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[Page 128]

Jewish Personalities of Pabianice

 

Reb Mojsza Adler

Written by Dawcza D.

 

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I have memories of the figure of our gentle neighbour, Reb Mojsza Adler, which stem from the earliest years of my childhood.

We lived on Konstantyn Street, directly across from Reb Mojsza's house. Our families were connected to one another by hearty bonds of friendship during a period of over forty years.

The Adlers were one of the oldest Jewish families in Pabianice. They were also one of the founders of the Jewish textile industry in Pabianice.

The Adlers' father, Reb Chaim, was one of the first pioneers amongst Jewish factory owners during the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time, the industry was located mostly in the old part of the city. His sons – Szulem Birch, Mojsza, Josef and Avram Hersz – were already well–known factory owners and merchants. All of the sons, except for Szulem Birch who lived in Lodz, were deeply rooted in the old part of Pabianice. This is where they built their first factories and showrooms. They lived there and raised their children there. They developed reputations there as householders, pious Jews and, most of all, as respected, honest merchants and pioneers in the industrial weaving of fabric by Jews in our city.

Reb Mojsza, the second son of Reb Chaim, was not just a factory owner who was involved heart and soul in the ways of the fabric loom and of business. He was a secular leader and a communal leader in the best sense of the word.

I remember him as far back as when I was a child. He had a serious face and a beautiful, long, well– combed beard that decorated his gentle face. He always wore a long, black coat and a round black cap on his head – a truly Jewish type.

I saw him through our windows every day. I saw how he went to shul, to morning prayers and to afternoon and evening prayers. His route went from Konstantyn Street to Shul Street. Reb Mojsza wasn't bothered by bad weather and never changed his daily route.

Reb Mojsza was also a householder. I remember well his small garden in the courtyard of his new three–storey building, which he had built near his old house. For us children, this garden was a kind of Garden of Eden here on Earth. We used to play there for hours with Reb Mojsza's permission. We used to taste his sweet cherries – without his permission. We also used to sometimes skip over to Reb Iczel Goldring's large wooden warehouse, where we waged “stone wars” against the local non–Jewish boys from Kapliczna Street while standing on the high piles of wood there. I remember that on Succoth, my older brothers and I used to visit Reb Mojsza's sukka. He built it like a kind of

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outdoor room between two parts of his house and covered it with a sort of roof. On Succoth he opened the roof, covered it with green branches and made the little room into a kosher sukka in accordance with all the laws.

His older children received a traditional cheder education and undertook some secular studies with the well–known Jewish teacher of the time, Mrs. Rosenzaft. The younger ones followed the practice of the time and studied in the Polish secondary school.

Reb Mojsza had a large family that was widely spread out. Fridays nights at his house were very patriarchal. After greeting the Sabbath, the entire family got together around Reb Mojsze's table. Reb Mojsze sat at the head of the table, his wife Gucza sat next to him and they were surrounded by their children and children–in–law, as well as grandchildren. Then you could hear the sounds of Sabbath melodies coming from their house, which was across the street from us. They joined together with the sounds of our own Sabbath choir.

* * *

Reb Mojsza Adler was one of the most popular personalities in Jewish Pabianice. He earned this popularity due to his respectable, honourable position as the president of our synagogue in the old part of the city. This would have been an interesting chapter of his Jewish communal life. He was connected to the synagogue by thousands of holy Jewish bonds. More than once people were under the impression that Reb Mojsza, the president, was just as important a part of the old city synagogue as its colourful Ark or its paintings with their Jewish motives.

