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[Page 140]

Gerszon Lejb Pakyn

Written by Charles Nowicki

 

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The Parisian Jewish Documentation Centre, which has researched and published relevant documents about the Nazi destruction of Jews and the anti–Nazi underground since 1945, published a brochure in 1947 that was entitled “Letters from Romain Rolland to an Underground Fighter”. Its introduction was written by Mme. Marie Rolland [Rolland died in 1944]. The famous French author had written these letters to Elye Wallach, a friend of Leon Pakyn. The two friends had fought the Nazis together, were arrested together and were shot at almost the same time by court decree.

This brochure includes biographical details about Elye Wallach and some details about the death of his comrade–in–arms, Leon Pakyn.

Who was Leon Pakyn and how was he connected to Pabianice?

The Paris Communist newspaper “New Press” of 18–19 March 1950 published the following biographical information about the life of Leon Pakyn and his last letter to his wife, which he wrote in prison while awaiting death:

“Prenne, 27 July 1942

My dear and gentle wife!

In a few hours time I will be dead. I have no time to write much to you, but what value these words have! I have loved you with such a strong yet gentle love that is difficult to express.

With all my heart I wish that you will be very, very happy. If it is a daughter [she later gave birth to a son], as you wanted, may she be a brave woman just like you.

I have no more time to remember my entire past. I know that my life has been difficult but beautiful. I have been so happy, especially since I met you.

I kiss you with all my strength for the last time. I am proud of you, my proud heart, my dear Suzanne – my one great love, which will end so soon and so brutally, although we could have been so happy.

I am of good spirit and I will do everything necessary until the last minute, because it is hard to die at only thirty-two and when one is in love.

I trust you and I know that you will manage and that you will bring up our daughter well. I don't ask much of you at the moment, except that you remember me positively. I am sad to think about the moment that will come upon me soon, but when I think about you my heart is so pained and something chokes me in my throat so that I cannot breathe.

I am also thinking about all our friends who have been so good to me. I hope that they will all be very, very happy and that all the suffering of our difficult times will end as quickly as possible.

I am sending you the few things that I have for you to put away as a remembrance.

[Page 141]

Be strong, my dear and gentle wife, and don't cry too much. Try to remain calm, strong and healthy for our daughter's sake. I think about the child a lot. I wanted it so badly and will never see it.

From time to time tell it about me. Kiss little Danny for me and his mother – who was so good – and especially his aunt and uncle, whom I love so much.

Be happy all of you and help my dear wife to survive the difficult times. By doing so, you will be carrying out my last wishes.

A last comradely greeting and kiss for Bebe and Terese. Once again, to all my friends I send a last good-bye. I send a last greeting to the whole family. Please don't forget me and remember me well.

Suzanne, my dear, my great love, my wife, my friend! I kiss you for the last time. Be happy!”

* * *

The Paris Communist newspaper “New Press” published the following about the death of Leon Pakyn:

Leon Pakyn was born in Tomoszow–Mazowieck (Poland) on 29 September 1909 into the family of a poor weaver. He went to work in a weaving factory in Pabianice at a young age. He soon became active in the Communist youth movement and later in the party. He was constantly harrassed by the police because of his political activity.

By the age of twenty–six, he had already suffered in Polish prisons for ten years.

In 1936 he fought on the fields of Spain, became a member of the Jewish Butwin company and stood out during the battles near Laredo.

While living under German occupation, Leon Pakyn was one of the founders of the heroic Jewish partisan unit (second division). From the beginning, he and his brave group carried out very courageous acts of sabotage against German supplies. During one such armed attack, he and his younger comrade Wallach fell into enemy hands. They were sentenced to death. The executions were carried out on 20 July 1942.

 

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The Paris grave of Gerszon Lejb (Leon) Pakyn

[Page 142]

In the textile city Pabianice, where he worked and spent his teenage years, a Jewish cooperative has recently been named “Leon Pakyn”.

