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[Page 249]

The New Czenstochow

by W. Gliksman

A new era of reconstruction began in Czenstochow during the month of January 1945 as it did for all of the remaining Polish Jewry.

The fact that on the day of the liberation, January 16, 1945, 5,200 Jews saved from the four labor camps were in Czenstochow, motivated several people with initiative to immediately create an administrative body that would stand the survivors back on their feet.

Cut off from the outside world by the long, dark war years, without the prospect of quick help from the landmanschaftn [organizations of people from the same town] in America or Eretz-Yisroel, the refugees in Czenstochow rose to their difficult task.

On the ruins of the former homes, on the ground soaked in the blood of those closest to them, morally beaten, the Jews of Czenstochow brought courage and energy to undertake the organization of immediate and rapid aid activity.

Several months passed after the war and an administrative body of the surviving Jews in Poland first was created in the West.

And yet a small group headed by L. Brener took upon itself the sacred duty of doing what life demanded.

The idea that in time landsleit [people from the same town] who had been in the Soviet Union during wartime would return strengthened even more the decision to create a Jewish committee in Czenstochow. In addition to this, there were approximately 100 children, either completely or half orphans, among the 5,200 surviving Jews, who during the time of the war were in the bunkers, with Christians and those who survived through a miracle. An urgent problem also was the approximately 200 young people without protection or support, dozens of invalids and hundreds of sick who came marching in with the Soviet Army. They all were in even more need of practical aid work.

The first news about Czenstochow came to America to the United Czenstochower Relief in New York from the then Polish ambassador in Moscow, [Zygmunt] Modzelewski. We provide the full text of the letter in another part of this book.

 


The Jewish Committee in Czenstochow 1945/46
Standing from right to left: M. Lederman, Brzezinski, Birnholc, L. Baum, L. Jurista, Nirnsztajn
Sitting from right to left: Eiznberg, Czarne, M. Hasenfeld, L. Brener, Y. Goldberg, D. Koniecpoler and Z. Weksztajn

 

Further news came directly from Czenstochow and a

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regular exchange of letters then began between the Czenstochow landsleit in America and our home city.

The Jewish committee in Czenstochow assembled of people from various political directions developed widespread activities with a responsible consciousness but with limited means.

A house was created for the homeless, for invalids, for orphans, a reading room just for the young and a preparatory school. Children and young people received instruction and full nourishment.

And although the number of Jews in Czenstochow decreased for a short time and in May of the same year the number in the Jewish community was counted as 2,000 souls, in July the number reached 6,000 with those returning to Czenstochow from various camps.

New tactics were presented to the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community].

Cooperatives were organized for shoemakers, tailors, cabinetmakers, locksmiths and hairdressers. [This was] in connection with the emergence of certain difficulties, such as receiving [the required] cards certifying one as an artisan. However, with great effort the committee succeeded in overcoming the difficulties.

A small community began to be built, but on a healthy basis. The Jewish population in Czenstochow began to work, trade and arrange its daily life.

It was very difficult to solve the problems of the Jewish children: after many years of being in the camps, in the bunkers, with “Aryan papers” among Christians or in the bunkers,

 


A thank you letter from the children in the Y.L. Peretz School to the Ladies Auxiliary
[Summer 1946]

 

churches, they required a basic, new education. Several showed nervous agitation, a number were afraid to be recognized as Jews and there were even those who showed a relationship of hatred to Jews and Yidishkeit [a Jewish way of life]. There were children who did not understand any Yiddish.

Much energy and work was required to return these children to Jewish society.

The Jewish committee organized the entire intelligentsia, the best pedagogical expertise, and they threw themselves into the work with enthusiasm and heart and soul. The fruits of this undertaking could be seen a short time later. The children began to learn Yiddish, to play, to dance and from time to time gave performances, in time, larger and more beautiful. Torn from their parents and those closest to them, they again became Jewish children who mastered the Yiddish language in speaking and writing.

However, the hostile appearance of the Polish population, individual murders of Jews in Czenstochow and other cities, as well as the pogrom in Krakow led to further emigration of the Czenstochow Jews and, at the end of 1945, the Jewish community in Czenstochow amounted to 3,000 souls. In March the number fell to 1,200 heads. This also removed some of the courage among the leaders of the small Czenstochow kehile. The work of the cooperatives, workshops decreased and commerce by the Jews fell, but with good fortune, only for a short time.