I remember him in the synagogue, standing next to the prayer–leader. He was so honoured, holding the small silver pointer that he used to keep the prayer–leader at the correct place in the text as he read from the holy Torah. After each part of the Torah portion, Reb Mojsza would cast a look over the frames of his glasses, and Chaim Aron the beadle would call out “Yamod!” Reb Mojsza handed out the call–ups to the congregation. One very respectable fellow was called up first, a second was called up second, a bar mitzvah boy was called up for “Maftir” and an ordinary fellow had the third call–up. On Jewish festivals, he sent “Psiches” that were engraved on copper sheets. On Simchas Torah he treated young and old to a chance to carry a Torah scroll around the synagogue. The honour of reading the first portion for the new cycle went to none other than Reb Herszl Faust – it had been his right for years. Like a brilliant stage director, Reb Mojsza showed his ability in handing out these “roles” – the honours. And the congregation accepted everything that their president did with respect, as had been the synagogue tradition for generations.

As is well–known, the synagogue was also a meeting place for important occasions in the life of the community. Celebrations and protest meetings occurred there. Zionist leaders, like Jichak Grynberg, gave fiery speeches there. Reb Mendele Alter, our rabbi, gave rabbinic speeches there. He was one of the leaders of the Aguda rabbinical council in Poland. On Lag B'Omer, the youth of Hashomer Hatzair met there. During election campaigns for the Jewish community council or for the Polish parliament, the entire Jewish community fought there for their rights, against insults and against oppressors. And again we saw Reb Mojsza not just as the synagogue president, but also as a peace–maker – as an objective administrator of this holy “meeting house”.

I want to add a detail here that illuminates the personality of Reb Mojsza.

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Once, during one of my visits to Pabianice when I was still a student in France, I decided to make a drawing of the Ark, which, as everyone knows, was famous for its beautiful, artistic carvings. I wasn't sure whether or not Reb Mojsza would allow me to paint it in the synagogue. I thought that he would surely say to me:

“Do you want to be called–up for a 'Maftir'? With pleasure! But painting in the synagogue I cannot allow. It would be a desecration of holiness.”

I was quite mistaken. Not only did Reb Mojsza allow me to paint in the synagogue, but he even instructed the beadle that whenever I wanted to paint, he should give me the keys to the synagogue. “I can tell you – paint the Ark to your heart's content, but in exchange, you must come to synagogue on the Sabbath. And I will call you up for a 'Maftir'”.

In the holy quiet of the synagogue I painted the Ark, which was lit up by the sun's rays that shined in through the windows of the women's section and reflected on the carvings with a brilliant play of colours. On returning to France, I left this painting with my parents. Years later, when I was already in the Land of Israel, they wrote to tell me that they gave it as a wedding present to our neighbour and my good friend, Matis Abramson. There was no information about his fate or the fate of his family at the end of the Holocaust.

The last time that I saw Reb Mojsza was in 1938, when I came to visit Pabianice from the Land of Israel. You must understand that I was very happy to see him and his entire family – as if they were close relatives of mine. At that time, I brought him greetings from his daughter, Rojza, and from his grandchildren in Tel Aviv. We drank “I'chaim” and on the Sabbath, Reb Mojsza called me up for “Maftir”.

* * *

At that time, there was almost no doubt in my mind that Reb Mojsza – who, together with his wife Gucza, deserved to age happily and who had already ensured livelihoods for his children and married them off: no doubt that he would continue to go to the synagogue twice a day – every day – until he was a very old man, to worry about the “Talmud–Torah” students and to give charity liberally. Everyone believed that the golden chain of Jewish tradition, which was felt in Reb Mojsza's house for years and years, would continue to make itself felt.

Fate, however, had other intentions...

His death was like a symbol of his life. While the unkosher hands of Nazis and their Polish helpers were destroying the synagogue – his synagogue, destroying the Ark and the bima, while they were pulling the last boards out of the seats and the floors, the gentle soul of the synagogue's president, Reb Mojsze Alter, was also pulled up and destroyed.

Together with thousands of Jews from our city, he was carried to Chelmno, the cemetery of the just of Pabianice.

* * *

[Page 131]

Reb Elye Banet

Written by Wolf Bresler

Reb Elye Banet, who was called Reb Elye, was a part of the older generation of pious, honest Jews – Jews from the House of Study. He undertook special responsibilities, like the mitzvah of visiting the sick and looking after them. Forty or fifty years ago this institution was vitally important. This was in the days before Pabianice had its own hospital for Jewish patients.

