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[Page 57]

A Day in Town

by Moishe Farbshteyn

Translated by Sylvia Schildt (Baltimore MD)

Reviewed by Frida Grapa Markuschamer de Cielak (Mexico City)

Translation donated by the Historian Enrique Krauze (Mexico City)

When I am reminded of Wyszków, where for generations our near and dear lived, those various types and personages waft before my eyes, those who helped build Jewish national, political–social and cultural life.

Jews from all walks of life who conducted their daily struggle for survival – some by work, some by trade, some… despite lack of work, it was difficult, especially for Jews. In quasi–Fascistic and anti–Semitic Poland, Jews were not able to hold government or municipal positions, or work in factories. They had to find their living within specifically Jewish trades and lines of business. In the last years before the second Word War, this boycott ruined the Jewish trade.

Early in the morning, when it was still half dark, the Wyszkover Jews would get up for morning prayers in response to the call of Hershinke the bahelfer[1] (the helper). He was a dear simple Jew, who “didn't have a mean bone” in his body, always happy with his destiny. Whether to the big or to the small house of worship (Synagogue), Jews hurried thither, got through their prayers, whether as part of a minyan[2], or individually, and someone here and there managed to squeeze in the daily portion of Psalms. Those who arrived a little late had to pray at the second minyan[3] – and rush home for their daily work.

The day began with getting water from the town pump. The clattering of the pails against the carts of the Jewish water–carriers would wake the surrounding inhabitants. Summer for one groshn[4], and winter for two (a couple of pails), the water–carrier would bring the water to the richer households, who could permit themselves this luxury. But most of the inhabitants had to drag the water home themselves.

From the Bug River bank Jews returned, from daily immersion in the river – be it summer or winter. Here goes ‘der Shvartzer Yitzkhok’ (the dark haired Isaac) with his sons into the Niegrower[5] forest, to get lumber for Shkarlat[6]'s sawmill. They are in a big hurry in order to earn two “yazdes” (short trip/s) for the day – to earn sustenance for themselves – and the horses.

People are rushing to Hershl Holtzman/Holcman who has the concession to take passengers on the Highway from Pultusk in Powiat, in order for them to complete a variety of official business in starosta[7] or in the tax office – personally or through the town representative Haim–Nosn Vengrov. On Dovche´s wagon with white horses, they take slaughterhouse' butchers

[Page 58]

cart sides of meat to the butcher shops in order to quarter them there, remove the forbidden fat and prepare them for sale.

Some to school, some to the gymnasium (Polish high school), some to the kheiders[8] – boys and girls are in a hurry –some to ‘Geln’[9] Hershl and some to Shimon the Melamed[10], the G–d–fearing prodigy.


The Market Place (Rynek, in Polish) – close to the bridge


Jewishly–clad boys, go to the house of worship to study a page of Gemoreh[11].

The merchants open the shops. The jitnies (shpiliters) hurry to the people who have the concession to conduct passengers to the train for Warsaw, – so they can buy various goods for the shtetl (town) and bring them to the wholesale merchants.

Among the retailers and merchants one can notice the worry concerned with carrying the means of livelihood. They must often seek help from a Gmilas–Khesed (an interest–free loan association) and return the funds in a timely manner. There are philanthropists who help them in the mitzveh[12] of feeding the hungry.

In the pre–noon hours, one already sees Jewish youth with nothing to do, strolling over the Wyzskower streets, without any idea of their future existence. They speak of emigration as the only solution – but where? As long as they are out of there, wherever their eyes carry them. Khalutzim (pioneers) dream of traveling to training camps and then, to Eretz–Izrael. Others, on the other hand, – to North or to South America. Thus the Wyzskowers were scattered over the whole world. But this is said of the fortunate ones who possessed the necessary papers and money. The rest would continue to loiter on the streets of Wyszkow – from the Bug River bank to Pzedmiesztze/Przedmiescie (Street) and later, tired and dispirited/ashamed, they returned home to their parents, in order to eat their suppers.

So lived a part of Wyszkover Jewish youth.

True, there were in Wyszków many houses of worship, shtibelakh and – – – churches, but these did not impede a free life. Who does not remember the Hasidic study houses (Radziminer, Otwotzker, Aleksander, Amshnihover and foremost the Gerer Hasidim[13] – and more and more)? The communal institutions, unions, parties of all directions and shades and at the head – the Zionist movement, the largest, richest and most active party?

Who does not remember the houses of worship with the old, yellowed Holy Books, from which they studied day and night?

Wyszków also possessed its own dramatic sections or amateur troupes, which produced various plays and actually very serious ones.

The town also had anti–Semitic parties, that always wanted to do us harm. In mostly cases they did not succeed, because of organized resistance from Jews, mostly – the Workers'–Movement, which fought against the Dmowskis[14], Skladkowskis[15] and other enemies of Israel.

Wyszkow also lived through various invasions during the two World Wars – Russians, Germans, Bolsheviks and lastly – the Nazi beasts. These all invasions always brought always trouble for the Jews, until the last Hitlerite flood that annihilated everyone.

