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Chapter X

Competition Amongst the Homes

Drucker was very busy traveling all over Poland to locate Jewish children in non–Jewish homes. Yeshayahu Drucker not only spoke Polish fluently but looked Polish. This would be a very important attribute because, when Drucker presented himself at the home of a Polish farmer and talked about a Jewish child who lived with the family, the farmer assumed that the Polish government wanted the matter settled. Drucker had lists and addresses of Jewish children in non–Jewish homes. His job was to travel around Poland and locate the hidden Jewish children. Then the process of negotiations started. Sometimes he had names and addresses from letters supplied by Rabbi Kahana or Rabbi Herzog or other Jewish sources or testimonies in which surviving Jews provided information about the location of Jewish children in non–Jewish homes. Drucker would arrive in his uniform in a military car driven by a military chauffer, supplied by Rabbi Kahane.[1] No Polish farmer could believe that he faced a Jew.

The fact that Drucker approached the holders of the Jewish children with money incentives and praise for their action during the war placed the negotiations on a friendly basis and contributed to the high degree of Drucker's success. At first his approaches were usually rejected, but he would stubbornly persist. He would visit frequently, bringing candy and toys for the children and gifts for the family. Slowly he would begin to negotiate with the Polish families or Christian institutions and pay the families or institutions for their financial outlay during the war. Occasionally, if a family did not negotiate honestly or worse, flatly refused to negotiate, he used guile and even force to bring the Jewish children from their Christian homes. Although he sometimes used forceful methods to get the child, he always managed to pay for the child's upkeep during the war. The redemption campaign of the Jewish religious association proved to be very popular with the surviving Jews in Poland who finally found someone who actively helped them in their struggle to recover surviving members of their family.

These successful activities created resentments at the Jewish education department of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. As we already mentioned, the committee had the full backing of the Polish government in Warsaw. The central committee's education department, under the leadership of Shlomo Herszenhorn, ran most of the Jewish orphanages in postwar Poland. Herszenhorn was an important Bund leader, a member of the central committee and headed the education programs of Jewish education. His department had the largest number of Jewish orphanages in postwar Poland. His first children's home was opened in Lublin in July, 1944 with that city's liberation. Following the end of the war, this organization immediately proceeded to set up homes for the surviving Jewish orphans. Rabbi Kahana did not like the content of the educational programs at the homes. He was interested in the restoration of Jewish religious life in Poland. The Polish government refused to involve itself in a fight between the central committee and the Jewish religious associations headed by Rabbi Kahane. The Polish government did not want to antagonize Jewish organizations throughout the world. It wanted to show a fair attitude to the Jews in Poland in its fight with the reactionary policies of the Polish government in exile in London. So the central committee was told to keep away from the religious associations. The central committee had to accept the decision.

The central committee did not concern itself with Jewish children in non–Jewish homes unless they were mistreated. The Jewish religious associations, that is, Drucker, actively searched for Jewish children hidden in Christian homes and institutions. On occasion, relatives of the children at the homes of the central committee induced the children to leave these homes and Zionist homes or Zionist religious homes where they received a Zionist education. These acts irritated the central committee that constantly shifted to the political left. Soon another threat and a more dangerous threat appeared.

The Zionist parties in Poland began to emerge and began to create Jewish institutions, orphanages and kibbutzim for older youngsters. Most of them were impressed by the activities of the Jewish religious associations in Poland. Soon there was tremendous competition among the various Zionist organizations in retrieving Jewish children from Christian places. The fight became intensive and acrimonious with the arrival of large numbers of repatriated Jewish orphans from Russia. The various Zionist homes began to entice youngsters to leave their current Zionist homes and join other Zionist homes. The competition among the various Jewish organizations greatly increased the price of redemption of Jewish children. Some people even demanded cash in dollars for the release of Jewish children, Of course, the homes of the central Jewish committee were also affected by the enticements and desertions of Jewish children but they could do little since the Polish government did not want to interfere. Then, Arieh Sharid, an emissary from Palestine, suggested that all the Zionist parties form a head office called “The Zionist Coordination Office” under the leadership of Leibel Korinski from Kibbutz Yagur in Palestine. He coordinated the activities of redeeming Jewish children. The office established four homes where youngsters remained for some time until they left Poland. The office also began to establish and coordinate various Zionist orphanages for Jewish orphans who returned from Russia.

Most of the Zionist organizations that belonged to this office were non–religious and their orphanage homes followed a secular Zionist base of instruction. Rabbi Kahana and Rabbi Becker helped to establish religious Zionist homes under the auspices of the Mizrahi and Hapoel Hamizrahi political movements. Similar homes were established by the non–Zionist Orthodox Agudat Israel party. The religious parties were not part of the “Koordinacja” central committee. The aim of the office and the Zionist homes was to prepare the children to head for Palestine. Indeed, transports of children constantly left Poland, some legally as was the case of the large Herzog children's transport that will be described below. Other large transports of children went to Britain with Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld and some children headed to the DP camps in Germany and Austria. Many Jewish children left Poland illegally by various means. Some children were officially adopted by Jewish families abroad. The Polish government was aware of the situation but refused to stop these illegal activities for fear of tarnishing further its bad reputation regarding Jews in Poland.

