by Natan MOSZKOWICZ, Herzliya
In setting up a spiritual memorial for our tragically cut-off community, we should at least to a small extent pay our moral debt to a significant portion of the martyrs, killed by the murderer's hand, or who lost their lives during their wanderings.
The personalities we hereby briefly describe have for years awakened and encouraged the spirit, heart and soul of our town's Jews; they exalted and developed, prepared for a beautiful and better life. They were the voices of different layers, among the effervescent Jewish life in the town.
The Comber brothers
The Comber brothers were doing their social work with business dedication and creative style. They were raised in an atmosphere of pure spirituality and holy worship by their father, R' Yaakov, who until his last breath was an employee of the Jewish community. He headed the vital records department and was the religious trustee in court, when Jewish citizens were involved in all kinds of trials. He led them through the ceremony of taking the oath.
He gave his children a religious and secular education, leading his sons to the level of excellent middle school teachers, with high pedagogical qualifications.
In the years 1919-1920, the Jewish-social life formed. Political parties were emerging. Among others, also the People's Party, founded by Noah Pryłucki, H. D. Nomberg and Hillel Zeitlin. The eldest son, Zundel Comber, became the party's leader in town. For many years he was their representative in town and community. Boldly and proudly, he defended the rights of the Jews of Kutno for national and cultural practice. He recklessly repulsed any antisemitic attack on a public tribune.
He was a worthy representative in protecting the interests of our Kutner Jews.
The younger brother, Lipman, was born in 1895. He graduated from a trade school in Kutno and later became a teacher.
Immediately after the First World War, through social activism and creative stubbornness, many prominent cultural positions were created, among them the Yiddish school in Poland. Lipman argued that the Renaissance movement should have a powerful response in Kutno as well.
Indeed, through his initiative and with the help of certain cultural institutions and individuals, a school was opened in a short time, named for Y. L. Perec.
Lipman Comber worked as a teacher and manager. With his cheerfulness, cleverness and loving smile, he won over enthusiastic supporters and friends and created a warm atmosphere around the school.
Remarkable: although virtually all of the school work was on his shoulders, he nevertheless found time for his historical research. As a result, he eventually moved to Warsaw. There, he entered the university and with great perseverance prepared his dissertation work. He received his doctorate in History. At the same time, he was active in a circle of young researchers and history writers, who had gathered around the publications Young Historian and Pages for History, led by later martyr Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum.
It was there that he published serious research, such as: The Relation of Prussian Power to the Jews in Poland from the Second to the Third Partition 1793-1795; A Picture of Jewish Cultural Life in a Polish City, Early 19th Century.
His historical creations in the 1930s were a documentary proof, a historical testimony against the antisemitic theory that Jews were recent settlers, in Poland. And when fate locked him up with all the Warsaw Jews in the ghetto, he became the leader of an educational institution for young children there. When the executioners forced him to hand over the children to their perdition, he went with them as a faithful father.
These few short words should serve as an amen to a Yitgadal v'Yitkadash, which must be said at least annually on the unknown tomb of ashes of the brothers Comber.
If Shalom Asz introduced into artistic pantheon of unforgettable prose our urban Jews, their way of life, environment and landscape, in poetry, this was done thanks to Abraham Pasirsztajn.
He was descendant of poor, pious parents. The father was a Jewish scholar. In addition to a small watchmaker's workshop, his father had a large closet with books. The rich library in his dad's home served him
to perfect his poetic instrument and ripen his talent. That talent was immediately apparent in his poems. At the very beginning of his poetic debut, he wrote:
In the struggle for bread, in the house of a pious man,It is the old traditional image of the Jewish home, where learning goes hand in hand with the struggle for its existence, the struggle with poverty. This poverty-stricken environment, with which the slender young man with the darkly handsome face and bright blue eyes became so attached in his formative years, is artistically-emotionally reflected in a number of ways in his book of poems Struggling Melodies: Poems. We must remain thankful to him after the reading and amazed at the sparkling colors and perfect tones.
I've uncovered this love-secret in old, silent books.
The eruption of Nazi hell was taking place in Western Europe. Together with his wife and daughter, he managed to escape from Hitler's gas and ovens and reached the shores of the United States. Here, all the sounds of his creative talent unfolded in him. He published poems and essays in Future, Free Workers' Voice, in New York Weekly and, together with N. Summer, he edited the literary magazine Oyfsnay.
Driven by a spiritual unrest, as if to pretend that his life was short, he endeavored as quickly as possible in his lyrical ballads to find an artistic redeeming for the mass destruction of his immediate surroundings.
In the mid-fifties, his body ruined by the tragic experiences, the gentle lyricist broke down, but his spiritual heritage will be equal to that of other Kutner writers, such as Shalom Asz and Beinish Zylbersztajn, shimmering colorfully for us on our spiritual life-path.
It was easy to recognize him a specific type of Masovian: a round red face, good-natured eyes
with a funny hot gleam in them. A heartfelt person with an attractive character. His language soft, sonorous, as was the case for his fellow-townsmen. His pace was easy and flexible. Everything about him was proportional. The outer shell was aesthetically pure.
He belonged to the type of freedom-seeking people who possesses unlimited pathos for freedom, against every form of slavery and oppression.
Socialism was for him purified humanism. But his nature, his being, could not fit into any party frame.
His father, of famous lineage, was immersed, like a sponge, in traditional and secular Jewish knowledge. Still in his sixties, he used to enter the library majestically, calmly, every other day, with a pile of books under his arm, on Królewska Street. Children and adults admired the old man, of aristocratic appearance.
The son, who also possessed those spiritual, fine features, received a modern Jewish and secular education. An accountant by profession and indeed the best in town. He could solve the most complex mathematical calculations.
He has long been the chairman of the Accountants' and Tradesmen's Union. He has also been an active participant in cultural and sporting institutions, chairing the YIVO Circle. He did a great deal for the building and development of Jewish culture and its institutions.