And also the Poles of the shtetl demonstrated, that in the trade of spilling Jewish blood they were no better than the German murderers. One remembers a fact from the year 1920, when they brought to Wyszków Jews who had run away and also from the surrounding shtetlakh. They gathered them in the Senator's park, near the firemen's hall. Two long lines of tens of Poles, armed with sticks, laid out – and Jews had to pass through this “obstacle”. With sadistic pleasure these hooligans beat the unfortunate Jews. Some became permanent invalids and others took days and weeks to recover …


The Dramatic Group or Circle*



  1. Also known as, Hershl der Waser–treger, Hershl the water carrier. Return
  2. A quorum of ten Jewish adults is required for prayer service. Return
  3. A repetition of the morning prayer service done at a later time. Return
  4. a groshn = a cent. Return
  5. The meaning for Niegrower is not clear. Return
  6. Shkarlat's sawmill= The sawmill that belonged to the wealthy family with the surname Shkarlat (Yitzkhok known as ‘Itche’ (Photo pg.32), Refoyl, Yisroel, Mendl, etc…) Return
  7. starosta = County administrator. Return
  8. kheiders (kheider– sing.) is a traditional elementary school whose purpose is to teach children the basics of Judaism and Hebrew. Return
  9. The ‘Yellow’ is a nickname for redheads. Return
  10. A religious teacher or instructor. Return
  11. Gemoreh (in Yiddish) /Gemara (in Hebrew) = The Gemoreh and the Mishneh together make up the Talmud. Return
  12. Mitzvah, a good deed, but literally, it means “commandment.” Return
  13. Hasidim belonged to different dynasties of influential spiritual leaders, known as Rebbes, and usually were named after a key town in Eastern Europe where the founder may have been born or lived, or where the group began. Return
  14. The followers of Roman Stanislaw Dmowski, a Polish politician who co–founded the right–wing National Democracy political movement in interwar Poland. Dmowski made anti–Semitism a central element in his radical nationalist outlook. Return
  15. Skladkowskis = They were the followers of Polish Prime Minister – Felicjan Slawoj–Skladkowski, President of the Council of Ministers (1936–1939) who at one time came out in about 1937, with the slogan, “to pogrom against the Jews –– definitely not. To destroy their stores and stalls – please!” Return


* Note: According to Frida Cielak, her aunt, Feige Marcuschamer, is standing on the right side, in front of the vertical beam.


[Page 59]

Memories of our Young Years

by Shmuel Niestenpover (Montevideo)

Translated by Hershl Hartman (Los Angeles, CA)

Reviewed by Frida Grapa Markuschamer de Cielak (Mexico City)

Translation donated by the Historian Enrique Krauze (Mexico City)


Dzhigan And Shumakher[1] “Reel–Up” A Film In Vishkov/Wyszków[2]

I lived on the fisherman's street (Koscielna Street)[3] at my wife's grandfather, Zelik Fisher's place.

Once, I recall, there was a tumult in the little street. Rokhl, Yosl Binduski (the shoemaker)'s wife, came up to my window and shouted:

“Shmuel, are you sitting at home? The market–place is lively, the whole shtetl[4] is there. They're making a film with Yiddish actors…”

I went quickly to the market–place and saw, Dzhigan and Shumakher emerging from Khaytche Shlizoner's restaurant, feigning drunkenness. The cinematographer keeps cranking the camera and every movement of these two Yiddish comedians becomes eternalized in a film–camera.

At the bridge stood Ester Zelik's[5] with Avreml Farentyazh, Ele Shtoyb, Khayim the fisherman (Khayim Rozenberg), Elye–Mayer/Eli–Mayer the baker and his wife, Elke–Shoshe the wagon–driverin, Knaster the shipping agent, and the old, voiceless baker who smiled contentedly, knowing that “his” Wyszków had been selected for the “reeling–up” of a Yiddish film…


Wolerek the Pole Plays Yiddish Melodies

Even before the start of the Second World War, worry and unease were felt among the Jewish population, a foretelling of the oncoming storm. The Jews of Wyszków, as in other towns and shtetlekh in Poland, suffered from anti–Semitism, economic boycotts and persecution.

The reservists of the Polish military were mobilized a few days before September 1, 1939. I, too, was ordered to report to the 13th Division in Pultusk[6]. Along with many Vishkover, I arrived in the nearby city where we were immediately assigned to dig anti–tank ditches and trenches. We worked from 5:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night.

On the 23rd of August we were issued new uniforms and weapons. Companies are assembled on the large parade ground. At the fence on Chenstojov (Czestochower) Street many Pultusk residents gathered to bid farewell to the soldiers marching off to the front lines. The First Battalion, to which I belonged, marched through the gate toward the railroad station, accompanied by the music of a military band. The streets were full of people. No smiles, no joy – just sorrow and tears on everyone's faces. An old Polish woman approaches me and says:

“Beat the Hitlerites. If you let them go through, they will slaughter everyone…”

The Jewish Wyszkower[7] youth fought well. They fell on the fields of Mlave while mounting resistance to the Hitlerite army. I specially remember Shloyme Burshteyn/ Burshtin, Pepke the cobbler's son.

Among the Wyszków Poles who were in the First Battalion with us, he was the musician Valerek. His family was well–known in the shtetl because they played at the local movie–house until the advent of sound in films. Now, while at the front, Wolerek had brought his fiddle.

Once, sitting in the trenches, he took out the fiddle and began to play… Yiddish melodies. It was so heartwarming, hearing those homey Yiddish tunes. The Jewish and Polish soldiers who listened to those beautiful sounds, momentarily forgot, that death threatened them at any moment. And truly: at the ecstatic moment of that unique concert in the trenches, a squadron of German planes appeared and bombed our positions. Many fell in battle then.

When things calmed down, Wolerek began to play again. This time – Chopin's funeral march…

Another time Wolerek began to play special melodies for… the Wyszkower. “Who knows,” – he said, – “it may be that our town has been destroyed and its inhabitants buried under the ruins”. Everyone's blood ran cold. We tightened the grip on our rifles…

At evening the soldiers were called to register themselves in the “Death Book”. So that in the event of death, the proper family member might be notified. I put down the name of Nekhe Zilberman–Niestenpover[8].

