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Chapter XII

Some Children Came to Zabrze
of their own Free Will

 

David Danieli

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David Danieli, formerly Daniel Danielski, at the orphanage in Zabrze in 1946

 

David Danielski (surname later changed to Danieli) was born in 1932 in the hamlet of Pszczyna. His father, Max or Maximilian, was a pastry baker. The family soon moved to the bigger township of Rybnik in Silesia where Max opened a bakery in the center of the city. The bakery was very successful and the family flourished. They had a maid and their apartment was well furnished including a piano, and many antiques which David's mother, Hannah, collected. David's older brother Sasha had died in 1928 so the younger boy received a great deal of attention from Max and Hannah. But his parents insisted that David be independent and able to defend himself when the need arose.

David does not remember much about the family or their friends. He does remember playing with other children in the courtyard of their apartment building. The family was not very religious although they belonged to the Jewish Community Center. He recalls attending very crowded services on a few occasions at the main synagogue, and his mother giving him a flag crowned with an apple to take with him to synagogue in celebration of Simchat Torah.

The new order in Germany appointed a German supervisor over the bakery, who was in essence the owner. Max Danielski was permitted to stay on at the bakery but only as a worker. Then the family was forced to move to a poorer section of the town, where other Jews were also forced to live. The new flat consisted of one room into which everything possible was moved. David's mother started to sell items from their home to provide food for the family since her husband's income became smaller with time. While selling her household items, Hannah Danielski met a German Silesian woman, Martha Kapitza, who was also involved in buying and selling goods. The transactions were highly illegal, but Hannah was able to trade her valuables for food.

Max learned from a friendly policeman that anti–Jewish actions were being planned and started to make arrangements for his son's disappearance. He contacted a Polish farmer who lived in Babia Gora who was willing to take David for a time. Hannah packed a small suitcase, gave him some pocket money and bought him a train ticket. He traveled alone to the farm. He remained with the farmer and his family for some time helping with various farm chores. On a cold night in February of 1942 the farmer took David to the station and sent him home to Rybnik. He headed home and found the apartment dark with no lights in the window. The Gestapo had posted an order on the door forbidding admittance to the premises. He had no idea what had happened to his parents and did not know what to do next having no other family in the city.

David decided to cross the street and approach the neighbor, Martha Kapitza, who had become friendly with his mother. She offered him a place to stay until things settled down. Through her, David learned that all the Jews of Rybnik including his parents were rounded up and shipped to an unknown destination. Nobody knew what happened to them. He snuck into his parents' flat through a window and found that the police had ransacked the place and made a shambles. He made two trips to his former home, carrying away as much as he could and never returned. .

Anton Kapitza, the husband of Martha Kapitza, was an out of work, disabled coal miner of Polish Silesian origin. Martha was a native of Zabrze or Hindenburg, and provided for her family by selling luxury goods in exchange for food which she then resold. The market for these goods was excellent since there was a scarcity of finer goods in Germany during the war years. Hannah Danielski traded regularly with Martha Kapitza before she was deported and they had become good friends. Mrs. Kapitza had five children: Elizabeth who was a mute; Ernest, a soldier; Gertrude who delivered papers; Ludwig who worked in the building trades and was a bit slow; and the youngest Zigmund, born in 1933. David and Zigmund were close in age and got along pretty well. Gertrude, the oldest, born in 1923, assisted her mother in running the house and contributed financially. David did chores and errands at the direction of Martha or Gertrude Kapitza and adjusted to the situation as best he could. He knew that he was Jewish but that was about all he knew about Judaism.

Time went by and suddenly the Gestapo started searching and questioning people in the area. Apparently, someone either reported David or he heard the authorities were looking for him. Mrs. Kapitza packed a few items of clothing, gave him some money and the address of a farm supervisor in Striegau, Germany, who was originally a Polish police official. David left the house and headed for the train station just before the Gestapo arrived at the Kapitza home asking questions about his whereabouts. Gertrude later told him that her mother stated that he had left the house after stealing money. Mrs. Kapitza was even questioned at headquarters about the case but eventually the matter was dropped since she insisted that she had no knowledge of his whereabouts. Gertrude also revealed to him that her mother had promised Mrs. Danielski to help protect her son.