And yet Zalman Kirsztajn, until his untimely death, remained a romantic. His socialism was covered with a bluish veil of dreams. And just as the hero Cezary Baryka in Żeromski's Spring to Come dreams of a Poland of glass houses so did he (by the way, he often liked to talk about the hero).
But he never wanted to get into political action.
In September 1939, as the skies over Poland were covered with dark, leaden clouds, and Hitler's servants sowed death and destruction from the air, Zalman Kirsztajn was mobilized as an officer in the Polish army. He barely made it to Żychlin, where a criminal bullet fired by a military charlatan pierced his human heart.
He was actually the first victim among the Kutner Jews, right at the beginning of World War II.
It is impossible to list and bring out all the figures of the activists of the Jewish labor movement in our city, to tell in detail about the role that each of them played in his party and movement. I will be content to perpetuate the bright memory of the most active of them, the A.D. C. Pillars, which to a large extent shaped and affected their environment.
Herman Kirszbaum stood at the head of Bund. By trade a shoe-stitcher, he was a wage worker at that time all those years. He rightly could consider himself exploited and therefore devoted his entire free time to the fight against exploitation, for better living conditions for workers. His innate intelligence and later developed intellect enabled him to explain in simple and understandable terms a complicated problem, to explain different achievements of general and Jewish life in a very accessible language.
During World War II, he was
a member of the party's underground national council. Until 1944, he and his wife, Eva, managed to survive using Aryan papers. During the Warsaw Uprising of General Bor-Komarowski in November 1944, Herman Kirszbaum decided to take revenge on the Germans with arms in hand. A treacherous bullet fired by a Polish fascist put an end to his stormy and contentious life.
A. M. Zylberberg, M. Tiger and L. Kamm joined the labor movement, straight from the Beit HaMidrash bench, and zealously dedicated themselves to the new tasks. Zylberberg had been a city councilor and member of the community for many years; L. Kamm a meritorious activist in the community council. On the other hand, M. Tiger had been an official at Kutner Mayor's Office, for some time. A wonderful guy, with a long face, sad-looking eyes and movements as a yeshiva boy. He wanted to get to the root of every question; he read a book like a page of Gemara...
Yaakov Mroz, Lustigman, Kowalski, and Leibish Piotrkowski were enthusiastic and dedicated members of the Society for Left-Wing Evening Courses at Left Poalei Zion, helping to establish the TOZ school organization in Kutno. Piotrkowski has been a board member of the Clothes Association for many years, and much is due to the fact that many of the union's actions ended in victory.
Zakszewski was known as a relentless fighter in the ranks of the illegal Communist Party. He sat for some time in jail. During the war he was in the Soviet Union. There, he mobilized in the Polish Division named for Kościuszko and fell in a brave action, at the gates of Berlin.
Szor was a teacher at Am HaSefer, a prominent worker of Hitachdut-Poalei-Zion and the son-in-law of Kutner Zionist leader, Yehuda Riftin. Szor was a passionate fighter for spreading the Hebrew language among the youth. His lectures at the Ahad HaAm Library distinguished him with originality of thought and preoccupation. He always sought solution from the great philosophers. In the old books and in his own restless soul. The world of mysticism has always attracted and fascinated him and there he found peace. He shared the same tragic fate as his countless disciples and admirers.
by Aryeh ORNER, Haifa
With reverence, I take the pen in hand to bring out on paper some precious figures of Kutner Jewry, our holy and pure.
Mr. Shlomo HOCHGELERNTER
More commonly known as the Piątek shochet. He settled in Kutno in the early 1930s. Due to his ancestry in the town of Piątek, the nickname stuck. A Jewish scholar, he lived in the house of Yaakov Bromberg zl. Day and night he studied in the Skierniewicer's shtiebel individually and also with a group of his young followers, with whom he had breakfast and, in the evening, was consolidating a lesson. His five sons Joseph, Bajrech, Zisze, Baruch and Israel were known in town as his great followers. Zyshe later went to study at the famous Yeshiva of the Sages of Lublin.
Mr. Shlomo's house was open to those who wanted to study Torah. As it was to those who needed help. His authority and influence in the Jewish community was great. Mr. Shlomo, together with Mr. Yitzchak Kowic and the shamash Mordechai Welcman, had the privilege of studying with the Kutner rabbi, Mr. Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk et al.
The previously mentioned Mr. Yitzchak Kowic, thanks to his great scholarship, was the overseer of kashrut in the slaughterhouse, and known as a devout Alexander Chassid. His son Abraham was a well-known as a gifted student.
The slaughterers also included Mr. Mordechai Welcman, the oldest one. His son Herschel inherited the property from his father. The other sons studied at the Yeshiva of the Sages of Lublin.
Of the Kutner scholars, I remember Mr. Leibel Mamlok and Shlomo-Meir Lieberman. Even today it is difficult for me to understand how the two Jews were able to lead and maintain a room.
The watchmaker Mendel Mamlok belonged to the dear, noble souls about whom it is possible to write only good things. The scholar Mosze-Pinchas Kleczewski was studying the Gemara during a whole day, while his wife, a real woman of valor, led a shop in a cellar. Mr. Mosze-Pinchas also studied in Jewish homes and did not hesitate to go and raise money for needy families.
The well-known Ger Chassid Avraham Boms carried milk in the houses. His son died from shrapnel at the beginning of the war.
The manufacturing-merchant David Metal and his wife Sarah were great benefactors, always fulfilling the mitzvah of charity. Their son Aharon-Shlomo (my childhood friend) excelled with his successful painting. Their two daughters and son Chaim-Yosef live in Israel, in Dimona.
Lajbisz Finkler once belonged to the great merchants, he was called the broker. A respected prayer leader. Hundreds of Jews gathered, for musaf prayer during the Holocaust, outside the Skierniewice shtiebel. They wanted to hear the good cantor.
