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[Page 713]

Inhabitants of Siedlce in Israel
Participation in the Wars and in the Building of the State

by David ben Yosef (Popovsky)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

The aliyah of people from Siedlce to Eretz Yisrael began along with the general aliyah and Zionist revival more than fifty years ago. From the individuals from Siedlce who came at the beginning of the twentieth century, in 1924 there was a small “family” of several score from the city. With the growing tide of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Aliyahs and with the last Aliyah before the Holocaust, there are now in Israel about 2,000 Siedlcers.

Jewish Siedlce went through all the stages of the aliyahs to Eretz Israel. Siedlce pioneers, builders of the land, went through all the suffering and pain of acclimatization, of sinking roots, and of establishing their positions in the building of our homeland.

The first pioneers who came to Israel from Siedlcer were: Kaddish Goldstein, L. Rosenberg, Meister, G. Gutgelt, Menachem ben Hillel, Dr. Moshe Temkin, the writer Mordechai Temkin. After the First World War, the young idealistic pioneers came to the land: Melech Heinsdorf, Simcha Atman, Yakov Morgenstern–Shachar, Mordechai and Yechiel Korona; later Moaz Huber, Yehuda Tenenbaum, Edah Barg, the Reinman family, the Nosowski family, the Vyman family, Chaim Rosen, Moshe Glikman, Avraham Altenberg, Rotberg, Y. Ch. Rotstein, Yitzchak Orzhel, Mordechaiu Greenberg, z”l, and others arrived.

A small group, a limited group of Siedlcers were then in the country, but they lived like a single family; they prepared the way for many other Siedlcers who arrived in later aliyahs. Among the Siedlcers there was a strong sense of togetherness and mutual help

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in word and deed, both in work and in getting accustomed to the land. There were friendly, comradely gatherings in evenings of entertainment or for the third meal of Shabbat or even at various family celebrations.

The chief “ambassador” from Siedlce was then Mr. Melech Heinsdorf. If one had to organize people for fork, in 1921, one had to go to Melech–entirely, overall, Melech.

In 1921, the Siedlcers established a brick factory that over time became a whole construction enterprise, which dealt with various building trades such as trenching and foundational work. This was during the first days of “prosperity” in our land, so they did not lack for work. Whoever came from Siedlce was already working in the brick works and earning a living. The leadership of this undertaking involved an agreement with Mr. Shvergold, the owner of a cafe on Allenby Street, that every Siedlcer who came with a badge from the factory would be allowed to at on the account of the brick factory. This was a real accomplishment. Later on this


People from Siedlce in Israel in 1924

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factory expanded and became a cooperative under the name of “Hadadyot.” This was also the first cooperative of the Histadrut in the country and became the foundation for the greater cooperative movement in Israel. At the head of this cooperative and also of other cooperatives was Boaz Huber, who was a long–standing member of the central committee of the cooperative movement of the workers' Histadrut. People from Siedlce who came to Israel had no worries about making a living. They had work as well as food and lodging. Every Siedlcer's home was an open hotel for a newly arrived pioneer. The Siedllcers in Israel were masters of care and brotherly mutual aid.

At the time of a crisis in the country, of unemployment, people knew that the “ambassador” would look out for work. One knew that in a cooperative–the master of advice in labor matters was Boaz Huber.

This idealism and brotherly community life among the Siedlcers in the country lasted until 1933. With the general development of the country and with the arrival of greater numbers of pioneers from Siedlce and other immigrants to Israel who lived in different cities and villages the traditional


The brickworks of the Siedlcers in Israel in 1924

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Siedlce brotherhood weakened. At the same time, there arose in the country community advisory bodies and institutions to look after new arrivals. This situation prevailed until after the Holocaust. The Holocaust and the obliteration of our dearest and most loved ones again created a sense of unity, a feeling of family, among the “refugee remnant” of Siedlcers in Israel.

Siedlcers in Israel also assumed a leading role in the general dynamic developments in the building of the country. They were active in a variety of professions and army positions, in undertaking work in the moshavahs, in maritime activities, in digging for sandstone, and later in sport fishing. They had to resist strong opposition from the Arabs, who did not want them there. During the various organized Arab periods of unrest, when the whole Jewish settlement took up the required battle positions, Siedlcers were active in the special voluntary police aid, in various Haganah groups, armed and ready. Let me recall here our comrade Tzvi Brenner from the kibbutz “Afikim”–a young pioneer from Siedlce, who came here from America, where he had gone with his mother. He was a member of the kibbutz, and in the unrest of 1936–1938 he was one of the chief aides to Lord Wingate. In the War of Independence, sadly, he was badly wounded and was left an invalid.