Since I have been on Uruguayan soil (following the end of the war), Valerek's melodies accompany me and remind me of fallen comrades, of the destroyed Jewish population, and of the shtetl where I was born and raised.


Bialystok Street



  1. SHIMON DZIGAN(DZHIGAN/) and ISRAEL SHUMACHER were the most famous Yiddish comedic duo of all time, who worked together as “Dzigan & Shumacher”, one of the most famous Yiddish comic duos in the 20th century who made many films, stage shows and records in Poland and later, in Israel and the US. In 1935 they founded their own cabaret company (the “Nowości Theater”) in Warsaw. The filming of a movie in Wyszków was one of a kind event of great importance mainly because these so well known artists had chosen, among all the Polish–Yiddish shtetls, to do their film in Wyszków!
    Shimon Dżigan (born,1905 in Lodz – died, April 14, 1980 in Tel–Aviv). His father was a soldier in the Russian military. After the outbreak of the first world war Dzigan was apprenticed to a tailor to help the family, but he could realy do so when he became a succesful comedian.
    Izrael Shumacher or Szumacher (born, 1908 in Lodz – died, May 21, 1961) He met Dzigan at Ararat literary cabaret company and then in Warsaw with the troupe Yidishe Bande, their succes was impresive and become then the famous Yiddish comedy pair “Dzigan & Shumacher”. After the outbreak of WWII the duo Dzigan & Shumacher were in Bialystok, in 1941 they were evacuated to Tashkent, where they were performing in the so–called artistic brigades of the Red Army. They were trying to reach the Anders Army but they were arrested on charge of desertion from the Red Army and exiled to Kazakhstan. They returned to Poland in 1947. They were performing in a variety theatre in Lodz. They moved to Israel in 1949. In 1952 they stopped performing as a duo and 9 years later, in 1961, at age 53, Izrael Shumacher died in Israel. They 2 were the last masters of Yiddish comedy created for a Yiddish–speaking audience. Return
  2. The correct spelling in Polish for the town of Vishkov or Wishkov: Wyszków Return
  3. Koscielna Street in Wyszków was the street where the fisherman placed their stalls to sell their fish. Return
  4. shtetl =The Yiddish word (a diminutive term) for “town.” shtetlekh, in plural Return
  5. When a name is said with another name in a possesive form, e.g., Ester Zelik's, it means that Esther was the daughter of Zelik. Return
  6. Pultusk, is 28 kms./18 miles away from Wyszków. Return
  7. Vishkover or Wyszkower = citizens from Wyszków. Return
  8. Nekhe Zilberman–Niestenpover = It is understable that the author of this article, Shmuel Niestenpover, used in this case, the 2 surnames of Nekhe, to denote that he was a member of his family one of those who had died during the German attack. Return


[Page 60]

Our train station, the Poremba settlement

by Yankev/Yakov Palukh (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

Translated by Hilda Rubin (Rockville, MD)

Reviewed by Frida Grapa Markuschamer de Cielak (Mexico City)

Translation donated by the Historian Enrique Krauze (Mexico City)


A (Alef)

Wishkov/Wyszków[1] didn't have any places where the local population could go to relax and enjoy themselves after a hard day's work. The Jewish young people who were aspiring to a new and better life used the bridge over the River Bug to stroll along with their friends. The bridge was the meeting place. It was there that one could hear various discussions. Or if one preferred, simply chat or even do some singing.

However, there was another spot in Wyszków where one could go to soak up the fresh air and enjoy views of the pretty surrounding countryside and that was –– the railroad station.

The lovely and sweet memories of our shtetl[2] are concentrated around that station. It was there that the rendezvous between the boys and girls took place. But it was at the bridge that each one of us felt truly comfortable, just as if we were in our own homes.

As opposed to that feeling, the stroll to the train station brought forth a more refined character and a sort of proper behavior. It was at the station that our youthful dreams appeared to have the possibility of breaking through the daily routine drudgery. There, we felt, even for a short time, that it was possible to rise to a higher level in our dreams of a better tomorrow.

One can't say that our shtetl didn't present signs of better times to come for our young people, even though the older generation appeared to be anchored to its place, unable to move from it. The young people who were already finished the kheyder[3] and away from the study from Beis–Hamedrash[4], had a broader outlook on life. They felt that their position in the shtetl was like being trapped in an immobile situation. This feeling drew them all the more to struggle to become emancipated from the suffocating small shtetl atmosphere.

And so, those strolls to the railroad station really satisfied a sort of far off yearning, even if it were only for a few hours. The young people were freed from their daily grind and were able to shake off depressing moods. There, at the station, in the fresh air–– they could look through a “window” to the wide world.


B (Beis)

The Wyszków train–station was to be found not far from the shtetl's main–street, Pultusk Boulevard. The way to the station was through a small, narrow garden, which ran between two espaliered, or trellised walkways. This walkway served as both an entrance and exit to the station.

At the sides of the walkway stood wooden benches with armrests, deeply embedded in the ground. These benches were painted green and served as resting places for the train station personnel, when they were off duty, and their friends. These benches were also not off limits to the shtetl's inhabitants and so they used them to sit and enjoy the fresh air on the walkway. One could also frequently encounter people using these station benches to catch little catnaps.

In general, the station house made a good impression. It looked like a church, but without a bell tower or bell. Stone steps led to wide entrance doors with large glass panes. This area gave the impression that one was standing in a princely palace.

The way to the station was not terribly long and so provided a fine place for a stroll. It also provided a living for about ten families of Dorozhkozhes (cab operators, jitneys), who would drive you to the station. They had skinny, old horses harnessed to wagons, at the ready, in the middle of the market place, which were for hire at a moment's notice. The pathetic look of these horses cried out with a thousand mouths the poverty of their owners.

