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[Page 183]

G: The Book of Zgierz through
the Eyes of Personalities and the Press

 

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Excerpts from Letters About the Book of Zgierz
(From a letter to Wolfe Fisher, October 1, 1975)

The Book of Zgierz is literally a treasure. I know how much effort and work you have put into the book. You must indeed have great satisfaction. It has a bounty of interesting material. It is very well written and very well constructed.

Malchieli excelled in translating the material that I sent you. He has a wonderful style and a poetic language. It invokes a desire to read more from his pen, especially from his original writings.

Once again: the Book of Zgierz is one of the best Yizkor Books, written and constructed with talent and love. Congratulations are due to you and to all who were the emissaries of the survivors of Zgierz. It is a pleasure that your effort resulted in such an excellent result.

Yours, with closeness

Yehuda Elberg


(A section of a letter to Zeev Fisher, May 22, 1977)

I received the volume of The Book of Zgierz a few days ago. I dedicated yesterday, the Sabbath, to reading the book that portrayed the image of that holy community. Indeed, Zgierz has received the perpetuation due to it.

Even though I left Zgierz when I was a young child, I was connected to our shtetl. A respectable portion of my family lived there until the beginning of the Second World War.

I read the book with great emotion. All those who concerned themselves with the publication of the monumental book on the community of Zgierz should be blessed.

Once again, thank you for the important work that you performed in perpetuation our dear community of Zgierz.

With blessings

Dr. Shmuel Sheps,
Geneva, Switzerland


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(From a letter to W. Fiszer)

Ramat Hasharon, 8 Sivan, 5735. May 18, 1975

To dear Wolfe, my friend and relative, greetings.

Through your great generosity, my library has been enriched with an important acquisition, the Book of Zgierz, which you saw fit to give me as a precious gift.

I hereby thank you for this from the depths of my heart, despite the fact that any form of thanks cannot express the value of this book; which, beyond any doubt, was a gigantic effort that was all yours, whether in its form, its content, or its importance.

I have not yet finished leafing through and reading it, and apparently more time will pass before I finish this holy duty, filled with experiences. This effort requires great focus and concentration, as well as quiet time.

However, while I was reading it, chapter by chapter, page by page, I am astounded and amazed anew how a person such as you could have had such knowledge, such good taste, such patience, such an iron will, such a talent to ascend beyond any sense of self – and especially that wisdom and talent, which all together contributed to the conclusion of this monumental creation.

My dear Zeev, you have done a great thing in perpetuating your hometown of Zgierz, a significant Jewish city. I read and read, and at times stop to think how wonderful it is that such a great deal of the values of culture and morality were concentrated in such a small community. Those are values that are so hard to find in the world we now live in. When I think about this, my heart again laments the terrible destruction and the unforgiveable crimes perpetrated upon us by the people of iniquity.

And certainly, I will not forget to express my appreciation that you knew how to perpetuate in such an honorable fashion the memories an merits of our ancestors, our fathers, mothers, and family members who were lost and are no more, as it says: “Wisdom that has the merit of ancestors is good. It is fortunate that the merit of the ancestors stands and illuminates it.” (Kohelet Rabba, chapter 7).

With gratitude and appreciation,

Aryeh Ben–Menachem


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A Vanished World

by Y. Szmuelewicz

One needs to know that the Jewish community of Zgierz was barely 200 years old. Only about 5,000 Jews lived together in that town until the outbreak of the Second World War. As we read about the long history of Jewish Zgierz in the Yizkor Book, written mainly in Yiddish, but also with some Hebrew, a wonderful Jewish world unfolds before us.

Almost a half of the Yizkor Book presents the History of Zgierz in general as well as its Jewish community, with precise portrayals and appropriate numbers and facts. All the Jewish parties, organizations, and institutions are mentioned, along with their activities. One can see that everything was written and presented in an objective fashion, to the extent that such was possible. From this all, a clear picture emerges how the Jewish community began in Zgierz and grew there approximately 200 years ago.

*

A second important part of the book is the section “The Development of Jewish Zgierz.” 45 articles are published there, which present in a detailed fashion everything that took place in Jewish life in Zgierz – in our modern time, this means until the outbreak of the Second World War, when Hitler's deluge came.