Meanwhile David remained with the farm supervisor helping with the chores. He started school, immediately proceeded to third grade and joined the “Hitler Jugend” or Hitler Youth, as every child belonged to the organization. He remembers collecting all kinds of materials for the war effort. One day, on the way to school, he saw for the first time people in striped pajamas who were inmates of the Gross Rosen concentration camp. He was reminded of his Jewish heritage and very worried about his parents. He would find out later that Mrs. Kapitza sent food to the Danielski's with a German who had worked with Max near Rybnik. Max died about June 16, 1942 and Mrs. Danielski was killed in Auschwitz in December 1943 at the age of 43.

By June, 1942, David had returned to the Kapitza household and taken over the newspaper route since Gertrude had married and left the house. Mrs. Kapitza managed to obtain a baptismal certificate for David and he began to attend school. He was frequently late due to the newspaper deliveries that steadily declined as the war raged against Germany. Conditions in Germany worsened each day although there was still enough food. The school building was soon converted into a military installation and classes ceased. The Russians were advancing on Germany. Being sent to the Eastern front was considered a death sentence. The Russians reached Rybnik in the winter of 1945, where they expelled the entire German population. The Kapitza family made the 40 mile trek to Zabrze where Martha's sister lived. Then the hardships really began. Anton Kapitza and David decided to head back to Rybnik and found the Kapitza home ransacked. The Russians had cleaned the place out including the basement where some food was well hidden.

Conditions were very bad The family made cookies and sold them to buy food. While dealing in the Rybnik market, David was approached by a Jewish man, Mr. Gold, who asked if he was Jewish and offered to help him return to Judaism. David felt an obligation to talk to Anton Kapitza first who saw no problem in David's learning about Judaism, Mr. Gold, who resided in Bytom, invited David to live in his home. Gold was in the process of preparing to take his family to America and asked David to join them. He agreed.

Gold also told David about the orphanage in Zabrze where he could learn about Judaism. David was sent to the orphanage, where the head teacher, David Hubel, made a great impression on him. David became an ardent Zionist, and was no longer interested in emigrating to the United States. Instead, David wanted to go to Palestine, and became very active in Zionist activities at the orphanage. The Gold family was disappointed by the decision since they really wanted to take David to the United States. They parted and never met again.

David enjoyed his stay at the orphanage where he learned the basic tenets of Judaism, Jewish history and the Hebrew language. He also attended the regular Polish school in accordance with Polish educational requirements. But David really did not devote himself to those studies since he wanted to go to Palestine. Then rumors started in the orphanage that Rabbi Herzog was coming to take all the children to Palestine.

Rabbi Itzhak Eisik Halevi Herzog, chief rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine, received a promise from the British administration in Palestine to give entrance certificates to 500 Jewish orphans who had survived the war in Poland in monasteries, Christian homes, forests and caves. There was great excitement at the Zabrze Jewish orphanage on Karlowica Street Number 10, Zabrze, Upper Silesia, Poland, with the news of imminent departure for Palestine. Rumors chased rumors but then the children were ordered to pack. Every child began to pack his few belongings; some had smaller, others bigger suitcases. The Zabrze contingent consisted of complete orphans, partial orphans, children with one parent, children with one parent aboard the transport, and children who had returned from Russia.

The following is a list of some of the Zabrze children that David Danielski could remember. In some instances the children were known merely by their nicknames.

Shlomo Korn
Tzvi Shpigler
Shlomo Shpigler
Yehuda Tzvi Sobol
Riwka Brender
Tzvi Brender
Yeizik Peitznik
David Fridman
Hannah Hoffman
Rivka Motil
Fela Kozoch
Sonia Mayer
Heniek Mayer
Arieh
Charlotka. Brother and sister
Yehudit Wilczenski
Mrs. Wilczenski
Renka
Her sister
And mother
Naomi Agrabska
Esther Kastenberg
Emil and mother
Big Eva
Ella
Roma
Dwora Ditman
Shmulek
Batia Sheinfeld
David Danieli
Raya, the group leader

Some children remained at the Zabrze home with a staff headed by principal Dr. Nehema Geler and head teacher David Hubel.