Today our Siedlcers are all over the country, from Dan to Eilat and from Sodom to Methullah; one encounters Siedlcers in all kinds of professions, in important positions and in everyday life, in cities and in villages.

We have already discussed the first brick factory and first cooperative that were created by Siedlcers; in addition, the modern Grand Hotel in Tel Aviv on Allenby Street was established by Siedlcers; furthermore, Siedlcers were members of eminent industries, construction companies, members of kibbutzim, state officials, and notable contributors to community institutions, police officials, officers in the army, and so on.

In the years of unrest and Arab terror, many Siedlcers

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fell and sadly did not live to see with their own eyes the fulfillment of their dream–the establishment of the Jewish state. Among the fallen was Yakov Morenstern–Shachar, a brother of the Siedlce Hebrew teacher Morgenstern, who was brutally killed as the foreman on the train line in 1938 when he traveled with Arab workers to repair a bridge on the Haifa–Tel Aviv line, near Qalqilya. He left behind a wife and daughter. In the Second World War, among the fallen we're Yaverbaum and Greenfarb, Ephraim Vyman, a son of Mr. Dov Vyman. He set out on a boat with about twenty men. They were on a secret mission for the Haganah and they never returned. Until today the whole affair remains a secret, but it caused his parents terrible heartache. In the battle for independence conducted by the national underground, A. Kna'ani fell in a battle with the English. He was the son of Mordecai Kna'ani–Kramasz.

The only son of Dr. Bergman, the Siedlce Zionist activist Yakov Bergman, fell in the battle for our independence in the Negev as an officer in the Jewish army. Zvi Charney–Shachor, who entered


Simcha Yaverbaum   Tzvi Shchori (Charney)   Avraham Kramasz–Kna'ani

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the country illegally in 1939, became a member of the “Ha–shomer Ha–Tza'ir” kibbutz “Yad Mordechai,” worked in fishing, fell guarding his kibbutz. In the War of Independence, Sh. Fuzen fell in K'far Etzion, Jerusalem.

A whole array of Siedlcers have distinguished themselves in actively fighting for our freedom, such as: Tzvi Brenner from kibbutz “Afikim,” Vyman's son, the son of P. Dromi, D. Lederman, Israel Brenner, his brother Ben–Yosef–they were active in the defense of Jerusalem and other Siedlcers fought in other parts of the country.

Siedlcers were soldiers in the Jewish Brigade in the World War.

In the decades of building and development of the Land of Israel, there have been many changes–arrivals and departures. There were Siedlcers who could not adapt and acclimatize in the country and, unhappily, left, returning to Siedlce or going to other parts of the world: to America, to Argentina, to Brazil, and elsewhere.

The hundreds of Siedlcers who remained in the country


The dias of the memorial meeting in 1952 on the tenth yahrzeit of the destruction of Siedlce

From the right: Cantor Zifuwicz, Kleinwechsler, Rochel Shmukliarsz, P. Dromi, Dr. Heller, Ben–Yosef, Hersh Barbanel from Buenos Aires who was at that time in Israel, and A. Friedman

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The attendees in the hall–for the tenth yahrzeit of the destruction of Siedlce

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became firmly established, planted deep roots, and are happy and fortunate to find themselves in the Jewish state. But the people of Siedlce cannot forget the great destruction of their old home.

The yearly memorials and gatherings of the Siedlcers in Israel are transformed into traditional days of mourning and of brotherly gatherings of the “remnant of refugees.” In these meetings, much time is devoted to private, personal conversations. Each person recalls a bundle of memories about their old former home, and there is much to recall…

The Siedlcers are organized into an association headed by a committee led by the following: Fishl Dromi Popowski, D. Ben–Yosef Popowski, Yitzchak Kaspi, D. Vyman, Moshe Steinberg, Mordechai Kna'ani, Melech Heinsdorf, Yitzchak Orszel, Yakov Shkliarsz, Tchatchkes, Y. Mendelssohn, Sara Czarnabrode, in Haifa the Histadrut activist A. Bar–Chaim, Esq., Kleinwechsler, Dr. M. Shleiber, and others. In Jerusalem–Y.M. Kleinlerer, who is a member of the Jerusalem city council.