Fifty years ago, Reb Elye Banet created a group that fulfilled one of the most important mitzvot. This group ensured that poor patients were given the proper medical treatment, ensured the treatment of a doctor and provided medicine without fees. And if the patient's family was in need of other things as well, the group took care of them also, so that the patient could live another day... And everything was done quietly, without carrying on, as Jews liked to do at that time when it came to charity or good deeds.

It is interesting to look at how Reb Elye Banet of blessed memory organized this group. He himself went from house to house and encouraged members from all levels of the Jewish community and from all classes – from rich factory owners to the simplest workingman. Everyone agreed to pay between two and ten kopeks a week, depending on their income and ability to pay. And every householder in the city paid, because this mitzvah was considered by everyone to be important. Everyone understood and appreciated the simplicity of this honest and plain Jew, Reb Elye Banet. Everyone was happy to help in the good deed of helping the sick, together with visiting the sick.

These kopeks, the weekly payments, had to be collected. The sums involved were just too small to pay for sending out reminders.

What did Reb Elye do? He organized the yeshiva boys. Each one of them received a little book with receipts. Thanks to them, the money came in and the weekly budget could be met.

People who came into contact with the homespun Reb Elye tell of the love and piety this Jew showed when visiting a poor patient, asking what was needed and whether they needed a doctor, or something else as well – in other words, whether or not they also needed bread and food.

Whenever I arrived in Pabianice and whenever I entered the “Workers' Home'' and the trade union offices on Tuszyner Street, I met up with this honest leader and communal representative. Reb Elye Banet and his family actually lived on Tuszyner Street. I often met him there when he was weaving on his wooden loom.

I knew the good side of this Jew very well. He was generally a quiet and modest person who didn't like to make a fuss about his communal work, or about the fact that he helped the poor. At that time, as opposed to today, it just wasn't the “done” thing.

When Reb Elye Banet died I was still in Pabianice. I don't know what text his children had inscribed on his gravestone. One thing I do know: if the inscription read: “He served his community with the best of intentions”, it would not have been an exaggeration. It would have been the honestly earned truth, because there were not many people like the simple Reb Elye Banet in Pabianice.

[Page 132]

Hersz Josef Giska

Written by Wolf Sewusz

 

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Hersz Josef Giska was my brother–in–law.

I met him in Paris in 1932. I already knew that he busied himself with workers' issues far beyond our home town. Whenever you walked through a Jewish neighbourhood with him, people would constantly stop him to ask him to intervene on their behalf in many different matters. Although he took care of workers, he himself lived very frugally. He didn't want to go to America, because according to his words, America was not an issue for Jewish workers.

When the Germans conquered Paris, his main responsibility was to make passes for the needy, so that they could escape to Vichy. The Hitlerite beasts caught up with him on the job and murdered him on the spot. This was in 1941. His widow still lives in Paris.

* * *

Giska – The Labour Zionist Activist

Written by Wolf Bresler

One of the most interesting of the dedicated activists who devoted themselves to the needs and aspirations of Jewish workers in Pabianice was Hersz Josef Giska, or, as they used to call him – Giska. It was enough to call out his surname to summon up the respect that everyone had for him.

All the activities of the Jewish labour movement in Pabianice were connected to him and he connected to them.

Giska and a group of comrades were the flag–bearers of the Poeli Zion ideal even before the movement split into right and left wings. During World War I, the “Workers' Home” was created in Pabianice. Its cultural activities were various, as were its fraternal benefits. These were all the initiative of Hersz Josef Giska. He was the nerve–centre of the “Workers' Home”.

The Jewish workers of Pabianice – and from the surrounding area as well – looked up to Hersz Josef Giska as their teacher and guide. Everyone listened to him, because they knew that whatever he said, it came straight from his heart and was said with the firm belief that it would actually come to fruition.