These Dorozhkozhes would frequently go days on end without earning anything. The horses stood and whinnied pleading for some hay while their owners wandered about the shtetl looking for some way to earn money. They were ready to take on any trip, no matter how far they would have to travel. Without any work, they had time on their hands and would always fool around and tell jokes. If a fare or a passenger should suddenly appear there would be such shouting from all sides from the Dorozhkozhes, that the passenger would get completely confused. Their best times for earning money came when the merchants and suppliers returned from Warsaw and the surrounding cities and towns. These business folk brought their packs full of merchandise and boxes wrapped around with iron bands and needed the services of the jitneys. All the wagons were then full and busy delivering goods and people.


G (Gimmel)

The station looked very different at daybreak. The local important agencies had prevailed to have the train wait for passengers all night long. When a train arrived in the evening, the locomotive would stop belching smoke from its chimney and would rest over–night. It would be restocked and powered up the next day.

In the early mornings, the passengers traveling to Warsaw or other destinations would start to gather. The Polish passengers stood out with their pleasant and polite behavior. They arrived early and waited calmly for the time to board the train. On the other hand, the Jewish (Yiddish) passengers always arrived in a great hurry. They always seemed to be a minute late for the departure. The Jewish men and women would rush in, breathing hard, barely managing to shove their way to the ticket counter to purchase the needed ticket.

At the same time, the ticket agent, nattily dressed and thoroughly rested would slowly and phlegmatically sit himself down behind his barred window and get to work. It was as if the train were miles away and not at the station ready to depart. The agent would very deliberately open the ticket window at a very precise minute. And then would begin the pushing and shoving at the window as people tried to buy their tickets. Finally, with tickets in hand, the Jews would grab their packs and bundles and willy–nilly run to the train which had already begun to belch fire and smoke, ready for departure.

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In the afternoon hours the Wishkever[5] train station was full of Jewish young people. They would be waiting for someone to arrive by train from Warsaw. Some hours before the train was to arrive, the young people would congregate around the station and amuse themselves in various ways.

I also remember times when the stroll to the station was full of danger. These were times when there were anti–Semitic waves surging in Poland. However, our Wishkever young fellows didn't walk away from a fight with the anti–Semites. In fact, they gave their attackers a good drubbing and even broke some bones. And all this fighting was done in a way that the police wouldn't catch us Jewish young people. We were not the guilty ones – it was the anti–Semites who were “heroes” attacking our young girls and boys, as well as older Jews. But, there was the constant fear that the police would arrest the ones attacked and not the attackers, so we Jewish young fellows developed a tactic. We would beat the anti–Semites up well and then – simply disappear into the populace.

The times were constantly getting worse. After some time of indecisiveness, I decided to leave my hometown Poremba. After Sukes[6], I went by foot over two unpaved, muddy little streets to the one avenue in our community in order to get to the autobus. This bus ran on the Bialystok–Warsaw line.

I waited on that avenue a good two hours. Overhead the stars twinkled in the night sky. A cool autumn wind was blowing that could be felt in ones bones… My waiting for that autobus was in vain – it never arrived. I decided that I had better get myself to the Wishkever train station from Wyszków, quickly. So I went directly to a peasant named Loyek[7] that I knew, who used to make ”yazdes”(voyages)[8] for a few zlotes[9], or (sell) a cigar, or a herring with a fresh roll. I asked him to harness his horse and take me to the train station in Wyszków.

The trip from the avenue in Poremba to the station took a good bit of time. We had to travel about 20 kilometers. I and Loyek(Łojek) got frozen through and through. We hoped to warm ourselves up at the Wyszków train station. But to our great disappointment, when we got to the station, everything was sort of in half darkness. In one corner of the station there was a peasant on a bench sleeping cozily. It was cold in the big hall of the station and we had to warm ourselves by running briskly back and forth and slapping our hands to keep the blood flowing. Loyek(Łojek) was cursing his fate and the world.

Bit by bit, the station started to fill up with people. It really became somewhat warmer. For the last time I was a witness to the Jewish crowd hurrying to the train. These Jews were half asleep dragging their huge packs. In their haste, they seemed to be tripping or falling into the brightness of the lit station. For the last time I parted with the beloved and well–known places of my youth and went forth into the wide unknown.

I had left Poland forever !


  1. Wishkov– the correct Polish spelling is: Wyszków Return
  2. shtetl = “town” in Yiddish (in diminutive); shtetlakh is the plural. Return
  3. kheyder is a traditional elementary school whose purpose is to teach boys the basics of Judaism and Hebrew. Return
  4. Beis–Hamedresh translates as: “House [of] Learning”, a study hall. Return
  5. Wishkever = from Wyszków. Return
  6. Sukes (in Yiddish)/Sukkot (in Hebrew) is a seven–day harvest holiday that arrives during the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It starts four days after Yom–Kippur. Sukes is also known as the “Festival of Booths (or Huts)” and the “Festival of (Autumn) Harvest.” Return
  7. Loyek = Łojek is the correct spelling in Polish. In Polish, the “j” is usually pronounced as an “i.” Return
  8. “yazdes” = This is a Yiddish–Polish word for rides or voyages The Polish word “jazdy” is the plural, whereas jazda is the singular form. Return
  9. zlotes = It refers to the still current Polish money or currency. The modern złoty is subdivided into 100 groszy (singular: grosz) and Złoty is used alike in plural and singular. Return

The Poremba Settlement

by Yankev/Yakov Palukh

Translated by Pamela Russ

A rich, social, Jewish life flourished not only in the larger Jewish settlements in Poland, but also in the smaller and even very small areas, practically in all districts.