* * *

This short biography of the young hero is not terribly accurate. The Communist newspaper avoided telling about the first half of his short life. This era is simply described like this in the paper:

“From his earliest youth he worked in a weaving factory in Pabianice.”

However, fate brought me together with Leon Pakyn during those years. In his earliest years, he was a student in the secondary school and a comrade in “Hashomer Hatzair”. His youthful enthusiasm for the ideal of Zion, which he served with a deep belief, was a model for his comrades in school and in the organization.

The Pabianice organization of “Hashomer Hatzair”, which ran important national Jewish and educational activities amongst our teenagers from 1915 to 1925, was the most active and liveliest youth movement in our city. During the 1920s, the organization consisted of two parts. The older comrades were concentrated in the “Hashomer” circle “Kolo” and were more or less already politically active. Under the influence of the Galician “Hashomer Hatzair”, they began to sympathise with and work together with the left wing of the Zionist movement. The younger group, which was led by people from “Kolo”, was purely a scouting organization. The name “Young Lions” (the younger group) showed that they were educated according to the rules of the Baden–Powell scouting movement yet, at the same time, in a Jewish national spirit.

The oldest group that I led was called “Roaring Lions”. It consisted of a group of nine or ten boys who joined “Hashomer” aged twelve or thirteen. The one who stood out the most in this group was Gerszon (Lejbl) Pakyn.

Gerszon came to Pabianice from Tomoszow–Mazowieck during the last months of World War I with his widowed mother. His mother had been born in Pabianice – she was the daughter of Zisze Gelbart – and they quickly settled down in her home town. Soon after their arrival, she registered her son in the newly–founded Hebrew secondary school. The young man soon earned the reputation of being a good and intelligent student as well as a loyal friend.

On Rosh Hashana 1920, a new “Hashomer” group was founded. Gerszon joined this group together with some friends from his class. At one of the first get–togethers of the group – which was under my supervision – Gerszon was elected to the leadership.

 

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The leadership of Hashomer Hatzair in Pabianice in 1924
(from right to left) Nosn Glass, Jichak Moszynski, Dawid Dawidowicz, Eliasz Moszynski

 

He was especially good at scouting activities, with his dedication, honesty and loyalty. He served as a model for his friends with his belief, love of people and of nature. On the summer camps – which were run by the older kids in the village Dombrowa near Pawlowice Gerszon was entrusted with the responsibility of instructing and looking after the younger ten year olds.

[Page 143]

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The first Hashomer Hatzair summer camp in the village Dombrowa–Pawkowic
Row one (from right to left): Frejman, Mojsze Szeracki, Cichtiker, Nejdat, Abba Zylberberg, H. Zylberberg, Birnbojm, Szymon Warszawski, Hudes, L. Orbach, Abram Ben–Hanach (Frejman)
Row two: Jichak Szynicki, Josef Dzaloszynski, Gerszon Pakyn
Row three: Eliasz Mozynski, Nosn Glass, Dawid Dawidowicz

 

Eventually, this group decided to publish its own newspaper. It was given the original scouting name “From Our Hat” (the broad–brimmed hat was an important part of the scouting uniform). It was published monthly and was edited by the group leader, with the participation of the membership. The first issues were simply written out by hand, while the later ones were printed on stencils. The articles, stories and poems were written in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. The illustrations were by the group leader.

The main writers were Gerszon Pakyn and Josef Dzaloszynski and some of the girls from the“Simkhes” [happiness] group, which was led by Ester Birnbojm. Gerszon's earliest literary efforts were short stories that he wrote in Polish, such as “Ibrahim” – a story about an Arab who turned out to be a hidden Jew – and “The Experiences of a Wanderer” (impressions of a “Hashomer” excursion) and others.