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If the Jewish workers of Pabianice were represented on the Jewish communal council, on the city council or in any other institution that was founded in Pabianice after World War I (as elsewhere in Poland), this was thanks to Hersz Josef Giska, who gallantly defended the interests of the Jewish proletariat everywhere in Pabianice.

In 1920, the first Jewish trade union was founded in Pabianice. It was affiliated with the Polish General Workers' Union, whose head was the well–known labour–activist from the Polish Socialist Party – Deputy Szczerkowski. The activists of the Polish Socialist Party looked on the Jewish union with respect, because it was chaired and founded by Hersz Josef Giska.

He used to speak at public demonstrations and would excite everyone with his speeches about Socialism, about Jewish labour and about proletarian Zionism. For him, Socialism and Zionism went hand–in–hand. He couldn't imagine any other way to establish the Land of Israel if not as a Socialist society.

Hersz Josef Giska came from a poor proletarian family. His parents were definitely not able to send him to non–Jewish schools. Yet no one could imagine that he had barely completed a very basic general education. What he knew, he had gained thanks to his own efforts. Yet in his speeches about Socialism and Zionism, Giska showed as much ability as the most talented theoretician of Borochowism and political economy. During the day he worked and at night he studied. And yet he always had time to dedicate himself to Jewish labour.

It is worth noting that before each new important action, Giska would disappear from his home and return a few weeks later – with a ready–made plan.

I remember one such episode that occurred in 1919, immediately after World War I. As everyone knows, the Germans took away everything from our city. They took the machines out of all the factories in Pabianice, as well as the leather beltsand other equipment. Jewish employees had no way to run their mechanised looms. The very existence of a few thousand Jewish workers depended on the employed weavers. Then, at this critical time, Giska disappeared – like one of the thirty–six secret saints whose goodness allows the world to continue. Suddenly, on a Friday just before candle– lighting time, he reappeared and told the depressed workers the good news that he had found a motor somewhere near Kalisz. It would be able to power all of their mechanised looms. This would secure the income of hundreds of Jewish proletarian families. I remember this as if it were today, although it occurred so many years ago. The town celebrated Hersz Josef Giska's discovery with great enthusiasm.

The next time I entered the factory where my brother–in–law Josef Bresler worked – along with his brothers Ruwen, Henech and other friends who were employees – and when we saw the steam and the mechanised looms and heard the noise of the motor running, we once again realised who was responsible: the honest, dynamic and dedicated Hersz Josef Giska. Thanks to him the Jewish workers of Pabianice were able to begin a new working life after the hungry war years and could earn enough bread to fill their stomachs.

* * *

[Page 134]

Nosn Glass

Written by Dawid

 

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My friendship with Nosn, or, as we used to call him – Natek – Glass began during those years of childhood, back before World War I.

We were friends in the same class in the first secular Jewish school in our city, well known to all as Lurja's Hebrew Secondary School. Once it closed down, we both sat on the same bench in the Polish secondary school. From then on, we were bound by bonds of friendship until our graduation in 1925. That was also the year in which I left Poland.

We were brought together by more than our joint school experiences in the Polish secondary school. We were bound by years of interesting, dedicated educational work, years of Jewish national life and years of romantic scouting experiences as members of “Hashomer Hatzair”.

I remember that at that time, Natek was a particularly healthy Jewish boy. His face didn't look particularly Jewish and I think that his mentality wasn't particularly Jewish either. He did not suffer from Diaspora complexes. While working with “Hashomer Hatzair”, he tried not to have disagreements with other comrades. He wanted to have less politics and philosophy – and more excursions, summer camps, sports and gymnastics. His energy and enthusiasm were obvious when we were busy widening our activities amongst teenagers, after we attracted children from the secondary school, primary schools and even from Chassidic families to our movement. It was clear to us that only Nosn Glass could possibly lead our youth organization.

His youthful enthusiasm and his honest and loyal dedication to the ideals of “Hashomer Hatzair” and many other things – along with his warm relationships with comrades and most of all with the young people – earned him the love of us all. And if “Hashomer Hatzair” was exceptional in our city due to its active and important Jewish educational activities, it was largely due to Nosn's qualities as a leader.

