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[Page 50]

When Tribulations Afflicted the Jews

by Mendel Honig, Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was the latter part of 1935. The N. D.[1] enemies of the Jews raised their heads. Persecutions of the Jews began. In the meantime, there were preparations for the impending pogrom. There was incitement against purchasing from Jews, attacks, and disturbances in the synagogue. During the Kabbalat Shabbat service there were screams and wails – Manish the baker from Odrzywól had been murdered!

The Jewish youth began to prepare for all contingencies and organized self defense. Half a year passed in tense calm. It began in March 1936… life in the city was unbearable. Aside from the mortal danger, the city was left without livelihood. People began to take refuge in other cities. I moved with my family to Lodz and set myself up as a clerk in a rubber factory. Thus did three years pass until the war broke out. There were those who attempted to escape to Russia. I also tried my luck and reached Przemysl. There, the Ukrainians attacked the Jews and pillaged their meager property. A very few managed to cross the border after beatings and tribulations.

I succeeded in crossing the border at night along with a few other Jews. Our “hosts” greeted us with shots – at least in the air – and imprisoned the entire group. We were hauled in crowded trains, with hunger and cold, until we reached the desired destination of the N.K.V.D. people. There was a trial, and I was sentenced to five years of backbreaking work. What was my sin? I was an enemy element… Is there any need to further describe life in a Soviet work camp? Of the approximately 500 people who were in the camp, 200 survived by 1942, when they began to transfer the Polish citizens to Uzbekistan in Asia for the draft to the Polish army.

During the draft, the Jews were invalidated, even those who had been soldiers in the Polish army. They only accepted

[Page 51]

a few, who were expert at various jobs in which there was a shortage of Poles. Having been “freed”, I settled in the city of Circik near Tashkent.

Miraculously, my brother Shalom found out that I was in the city, and he came to me. I did not recognize him even though he was approximately 12 years younger than me. My eyes darkened when I saw an elderly, weak man, without clothes and with worn out shoes.

They had slandered him, stating that he knew Hebrew! For this “sin” he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was freed after three years, for the committees determined that in any case, he does not have long to live. People such as this were freed with the assumption that they would end their lives somewhere on their aimless route to “freedom”.

I earned a good livelihood. I sent my brother to Tashkent where he studied engineering.

The anti-German propaganda slowly abated, for the time came when it was no longer worthwhile for the Russians. Thus did time pass until May 10, 1945 at midnight, when the radio announced that the war had ended! The enthusiasm of the crowds that filled the streets with singing and dancing cannot be described…

People began to return from the front: people, damaged bodies… but local life slowly began to return to its course.


The Return “Home”

After six years of suffering and a life of wandering, the Soviet government permitted the Polish citizens to return to their homeland. The group of Jews that was in the city of Circik began to think about to which “homeland” they should return to. Who would they find there? Would they find some survivor from their family? To which house? Where could they rest? Some who had given up hope decided to remain in the place and drink the cup of poison until the end…

With sleepless nights, my tormented soul, with conflicting thoughts and torment, with a strand of hope against all logic, and perhaps with pangs of consciousness, was thinking – “How can I go on living while they are no more?...” Is it possible to detail everything that goes on in a tormented soul? However a mysterious voice called out: Go! Go! Put an end to the internal torture that has no reason! Just as there is no escape from death, there is no escape from life, “You live even against your will!”

Thus did my brother Shalom and I decide to travel together to Poland.


From the Trap to the Pit

We traveled in transport trucks, crowded like salted fish in a barrel, until we came to liberated Poland… and the first news that reached our ears was about the pogrom in Kielce[2]! It was not the Nazis that murdered, but rather the Poles, who did not suffice themselves with the taste of their own liberation. The wild animalistic tendencies

[Page 52]

hidden within their souls came to the fore, and turned them from the oppressed into oppressors, for the murdered to the murderers… This was a murder of lust, bloodthirstiness, murder for the purpose of pillage, in the paradigm of “You have murdered and also taken possession”[3]… How brazen was it for the remnants of the Jews to remain alive? Their homes were set to come into the hands of us Poles, as ripened fruit!...

Thus did we travel on the train, as people sneaking into a foreign place. As people sneaking into a foreign place we approached Radom, our regional city, the regional city of Przytyk. Where should we go? According to the information given to us by a gentile who appeared to be trustworthy, there were several Jews on the second floor in a certain house. We went up the stairs and knocked on the door, and there was no answer. When we already began to suspect that our guide had misled us, and that this was nothing other than a trap, we heard footsteps in the dwelling. We knocked on the door again and heard a question from inside in Polish: “Who is there?” We answered in Yiddish. The person on the other side was not sure that we were indeed Jews, and exchanged some words with us. Finally the door was opened. We burst inside. On both sides of the door there were two men with axes in their hands, to protect themselves from any misfortune that might befall them.

Within a few seconds we felt that we were among Jews. How great was our joy when we saw, for the first time in six years, Hebrew books, a prayer book, and a Talmud. I opened up the first chapter of Tractate Shabbat. My brother delved into Tractate Baba Metzia and rejoiced over it as if finding a great treasure. Hope that we might again return to life returned to us.

The following day we walked around the streets of Radom. In the marketplace, we saw objects for sale: tallises, candlesticks, Chanukah menoras – heartrending merchandise… I met a Christian who had once worked in an oil factory in which I had been a partner. He told me that my wife had organized a group that had joined the partisans in the forests of Kielce. She was with a young girl. All of the partisans, especially the Jews, were killed. My parents were transferred to the Przysucha Ghetto along with the children. Nobody heard anything from them, and it is not known when or how they perished.

On the market day I went with my brother along the road that leads to Przytyk. How could we hold back and not visit and see with our own eyes the destruction of our town, the cradle of our happy childhood? We knew how dangerous such a trip was. However my brother, younger and more nimble than I, hopped on a car that was going to Przytyk and set out.

In his article, my brother Shalom describes his feelings in Przytyk. I remained fixed in my place and did not move until I saw with my own eyes that my brother had returned in peace.

Days, weeks, and months passed. We moved from place to place, from city to city. Everything was strange and inimical. Even the Jewish stores did not know rest. During our wanderings we came into contact with Jews. We organized groups and kibbutzim [4]. My brother joined a Shomer Hatzair kibbutz, and I joined him. How great was our joy how we met my sister Chanale, with her husband and children, on our aimless wanderings. We decided to leave the accursed soil of Poland. We traveled to Czechoslovakia en route to the Land of Israel.

[Page 53]

Rather than being a strange body among enemies, to our fortune, we fell into a wonderful Jewish organization called “Habricha”. Who fabricated against us that we are only fit for business? That Jews lack organizational talent? The Habricha organization was founded under the conditions of the breakup of the nation, when members of nations larger and stronger than us fell into despair and powerlessness. And what an organization it was! The people of Habricha spread out throughout the Jewish dispersion of homeless people whose families had been cut off. They gave everyone the feeling that someone would be concerned for them with brotherly concern. These were strong youths who mocked borders, mocked restrictions, and mocked the vicissitudes of nature. Young, old, women, and men marched along under conditions of secrecy, climbed mountains, descended into valleys, crossed from country to country, en route to redemption and revival! When 1948 arrived, we had reached Italy. We were again in camps, but these were camps of brothers, who were preparing to make aliya to the Land, which was finally ours!

We knew that even to our land we would have to enter “as thieves in the night”, for strangers, the inimical British, ruled it, and the splendid British navy was fighting the ships of the Jewish refugees.

We ascended a ship in Italy. We did not yet know what was awaiting us when we would arrive on the coast of our land. An armed ship approached our ship. We knew from experience what it meant when a British ship would overpower a rickety refugee ship. However, how great was our joy, how great was our enthusiasm when the armed ship approached us and we saw Jewish sailors jumping to us, welcoming us with brotherly blessings – Israeli captains! Israeli soldiers! They were speaking Hebrew, and attempting to speak to us in Yiddish!

This was in July 1948[5]. Our ship approached the coast of Tel Aviv. This was between bombardments[6]. Egyptian airplanes were approaching and dropping bombs. Our “Primuses” chased them away. We disembarked on the soil of the awaited homeland, our homeland – ours!

