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Chapter II

The Drucker Family

 

The Drucker family consisted of: Israel Drucker
  Rachel Tislowitz-Drucker
  Yeshayahu Drucker
  Aaron Drucker
  Dworah Drucker
  Yossef Drucker

Israel Drucker

was born in Krakow in April, 1888 to Mordechai and Miriam Drucker. The family was religious but saw to it that the children were provided with trades so that they could maintain themselves. Israel Drucker was trained as a watchmaker and worked at this trade. He later opened his own jewelry store. In 1913 he married Rachel Tislowitz, a native of Krakow. They moved to Jordanów where they opened a jewelry store.. Israel belonged to the Mizrahi movement and was very active in the party. The Mizrahi association in Hebrew: תנועת הַמִזְרָחִי, or Tnuat HaMizrahi, a synonym for Merkaz Ruhani or religious center, was the name of the religious Zionist organization founded in 1902 in Wilna at a world conference of religious Zionists called by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines. Bnei Akiva, which was founded in 1929, is the youth movement associated with Mizrahi. Both Mizrahi and the Bnei Akiva youth movement are still international movements.

Mizrahi believes that the Torah should be at the center of Zionism and also sees Jewish nationalism as a means of achieving religious objectives. The Mizrahi Party was the first official religious Zionist party and founded the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Israel.. It pushed for laws enforcing kashrut and the observance of the Sabbath in the workplace. It also played a role prior to the creation of the State of Israel, building a network of religious schools that exist to this day, and took part in the political life of the Jewish people. The Mizrahi movement and the Bnei Akiva youth movements were very active in Poland.

Israel Drucker did not feel at ease in Jordanów and in 1914 moved back to Krakow. He was soon drafted by the Imperial Austrian Army and served four years. He was discharged with the end of World War I and had to start his business afresh. Slowly, step by step, he rebuilt his jewelry business in Krakow and the family regained economic security. Israel Drucker always hoped to settle some day in Palestine but, meanwhile, he had to support his family. He continued to support the Mizrahi Zionist movement and instilled a love of Zionism among his children.

Drucker saw the rise of Hitler in Germany and Hitler's speeches on the radio frightened him. As mentioned previously, Drucker served in the Austrian army and knew German. As the German menace grew, he was determined to run. This conviction was reinforced when Israel met a cousin of his from Berlin, Germany. The man was a very successful businessman and one day was ordered to leave Germany as a Polish citizen. The German police came to the house at night and presented an expulsion order. The police ordered him to get dressed ,packed and they rushed him to the rail station for the train that took him to the hamlet of Zbaszyn on the Polish side of the border between Poland and Germany. Of course, he was not the only one affected by this order.

Expulsions took place all over the Reich, but the actions conducted by the police differed from location to location. Most often, only the head of the family was expelled, but sometimes whole families were deported. The deportees were taken by train to the Polish border, usually in the vicinity of Zbaszyn and Beuthen. The Germans estimated that some seventeen thousand Jews were deported, but the precise figure may never be known. Among the deportees were elderly people, some who died during the journey. There were also cases of suicide and many of those who made it across the border had to be treated in the hospital. One of the Jewish families caught up in this aktion was the Grynszpan family from Hanover, Germany. The father, Zindel Grynszpan, later recalled the deportation: “On Thursday, October 27,1938, at 8 PM a policeman came and told me to come to Region II. Furthermore, he said, 'You are going to be back immediately, so do not pack but take your passports.' When he reached Region II , he saw a large number of people sitting, standing and crying. The S.S. were shouting, 'Sign, Sign, Sign the papers and we signed.' Gershon Silber refused to sign the statement and was placed in a corner where he remained standing for 24 hours.

There were about 600 people who stood in a concert hall the entire night. They were then sent by police trucks to the station where a train took them to the German-Polish border. Trains from all over Germany arrived and evicted Polish Jews. Of course, the Germans searched everybody and confiscated everything except for ten marks. This was the sum the Jews were allowed to take with them. Then the German police began to push and shove the Jews across the border. The Polish authorities did not anticipate the mass arrivals and pandemonium broke loose. Total confusion. The Poles permitted the refugees to cross the border but did not give them permission to leave the border area. Hunger, misery and hopelessness was the lot of these Jews when a truck with bread arrived from Poznan. Obviously, there was not enough bread for everybody and, again, chaos ensued.

 

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Jews with Polish citizenship being deported from Germany to Zbaszyn

 

Zindel Grynszpan sent a postcard to his son Herschel in Paris, describing the horrors his family had experienced. Herschel, enraged at the treatment that his family and others suffered at the hands of the Germans, decided to seek revenge. He shot the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris. Vom Rath died as a result of his wounds. The Nazis in Germany used this as a pretext to launch the Kristallnacht or Broken Glass pogrom that saw synagogues and businesses burnt and looted, Jews murdered or incarcerated in concentration camps.