In that section, the exact statistics are supported with appropriately documented facts about all the Jewish political parties and their activities, about the local Jewish culture organizations, sports clubs, choirs, institutions of education, drama clubs, libraries, and the like. For the youth, the Jewish library in Zgierz served as a center of drawing knowledge and hope for a better and finer world.

*

In the third section of the Yizkor Book, entitled, “Personalities and Characters,” there are 65 articles about various

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Jewish personalities and characters who emanated from the town of Zgierz during various periods of time. That interesting section begins with a description of the first rabi of Zgierz, and how he was received there.

*

Photographs and names of the murdered martyrs are printed on 126 pages of the book. Heartwarming Jewish eyes, covered over with fear and tears, peer out toward us. This is all accompanied by moving words, expressing the sorrow of the surviving relatives. “I will remember my near and dear relatives, victims of the Hitlerian murders, until the end of my life. We must never forgive the murderers of our people.” (page 731).

Forward, July 4, 1975.[1]


Translator's Footnote

  1. The Jewish Daily Forward: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forward back


A Monument to the Jews of Zgierz

by A. Tosin

The Book of Zgierz (800 pages), published by the Zgierz Landsmanshaft in Israel, first of all deserves great praise for the scope and comprehensiveness with which the editors (David Shtokfish and Y. A. Malchieli) conducted their work.

Together with the material, which consists of memories told over by the former residents of the town, that book also contains a series of serious historical works regarding the life of the Jews in Zgierz and the history of the town in general – – –

Zgierz – a small town, which was constricted by its proximity to the large manufacturing city of Łódź, took in its own hues. Even though Zgierz lived in the shadow of Łódź, it appreciated its own uniqueness, the specific atmosphere that the Jewish community cherished through the entire time. This was expressed through the large number of different organizations: political, professional, religious, and cultural. Various social organizations were active there, beginning

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with the charitable fund and continuing with the professional groups. Many were involved with helping the poor and the sick.

– – The Jewish population of Zgierz excelled with its intensive societal activity. This plays out in this monumental book, in which the historians will find rich material to understand the vitality of the Jews in Zgierz in all areas of cultural and societal activity.

Nowiny Kurier


The City of Frischmann

by G. Kresel

The Book of Zgierz, an eternal memorial to a Jewish community of Poland. Editors: David Shtockfish and Y. A. Malchieli. Gathering and editing of the material: Zeev Fisher. Tel Aviv, 5735 / 1975. Hebrew and Yiddish. 800 pages.

Zgierz was famous in the Jewish world in general and in Hebrew literature in particular in the merit of David Frischmann. He was born there, and the city served as the background of no small number of his book (Tikkun Leil Shavuot, Kiddush Levana, Hu Niftar, the poem Ophir, and others). The city imbued Frischmann with great appreciation, and he was proud of the city. Even the poet Yaakov Cohen, who was not born there but rather was brought there when he was a one–year–old child, regarded Zgierz as his native city. In his own words: “It seems that I recall nothing of what, in truth, I always note as the city of my birth, that is the town of Zgierz near Łódź – that house and those damp walls in which I first found myself, and through which I first looked and saw the world, with its creativity and depth before me – – – .”

In the new era, Zgierz is considered a suburb of Łódź. However, there were times, and we have no small number of examples of such metamorphoses, when Łódź was listed as a neighborhood in the proximity of Zgierz. Those days are not that long ago – but in the previous century, there was a growth of manufacturing in Zgierz, and Łódź, “the Manchester of Poland” followed in its wake. When Łódź was still a village, Zgierz was in the midst of its development in the textile manufacturing sector. Jews began to arrive in Zgierz at the beginning of the previous century, and they slowly became the principals, as they later were in Łódź, in the establishment of modern manufacturing enterprises in Poland. At first, they were in a specific area, known as the Rewir.

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The history of the Jews of Zgierz is a story of the struggle to expand the bounds of the Rewir, until the Jews were permitted to break through their bounds of settlement in the 1860s. The reason for the permission was that they saw the Jews as a primary factor in the development of the city, and therefore, the anti–Semitism was tempered somewhat.

