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[Page 13]

Yaakow Freund

 

Only Two Drops

by Yaakow Freund

Translated by Herman Taube

No, they won't rise again from the inferno and won't repeat the horrific monstrous death march. Their memory will forever rest in the Pantheon of loss and pain. To their memory, this book is dedicated. To the memory of the Jewish man who was hanged by his feet by Hitler's murderers for the 'crime' of smuggling a butchered calf to the ghetto in order to feed its famished residents, this book is dedicated.

Also, to the man, a resident of Zloczew, who was immersed alive in a barrel of boiling tar and what remained of him, resembled a wick of a burnt out candle. His 'crime': soiled clothing…

These are just two cases in a sea of horrors. Maybe for one brief moment, you, the readers, will see in your mind's eye and will hear these victims' screams…for this brief moment, this book was written.

Yaakow Freund
Chairman of Survivors of Zloczew Organization


[Page 14]

Two More Drops

Yaakow Freund
Chairman of the Zloczewer Association

Translated by Herman Taube

No, they will never again rise from the deep abyss, to again undergo the seven gates of hell.

They will never again be quick-stepped on 'death marches' never before heard of in human history. This is not the only reason that we inscribed the burned letters in this Yizkor Book, but we wanted to enter for posterity their sad story of rejection and abandonment.

They will pace forth with tardy steps, bent down, in a dead silent mood of protest against the terrible crimes of mass murder that will never be forgotten.

We can never know exactly, and it is impossible to describe in the frame of the human language, all that happened there in the valley of pain and despair, in the violent ocean of blood and tears.

Only a minimal part of it can be absorbed by the human mind, just a drop or two can the human consciousness comprehend.

But even the minimal facts are enough to coagulate the blood in your veins.

There was a Jew, one of us from Zloczew, who was destined to swallow the bitter poison to the end. His 'crime' was that he did not want to divulge the names of the people who helped him smuggle in a killed calf (to divide it among the hungry.) So the Nazi criminals invented a savage, atrocious, sadistic, murderous form of punishment. They hanged him, feet down, and lowered him into a well in the middle of town, where he died. He sacrificed his life, but he did not betray the names of the people who helped him.

A second episode:

This also happened to a fellow Zloczewer. The Nazis did not like the way he dressed – he was not too clean. They grabbed him and threw him in a barrel of tar, 'for disinfection'… When they removed him from the tar-barrel, there was nothing left of him. No resemblance to a human being, just like a wick was still burning, ready to be extinguished.

These are only two drops in the ocean of blood and horror.

In a while you will see, my fellow compatriots, by reading these lines, the images of the exhausted to death, emaciated victims. You will hear their lament and you will feel their unbelievable misery, anguish, and agony. This will remind you of the terrible tragedy that befell our generation. You will lift them out of the dark abyss to hear their echo, like a scream in the middle of the night. Oh, for this moment that did appear again, before it will bog down and disappear in eternity – we publish this Memorial Book.


[Page 15]

With the Publication of the Book

Book Editing

Translated by Herman Taube

With feelings of passion and indwelling spirit, we proceed to the holy task of publishing the Memorial Book. This is a definitive work that will perpetuate the memory of our hometown and incorporate in the history of Jewish martyrdom the mass-destruction of the Jewish community of Zloczew. It's true that on the first thought of publishing this Yizkor Book, we gave ourselves a reckoning of the tremendous difficulties we will face to realize this goal. We knew that we would face multiple problems in our task to collect history and the life of Zloczew Jewry on all her realms: social, religious, economic, political, and cultural life.

And, in general, to describe everything that existed in our town up to the tragic period of the Holocaust.

But being overwhelmed by a deep feeling and desire to express the
non-extinguished pain and grief for our lost holy martyrs, our parents, sisters and brothers, relatives and friends, who perished for Jewish Martyrdom, and carrying the burning desire to perpetuate their holy memory, all this gave us the energy and stamina to overcome all the obstacles and stumbling blocks. In consequence, we happily can express our satisfaction; we lived to see the realization of our ideal and fulfill with honor our holy duty. As soon as the news was announced that we are planning to publish a Memorial Book, many of our compatriots did not want to believe that some initiative like this could be realized. Many were skeptical to the idea. Many times we were facing a high wall, not to crawl over, when multiple of our appeals to our compatriots did not bring any positive results. Still, we did not resign our efforts, we continued to beg, request and implore, demand documents, material and financial help until we reached the fulfillment of our holy task.

A separate chapter was the gathering of the material and we consider it as our obligation to make the following clarification to our honored compatriots, the reason why many details about Zloczew were not properly covered in our Yizkor Book.

