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[Page 240]

My town, Dąbrowa Górnicza

by Jakob Rudoler

Translated by Amy Samin

The natural order of life is to move, to work and to live, but the thought that the Jews of my city, her children, youth, women, men and old people were all exterminated by a murderous hand accompanies me like a nightmare, with each and every step. In hours of seclusion and isolation it seems to me that the figures of the slain, the drowned and the burned, demand and plead that we not forget them, and that we erect tombstones and give them a Jewish burial. They demand that we immortalize them in writing so that all the generations will know that their lives were destroyed through no fault of their own.

Fifty years ago, Dąbrowa Górnicza was a small town, without many Jews. The community organization only ensured that the necessary religious items were in supply. Life was colorless and the Jew devoted himself to making a living. The family was the only social unit. This did not bother our parents. The tradition demanded that one believed in God, and prayed to him in sorrow and in happiness. Children followed in their parents' footsteps, accepted their attributes, and religious approval was supreme over all. Tradition and the community leaders were so firmly established that no one could have believed that one day things would change. Children were sent to cheder, learned for a few years, absorbed Torah values and then they immediately joined the family in bearing the burden of earning a living. Occasionally the peace and quiet would be disturbed, there would be pogroms and massacres, and Jews were uprooted from their homes and businesses.

Those waves of violence reminded the Jews that they were not floating on peaceful waters. Thoughts of changes taking place in their lives began to penetrate their consciousness, and a sense of national pride began to take shape. Teenagers began coming to the realization that the homes of their parents weren't able to provide them with all they needed, that they must broaden their horizons and change their way of life.

Even now I don't understand how this change came about. Like every other Jewish child I studied in a cheder, together with my brother Aron of blessed memory. I was taught by dear Jewish teachers who had extensive knowledge in Torah and who saw the passing on of Torah knowledge to Jewish children as a mitzvah ordained by God. They worked hard, those dear Jews: Rabbi Menasze and Rabbi Szymon of blessed memory, Jews who made do with very little, just enough to survive on, and who worked to inculcate and to instill in us the customs and the tradition that kindled the purifying furnace of generations.

My first cheder was on Dambanik, in the house of the Szpigelman family. My brother Aron and I studied there every day. Sometimes we went happily, other times unwillingly. The cheder gradually stopped influencing me, because there were changes going on around me.

In 1916, while I was a student in the cheder, I listened to the conversations of the adults: it was during the two years when the world war was going on, nations were fighting and in the fields of death men were falling. That war brought about a change of the systems; the old world would fall and a new world would arise, freer and without our being controlled by one ruler and republics would be elected by the people. Even in the Jewish community there was change, the San Remo Agreement was signed promising a national home in Eretz Yisrael. When I heard all of these things, as I sat within the confines of my narrow cheder, I felt as though it shrank even further. I saw that it was no more than a girls' school, and that my dear teachers who only yesterday had been so beloved had frozen on their watch and did not prepare us for life in the real world. They continued to analyze the Chumash as if life was carried out on calm waters and nothing at all had changed in the world. As I left the cheder with my Chumash in my hands, I saw Christian children around me playing and running around. The tremendous difference between Jewish child and Christian was very strange to me; I couldn't understand why the lives of Jewish and Christian youth were so different. I was jealous of them; I wanted the Jewish youth to be as free as they were. My enthusiasm for the cheder and the manner of education was dampened, and I could no longer immerse myself in the wonderful Jewish past. I searched for the Jewish future, and when I grew up I left the cheder.

The Yavne Hebrew Gymnasia

World War I shook up a lot of conceptions that were once thought to be absolute, ideas about society, economics, medicine, the relationships between a man and his friends, and others. The 1920s were on the horizon, with the hope that promised for man.

The Jewish city of Będzin was one of the largest in Poland, along with Łódź, Warsaw and Bialystok where, we understood, it was possible for Jewish youth to receive a modern general education, so that when he grew up he could assimilate into modern society. In spite of that, there was a punctilious determination not to abandon Jewish tradition, the Hebrew language was taught and the ability to speak Polish fluently was required.

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dab241.jpg [35 KB] - Reb Eliezer Rechnic
Reb Eliezer Rechnic z”l
One of the first settlers in the city and a representative in the city council.
His son Naftali and wife, may they live long

Jewish Będzin, which founded the Jewish gymnasia, immediately encountered opposition from the religious population, which was of the opinion that a modern education exposed the Jewish youth to an evil culture. There began to be whisperings and a boycott in the Houses of Study, and more than one father called for the rabbi of the city to censure this heresy. My mother of blessed memory was religious but also forward-thinking in her views. Based on her knowledge of this gymnasia, she immediately decided to send me to study there, in spite of the incitement which arose against her. My father of blessed memory was against her decision, more because of the thought “what would they say in the House of Study,” and he came to realize that there was no point to his opposition.