It is interesting and even amazing to see in our book how our Jewish brethren established manufacturing, despite all the restrictions and decrees imposed upon them. This manufacturing eventually spread to Łódź. Thus, the manufacturing in Łódź was built upon the gradual waning of the manufacturing center in Zgierz. The Jews introduced improvements and optimizations in manufacturing, as a result of which the name of Łódź as a manufacturing center spread throughout the world. It is interesting that the Jewish population grew there specifically during the time of the restriction of the areas in which Jews were allowed to live. The heads of Jewish manufacturing, who were seemingly also the heads of the community, are presented in the book. Thus, Jewish life was forged in Zgierz, as in all other Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, and it contributed to the totality of our treasures and culture, whether in the realm of literature or of art (i.e. the well–known Marek Szwarc).

Before us is a Jewish world, meaning: a way of life in all its colors, starting with the rabbinate and leading to modern enlightenment, and also factions in the new times; starting from the extreme Orthodox and leading to the Communists, “as was the customary situation” in all Jewish cities and towns in Eastern Europe. A unique phenomenon stood out here, and later in Łódź: the Germans who were active in the realm of manufacturing, i.e. the Volksdeutschen, who filled such a terrible role during the era of the Holocaust. This phenomenon is explained in the “German” background of Frischmann, who was the only one and unique among the writers in those days. Isucher Moshe Szwarc is presented as a scarlet thread passing almost through the entire book. He was a Hebrew writer and communal activist; whose name became famous even far from his native city. He would sign his name in Hebrew as Y. M. Shachor. There is barely a page in our book in which he is not mentioned. He was involved in Hebrew, Zionist, and general Jewish communal work. He was like a sort of “institution” in Poland. He also tells about Frischmann, his childhood friend, during his early days. Frischmann also expressed great love for him throughout all his days. He also merited having continuity: his son Shmuel Szwarc was a researcher who was involved in the era of the Marranos. His other son, Marek Szwarc, became known in the world of art and sculpting. Yaakov Binyamin Katznelson set up the first modern school in Zgierz. This school contributed a great deal to the forging of the Hebrew and Zionist culture here and in adjacent Łódź. The well–known phenomenon, that the people of Galicia disseminated Hebrew culture throughout all of Poland, was found here as well in the name of Avraham Yaakov Weisenfeld. He arrived in Łódź from his native Kraków at the time of his wedding, and his home immediately became a meeting place for writers and scholars.

The editors of the book did well in including chapters of memoirs of Yaakov Cohen, from which one can learn not only about the atmosphere in which he was raised and forged in Zgierz, but also about the Jewish way of life in an Eastern European town. There, we find details of his mother's family, Wandrowski and his uncle the Jewish writer Zalman Wendroff[1], who recently died in Soviet Russia at an old age.

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Here I will add in a closed, hidden and secret statement that Cohen tried to not become famous during his lifetime, and the writer of these lines only publicized him in public after his death (in my lexicon, section II, p. 118). Anyone who examines “The New Preacher” from the beginning of our century will find particularly sharp articles of criticism (including of the first anthology of the poems of Tshernikhovsky) signed “Akiva Wendroff.” I wondered about this signature for days and years until I found out about the request for it not to be published in public (Cohen especially regretted his destructive criticism of Tshernikhovsky). From Yaakov Cohen, the book moves to Yitzchak Katznelson, who also includes the essence of Zgierz in his poems. It is appropriate to read and review the wonderful chapter by the splendid Jewish writer A. Litwin on the rabbi of Zgierz from his book Neshamot Yisrael).

Zgierz has a non–insignificant share of the aliya to the Land of Israel, and the article by Yehoshua Manoach about the Zgierz native Menachem Berliner, who made aliya during the period of the Second Aliya, is one of the most emotional and pleasant descriptions in the book. The book ends with chapters of the Holocaust, frightful testimonies to the destruction of a fundamental Jewish community, and the role that the German residents played in that murder, for they knew very well all the comings and goings of the Jewish homes.