The stamp on the town came primarily from the religious sector. The small and more significant rabbis had spiritual influence, each in his own stiebel [small place of prayer], that bore the name of the city where the holy tzaddik [righteous man] conducted his tisch [literally “table,” but also referring to the gathering place (at a table) of the followers around their Rebbe (rabbi or spiritual leader)]. Suffice it to remember the Holy Shabbath, when the Jews discarded their weekday essence [physical lives] and devoted themselves to the spiritual, accompanied with passionate dance and song that reached great distances, first with the third Shabbath meal, and then with the melave malkes [literally: “escorting the [Shabbath] Queen,” referring to the festive meal that takes place after Shabbath has ended; hence escorting out the Queen]… No one wanted to part from the Shabbat Queen and return to the weekday grayness and its problems and worries.

Jews were busy – some on the shoemaker's stool, some at the tailor's machine, some as blacksmiths, and some as small merchants. Everyone worked hard to earn a living, but not always with success. Everyone celebrated Shabbath and yom tov [Jewish holidays] in his own way.

A (Alef)

In our town, there was also the younger, more enlightened generation, along with their organizations, factions, and parties that wanted to save Poland, the world, and the Land of Israel. We also had periods when we forgot about the daily worries, being busy with community issues. These were the times of community elections, or Sejm [Polish parliamentary] elections, or arguments about the gabbai [beadle] in the shul, or in the stiebel [small place of prayer], or if there was an issue of importing a new shochet [ritual slaughterer] or Rav [rabbi].

Did anyone hear of such small towns? Was anyone interested in these small settlements around Wyszkow, such as: Poremba, Dlugosiodl, and others, with their residents and flowering Jewish life?

Or even, Jewish villages such as: Kamienczyk, Branszczyk, Szczonka, and many, many others, where some Jewish families lived?

And who heard of such places as Back and Ostrowieck, where Jewish life flowed – a play of general Jewish life in Poland? It was enough to observe the local youth on a Shabbath day when we were free from the daily tasks and so had the opportunity to dedicate ourselves to organizational life within the four walls of the party's location, that was either one of two political directions: Under one common roof, there were discussions around the same problems that were listed on the daily roster. Discussions – stormy, that more than once ended in arguments.

Now I want to mention the town of my place of birth, Poremba, and remark on some interesting details:

There were about 60 Jewish families living there. The only Jewish main street, not paved, was intersected in the middle

[Page 62]

by a half stone, half steel cross, that stood on the fork [dividing road] that led to several villages (also with the same name), where there was also a small number of Jewish families. The town boasted a beautiful, large Beis Medrash [House of Study], that was also a place for all kinds of squabbles because of private or community issues. There were also two individual stieblach [plural of “stiebel,” small synagogues], that did not have any designated rabbi. The teachers did not have real livelihood from the two cheders [elementary religious schools]. Poremba had its Rav, a shochet, and a ritual bath. There were sharp discussions around whether the local shochet should be relieved from his position and be replaced by a younger shochet who could also be a baal tefila [lead the prayers].


B (Beis)

The town also had a large church with sometimes a good and sometimes a bad priest. In the post office, often, they took out from the letters that Jews would receive from their relatives from America, some of the dollars that would be sent from time to time to save them from their difficult financial situation. There was a telephone connection, a pharmacist who would dispense medicine without a doctor; two barber–surgeons who did not get along with each other, both had to help themselves [augment their incomes] with haircutting. There was a Polish municipal office, a local prison, where, along with the drunks, there were also honest homeowners who had to do their time there for not having kept clean their places in the courtyards; there was a police commission and a commandant who was easily bribed. This commandant was friendly with everyone. He used to remove the lint from the beards of Jews who would pass by. There was a fire brigade that did not hire any Jews, but would often sound their alarm to frighten the local Jews. There was also a fair once a month, a very special event in the whole region. Here, as in the other areas in Poland, there were anti–Jewish activities and picketing in front of the Jewish shops. Understandably, the “friendly” police commandant went into hiding [at that is time]. There was also a Polish “spulke” [cooperative] that urged the local farmers not to purchase from the Jews.

And in spite of all this, one lived anyway, raised children, married them off, and lived to reap some joys from them… There were also times of sadness among the Jews: a mourner in a Jewish home, or just a tragic event. There was an energetic youth with a lot, a lot of hope for a more beautiful world, a better world, and a world that was friendlier to the Jews.


C (Gimmel)

My small settlement had the same good and bad features as every other settlement in Poland. We actively participated in all events – large and small ones, important and unimportant ones, which from time to time stirred up the general and Jewish open minds. We excitedly followed all the important events, read with interest the reports of the Sejm [Polish parliament] meetings, as they addressed Jewish issues.

At the time of the Beilis trial, in the year 1911, we were all under the strong influence of the publicity of both sides. In the Beis Medrash [House of Study], in the streets, in the baths, in the homes – everywhere that Jews gathered, this trial was the central topic, and in the year 1913, when Beilis was freed, the joy among the Jews was boundless. We received weighty ammunition against our enemies.

At the same time, the incident with the priest Mateusz took place. He was sentenced by the courts for having stolen the bejeweled eyes of the holy icons in the church. The Christian young boys would shout after us: “Beilis!” And we would reply: “Beilis is alive and Mateusz is rotting!”


D (Daled)

Our joy was great at the time of the Balfour Declaration. Jews were prepared to leave everything and go to the Land of Israel. The youth was prepared to leave their warm homes in order to build up the old–new home.

There was a library of several hundred books in Poremba. This serviced the youth from all directions in the town and the surrounding villages. Very frequently, there were literary evenings, informal talks, concerts, discussions, and science lectures. Also, the writer of these lines was one of the speakers. This useful institution was later split by the members of the so–called leftists.

