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[Page 192]

Chapter IX

Normalcy Returns to Poland

On February 27, 1947, the Polish borders were closed in accordance with the Spychalski–Tzuckerman agreement. The number of Jews crossing the border illegally into Czechoslovakia steadily declined as the Jewish population in Poland shrank. Repatriation of Polish Jews from the Soviet Union was reduced to a trickle since the mass of Polish Jews had already returned to Poland. The Polish Brichah still organized some illegal crossings but these were small operations. The Polish government slowly gained control of the country following national elections won by the Communist Party. The various security forces and the army slowly restored order. Jews also began to feel a bit safer. The Jewish community in Zabrze steadily grew in numbers. Children continued to arrive at the Zabrze home and

 

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The Zabrze old age home was located on the top floor

 

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The remodeled old age home of Zabrze

 

Captain Drucker was very busy locating and redeeming Jewish children from non–Jewish homes and institutions. The Geszcze Puste home closed since few repatriated Jews now arrived in Poland and even fewer Jewish orphans. Most of the residents and staff of Geszcze Puste were sent abroad while the borders were still open. The home had existed for about 18 months.

 

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The Polish Joint Distribution Committee allocated money to the old age home of Zabrze

 

The old age home which had been created by the Central Committee of Polish Jews after the war and funded by the Polish JDC, received mostly Jewish Shoah survivors who had no place to go and were unable to move about. The home would continue to function until 1953 when it was closed and remodeled as a state home for chronically and terminally ill patients. Currently, the building houses a nursing home.

Below is a registration card of a new Jewish arrival in Zabrze. The Zabrze community received many Jewish residents, especially repatriated Jews. Regina Viertel had come from the area of Lwow that was now part of the Soviet Union. Her registration card indicates the number 1,905, implying that the Jewish community of Zabrze had already received close to 1,905 Jews by June 1946 and Jews were still coming. Of course, many of those Jews did not stay long. Regina Laur Viertel was born on September 17, 1876, to Chaskiel Laur and Rajzla Schauer, in Kolomyja, Eastern Galicia. She registered in Zabrze on the 25th of June, 1946. The Jewish community office in Zabrze was located at 3 Brysza Street in the building of the so–called Small Synagogue. Before the war, the building was called Small Synagogue. It was built in 1898. During the expanding work on the large synagogue in Zabrze, the building served as a house of prayer, while at the same time it held the archives of the Jewish community and housing for employees of the municipality. In August 1902, its interior was rebuilt. A mikveh (ritual bath) was built in the basement. During the World War II, in October 1939, the Germans converted the building into a music school. Later, the Hitler Jugend school was located there.

 

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Registration card of Regina Viertel, maiden name Laur, on arrival in Zabrze on June 25, 1946

 

Following the war, a local branch of the Committee of Polish Jews opened an office to assist Jewish refugees who wanted to settle in the city, such as Regina Viertel.

As mentioned above, the Polish government was slowly gaining control of the country. More and more police forces were created to cope with the lawlessness. The U.B. or Urzad Bezpieczenstwa or Polish secret police force was greatly expanded and given large powers. The Polish Communist Party demanded action. Even the Central Jewish Committee of Polish Jews that was by now Communist dominated demanded immediate steps to prevent Jews from legally leaving Poland. It also demanded that the educational programs of the Jewish orphanages be realigned with the regular Polish school program. Pressure was also applied on Rabbi Kahane to merge his Zabrze home with those of the Central Committee homes. He used all his influence to delay the demands. But now Zionist orphanages and institutions were being watched. The Polish government tightened control of Jewish legal emigration but permitted Jews to move to Palestine. The U.B. or Polish secret police began to follow Zionist activists. A significant change was taking place regarding Jews and Jewish organizations, especially those involved in Zionist activities. The president of the Central Committee of Polish Jews, Emil Sommerstein, was still recovering from a heart attack he had suffered abroad. His place was soon assumed by a strong Communist and the shift of the committee's political orientation became obvious. The Communist members of the committee became vociferous in their demands that all Zionist activities throughout Poland cease. The Polish government took matters in hand.

The Zionist kibbutzim and homes increased the tempo of their transports out of Poland. Then, out of the blue, the Polish government decided to honor the Zabrze home and invited a contingent from the home to participate in the official celebrations in memory of the Jewish revolt in Warsaw. Drucker and some children from the Zabrze home took part in the 1948 parade marking the fifth anniversary of the Jewish revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. The Zabrze contingent also attached a plaque in memory of the revolt. The home made extensive preparations for its participation in the parade and wore their best clothes for the occasion.

 

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Zabrze official delegation headed by Dr. Nechema Geller
Behind her stands Rudolf Wittenberg, gym teacher of the Zabrze home, and to his left is Captain Drucker dressed in military uniform

 

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Zabrze children waiting their turn to enter the parade in memory of the Jewish revolt in Warsaw

 

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Group passport for Polish children traveling to Israel.
All children listed were from the Zabrze home
They traveled via Czechoslovakia to Germany and France and then sailed to Israel

 

The U.B. began to intimidate the Palestinian Zionist representatives in Poland. They were urged to leave the country. Leib Koriski, head of the Koordinacja office, was placed under special surveillance. The Zionist homes tried to send all their children abroad. Zabrze was no exception as the document above indicates.

In 1949, Rabbi Kahane decided to leave Poland for Israel and managed to take with some of the children with him. Upon his arrival he was appointed Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force. Drucker was appointed to replace Kahane as Chief Chaplain of the Polish Army.

The office of the Chief Rabbi was diminished in importance since the number of Polish Jewish soldiers constantly declined. Drucker continued his activities in redeeming Jewish children but it became more difficult by the day. Poland was becoming a Communist dictatorship where movements were strictly controlled. Many checkpoints and road blocks were set up and traveling across the country became very difficult. The cold war atmosphere swept Poland.

 

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