It is necessary to note the significant role of Wolfe Fisher, who wrote many of the chapters of this memorial book, either with his own signature or with his many pseudonyms. He is an example of someone who is “crazy for a single matter,” for if the book appears before us, it is primarily due to his diligence and efforts.

Al Hamishmar, January 2, 1976


Translator's Footnote

  1. https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Vendrof_Zalmen back


The Book of Zgierz

It is a comprehensive book in Hebrew and Yiddish, perpetuating the community of Zgierz, with a population of 5,000 individuals, destroyed by the Nazis and their assistants during the Holocaust years of the Second World War. The book was edited by David Shtokfish. It describes the origins of this small community in Poland, its phases of development, its struggles with the local authorities, and the conditions of the surrounding area. It is a mosaic of communal life, accompanied by many photographs of personalities and events, perpetuating the realities and people of the community who are no longer in existence. The book is divided into six sections: History of the City, the Development of Jewish Zgierz, Personalities and Characters, the Holocaust, Eternal Lights, and the Survivors. (Book of Zgierz, published by the Organization of Zgierz Natives in Israel. Tel Aviv, 5735 / 1975. 800 pages).

Maariv (?) June 6, 1975.


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Among Yizkor Books

by M. Czanin

The number of Yizkor books that have been created to this point to perpetuate the destroyed cities and towns already form a significantly large library. A library? No, the create a completely separate world, with their own climate. Every books that is published is another city, another town, which seems just yesterday to have lived, hoped, and dreamed, and today fits between the two covers of a book. So it is when I open the Book of Zgierz.

 

The Book of Zgierz

We come across a Jewish toiling city that, for 150 years, struggled for is existence, struggled with its own needs and with the often inimical surrounding environment. There in Zgierz, as in all cities of Poland, Jews had to fight not only for their economic existence, but also for their actual lives in the place, and for the rights to have a roof over their own heads. It was almost like a suburb of Łódź – Jews had a problem not only with the Polish majority, but also with the Germans, who were always given privileged rights by the authorities in contrast with the Jews – even though the Jews aspired to live in Poland and received legal recognition, and the Germans always had Political aims against Poland.

The two chapters of the book, “The History of Jews in Zgierz until 1862” written by the late A. Wolfe Yasni, and “View into Zgierz and the Life of its Jews from the Community Annals of the Years 1915–1930” by Y. A. Malchieli give a comprehensive view of the Jewish community that was bound together by toil, Torah, and idealism. Our own enemies considered the Jews in the destroyed communities as “thorny Jews,” “loafers,” and “parasites,” “unwilling to live from work,” and other disgusting lies.

As you read the Yizkor Book of Zgierz, you will see from the dry writings the type of wonderful toil, work ethic, and productivity upon which Jews

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based their lives, even on uncertain terrain. Even the relatively small population in Zgierz of only 6–7 thousand people built Jewish institutions, struggled for ideals, and thought about the Land of Israel and about the entire world. The entire spectrum of ideologies of the Jews existed there. Through this, it fed the Jewish world, giving forth rabbis, leaders, activists, artists, and writers.

The Book of Zgierz was edited by David Shtokfish and vice–editor Y. A. Malchieli. One can feel very strongly in the book the untiring work of Wolfe Fisher, who collected, edited, and himself wrote worthwhile articles about his hometown of Zgierz, about the creation and destruction of that vital Jewish community.

Latzte Neies, October 15, 1776


The Book of Zgierz

by Sh. Worzoger

… Zeev Wolfe Fisher accurately states in the foreword – in the name of the “Committee for the Book of Zgierz”: “We have attempted to present for the future generation the beginning and growth of the Zgierz community, and its development under the specific circumstances of the area.”

The picture of Jewish life in Zgierz is truly comprehensive, and spreads a wide tapestry of the struggle for rights of residence, of a compact, organized life, communal activity, struggle for broadening the Jewish area of residence and area of building; and, incidentally, the stubborn opposition to the decree on clothing. We acquaint ourselves with reports on wide–branched cultural activity: a library named for David Frischmann who incidentally was a Zgierz native, as was the martyred artist Yitzchak Katznelson; the publishing of the Łódźer Tagblatt, as well as the literary evenings and artistic discussions, the activities of a drama club, a choir, the orphanage and children's home, elementary school, Agudat Hatzeirim [Young People's Organization], Young Zion, Hashomer Hatzir, and Beis Yaakov; sports groups and scouting organizations; a rich, impulsive Jewish life in all arenas. This was indeed characteristic for almost all Jewish towns in Poland – until the Second World War.