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Narodowa Demokracja (National Democracy) political party. It was also known as “Endecja”. It was active from1864-1939 and very anti-Semitic. Return
  2. There was a well-known pogrom in Kielce in 1946. Return
  3. Kings I, 21:19, where the prophet Elijah confronted King Ahab after he had ordered the murder of Naboth to take over his field. Return
  4. Zionist oriented groups with the intention of making aliya to the Land. (The same term is used for collective farms in Israel, but that is not the intention here.) Return
  5. Israel became independent from the British in May, 1948. Return
  6. The War of Independence was in progress at the time. Return

Yiddish chapter on page 54 is equivalent to Hebrew chapter on page 11

Yiddish chapter on page 55 is equivalent to Hebrew chapter on page 12.

Yiddish chapter on page 62 is equivalent to Hebrew chapter on page 18.

[Page 70]

{Photo page 70: The author of these memoirs as a soldier in the Polish army.}

[Page 71]

In the Years 1905 and 1914-1918

by Yitzchak Milstein, Jerusalem

Translated by Jerrold Landau


Our town of Przytyk was surrounded by rivers on almost all sides. There were meadows with bodies of water behind the synagogue. Not far from them were two mills, a large one and a small one, which functioned by water power. There was a deep river behind the mill, called the Staw. I could swim very well when I was ten years old. The Beis Midrash youths as well as my uncles Itshe-Ber, Yosel Moshe and I would sometimes go to bathe in the Staw during the day, and play various tricks as we were swimming: “treading water” (with the hands in the air), “polkes and noznok” (legs and nose) (on the back), and “nurkem” (diving) (under water). It was comfortable and happy during our childhood years.

The Russian revolution of 1905 reverberated in Poland. The hatred of Nikolai II was great. Even Przytyk was overcome with the revolutionary trends. Revolutionaries with revolvers and daggers (Kinzhals) appeared in the town. Their meeting point was in the teahouse of Chana Esther-Rachel's (my mother of blessed memory). There, they sang workers' songs and planned all of the actions that were to be carried out. They also discussed violence and passions. At times, Moshe appeared at the door and asked:

[Page 72]

“Chaim is not here?”
When they answered “no”, he went out to look for him somewhere else. He had not been gone for five minutes, when Chaim entered the teahouse with a question:
“Moshe is not here?”
And he quickly ran out, even before he heard “no!”

That is what happened for an entire day and night...

The primary activity of the revolutionaries in Przytyk that year was -- taking money from the wealthy Jews and distributing it to the poor workers. There was a wealthy Jew in the town, a “percentnik”[1] and therefore stingy. He was called Avraham-Mendele. His wife was called Shvartze (black) Chana. The revolutionaries once came to him and demanded money. Avraham Mendele did not even want to hear about it. One of them took the revolver and shot the window. The glass broke into a thousand pieces. The terrified Jew did not put up any resistance. He just uttered a quiet question – “How much?”, and paid the demanded amount…

Here is another episode from that year.

On a winter night, approximately ten peasants who were forest workers in a neighboring village entered the store of Fishel Beker and demanded bread. They did not want to pay, and threatened those present with the axes and sticks with which they were armed. They even began to beat all those present in the store, including those who were coming in. The news of a pogrom spread very quickly in town. People locked doors and shutters and they were afraid of going out into the street.

At that time I was studying in cheder with Mote the teacher. Someone came to tell us that they were beating Jews in the street. Mote the teacher ordered us sternly to remain in cheder, and not to dare to move until he returned. He went into the kitchen and took a small ax from there. Just then, his son Shalom arrived – the “Caesar” of the revolutionaries as he was called. Shalom took out a small revolver from the closet, and the father and son jumped out into the street… They broke the bones of several peasants very well. When the other Jews saw their bravery, they fell on the

[Page 73]

pogromchiks and drove them out of town. Several wounded and beaten attackers remained lying on the streets.

The day after the incidents, 40 revolutionaries from Radom came to Przytyk. Most of them were armed with revolvers. They conducted a meeting in the center of the market with the purpose of opposing the Czarist regime. They shouted out slogans against the Czar and shot “Na Wywat[2]. It was merry in town. The police were afraid to appear on the street. Nevertheless, they searched for the Starszy Strasznik[3], the Pole Wasilewski and forced him to shout in a loud voice while beating his heart:

Ja Jestem Socialista”.[4]
That day, they appeared on the tables and benches in my mother's teahouse. The outside and local revolutionaries sat, drank, sang songs, and looked toward a better and finer life in Przytyk.

In the town, they talked about the “Tzetzelistn” and revolutionaries for a long time....



The childhood years passed by quickly. Then the First World War broke out. The Germans came to us for the first time on the eve of Sukkot. They marched through our town to Radom for two weeks. They did not bother the Jews. There were only isolated incidents where Jews were beaten or even shot. This happened on the first day when they were in Przytyk. A few soldiers wanted to obtain tobacco from Hershel Rywa. Hershel hid his merchandise and said that he had none. They took the tobacco and when Hershel Rywa began to flee, they shot after him. He was lucky, for he escaped with only a fright. Chaim Aharon Berkowicz was beaten by a German for demanding 4 pfennig for a cigarette.

They also tried to set our house, which was not far from the pharmacy, on fire. Soldiers, including riders of horses, spent the night in the yard. We had geese in a coup. They took a goose and ate it. A tall, German officer stood near the pharmacy. The soldiers were afraid

[Page 74]

that we would complain about the theft. The Germans created a furor, claiming that they were missing a gun, and that they would burn down the house if we did not give it back. All of the residents were afraid and prepared to flee. In the meantime, the soldiers mounted their horses and left.

After the defeat that the Germans suffered at Deblin, they began to retreat with the pretext that they were going toward Warsaw. They told us that they had compassion on us Jews because the Russians, especially the Cossacks, are wild are cruel. It was indeed thus. As soon as the Russians entered, the Cossacks began to cause great troubles for the Jews: robbery, beatings, and rape of women and girls. They searched for “Germanczes”[5] even in the drawers. The Poles continued to report on the Jews that they had conducted business with the Germans. However, everything was peaceful for us, because there were Jewish soldiers as well in the garrison that was stationed in our town.

After that, the Germans went on the attack again, and reached as far as Lodz. Fierce battles took place there. The Russians retreated and attempted to escape through our town. The front was established near Opoczno. The Russians dug trenches in a large area behind Przytyk. A week before Shavuot, they issued an order that all residents must leave the town.

The confusion and bustle in the town was indescribable. Everyone tried to take with them some bedding, linen, and clothing, but there were no wagons. People went to Radom to fetch wagons, and paid what was asked. In short, all of the Jews left Przytyk for Radom. The next Sunday, I went to Przytyk to transport some goods. The town was empty. No civilians could be found, only Russian soldiers. I was driven out of the town very quickly. I was indeed one of the last. Villages were burnt, cannons were shot, and bullets flew about. I quickly went to Radom, where I remained for two months, until after Tisha Beav. The Germans and Austrians arrived precisely on Tisha Beav. That very day, Kaiser Wilhelm and Franz-Josef drove through the streets on a beautiful coach. Many people stood on the streets to greet the two monarchs.

[Page 75]

The Jews began to return to Przytyk after Tisha Beav. All of the streets and lanes were overgrown with weeds one meter in height. It took a very long time until everything was set in order.

First, the Germans entered to town. It did not take long for them to take all men, boys and girls to work in the small forest. We had to fill in the trenches that the Russians had dug. There was a great deal of wood in the trenches, for the Russians had built rooms in them to sleep and cook. We had to remove the wood. We had to do a great deal of work each day until we had filled in all of the trenches.

Life was very difficult at that time People were often beaten. The food was very bad. We were not paid for the work. Rather, we were only permitted to take a bit of wood from the trenches.

After that, the Austrians entered. The food was somewhat better under them. On the other hand, hunger prevailed in the regions where the Germans stood. Things were terrible in Lodz and Warsaw. In Przytyk, life was like it would be in wartime: for a few people better, and for the majority -- worse. It remained this way until a certain day in June, 1916, when an Austrian officer with 20 soldiers entered the town.