Like all group leaders, he carried a deep and almost romantic love of the Land of Israel in his heart. On summer camps he used to wear a sort of turban on his head, like those worn by Arabs or Jewish pioneers. For night activities and yom–tovim, he would recite and, as the leader of his group, he would present a satirical song about himself which was written by the group. It would begin with the words: “Reb Dawid's right hand, I am Gerszon, his assistant.” And he would recite poetry and would speak about realising the goals of “Hashomer” with natural youthful enthusiasm.

And then came the year 1925, the watershed year in the short history of “Hashomer Hatzair” in Pabianice.

The following people from the older group of “Hashomer” left Pabianice:

[Page 144]

Rochl Dzaloszynski (one of the oldest female members, who made Aliyah);

after her the Birnbojm sisters Ester and Sarah left;

the author of these lines left to study in France;

Elye Mazynski – that gentle and dedicated comrade – and

Nosn Glass, the energetic and lively leader, left to serve in the Polish army;

Jichak Mazynski, Majer Jelenowicz and others left “Hashomer” and joined the Communist Party.

The responsible comrades were literally spread out across the seven seas – and the younger group unfortunately was not able to replace them.

After ten years of dedicated educational work, the local “Hashomer” organization was wound up. Before I left for France, I met with all of my groups for the last time. Gerszon presented me with a gift in the name of all our members. It was a Hebrew translation of Heine's book of poetry, prepared by the poet Jichak Kacenelson.

This was my last meeting with Gerszon Pakyn.

* * *

1925 – the infamous year of Grobski. Polish Jews were ruined economically by the huge taxes that were placed on merchants, artisans and stall–holders. Jews were emotionally depressed by the anti– Semitic politics that were aimed against Jewish autonomous institutions, against Jewish schools and against Jewish students. The possibility of emigration was limited. It wasn't even easy to make Aliyah.

The Jewish youth of Poland, like youth everywhere, yearned for an ideal, looked for something to hold onto. Two extreme streams spread throughout the Jewish community – Revisionism and Communism. This was also the fate of Jewish youth in Pabianice, who were without the possibility of employment and without a future on Polish soil.

A year later, when I returned to Poland during the summer holidays, Gerszon Pakyn was already one of the most active young Communists in our city. He spoke at public mass meetings and organized strikes for workers in Pabianice. He was only seventeen when he went to prison for the first time. He stayed there with longer or shorter breaks for almost ten years, from 1926 to 1936. That year, he left for Spain to fight for his ideals.12

After the war, the sad news of his heroic death in battle against the Nazi enemy – in the old commune city, Paris – reached us in Israel.

His friends from “Hashomer Hatzair”, his ideological comrades, his supporters, will never forget him.

* * *

[Page 145]

Reb Henech Rajchman

Written by Gerszon Rajchman

 

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I write these words with deep respect for the memory of my father.

He was born in Radomsk in 1903. He came to Pabianice and married Sarah, the daughter of Reb Jakob Wygocki.

He was a printer by trade, and in 1923 he opened up a printing house named “Promjen”.

As a Zionist, he began his communal activity at an early age. The time was not yet ripe, however. He was active in the Jewish bank during the years before World War I.

There was an increase in communal activity after World War I. On the blessed initiative of Dr. Szwarcwasser (Ben Renan), he was extremely active within the Jewish community. He was particularly active in the Zionist organization. For years he represented the Jewish community on the city council and after Dr. Ben Renan made Aliyah, he took over the chairmanship of the Zionist Organization.

In 1925, he became the chairman of the Jewish community organization and had to deal with the difficult struggle with the Aguda, led by Reb Mendele, and also with the power of the Polish government.

He was a General Zionist in the best sense of the word. His Zionist belief now seems to be a bit naive, but it was holy to him. He always sought to make Aliyah and to join his children in the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, this was not to be. He was sent away never to return during an action in the Lodz Ghetto in 1943.

May his dear soul rest in peace.

* * *

Dr. Yosef Ben Renan (Szwarcwasser)

Written by Engineer D. Dawidowicz

 

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[translation of the Hebrew text begins on page 281]

 

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