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… Read, and how many times will you be amazed by the heroism and dedication of the weak, tormented victims in the passive struggle against the totalitarian, dark forces. This was more than heroism during those inhuman, brutal events. This was faith, a belief that only the Jewish people was blessed and imbued with.

Points of light in the darkness were such testimonies such as “The Way of Martyrdom of a Jew from Zgierz,” “Jumping from the Death Wagon” by Mordechai Grand, “The Miracle with a Child,” and others.

Long, long, will you follow such personalities as Rabbi Tzvi HaKohen, Reb Yechiel Ichel Elberg, Reb Simcha Yehuda Leib HaKohen, Pinchas Zelig Gliksman, Reb Avraham Hersch Gliksman, and the lions of the group of maskilim – Reb Avraham Yaakov Weisenfeld, Reb Isucher Moshe Szwarc, the artist Yaakov Kohen, the writer Pinchas Bizberg, and the journalist A. Cincinatus. And how can one evaluate a city with Jews? No, it is not true that we can already understand what took place. First now, when we read the Yizkor Book of Zgierz, it will at first be incomprehensible, and the mystery of a human being and his deeds will grow greater.

Yisrael–Shtime: November 19, 1975


The Book of Zgierz

by Chaim Leib Fuchs

The Zgierz Yizkor Book, published by the Zgierz Jews in the State of Israel in 1975, is a book with its own spirit and content. On the one hand, it is full of longing and sorrow for the destroyed holy community; and on the other hand, it tells about the great creativity in all areas of Jewish life of that community. Through the course of its 200 years, it wrote heroic folios in the history book of Jewish life of Poland.

In the successful work of the historian A. W. Yasni of blessed memory about the history of the Zgierz Jewish community, he takes us into the first Jewish houses that arose in Zgierz through great sacrifice. We see the bitter struggle for the Jewish toilers, who , despite their difficult toil, also

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concerned themselves with the spiritual life of their community. The first residents pass before our eyes, who, even though they were struggling for simple livelihood, also had to dedicate great effort to repel the actions of their eternal enemies, the Poles; and furthermore – from the freshly arrived Volksdeutschen, who caused great trouble for the Jews of Zgierz.

The article by the engineer Shmuel Szwarc of blessed memory was very successful in giving a picture of the Szwarc family. Yaakov Pilowski's article about Pinchas Bizberg suffers from a dearth of detail about Bizberg's life in the State of Israel. There is also no information about his early death. It is a shame. There is important work about the following families: Hillel Zeidman about the Yehuda Leib Sczaransky; Rabbi Huberbrand about the destruction of Zgierz, and Malchieli's exploration (also the translation by Yehuda Elberg) about the rabbis Yechiel Ichel and Avraham Natan Elbeg, who disseminated Torah in Zgierz. In the work about the textile pioneers of Zgierz by Leon Rubenstein, important material is lacking, which can easily be found in Lazar Kahan's book “The Jewish Builders of the Textile Industry in Poland.” It was strange to me that my uncle, Ozer Kohn, was first mentioned in the chapter about the first charitable fund in 1900. We know about his correspondence from Zgierz in Hamagid, Hamelitz, Hatzefira, and also about his activity among the maskilim, for example: about his friendship with Reb Wolfe Halterecht of blessed memory.

The section on the Holocaust presents a broad picture of the struggle and pain, causing the soul to tremble. I refer to the poem by Y. A. Malchieli, Wolf Fisher's writings, and F. Greenberg's memoirs. The entire chapter of Eternal Lights does not allow us to forget the martyrs.

In general, the Book of Zgierz is an important contribution to the Jewish struggle for existence and the eternal memory of Jewish Zgierz. A great thank you is owed to my friends Wolfe Fisher and Fabian Greenberg (I knew his cordial mother very well) who, through great efforts, ensured that Jewish Zgierz will never be forgotten – both the earthly Zgierz and the Zgierz of above.