As far back as 1958, we wrote letters to the “magistrate” (city hall) of Zloczew, appealing for information about the destruction of the Jewish community during the Nazi occupation, details about ghetto life, the general history of Zloczew, and a historical overview of the Jewish community since her establishment. To our great sorrow, not only did they not send us any historical material, they did not even answer our letters. We got in touch with Antek Istell, a Christian. He understood that our appeal was a humanitarian request and he wanted to help us, despite the fact that the local authorities started to annoy and provoke him. (He explicitly wrote to us about it.) To our great sadness, our friend Antek Istell passed away. Before he died, he asked his daughter to continue helping us in our request. She started to take an interest, but she was too weak to resist the pressure of the present rulers of Poland.

For many years, we tried to get historical material about Zloczew from our friend Layzer Boymgarten, Professor of History of Warsaw, a native of Zloczew. He promised to send us the requested material. We were convinced of his goodwill. As we found out, not everything we want can we do in Poland….

We needed historical data about the different institutions and political movements that existed in Zloczew. We tried to get the facts from our compatriots who knew and were able to tell. Regretfully, all our efforts ended with nothing….

For the last ten years we tried to compile a list of the martyrs of our town. Twice, we mailed a questionnaire, asking, demanding, that survivors mail to us the names of their relatives and acquaintances. We wanted the list to be complete. Unfortunately, only a small group of people responded. This questionnaire especially gave us great heartache and aggravation. By not receiving all the names, many of our martyrs were not perpetuated in our Yizkor Book.

The Language

A further problem we faced was in what language should the book be written? There were many opinions about it. The majority felt that the book should be published in Yiddish because the contents deal with the past that was melded, bound with the Yiddish language. However, a part of the committee suggested that the book be written in Hebrew. Because history is directed to the future generations, so we must speak and write in the language of our eternity…

Therefore, following the important arguments and opinions of all sides, we came to the conclusion that the majority of the material would be written in Yiddish, in the language of our holy martyrs. Simultaneously, we decided that part of the book must be translated into Hebrew in order to give our young generation the opportunity to read and learn about the past of their parents and the tragedy of their generation. To reach this purpose, a limited part of important documents are translated from Yiddish into Hebrew.


[Page 18]

Editor's Comments

Translated by Herman Taube

Lately, a new literary branch has developed – memorial books for Jewish communities annihilated during the holocaust. Survivors wish to use these books as testimonies to their towns. They are not written by one individual, but rather are a collective work by a dedicated group.

Many of the events described deal with the survivors' horrific experiences and tragedies. These wounds don't ever heal completely. As years go by, some scars do heal, allowing them to go on living. This undertaking of writing the testimonials takes them back to the valley of tears and horrors. These horrors are totally incomprehensible – yet here the writer even tells of incidents when Jews were burnt alive or immersed in barrels of boiling tar many years before Auschwitz and Treblinka.

Let this book, written with the blood of the survivors of Zloczew, be a memorial to the community that is no more, to its institutions, teachers, Rabbis and students, to its colorful population and life.

Let it be a silent tombstone to the pain and loss that befell our generation, but let it also send a scream to the heavens.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to the book's committee members for their cooperation and diligence in collecting the material, their comments and advice. To all, my sincere gratitude and blessing.


[Page 19]

Origins of Zloczew's Jews

by Eisik Faiwlowicz

Translated by Debbie Greenberg

Zloczew was a peaceful, small town, surrounded by green fields and tall pine forests. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, a wealthy man came here from eastern Poland with his entire herd of cattle. A shortage of pastures forced him to cut down portions of the forest. In the logbook of the town of Kalish (Zloczew belonged to the township of Kalish), there is an inscription “First resident of Zloczew- your Zloty Krach”. According to the logbook, it is evident that Zloczew was indeed a very old town, where a Jewish community was present since 1520. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Jews outnumbered gentiles. Only in the 19th century did the gentile population grow to outnumber the Jews. Zloczew was in the part of Poland ruled by Germany. The Jewish community claim to fame was based mainly on its large cemetery, where many famous rabbis had been buried as well as Jews from all the surrounding towns.

Another source of pride and fame was the magnificent synagogue built in Zloczew at the turn of the 17th century. After a fire destroyed it in 1885, a new edifice had been built. By then, Zloczew had 450 Jewish families.

Zloczew Synogogue

 

[Page 20]

 

[Page 21]

 

Jews were in commerce - small businesses, shopkeepers and tradesmen. The vast majority were carpenters, tailors, furriers, weavers, etc. Later, some became wealthier from their ties with the industrial city of Lodz.

Many Jews traded with the Polish peasants. This exchange resulted in friendly and cooperative relations with the rural population, while in the urban environment of Lodz and the small towns around it, anti-semitism was prevalent. This was mostly evident among the trade guilds - cobblers, butchers, bakers, house painters etc. Youth gangs conducted attacks on Jews frequently.