I will always remember the great donor with aristocratic appearance, Mr. Simcha Zelechowski. I owe him my survival. In November 1939, he forcibly evicted me from my home, ordered me to leave Kutno and avoid the Germans. Thus, I managed to escape to Russia and survive.
Among the gallery of figures, my grandfather, Mr. Hersz-Ber Strykowski, known as the mirror-maker, occupies a special place. After a day of hard work, he spent the evening away in the Beit Midrash and sat for long hours by the light of an oil lamp, studying. On Rosh Hashanah, he was the master of ceremonies and when he took the shofar in his hand, he trembled with joy and awe. He used to send me to collect the debts of the Jews to whom
he had lent money. I have never seen him get angry at those who did not give me the debt. He has always had teacher-privilege on such Jews.
My father (RIP) Abraham Orner, was a well-known social worker in town. He became an orphan prematurely and was raised in Żychlin by an aunt. Still a young man, he learned the laws of land and engaged in trade. First it went not bad, then things got worse... We were 12 children (11 sons and one daughter). I remember my father spending his whole life dealing with Jewish troubles: he was secretary of the Jewish Merchants' Union in Kutno. For hours he would disappear from his own business and help the shopkeepers and retailers in their open affairs with the tax office, in the magistrate, in the banks. He was especially active when the sequester went to a Jewish merchant in Kutno and wanted to take the last bit of merchandise because of unpaid taxes.
I remember such an event: coming into our attic right from my room, I see a lot of customers there. My mother (RIP), being in the last months of pregnancy, she could not give any advice to the customers. She sends me to call Dad, but I do not know where he is. She says that before, the teenager Anszel Blank came and Dad is certainly somewhere with him. I went to the Kozak's house in the Old Market and met my father, who was arguing with the sequester that he should leave the poor teenager alone. Finally, he turns to Anszel and asks him: How much do you have to give, now? I don't remember what was the answer. I just remember my dad taking out 6 zlotys, giving them to the sequester as deposit and the clerk left, not taking anything from Mr. Anszel's home furniture. Only then my father went to care about us.
And one more fact I remember from my father: one time he came from Warsaw and brought with him a guest, an unknown Jew. When asked by his mother and children, the father said that he met the Jew at the French Consulate in Warsaw in despair because he had been denied a visa. The Jew intended to take this own life. My father brought him to Kutno, kept him over until Saturday. On Monday, my father went to Warsaw again and our guest stayed, waiting all day and night by the phone. And the good news came. My father succeeded in obtaining a visa for the Jew and fulfilling the promise he had made him: that he would leave for France.
Such scholars, businessmen, and kind-hearted people our Jewish Kutno had...
by Moshe WIGDOROWICZ, Tel Aviv
Kutno sang with her good cantors and her prayer leaders. I want to bring out some of their characters in our book of remembrance.
At the beginning of this century, the famous cantor Mosze Opeler prayed in the city and around. Mostly, in the Great Synagogue, which was famous in Poland for its eastern wall, a masterpiece of architecture and painting. The well-known journalist of Today, M. Naiman zl described the Kutno synagogue in detail.
|The cantor POLAKEWICZ|
After Mosze Opeler, the cantorship in the Great Synagogue was taken over by the young Maroko, a talented singer, who composed melodies himself. He lived on Main Street, near the house of the Falc. Maroko had its own choir, that was conducted by Sokolowski, also a music teacher. A tall man, with long hands, who came close to him while conducting.
The first singer in the choir was Fiszel Fogelman, with a fine tenor voice. I remember that, from the cheder of Mr. Ozer Bilowski, a Jewish Torah scholar and good educator, where I studied with my older brother, the cantor and the conductor selected children's voices for their choir.
Together with me, in that cheder, studied the younger pupils N. Moszkowicz, M. Elbaum, Z. Elberg, A. Goldstein, Z. Kowalski, and others. A. Sz. Elberg was the patron of the cheder and every Friday the children came to hear the section of the Torah. My brother Yehuda-Yaakov zl (who died with my mother and two sisters in the ghetto) was the best student and that is why Mr. Elberg recommended that he be accepted into the Hebrew gymnasium, where he was one of the founders and board members.
Thanks to my high voice, I was happily accepted into different choirs. After a while, Maroko emigrated to South America and Sokolowski moved to Łódź, where he attended the local city synagogue. After they left Kutno, the city was
a long time without a cantor, as the new candidates for the office demanded an excessive allowance, according to the ideas and possibilities of the community. There were some landlords, scholars and lovers of cantorial singing, although not such ardent Chassidim, who rewarded the cantors out of their own pockets (such as the Kozak family).
In Maroko times, there was a conflict between the frum and advanced worshipers. Maroko wanted to modernize the choir, each wearing a special hat and small tallit. The treasurers finally agreed, although this involved a large spending. But how great was the disappointment and bitterness when, on the first Sunday morning after the Sabbath prayer during which the choir appeared in the new attire the hats and the small tallits had disappeared. The room (on the right at the entrance to the synagogue) was broken into. On the left was the Psalm Society. The incident made a very bad impression on everyone, but fortunately there were no serious clashes, the police investigated, discovered nothing and in time the matter was forgotten.
At a time when no municipal cantor was in the Great Synagogue, the Kutno landlords who were proficient in the traditional texts and the music, prayed in front of Amud on Saturdays and holidays. Yonathan Majranc, the father of Keren Kayemet's later legatee, Yitzhak Majranc, said the Kol Nidrei. Among the volunteer cantors were: Lajbisz Finkler, a Skierniewice Chassid, a first-class prayer leader. He was involved in bringing various goods from Warsaw and Lodz (shpiliter) to Kutner merchants. He rewarded the singers with certain articles that he traded. However, he did not want any reward for his cantorship.
Slichot in the Great Synagogue were said by the well-known landlord Laznowski. A handsome Jew, managing a soap-factory near the train-station.
|The prayer leader Chaim TYBER|
In the Skierniewice shtiebel, where I was davening, there were prayer leaders, Mr. 'Henech Menke and the Piątker shochet, Mr. Shlomo Hochgelernter.
