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[Page 229]

Chapter XI

Pan Kapitan

The children at the Zabrze home referred to Yeshayahu Drucker as “Pan Kapitan” or sir captain. He was their father, counselor, adviser and spiritual master. He devoted most of his free time to the home and the children. They became attached to him and saw in his devotion to them a sort of paternal love. The children at Zabrze demanded a great deal of individual attention which they had been deprived of for years and he provided it. He hated to see them leave Poland but realized that they must go since the situation in Poland was intolerable.

Some say Yeshayahu Drucker was driven by an inner force to save as many Jewish children as possible. He was familiar with prewar Polish Jewry. He had witnessed the results of the war as a simple infantryman in the Polish liberating Army. Drucker was determined to save the few remnants of once great Polish Jewry, not for personal gain or fame but for the Jewish nation. To Drucker, Jewish history was a long chain of life that had to be continued regardless of the destructive events. In order to continue this unbroken chain, living Jews were needed, yet so few Jews survived that there was a real and present danger that Jewish life might end. It was this fear of extinction of the Jewish people that drove Drucker to save one soul after another in order to continue the chain of Jewish life. He personally led many of the hidden children to the orphanages and foster homes in Poland and took an interest in their problems. He maintained contact with the children until they left Poland and even later continued the communications when they were all in Israel. To him these children were part of the surviving nation that had to be nurtured and restored to life.

Drucker's job was not pleasant and required great tact. Some of these hidden children had become accustomed to their new Christian homes where they had been placed by their Jewish parents to hide them from the Nazis. The children felt comfortable in their Christian surroundings, safe from the turmoil of war whirling around them. Some of the Christian families behaved like excited new parents, especially childless couples. Over the years, many of the families became attached to the children and thought of them as their own. No doubt this was a dilemma even for Drucker. Should he let things stay as they were or restore the children to their Jewish roots? So many Jewish families had been decimated during the war, with not a sole living relative on earth. He could not stand by and permit the disappearance of even more Jews from the Jewish community. It became obvious to Drucker that he could not leave the matter as it was, that he had a moral and religious obligation to act on behalf of the lost Jewish families so these hidden children could assume their natural role as a part of the Jewish people

In 1948 Captain Drucker was promoted to the rank of Major in the Polish Army. He married a survivor of the war named Miriam Wolfeiler whom he met while she was working at the Zabrze home. Their daughter Rachel, named in honor of Drucker's mother, was born in Warsaw. Because of the dire situation for Jews in Poland and the promise of the new state of Israel, Drucker decided to take his wife and daughter and follow his rescued children. He retired from the Polish army and in 1950 the family left Poland and settled in the coastal town of Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv. Miriam soon gave birth to a son, Yoel.

Word quickly spread among the graduates of the Zabrze home throughout Israel that Captain Drucker had arrived in Israel. They began to write him letters and call him. He was busy adapting to life in a new country like so many other immigrants. Still, he met his adopted children. They came to him with their problems and their questions. He became a one–man welfare agency for they had nowhere else to turn. Eventually, Drucker found a job with the Jewish Agency, a position he held until his retirement.


A gathering of former residents of the Zabrze orphanage in Israel


The rescued children appreciated his efforts and expressed their thanks
by throwing a surprise birthday party for him in the city of Holon.


Yeshayahu Drucker at a reunion with former Zabrze
Jewish orphans on the 26th of May 1999 in Israel


Reunion of former Zabrze residents with Yeshayahu Drucker
Standing from right to left: Tziporah Domb, Fela Koshok, Hawa Klarsfeld and Shoshana Stein
Sitting from right to left: David Danieli, Yeshayahu Drucker, and his wife Marioska or Miriam
Man standing in the back unknown


Yeshayahu Drucker in a pensive mood in Israel


Later, Drucker was somewhat disappointed to see what happened to these children. The ill prepared new county was not always able to provide the guidance and nurturing the children needed. At that time, the State of Israel was already engaged in the fight for its survival, the War of Independence. Thousands of Jewish refugees were arriving daily. The pressure to absorb new immigrants and deal with their problems took a back seat to the threat to the new Jewish state's existence. The government and institutions were overwhelmed by the great tasks they faced and the children of Zabrze and other foster homes were mostly left to fend for themselves. Despite his own absorption and adaptation problems, Drucker again stepped in and offered his assistance and help to all those who turned to him. Once in Israel he again became fixated on the “hidden children” who he had rescued.

