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[Pages 159-160]

Cooperation

by Shoshana Laufert

Translated by Bill Leibner

The economic crisis in Poland during the Grabski administration affected Zloczew because it did not have a strong economic base. A large percentage of the Jewish population were small merchants or artisans namely: tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, dyers etc…

The local tailors and shoemakers not only worked in the city, but also visited fairs and peddled their trades in the nearby villages. There were also Jews that had no trades and they tended to go to villages and buy products that were then taken to the big city markets of Lodz to be resold. Some Jews also leased the fruit orchards from Gentile owners. The Jewish family would spend the entire summer guarding the orchard and then harvest the fruit at the end of the summer. The fruit was then placed in attics between layers of straw until they ripened. With the arrival of winter, the price of the fruit would usually rise and enable these families to cover their expenses for the year. Needless to say, the slightest economic crisis immediately affected the economic well being of the Jewish community of Zloczew.

The “Joint Organization” introduced a variety of economic activities to widen the economic base of the Jewish community. One of these activities consisted in creating local savings and loan associations that would grant cheap loans in times of need. Various groups with the help of the “Joint” also established a co-operative bank in Zloczew in 1926.

The “People's Bank” as the branch in Zloczew was called, was a member of the Jewish banking co-operative organization in Poland. There were 350 members in the Zloczew branch that represented all social strata of the Jewish community regardless of political adherence or trade. Each merchant or head of family could apply for membership. The admission committee received the application and the applicant was notified of the result. If he was admitted, he had to pay a small, one-time membership fee and signed a membership card. A member could always apply for a loan.

The administration of the bank consisted of representatives of all political and social groups in the city. They were familiar with the Jewish population and knew the capabilities of each loan applicant and this knowledge helped them to determine the size of the loan and his ability to repay the loan. These steps had to be taken to protect the interests of the bank.

The capital of the bank consisted of loans that the “Joint” or the central co-operative bank granted and the repayment was deposited with the bank to serve as a revolving fund. Membership fees, contributions and deposits made by private individuals were also a source of money for the local bank. Frequently, special funds were created to enable some people to obtain larger loans at cheaper rates of interest.

The bank also performed various banking operations in the city, namely discounting or cashing checks. All of these operations enabled the bank to grant loans to many families that gave them the chance to continue with their economic activities.

We must stress that the various political and social representatives of the various city groups at the bank management level devoted a great deal of time to the running of the bank and to economic needs of the Jewish population. The executive and management committee members were: Awraham Hershlikowicz, Nahum Sandowski, Chaim Levy, Wowa Faiwlowicz, Michael Bielawski, Zelig Koniarski, Binem Lewkowicz, Dawid Bended, Grabiner, Yaakow Lipman, Poznansky, Getzel Dawidowicz and others that will replace eventually these members at the general annual membership meetings.
The staff consisted of Yerachmiel Shtchukowski - head accountant and personnel, Mania Kempinsky - treasurer, Alkna Mayerowicz – clerk, and Ruje Salomanowicz that started as a novice in the bookkeeping department. In 1934, she was sent to Warsaw to attend a course for head bookkeepers. The course was sponsored by the central Jewish banking co-operative organization in Poland.

In 1934, Yerachmiel Shtchukowski left Poland for Palestine with a group of pioneers. Ruje Salomanowicz assumed his post. The bank then hired Kaile Shtchukowski to assume the previous post of Ruje Salomanowicz. She left for Palestine in 1936 and Kaile Shtchukowski assumed her position.

There was another bank in Zloczew called the co-operative bank that was connected to the central bank in Lemberg. This bank had many members, primarily merchants and small traders. The staff of the bank consisted of Itche Markowicz, Abraham Dawidowicz and Ruje Katz. The objectives of this bank were similar to the previously mentioned bank, but on a much smaller scale.

These banks continued to serve the Jewish public until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.


[Pages 161-162]

Anti-Semitism at School

by Levy Laufert

Translated by Bill Leibner

At a very young age, we already felt the anti-Semitic discrimination in the lowest grades of the Polish school in our city. As we grew older, we felt more and more the harshness of these policies. The children witnessed the first sign of this policy when they were forced to attend Catholic religious instruction performed by the city priest. Of course, the intention of the policy was obvious; to try to develop a love for Catholicism and a dislike for the Jewish religion. At first, we attended the lessons, but then it was pointed out to us where these lessons led to and we began to excuse ourselves. We wandered aimlessly about during these lessons until it became clear to the authorities to institute Jewish religious instruction for the Jewish students. The instructors, Awigdor Tzelnik and Yehiel Friedman, were specially brought to the school to provide Jewish religious instruction.

The establishment of Jewish religious instruction and the existence of Catholic instruction did not diminish the anti-Semitic discrimination at school. The Polish teachers urged the Jewish students to attend school on Saturday and Jewish Holidays. The Jewish pupils refused to co-operate. I remember well the moments of anxiety and the running about to obtain the work that was covered on Saturday. Many of the teachers intentionally covered new materials when the Jewish students were absent from school. Many Polish students refused to share the work with the Jewish students and it was quite difficult to obtain the material that was presented on Saturday and Holidays. Very frequently, we heard from the students that the teachers and students used derogatory terms in describing Jewish students in their absence. The more prominent hate-filled teachers were: Smagatch, Kaminski, Winrobska, and others.

Elementary school, 7th grade

My class guidance counselor was the wife of the principal of the school and she was an excellent teacher. She was imbued with Polish nationalism. She was well read and very intelligent, yet never missed an opportunity to display her anti-Semitic feelings. I will list two incidents that occurred amongst the many incidents. A student returned a book to her that was slightly torn. The teacher told her that she could bind the book with a piece of cloth from her skirt. The skirt that the girl wore was the uniform of the “Shomer Hatzair” Zionist youth movement. Another incident comes to mind when the teacher asked a student in a shop class for her scissors. She tried to cut something, but the scissors were dull. She told the student that she could use the scissors to cut her father's beard. Thus, the Jewish students were humiliated, especially the youth of “Hashomer Hatzair”.

These youngsters appeared with their uniforms to the great displeasure of the principal and the Polish staff. They wore their uniforms with pride and did not bow to the obvious anti-Semitic feelings of the staff. We never felt downtrodden in spite of all the innuendos and humiliations that the principal and his staff aimed at us. The teachers tried every trick in the book to demoralize us, but they failed. They took their revenge when they expelled me from school for attending a memorial lecture dedicated to the memory of Dr. Hertzl. All the protests and interventions failed to reinstate me at the school. Even the intervention of the famous Zionist Polish Jewish leader, Itzhak Grinbaum, member of the Polish parliament, was turned down. Deprived of the opportunity to continue my schooling, I devoted all my energies to the Zionist youth movement of “Hashomer Hatzair” where I underwent agricultural training in preparation for Palestine.

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