For the refugees stranded on the Polish side of the German/Polish border, help arrived from Warsaw on the afternoon of October 30, 1938, supplied by Emanuel Ringelblum and Yitzhak Gitterman of the Joint Distribution Committee or JDC. They established the General Jewish Aid Committee for Jewish Refugees from Germany in Poland.

 

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Ernst vom Rath

 

A committee to help the refugees was also set up in Zbaszyn, headed by a Jewish flour-mill owner named Grzybowski.

Israel Drucker's relative managed to enter Poland and met Israel. He described in greater detail what had taken place in Germany and at the German border. The relative remained a short spell in Poland and managed to obtain a visa to enter the United States..

Israel Drucker was determined not to stay under German rule. He kept saying: “Where Hitler rules, there is no room for Jews.” Furthemore,Israel said, “I shall never live under German rule.” Many Jews were favorably disposed to Germany and remembered the Germans during World War I when German soldiers maintained order in Krakow. But Israel heard and saw the new Germany. When Germany attacked Poland on September 1, 1939[1], he made up his mind to head east. He closed his jewelry stores located at Nostrawa Street and at Dluga Street in Krakow. He started on foot on Sunday, September 3, 1939. The group consisted of Israel Drucker, his wife Rachel, his sons; Yeshayahu, Aaron and Yossef, his daughter Dworah and Riwkah Luftglass sister of Rachel Drucker., Riwka's husband, Zvi Luftglas and their son Yeshahyu Luftglass.

Israel Drucker led the group to the eastern border of Poland. At first the group walked, then Israel hired a horse and buggy. After a week of walking and traveling, Rachel Drucker, her daughter Dworah, Rachel's sister Riwka and her family decided to return to Krakow. They were tired and saw no hope in these wanderings. Besides, the Germans treated women slightly better than men; even Jewish Polish women were left alone in Germany during the Kristallnacht pogrom. Israel however was determined to continue to move east with his sons[2]. Yossef Drucker was lost along the way and it took a great deal of time to find him. The Druckers continued to move on foot while the German army was on the move. Israel Drucker had a sister who lived in Kowel, which was part of Poland. He hoped to reach the city and then cross to nearby Vilna. Once in Vilna he hoped to find a way to get to Lithuania that was then free of Germans. He did not realize that during his wanderings, borders had changed.

On September 19,1939, Vilna was seized by the Soviet Union, which had invaded Poland two days earlier on September 17, 1939. On October 28, 1939, the Soviet Union handed over Vilna to Lithuania, which renamed the city Vilnius. Then the Soviet Union annexed Vilnius and Lithuania and created a Lithuanian Soviet government with Vilnius as the capital. Israel Drucker was not aware of these changes and continued to plot his way until he reached the Polish city of Kowel where his sister lived. He was well received and began to make contacts to cross the border to Vilnius that was now in Lithuania, free of Germans.

A smuggler was hired and the illegal journey began on December 31, 1939[3]. The night was very cloudy and foggy. One could barely see. Israel and his son Yossef moved close to the smuggler while Yeshayahu and his brother Aaron missed a turn. Contact was lost, the two brothers were separated from the smuggler who apparently kept going in order to cross the border. Yeshayahu and Aaron were lost and meandered back and forth but could not find the smuggler. The night was bitter cold and they decided to stop at the first farm house that they encountered. Meanwhile, the smuggler continued to move ahead and entered Lithuania. Israel Drucker and Yossef Drucker reached Vilnius. There was no possibility of leaving Lithuania and father and son remained in Vilnius where they perished together with the Jews of Lithuania.

 

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Yad Vashem Page of Testimony for Israel Drucker submitted by his son
Yeshayahu Drucker. Dated May 20, 1990. Place of death: Wilno, Lithuania.

 

Rachel Tislowicz-Drucker

Was born in Krakow in 1889 to Yeshayahu and Yenta Tislowitz. She married Israel Drucker in Jordanów in 1913 and returned to Krakow in 1914. Israel was drafted in 1914 and Rachel had to support her family. She was a seamstress and managed to keep the family going until her husband returned from the army at the end of World War I. The economic situation of the family was very poor. The situation improved when Israel returned and opened a business. They eventually had two stores. Rachel spoke Polish and German. She returned to Krakow and opened one of the stores. She hoped that Israel reached his destination and would make arrangements for her to join him.

The German occupiers of Krakow soon started their anti-Jewish policies that led to the destruction and elimination of the city's Jewish community,. This has been vividly described in the movie, “Schindler's List,” directed by Steven Spielberg. Rachel Drucker was sent to the Belzec death camp where she was murdered.