Yiddisher Kemfer, December 5, 1975


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The Yizkor Book “Book of Zgierz”

by Fabian Greenberg

The Zgierz Jews who survived Hitler's murderous hand have not forgotten their city: they heard the voice of the 5,000 murdered Jews: “Do not forget us!”

The instrument through which the idea of erecting a monument to the Zgierz community was actualized is the Book of Zgierz, the Yizkor book that has now been published in Hebrew and Yiddish in the State of Israel, published by the Organization of Zgierz Natives with the help of the committee in New York, edited by David Shtokfish.

Zgierz is mentioned as a duchy already in the year 1231. The Yizkor Book presents many historical details that explain to us that it was not easy for the Jews to settle in Zgierz. About 250 years ago, there were only five or six Jewish families in the city, and this was too many for the Polish regime of the time. The Catholic church also had a hand in restricting the settlement of Jews in Zgierz. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, the situation of the very small community changed for the better. German weavers from Silesia arrived in Zgierz. They proposed to build textile factories in the city if they would be given free places to build and if they would be freed from paying taxes for a period of ten years. Their project was rejected by the Zgierz civic leaders of the time. However, the at the time small neighboring town of Łódź seized the moment and accepted the proposal. Seeing how the textile industry developed in Łódź with a great impact thanks to the Jews, the Zgierz municipal leaders permitted more Jews to settle in the city, especially those who knew how to help develop the textile industry.

Thus did the Jewish settlement slowly grow. The Jewish entrepreneurial spirit did wonders. Between the two world wars, 70% of the Zgierz textile factories were in Jewish hands, and they employed thousands of Christian workers, but few Jews. The rabbi of Zgierz convened

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a meeting of all the Jewish manufacturers, and decreed that every industrialist must employ at least 10% Jews. The manufacturers unanimously rejected the proposal of the Zgierz rabbi. This was a rare case where a rabbi took such strong interest in the economic situation of the workers in his community.

One can find articles in the Yizkor Book about a series of personalities who lived and worked in Zgierz, such as Isucher Szwarc, the father of the engineer Shmuel Szwarc the famous researcher on the Marranos of Portugal, and of Marek Szwarc, the well–known painter and sculptor in Paris. Isucher Szwarc himself wrote in various Hebrew periodicals under the pseudonym “Yam Shachor.” Moshel Eiger is also mentioned, the partner in the well–known large textile firm “Sirkis and Eiger.” His wealth did not stop him from writing poems in Hebrew and Yiddish, which were published in several books.

The Maskilim Isucher Szwarc and Tovia Lypszyc are also mentioned for their initiative in inviting the writer and pedagogue Yaakov Binyamin Katznelson to Zgierz to open a modern cheder, one of the most modern cheders in Poland. This made it possible for the enlightened fathers to give their children a modern education.

The great poet Yaakov Cohen, who spent his youth in Zgierz, grew up among those children. In the Yizkor Book, there are extracts of Yaakov Cohen's memoirs, in which he describes with great love and warmth the people with whom he came in contact in Zgierz. He described the city and even the surrounding forests. His younger friend was the son of the teacher Yaakov Binyamin Katznelson, Yitzchak Katznelson, the fine, sensitive, gifted poet, the lamenter over the destruction that cut him off at a young age[1]. Yitzchak Katznelson was influenced by his talented friend Yaakov Cohen. He wrote his first song in Zgierz, about children and a bird. Jewish children sung that song for many years in the German kindergartens.

Another renown personality was connected with Zgierz. That was the great writer, feuilletonist, and biting critic who strongly fought against every piece of trash that he found in Hebrew or Yiddish literature, David Frischmann. He was born in Zgierz in 1859. When

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the Jewish library of Zgierz was founded, the institution was named for the great native of the city.

In the chapter about personalities, we find interesting articles about the rabbis who led the Jewish community until the tragic end. There are also interesting details in the Yizkor Book about the rabbinical family of the renowned writer Yehuda Elberg, about his grandfather and father.