The Siedlcers are also proud of the Siedlce writers group, cultural leaders such as: the noted writer Yoel Mastbaum, the Hebrew writer Mordechai Temkin, his brother Dr. Moshe Temkin, the young Hebrew writer Mordechai Ovadiah, formerly Gottesdiener, who has been popular since the time he served as Bialik's secretary, H.M. Feinsilber, who published a documentary volume on the destruction of Siedlce, Y Akun–teacher and educator, Rabbi Kalman Frankel among the leaders of the Mizrachi, and many more Siedlcers who hold an honored place in the cultural life and creation of Israel.

[Page 721]

Organization of Siedlce Townsmen in Israel

by Y. Kaspi

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Until the Fifth Aliyah, in 1931, no attempt was made in Israel to organize a townspeople-circle because each aliyah maintained that it had come to the the country to fulfill a historical mission and therefore it had to break with the past, with the exile. Organizing such a circle would mean being bound to the exile. At the time of the Fifth Aliyah, when immigration from Siedlce grew and making arrangements for it involved huge expenses, the thought arose to establish a townspeople-circle for mutual aid.

On March 2, 1933, a conference was held calling for the shaping of a “organization of immigrants from Siedlce in Israel,” issued by a committee.

According to the record, the organization would have the following tasks: to organize all Siedlcers in Israel into a single unit; to gather and consider statistics concerning the economic situation of Siedlcers in Israel; to find a site for a club for Siedlcers and for the offices of the elected committee; to stay in contact with the major national organizations in Siedlce for mutual help, especially with instructions and advice for new arrivals in the country and for those who were preparing to come.

In order to realize this plan, the organizing committee decided to make inquiries of all Siedlcers

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in the country. After all the responses had been received, the statistics were studied and concrete plans were made for a general gathering.

This gathering actually took place. The newly selected committee organized a Purim Ball. A small sum of money was gathered and was sent to the “Tarbus”-shul in Siedlce. Then the organization ceased to exist. No more activities were forthcoming.

In the midst of the World War, as appalling news arrived from Poland, and particularly from Siedlce, I. Kaspi, along with P. Dromi, took on the responsibility of renewing the Siedlce townspeople-circle. We believed that Jews remained in Siedlce and that after the war it would be necessary either to bring them to Israel or to support them.

After an exchange of reports, on April 18, 1944, a conference was held in which it was decided to reorganize the organization of immigrants from Siedlce under a name that fit the times: “Organization of Immigrants from Siedlce.” It as also decided to make a collection of funds.

The first general gathering and a memorial for the martyrs of Siedlce came on the 9 Elul, 5704. It was well attended. Siedlcers from every corner of the country came. From then on, every year there was such an assembly and a memorial.

The concrete help provided by the “Organization of Immigrants from Siedlce” consisted of the following:

While the war was still going on, fifty packages were sent to the refugees from Siedlce who were in the Soviet Union. It was a real help for the unfortunate refugees, who were scattered in the far corners of Greater Russia, when they received clothing or a pair of shoes.

The new immigrants, who arrived naked and lacking

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everything, were given money so they could get apartments or earn a living. Certain sums were given as loans, which were repaid. Monetary support was also offered. There was no pressure on repaying the loans.

Siedlce was rid of the Nazi murderers on June 22, 1944. After that, the committee made a variety of efforts to connect with the city. Letters were sent and telegrams to those in charge of the city, to the postal officials, to the Jewish committee in Lublin, and to similar authorities.

In February of 1944 the committee from the Organization of Immigrants from Siedlce took on the responsibility of organizing the people from Siedlce throughout the world in order to devise ways to help the Jews who remained in Siedlce itself and the refugees in the Soviet Union. No one realized that the disaster had been so enormous.

Letters about this initiative were sent to Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, Australia, and South Africa.

In Israel itself, 175 people pledged to contribute to the general sum of 932,200 pounds. By March of 1945, 303,453 pounds had been raised. The distribution of packages that had been sent cost 87,167 pounds. The supervising committee received no support for its relief work aside from 100 pounds that had been sent from the Argentine Siedlcers.

The committee played a definite role in reuniting families. It gathered addresses from the Siedlcers in Israel, who were being sought by refugees from Siedlce through the auspices of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, the Joint, and HIAS.

When contact was established with the “remnant of the refugees” in Siedlce, the Tel Aviv committee sent

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a transport of matzah for Pesach, a large sum of money packages of clothing, and a special sum to create a park by the cemetery and to erect a monument in memory of our martyrs. Nothing came of the last plan.

In recent times, the Organization of Immigrants from Siedlce in Israel undertook to publish the Yizkor Book, which required a great deal of work until it was completed.


The editorial team for the Yizkor Book

From right to left: David Ben Yosef (Posowski), Wolf Yosni, Fishl Dromi (Popowski), and Yitzchak Kaspi


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