Anti-semitism was so rampant in urban centers in all levels of the Polish society, that it seemed young Poles sucked these attitudes and hatred with their mother's milk…. They even resented the fact that some Zionist Jews left for Palestine. It seemed they would have liked to see them all expire right then and there, in Poland… There was a saying among the Poles in Zloczew: “There are only two good Jews in town – Aaron Leib the tailor and Abram Shlomkovitz.” Shlomkovitz was a soldier and Aaron-Leib made their uniforms.

Polish Underground

In 1905, when the Russian Czar proclaimed pardons for the Polish rebels, celebrations erupted all over town. Jews were chased away forcibly for this was not “their celebration”. In spite of the local hate and resentment toward the Jews, there were, sadly, many young Jews who joined revolutionary activities. They were persecuted by the Russian secret police and many escaped the bigger cities to smaller rural towns like Zloczew.

Struggle for Livelihood

I remember a family of ruthless bullies who monopolized by force the building business. The family, named Plochinsky, terrorized both Jews and Poles. My father had to succumb to their methods of extortion in order for his business to survive. When I was eleven, I witnessed a bloody attack on my father by the Plochinsky clan members and one of their minions. I lunged at him with a brick and wounded him. My reputation was made there and then, but I also made new enemies. Curiously, one of the perpetrators of the attacks on my father, Stashek Plochinsky, actually changed his attitude toward me and considered me courageous and spunky and became my friend. On one occasion, he came to my rescue when a bully peasant attacked my father in our store. But cases like that were very rare in Zloczew. We lived in separate worlds.

Jews were excluded from all aspects of political and public life. They had no civil rights at all. Only after the Japanese-Russian war and Russia's defeat, did even the Poles gain any rights themselves. National pride emerged and with it more frequent attacks on the Jewish community. I personally remember being beaten brutally and often the greatest pain was my inability to resist and stop it. I remember how during a local town celebration to honor the fire brigade, hoses were pointed at the Jews huddling in the town center, drenching and shaming them. The crowds roared with glee and approval!

The Jewish community concentrated on creating and strengthening their own institutions – schools, soup kitchens, burial society and different charities to help the poor.

Zloczew was home for several Hassidic “courts”. The community was divided by the constant conflicts between Hassidim and 'Mitnagim' i.e. the traditional observant Jews.

The community was also divided into camps pro and con the 'enlightenment' movement. When in 1896, I brought home a pamphlet in Yiddish describing the Dreyfus trial; my father treated this as pure heresy and was instrumental in driving the poor bookseller out of town.

The campaign against the enlightenment influence was fierce. Three young men were persecuted by the Hassidim for reading and speaking “blasphemy” and “heathen” ideas. In 1902, the larger towns around Zloczew were home to many political movements and cells. There was much activity: Zionist movements, the “Bund” and others.

As I had already celebrated my Bar Mitzvah, my father relented and let me subscribe to a Yiddish paper “Moment” published in Warsaw. My more enlightened neighbors delighted in sharing my newspaper, but the zealot Hassidim regarded that literature as worse then a …cross!

However, when the Jewish writer Shalom Ash came out against the rite of circumcision and the Yiddish papers opposed his opinion, they were “pardoned” by the Hassidim and became 'Kosher'.

In 1903, a lot of young Jewish men who had been working in the big cities came home for the High Holidays. Many of them had been exposed to socialist movements and ideas and brought them home with them to Zloczew. The town became a buzz with excitement of new ideas, debates etc. It seemed to be waking up from a long slumber. One of the youths, Yossel Freund, realized soon enough that the Socialist parties and movements were not too eager to fill their ranks with Jews, and he switched to the budding Zionist movement. We started by collecting books about Zionism, Socialism and other progressive subjects, which were considered abomination to the Orthodox Hassidim. The spread of these new ideas could not be stopped in spite of bitter opposition by the Hassidim.

In 1908, the first immigrant to Palestine left from Zloczew – Haim Zemel - and settled in Hadera. His father, however, mourned this move. Fanatic Hassidim engaged in an all-out campaign against all western enlightenment trends among the young in town. I too was thrown out of my own 'shtiebel' or place of study and worship. My 'crime'- giving out National Jewish Fund collection boxes. We, the young Zionist activists, were subject to threats and even physical danger from our opponents. Even the well-to-do families, who were close to the Hassidic rabbi's court, were not spared the wrath of the zealots. I remember how the wealthy Velvel Ginsberg was forced to leave town as a result of his daughter's marriage to a 'progressively enlightened” young man. In spite of all the opposition, the movement of enlightenment flourished.

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