hall in Tel Aviv, with a full program. The income from this party was designated for the fund to assist the natives of our city. Another gathering of that year, of a different sort, that remains in my memory, was the gathering on Mount Zion in Jerusalem to dedicate the marble tablet in the “Holocaust Cellar” in memory of the of the community of Zgierz. This ceremony of the dedication of the tablet, that took place with the participation of a large number of Zgierzers, was quite moving. That memorial tablet was a gift from the Zgierz native Avraham the son of Shalom Tzvi of blessed memory Szewach.

In general, the year 1959 – the 20th anniversary of the expulsion from Zgierz – excelled as an active year for the Zgierz natives.

The visit to Israel of the well-known communal activist, known to all of the Zgierz natives in Israel, Mr. Fabian Grynberg and his wife, was an important event in the family of Zgierz natives in Israel. The committee organized a friendly gathering with important guests, over a glass of tea, in the hall of “Beit Lissin”. The guests were greeted with speeches of welcome by Yosef Katz, W. Fiszer and others.

Some Words About the Book

The social activities of the organization did not remove the matter of a Yizkor Book from the order of the day. This was one of the main objectives of the organization, and the book was the main theme at every gathering and meeting. However, life made its demands, and the assistance efforts for the immigrants from Zgierz who were suffering from need always took first place. Nevertheless, several members of the committee dedicated themselves to the matter of the book immediately upon arriving in the Land, and dedicated all of their time after a day of work. They did this with complete dedication to their personal responsibility, without requesting assistance from anyone. They went to the archives, perused books, notebooks, and newspapers, collecting any article or statement that might serve as material for the book. These were the years of gathering and preparation for the task to come.

{Photo page 792 top: Zgierz natives at the unveiling ceremony of the memorial tablet in the Holocaust Cellar in Jerusalem, 1959.}

{Photo page 792, bottom: A Purim celebration of the Committee of Zgierz Natives in Israel, 1959. Here are three mothers, who have been in Israel for a long time: Misses G. Sperling, G. Itzkowicz, and T. Katz.}

When he first came to the Land, on occasion doubts about the idea of the book stole into the heart of the writer of these lines, as he surveyed the social and cultural conditions that prevailed in the Land, and he had doubts about the success of the project. Nevertheless, after my visit in Jerusalem to the former Sejm deputy, chairman of the Aguda and long time chairman of the Zgierz communal council Reb Eliezer Sirkes of blessed memory, and after a long discussion with him, it became clear to me that the perpetuation of Zgierz is not only a question of emotion and insight, but above all – a matter of historical, communal and moral requirements. Mr. Sirkes also promised me material for the book (in the form of the minute book of the Jewish community, which we later acquired through his son Avraham; these minutes indeed occupy an important place in the book). During my second visit to Jerusalem, I heard warm words of encouragement from the well-known activist, founder and chairman of Mizrachi in Zgierz, who was one of the best known scholars in the city, and whose family was well-rooted and prominent in the community of Zgierz – Reb Yisrael Frogel of blessed memory. One of his relatives, Reb Hirsch Frogel, was one of the first Jews who built up the Jewish street in Zgierz.

“It is forbidden for a city such as Zgierz to be forgotten from the history of the people of Israel”, Reb Yisrael told me. In his words, I felt the pain and anguish that filled his heart. He continued, “Upon you, the Holocaust survivors, rests the duty to tell, to write about what once was and is no longer, as the verse states: 'write this down as a memory in a book' [5]. This is not only a personal, ethical duty – but also a national one.”
It was evident that we were not alone in working toward this objective. The task of gathering material continued with greater strength, but the chief burden of the work rested on one or two people – until a public call to all natives of Zgierz to come to the assistance of this project was issued in 1962 [7]. One year later, we were able to enter into negotiations with Editor A. Wolf-Jasni about the editing of the book. In 1963, the prospectus of the book was distributed in Israel and the Diaspora. At this time, we asked people to provide us with the required material. In the interim, A. Wolf-Jasni prepared the translated and edited material (from Polish) that we had brought with us from Poland – approximately 200 units copied from the civic archives of Zgierz and Lodz regarding the history of the Jewish settlement in Zgierz.