It was characteristic of his energetic nature that we always nominated him to lead our youth organizations, whether “Hashomer” or the sports group “Nesher” [Eagle], or even the first Jewish atheists' group in our city. We wanted him to be in charge and almost forced him into it. This was evidence of our great trust in this comrade, who never disappointed us.

* * *

After we graduated from secondary school we parted ways. Some of us left Poland to study in foreign universities (the “Numerus Clausus” policy at that time locked Jewish students out of the local universities, so we left Poland in droves). Some left “Hashomer” for ideological reasons and joined other parties of both the left and the right. Some just wanted to make a life for themselves.

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Grey reality defeated the romanticism of “Hashomer Hatzair”. The organization was closed down.

The financial situation of Nate's family took a turn for the worse after the death of his father, Reb Henech. He and his sister had to take on the responsibility of supporting the family financially and so he accepted a good position as the secretary of the Jewish Factory Owners' Union. Yet his communal bent didn't allow him to rest. His friends met from time to time in his new home. Together with his wife Regina (nee Szapiro), he was bound to them by bonds going back to his years in “Hashomer Hatzair”.

We discussed cultural and communal matters. This is where the “speakers' circle” was born. Nosn was responsible for literary reviews – amongst other things, he spoke about educational problems. His speeches were structured as debates with his listeners, as we used to have in “Hashomer”. He and his friend Hanuman (an atheist from Lodz) created the first atheist group in our city.

* * *

Years passed. From time to time, whenever I came to Poland for summer holidays, we continued to meet, enjoy one another's company, reminisce about our youth and make plans for our futures. And then our paths separated again. The last time that I saw him was in 1930.

After the war, news about Nosn reached us in Israel. His strong lust for life or just plain luck had stayed with him. He saved himself, his wife and his son and was granted a high ministerial post in the new Poland. In the end, he emigrated from Poland to Australia.

In Australia, his interest in Jewish communal life and journalism re–awoke. He wrote about his wartime experiences in the form of a diary. These pages were full of pain, telling about the life of a “Marrano” under Nazi rule. He organised a small group of people from Pabianice in Australia and then a landsmanshaft. He was active in Jewish national holidays (our Yom Haatzmaut) and collected money for Israel campaigns. He wrote interesting articles in the local Jewish newspapers and was trying to change the voting system for the “Jewish Board of Deputies”. He dreamed of joining it as a representative of Polish–Jewish immigrants.

And when we thought that the impetus of his Jewish life force would continue – his life came to a sudden end...

His name will remain engraved deep in the hearts of his friends.

* * *

[Page 136]

Szmuel Dawid Grynsztejn

Written by U.G.

 

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Szmuel Dawid Grynsztejn, the son of Abram and Chawa, was born in Pabianice on 25 February 1917 and was murdered by the Germans during the pogrom in the town Uda during the Holocaust. He ran away to the forest together with his sister Sarah and thirteen other Jews, but they were caught on the way and murdered.

Szmuel Dawid Grynsztejn joined the Communist Youth Union in Pabianice at age sixteen. He was one of the most active comrades. He was often surrounded by a large group of 87 working youth, who were under his influence.

His comradely dedication, his serious relationship to social and political problems and his honesty were a model for the working youth of Pabianice. They treated him with love and respect. He was a member of the executive and the cultural commission of “Hazomir” and was the librarian of its library. He was also a member of the regional council of the Communist Youth Union in Pabianice. He was tortured to death at age twenty-two.

* * *

Reb Jakob Wigocki

Written by Gerszon Rajchman

 

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Actually I wanted to write “of blessed memory”, because this man, my grandfather, was a saint in everything he did.

He was born in Ozorkow and came to Pabianice as an adult. He went into business, where his ability and his good way with people brought him a broad circle of clients and an even broader circle of friends amongst Jews and non–Jews. Everyone knew him and everyone respected him.