David left the Zabrze home on Thursday afternoon the 22nd of August, 1946. The Zabrze group first headed by tramway to the nearby town of Katowice where a train was standing on a sideline with hundreds of children, group leaders and teachers. They came from many orphanages in Poland: Lodz, Krakow, Warsaw and Katowice. The greetings, shouts and tears were beyond description. Order was soon established and the Zabrze group boarded its assigned car. Pan Kapitan, dressed in his military uniform, was there as well as Rabbi Aaron Becker. Both military chaplains had their hands full with all the logistical problems. The train and the passengers waited as time passed. It was already dark and no sign of the rabbi. The military escort of the train refused to budge. His instructions were clear, the rabbi must be aboard the train for him to give the order to move. The escorts and the children were nervous for they felt insecure in the Katowice station. Many of them heard of the violence committed against Jews along Polish railroads by Polish extreme nationalists. Trains had to be protected by soldiers or policeman against such attacks.

 

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Polish train protected by Polish soldiers

 

The rabbi was of course finalizing the final clearance papers for his transport. He and his son were then flown from Warsaw to Katowice where they boarded the train. The Polish military commander of the transport then ordered the train to roll to the Czech border.

 

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Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Palestine

 

Late that evening, the Herzog transport of children started to roll in a westerly direction toward the Czech border. The trip was slow–moving and made frequent stops, especially on the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia. Pan Kapitan and Rabbi Becker said goodbye to the children and headed back to Warsaw.

Shlomo Koren

 

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Shlomo Koren at Zabrze. Shlomo Koren is a friend of David Danieli. They started their friendship at Zabrze and maintain it to this day. Shlomo was kind enough to write his life story for us in Hebrew and we translated it to English.
The picture was provided by the “Lochamei Hagetaot” Museum

 

I, Shlomo Koren was born in Nowy Sacz, Galicia, Poland and survived World War II in Russia, returning to Poland following the war in 1946. My family settled in Katowice, Poland, where I was registered in a city public school but did not attend classes. I barely spoke Polish. I met David Danieli (Danielski) in Katowice. He told me that he was attending a Jewish school in Zabrze, about a half hour away, and invited me to visit him. I visited the

 

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Notice the picture of Shlomo in the second line from the bottom. The picture is numbered 76. (Actually, it looks like 76 but is really the Hebrew letters, tet and vav which equal fifteen. You will notice that the little girl is Yod, gimel 13, the boy next to her is Yod, dalet – 14)

 

Zabrze home on several occasions and was pleased by the ambience of the place. I liked the home, especially the individual attention that the place gave the children. I discussed the situation with my mother and sisters. I had no father. The family had difficulty controlling me and I often roamed the streets of Katowice, so they consented to my moving to the home. The orphanage readily accepted me, for the institution was specifically created for children like me.

At Zabrze, I was in a room with two other boys; one of them named Morin Landau. Each of us had experienced horrible events that we tried to forget. Some of the girls at the home spoke only Polish and continued to pray and cross themselves, refusing to admit that they were Jewish. The teachers and supervisors had a difficult time reaching some of the children but with time managed to win their confidence and provide them with a basic education and a bit of self–confidence. Jewish religious education was introduced in moderation so as not to antagonize the children who were ill at ease, if not hostile, to anything Jewish. The boys were taught how to pray, put on phylacteries, just as the girls were taught about lighting candles and all children were exposed to Jewish holidays and a bit of a Jewish atmosphere. Hebrew, Jewish history, and Zionism were stressed at the home.

Within the compound of the Jewish community at Zabrze near the orphanage, there was also a building where a group of young pioneers were preparing themselves to move to Palestine and work the land. The group or kibbutz belonged to the Ichud Zionist movement. We watched the youngsters frequently dancing “horas” and other folk dances in the yard of the compound and were impressed. Their enthusiasm inspired us to become more fervent Zionists. After four months of ideal life at the home, we heard that Rabbi Herzog was coming to take us to Palestine. I began to beg my mother and sisters to permit me to leave Poland with the others. They were not opposed to Palestine but feared the distance and the unknown. Slowly and persistently I managed to convince them that I must go to Palestine. Mother bought me a new jacket, shoes and stitched some dollars into my pants in case of an emergency.