The Zabrze home and the Gluszyca home were not affiliated with the Zionist Coordination office or the Zionist organizations or with the Central Committee homes that were the largest in number. Both homes belonged to the Association of Religious Jewish communities in Poland. The head of the association was Rabbi Kahana, a military chaplain; his assistants were Captain Yeshayahu Drucker, and Captain Rabbi Becker. Essentially the organization was under the auspices of the Polish army, which paid their salaries. Both homes prepared the children for Jewish life and intended to ship them to Palestine. It is estimated that 600–700 children stayed at the Zabrze home for various periods of time until they left Poland. The homes devoted themselves to the children and to their needs, which were extensive. The children demanded constant attention and particularly individual attention, which they never received in their previous places. They acted out their fears, imagined or real, and the staff had to help and offer guidance to the youngsters. The homes used a great deal of social psychology in drawing out the children from their isolation by involving them in big plays that involved many children. According to David Danieli, the Zabzre home staged celebrations on the birthdays of Theodor Herzl, the founder and leader of political Zionism, and Chaim Nachman Bialik, the great modern Hebrew writer.

Meanwhile large transports of Polish refuges arrived from the Soviet Union. These transports contained a substantial number of Jews and many Jewish orphans in the Polish orphanages. Technically speaking these children were supposed to go to the homes of the Central Committee. Rabbi Kahana and Drucker were bitterly opposed to these homes. They awaited transport trains and talked the Jewish children to leave the Polish or Central orphanages. The older Jewish children were very happy to leave the Polish institutions where they were mistreated. The chaplains and the Jewish religious communities in Poland tried to find temporary homes for these children. Rabbi Kahana and the chaplains decided to look for a home for these children. A place was soon located near the city of Walbrzych named Gluszyca. Several hundred repatriated Polish Jews settled in this hamlet. The house was soon provided with all the necessary facilities and Jewish youths soon moved in. A section of the home was reserved for elderly Jews. The children were older than the Zabrze children and most of them did not speak Polish. Some Jewish parents brought their children to the Gluszyca home since they could not provide for them. The atmosphere was more religious at the home. The home stressed Hebrew, Palestine geography and Zionism.

The Jewish religious communities in Poland helped many youngsters to reach the Gluszyca home. Rabbi Aaron Becker devoted himself more to Gluszyca while Rabbi Yeshayahu Drucker devoted himself to Zabrze. Both chaplains fought for each Jewish child. The competition for Jewish children increased with time as many Zionist organizations and non–Zionist organizations began to open homes for Jewish orphans. Frequently there were scenes at the railroad stations between the various organizations trying to get some Jewish orphans to join their homes. The Central Committee did not involve itself in these activities but lost many children to the other Jewish homes that stressed Jewish values.

 

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The Gluszyca home for children and old people, 1946–1947

 

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Chanukah lighting ceremony at Gluszyca orphanage

 

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Rabbi Kahana and Rabbi Becker at the Gluszyca home

 

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Rabbi Kahana adrressed the orphans at Gluszyca home

 

The Gluszyca home would operate from about 1946 to 1947. With the end of the mass transports from the Soviet Union the number of Jewish children declined and the home closed. Most of the children were sent out of Poland by various means. Zabrze continued to operate and even received some publicity amongst the non–Jewish population. The orphanages began to work and received children from Christian families that surrendered the children and were compensated for their expenses of caring for the Jewish children during the war.

Zabrze was always in need of money for the expenses of redeeming Jewish children and running the home was very expensive. Contributions came from various places and institutions throughout the Jewish world, as the one below.

 

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Contribution made by the Association of the United Galician Jews to the Zabrze home via the JDC organization in Poland

 

These donations kept flowing to Poland and helped the Association of Jewish religious communities and the Jewish religious homes to provide the needed services to the Jewish communities. The fact that Rabbi Kahana was the chief chaplain of the Polish army established him as the leader of Polish religious Jewry. His office became the center of information regarding Jewish religious and non–religious matters in Poland. Rabbis wrote letters to him and frequently sent contributions or gifts to his office so that he could provide the restored Jewish communities with prayer books or bibles or prayer shawls. Drucker, of course, saw to it that the Zabrze home received all the religious items that the children needed.

The biggest and largest contributor to the maintenance of the home was of course the Polish JDC headed by David Guzik, director of the Joint Distribution Committee's operations in Poland.