Repatriation began from the Soviet Union. The number of Jews in Czenstochow began to grow and again the handful began to build and strengthen the Jewish community.

The activities of the communal institutions, of the labor workshops again were expanded. The cultural work also was strengthened. In May 1946 the number of souls reached 2,500. The belief in Jewish community grew and provided strength for the work.

However, in July 1946 a new wave of anti-Jewish excesses went through Poland. The blood libel about ritual murder was spread. The horrible pogrom in Kielce took place; the result was a further decrease in the Jewish population of Czenstochow. And, although the mood slowly eased, this led to the partial liquidation of the private residences, businesses and workshops. A new emigration began.

[Page 251]

And yet while the Jewish community in Czenstochow is small, it lives.

It is worth providing a number summary in order to have a picture of the achievements of building a new Jewish Czenstochow.

  1. About 200 children went through the children's home. Their parents were found for many of them who had been torn from them at the time of the war. More than 100 children were brought back to their own homes [through] relatives or guardianships.
  2. Dozens of invalids received prosthetic feet and hands and thus were capable of taking part in some work. Some actually became independent.
  3. Hundreds of the sick were taken care of in the hospital and supported by the Jewish Committee until they became completely well. Now they are under the supervision of TOZ [Society for the Protection of Jewish Health in Poland].
  4. A special house was arranged for the homeless.
  5. Old men, the poor and those who were weak as well as workers received lunches, dry groceries, etc.
  6. A house to care for those with lung diseases was arranged and the majority [of the patients] were healed.
  7. A kindergarten was founded where children from three to seven were educated with the Jewish spirit.
  8. Approximately 70 young people are studying in the supplementary schools.
  9. In addition, those repatriated received a one-time payment of support of 2,000 gildn [as well as] a monthly allocation of dry food products and lunch for 10 days a month.

 


In the technical workshop of the Artisans School at the Jewish Committee

 

A number of enumerated institutions were closed because of the improving condition and because of immigration. Yet several cooperatives still exist today and the aid work for individuals continues in full measure.

We are also active in the area of cultural work in the new Czenstochow. Large memorial evenings were arranged at the anniversaries of the liberation in the month of January in 1946 and 1947.

 


The opening of the Zionist premises Ikhod [Unity] (December 1945)

 


Personnel of Workers Restaurant at the Bund

 

In March 1946 a memorial service took place for the 3rd yahrzeit [anniversary of a death] of the annihilation of the Jewish intelligentsia. A solemn ceremony at the unveiling of a giant matzevah [headstone] at their mass grave took place at the Czenstochow cemetery.

A memorial to Y L. Peretz took place in April 1946, the first after the war. This was a great holiday for Jewish Czenstochow.

[Page 252]

A large event in Czenstochow was the visit of Yakov Pat, as a representative of the Jewish Workers Committee in New York. The hall in the Hotel Polonia, where a lunch took place, was filled to the edges by the entire Jewish population of Czenstochow.

 


The excavation of those who perished at the liquidation of the small ghetto

 


The transfer of victims of the 4th of January 1943 from the small ghetto to the cemetery

 

A beautiful chapter in the history of new Czenstochow is being written by the religious community. It runs a communal kitchen from which 100 lunches are given out daily. It supports a mikvah [ritual bath] with a hygienic bathing facility, a school for children, a yeshiva [religious secondary school], a rabbi, a shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] and, in general, takes care of the religious needs of Jewish Czenstochow. It also provides doctors and medicine for a number of sick people.

In conclusion it is worth remembering that the Jewish Committee provided social help of one million gildn in the first half of 1946. Five million zlotes was for the cost of fencing in and restoring the destroyed Jewish cemetery.

The Jewish community in Czentochow stands together with the [other] Jews in Poland today in the fight for its existence. We believe that on the ruins of the former great Jewish Czenstochow will again sprout a pulsing and vibrant Jewish life in our city.

 


The Jewish religious kitchen

 


The Jewish religious kitchen

 


The Jewish religious community
Sitting from the right: Y. Landau, A. Zander, A. Darfgang, L. Rajcher, N. Edelist, M. Goldberg, the Rabbi E. Wajsler, H. Rajbman, Sh. Granek, D. Koniecpoler and Ch. Sztibel

 

[Page 253]

The Children's House in Czenstochow

by Ida Merczin

It was not long ago that the children's home received a new two-story, light-filled building at Yasnogorske 36 surrounding a garden, hothouses, cages for doves, chicken and rabbits.

