Yeshayahu Drucker not only spoke Polish fluently but looked Polish. This would prove invaluable when Drucker presented himself at the home of a Polish farmer and talked about a Jewish child who lived with the family. The farmer would assume that the Polish government wanted the matter settled. Drucker had lists and addresses of Jewish children in nonJewish homes. His job was to travel around Poland and locate the hidden Jewish children. Then the process of negotiations started. Sometimes he had names and addresses from letters supplied by Rabbi Kahane, Rabbi Herzog or other Jewish sources. There was also testimony by surviving Jews providing information about the location of Jewish children in nonJewish homes. Drucker would arrive in his uniform in a military car driven by a military chauffer, supplied by Rabbi Kahane. No Polish farmer could believe that he faced a Jew.
The fact that Drucker approached the holders of the Jewish children with money incentives and praise for their action during the war placed the negotiations on a friendly basis and contributed to the high degree of his success. Often his first approach was rejected, but Drucker would stubbornly persist. He would visit frequently, bringing candy and toys for the children and gifts for the family. Slowly he would begin to negotiate with the Polish families or Christian institutions. Occasionally, if a family did not negotiate honestly or refused to negotiate at all, he resorted to guile and even force to bring the Jewish children from their Christian homes. Although he sometimes used forceful methods to get the child, he always paid for the child's upkeep during the war.
The redemption campaign of the AJRC proved to be very popular with the surviving Jews in Poland who finally found someone to actively help them in their struggle to recover missing members of their family. But, these successful efforts also created resentment at the Jewish Education Department of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. The Committee had the full backing of the Polish government in Warsaw. The Committee's Education Department, under the leadership of Dr. Shlomo Herszenhorn, ran most of the Jewish orphanages and Jewish education programs in postwar Poland. Herszenhorn was an important Bund leader and a member of the Central Committee. His first children's home was opened in Lublin in July 1944 with that city's liberation. Following the end of the war the Education Department immediately proceeded to set up homes for surviving Jewish orphans. These homes provided some Yiddish culture, language and history but were devoid of Zionism, Jewish religion or Jewish history. The homes also followed the new Polish curriculum that was heavily oriented toward Communist ideals. Rabbi Kahane was interested in the restoration of Jewish life in Poland and did not like the content of the educational programs at the homes.
The Polish government refused to involve itself in a fight between the Central Committee and the AJRC because they did not want to antagonize Jewish organizations throughout the world. The Communist controlled government wanted to gain from a show of fairness toward the Jews in its fight with the reactionary Polish government in exile in London. So the Central Committee was told to keep away from the AJRC and had to accept the decision.
The Central Committee did not concern itself with Jewish children in nonJewish homes unless they were mistreated. The AJRC, that is, Drucker, actively searched for Jewish children hidden in Christian homes and institutions. On occasion, relatives of the children at the homes of the Central Committee induced the children to leave these homes and move to Zionist homes where they received a Zionist education. These acts irritated the Central Committee that constantly shifted to the political left. Soon another more dangerous threat appeared.
Zionist parties in Poland began to emerge and create Jewish institutions, orphanages and kibbutzim for older youngsters. Most of them were impressed by AJRC activities in Poland. Soon there was tremendous competition among the various Zionist organizations in retrieving Jewish children from Christian places. The fight became intense and acrimonious with the arrival of large numbers of repatriated Jewish orphans from Russia. Various Zionist homes began to entice youngsters to leave their current Zionist homes and join others. The competition also greatly increased the price of redemption of Jewish children. Some people even demanded cash in dollars. The homes of the Jewish Central Committee were also affected by the enticements and desertions of Jewish children but they could do little since the Polish government did not want to interfere. These homes tried to educate the Jewish youngsters in a theoretical view of Polish spirit that did not exist. Even the children saw that they were being attacked because they were Jewish. Many of these children left these homes and joined Zionist homes or kibbutzim in order to get out of Poland.
Then, Arieh Sharid, an emissary from Palestine, suggested that all the Zionist parties form a head office called The Zionist Coordination Office under the leadership of Leib Koriski from Kibbutz Yagur in Palestine. He coordinated the activities of redeeming Jewish children. The office established four homes where youngsters remained for some time until they left Poland. The office also began to establish and coordinate various Zionist orphanages for Jewish orphans who returned from Russia.