Of the prayer leaders in the Beit Midrash: Mr. Mordechai Shochet (Welcman), who besides doing the slaughtering and cantorship, was also a mohel. Well-known for his politeness and seriousness. The tall Abraham Shamash, with his long hands and feet, was also a cantor in the Beit Midrash. Standing on the porch, he saw everything and everyone that was going on around him.
In recent years, until the outbreak of war, the cantor in the Great Synagogue was Polakewicz, who excelled with his heartfelt singing. He perished in Kutner ghetto.
Also, the Great Gerrer shtiebel on Main Street (in Kopel's house) and the various Chassidic shtiebels and midrashim had their own prayer leaders.
|The cantor's son, POLAKEWICZ|
The cantor's son, Polakewicz, as a 15-year-old boy, showed extraordinary abilities and talent in modeling and drawing (see the above picture). He was also socially active among the Jewish youth in Kutno. He perished at the hands of the Nazi murderers.
From the book Deceased Jewish Artists by Joseph Sandler
Chaim Tyber came from a town that had a reputation in the history of Jewish culture. The old synagogue alone, built in the Renaissance style could tell a lot about the centuries-long history of the Jews in this town. Not just one great scholar came from Kutno. From Kutno also stems
the great Jewish writer Szalom Asz. The uniqueness of the cultural atmosphere has left its mark on the people of literature and art who hail from this city.
Chaim Tyber was a young painter and graphic artist who was deeply involved in the specific way of life of the Jews of Kutno. He had to break through various difficulties, and also fighting the various ingrained traditions and superstitions, cost the artist quite a bit of strength. Chaim Tyber inherited his passion for drawing from his father, who did not have the strength to excel as an artist.
He loved to read a lot and enjoyed listening to the discussions that the adults had, but most of all he was attracted to the old books with the beautiful title pages. He spent hours thinking about these drawings. He therefore valued these books more than the contemporary books with their usual covers, which seemed to him poor with regard to the books with their decorations and ornaments already as a young boy, he happily imitated these lovely covers and dreamed of creating similar intricate ornaments.
When he was very young, Chaim left his hometown and arrived in Lodz. From Lodz he moved to Warsaw, where he was admitted to the local art academy. There, he was mainly interested in drawing, he only dealt with painting by chance.
Tyber was both a draftsman and a pointillist. His line is easy and thin. When one gets to know his works more closely, one feels how strongly they affect the audience, thanks to the great ability of the artist to elicit the expression of the given motif. The creation of Tyber reflects in a kaleidoscope the life of the Jews in the small town in all its forms and in its hardened conservatism. Tyber takes people as they are. He looks at them with a magnifying glass and tries to bring them out as he saw them in the given second. The images of his childhood have remained in the artist's memory and remained so fresh that he enjoyed the treasure extensively while creating his compositions. He was probably born a year or two before the outbreak of World War I, and his first couple of years were very difficult. Some motives of his work are connected with the memories of that time.
|Cheder youngsters Chaim TYBER|
At the Jubilee Exhibition of the Jewish Association of Plastic Arts in Warsaw in 1939, there was a long frieze containing many drawings of Tyber, with a Jewish theme. It was a rich gallery of Jewish provincial types. There, we saw old Jews with beards and long capotes and hats on their heads. Others wear black hats with caps, from which they look out of their eyes. It feels like the difficult living conditions have ruined the people. Obviously, these figures breathe with something of a particular weirdness. The failure of Tyber's work is conducive to stronger naturalism. In addition, the artist has too narrowly narrowed the theme. He did not even go so far as to show the circles of the youth, who were already struggling with the growing fascism and national oppression. Tyber was the painter who possessed all possibilities to become the expressor of the Jewish manner-theme in a wide scope.
At the Jubilee Exhibition of the Jewish Association of Plastics in Warsaw in 1939, there was a long frieze containing many drawings of Tyber, with a Jewish theme. This was a rich gallery of Jewish provincial types. There, we see old Jews with beards and long capotes and hats on their heads. Others wear black hats with caps, from which they look out of their eyes. It feels like the difficult living conditions have collapsed these
People. Obviously, these figures breathe with something a particular weirdness. The failure of Tyber's work is conducive to stronger naturalism. In addition, the artist has too narrowly narrowed the theme. He did not even go so far as to show the circles of the youth, who were already struggling with the growing fascism and national oppression. Tyber was the painter who possessed all possibilities to become the expressor of the Jewish manner-theme in a wide scope.
|Going to cheder Chaim TYBER|
In September 1939, Chaim Tyber fled to Bialystok. Here he began a new life, which opened up new perspectives for him. He first developed as a painter in Bialystok. It started for him to work well. He sold his drawings and pieces. There, he also married. In 1940 he participated in exhibitions in Minsk and Moscow. One of Tyber's works was reproduced in a book published in Moscow and Leningrad. entitled Оцерки по хистори исасдацителнаво искуство Беларусь (Essays on the Plastic Arts of Belarus).
But not long did Tyber's success last. He failed to evacuate to the depths of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the German attack on the Soviet Union struck him in Bialystok. He was sent to the ghetto, there. Along with many Jewish artists, he worked in Stephens' workshop, where he copied images from the world's famous masters. In his spare time, he dynamically captured scenes of the nightmare of life in the Bialystok ghetto. Tyber died along with his wife and child during the second action in the ghetto, in 1943.
Tyber's graphics are unique images that are painted using the graphic technique. They possess a great deal of light and shadow, a great deal of expression, and are fully formed. No vacant area is noticed in his drawings.
(From the book Deceased Jewish Artists by Joseph Sandler.
Publisher Yiddish-Book, Warsaw, 1958. Submitted by H. Szlajfer, Paris).
by Chaim GRYNBAUM, Holon
On the young painter Chaim Tyber
I grew up together with the young painter-artist Chaim Tyber, one might say in one house, playing in the same yard, tidying up the sukkah...