Forty children ages from three to 15 are found in the house. The youngest attend the trade school on the premises. The older ones [attend] the gymnazie [secondary school] and folks-shuln [Jewish public schools] in the city.

The children sleep in large, bright bedrooms. They have a large dining room, magnificent bathrooms, a room in which to learn and to play.

The supervisor-children serves the food beautifully and esthetically at the table.

The food is nutritious and tasty.

The children are dressed with charm. The clothing is suitable to their size, to their face. The Czenstochow children's collective is one large family; there is the atmosphere of home. After breakfast they disperse, the young ones to the pre-school, the older ones to school, but they spend the [early] mornings and the evenings together. The older girls find time not only to prepare their lesions in school and to do their own hairdos (all are beautifully combed and stylish), but also to be busy with clothes. They put them on; they wash them. They learn to keep order, clean and the like.

It also is joyful with the boys. The oldest study electrical assembly. They like their trade and constantly make new attempts. They had already made a night-light for their bedroom, now they would make a projector, a stand. I cannot analyze their project, but the comrade is delighted. The older one helps. The young ones look on in awe and with envy at such wonders and when the lamps were lit, the older one smiled with satisfaction and the young ones shouted with ecstasy.

However, now in autumn, the children go to school. The time must be planned. The participation of each child in homework must be limited and calculated and, therefore, the children now have tours of duty. The work is divided. The children exchange their work. Quietly and calmly they hand a tour of duty to one another.

A joyful phenomenon for us educators also is the mood of joy of the children. We have come to a performance. All of the children are busy. They sew; they wash. They prepare decorations. Entire days

 


In the children's club at the Children's House of the Jewish committee

 

are occupied with rehearsals. There is absolutely no time for us guests. They do not look at us at all and therefore we feel the joy that fills the hearts of the children. They sing in the Children's House; they sing a great deal. They sing waiting for soup. They hum when they iron a dress. And the small children!! Another one always runs to the middle of the room and sings along to the dance he is dancing. Some times I recognize a fragment from the performance; some times it is a free improvisation.

The Children's House has the face of our Jewish secular schools. And it is not accidental. The [female] Comrade Brener (the consultant for child protection at the województwo [province] committee) is an old, experienced Jewish teacher who spends all of her free time in the Children's House. The work hours are divided so the greatest amount of her time is at the Children's House.

 


Y. Pat visiting the Children's House, February 1946
Sitting from right to left: M. Lederman, Y. Weksztajn, Y. Pat, L. Brener, S. Edelman [guest from Lodz], Y. Ejzenberg and Ita Brener)

 

Comrade Brener (a teacher), the chairman of the committee, comes to the House often. He knows all of the children; he lives with them through everything that happens in the house.

The program is varied, Jewish issues and work. This is felt in the conversations of the youngest in the bedroom (what kind of work does a cat have and why does she have four feet?) and the conversations of the older ones, 'We strive to be the best students in school.' I was there for two days and except for a girl who was suffering from a tooth-ache, I did not see any idleness or a child longing [for someone]. When they have no work, are not preparing for a class, they read a book.

The program is diverse, Jewish issues with Polish ones, but the leitmotif is identical:

“Let the hands be healthy with calluses; sweat should pour from the forehead.”
The words of the hymn, “Sing a praise and song for the toil and work. Greet from the heart with love and hate,” with which the children left the building of the Czenstochow theater, rang in my ears for a long time. And perhaps not only the words, but actually the comprehension, the deep beliefs of the children, the feeling and enthusiasm of them for the work and to work.

And the collective of Czenstochow Children's House succeeded in redressing another important educational problem – this is the problem of the connection of the [Children's] House to the city.

This was one of our most vexing problems until 1939.

The doctors forbid contact for health reasons. They trembled about influences from the street and the house on the souls of the child. The children in our “orphan houses” before the [Second World] War were withdrawn from life, all of its manifestations.

The Children's House in Czenstochow boldly broke with the old traditions of locking guests out of the house. Every Sunday a small holiday for children from the school and other children from the city takes place. We drink tea and cookies with them. We read the court newspaper. The children do a few numbers from their artistic-amateur activities.

The guests, the school and city children come very eagerly to the entertainments.

(Dos Neye Lebn [The New Life], number 23 from Lodz, 12 Jan. 1945)

 

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