From the first day, when I crossed the threshold of the gymnasia, my eyes sparkling, everything was new: spacious auditoriums, lots of windows. Each student has his own bench facing a small stage where the teacher stood, with a blackboard on the wall. The dramatic differences between the cheder of yesterday and the school of today awoke my interest. Even the journey every day from Dąbrowa, which was part of Austria, to Będzin, which was part of Germany, had something magical about it. I was captivated by the green hat with the blue and white stripes which I wore proudly and with upright carriage. My Jewish surroundings still did not come to terms with this. I remember one episode: one Sabbath day I went to the synagogue with my brother Aron of blessed memory. On my head was the green hat. When I arrived, people looked at me and at my father with an expression of pity, as if to say, “Look, Reb Chanina, what you have done to your son.” I responded with an air of indifference and unconcern, and everyone understood that it was a fait accompli and could not be changed. My attendance at the Yavne School and my appearance in the green hat made quite an impression at the time on my friend Mosze Siwek. He longed to attend the school as well, but owing to pressure from his father, who saw the school as heresy and a desecration of God, he was prevented from doing so.

The House of Study of Efraim Siwek of blessed memory was a modest one, but always crowded with worshippers from among the residents of Dambanik. I prayed there for many years. I remember a gallery of Jews at their prayers: the innocent whispering to God in heaven to provide an honorable living, to help in marrying off daughters when they come of age. In the women's section, if the walls could speak they would surely tell of the explosion of prayers which each one whispered to God. During the Days of Awe the House of Study wore a special air of sanctity, glory and fear: long wax candles dripping in the heat as if they were also taking part in the prayers, the white kittels (robes) worn by the worshippers and the house slippers on their feet, added to the sense of fear and mystery of the Day of Judgment.

Of those who came to that House of Study, I remember the Szpigelmans, the Zygrajchs, Prentka, Lajzer Rechnic, Cymbalista – all of them of blessed memory.

And so from year to year I grew up, moving from one grade to the next, absorbing Torah and religion. My good friends at school were: Szymek Gutman, Sliwka, Miodownik and others.

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From a very early age I sensed unrest and rebellion against the conservatism that prevailed in the Jewish environment. I sensed that change must take place, and my teachers in the Yavne gymnasia helped me with this. The school opened my eyes to the good and the beautiful in life. I met young people with idealistic aspirations. I listened to their conversations about the problems young people experienced growing up, and about the problems of the world. I argued, and I delved deeper; I wanted to understand the essence of the problems. I read a lot and my horizons were broadened. I became convinced that seclusion within the Jewish community was detrimental to us: there was a need to be active and to activate others. In Dąbrowa there already existed some influential social and political streams, but a suitable youth movement was missing there. The scouting movement existed in the Christian community, but it was firmly closed to Jewish youth. We longed for the structure of a movement of our own.

The Hashomer Hazair Movement

With the end of World War I a nationalist spirit began to permeate the Jewish community. The first expression of that was the establishment of the Hashomer Hazair movement.

Dąbrowa Górnicza did not lag behind in this awakening. The Hashomer Hazair movement was established and at its head were Emil Grynbaum and Jakob Frochtcwajg, who were the most active in the movement. The movement became popular, and within a short period of time had drawn to it the best youth in our city. It was mainly a scouting movement, and every Jewish youth who longed to belong to it either because of its scouting character or the special uniform, or because of its secret ideals, which were hidden within Jewish youth, to one day become guards in the fields of Eretz Yisrael. The leaders of the movement were Lipnek Szpigelman, Emil Grynbaum, Jakob Frochtcwajg, Bialystok, Rechnic, and Pinchas Szwarcbaum. The first large gathering of the Hashomer movement in our city was held in 1920 in Siewierska Street, in the lumber warehouse belonging to the Bugajer family. It was an unforgettable sight as the groups of youth with their flags were concentrated all together in one place.