Haim inherited his passion for painting from his father, Zelik Tyber, who possessed a little talent but did not spend time for it. He forbade his son to paint. But the strong will of Chaim Tyber prevailed. He secretly painted in his grandmother's house, later renting a room to priests and turning it into a studio until his father had to come to terms with the fact that Chaim Nisnen could not be broken (that's how he called himself).
He would come to my room, where he took interest and pleasure in reviewing my books. And at the same time, he wondered why I was reading more sociology than fiction. For many evenings he enjoyed discussing with me, even though he was several years younger. He showed great interest in my album, which was embellished with a sea of pictures.
* * *
In Bialystok, in an attic room... Clean, beautiful, tidy his wife received me in 1939, told me to wait. He'll come up right away, said the sympathetic Lithuanian with a smile. You are a Kutner! He will be so happy to see a neighbor.
Carrying baskets and packages, the good-natured Chaim entered a little phlegmatically. We will both live, he said. Your name is Chaim and so is mine.
He did not, however. We kissed and tears poured down from his eyes. He did not let me speak. He wanted to know everything at once, been told about everything. The home, the father, the mother, who else came? Why don't people come to rejoice with me?
Look, Chaim, who I am. See the articles that people write about me! Here I can show what I know! It is an open world. I won the first prize in Minsk, at the exhibition of Belarusian young painters. I was told that I was going to make an exhibition in Moscow...
Everything was told to him in one breath.
|The musician Chaim TYBER|
When me and my family had already been sent to the woods in the Komi Republic in USSR, he told me about a rare career. Settling in Moscow, he was awarded a large cash prize.
I received from him some groceries and some money. On one condition: my wife's parents had to help his parents in the Kutno ghetto, because Aaron Fuks, my father-in-law owned a restaurant and moved to the ghetto earlier. His last wish was fulfilled. We received a letter from the ghetto stating that the agreement had been upheld.
Contact with him was lost in July 1941.
Honor his memory!
by Arbeter Vort, Paris
Shimon Avny is the son of Mordechai Sztajn and Rywka Buksztajn, both from Kutno. He was born in Paris in 1932. His father was one of the survivors of the Auschwitz hell. His mother and brother went with the smoke of the crematoria. Simon was rescued by miracle: when they came to arrest his mother, he was in bed. She managed to cover
him up so that the hijackers would not notice him. An uncle later took him to an orphanage, that entrusted him to a farmer.
After the war, the family found him and brought him to Paris, later he found himself in Jewish orphanage named Nahum Aronson in Les Andelys (Normandy), where he, for the first time, received a Jewish education. He arrived in Israel with the organization Aliyat HaNoar, took part in the Independence War and fought bravely for the establishment of the State of Israel.
Already as a young child he had an inclination for drawing: for the peasants in the village he drew their houses and animals, the peasant's faces and silhouettes.
In Paris, the desire to paint continuously increased. In Israel, he is well-known as a talented artist. He studied painting at the Academy of Arts in Rome and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His only aspiration in life is art and painting.
Shimon Avny has exhibited many times in Paris and in Israel, and the critics responded warmly to his paintings.
Some excerpts from the press about Shimon Avny:
Returning from Israel, Shimon Avny begins to exhibit in various galleries and becomes known in the country as one of the most talented young artists, no longer looking in the dark; he found his way and his poetic soul found salvation in the painting.
Shimon's painting is abstract, but with all his being he remains attached to nature. He paints the crumbling raw earth in a kibbutz, the sunset where light and shadow play.
Such is Shimon Avny young, full of enthusiasm and belief in the mission of artists.
by Yaakov FERNBACH, Nahariya
Katriel AYZIK The Jewish Well-Owner
Outside the city lived Katriel Ayzik, the owner of a farm. (A Jewish well-owner was a rare phenomenon in Poland). Katriel Ayzik was a unique man. I remember how he used to go every Sunday morning in his sleigh to pick up the mail.
He had a training-kibbutz for Jewish youths who were preparing them to immigrate to Israel.
Katriel Ayzik's specialty was flower-growing.
He was a patron of Jewish culture and art. He is said to have planted the garden at the YIVO House in Vilnius. I met Ayzik at a party dedicated to the founder of YIVO in Vilnius, Dr. Max Weinreich, when he was a member of the YIVO Society in Kutno. I remember how Katriel bought a book, which YIVO had reprinted from a very old edition.
It was rumored among the youth that Katriel Ayzik was striving to find a black flower, especially for funeral wreaths.
A strange story happened to him. In the Teachers' Remembrance Book, he was included in the list of those who died during World War II, when Ayzik lived in the Land of Israel after the war. His brother Aharon is also mentioned as a martyr. Katriel Ayzik died in Israel from an illness he contracted during his wandering in Russia.
Here in Israel, he again tried to engage in flower-growing. His wife, a daughter of the Russian people, worked hard to make his life easier and to accompany him as a true life-partner.
Katriel Ayzik was very hospitable, a devoted Jew and patriot. Despite receiving a new farm and land from the new Polish government, he left everything and came to the Land of Israel to begin anew.
His brother Aharon lives today in Kutno. He lives in their old apartment.
There are Kutner residents in Israel today, who received their training thanks to Ayzik, outside Kutno.
Yaakov-Shalom the Clockmaker
Among the worshipers, where my father was davening, was a clockmaker - Yaakov-Shalom Haller. He used to love attacking those religious elements who fought against the new Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. He was never tired of waging a fierce war to Orthodox Jewry.
Years later, I met his son, when we worked together in the pioneering movement, especially at the Keren Kayemet. I learned that his father was the overseer of the city clock, and he, Yaakov-Shalom, was rewinding it. In the evening, his son and I used to visit the train station clock, according to which he used to set the city clock, which was found on the City Hall building.