There was a small garrison in Przytyk. The commandant was an apostate Jew from Galicia. With us it was as if “rejoicing in Your kingdom”[6]. The commandant was a great drunk. The soldiers went through the town, capturing people -- young and old, Jew and Christian. People hid where they could. However, they looked everywhere and found many people in their hiding places. The captured people were taken to Gold's yard behind the town, where they remained for the entire night. I and other youths hid in the attic of the synagogue. Gendarmes consisting of local Christians came down to look for us, but did not find us. We remained there until evening and then went home.

At night, gendarmes came and told my stepfather that I should hide tomorrow again, because they would come to look again. We had a few gendarmes who were acquaintances of ours and had eaten and drunk in our restaurant, often

[Page 76]

for free. Incidentally, my stepfather was also captured, but he escaped from the priest's courtyard.

I said that it would be best to hide once again in the attic of the synagogue, so we both went there. However, tribulations were in store, and no tricks would help. A Jew whose son had been captured led two gendarmes to the attic of the synagogue and said that many youths had hidden there the day before, so perhaps some are hiding there today. The two gendarmes (not from among those who used to come to us) searched very thoroughly and found us. Nobody else was there. They told my stepfather that he could go home. One of the gendarmes gave me three beatings, to the point where sparks flew before my eyes and noise was heard in my ears for a long time.

When we were finally on the way to the priest's yard, the commandant “Yismechu Bemalchutecha” [6] immediately came. He was completely drunk. In his drunken state, he took me in his hands, began to toss and shake me, shaking my last bit of strength from me. He tore the collar of my shirt. The entire time he was shouting, “You have been caught, and for you, you must go with the old lot.” He led me to the priest's courtyard. There he forced me to climb up a tree and shout so that all could here, “I have been caught.”

A little later, we were led away from the priest's courtyard. Armed soldiers guarded us from all sides. Nobody knew to where we were being taken. In the town, everyone thought that we were taken to be shot. The wives, girls and children accompanied us with heart-rending weeping and shouting. We were also deeply roused and weeping profusely.

They accompanied us in this manner for two kilometers, until the soldiers drove them away. We went for six kilometers. One Jew fell to the ground and said that he could no longer continue on due to the great pain in his feet. The officer, seemingly a good man, could not bear to see the agony of that Jew, so he gave him a note permitting him to go home. Of course, the Jews needed no more than this. Every 50 or 100 steps, a few men fell. The officer was surprised and shouted, “What kind of a sickly lot did they give me?” We laughed about it the entire way. One

[Page 77]

of them feigned an epileptic seizure. He did it so well, that I also thought that he was indeed ill. The officer continue to repeat, “Such a sickly lot.”

To our luck, a wagon was riding out from the courtyard at just that time. The officer ordered the wagon driver to take the very sick Jew to his home in Przytyk. Five of six other “ill people” went along with him.



After going for 14 kilometers, we taken into a school building with boarded up windows. There we were told that we must work at building a highway from the village to Sadlowice.

We remained there for a few weeks, guarded by the military. They brought us large boilers and food products so that we could cook our food. In reality, we did not have anything to do, for we had no materials. After two weeks, we began to slowly escape. I and three youths set out for Radom. I arrived home after ten days. At 12:00 midnight, the commandant discovered me in the restaurant and arrested me on the spot. I was taken to Wieniawa (the name of the village where we were supposed to work) along with nine other captured people. As a penalty for escaping, we were put into a cellar and honored with beatings. We were beaten again in the morning when we left the cellar.. Then we started to work very hard.

At night, when it was raining hard, I removed a board from the window and escaped. I arrived home in peace, and they did not succeed in capturing me again. I hid for a few weeks, until the occupiers realized that one cannot lay a highway with captured, unpaid men -- and we were free.

When we became free men, we began to involve ourselves in cultural work. We collected a bit of money and began to purchase books, to the point where we put together a modicum of a library. We rented two rooms for the Zionist organization and created an amateur troupe which performed theater. Later, the renowned artist

[Page 78]

Maurice Lapme with his ensemble visited us. They played in Gniewoszow for a long time. We had to fight with the Orthodox Jews over the theater. The did not want to permit the sinners to perform “treater”. They decided that during the performance, they would enter the hall and wreak havoc.

When we found this out, we issued a strong warning to the Orthodox-- and all was quiet. The performance took place, and we continued to conduct cultural activities.



Here is another event from the war years, from the end of 1917 or the beginning of 1918. At that point, the Austrians and Germans had been driven out, and Poland had become independent. The Poles took the weapons from the Austrians who were stationed in Gniewoszow and set up a police force headed by a commandant.

On a Friday evening, Eli Warszawski was standing on the street -- apparently somewhat drunk. The commandant, not an intelligent person and also somewhat tipsy, was also standing there. What Eli Warszawski told the commandant with laughter -- I do not know. The commandant ordered him to go home. Eli retorted that he does not want to . The commandant took out his revolver, tried to arrest him, and even threatened to shoot him like a dog. Eli persisted, “Shoot, I will not go.” The Pole began to whistle, and all of the policeman came running with their guns, shouting that the Jews wish to make a stand against them, the order-keepers of the town. They began to shoot in the air. A panic ensued. All of the shops were closed. Everyone fled to their houses.

What happened with Eli Warszawski? They arrested him and then let him go in the morning. I do not recall if they took him directly home. It was quiet. It was said that the police telephoned Radom claiming that the Jews of Przytyk made a stand against the authorities. That same evening, when a group of youths were in the Zionist organization, many soldiers and policemen arrived from Radom. However, they encountered empty streets. Since there was no uprising, they returned. Those of us in the meeting hall were afraid. People darkened their houses.

[Page 79]

Only when they rode away did we breathe easier.


Przytyk was a town with a population of 90-95% Jews -- good, fine Jews, merchants and tradesmen. I had my mother of blessed memory, three sisters, a brother, as well as uncles and aunts with their children. All of them were murdered at the hands of the Hitlerist murderers.

Honor and memory to our martyrs!

Yiddish chapter on page 79 is equivalent to Hebrew chapter on page 27.

Yiddish chapter on page 83 is equivalent to Hebrew chapter on page 31.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A person obsessed with percentages and therefore stingy. Return
  2. Shooting “Na Wiwat” is shooting into the air out of joy or triumph. Return
  3. Starszy Strasznik is a senior guard or warden. A low, but not the lowest, ranking police officer. Return
  4. I am a Socialist. Return
  5. A term for German items. Return
  6. A quote from the Sabbath morning prayers (Yismechu Bemalchutecha) -- here seemingly referring to the commandant enjoying and rejoicing in his power. Return

[Page 89]

I Move with the Przytyk Youth

by Moshe Melech Mauer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Our town was rich with various events and personalities. It had a fine youth organized into various parties: Hassidim with various Rebbes, communal activists, and ordinary Jews. Przytyk was also famous in the Jewish world for the resistance mounted by the Jews during the pogrom of 1936.

I had always lived and worked in Radom or Warsaw. I also lived for a time in Lodz, but I always would travel home for a Jewish holiday to be together with my friends with whom I had studied in cheder, in the Beis Midrash or in the organizations. I always enjoyed spending time with the Przytyk youth. We sang, danced, discussed, debated... In short -- it was lively.

I wish to mention here my childhood friends: Itshe Bonde, Pinia Bonde, Moshe Furszt, Yaakov-Leib Zajda, Chaim Cymbalista, Yitzchak Cymbalista, Yisrael Cymbalista, Hillel and Heniek Strasman, Yidel Warszawski, Berl Warszawski, Yeshaya and Fishel Teitelbaum, Velvel, Yosef and Meir Dozi, Sima Feldberg, Reuven, Leizer and Efraim Blachazh, Yosel and Hershel Mauer, Chaim Moshe Einbinders, David Ryba, Pinchas Friedman (today in Belgium), Chaim Friedman (Belgium), Baruch Nissenbaum, Baruch Eizenman of blessed memory (he saved my life in Auschwitz), Moshe Cuker -- Yankel Shochet's son (in Paris), Mote Bornstein, Reuven Cukerman, Moshe Geles, Mordechai Geles, Chaim David (in Israel) -- Yisraelke Meierfeld's brother-in-law, Chaim Zajda, Yossel Hornfeld (in Paris), Yosel Kleinbaum, Mendel and David Kleinbaum, Pesach and Avraham Lewkowicz, Yechiel Leski, Yechiel Mauer -- my brother, Yosef Chaim Shochet's children.