Time flew and we left the home and headed to Katowice, Poland, where we boarded a train with other youngsters. The train waited for the arrival of Rabbi Herzog and his entourage. He arrived late in the evening and the train started to roll to the Czech border. The next day was Friday, the train stopped and we spent Shabbat at a hotel in Moravski–Ostrava. There was a bit of chaos at the hotel since the children made great use of the hotel telephones, elevators and borrowed items that were never returned.

On Sunday, the train resumed the journey to Prague where we disembarked and were taken to a refugee camp named Repatrianski Tabor Dablice to await entrance visas to France. We would remain in this camp for about six weeks. Our Zabrze group became part of the Hapoel Hamizrahi group. The group leaders were not well disposed to our Zabrze contingent since we spoke primarily Polish and were less familiar with Jewish customs than the Mizrahi group. A certain distance existed between the groups. The Zabrze group was very sensitive and received a great deal of attention at the home due to our origins and experiences while the regular Mizrahi youths were familiar with Jewish life. The Mizrahi youth leaders also lacked the necessary educational tools to handle the sensitive Zabrze contingent. Still, a routine was established at the refugee camp and we youngsters had to abide by it.

Some of us boys, including David Danieli, soon formed a group that would travel to Prague and spend time in the city. I sold my stamp collection in Prague in order to have spending money. We went to the movies and saw many city attractions in Prague. I was displeased with our group leader and joined a group of boys that raided the youth warehouse following dinner on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. We took clothing and food and gave it all out to the children, who appeared at services the next day at in brand new outfits. The group leaders could do little about our antics.

The French visas arrived a day after Rosh Hashanah. We headed to the railway station, boarded a train and traveled for the next two days across Germany until we reached Strasbourg, France. We were taken to the Strasbourg Jewish community service center, where we spent the holidays. We were then moved to a three–story house on Rue Selenic in the center of Strasbourg that belonged to the Jewish community. The main floor had halls that were converted into a synagogue, dining room and study centers. The second floor consisted of dorms and the third floor had small rooms for the staffers and their families. The place was crowded and disorganized. The group leaders became a bit more tyrannical in their behavior toward us. Discipline was strictly enforced and offenders were given cleaning chores as punishment. Soon the younger children were removed to a home in Schirmeck, making life at the home a bit easier.

Some of us were not pleased with the management at the home and expressed it openly. The administration then made arrangements to move nine of us to the Jewish orphanage of Strasbourg administered by Mr. and Mrs. Blum. The Blum's gave us a warm reception with plenty of tasty food, some clothing, bed sheets and transportation passes. We were assigned to an American ORT program where we were taught various trades. I selected courses in metal work. The instruction was primarily in German but I also received instruction in French. All children had to attend services at the synagogue of Rabbi Deutch of Strasbourg.

I had ample time to enjoy the city and meet with my friends who remained at the home in Rue Selenic. But I was restless and anxious to head to Palestine. I started to talk to the other boys of the transport and we soon formed a group that was determined to make aliyah. We approached the children from the home on Selenic with our plan and some youngsters joined us, including David Danieli. We had neither the money nor the connections to carry out our plan. David decided to write a letter to his friend, David Hubel, the headmaster in Zabrze, explaining our problem and asking for help.

The answer soon came in the form of train tickets and a date of departure to Marseilles, France. We packed and bid farewell to our temporary homes. The Selenic Street home threw a party in our honor and we left for Marseilles where an emissary met us and took us to an isolated and empty house. We remained there until Passover and then moved to another camp facing the sea. Here preparations were being made for the departure of the next illegal ship. Hundreds of boarding passes were forged with the South American country of Columbia as the destination. Then one night, Jewish refugees began to arrive en masse and were organized in groups and sent to board the ship, Exodus. Our group was one of the last to board the very crowded ship.

On July 11, 1947, the ship managed to leave the docking berth without a pilot and headed out to sea. The British navy followed the ship and then rammed the boat on the high seas. Fights ensued between the British boarding parties and the immigrants resulting in the death of three civilians,

 

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The Exodus ship arriving in the port of Haifa, Palestine

 

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The Exodus passengers forced to leave the train in Germany. British military trucks would transport them to D.P. camps in the British military zone in Germany

 

among them an American sailor, and dozens of seriously wounded passengers. The illegal ship was brought to Haifa where all passengers were transferred to three prison ships and started their voyage back to France.