It is superfluous to state that all the Jewish parties in Poland, large and small, had their corner in Zgierz. The Yizkor Book describes all of them. Even those who brought no glory to the Jewish community of Zgierz, the two fine youngsters Yomele and Itshele, are written about in the Yizkor Book. They were simple thieves and blackmailers. Their victims were for the most part the Jewish maids. The poor girls had to pay protection money, and if not, the two wanton youths would beat them or threaten them with rape. Yomele and Itshele spent more time in prison than in freedom.

The other curious types in Zgierz are also described: Yoshke the “culture–carrier,” the newspaper seller; Machla the Heaven Gazer and Chava–Ita, the two who concerned themselves with the poor people of Zgierz; and the porter Belas and his sister with their bizarre appearance; as well as many others.

The mood of the reader changes, however, when he comes to the chapter on the Holocaust. The memories of the Holocaust survivors about how the Poles and Germans of Zgierz assisted the Nazi murderers to confiscate Jewish belongings, torture and beat, and finally drive the Jews out of Zgierz, will shock the reader. The hearts of the survivors will be pained when they read about how their families were murdered – men, women and children. Hundreds of names and pictures are found in the book of the murdered people, the families of whom wished to memorialize them in the Zgierz Yizkor Book.

The 800–page book was splendidly produced. It is the product of more than two decades of hard work.

In the introduction it says: “We owe thanks to all those who lent a hand to the production of this book – the committee members in Tel Aviv and New York. The highest gratitude goes to the initiator and actualizer, Wolfe Fisher. Without him, the book of Zgierz would never have seen the light of day.” It is difficult to

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note all of those who participated in Tel Aviv, for the committee changed over the years. In New York, the following people were very dedicated to the work: Leon Rubinstein, David Wechsler, P. Green, and the late Moshe Yaakov Grand.

The Yizkor Book “Book of Zgierz” is an important contribution to our Holocaust literature.

Freie Arbeiter Shtime, March 1976


Translator's Footnote

  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itzhak_Katzenelson back


Belated Memory Books

by Nathan Ek

In recent times, new Yizkor Books have only rarely appeared. There are those that have been published late – mainly not due to a lack of interest or laziness, but certainly due to special difficulties. The Book of Zgierz (Zgierz near Łódź) was first published in 1975[1]. The editors relate that when the group of Zgierz Jews who survived gathered together in Łódź after the war, they quickly organized a landsmanshaft and made a decision (in 1947!) to “publish a book that will perpetuate the memory of the destroyed Jewish community” (see page 773). They then publicized an “appeal to all Zgierz natives” in which they clarified the character and content that the book (they called it a “Pinkas” at that time) should have. They also called on the Zgierz natives to help carry this out. What then was the reason for the delay? We read the following there: in the year 1948 “the evil winds of the Stalinist regime began to blow in Poland.” All societal activities were controlled. Searches were conducted in the homes, and documents, letters and protocols

[Page 200]

that had a connection to societal activity were confiscated. In the interim, the Zgierz survivors began to prepare for aliya to the Israel. However, even though they were very busy, the Yizkor Book was not forgotten.

“Over 200 typewritten pages about the history of the Jewish settlement in Zgierz,” so the editors relate, “were taken with us to Israel as ground material for the Yizkor Book.” We hoped that it would not be too long before it was published. However, various obstacles and difficulties arose. The editor Shtokfish describes in the introduction that the main thing was “no organized financial help from overseas arrived.” Here we must note that to this day, it was seldom possible to publish Yizkor Books without crucial financial support from the landsleit groups in the United States, Canada, or other overseas countries. Some Yizkor Books were even financed in their entirety, prepared, and published overseas. Apparently, the Committee for the Book of Zgierz in Israel also waited for help from a group of fellow natives in America. The introduction mentions that the Zgierz native in America, Fabian Greenberg, along with other American Zgierzers such as Leon Rubinstein and David Wechsler, “laid a hand” upon the committee members in America. The result of all the efforts was the impressive volume of about 800 pages with a wealth of literary and documentary material, as well as illustrations – in Hebrew and Yiddish.