With the establishment of Hashomer Hatzair [socialist Zionist group], our youth was caught up in the new way of thinking. We spent every night in song, dancing the Hora [Israeli dance], while listening to speakers. The site was decorated in blue and white, and on the walls were pictures of the prominent Zionist leaders.


E (Hei)

Many books have already been published describing our last destruction. But, in general, these types of small towns, such as Poremba, were wronged [in their omission]. In truth, even in these small towns, Jewish nationalist life also sprouted, thanks to which we were able to withstand such a long road of exile. There, in the small settlements, a significant number of the Jewish kibbutz in Poland, was concentrated. There is insufficient energy to describe the history of the heroism of the Jewish youth in the small settlements, and their battles with Hitler's murderers. How much collective heroism revealed itself in the times of the destruction of the third temple [referring to the Jewish people themselves as the “temple”] – and particularly in these small settlements?

Chaval al deavdin [Aramaic: “We long after the great people who are unfortunately lost to us”], you small settlements, with the thousands and thousands of Jews. Remember, who will eternalize the story for you?

[Page 63]

From Wyszkow To Kibbutz Dafna

by Yehuda Ilan, Kibbutz Dafna

Translated by Chava Eisenstein

My childhood years I spent between the walls of the “Kheder” and continued at the Yeshiva of the Rabbi of Radzimin. I come from a ramified khassidic family of the great Rabbi of Ger. I received a Jewish traditional education. My family – Family Olleshker – was outstanding for its social public activity for the Jewish communities and was very involved in caring for the daily needs of the Jews in Wyszkow.

To my great dismay and sorrow, I was not privileged to know my dear mother, Shaina–Fruma–Malka – a righteous clever and good–hearted woman, as I was told by others. She had the combination of everything: identical to her names: (Shaina) she was beautiful, (Fruma) fervently religious, and (Malka) a real queen. She was adored by everyone and highly regarded. She would be wherever she was needed and offered her help to poor and depressed people as well as to brides in need of funds. She always assisted people in a hidden manner, with money – and once, before Pesach, she went out to collect money for people that couldn't afford the extraordinary Pesakh expenses and she caught a cold. On the first day of Khol HaMoed Pesakh, she passed away at the young age of 32, when I was only 2 years old. What a pity, it was such an unforgotten loss.

As I said, I am from a khassidic family and my father, Yitzkhak Yoseph, didn't spare any effort to bring me up in the “right” way. The same way of his forefathers. I studied diligently at Yeshiva and was deeply engrossed in the various Talmudic topics. The Talmud, the Gemara were constantly in front of my eyes, day and night I would pore over my studies. My adolescent years passed in Yeshiva. But one bright day a spark of another life embarked within me, a life of a generation that envisions the yet to be born, of a generation that sees its future in the land of Israel. In the land where he will feel free like any other nation in its homeland.

At that time was founded in our town Wyszkow, the “Ha'Khalutz” (the Pioneer) organization. In spite of my Yeshiva upbringing, I sharply envisioned the “Ha'Khalutz” as the way I should lead, but it wasn't that simple for me to go to “Ha'Khalutz” since my parents were entirely opposed to this movement, where girls and boys would gather together, something that my father considered intentional apostasy. My father's view was that I am to walk the same path of our ancestors, to be fervently religious at home and a human being outside, and not to go astray from the treaded path. Indeed, my father was very religious and a fervent khassid, every day he awoke at dawn to study the “page of the day” Talmudic Page. Later in the day, between the afternoon and evening prayers he learned a page of Gemara with its commentaries. He was popular amongst the Kharedi Jews, his place in the shtiebel was upfront at the mizrakh side, and he spent much of his time for public affairs, but together with that he was also accepted by the gentiles. As a proud and well–established Jew, on behalf of his dealings in the wood trade, he possessed forest lots and was a partner in the sawmill where tens of workers worked. He also managed the book keeping with the Polish lords and noblemen, and bought plots in the woods for the saw–mill. My father (unlike other Jews in his times, which acted as sycophants and boot lickers of their Polish landowners), by his visits to the noblemen, did not flatter them, he knew how to be proud and emphasize his Jewishness with his aristocratic appearance he was Jewish to the full sense. At the shtiebel he was from the organizers and also served as manager at affairs. He was a member of many Jewish institutions and acted on their behalf. Every Shabbat it was customary for each khassid to invite khassidim for a “Kiddush” where they made the Kiddush blessing over a small glass of whisky and added some cookies and enjoyed the gathering before each dispersed to his home for the meal. To our home too, khassidim came and drank “L'Khaim”. Between one whiskey and another, they sang a moving khassidic melody continuing with a shoulder–to–shoulder heartwarming dance. Life was full of enthusiasm and every year father traveled to the Rabbi of Ger for a few–day visit. This is how my father wished to give me the upbringing and education that he received. Nevertheless, as I already mentioned, in me, an inner revolt has begun, that pushed me out into the open space, to fresher air and to not stay most hours of the day and the night amid the Yeshiva walls.

Quietly, in “underground” I began to be active at the “Ha'Khalutz”. Where I was able to vent my desires and have cheerful get–togethers with friends and mostly with girlfriends, which were afar from me up to then. True, also when I was in Yeshiva I would peep out of the window, to see the girls of which many of them I liked, but that was only in my mind, I did not show anything in open and it was unmentionable to meet a girl – something most forbidden. At the “Ha'Khalutz”, I started to act with the full excitement. My meetings were of course, without the knowledge of my parents, but I continued to study even more enthusiastically at Yeshiva, I didn't want to awake suspicion from the Leaders of the Yeshiva or the students, that my heart is already somewhere else. And I am planning for my future to finally reach the land of hope – the Land of Israel.