Once, I went up to the clock tower with him and looked from there at my hometown of Kutno. My heart told me that I was absorbing the feeling -- forever...
Every Passover, he would organize a Seder night in his private home for the Jewish soldiers of the 37th regiment who, for various reasons, had to stay kosher. For this, the rabbi used to visit the colonel before the holiday and ask him a leave for the Jewish soldiers.
After their Seder at home, people used to visit the Seder at Mosze Lubinski's, where they could see Jewish soldiers, with cheerful, festive faces, who were feeling at home and well, with their parents. Mosze Lubinski and his wife were especially pleased that they had the privilege of fulfilling the mitzvah of All who are hungry, come and eat.
I remember how he once rebuked the people for the fact that some Jews are ashamed to speak Yiddish.
The Last Kutno Rabbi
Shortly before my emigration to Israel, the Kutno Rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk zl, passed away. With his death, about six months before the Second World War, the crown of the Jewish community of Kutno, to which it gave so much splendor and beauty, was taken from it. The Kutner rabbi had not only a prestigious pedigree from his father and great-grandfather, Rabbi Yehosze'le Kutner, but also had one by himself. The last years of his life he devoted to publishing the writings of his great-grandfather.
A large funeral was organized for the Kutno Rabbi, as befits such a personality. At the funeral, eulogies were said, which lasted a long time. Circles were made around the deceased, in the Beit Midrash, covered with a cloak of his great-grandfather. The funeral lasted until late at night.
Israel Yehoszua TRUNK
I remember reading his articles on psychology in the Warsaw literary pages. I made efforts to meet him. He left an extraordinary impression on me. We met in Lodz, at the residence of his uncle, the father of Yechiel Yeshayahu Trunk, the author of the 7-volumes Poyln.
Then, his first Yiddish book about the psychologist Alfred Adler was published. As a sign of friendship, I distributed this booklet among the Jewish intelligentsia.
In Kutno, there was a lung-sufferer, a certain Frenkel. Israel Yehoszua Trunk gave lectures on scientific topics, and the proceeds were set aside for the benefit of the sick Frenkel.
My Grandfather and Parents
My grandfather, Mr. Mosze-Aharon, passed away in 9 Elul 5677. He used to study with plain Jews, simple artisans in Ein-Yaakov, a synagogue named after Rabbi Lajbish. The grandfather visited the Land of Israel when the Turks still ruled the country.
With the most sacred feelings, I remember my father Mr. Avraham-Dov-Berish and my mother Chana-Miryam (née Wisniewska), as well as my sisters Tzipora Fernbach-Bauman and Chaya Fernbach and my brother-in-law Chaim-Israel Bauman.
by Daniel Leib SZAPIRO
Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Mages
My knowledge of the genealogy of my forefathers reaches only four generations. In those days, when the desire of young Jewish men to study the Torah increased, they asked permission from their parents and wandered to a place of Torah. The head of our family also left his family home and wandered to a yeshiva to devour knowledge in Havayot d'Abaye ve'Rava, and he is R' Shmuel Leib Szapiro.
For his place of study R' Shmuel Leib chose the yeshiva in the city of Kutno. The city is located on the shores of the Ochnia River, a city like many others in the Kingdom of Poland, in those days. But, in those days it did not excel in great learners. Nevertheless, every father wanted to marry off his daughter to a yeshiva student knowledgeable in the Torah and God-fearing, so that he too can warm himself in the light and warmth of the Torah.
Such was also the successful small tax collector in the city of Kutno. He wanted to marry off his daughter, who reached marriageable age, to a learned young man who will increase his name and honor in the eyes of people. On the advice and guidance of the head of the yeshiva the luck fell on the best of his students, and the name of the young man was Shmuel Leib Szapiro.
I don't have a lot of information about R' Shmuel Leib Szapiro, except that he was a ritual slaughterer in the city of Kutno and had two sons and one daughter. But he did not live long and only led one son to the chupah, and the youngest son and the daughter were orphaned while in father's house.
After the death of the ritual slaughterer, the city's elders decided that the father's position would be given as an inheritance to his unmarried son, and that he must marry off his young sister. And the name of the young son was R' Zusia Mordechai.
R' Zusia Mordechai is my grandfather's father. I was about two years old when my grandfather zl passed away. About his character, as will be told below, I heard from my parents.
His way of life was regular and orderly: he set times for prayer, Torah, work and meal. Stayed away from conventional lies, was simple in his manners but earned a respectable status in society. The man he respected he respected wholeheartedly, but if he was not honest he did not respect him at all. He treated others honestly and fairly and asked for this virtue from others as well. When needed, he knew how to give up his will and opinion, but he did not forgive. He did not discriminate in favor of another person. A story about the Gaon Yeshuat Yisrael of Kutno who added one of his grandsons to three ritual slaughterers that served in this position. Grandfather saw this as trespassing and deprivation of livelihood. When he turned to the Gaon, the city's rabbi, he said: indeed, I accept the decree, but this is an act a robbery. I obey, but I do not forgive. Grandfather did not back down from these words and repeated them for many years on various occasions.
He was pious and meticulous in keeping the commandments, but not jealous and ascetic. He recognized his self-worth and was not of the insulted who are not offended, and with that
was careful of human dignity. However, an ignorant man, who tends to argue with knowledgeable people despite his poor knowledge, did not find his place in his company. A story about an uneducated rich man, who was respected in the community, that grandfather rebuked for his rude behavior. He did not tolerate injustice and harm to the dignity of others, and yet he knew how to give up his dignity for the sake of others. And when his niece came to visit him when he was sick, he preached morality to her that she had left a sick father at home and came to visit him. After all, honoring a father is first and foremost.