Yeshayahu Drucker died on September 15, 2004. The news spread among the surviving Zabrze graduates in Israel. They flocked to the unveiling of the tombstone from all over Israel to pay their final respects to the man who devoted himself to them.


The unveiling of a tombstone for Yeshayahu Drucker.
Mrs. Drucker and her daughter were present at the ceremony


Yeshayahu Drucker's tombstone in Israel


Michal Hefer, a former resident of Zabrze eulogized Yeshayahu Drucker


Translation of the Hebrew eulogy to English

Translated from Hebrew by William Leibner

Captain Drucker was a noble person endowed with a sensitive soul who immersed himself in the task of saving Jewish children from Christian homes. This endeavor became his raison d'etre. He had all the patience and love for us and we needed heaps of it following the Shoah. He was our family. We saw in him our big brother for we had no one to turn to, yet we all had large families that vanished during the war. Even when we left Poland where we were in terrible danger and arrived in France, we continued to correspond with him. Our letters usually began with “Dear Brother.” Indeed he was a dear man who risked his life for the sake of his “children.”

He frequently went on missions to extract Jewish children from Christian homes knowing well that some of the children no longer wanted to return to the Jewish fold or the adopted parents refused to part with the child. Then Yeshayahu Drucker attempted to negotiate the release of the child. If negotiations failed he then resorted to the courts or even to strong–arm tactics in order to save the child. When Yeshayahu Drucker came with my uncle Yehuda Elberg, a Yiddish writer, to take me away from the village of Pilczica near Kielce shortly after the terrible Kielce pogrom of 1946 aimed at the surviving Jews, we were almost killed in the forest on our way to freedom. But thanks to the quick thinking of Yeshayahu Drucker we were saved.

Yeshayahu Drucker frequently had moral doubts as to his activities, for he realized that some of children had finally found a home where they were accepted. They had lived with the family for a number of years and frequently did not even know that these parents were not their biological parents. Then to come and break up the relationship was very painful. Furthermore, some of the children were older and even more sensitive to being traumatized again. But Yeshayahu was determined to save these children for the Jewish nation. I now understand your motive, Captain Drucker, you did it on behalf of the Jewish nation and sacrificed personal feelings. You were our Janusz Korczak, our standard bearer.

And now you will appear before divine judgment and you will be graciously thanked in all likelihood on behalf of all the children of Zabrze and all the other children who you saved. For the nation of Israel can be compared to that famous legendary bird of the sand that is mentioned in Genesis Raba, 19, where it is written “The bird lived for a thousand years, then it was consumed by fire but the remains provided the necessary elements for the rebirth of the bird.” We are in the same situation, Captain Drucker, you have provided us with the necessary elements to grow again.

Thank you Captain Drucker,
Our condolences to your wife Miriam and to your family.

May the gentle soil of this small country accept you who has sent us to it to resume a new life.

May your memory be blessed forever.

Michal Hefer. Dated 15/10/2004.

Miriam Drucker passed away a year later.

May their memory be blessed forever.


Invitation letter to the former residents of the Zabrze home to come and participate in a reunion that would discuss their past experiences and interactions

The meeting was scheduled to take place on December 17, 2010 at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The program of the day consisted of four parts; light refreshments, group discussion, lunch, group discussion, and a memorial service at the “Memorial Hall” of Yad Vashem. The picture on the invitation is that of the Zabrze home with Dr. Nechema Geller, David Hubel and the children.


Drucker devoted himself to rescuing Jewish children and placing them at the Zabrze home.

Most of them reached Israel where they established families and integrated into society. Yad Vashem decided to honor the man and his deeds by assembling the surviving former children of Zabrze to a reunion at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Invitations were sent and those that were able participated in the event including Drucker's daughter and son. The participants described their experiences during the war and their relationships with Drucker. The entire session was recorded on video. The participants also laid a wreath at the “Memorial Hall” of Yad Vashem and memorial services were held.


Some of the participants at the reunion of Zabrze graduates as they discussed their experiences


Group picture of Zabrze participants at the reunion


Yad Vashem video dedicated to the children of the Zabrze home and to the memory of Yeshayahu Drucker


Nechema Geller must be remembered as the head Mistress of the Zabrze Home, she devoted herself to the children and gave them the necessary forces to continue life. She was an educated woman that that survived the Shoa and devoted herself to the Jewish children. She remained with the institution until it was closed.

David Hubel, master teacher at Zabrze set the tone of the school. An old Zionist, he implanted the ideas of Zionism amongst the youngsters and gave them courage to face the uncertain future. He left Poland with a transport of children to France where he married. He reached Israel and became a teacher.


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