It then became clear that the pressure of the communal work on behalf of the immigrants, which was undertaken by the committee, impeded the progress of the preparation of the book. The need to separate the responsibilities and establish a special committee that would be solely dedicated to the matters of the book became obvious. Therefore, at the memorial gathering in 1964, a “Committee for the Book of Zgierz” was selected, and “Keren Hasefer” fund was set up.

Had things progressed smoothly, there is no doubt that the Book of Zgierz would have already found its place on the bookshelves of the Zgierz natives, but everything is dependent on luck. Our fortune took a turn for the worse when, the editor Jasni took ill just as he had commenced his work with our approval. His death caused us great anguish, for his heart was very close to the matter of Zgierz, as a former workers' activist in Lodz. He was connected to our city with warm memories.

{Photo page 794: The Committee for the book in the United States: L. Rubinstein, F. Greenberg, and D. Wechsler.}

Here is not the place to detail all of the disturbances, tribulations, and feelings of frustration that were our lot during the time that we progressed with our work. However, feelings of despair never entered our hearts. Our gaze was always focused toward the desired goal with diligence and without stopping. (If a researcher would even want to study the methodology of creation of a Yizkor Book, without doubt, he would find interesting material in our archives.)

This would not be a full description of our work for the book if we failed to mention the important and valuable work of one of our lofty people, the scion of the lofty people who grace our book. We refer here to our friend Fabian Greenberg. This friend of ours remained in close contact with us, as he supported us with words and with material. He created a special committee along with Leon Rubinstein and David Wechsler, and remained in constant contact. They visited Israel a few times, became closely acquainted with our work, and greatly assisted us in bearing the burden of the actualization of the endeavor.

As we write these lines, we feel relieved that the burdens of creation are already behind us. Along with the editor of the book, Mr. David Stockfish, we are approaching the goal.

Thus have we, the survivors of the Holocaust, fulfilled our duty of relating, remembering, and perpetuating Jewish Zgierz, which passed from existence. To the extent that we could, we also involve and draw nigh the descendents of the natives of our city to the hometown where their forbears were born and raised, and where they forged the vision of the generations.


As we speak about the “organization” as the active force in the Zgierz family in Israel, we must give thanks to all members of the committee who participated and took interest in the work of the organization throughout the entire era – from its founding until today.

Y. Katz, Y. Weinstein, Z. Fiszer, N. Nekritz, Y. Michowicz, A. Tenenbaum, Ch. Halperin-Sperling, Y. Zylberberg, A. Szewach, R. Katz, A. and P. Sirkes, Y. Lewin, T. Shif-Kirstein, A. Abramowicz, D. Frogel, Sh. Slodkewicz, B. Ber, Sh. Szapszowicz, and others.

Permit me, at the end of this survey, to express my feelings of gratitude and esteem to all of those who helped us through any means in actualizing this endeavor. I especially wish to thank the “Book Committee”, whose members traveled the long route together with us, fraught with difficulties and bumps. Double thanks go to the editorial committee, who did their work with diligence and dedication, each in accordance to his task. Special thanks go to Mrs. Chaya Halperin-Sperling for her untiring, dedicated work in publishing the Book of Zgierz. She served as an example to us and a source of encouragement in difficult hours of despair.

We also remember with grief all of those Zgierz Jews who hoped to see the memorial book of their city, and did not merit to do so. Among those are the following members of the committee: Avraham Eiger, Aryeh Lipshitz, Menachem Zakon, Yoav Katz, Menachem Engel, Moshe-Yaakov Grand (America), and Aharon Cincinatus – may all their memories be a blessing.

[Page 797]

Members of the Book Committee

Yehuda Weinstein, Yosef Katz, Avraham Szewach, Dvora and Yeshayahu Frogel, Yehuda Zylberberg, Frania Abramowicz-Szapszowicz, Avraham Boaz, Baruch Ziskind, Mordechai Rozman, Avraham Bornstein.