Sara Rivka and R' Yitzhak (Itshe) Szapiro zl
He had an only son, named Eliyahu zl our grandfather. He was the third generation of ritual slaughterers in the Szapiro family. He followed his father's footsteps who set an example for him. Since he was exempt from livelihood worries, he was not prevented from strictly continuing the lifestyle in which he was educated. Like his father he also set time for the Torah, prayer, work and meal. Before the mincha prayer he studied a chapter in the daily Mishnah, Talmud and SeferYereim. He studied his daily chapter in the Zohar at sunrise, before the prayer he prayed with the first minyan. And with that he was not late to his daily work. He was meticulous in keeping his times.
His set table was conducted according to religious tradition. He maintained his meals in all their details, according to the law and custom, and a patriarchal atmosphere prevailed over him.
He was moderate, knew how to control himself and everyday events did not take him out of his inner peace. He was not an idler, was interested in the achievements of science and technology and did not tend to get excited about the various phenomena of life. He was not even enthusiastic about the Chassidut even though he traveled to the Gerrer Rebbe. But this was mostly due to his way of his life and not from over-enthusiasm. The saying of R' Yehoshua of Kutno, which he used to say a lot, that the Chassidim among the Jews are like Cossacks in the Emperor's army they are the worst tribe but the guardians of the kingdom, expressed his opinion nicely.
He was not a public activist, but more than once went out to collect donations for the community's needy. He was a member in various philanthropic associations, participated in their meetings and donated to them from his money. Grandfather Eliyahu was respected by all, allies and non-allies, old and young, Chassidim and not Chassidim.
Up to two years before his passing he did not know what an illness was. He was strong in body and healthy in spirit. I have never seen him worried or in a severe mood. Peace of mind and seriousness were always expressed on his face. He had a strong character and knew how to hold back his sufferings. Even the doctor, who treated him after he was severely wounded at the age of seventy by his razor (that he kept in his pocket and was used to shave the animals' neck hair before the slaughter), was deeply impressed by his endurance and added that he does not remember a patient in his practice who knew how to accept pain like him. He was eighty years old at the time of his death.
Since he was the only son to his father a generation folded in him and when I stood by his bed, I thought that in his death an entire generation had died.
Father zl was also a ritual slaughterer like his forefathers. Was involved with people and loved human beings by nature. He wanted to help, to the extent of his ability, to anyone who came in contact with him.
During the busiest time in the slaughterhouse, on Shabbat eve and holidays, his good eye knew to distinguish who among those who came were pressed for time (the one who has left his workshop and stands on coals, or a housewife who has left her baby unattended), and tried to dismiss them quickly. So was his way with the butchers. He respected the person in them and they respected him the most. He also knew how to bring out the important qualities in them and in his company, they were gentle and noble. It seems to me that the root of this affinity for a colleague was in a deep religious experience, in the sanctity of human existence. He understood well the saying of Rabbi Akiva: Beloved is man for he was created in the image [of God], and as the simplicity of a person grew, so deepened his affinity to him. The warmth of this soul, which all was the love of mankind, was the righteousness of his righteousness.
He was very patient in his negotiations with people. He did not get tired of explaining and clarifying the matter for the second time to the man talked to until he understood his intention. Father invited a guest, who had to stay for the night, to our house. And if the guest was a slaughterer, father introduced him to the matters of the profession, showed him his butcher's knives, explain how he sharpens them and how he uses them. He fed the guest with the best food, gave him the best bed. He was like a rising spring in his conversation with him even though father was not one of the great talkers and it was very difficult to encourage him to talk. Then his face shone and his eyes expressed kindness, for he knew he was helping his guest.
He did not spare his strength when he knew that his help was needed for his friends. He was active in Linat Tzedek and Bikur Cholim. Without hesitation he fulfilled the mitzvah of visiting the sick and did not spare his nights to sit by the bed of a sick person. During the First World War, when the typhus and dysentery epidemic broke out, father visited house after house to help, to the best of his ability, every person in need until he contracted dysentery and with him all his family. He was confined to bed for a long time, but after he recovered, he continued as before and was of great help to every sick person.
Our father was the gabbai in Chevra Kadisha because the mitzvah of sincere charity was the most precious mitzvah to him.
I remember that a poor childless woman died in our neighborhood. Father bought a stone, engraved her name on the gravestone with his own hands and erected a marker for her.
He was a craftsman, by himself made the wooden cases for the butcher's knives and engraved all the necessary seals Kosher, Glatt Kosher, non-Kosher, etc. He also engraved the shiviti in front of the lectern. He bound the sacred books in his library with his own hands and saw this work as if he served in holiness and enhancing the mitzvah.
In monetary laws the poor stood before him, those who lived from the labor of their hands and with great toil supported their families. And if the poor man's animal needed further examination to remove the defect in the lung, and not determine that it is not kosher and cause a financial loss to the animal's owner, father took the responsibility on himself and was among the lenient and not the strictest. He did not save work and effort and with his trained hands separated the lobes of the lungs which had stuck together. He removed the lungs membranes very carefully and did not cause the damaged area to rupture or puncture, because there was a chance that the animal would not be kosher.
On the other hand, our father acted with all the severity of the law if someone deceived him in matters of religion. I remember that once father asked a butcher to show him the omasum for further examination. When the butcher took out the omasum, he noticed that a nail was stuck in one of the sides and cunningly cut it out to deceive my father. But father, who was a great expert in animal anatomy, noticed it. He informed about it the city's rabbi and demanded that the butcher shop be closed. And indeed, the butcher shop was closed for six months by order of the rabbi and he was banned from entering the slaughterhouse for two years.
In his free time father read Sefer Yereim, the Gemara, Poskim and the Bible. He mostly loved the Bible and therefore he suffered greatly when he saw his sons reading secular literature instead of studying sacred books. Indeed, great was his pain when he saw his sons leaving the path of tradition and not continue
to follow his way of life. He tried to talk to our hearts, to influence us, but he was not angry at us. Such was his character. He knew how to control his anger even though the matters that angered him caused him sorrow and great suffering. He was good-natured not only with his sons but with every person. He did not tolerate quarrels. He moved away from them. He was honest by nature, did not approve quarrels, factionalism and high politics. Before him always stood his goal and anything around it was of less importance to him.