 

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Yad Vashem Page of Testimony for Rachel Drucker,
submitted by her son Yeshayahu Drucker

 

Yeshayahu Drucker

Yeshayahu Drucker was the oldest son of Israel and Rachel Drucker. He was born in Jordanów in 1914, The family moved to Krakow where he spent his first years. He lived in the Jewish section of the city, Kazimierz. He started school at the Hebrew school where the language of instruction was Polish. It was called a Hebrew school because the Hebrew language was taught there. At a certain period of time his father transferred him to the newly established Mizrahi school. This school was totally different from the previous school. The Mizrahi school was modern and recognized by the Polish educational authorities. The language of instruction was Polish. Following four years of instruction, Yeshayahu Drucker's father took him out of this school and he returned to the old school that had an advanced high school academic program. The school population was Jewish as were all the teachers. The school was coeducational, boys and girls. The school atmosphere was very snobbish and Yeshayahu never made friends in this school. Most of the teachers at the high school tended to be anti-Zionist and assimilationist. Most of his friends were the students of the Mizrahi school.

Yeshayahu did not have contact with the Polish population. (repetetive, mentioned above). Kazimierz was a historical district of Kraków, Poland. Since its inception in the fourteenth century to the early nineteenth century, Kazimierz was an independent city, a royal city of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, located south of Kraków Old Town and separated by a branch of the Vistula River. For many centuries, Kazimierz was a place of coexistence between Christian and Jewish cultures; the northeastern part of the district was historically Jewish.

 

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Renaissance old synagogue in the Kazimierz district

 

The area had very few non-Jewish residents. Yeshayahu came in contact with non-Jews in his father's store. He was never at ease with Polish Christians. At the store he talked a great deal with his father, to whom he was very attached. His father was a devoted Zionist and spoke Hebrew. He wanted to speak to him in Hebrew so that Yeshayahu would be ready to go to Palestine as a pioneer. The idea did not develop. The Poles who did come to the store bought or sold their watches or jewelry and left; very little social contact between the two sides. In general, he feared the Polish population and when his father sent him to Polish workshops or stores to repair or return items, He was terrified. Besides, Yeshayahu had no need of Polish friends since he was busy with the organization known as Hashomer Ha-Dati or religious guards, the forerunner of the Bnei Akiva religious youth organization in Poland.. He spent time with his friends from the early school days. Sometimes he spent a great deal of time at the club house of the organization.

At the age of 14, his father started to look for a school where he could acquire an education to be able to support himself. The Hebrew high school that he attended was too expensive and he could not afford it. A cousin informed him that ,in Warsaw, there was an institute to train Jewish religious teachers for the public Polish state schools. All Polish schools gave religious instruction to the children from which Jewish children were excused. However, the Polish government trained Jewish religious teachers to provide Jewish religious education for the Jewish children in the public school. Thus the function of the seminar that was called the Feinslowicz Seminarium in Polish. This was a state educational institution with excellent and dedicated teachers, namely Janusz Korczak and Meir Balaban.

 

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Janusz Korczak

 

Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, born in 1878 or 1879, a physician, writer and educator. He was born in Warsaw, the son of an assimilated Jewish family. Korczak's father was a successful attorney who became mentally ill when Korczak was eleven. When Korczak began his medical practice, he did his best to help the poor and those who suffered the most, while at the same time he began to write. His first books, Children of the Streets (1901) and A Child of the Salon (1906), aroused great interest. Both as a doctor and a writer, Korczak was drawn to the world of the child. He worked in a Jewish children's hospital and took groups of children to summer camps, and in 1908 he began to work with orphans.

 

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Meir Balaban, Jewish historian
(1877–1942)

 

Meir Balaban

Was born on February 20, 1877 in Lemberg. He was one of the most outstanding historians of Polish and Galician Jews, and the founder of Polish Jewish historiography.. He received a traditional education at home and traditional Jewish schooling, namely the Hebrew language and Bible study in a cheder. He died on December 26, 1942, in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Yeshayahu Drucker left home at age of 14 and traveled to Warsaw where he was admitted to the seminar. The seminar was organized along years of study and was located in the heartland of Jewish Warsaw, Gensza Street 9[4]. The school concentrated on the study of Hebrew, biblical texts, Jewish history and the Polish language in order to be able to teach in the Polish public schools.The school population ranged between 120-150 students originating from all over Poland. Yeshayahu Drucker enjoyed the school and devoted himself to the studies. He remained at the school until 1932. He witnessed a decline of the Zionist appeal among the Jewish youth and the growing influence of the Communist ideology within the seminar. There was even a communist cell within the seminar that printed Communist flyers and frequently hid the materials between the religious books in the small synagogue of the seminar. Many students became Communist leaders[5]. Some even went to jail, since the Communist Party was illegal in Poland. Most of the printing of illegal material was done in the dorms and then distributed throughout the school Of course, the Communist students were not interested in the Jewish religion and did not intend to become teachers of Jewish religion. Most of them left school at the end of the third year. Yeshayahu continued for one more year and then left the school since he did not intend to become a religious teacher.