They all were among the first Zionists of Przytyk.


Later, discharged soldiers imbued with revolutionary ideas and socialism came to Przytyk from the Russian front. They began to foment agitation in town The tailor Shimshon Leizer, a Socialist,

[Page 90]

caused a rift in the Zionist organization. He created the Professional Union whose leaders were: Reuven Cukerman -- secretary, Moshe Cuker (Yankel Shochet's son), Motia Bornstein, Yosef Dozi, Yankel Cymbalista, and David Rembalski. That organization had a library. The Zionist organization also had a library. At that time, the hand workers union was founded in the town. As mentioned, the leader and secretary of the professional union was Reuven Cukerman, the son of Motia Melamed (the teacher). All of the children of our generation as well as the previous generation studied with him in cheder, from which they came out as people who knew how to learn and also write in fine Yiddish. Zionists, Socialists and strugglers for Jewish honor all emerged from under Motia Melamed's ship.

The owner of the mill, Berish Lenga, was selected as the candidate for the Polish senate from our town. Someone threw a stone at his head and killed him as he was going to an agitation meeting.


I wish to note here the Jewish tailors of Przytyk, or as they were called, the tandetnikes [1]: Yoel Schneider, Shmuel Shmeloks, Hershel Groloch, Leibish Groloch, Yechiel Leski's father, Moshe Reuven Lewkowicz, Moshe Honik (lived at Mendel Bonde's), Berele Schneider, Moshe-Lozer Baumoil (Yosel Davis' brother-in-law), and Eli Gabbai's son. The Zionist organization was located in the upstairs of his dwelling. He also had an open door for anyone who wished to study tailoring. All of the youth from that time who became tailors studied there -- Treitel Gryn, Meir Gryn, Moshe Yehuda's son, Moshe Cuker (the son of Yankel Shochet) who later left for Paris and then left France, Yosel Shmuel Simcha's Hornfeld, Pesach Lewkowicz, his sister Dina and brother Avraham, Yoel Kleinbaum, and Mendel Kleinbaum. In a word, the youth spread all over the world.


I was a gaiter maker, so it would be improper not to mention the gaiter makers: Yankel Goldczewski, Velvel Goldczewski, Pinchas Kamoszenmacher, Wolfe Mane Friedman, Aharon Kamoszenmacher, Moshe Estrichals.

[Page 91]

Shoemakers: Avraham Yaakov Haberberg, Moshe Furszt, Betzalel Haberberg, Itche Haberberg, Yosel Haberberg, Efraim Haberberg.

{Photo page 91: A group of youths in Przytyk at a farewell for Shmuel Brasztel on the occasion of his making aliya to the Land in 1934. }

We also had shmatte[2] dealers, who would go to the villages to purchase shmattes. Several families would earn their livelihood in this manner: Avrahamele Moshe-Efraim's and his two sons, Yisrael Kneitszer and David Mauer (Menachem David), Yankel Shmataszh with his son Hershel and brother-in-law Avraham Kon. Who did not know Uncle Shimon with his fine beard -- he was called Shimon Popeh.


In town, everyone had their nickname. The true family name was not sufficient.

If you only called him Efraim Yossel Mauer, you would not know who was meant, but Efraim Yossel Shimon Popeh's was known throughout the entire town. The nickname was not only from his father's name, but the name also took into account

[Page 92]

the great-grandfather: Moshe-Meilech David-Avraham's Moshe-Efraim's grandson. Later, it also incorporated the family name.


The Przytyk synagogue was 400 years old. Once there was a fire in town. The entire Przytyk burnt down, but the synagogue remained whole. Jews then left for Przysucha, but later the town was rebuilt. Another time there was a cholera epidemic, and many people from the town died. Then the town was again settled. Thus did Jews live there for hundreds of years, until Hitler, may his name be wiped out, put an end to the Przytyk Jewish community.

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The Fisherman's Cooperative in Przytyk

by Shalom-Velvel Cymbalista, Paris

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The life of the Jews in town was difficult on account of the economic and political situation that increased in severity day by day. The economic incitement was such that Jews were pushed around from one position to another. Unbearable fees were imposed upon the Jewish population, who struggled to support their families. People looked for various ways to lighten the burden.

One such way was to organize a cooperative. Instead of each person individually taking out a patent to conduct business or work -- they did this through a single permit or patent. They also paid the fees together.

A few Jewish fish merchants arranged such a “spulka” in 1937. The partners were my father Zelig Cymbalista, Zindel Lipszitz, Shmuel Friedman, Beinish Lipzitz, Itche Bonde, Pinia Bonde and his brother Moshe.

Everyone in the cooperate had his task. My father

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purchased the fish (carp) for the entire year from the yard of Ablas and Kiner. Zindel was the technical leader. He determined how much fish was needed for Przytyk and how much for Radom. Beinish Lipzitz was the financier. I, Shalom-Velvel and Shmuel Friedman traveled to Wysmierzyce to bring the river fish: roach, pike, tench, and perch that we caught from the Pilica. Itche Bonde purchased the fish from the market on Friday. The wives of all the partners assisted...

The business went better in the winter than the summer. During the winter, we did not catch a lot of fish, due to the frost and the snow. Therefore, we had carp in the “sodz[3]. This was a type of box with holes, a small door and a lock. The “sodz” was connected to a beam under the Warsaw Bridge. Thereby, we had fish to sell even in the worst weather.

On Friday at daybreak the great excitement began. Whoever did not have frozen hands would remove the chains from the boxes, unlock the lock, and take out the fish. Often, we had to pour boiling water on the lock in order to open it. Then we brought the fish to the market in tubs. We sold the fish opposite Bayla Mordchai-David's house.

The women began to purchase fish for the Sabbath at about 8:00 a.m. Wealthy people would take a fine carp weighing a kilo or more. Poorer people took a small fish weighing half a kilo. Very poor people bought a bit of roach. When there was no other fish but carp for the Sabbath, the poor women would wait until a fish in the tub turned upside down, dead -- then they would get a bargain. It was also a small salvation when little fish fell out or jumped out of the tub. They were not put back into the tubs, but rather had to be sold cheaply. From such a half a kilo of fish one would make a lot of stuffing, add bread -- and there would be fish for the Sabbath for the entire family.

In the summer, the fish business dwindled completely. The poor

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no longer had to wait for the miracle of the fish jumping from the tub to their deaths. Here, the heat helped. The fish died on their own. As well, many Christians caught fish with their fishing rods, and there was an abundance. We in the cooperative purchased fish for much cheaper.

On a certain, very hot Friday, the fish simply gave up their lives. The women grabbed them up. We collected in the tub those that were left. Itcha Bonde stood by, saw what was going on, and shouted, “Women, you should know that with your grabbing, you have killed all the fish.” Zindel heard and shouted, “Itche, what are you talking about? They killed the fish? We killed them, because today we want to lose all of our money.” Thus did we give them a retort. That hot Friday passed peacefully -- aside from our livelihood, of course.

On that same Friday, already quite late, Shmuel Friedman said that he wishes to take five zloty from the partnership money to use for the Sabbath. We knew that there would not be any more significant profits. However, what can one do when a Jew requires money for the Sabbath? We first saw the problem on Sunday, when we made the calculations. We had a great loss. Thus did Jewish business go...

At the end of the year they sent someone to us to collect the fees -- more than the amount of the entire business. My brother Moshe ran to the landowners in the courts to obtain an accounting as to how much fish was sold throughout the entire time. He went to the tax office in Radom and claimed, “How can we pay so much, when our entire revenue was not that much?” The officer acted indifferent -- it was like talking to the wall!

At the end, we had to give over our entire stock of merchandise. The cooperative ended.

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Przytyk Dreams About the Land of Israel...

A Letter to the land of Israel by Tzvi Zaltzschirer,
a shochet (ritual slaughterer) in Przytyk and later in Leczna, written in the year 1935.

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Leczna, Isru Chag of Passover (day after Passover), 5695.