Editorial Committee

{Photo of the editorial committee: Rafael Katz, Mrs. Halperin-Sperling, Zeev Wolf Fiszer, Pinchas Sirkes, Yitzchak Szaranski, Yisrael Asher Malkieli.}


[Page 798]

Errata [8]
PageLineInstead ofShould be
1815 from the bottomThere was also a synagogueThere was also a school
27Under the pictureThe town councilThe town council [9]
283 from the bottomDuke of DozhinDuke of Dobczyn
3213 from the bottomWith the priest TasiczWith the priest Staszicz
3212 from the bottomPersonalities hostile to the JewsAnti-Jewish tendencies
348 from the topFrom the year 1318From the year 1818
433 from the topMend LapachtaszMendel Pachtasz
433 from the top1 miner1 miner[9]
5211-12 from the bottomWarwasserWaremwasser
6213 from the topLooked at the fingerLooked through the fingers
819 from the topTo live in the ghetto quarterTo live in the extra quarter
9211 from the bottomFrom the streets: StrenowskaFrom the streets: Strykowska
9614 from the bottomOnly 21 kilometersOnly 10 kilometers
1319 from the topWill payWill pay[9]
13413 from the topAmudas YisroelAgudas Yisroel
1394 from the topEliezer ShlomowiczEliezer Shlumiel
13916 from the topAvraham Meir RubinzonAvraham Meir Rochelzon
140Under the photoKorczej (secretary) WeissbrotKorczej, Weissbaum (secretary).
15610 from the topNathan AdlerNathan Ader
1563 from the topKompelKompel[9]
1609 from the bottom Gedalia Yedidya ZwikolskiGedalia Yedidya Zwikelski
1624 from the bottomMeirl KaluskiMeirl Kolski
16910 from the bottomGuferkesNuferkes [10]
174PhotocopyZgierzer BlatZgierzer Blatt, edited by Yisrael Weinik
218Below the photoB. SkrasowskiB. Skosowski
2215 from the topSpecial purchasersSpecial stackers
263Under the photoThe teacher A. Morgensztern and Chana SzaranskiA. Moregensztern and two caregivers
26616 from the topThe translator and writerThe scholarly writer
37015 from the topReb AchilReb Ichel
402The article about Reb Isucher Moshe Szwarc By Y. A. Malkieli
4044 from the topThe relative of the sculptorThe relative of the sculptor [11]
4111 from the top(in the year 1829)(in the year 1929)
4219 from the topThe LesmansThe Lasmans
4701 from the topMachla ReichertMachla Reichert[9]
4864 from the bottomAnd his wife MachlaAnd his wife Machla[9]
4958 from the topThe rabbi of NikolspurgThe rabbi of Nikolsburg
49613 from the bottomThe Hazamir displayed a strong activity, etc.The entire sentence was placed here in error.
523Under the photoThe third and the sixth from the rightThe third and the seventh from the right
5458 from the topTo the barber's chairTo the barber
599The pictureFrom the Majdanek crematoriumWith the permission of Beit Lochme Hagetaot


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

1. A pogrom was perpetrated against the Jews of Kielce in 1946. Back

2. Organizations or clubs for people from the same hometown. Back

3. The name is faded in the photocopy here and cannot be made out. Back

4. The daily penitential services conducted from the Sunday immediately prior to Rosh Hashanah (or if Rosh Hashanah falls early in the week, from two Sundays prior) until Yom Kippur. Back

5. A verse from Exodus, commanding the Jews never to forget the memory of Amalek. Back

6. This section is written in Hebrew. It is largely equivalent with the Yiddish section starting on page 780. However, there are some minor differences, additions, and revisions, so I am repeating it here as a full translation. Back

7. In the Yiddish section above, the year is listed as 1960. One must be in error. Back

8. For completeness, I include the errata table. The corrections were not made in the text. In some cases, the text (either the original or translation) has compensated for the error. Many of the errors were simple typo fixes that did not affect the translation. Back

9. A typo fix. Back

10. A reference to a type of role in the weaving profession. Back

11. A minor grammatical fix. Back

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