He was modest, yet he earned high positions within the Jewish community and the city council. He served the community for many years in both of these institutions, as he was the chairman of the Jewish Community Council and a member of the City Council. In addition, he was the chairman of one of our community self–help groups and of the group that raised money to send poor Jewish children to summer camps. Besides all of this, he was an advisor to the Talmud-Torah, the Jewish old age home, the Jewish credit bank and other institutions.

During World War I, my grandfather worked for the American–Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, distributing money to our local Jewish community. Before World War II, he was again the local repository for American funding.

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For him, communal activity was not an axe for digging. He never took advantage of his work for the community. Quite the opposite – he put his own strength and his money to work for the community and for the good of other institutions.

He was helped in this work by my grandmother Hadasa of blessed memory. Both of them had open hearts and open hands for anyone in need.

If one can speak about blessings in heaven, my grandfather of blessed memory earned the greatest blessing of all, because he passed away at a ripe old age. This was while the Jewish community of Pabianice still existed. He did not suffer the shame of exile and all that followed it.

As a human being, my grandfather of blessed memory served as a role model for me. His memory is especially dear to me. My entire family and I feel particularly honoured to be able to eternalise his memory with these lines.

* * *

Oszer Wyntner

Written by G. R.

 

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Oszer Wyntner was born in Ozorkow. In 1924 he came to Pabianice, where he married Zahava Cohen. He was a watchmaker by trade.

In Pabianice he busied himself with communal activities and became one of the most important Zionist leaders. He was especially active in the Jewish National Fund and led the organization for years.

He came to the Land of Israel in 1934, where he continued to be an active communal leader, especially in the Pabianice landsmanshaft. He was its vice–president and organized and led its free loan society. Privately he did a lot to help new olim. He did his work happily and didn't allow difficulties to stand in his way.

He died suddenly in the prime of life, at age fifty–one in 1954. May his dear soul rest in peace.

* * *

Reb Yosef Dawidowicz

Written by Engineer Yitzhak Gilun–Zelinsky

 

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[translation of the Hebrew text begins on page 269]

[Page 138]

Reb Jakob Jakubowicz

Written by Yoseff Zimberknopf

 

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[translation of the Hebrew text begins on page 276]

* * *

Chazan Reb Jermiahu Vandrobnik

Written by M.Sh. Giashoori

 

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[translation of the Hebrew text begins on page 278]

* * *

[Page 139]

Mordcha (Matusz) Chmura

Written by eye–witnesses

 

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People show their true selves during tragic times. Strong personalities are capable of heroic deeds at such times.

This chapter of memoirs is dedicated to the memory of such a hero – our dear comrade Matusz Chmura.

He was well–known in Pabianice Jewish communal life as a dedicated Zionist leader. He was the head of the Zionist Organization in our city for about a decade before the outbreak of World War II. He carried out his communal activities with a great sense of responsibility. Even in the Ghetto, he remained loyal to his beliefs and to his character. Let us remember his last heroic act on the day of the destruction of Pabianice Jewry right here:

This was in 1942.

On the day of the deportation of our dearest ones from the Pabianice Ghetto, the German criminals forced all the Jews together on the sports field of the Grusza–Enders factory, where they carried out their infamous selection. The elderly, the sick and the weak were separated from the young and the healthy. Children under the age of ten were stolen from their parents and taken to a separate place.

Then the Hitlerite murderers – with their refined methods – turned to the crowd and asked who would volunteer to join the children and to look after them. Of course, the first to volunteer were the children's own parents, who wanted to look after them during the journey and to keep an eye on them.

The only non–parent who volunteered for this holy mission was Matusz Chmura. His two daughters were not in the group of children, because they were already over the age of ten. Without thinking much about it, he left his wife and children and took himself over to the group of children in order to help them.

As he entered the field at the head of the children, proud Jew that he was, he sang the “Hatikvah”. The other parents in the group joined in.

As we found out later, they were all sent directly to Chelmno and the gas chambers. All honour to his memory!

* * *

 

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