With the occasional changes and the beginning of settlement in Eretz Yisrael, there began to be unrest within the movement of Hashomer, which up until then had been only a scouting movement, to make it more a movement with an ideology, so that it could become a force for direction and influence. After stormy arguments, it became a youth movement with a cohesive political leaning: Hashomer Hazair. The movement appeared at Zionist congresses and in Zionist organizations.

dab242.jpg [45 KB] - The first sports club in the city with its supporters
The first sports club in the city with its supporters

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In Dąbrowa Górnicza we were represented on all of the Zionist committees, in Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, in Keren Hayesod, in Tarbut and others. The new generation that joined the movement included: Lajbl-Frenkel, Sztorchajn, Dawid Kożuch, Neta Nusbaum, Pinchas Lustiger, Kalman Szwajciercyk, Szymon Gutman and myself. We were the architects and the influential ones in the Hashomer Hazair movement in our city. I had many conversations and exchanges of ideas with Szymek Gutman of blessed memory, not only about politics but also about the educational tactics which we needed to implement. Szymek was of the opinion that as far as the young person was concerned, the sexual problem was the deciding factor which determined his character and his future, and if we wanted to educate the entire person and mold his will, we needed to provide him with a sexual education as well so that he could understand the biological problems of his body, something which would prevent him from deviant behavior in the future. I believed that in addition to the sexual problem there were other social problems about which young people needed to be educated beforehand: discipline, modesty and simplicity in appearance, and so on. Szymek Gutman was intelligent in its fullest meaning, but he was also a dreamer who did not have his feet firmly planted on the ground, and that was his weakness.

During my time, the best Jewish youth of our town were concentrated in the Dąbrowa chapter, but the arguments divided the chapter into two opposing camps and interfered with its development. Gradually the groups with the good members dispersed and in the end one group was left, with Pinchas Lustiger at its head, and they continued the tradition of the chapter.


In 1924 – 1925 Jewish sport flourished in Poland, soccer in particular. It's possible to call those years the “period of HaKoach of Vienna,” for that city had a tremendous influence on the Jews of Poland, giving them a source of great pride, encouragement, and upright bearing. During those years a sports association was established in Dąbrowa which was comprised of youth from all levels of society. It was an apolitical sports association, whose organizers were: Jicchak Borensztajn, Ados Mitelman, Lolek Szternik and I. From a small sports association it developed, adding members and fans, and it because the pride of the Jews of our city. In the beginning, we exercised in the marketplace; in time we were joined by Erlich, Zając, Goldblum, Fasko, Szajer and Rozencwajg. We decided to emphasize soccer, which at the time was very fashionable. We played against many other Jewish sports groups, and every game was a big event, talked about in office, the shop and even among the youth studying in the House of Study. We played against Christian teams on Sundays, sometimes accompanied by a band. If we won we were extremely happy and the pride of our young people was limitless, and if we lost, we were forgiven.

Our athletic development was not a bed of roses, the municipality tried to throw up roadblocks, we had no financial support from the community, but the main problem was that we did not have a field on which to practice, and without that we had no way to improve the players' level of athleticism. We practiced on the field of the marketplace, on uneven ground, without even the minimum of athletic equipment. This was a big problem for us, because we could not reach the appropriate level of skill in the games, nor compete against big name teams. The situation changed when some of the respected people of the city got involved. They became interested in our sports association and began to support us financially; a number of people also joined the association, including: Abram Neufeld, Bernard Rechnic, Freund, Waldek, Erlich and others. We received a practice field, the quality of our uniforms and shoes improved (the members said that it was wonderful), and the level of our athleticism improved. The municipality was asked to provide support, but it declined; instead, they demanded taxes from us. The fine quality of the games awakened jealousy amongst the Polish groups in our town and the surrounding area, and more than once they sent hooligans to bother us and to hurt us physically. I remember one game in the city of Klementov [Klimontów]. We played soccer against a Polish team. At the beginning, they demanded that we let them score goals against us, of course we refused; in fact, we did the opposite, scoring against them instead. After the game they threw stones at us and shouted a variety of insults. Fortunately, we had many friends and fans with us, which prevented a serious conflict. That's just one fact among hundreds. In that hostile and anti-Semitic environment we, the athletic association of Dąbrowa, had to make our way in the world of sport.

Our sports association didn't only focus on soccer games. We also had a tennis club, and one for ping-pong. We trained people for soccer games and they always appeared with us at the start of the competitions. The association brought about an awakening in the life of the city of Dąbrowa and for a long time we were at the center of attention for the youth from all of the levels and strata of the city. On the day of a game the city's residents would throng to the soccer field, and those who could not buy tickets would crowd together along the fence and the cracked road to watch the game.