Most of the Zionist organizations that belonged to this office were nonreligious and their orphanage homes followed a secular Zionist base of instruction. Rabbi Kahane and Rabbi Becker helped to establish religious Zionist homes under the auspices of the Mizrahi and Hapoel Hamizrahi political movements. Similar homes were established by the nonZionist Orthodox Agudat Israel party. The religious parties were not part of the Koordinacija Central Committee. The aim of the office and the Zionist homes was to prepare the children to head for Palestine. Indeed, transports of children constantly left Poland, some legally as was the case of the large Herzog children's transport described in other chapters. Some large transports of children went to Britain with Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld and other children headed to the DP camps in Germany and Austria. Many Jewish children left Poland illegally by various means. Some children were officially adopted by Jewish families abroad. The Polish government was aware of the situation but refused to stop these illegal activities for fear of tarnishing further its bad reputation regarding Jews in Poland.
The Zabrze home and the Geszcze Puste or Gluszyca home were not part of the Zionist Coordination office but programs of the AJRC in Poland. The AJRC was essentially under the auspices of the Polish Army which paid the salaries of the organization leaders, Rabbi Kahane and his assistants, Captains Drucker and Becker. Both homes prepared the children for Jewish life and intended to send them to Palestine. It is estimated that 600700 children stayed at the Zabrze home for various periods of time until they left Poland. Drucker opened the home in Geszcze Puste or Gluszyca in Lower Silesia specifically for Jewish orphans who were repatriated to Poland from the Soviet Union following the end of the war.
|Youngsters from a children's home in Gluszyca (Geszcze Puste),
in the Walbrzych region of Lower Silesia
|Youngsters from the children's home
in Geszcze Puste (Gluszyca) Poland.
The Zionist homes and the AJRC homes stressed Palestine, Zionism and the Hebrew language while they distanced themselves from Polish culture and the Polish school curriculum. The homes devoted themselves to the children and to their needs, which were enormous. The children demanded constant individual attention because of their traumatic experiences. They acted out their fears, imaginary or real, and the staff had to help and offer guidance to the youngsters. The homes used a great deal of social psychology to draw the children out of their isolation by involving them in big plays that required many children. According to David Danieli, the Zabzre home staged celebrations on the birthdays of Theodor Herzl, the founder and leader of political Zionism, and Chaim Nachman Bialik, the great modern Hebrew writer.
|Guests and Zabrze staff with Yeshayahu Drucker dressed in military uniform
seated in the center of the picture holding a baby.
The home celebrated the birth of Herzl and his picture is displayed.
|Former residents at Zabrze|
|Children at Zabrze stage performance|
Danieli and some former residents of Zabrze helped to identify the children. Since there was no room to write all the names, they wrote numbers on the picture and then attached names to the numbers. Thus, we have names and pictures of children at Zabrze.
List of children in the picture.
Attached is a partial list of children who stayed at the orphanage of Zabrze. The list was also provided by David Danieli.
- Yanka Akarbaska
- Fela Kozok
- Ella Blasberg
- David Hubel, head teacher
- Eva, the beautiful
- Roda Rob
- Mr Gottlieb
- Hanka Shor
- Dr. Geller
- Dr. Nehema Geller, headmistress of Zabrze
- Batia Sheinfeld
- Rivka Brander
- Mrs. Gottlieb
- Miriam Mocha
- Rivka Gottlieb
- Helina Hoffman
- Berek Wattenberg. Gym teacher and security officer at Zabrze
- Mother of Yehudit
- Sonia Mayer and her brother
- David Fridman
- Emil Akart
- Yehuda and Tzvi Sobel
- Eva and Marianka Klarsfeld
- Benyamin Brand
Staff at Zabrze
Geller, Dr. Nehema, principal
Hubel, David, head teacher
Wittenberg, Rudolph, gym teacher
Mr. and Mrs. Gottlieb, kitchen staff
Meltzer brothers medical staff
Rabbi David Kahane head of the home of Zabrze
Rabbi Yeshayahu Drucker
Rabbi Aaron Becker
|Dr. Nechema Geller and Rabbi David Kahane with the children at Zabrze|
|From left to right: Michal Heffer, formerly Hinda Zorkowska; Nina and Tziporah former residents at Zabrze|
Photos are from the Yeshayahu Drucker collection of pictures that passed through Zabrze.
The album is presently at the Lochamei Hagettaot Museum at Kibbutz Lochamei Hagettaot in Israel.
Top middle photo shows Dr. Nechema Geller with two young boys: Witek Bernbobil and Fercig Maze.
Bottom left: historical play of Ruth, and the Lag B'omer celebration at the home.
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