I devoted myself to the “Histadrut” and worked for the “underground” for the idea of Eretz Yisrael. The head of the Yeshiva knew completely nothing about it, and so …


Participants of The Young Khalutz


Young Zionist's in 1918, with Dr. Gotlieb


[Page 64]

… was my father, he knew nothing about my leading a dual life. In 1923, between Purim and Pesach, I was appointed amongst other fellow exceptional yeshiva students to have a trip to Warsaw, to the Rabbi of Radzimin that will test us on the issues we have learned during the year. My father was overjoyed that I was to go to the Rabbi and will be tested. For a week I stayed there, the attendant watched over me as of a treasure, and finally I got admission to the Rabbi. The Rabbi tested me on 20 pages of the PsaKhim tractate. I knew the 20 pages by heart with all its commentaries, the Maharsha, and Tosefot – supplements and more, and I emerged from the exams, which lasted a few hours, fully successful. The Rabbi gave me a slight pinch on my cheek and told me I should be an assiduous good learner. But at that time, my heart wanted otherwise, my ideas were already far from this fashion which I followed until then. I returned home and the head of the Yeshiva delivered to my father the excellent results of the tests I passed, he was very satisfied with me. But I stood before my father and let him know of my final decision, that I am not able to go on with my studying in Yeshiva, without telling him my ideas about the new way I have chosen. His pleads to me to continue learning after such good marks were in vain. I told him that I want to help him in the sawmill with the measuring etc. after a long dispute he agreed to my ideas, but he asked from me, so I will not forget the Talmud I learned, to study every night one page of Talmud in the shtiebel. And, of course I did that for not much time.

Then it happened. My father's good friends reported to him about my going astray and gave him the information about my meetings at the “Ha'Khalutz”, that after the Shabbat meal I go with the gang to the woods, beyond the bridge over the Bug River. That in itself is a transgression of surpassing the “Shabbos Boundary,” and other things, which are forbidden to even mention. One time, my father decided to give up his noontime nap and went to the bridge to meet me and bring me back to the “right” track. The balloon busted and the matter became known. Indeed, that day I returned home with him, but then after there was a change: instead of acting in hiding, I went openly. After stormy arguments, he complied with my way, clearly – with a heavy heart.

My transformation from Yeshiva life to dealing with my father's business affairs went smoothly, the same goes for my public activities.

On the 25th of Tamuz 5,685 (1925) my father passed away after suffering a cold, as he visited landowners in hard weathers and didn't notice his cold until his conditioned worsened and doctors were not able to help him. The tragedy hit us very hard, my brother Yaakov was already married with two children and lived in Ostrow–Mazow. At home were left me, and my brother Buch'e (Baruch). My brother Shmuel left to Argentina in 1921, and I was not able to continue with the partners at the sawmill, because the times were hard for the wood trade, the Polish government asked for higher taxes then the business was able to tolerate, at the end the government confiscated the sawmill for the tax we owed, and we barely managed to liquidate and sell the wood. Thus I began wandering to Warsaw, where Hersh Yoseph Sokol, son of a partner in the sawmill, opened a wood business and invited me to work for him as a clerk. My brother Buch'e, who was 5 years younger than me, remained in Wyszkow with my mother and aunt Malka, there he continued his studies in Yeshiva.

For 5 years I was in Warsaw, 1926–1931, those were turbulent years. In the beginning, I continued activities at the “Ha'Khalutz,” until they split, when one part turned more left, me amongst them. That was when I encountered the Communist party, there I was popular and valued, until they trusted me with the printing machine, where I was to put out publicity leaflets in favor of Communism for the ammunition and weapons manufacture in Warsaw. I did this secretive work in the summer nights when I boarded at the office of the workplace where I worked. Students came to visit me by day to give me craft books to read and at that occasion, I inserted packages of booklets that I printed during the nights, into their bags. I hid these anti regime leaflets beneath layers of wood that were laying there. For two years, I worked in this style and my boss knew nothing about my activities. As time passed, I was excused of meeting party members and I didn't have to visit the cells of the leftist divisions, so not to arise suspicion. I visited the clerk–union of my profession, which was under Communist influence, a rich union where members of the Communist party lectured and held speeches. Until one meeting, when the building was surrounded, all those that were present were questioned, and their names registered, and so, they also came to investigate at my boss, they searched and explored my belongings, but didn't find anything, they didn't say what is the purpose of the search of my possessions, but the boss began to keep an eye on me, until it came to his ears, a fellow employee that desired to take my place, and he tattled. He would help me occasionally to print and it didn't dawn on me he would do that. That is when I took the machine that was in hiding, and without saying a word, I gave it back to the one that has given it to me. On that occasion I resolved, after heavy afterthoughts I had with this issue, and the second thoughts I had of the management and their conducting's and ideas with which I was unable to make peace. I let a final notice that I am stopping my membership in the party and I promised that whatever knowledge I possessed, would not leak out, and everything will stay within my heart. They treated me with remarkable understanding, they even wanted to help and give me the means to settle, but I rejected it and so I came back to by home, to “Ha'Khalutz.”

I did not continue much time in Warsaw and I went over to the city Sokoly, where my mother's family resided, I threw myself attentively into Zionist activity and raising money for funds. Along with that, I began to think of self–fulfillment to which I always strived. In 1933, I decided to join a “Hakhshara” – a training structure, and to prepare myself for finally immigrating to the land of Israel. I spent 5 years at the training Kibbutz Borokhov at Lodz, and in those years very few certificates for immigrants were given. For 300 members, only five certificates were issued, so I really didn't have much of a chance.

