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Chapter XVI

The Drucker Family in Israel

Pan Kapitan and his family left the port of Gdansk, Poland, and sailed to Haifa, Israel. Of course, he was not the only person to arrive in Israel. The country was flooded with Jewish refugees from Europe, mainly from the D.P. camps in Germany, Austria and Italy and also Jews from North Africa. The D.P. camps were being closed very rapidly.

Israel was not ready for such huge immigration. The country did not have the capacity to absorb such large numbers of people in such a short period of time. But the government could not stop the flow of refugees after it had kept repeating that the gates to Israel were open to all Jews and many of the Jews accepted the call and arrived in Israel. There were shortages of everything, mainly jobs and apartments. Nobody awaited Pan Kapitan at the port. All the people who had asked him for help in Poland seemingly disappeared overnight. He was left alone to face the difficult road of absorption. He had not established a strong connection to Israel and knew nobody of influence. All the people whom he helped ignored him. Even the head of the Jewish Agency Youth Aliyah department, Moshe Kol, refused to meet or extend help. Yet Pan Kapitan had sent hundreds of children to Israel with the help of Youth Aliyah. Drucker started to run around trying to get an apartment, which he finally obtained from the Jewish Agency in the city of Holon, south of Tel Aviv. Then he started to look for a job and found a clerical position with the help of an old acquaintance. Slowly and steadily Pan Kapitan and his family settled down in Israel. The absorption process was extremely difficult and frustrating.

By word of mouth, the news soon spread among the former Zabrze residents that Pan Kapitan has arrived in Israel. They slowly began to write letters and to visit him. The children were scattered all over the country. Some had adapted well to the country while others had great difficulties and problems. Pan Kapitan became the listener and solver of problems. He had their confidence and trust. In effect, he was their father and mother despite his own problems. The youngsters began to spent time with Pan Kapitan and received a great deal of attention that the society did not give them. To him they could talk in Polish and open their hearts and discuss their problems. His door was never closed. At times, he wondered whether he had done the right thing in taking these children out of their Polish homes and tossing them into the chaotic place of Israel where they had to swim on their own. Most of the children approved of his actions and were pleased to return to the Jewish fold. This gave him strength and confidence to continue to help the children.

 

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Moshe Kol

 

Moshe Kol was born Moshe Kolodny on May 28, 1911, in Pinsk. He was one of the founders of the Ha–Oved Ha–Tzioni youth movement, a middle–of–the road Zionist youth movement in Poland. He immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1932. He joined the Histadrut trade union, serving as a member of its executive between 1941 and 1946, and also sat on the board of directors of the Jewish Agency, where he headed the Youth Aliyah department, that is, the illegal immigration of Jewish youngsters to Palestine. Pan Kapitan sent him many youngsters from Poland and received many requests from Kol to assist cases of children in non–Jewish homes. But Kol refused to lift a finger to help Drucker with his first steps in Israel. Pan Kapitan even wrote him a letter but Kol never answered. [1]

Pan Kapitan's family expanded in Israel with the birth of a son. The Drucker home became a beehive of activity for former residents of Zabrze, They came with problems and sought help. He listened patiently and answered their queries. According to former Zabrze orphanage resident Batia Akselrod Eisenstein, Pan Kapitan was both the father and mother that the children had lost in the war. [2] Most of the children adored him. He had collected photographs of the children at Zabzre and placed them in an album that he showed everybody. The album was later donated to the museum of the Lochamei Hagetaot at the kibbutz of the same name located near the city of Akko. Pan Kapitan considered the children as his children. He devoted all his energies to them and helped them with their many absorption and maturity problems. Michal Heffer, another resident of Zabrze, said, sitting in the living room of her Kfar Vitkin home, “I've made a good life in Israel.” [3] Heffer is a published author and recognized artist in Israel. President Ezer Weitzman of Israel autographed one of her poems.

Ezer Weizman was born in Tel Aviv in the British Mandate of Palestine on June 15, 1924. His father, Yechiel, was an agronomist. Weitzman was a nephew of Israel's first president, Chaim Weitzmann. He grew up in Haifa, and attended the Hebrew Reali School. He married Reuma Schwartz, sister of Ruth Dayan, wife of Moshe Dayan, and they had two children, Shaul and Michal.

Weizman was a combat pilot. He received his training in the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and attended aviation school in Rhodesia. He served with the RAF in India in early 1944. Between 1944 and 1946, he was a member of the Irgun underground in Mandatory Palestine. Between 1946 and 1947, he studied aeronautics in Britain. He became commander of the Israeli air force and was later elected President of Israel.