[Translated and edited from the Yiddish by Juda Londner]

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Our Parents' Home

by Ajzyk, Kalman, and Eliezer Nusinowicz

Translated by Amy Samin

Although no photographs of our dear parents remain, their likenesses and way of life are engraved on our memories. Our father, Jakob ben Dow of blessed memory, was born in Boysko married to a woman named Sara-Towa, daughter of Szmarja, who was born in Shidlov. They were both from the Kielce area. After their wedding they set up their home in Dąbrowa Górnicza; this was before the outbreak of World War I.

My father served in the Russian army during the time of the tsar, and took part in the Russian-Japanese war in 1905. He suffered a great deal in that war, both as a Jew and as a soldier. During World War I a terrible crisis befell my parents. Overnight, all of their savings became worthless. For the rest of their lives they were unable to make a fresh start. In their hearts they asked that there never be more wars, that we their children would never experience a war.

We were 7 brothers in the house, and we understood how difficult it was for our parents, we witnessed the day-to-day financial struggle of our family, a struggle for survival in the purest sense. The life of a workshop owner was very hard. The source of our existence steadily shrank in the wake of anti-Semitism and the banishment of foreign workshop owners and merchants. Taxes were heavy and disproportionate to our resources – especially burdensome to the middle class.

Our parents, who preserved the heritage of their fathers, were barely able to accept the changes that took place within their children. They were opposed to our belonging to any secular youth movements. Our brother Abram-Alter of blessed memory was the first to fight our war so that we, the rest of the brothers, could belong to youth movements. After a hard fight and struggle, our parents came to terms with the fact that their children did not keep the mitzvot outside of the house. In our home, no one dared to remove his hat or to rebel against tradition. At home, we laid tefillin, prayed every day, perhaps just for appearances, but no one dared to upset our parents, because we knew that they believed with all their hearts.

I recall that my brother Abram-Alter of blessed memory and after him Yisrael-Efraim, long may he live, and my brother Hillel of blessed memory, left the chapter of Shomrei for the Poale Zion Left party. The Shomrit movement was not leftist enough, did not put up enough of a fight in the class war… The arguments at home were fiery and many layered: Berobijan or Eretz Yisrael, which would bring salvation to the Jewish people? Which first, the class or the Zionist idea?

World War II brought an end to the dreams of our brothers and our parents of blessed memory. Just a few of us remain from our widespread family. We will remember our beloved parents of blessed memory, my brother Abram-Alter, his wife Chana and their son Berele, my brother Hillel, may God avenge his blood, who fell in the war with the hateful Nazi, and his wife Miriam, my brother Jicchak who died in a concentration camp. All of them died cruel and tragic deaths. May their souls be bound up in the bond of everlasting life.

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Chapters of Life

by Yosef Yizraeli

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Reb Chaim Dawid Herszfeld and his wife - dab245.jpg [36 KB]
Reb Chaim Dawid Herszfeld and his wife
One of the respected families in the city

For most people, memories of childhood are awakened in the background of various events. The beginning of the First World War and the appearance of the German Army in our city are etched in my memory. In 1914, as the recruits were passing through in an endless stream, they asked the question: “Is it far to Warsaw?” The clanging of their steel boots against the basalt stone paved street echoed through all the houses, and the children went out to look at this with curiosity

Dąbrowa was a city of gentiles that took on the form of a Jewish town with all its typical manifestations. This city of mines and iron kilns was spread out over a large area, and there were concentrations of Jews in Reden, Huta, and across the railway tracks (or the bridge). The liberal, progressive Jews lived for the most part in the district of Huta. There were public institutions there: the communal council, the rabbinate, the sports and cultural organizations, the Zionist organization, the headquarters of the parties and youth clubs, the library, the movie theater, and others.

The area of Reden was primarily populated by traditional Jews: businessmen and tradesmen, householders, wealthy people and poor people. The area around the synagogue was populated primarily by the poor people. There were main streets that lead to the neighboring cities, with a row of shops on both sides. There were tall houses and side alleyways with wood and stone houses. We lived on the main street in the house of Yosef Rozenblum. Ochs' writing implements store, Lypszyc's grocery store, and Grosfeld's hide shop were in our neighborhood. Opposite us was the pharmacy, and next to it was Markowicz' and Hirszfeld's clothing store.