In that time, began the illegal immigration, Immigration B, and that involved much endanger. But I was absolutely determined on immigration, no matter what and how much risky the charge. But, also illegal immigration had a waiting line. In one of the nights of 1938 it came, as I slept the secretary whispered into my ear, to leave early morning to home, and to prepare to immigrate illegally, not to part with my friends with whom I lived together for years. What will I not do that thinks should pass “smoothly”? I traveled home to Sokoly, there I also didn't tell friends, except for those closest to me. When I started out, only close family escorted me. We traveled by train from Warsaw via Nazi Germany, they checked us in search for money or other suspicious items. We passed the contaminated land to Italy, we traveled for 3 days until we reached the port in Italy, where our ship was already standing, a nameless ship. We got on the ship and crammed together like sardines. The ship was suitable for 40–50 people, but we were 320. Water for bathing and even for drinking was very scarce, the food was awful but my mind was only on the destination, all the hardships and obstacles were minor in my eyes.

[Page 65]

After 5 days on sea, we were able to see the shores of the land. But we were not allowed to arrive prior to the set time, so we wandered on the water until the ship received (there were a few Israelis working on the ship too) signal that we can go ahead, and the ship immediately speeded towards our homeland, and came to a stand not far from the shore, facing the city of Netanya. Under the darkness of night boats arrived with members of the “Ha'Poel” movement and we jumped on them. When we came close to the shore, they let us down into the water that came up to our waist and higher. With our few belongings, we walked the water until we reached shore, “Hagana” members, veterans of the settlement welcomed us warmly, and encouraged us to advance fast towards the hill, accompanied by Jewish armed guards. We walked for a few hours until we reached the Kibbutz “Maavarot,” now, upon reaching safety, we were able to have a calm and fearless rest. A nice party was arranged in our honor; we sat around set tables and in spite of being tired and drenched, broken and depressed we were happy that we made it to the shores.

These were the years of the Arab revolt in Mandatory Palestine 1936–1939. Drivers traveled in armored cabins, busses too were armored, so to avoid bullets from Arabs in ambush. We would hear about daily attacks of Arabs on Jews. I came to the Kibbutz “Ness Ziona” (Givat Michael), and worked at the citrus plants, besides, I would do night shifts as a watch guard at the posts against Arab attacks. The work at the plants was arduous, especially the turning over of the soil and other tasks that were unbearably hard. The Kibbutz existed from hired work at a daily budget of 28 millim (1000 millim equaled one pound). We existed scarcely then, without excessive demands. We didn't need more than a bed, mattress and quilt in a tent, no chair or table, and of course not a closet that was needless, for we didn't have what to put inside. But life was good, happy and lively, filled with constant song and dance, until the year of 1939. During those years the Settlements Department of The Jewish Agency was in search of a place for a permanent settlement for the kibbutz Givat Michael and they offered Rukhama (a girl was born and she was named Rukhama). Thereafter they offered “Kadesh–Naphtali” and this too ended with nothing, until we reached the settlement in the Dafna grounds, which is near the Dan River, on May 1, 1939, we went up there after a few months of preparations. A thousand people with many vehicles from all over the country were enlisted, and in one night the new settlement was put up – “Khoma Ve'Migdal,” a number of sheds and a clinic, a lunch room, a shower. In the morning the colony was standing; the British could not take it down, because of the law that if a house is roofed, it is exempt from being taken down. These territories were not allowed to be settled with Jews and enthusiastically we began to prepare the bare ground to qualify. The grounds were separated and with our joint effort, we built a great model of a colony. Whoever visits it nowadays cannot believe that in such short time we reached such accomplishment.

On September 1, 1939, at the outbreak of WW2, I was then at the Dafna Kibbutz, we worked energetically to put up the new settlement.

At that time, I was sent by the Kibbutz to work in Sodom, where there was a grouped company of the “United Kibbutz.” In 1941 the Palm”akh was founded (the strike forces of the “Ha'Hagana”). At the beginning of 1942, I volunteered at the Palm”akh – at the same time, many enrolled with the Jewish Brigade, and our colony too had volunteers at the Brigade. Me and some more members left to the Palm”akh camps which were spread over the farms that belonged to The Labor Settlement.

Palm”akh, an un–uniformed army, soldiers – pioneers, where labor and training was combined at the Kibbutz bases, lived in tent camps, and would be ordered to be transferred from one side of the land to the other. We did our activity and worked below ground. We were a Jewish army based on estate labor and training, but we didn't receive payment for our work – we did get food, meager clothing, lodging in tents and some pocket money. We were all volunteers of free–will. We practiced with any device we got hold of. We only had few tools for operation. We went through almost every type of profession, with not only weapons but First Aid too, how to prepare bombs, sea rowing etc. and most important – to be acquainted with the paths of the land. From time to time we would go out on a two–week voyage: walking by foot in uncertain routes, we passed upon fields and wadis, valleys and hills. Once we walked by foot to Jerusalem, to the north of the Dead Sea and all the length of The Dead Sea, Jericho, Ein Gedi, Massada, Sodom, Machteshim, Maale Akrabim, the lone Arava lane until Revivim. And a different time – to the west Galilee, the Efraim mounts and more.


For general public property, in addition to my private wealth – a wife and three lovely children – “Sabras”…


The Zionist Labor committee (z.s.) in Wyszkow
(standing from R. to L.): Chaim Shlomo Levin, Tschechonowietski, Laibel Bresler
(sitting): Shlomo Newmark, Moshe Perle, Israel Kaluski, Chonna Appelbaum


The “Ha'Chalutz” committee
(from R. to L.): Israel Grossbart, Shaike Gorni, Israel Kaluski, Malka Epstein, Yaakov Mittelbach, Leib Bresler, Chaim–Shlomo Lewin


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