Great loneliness descended upon him at the end of his days. His sons scattered to the four corners of the world. His loneliness greatly bothered him and intensified his grief. He toyed with the hope that he would get to see them again, that his sons would return to their home, but his prayer was not accepted. In loneliness, when his sons were far from him, father passed away in purity.
Father was sixty-four at the time of his death. Many came to pay their last respect to his place of eternal rest. The man was loved by all and everyone respected and admired him. May his memory be a blessing!
Mother was the daughter of R' Moshe David Landau zl, great-grandson and grandson to HaGaon Rabbi Rafael HaCohen [Susskind] ztzl, president of the rabbinical court and chief rabbi of three communities Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek, and author of the books: Torat Yekutiel, Marpe la-Nefesh, Veshev HaCohen, Daat Kedoshim. HaRav Rafael was the son of the sage, the Kollel Gaon, Rabbi Yekutiel Susskind, president of the rabbinical court in the country of Liefland.
The historian, R' Aharon Marcus wrote in his book Chassidut: Rabbi Rafael left his high position, the rabbinate, in Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek, four years before his passing, in order to immigrate to Jerusalem. When he arrived in Hamburg, the Napoleonic War broke out and the country was tightly closed and there he died and was buried.
Our mother, Sara-Rivka, was born in 1863 to her father, R' Moshe David Landau, a known merchant and a scholar whose place of residence was £êczyca. Our grandfather wasn't a Chassid but a religious Jew with knowledge of the Torah. His home was an advanced home. He was well versed in world's affairs and was one of the first to subscribe to HaTsfira. His children were educated on the Torah but they also did not neglect secular studies.
Public service was inherent in my mother's nature. When her children grew up and she was able to free herself, to some extent, from homemaker's worries, she looked for an area of activity to satisfy her social sense and help others. About fifty years ago she founded the organization Ezrat Nashim to help needy women and, first and foremost, to sick needy women who couldn't afford the necessary treatment. A kitchen was established and provided forty to fifty lunches daily. The meals were brought to the sick women's homes by their family members and when the sick women were lonely without relatives, the food was delivered to them. But the organization had many expenses because its activities were not limited to the supply of meals. In many cases the sick women needed to be hospitalized or even be sent to a spa town (Ciechocinek and Karlsbad). To do this, every member was required to pay a monthly fee. My mother zl set up an executive committee that headed the organization and was one of its members. The committee occasionally met to give an account of what has been done and to plan future activities. Mother's characteristic feature was her refusal to take on the role of treasurer. This position was mostly given to hands of other members.
When the organization became established and reached the state of self-supporting institution, she began to expand its activities so that it would not only provide help to needy women. It began to take care of the distribution of winter clothes for the needy, especially to the babies. In addition, the organization unofficially took on itself the mitzvah of Hachnasat Kallah. When one of the needy came to talk about her troubles before my mother, she listened closely to her words. Although it was not often discussed at the members meeting, my mother volunteered several times to collect special donations in order to fulfill this great mitzvah called Hachnasat Kallah. Distinguished members were recruited, mother joined them and they took it upon themselves to solicit donations from wealthy families. Considerable amount was collected for the dowry, wedding expenses and the rest of the bride's needs. There were also cases of counseling women whose domestic peace has been disrupted. She knew how to thoroughly examine the cases and find a way to settle the dispute. She was endowed with an extraordinary talent of persuasion, the couple reconciled and the domestic peace was restored.
In the last years, before she left Kutno, she was very active in the matters of the school for girls, Beit Yaakov, which was founded by the ultra-orthodox.
Also here, in Israel, mother did not sit idly by. Mother very quickly examined the state of affairs at the place, managed to find ways to the institutions and her blessed cooperation was like a source of life for them. She worked in charity funds, devoted much of her time to the nursing home in HaAvoda Street [Tel Aviv], established a kitchen in one of the city's yeshivot and gave it most of her time until her last day.
Mother passed away in 5702  and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery on Mount of Olives.
May her memory be a blessing.
by Rivka GWIRCMAN
Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman
Honest and fair were the ways of Mordechai Gwircman, a believer in God, and a good person, always loyal and hopeful. His gentle, pale face said what was in his heart. His eyes looked out good and quiet.
He came to Kutno at the beginning of the First World War. The children were sent to the Cheder [infants' school]. His home was strictly religious - he was generous towards everyone. There was a bag of flour for everyone from his own pantry.
No one knew who he was or where he had come from. Altogether from a great Torah learned family from Brisk, in Lituania, in his youth he had studied with the father of Rabbi Unterman, who today is the chief rabbi of Israel. In our little town he was called the Litwak. All the Jews in Kutno knew him as the Litwak who did good deeds.
He requested his children to take part in the rebuilding of Israel and worked to send them all to the Holy Land. One son was away on training to emigrate to Israel. Unfortunately he never returned - that turned out because of a tragedy. The second son went to Israel in 1925 and worked there, and the whole family emigrated. And so, the dream of Mordecai Gwircman came true.
When the first Jews from Kutno appeared in Israel, he was there with his smiling face, saying: Don't worry, we are in Israel now, and he secretly slipped them a small sum of money. His daily life was divided into two, between the first half of the day in working because he had to make his own living, and the other half of the day he spent teaching the Torah in the Bet Midrarash [bible study hall] to the other Jews. He used to say: Good deeds and the Torah are the best merchandise. He always knew who needed help. Everyone who was close to him used to call him One of the 36 righteous men, on whose worthiness the world existed*. When he was in the hospital dying, visitors requested his blessing. His same fine stature with his lovely face and white beard made him look like a saint. He did not disturb any one. He went with such peacefulness.
This was one of the population of Kutno - the Litwak. A reader from the Torah, a prayer leader, whose prayer book was sacred.
* According to Jewish tradition, life will continue as long as there are 36 righteous men in the world.
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