The French refused to force the passengers off the boats and eventually the ships sailed to Hamburg where we docked on September 6, 1947. Our ship, the “Empire Rival”, was the last ship to dock and we were immediately placed aboard a train and transported to Lubeck where trucks took us to the camp called Amstau. We were later transferred to another camp named Pependorf where there were more youngsters. Here we participated in various activities and also studied Hebrew. Soon we began to travel in the direction of France under the leadership of “Bricha” agents and eventually made it back to Strasbourg. The home at Rue Selenic was closed and Mr. Blum was happy to see the group. I continued my train trip to Marseilles where I entered a huge refugee camp named “Grand Arnas.”

 

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Numbered certificate issued to the passengers of the famous “Exodus” ship

 

The camp contained many nationalities including Jews waiting for visas for America or residence papers to stay in France. Within a week we were transferred to the Jewish Agency camp “Villa Gabi,” a beautiful place overlooking the sea. Here we awaited an illegal ship that would take us to Palestine. Then came the order that only volunteers for the Israeli Army would be sent to Israel. I was informed that I would be sent back to the Rue Selenic orphanage that had now moved to the Chateau Voisin near Paris. I refused to go back to the home and joined a Hagana training camp in the vicinity of Marseilles. I lied about my age, told them I was 18 and was accepted for military training. I then boarded a ship with Canadian volunteers and landed in Haifa toward the end of May, 1948. I was immediately sent to the “Yona” military base near Beit Lid and within a few days, I was ordered to assemble with the other soldiers. I must have looked younger than the other soldiers because when the commander saw me, he told me to return my weapon and wait for him. Following the formation, he dropped me off at the immigrant hostel in Raanana on his way to visit his parents. Thus ended my wanderings from 1939 to 1948.

Klara Frauenglass

 

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Background file of Klara Frauenglass at the Zabzre orphanage in Polish

 

Document No 1023 composed by Mrs. W. Berkelhamer

Nursery in Zabrze
August 11, 1946

Little Klarcia, wonderful black–haired creature, looking like a little Japanese child, all the time stands near and cuddles up to me, yearning for tenderness. When I gave her a mirror, she was so happy, she held out her cheek to be kissed, and hid the mirror in the pocket of her apron.

The history of this child was told to me by Dr. Necha Geller.

Klarcia Frauenglas was born in Zbaraz (Eastern Galicia) in 1941. (The Germans steadily reduced the Jewish population by massive actions of killing and deportations. The parents decided to entrust their child to a Polish acquaintance hoping that she would keep the child under her protection.)

In 1943, before the final Action, the parents gave the child to a Polish woman; the parents were killed during the Action. After the Action, the woman brought the child to the Gestapo and the girl was condemned to

death by shooting. A Gestapo officer took aim but little Klarcia, a very lively child, imagined that he was playing with her; she was jumping and with her little hand knocked the revolver out of his hand. The officer tried once and twice and finally gave up.

He handed the revolver to a Ukrainian militiaman and ordered him to shoot her. And what do you know, the same thing happened. The Ukrainian took aim but the child knocked the revolver again out of his hand. All present were amazed and exclaimed in German that it was a miracle. “Ein Kind, dass die Kugel nicht greifen will” (A child that the bullet can't hit).

They decided that the child must live. The Gestapo chief summoned the

Ukrainian mayor of Zbaraz and told him to keep the child alive. The mayor sent the child to the local Ukrainian orphanage. She remained there throughout the war and was saved.

About three months ago, a Polish repatriated woman from Zbaraz brought the girl to the Zabzre orphanage and left her there.. When she arrived, she didn't know a word of Polish, she only spoke Ukrainian. Now she talks Polish and socializes with the other children. She is a darling of the entire orphanage.

In Zbaraz all Jews and Catholics were familiar with the story of the miraculously saved Jewish child.

Zabrze, Aug 11, 1946
Dr. Geller

Originally translated from Polish to English by Iwo Bialynicki–Birula, Eva Mihokova and Richard Kerner.

 

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Drucker album. First line. Left to Right. Number picture 2, bet, is Klara Frauenglass. Klara Frauenglass left Poland reached France and then sailed to Israel with other children

 

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