Dear Dvora!

Your precious, heartfelt letter arrived in the midst of the fervor of the eve of the holiday. What such an eve of a festival means in our “beloved” Polish province, I need not tell you: blanching, koshering, scraping, scratching, and what more? Imagine what it was like for your letter to arrive at such a moment. I opened the letter with indescribable zeal and fervor, and devoured every word of the long awaited letter from your Eliezer. This took place on the street, and quickly I had half of Leczna around me. First, they looked at the paper from the Land of Israel, as if the pieces of paper were beloved items and a source of jealousy for everyone... Whatever philosophy stemmed from the papers, my thoughts and memories were real. With a flood of inner joy, I sent Eliezer's letter to the rabbi to read (you likely know of his boundless love for the Land of Israel). I remained standing throughout the entire eve of the festival. What type of a festival eve? To me, it was a significant festival. I read your letter in one breath before showing it to Leibel and Bracha, and we studied it thoroughly... The photograph and “Nazad da Roboti” , first in the evening, after reading it afresh, one time, a second time, and then again, and a sixth time, until it was already night. To me, you took the dreamer and turned it into a night with the “Land of Israel” -- and I wish that this would continue incessantly.

When I arose very early, your husband's letter was the talk of the day. In addition, they told me that you were taking me to... the Land. I answered, “Oh would it be!” Leibele's friends peppered him

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with questions about his Aunt Devora and about the land of Israel. He deliberated over all the questions, for he wanted to know everything. He wanted an answer for everything. The child was very curious, and we had to answer him. Thus did I have a festive spirit during the lovely few days before the holiday, and for this I must give to you and your Eliezer a hearty thank you!!!

Now, my beloved and dear Dvora, in every letter of yours, you tell me that you will write me a long and detailed letter, so that I can have a complete and clear picture of your entire life in Israel, both private and communal. To this day, I have not received such a letter. Therefore, leaving aside that I do not know what to answer all of my and your close friends about what is happening with you, I myself know absolutely nothing about your situation in which you find yourself, what you see as your future, how you have organized yourself, and in general how your life is going in the economic and spiritual realms, etc.

From us there is no news. Shechita has become more difficult. Polish Jewry is crushed under the vise of unbearable fees. It is self-understood that this negatively affects all aspects of life. Of course, the psyche of the Land of Israel looms large. I cannot describe to you the extent that Polish Jews think about the Land of Israel. It would be no exaggeration if I state that almost one out of every two Jews in Poland carries around a sweet and comforting hope that he would be able to make aliya at one point. He already has an uncle or a cousin in the Land. And this is not talking about those who have a father, a brother, or a sister. That is a wonderful relationship. Such a person is already an Israeli -- even more clearly: a fortune person.

In general, Jewish life in Poland is unfortunately moving to a dark, blind alley without an exit, without the slightest hope for the future. And it makes me happy that you find yourself, as I would express it, among the most fortunate of the fortunate -- as one refers today to a Jew who lives in the Land of Israel. We are not talking about those who think of the Land of Israel and the golden physical land, but rather of those people who, with an earnest and deep outlook on life, know that money does not lie in the streets of the land of Israel, and that one must struggle hard. Only in the exile, in the bitter exile,

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Jews never felt as they did now. I tell you that in such repressed places such as Przytyk and Leczna, the accursed swastika engraved on the bark of every tree in the street, and the anti-Semitism is indescribable. I myself had never experienced something like three weeks ago, when gentiles attacked Jews who were going home on the Sabbath after Mincha. An entire gang then came as if from under the earth, and beat the Jews with murderous blows. Indeed, they then entered the synagogue with a dog to search for Jews. Fortunately, I had not gone to services at that time. The police did not know what to do. It is terrible to live in such an atmosphere. I went with the rabbi to intercede with the priest of Leczna. I accused him of fomenting the events. He ostensibly tried to calm us, and then immediately begged Jesus that the Jews should not provoke the Christian youth. He took leave of us in a friendly fashion, but one's heart can burst from such friendship.

I intentionally described for you the contours of Jewish life in Poland, and how things have radically changed for the worse since your departure, so that you can appreciate your own situation.

Nevertheless, one should not assume too much from this. Jewish history is soaked with Jewish blood. Jews always had enemies. We have lived through far worse times. The enemies of the Jews were crushed and disappeared, and the Jewish people lives on and goes through a period of rejuvenation, marching forward with giant steps to its noble and exalted goal -- the Land of Israel, which is the reflector and beacon of light which lights up and warms our dark present toward a happy future. The eternity of Israel does not lie!![4]

Indeed, if we were not sufficiently happy with your letter and picture, you further surprised us with your lovely gifts from the Land of Israel. The yarmulke that you sent Leibel for his birthday arrived on the seventh day of Passover, which for you is the last day of Passover. His joy was indescribable. Now he is sleeping, but tomorrow he will write to you in his original style. The picture of the Western Wall is a work of art. We are going to clean it and encase it in glass. The pin is also magnificent. During the Seder, I smoked your two

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Israeli cigarettes. I also had to let Leibel smoke. Our discussion at the Seder was about Aunt Devora. I explained “Next Year in Jerusalem”. I explained to him, in accordance with his understanding, the entire portion of Jewish history that is relevant to the Egyptian exile, the redemption, and the Land of Israel. He asked if Aunt Devora and Uncle Eliezer also recite the Haggadah. I explained to him that there, where Aunt Devora and her husband live, one does not close the shutters and the doors at the Seder, and nobody throws stones. He then innocently asked me if there are no shkotzim[5] there, and if Liszkewicz (a popular local hooligan) would not be allowed to remain in Land of Israel. Thus did we spend both Seder nights in sweet discussion.

{Photo page 98: The family of the Shochet Zaltzschirer.}

I wrote two cards to Feiga asking her to come for the festival. I also asked her bosses if they would permit her to come. I also went to Stasek on the eve of the holiday. However, they did not come. On the first day of the holiday, I received a card from her saying that they cannot come, but that they would come for a Sabbath after the holiday. I await her with a thousand eyes, for I had not seen them for a year already. I had no opportunity to go to Warsaw. Write me what is going on with Hinda. Have any Przytykers come to the Land? Have you even been in touch with Chaim Yehoshua Lenga? Give him my regards. Are you even in touch with Yisraelke's group? Give them my regards. Were you perhaps in Jerusalem for Passover? I told Leibel that you were, was I correct? Aside from this, there is no news. Greet them and kiss them heartily from me. A greeting to all of the Przytykers, and especially to your husband's entire family. A special thank you for the photograph. In Heaven's name, do not hold on to my letter, but write back immediately

[Page 99]

and a lot. I am also writing a letter to your in-law Rabbi Burstyn in Rodojinta. Tzotele, Leibele, and Brachale will write together.

Yours, Tzvi Zaltzschirer the Shochet.

[Page 99]

The General Zionists and Beitar

by Margalit Rubinowicz-Milstein

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My parents Mendel and Rachel Milstein did not live far from the Warsaw Bridge. We had a restaurant.

{Photo page 99: A Brit Trumpeldor Group (1930).}

After finishing the Powszechne School in 1920, I became a member in the General Zionists Organization (The “Al Hamishmar” group of Yitzchak Grynbaum). The leaders of the organization were: Chaim Aharon Berkowicz, Yosef Lindenbaum, the two Ryba brothers, and Goldszewski. We had a large headquarters on Warsaw Street, opposite the Rynek (town square). We also had a fine library with many Yiddish and Polish books. We took part in all of the Zionist activities and national funds such as Keren HaYesod and Keren Kayemet. We were also

[Page 100]

very active in the elections for the Sejm, community and town council. The majority of the party work was performed by our youthful membership. Even though we did not yet have voting rights ourselves, we were involved in posting announcements, distributing leaflets, house visits, and agitation. When we were in the fervor of an election campaign, we invited Yitzchak Grynbaum to come to Przytyk for a meeting or to send another important speaker from Warsaw. He answered us, “You have Berkowicz there, you do not need anyone else.”