David Guzik was born in Warsaw, Poland. He joined the JDC Warsaw office as an accountant in 1918. During the course of World War II, he became a central figure in JDC Warsaw. Using his skills to raise funds by legal or illegal means, he helped finance welfare services, medical help, and cultural and underground activities in the ghetto including the Oneg Shabbat project and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. He survived the war in hiding on the “Aryan” side. In 1945, he was appointed Director of JDC Operations in liberated Poland. David Guzik was killed in a plane crash in Prague in 1946 while returning from a conference in Paris, France. He had gone to Paris for consultations and met Joseph Schwartz, head of JDC operations in Europe. The tragic loss of Guzik at this period was a great loss to the JDC in Poland. The place needed someone that was familiar with the country and with problems that the surviving Shoah Jews faced. Schwartz decided to call on William Beim who was JDC director in Poland between the wars. Beim answered the call and returned to Poland.

 

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David Guzik

 

Dr. Joseph Schwartz was a brilliant and exceptional man. Known as Packy to those close to him, he was born in Ukraine and moved to Baltimore at an early age. A distinguished educator and scholar and an authority on Semitics and Semitic Literature, Dr. Schwartz received his doctorate from Yale, following his graduation from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Seminary of Yeshiva University. Dr. Schwartz taught at the American University in Cairo and at Long Island University and then served as Director of the Federation of Jewish Charities in Brooklyn. He served the JDC from 1939–1950, and then went on to become the Executive Vice Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and later the Vice President of Israel Bonds. He passed away in 1975, leaving behind a legacy of countless good deeds.

Following World War II, Dr. Schwartz organized a massive organization that helped thousands of Shoah survivors and enabled them to regain their humanity. The Joint Distribution Committee not only provided food, medicine and financial help but also provided hope. Schwartz was especially concerned with the Jewish infants who had survived the war. Orphanages and Jewish youth centers were on top of his list. He, of course, endorsed the support for the Zabrze orphanage.

 

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Dr. Joseph Schwartz in his military uniform

 

Partial JDC Archives List of Children's Homes in Poland
Notice Zabrze is listed as a religious congregation.

Institution Address Number of children
TOZ, Jewish Health Assc Otwock, Olin
Glussyoe
Srodborow Cleszynska
40 Sanatorium
80 Preventorium
70
Religious Organizations
Agudas Israel
Krakow Dreitele
Dzierszew
29
50
  Lodz 10
Children Home Dzierzoniow, Browarna12 30
  Lodz, Zachodnia 66 10
Religious Congregation Zabrze, Karlowicza 10 31
Vaad Hatzala Bytom, Smolenska 15 70
Zionist Organizations Headquarters, Lodz  
  Poludniowa 26
Mizrachi Krakow, Miodova 26 25
Mizrachi Sosnowiec 39
Coordination of Zionist Lodz, Zawadzka 17 93
Hashomer Hazair Srodmiejska 4 49
Poale Zion Bielawa 52
Central Jewish home Committee Legnica, Piastowska 6 60
Central Jewish home Piotrolesie, Ogrodowa 10 88
Central Jewish home Chorsow, Katowicka 2 80
Central Jewish home Otwock, Bolesl. Pruss 11 80
Central Jewish home Srodborow, Cieszynska 75
Central Jewish home Bielsko, Mickiewicza 22 56
Central Jewish home Srodborow, Literacka 2  
Central Jewish home Srodborowianka” 104
Central Jewish home Helenowek 117
Central Jewish home Krakow, Augustyuska Boczna 8 66

The original list is very difficult to read so we transcribed it for the readers.

The first column on the left gives the name of the organization of the home. The word central indicates that the home was under the control of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. The second column gives the address of the home and the last column indicates the number of children at the time of the visit of the inspectors of the Joint Distribution Committee. The number of children in the central homes remained relatively steady while the Zionist or Agudah homes constantly changed since the children were constantly shipped out of Poland.

 

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Original partial list of the orphanages that the Joint Distribution Committee supported in Poland

 

The insecurity of the Jewish population in Poland was also felt at the Jewish orphanages. The Zabrze home took several defensive measures, namely the entrance doors were constantly closed and watched especially at night. Danieli was even sent to the place where he lived to dig up several “Mauser” hand guns that he handed to Rudolf Wittenberg to use them to defend the Zabrze compound. The “Ichud” kibbutz that happened to be at the Zabrze Jewish compound was charged with the defense of the home. We already mentioned that The Ichud organization maintained a training farm within the Jewish compound of Zabrze. Apparently, they assumed the defense of the place. Of course, this was a temporary measure, most homes wanted to send their children out of Poland except for the homes under the control of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. These homes tried to educate the Jewish youngsters in a theoretical view of Polish spirit that did not exist . Even the children saw that they were being attacked because they were Jewish. Many of these children left these homes and joined Zionist homes or kibbutzim in order to get out of Poland.


Footnote

  1. Drucker testimony at Yad Vashem Return

 

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