*

Zgierz is one of the industrial towns that surround the large industrial center of Łódź. In 1939, prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, approximately 5,000 Jewish souls lived there. Despite the fact that an electric tramway lead to neighboring Łódź, and one could travel back and forth several times a day, the small community of Zgierz was not negligible in comparison to the large community of Łódź with its quarter of a million Jews. Rather, it had its own, strongly pulsating life in all areas. With love and longing, the Zgierz natives tell about the role of the local Jews in business and industry in their home city, about their social and cultural activities,

[Page 201]

their institutions, sports organizations, parties and youth organizations, from the right and the left – no lack of unity was felt there.

The largest portion of the book, almost 300 pages, is occupied by the section entitled “Personalities and Characters.” There, we find descriptions, articles and portraits, starting with all kinds of well–pedigreed rabbis, writers, communal activists, wealthy people – and leading to the portrait of “Yaakov Aharon the water carrier.” Some of the descriptions and articles were transcribed from earlier published books and periodicals (for example, fragments of the memoirs of the poet Yaakov Cohen regarding Zgierz, published in 1953). The largest portion, however, were written specifically for the Yizkor Book. Among the personalities that are mentioned there with a unique spirit are three renowned writer–poets who came from Zgierz: Yaakov Cohen, David Frischmann, and Yitzchak Katznelson, whose father (Y. B. Katznelson, a maskil and Hebrew writer) led a modern cheder there.

Zukunft, April 1976.


Translator's Footnote

  1. 4. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: “The Book of Zgierz, in Memory of a Jewish Community in Poland.” Editors: David Shtokfish and Y. A. Malchieli; Material was collected and organized by Zeev Fisher. Published by the Organization of Zgierz Natives in Israel, 1975. back


[Page 202]

Afterword

by Z. Fisher

In this book, we have a continuation of the large memorial book that was published ten years ago. Our aspiration to continue memorializing our town, which still lives within us, is still in our flesh and bones. We know that it is appropriate and worthwhile to erect a more complete and richer monument.

Jewish Zgierz was a city like all cities and towns of Poland. Nevertheless, there was something unique about it with respect to other holy communities. When I search my thoughts for the most characteristic trait of Zgierz Jewry, I am struck with the unique intensity that typified its residents. All colors of the rainbow were represented in Zgierz, from the extreme Hassidim to the Communists, from scholars who knew all of the Talmud by heart to the ignoramuses who could barely read the Siddur and the prayers; from renowned writers and poets to porters and wagon drivers – a Jewish settlement so deep with activity and individual deeds that stood out in all arenas of human endeavor, in economy and organization, in spiritual creativity and communal leadership, in science and art. They left their mark in all areas.

It was a young community in comparison with other communities, but it exemplified all the sides of Jewish fate in the latter generations: all the forms of existence and senses of spirit and ideology found expression in the community of Zgierz: the struggle of the old with the new, of tradition with revolution, the suffering of disbandment and birth pangs of world were painfully felt therein. The Holocaust destroyed it completely as it wiped hundreds of other Jewish communities of the map.

Much more will be told about our city, presenting a full world of Jewish life, cultural activity, religious realities and customs, the blend of practical life with great spiritual content. We hope in our hearts that people will yet come to draw close to the generations of the ancestors and add to the wide–branched Jewish life of our city, on the uniqueness and collectivity of the Jews of Zgierz.

At the end, I regard it as a pleasant duty to thank all members of the book committee who stood with me in bringing this book to print, each within their abilities.

With esteem and appreciation, I note the dedicated work of Mrs. Chaya Halperin, for her daily activities of preparing and publishing the book with deep connection to the sublime task. She spared no effort, and she helped with everything that was needed to memorialize the martyrs of Zgierz.

Here is the place to express gratitude to the editor of the book, Mr. Shimon Kanc, who dedicated his talent to the editing of the material, and also donated a great deal from the fruits of his own pen.

[Page 203]

{Same as 202, but in Yiddish rather than Hebrew}

[Page 204]

{Photo page 204: Members of the book committee: Yeshayahu Frogel, Shimon Kanc, Zeev Fisher, Mrs. Chaya Halperin, Rafael Katz, and Pinchas Sirkis.}

 

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