In 1932, when Beitar arose in Przytyk, I joined that organization and went to Hachshara in the town of Przysucha. We worked in a metal factory and performed various auxiliary tasks such as wood chopping, cleaning, etc. After the end of Hachshara in 1935, they sent us to Wierznnica, and from there to Skarzysko -- a large industrial center where we went through Hachshara in the chemical factory of my Uncle Nathan Kyweles. Then we transferred to a factory of electrical materials.

{Photo page 100: A Beitar group in Przytyk bidding farewell to Yaakov Kirszenzweig on the occasion of his aliya to the Land.}

After being in Skarzysko, we were sent to the central Palestine office (through the Beitar commissioner) in order to obtain a certificate for the Land of Israel. We arrived in Przytyk to bid farewell, and with great enthusiasm prepared to make aliya.

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However, the Beitar commissioner decided not to accept the designated certificates as a protest against the small number that the Palestine Office had allocated. In the meantime, I had to sit with my packed suitcases. Later, an additional four certificates were given to the Revisionists from the previously unused quota -- and it was decided that I would receive one of those four certificates.

That same morning when I left for Przysucha and bid farewell to my friends, the terrible pogrom broke out in Przytyk. It reverberated not only through all of Poland, but also through the entire world.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. In Yiddish, tandet means cheap or second-rate clothes, according to the Weinreich dictionary. Note also, the name Schneider of some of the members of this list may not be a true last name, but rather descriptive of their profession (i.e Yoel the tailor). Several other names in this article and in this list may also be professional designations, such as Melamed (teacher) in the preceding paragraphs, Shochet, and Gabbai in this list, and the term for gaiter maker in the subsequent paragraph. Return
  2. A shmatte is literally a rag, but as a profession means those dealing with old or low quality clothing. Return
  3. Literally “ponds”. Return
  4. I Samuel, 15:29. Return
  5. A derogatory term for non-Jews. Return

We Fled to Russia…

by Yirmiyahu Koifman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Photograph: Shlomo Baumgarten, was shot during The Stalinist “purge” and was later rehabilitated…

I was born in Shidlow, Keltz region. When I was a little child, my parents moved to Przytyk. At first my father was a melamed, later he worked in his profession as a quilter. In the twenties my mother died, and I with my two brothers and sisters remained orphans. My mother's sister, aunt Rachel, took me in to raise me, but since she was herself a widow with five children, I realized that it would be wrong to stay with her too long, so after I finished 5 years in the cheder and 3 years in school, I went to Leibush–Mendel to learn to be a tailor.

[Page 102]

After spending five years as an apprentice, I became independent and self–supporting.

In the early thirties I joined the illegal communist youth organization. Our activity consisted in hanging out a red flag, holding meetings and organizing strikes. Among the most active persons in the organization I remember Motke Bornstein, the blonde Chaia and Avraham Zuker. In order to disguise the illegal activity, we would invite members of the Zionist groups to the only legal assembly–hall, which belonged to the tailors' professional union. This union was under communist influence, and had organized several successful strikes.

My main activity in the group was to help political prisoners and to organize the illegal meetings. But soon the police was on my tracks and I had to leave Przytyk. I fled to Lodz and immediately found work, but I had to discontinue my political activity, since my stay in Lodz was illegal.

In 1932 we, a group of Przytyk people – Shlomo Baumgarten, Mendel Honig, Shlomo Khlebovski and Avraham Zuker – decided to smuggle the border to Russia. We arrived to a place not far from Vilna, but it turned out that the man who was supposed to take us across the border demanded a great deal of money. We went then to Botzlow, a place some 10–12 kilometers from the Russian border, and in a restaurant we contacted another smuggler, who promised to lead us across the border in April, when the fields are inundated by water from the melted snow. Since it seemed too long to wait, we went to Dolginow, six kilometers from the border, and we found finally a smuggler who was ready to take us across, for 55 Zloty. On the designated day at sunset we set out for the border, walking up to our knees in deep mud. When we reached the border, Avraham Zuker, the oldest in our group, became very frightened and was so weak that we had to help him walk by supporting both his arms. Finally we fulfilled his wish and we left him there alone, and walked to the border without him. When we reached the passage in the neutral–zone, the smuggler, after receiving from us the password for receiving his money, gave us the instructions as to the direction: “walk straight ahead and you will reach the other side.” When it was almost day, we suddenly saw in front of us two roads, at right and at left. After a short deliberation we took the road at

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Document: The letter from the leader of the Polish communist party to Wolf Baumgarten, concerning the rehabilitation of his name and the name of his brother Shlomo – victim of the Stalin murders in the thirties.

[Page 104]

left and we soon saw a Polish hut. We knocked on the door – we didn't care anymore what will happen to us or who will catch us. We were welcomed inside and were told that we were on the soil of the Soviet Union. They asked us to take off our clothes and put them out to dry and prepared for us hot tea (but without sugar). Then they informed the border watchmen about us and soon two soldiers came and arrested us. After being in prison about a month, where we were meticulously interrogated and examined, we were transferred to a larger prison in Pleshtchenitz (Belarus), and from there, again after a month, to the Central Prison in Minsk. Three months later we were again transferred, this time to the Sarow camp near Moscow, where we worked in the woods; only after 5 months, as they were finally convinced that we spoke the truth, they transported us to Zlataust and let us go free.

By the end of 1936, after the murder of Sergei Kirov, we were given Soviet passports, but with a “paragraph.”

During the great purge I fled to Dnieperpetrovsk and the others to other places – this time each of us went separately, in order to avoid arrests. After the outbreak of the German–Soviet war I was recruited to the Red Army and with them retired from Dnieperpetrovsk. During the retreat my toes froze and I was released from the army. I traveled to mid–Asia and settled in Peraga.

In 1942 I was recruited to the “Trud Armei” (Work–Army) and sent to Seraw, Ural. During the entire time of the war I was thrown from one place to another. In 1946, as a Polish citizen, I went back to Poland. After the Kielce pogrom I fled to Bad Reichenhal, Germany. There I married and in 1949 we arrived to Israel, on the ship “Atzma'ut” (Independence).


From a letter from Poland:

…. We fled to Russia – in the year 1936 – I, Mendel Honig, Shlomo Khlebovski and Shlomo Baumgarten. Avraham Zuker was also with us, but he didn't cross the border.

I believe, that you are familiar with all that happened in those times, and you know that

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in 1936 it was forbidden in the Soviet Union to travel from one town to another. Shortly before that Kirov was murdered in Leningrad. All four of us were together at the time.

By the end of 1936 we received temporary documents. Mendel Honig had family in Dnieperpetrovsk, in the Ukraine; Shlomo Khlebovski had family in Omsk, Siberia; I went with Mendel Honig to the Ukraine and Shlomo Khlebovski went to Omsk, while Shlomo Baumgarten remained in Zlataust, where we had been before. He was recruited to the army for three months.

At that time, the trial against the Trotzkists took place and they began arresting all foreigners. The arrests were done mostly during the night. When I came to work I was told that I was lucky I was still there. We received a letter from Shlomo Baumgarten, saying that the danger had crept into the tailors' union. It was claimed, that under the disguise of political immigrants the foreigners acted as spies. All men from the tailors union were taken and sent to an unknown destination. The women remained.

We have not received any other letter from our friends. I was forced to join the decision that the Trotzkists be shot – and I did it….

Images and Events

by Hillel Strassman, Tel Aviv

Translated by Yocheved Klausner


During the First World War, the Przytyk Jews were evacuated from town, by order of the Czar's army. Among the Russian soldiers was S. Anski, the author of “The Dibbuk.” He would always walk through the market place and give the children candies.

When the residents returned to town, they found the market overgrown with grass. However, a new, modern and enlightened young generation has grown as well. This was the generation who would later

[Page 106]

create a Drama Club, which put on plays with great success. The actor Morris Lampe came to Przytyk and with him they played “King Lear,” “The Massacre,” “The Dibbuk” and other plays. The group even received an invitation to play in Radom.

We published a periodical for Przytyk and surroundings; the editorial board consisted of Mote Borenstein, Chaim Aharon Berkowitz and the writer of these lines… I kept with me several of the newspaper issues until I left Przytyk.

A library was also organized – it had hundreds of books.