The children of Zabrze showed their affection for Pan Kapitan by throwing a big party for him in the city of Holon where he lived. The party was attended

 

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Yeshayahu Drucker (with glasses) at a Zabrze Jewish orphans reunion, May 26, 1999, Holon, Israel

 

by almost all former Zabrze residents in Israel. They continued to visit him even as he grew older, seeking paternal affection and compliments.

 

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Former Zabrze residents at the home of Pan Kapitan

 

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An aged Pan Kapitan surrounded by his devoted “children.”
Reunion of former Zabrze residents with Yeshayahu Drucker. Standing from right to left; Tziporah Domb, Fela Koshok, Hawa Klarsfeld and Shoshana Stein. Sitting from right to left; Dawid Danieli, Yeshayahu Drucker and his wife Marioska

 

Then the news spread throughout Israel that Pan Kapitan had passed away. He died on September 15, 2004. A year later, his wife Miriam passed away.

A gifted former resident of Zabrze, Michal Heffer, wrote this eulogy in Hebrew:

 

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The translation of the eulogy into English

Captain Drucker was a noble person endowed with a sensitive soul who immersed himself in the task of saving Jewish children from Christian homes. This endeavor became his raison d'etre. He had all the patience and love for us and we needed heaps of it following the Shoah. He was our family, we saw in him our big brother for we had no one to turn to, yet we all had large families that vanished during the war. Even when we left Poland, where we were in terrible danger and arrived in France, we continued to correspond with him. Our letters usually began with “dear brother.” Indeed he was a dear man who risked his life for the sake of his “children.” He frequently went on missions to extract Jewish children from Christian homes, knowing well that some of the children no longer wanted to return to the Jewish fold or the adopted parents refused to part with the child. Then Yeshayahu Drucker attempted to negotiate the release of the child. If negotiations failed he then resorted to the courts or even to strong–arm tactics in order to save the child. When Yeshayahu Drucker came with my uncle Yehuda Elberg, a Yiddish writer, to take me away from the village of Pilczica near Kielce shortly after the terrible Kielce pogrom of 1946 aimed at the surviving Jews, we were almost killed in the forest on our way to freedom. But thanks to the quick thinking of Yeshayahu Drucker we were saved. Yeshayahu Drucker frequently had moral doubts about his activities, for he realized that some of children had finally found a home where they were accepted. They had lived with the family for a number of years and frequently did not even know that these parents were not their biological parents. Then to come and break up the relationship was very painful. Furthermore, some of the children were older and even more sensitive to being traumatized again. But Yeshayahu was determined to save these children for the Jewish nation.

Now I understand your motive, Captain Drucker, you did it on behalf of the Jewish nation and sacrificed personal feelings. You were our Janusz Korczak, our standard bearer.

And now you will appear before divine judgment and you will be graciously thanked in all likelihood on behalf of all the children of Zabrze and all the other children whom you saved.

For the nation of Israel can be compared to that famous legendary bird of the sand that is mentioned in Genesis Raba, 19, where it is written “The bird lived for a thousand years, then it was consumed by fire but the remains provided the necessary elements for the rebirth of the bird.” We are in the same situation, Captain Drucker, you have provided us with the necessary elements to grow again.

Thank you, Captain Drucker,
Our condolences to your wife, Miriam, and to your family.
May the gentle soil of this small country accept you who has sent us to it to resume a new life.
May your memory be blessed forever.

Signed Michal Hefer. Dated 15/10/2004.

Translated from Hebrew by William Leibner

 

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Pan Kapitan's resting place

 

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The erection of a tombstone for Yeshayahu Drucker. Mrs. Drucker and daughter were present at the ceremony

 

The children of Zabrze said goodbye to their adopted father who had cared and worried for them. They found in him a tower of strength as well as an ear. Yad Vashem organized two conferences where the former residents of Zabrze described the devotion of Pan Kapitan to the home.

 

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The happiest moments in Pan Kapitan's life was when surrounded by the children he saved and the staff

 

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Pan Kapitan looking at the album with pictures from Zabrze.

 

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Jewish children saved by Yeshayahu Drucker and brought to Zabrze

 

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More children at Zabrze

 

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Children at Zabrze stage plays

 

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Children at Zabzre stage dances

 

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Zabrze children hiking in the countryside

 

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Reunion of former Zabrze orphanage children at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

 


Footnotes

  1. Drucker, Testimony, p. 86. Return
  2. William Leibner interviewed Batia Akselrod–Eisnstein Return
  3. William Leibner interviewed Michal Heffer Return

 

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