Yeshayahu was very active at the school and was a member of the student union that operated a variety of stores to provide the students with special needs such as paper supplies. The school even tried to encourage Yeshayahu to stay at the school. But he returned home and worked with his father at the store. He also began to prepare for the baccalaureate examinations with private tutors. To cover his expenses, he worked at many jobs including operating knitting looms.

Following the exams, he returned to the seminar and became youth coordinator of the Bnei Akiva youth group and student leader. In 1937-1938 he resumed a full study program and was also teaching at the seminar. The next year, he continued his studies and finished the fifth year of studies at the seminar. Many students then left to continue their studies at the Hebrew University in Palestine. He was still undecided as to his future and headed home to Kraków.

The city had a large Jewish population of about 50,000 Jews or 25% of the total population. Jews played a very important role in the city, especially in the economic and commercial sectors. All Jewish organizations had branches in the city that ranged from communist cells to the Hassidic courts. Kraków even had a Jewish representative in the Polish parliament, Rabbi Thon. He also officiated at Kraków' big progressive synagogue , similar to the Conservative synagogues in the United States. The head of the Jewish community was Dr. Moshe Landau, an assimilated Jew. There were many synagogues and Hassidic shtiblech or small synagogues in Kraków. Yeshayahu went to the synagogue that attracted the Bnei Akiva youth members. Krakow's secondary streets had many Jewish stores where the items were much cheaper than in the stores along the main streets. The latter stores were owned by Poles. There were some Jewish stores on the main streets but they tried to minimize their Jewish presence. The Jewish stores attracted not only city dwellers but also the peasantry from the vicinity of the city who sought bargains.

Yeshayahu Drucker failed his military medical test and was told to present himself again the following year. Even with the increase of tension along the borders between Germany and Poland, he remained at home. The government ordered ditches to be built in the city in case of air bombings. But life continued, the youth clubs continued to meet, the Jews went to their synagogues. And then on September 1, 1939, at 6 A.M. Polish radio announced that German planes were attacking Poland. It even described the attacks and urged everybody to go to non-existent shelters. The next day was Saturday, and on Sunday the Drucker family left Kraków. The journey east led by Israel Drucker and the separation of Yashayahu and Aaron Drucker from their father is described above. The two brothers were lost and did not know where they were. The night was cold and they decided to enter the first farm that appeared.

 

Aaron Drucker

Aaron Drucker was born in 1916 during World War One in Kraków. The Drucker family was in a poor state of affairs since Israel Drucker was in the army and Rachel Drucker could only provide a few pennies to keep the family going. Aaron went to cheder and then attended the advanced Hebrew school. He loved to manipulate mechanical gadgets and worked with his father in the jewelry store. He had manual dexterity and with time became an excellent watchmaker. He joined the family in the trip east. His technical skills would help them in Russia.

 

Dworah Drucker

Was born in Krakow in 1923. She was a student when the war started. She returned to Krakow with her mother.

 

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Yad Vashem Page of Testimony submitted by Yeshayahu Drucker for
his sister Dworah Drucker, murdered at the Belzec death camp

 

Yossef Drucker

Was born in 1925 in Krakow. He was an excellent student and excelled in religious studies. He leaned to orthodoxy and even became a devotee of the Hassidic court of Belz. He succeeded in reaching Vilna with his father. He remained in Lithuania and shared the fate of the Vilna Jews.

 

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Yad Vashem Page of Testimony submitted by Yeshayahu Drucker for
his brother Yossef who was murdered in Lithuania

 

Riwkah Tislowitz-Luftglass

The sister of Rachel Tislowitz-Drucker, was born in Krakow. The two sisters were very close and even left Krakow together on the journey east. Riwkah was married to Zvi Luftglass, a native of Krakow. He was an engineer. They had one son named Yeshayahu. The two Yeshayahus, Luftglass and Drucker, were close friends. The Luftglass family left the family's eastward trek and returned to Krakow. The entire family was sent to the Belzec death camp where they perished.

 

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Yad Vashem Page of Testimony submitted by Yeshayahu Drucker for
his cousin Yeshayahu Luftglass who was murdered at the Belzec death camp


Footnotes

  1. Yeshayahu Drucker, Testimony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. File # 10526, dated July 30, 1997. P.11 Return
  2. Ibid., p.12 Return
  3. Drucker, Testimony, p.15 Return
  4. Drucker, Testimony, p.4 Return
  5. Ibid., p.5 Return

 

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