However, the idyllic harmony did not last long, due to the differences of opinion among the Jews. Finally a referendum was held in the community and the Zionist group received the majority of votes. As a result, the group organized an extensive activity for Eretz Israel, bazaars for the Jewish National Fund, literary evenings etc.



Since more and more people aspired and hoped to make Aliya to Eretz Israel, the Zionist group split, and the Tze'irei Zion was created.

Soon afterwards, two other groups formed: Hechalutz and Po'alei Zion. The active members were: Shalom Honig, the Hoffman sisters, I and several others. A very active program was carried out, which included lectures.

Later, the BEITAR organization was established, under the management of Yitzhak Friedman, who organized a most extensive activity. Those were the times when many of the young people were attracted by the left–wing groups and a professional union was established, led by Motye Borenstein (later, another Motye Borenstein was arrested and died in prison).

A certain part of the Zionist youth left to Eretz Israel with the illegal Aliya. Those who went with the revisionist met with many difficulties on their way.

Sometime before the events in Przytyk, a rumor spread that a pogrom was “prepared” for the shtetl.

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Photograph: Friends saying farewell to Chaim Friedman on the occasion of his Aliya to Eretz Israel – 1930

The Jewish youth prepared for the event and collected various weapons. Luckily, however, the peasants did not come and a blood bath was avoided.



Silent lay the shtetele, covered with snow. One could see smoke rising from a chimney. The market place was covered with a white carpet. Not minding the freezing cold, a Jew walked to the village to do some trading. He intended to buy a calf and drag it with him all the way back home, on foot, since he could not pay for transportation – it would have used up all his profit.

Jews left their homes at the first sign of dawn, to earn their livelihood. It was not easy:

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One went to the market place, another to his little shop. Others began loading their wagons with baked goods, furs, boots, clothing.

In a small alley near the synagogue, Motye the old–clothes–dealer appeared, shouting to his wife to hurry, it was getting late…



Monday was market day in Przytyk. The Jews opened their stands – some containing boots, some fresh rolls, and some bread and little cakes. One could also see a tailor trying to put a narrow fur jacket on a fat peasant – and with his knee helping push in his large belly…

Most of the Przystyk Jews lived from charity or free–of–interest small loans. Sometimes, one or another received a little money from his daughter, who had worked to save some money for her dowry, since her father could not give her.

Naturally, some of the merchants – owners of dry–goods shops or grain merchants – were wealthy. But these were the few exceptions. The majority were struggling, getting a loan here and there to buy from the peasants some merchandise and then take the geese or turkeys they had bought to Warsaw and hope to sell them. When they returned safely home, whether they had gained or lost, they returned their loans with thanks.

Every Friday afternoon, the synagogue beadle [attendant] Mendel Treitels would take his wooden hammer and walk through the streets, knocking on the doors of the shops, reminding people to close up the store and prepare to go to the synagogue for the Shabat prayer. Mendel Treitels was a great joker. He would say that now he was going home to eat “licker with bread” – he meant that all he had to eat was his own tongue…



When there was a wedding in the shtetl, the couple would walk to the synagogue accompanied by music, glowing lights and hundreds of people. All the shops along the way were lit brightly. In the courtyard of the synagogue the bride and groom were taken to the Chupa [wedding canopy], set on one large stone. As soon as the groom “broke the glass” [at the end of the ceremony, as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple] everybody wished the new couple Mazal–Tov and, again with music, all walked to the hall, where the

[Page 109]

traditional meal was waiting. A “Program” was also set up: first the entertainer – the Jester – sang in honor of the bride, then the wedding gifts were announced – from the side of the groom and from the side of the bride. Soon the dances followed: the young people would dance modern dances and the elders the “Mitzva–Dance” for the bride–and–groom.

A great number of Jews emigrated from Przytyk. Young people went to Warsaw and Lodz – mostly cobblers, tailors and other craftsmen. They would come back to Przytyk for a visit on the holidays of Pesach [Passover] and Sukot – outfitted with new hats and walking sticks with silver handles, telling the stories of their new fortune and “good life” in the great cities…

[Page 109]

Some Events From the Town

by Yaakov Kirshenzweig of Haifa

Translated by Jerrold Landau

As all Jewish children in Przytyk, I also studied in cheder. Then I studied Yiddish and Hebrew with the teacher Feld in the “Powszechne” school. In 1930, I also became a member of a Zionist youth organization. I was on hachshara for three years in Bodzentyn near Kielce, then in Wodyslow, and finally in Skarzysko. I concluded hachshara, but there were no chances to make aliya. I returned to Przytyk and helped my parents in the butcher shop and with the housework.

During that time, anti-Semitism worsened with the boycott against the Jews who were living in constant tension. I even had great trouble with the anti-Semitic students in school. My friend Lindenbaum, the son of a Zionist activist, had been soundly beaten by the dog-beater's “ornament”, a hooligan whose bones I had broken and whose eyes I had gouged. Therefore, they expelled me from school and ordered me to come with my father. He, however, as a proud Jew and member of the Przytyk town council did not want to humble himself and beg that they take me back. Therefore, I had to continue my education in Feld's Jewish school.

[Page 110]

Prior to the pogrom, the Jewish population sensed the impending danger, so we began to organize ourselves. We had a picture of a pogrom, with attacks and theft of Jewish shops, from the town of Odsziwul, not far from Przytyk.

The peasants made their first attempt at a pogrom on a certain Saturday night in November, 1935. Someone warned us that they were approaching Przytyk. My older brother Yosef (murdered by the Germans), who was a soldier in uniform, immediately placed himself at the head of the self-defense. We had decided to not allow the hooligans into the city, but rather to stop them on the way. The hooligans found out about this, and retreated. Thus, the pogrom was averted at that time.

Thus did we live in tension for a few months, until the critical Monday of March 9, 1936 came. I was in the butcher shop. Suddenly, we saw people fleeing. We were told that a local gentile stood at Spritus' bakery and did not allow any customers to enter. My younger brother Lozer attempted to strike him. Poles moved him away, and a fight broke out.

My terror-stricken mother sent me to bring my brother home, for we knew he had loaded weapons with him. I looked for him throughout the entire town, which was already in great tumult. Fights broke out in various places. At a certain point, I noticed how the peasants and Jews began to run away from the market. I was told that there were also shots. Later I discovered that my brother Lozer and my schoolmate Shalom Leski had shot the guns.

Our victory did not last for long. The peasants who had begun to leave the town, turned around, for the Przytyk Endeks promised to help them. I went back to my parents, and they huddled together with a few neighbors in one house. The Jews hoped that the hooligans would not go to the center of town.

Finally, the police calmed the situation and began to look for my brother

[Page 111]

and the other Jews who were part of the self-defense. Since they did not find my brother, the Endeks turned toward me. The next day, they arrested me along with my younger brother who had been in the house at that time. We were taken to jail in Radom along with other arrested Jews and Christians.

The trial came after four months. There were contradictions in the testimony of the farmers. Some of them claimed that I had shot the shot, and others claimed that my brothers did. Therefore, they freed me. I immediately set out for Warsaw, where I went to the Palestine office for a certificate.

At that time, Rabbi Stephen Wise[1] was in Warsaw. He asked me many details about the Przytyk pogrom and then asked me if I wanted to go to America. I responded, “Only the Land of Israel.” He immediately intervened on my behalf. I received a certificate and made aliya in September 1936.

I remained in contact with my parents and my entire family. At the outbreak of the war, my younger brother was freed from jail together with other prisoners, and came to my parents. However, he had to go over to the Soviets since the local Poles and the German police were searching for him. He got married in Pinsk, and wrote me a letter from there. After the war, I found out from some people, as well as from the Pinsk Yizkor Book, that my brother was active in a partisan group, where he served as a leader. He fell during an attack on a German troop transport in 1944. We suspect that he was shot by the two Ukrainians with whom he was laying the mines for the train.

Regarding my other family members, I have found out that my oldest brother Yosef was tortured by the Germans in the Radom prison in 1941. My father was shot in the Radom ghetto. I have no information about the other family members.

[Page 112]

Until the First World War – and After

by Miriam Tishler of Haifa

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My parents Yaakov and Rchel-Zissel Peliant owned a bakery opposite the well. I learned how to read and write Yiddish, and a few prayers from Gittel Asher's. I helped at home and in the bakery until my wedding. I got married to my cousin, Chaim-Leizer Tishler, a shoemaker, in 1910.

I recall the revolution of 1905 as if in a dream. Strikes and demonstrations of Jewish and Polish workers took place in Przytyk. They went to the houses of the wealthy people to demand a payment for the strike fund. Police and soldiers came from Radom and silenced everything. The soldiers were housed in Jewish houses. Everyone had a few soldiers. We thanked G-d when they were recalled to Radom.

I also recall when the wealthy man from Przytyk, Moshe Weissfuss, completed the writing of a Torah scroll, and a great celebration took place. The feast lasted for seven days. All of the Jews of Przytyk marched in front of my house with the Torah scroll, headed by the Bialobrzeger Tzadik Rabbi Yoel, who was specially invited. The rabbi and the wealthy Reb Moshe danced before the Torah scroll. The entire crowed joined in the dance, clapped their hands and sang: “People, rejoice with my joy, Torah and greatness in one place.”

My husband was an only son, so he was not drafted into the army. However, when he was at the draft office in Radom in 1903, the Russians took him and sent him all the way to Kerch to serve. He was freed after a year, and returned to Przytyk.

During the First World War, my husband was not taken into the army, for he had a blemish on his eye.

I recall like today when the Cossacks came into town. Jews closed their businesses. They were ordered to reopen, for they were not robbed. My husband opened his shoe workshop, but he turned the closet with the five

[Page 113]

pairs of ready boots toward the wall. The Cossacks came in, turned the closet around again, removed the boots which were possibly worth 15 rubles, gave a 10 ruble bill, and demanded change. When I gave them the change, they took it together with three rubles, and left.

{Photo page 113: The Public School in Przytyk.}

When the front approached, we were ordered to leave the town, since there was going to be a large battle in Przytyk. We took with us only a little bit of bedding, dresses, and… the prepared Sabbath food, for it was Friday. Everyone set out for Radom, without even locking the doors.

We remained in Radom for six weeks. Then an order was issued that everyone who would pay 100 rubles could remain in Radom, and anyone who did not have that money or did not wish to give it over would be evacuated to the depths of Russia. I possessed the means because my husband worked in Radom. Therefore, I paid the money and remained in Radom.

[Page 114]

I later returned to Przytyk, after the Germans took Radom. I found my house in the best order, with nothing missing.

In 1918, the Polish civilian population began to expel the Germans, and Poland became independent.

I left for Lodz in 1933, because livelihood became difficult in Przytyk due to the boycott perpetrated by the anti-Semitic Poles.

[Page 114]

A Colorful Jewish Life

by Chancha Friedman-Honig of Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

My little town of Przytyk! I will never forget you – along with all of the tortured, murdered Jews and my dear parents, sisters and brothers who will always remain before my eyes. This was the small town in which I was born and raised until I was forced to leave when the Germans entered…

We lived close to the synagogue and Beis Midrash. There, my older brother studied Gemara along with other observant youths. There is a lot to tell about the synagogue. The entire life of the older people was concentrated around the synagogue. Everything took place there: Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, feasts and yahrzeits. Funerals and eulogies were also held there. Everything took place around and in the synagogue. Often, a preacher would come to talk about the world and the other world, give lessons in morality and punishments, clarify the commandments that we must observe, or simply tell a nice story or parable.

My father was a pious, good and upright Jew. He would bring such a preacher home to eat and sleep. Other guests and poor people would also come to us to eat. My father remained in the Beis Midrash for the entire morning to worship, and then he went to work. He ran a tailoring workshop. He worked hard to earn a bit of a livelihood. He employed several workers who treated him with respect, for he dealt with them honestly and properly. The farmers who would come to purchase from us would also place

[Page 115]

great trust in Father. They purchased from us for many long years. They even came to purchase from us after the Germans entered. Once, a certain farmer that we knew brought us several products, an act which was fraught with mortal danger during the time of the occupation.

The vast majority of the Jews in the town were very pious. When Friday came, one could feel the holy Sabbath approaching in every home. The mood was exalted. People prepared for every festival and did everything to ensure that it would be joyous, and observed in accordance with tradition. Everything was done with a full heart and great devotion. Every festival had its own unique character. Yom Kippur instilled a dark mood. Everyone, young and old, would be in the synagogue. The cantor was heard from afar. Jews would weep bitterly and beg G-d to forgive their sins and inscribe them for a good life.

I loved Passover more than any other holiday, especially the Seder night. The Seder was observed with great fervor.

Thus did we conduct our lives, strongly bound to the religion.

When I went to school, we did not study on Saturday or Sunday. Saturday was our day of rest, and Sunday was the Christian day of rest. We felt strange there. Their relationship to us was poor, and anti-Semitism was strong enough. The Polish children tormented us and referred to us as “Zyds.” Once, when the students of the Polish school made fun of the Jews during a performance, my brother (who was then in the seventh grade) protested. He was thrown out of school for that, and he no longer attended school thereafter.

Therefore, we had a “Bais Yaakov” school where we felt free and at home. We went to the Polish school (“Powszechner”) in the morning, and to Bais Yaakov in the afternoon. Many girls studied there. We primarily studied Chumash, Jewish history, writing, and laws. I studied there for several years.

Once, Mrs. Shenirer[2], the founder of Bais Yaakov, came to visit us. I watched in astonishment as she worshipped in the evening – like a man.

The school was conducted on a high level. We studied many good things from the Torah there. Simultaneously, we spent good times there, arranged excursions, conducted a drama club, and observed various historical dates and jubilees.

[Page 116]

We had various teachers, but I especially loved the teacher Baum (today Weiser, living in Israel). She was a teacher and simultaneously a friend. When she left for the Land of Israel before the war, the school was in disarray.

In one word – in Przytyk as well, we lived a colorful Jewish life.

[Page 116]

Memories from the Town of Przytyk

by Gutsha Blecher (Mieirfeld) of Tel Aviv

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I want to briefly describe the cultural life of the youth in Przytyk before the Second World War.

From the youngest years, the children studied – whether in school, in cheder, or in yeshiva. There was no middle or high school in Przytyk, and only a very small number were able to travel to another city.

One can say that our education was almost self taught. I recall that we had friends with whom we got together at gatherings of the Zionist organizations and conducted various discussions. We also used the well-stocked library.

We had no special means of enjoyment. We lived very modestly. Some events took place, such as celebratory evenings. A celebration took place at every national holiday. At a Chanukah evening, we raffled off a gift. The money raised was designated for the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund).

There was no movie theater in Przytyk. However, thanks to the electric club of David Ryba, Mendel Alte's (Malcmacher) and others, a movie theater was set up in the hall of the firefighters. Films were shown once a week. The performances of the Przytyk dramatic club also took place there.

There were many artists – literally “Hollywood”—among the Przytyk youth. There were great accomplishments in this field despite the very limited means.

There was a workers' union in Przytyk, which was occupied in solving

[Page 117]

the problems of the working youth. That organization also had nothing to be ashamed about in the cultural field. Performances and parties often took place. The union fulfilled its role with devotion and success. Several friends who were active in professional activities are especially etched in my memory: Chaya Kirszenzweig (the yellow), Matia Borensztejn, Mendel Klajnbaum, Rivka Lipszyc.

It is interesting and worthwhile to mention communication in Przytyk. As far as I recall, the people utilized a horse and buggy as means of travel. Those who needed to travel more seriously would travel on the covered wagon of Meir-Yechiel Parmak. This was called the “Przytyk-Radom Express.”

The Jews of Przytyk earned their livelihood from the weekly market day that took place on Mondays. Shoemakers, tailors, furriers and others waited for the income on that day. People would borrow from one another during the week, and on Monday evening, after the market day, they would repay their debts. There was no great fortune in this.

There were also porters in the town, such as Motenyu Parch, Shmuel Gracmil, and others.

During the Second World War, entire families were wiped out in a terrible fashion. Few, very few Jews of Przytyk survived. This was such a great loss, for it is hard to find such good Jews.

Honor to their memory!

{Photo page 117: A group of young people in Przytyk.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Samuel_Wise. Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Schenirer. Return
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