The city had thousands of residents, but no garden or walkway. It was something between a city and a town. It attained the status of a city when the electric tram was built, connecting it to the nearby cities. The divisions of the city were not solely geographic. It also encompassed class differences and reflected the social struggles between the various strata. In the background of a proletariat city of heavy manufacturing workers, with struggles over proper conditions of work, living, and livelihood – these struggles were reflected in the Jewish community with different classes of Jewish manufacturing workers, tradesmen, and petite bourgeoise. The struggles centered primarily around the Zionist and anti-Zionist working parties and the petite bourgeoise parties. These struggles became especially prominent during the times of elections to the communal or city councils.

The Reden area was a sort of Jewish town in its own right. It did not have great scholars. For the most part, it was populated by day-to-day Jews, Jews who were knowledgeable of the book and observant of tradition, Hassidim, rabbinical teachers and judges, and quiet tzadikim. My father was a Hassid of the Rebbe of Radomsk. He would travel to the Rebbe each year with a longing for uplifting of the soul and a desire to base himself in the atmosphere of the Torah and to take a break from the day-to-day materialism. To this end, he would present the Rebbe with a kvittel – a petitionary note for the fulfillment of some request: for livelihood, for educating the children, or for recovery of a sick person. When the sons reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, he would bring them to the Rebbe to receive his blessing.

There was a group for the recitation of Psalms in Reden. At first, it consisted of five people: my father, Rozenfeld, and others. Later, other simple, good Jews joined them. Every day at dusk, they left their businesses – whether the store or the

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workshop – and gather in the Beis Midrash to recite chapters of Psalms with devotion. This group was alert to any tribulation or person in need, and to any event – whether happy or, on the other hand, sorrowful. The only remedy for any such case was the recitation of chapters of Psalms appropriate for every event. People would say that in their merit, the city was protected from all types of tribulations. This group was also the “organization of discreet gifts”[1]. If a Jews was in trouble or in need of money for the government or other such reason, two Jews would go around with a kerchief. They would leave their business, make the rounds, and collect the required sum for the Jew in need.

I recall the experience of the third Sabbath meal in the Beis Midrash. In one corner, near the Holy Ark, more than ten Jews would sit around tables, eat a morsel and drink a bit, listen to verses of Torah and flowing song. Their eyes were closed, and their heads were facing upward. The song flowed, and the children assisted and followed them with their thin voices. One would sense the feeling of the holiness of the Sabbath. It was too bad that twilight fell. It was too bad that we had to light the candelabra and enter the weekday atmosphere.

Reden had a Beis Midrash as well as shtibels and prayer halls. The shtibels were set up in private homes or public buildings for the High Holy Days. A cantor or prayer leader would be hired, Torah scrolls would be brought into one of the rooms, and twenty or thirty Jews would gather together to worship on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We went to the shtibel of Meirl Grauder, who originally came from the town of Grada. He was an excellent prayer leader. He had a sweet, pleasant voice. His prayers excelled in feeling and warmth of expression, without the excessive frills of the cantors of that period. About 30 Jews from the area invited him to come to us from Grada for the High Holy Day services. The shtibel was in Reb Hirszfeld's house. About two weeks before the holiday, Meirl would gather several lads with nice voices as members of the choir. I recall Fishel Lencner and myself among his regular singers. We would sit and practice, learning when to accompany him and when to sing solo. Every year, he would bring with him a new tune for kiddush or some march for the Musaf or Shacharit prayers. There were some connoisseurs who would sit and pay close attention, with half closed eyes. One of them was Reuven Grosfeld, who was considered to be knowledgeable in music and the cantorial arts. Reb Meirl took his opinion seriously. If Reb Reuven would nod his head his assent, Meirl would be very happy. To this day, I recall the sweet melodies of Reb Meirl Grauder.

Our home was a traditional, Jewish house, rooted in populist, Hassidic Judaism. The home was graced with eight children, and was bountiful in family warmth. My father was a prominent man, a merchant with a store that sold haberdashery and many other types of products. He was known for his uprightness and work on behalf of the community. His home was a meeting place for regular folk as well as scholars. His philanthropic activities were well-known. Chapters of Psalms and Mishnah never departed from his mouth. He always found time for business and time for Torah.

The Federman family left Dabrowa in 1920 and made
The Federman family left Dabrowa in 1920
and made "aliya"

My mother was an exemplary Jewess. Love, modesty, willingness to help, and knowledge were her lot. She educated her eight sons and daughters in the best of Jewish tradition. Along with this, she knew how to instill in us a desire for knowledge and study. She related to laborers with honor. When things were tough for us, all the children studied a trade and participated in the household expenses by bringing home their salary. It was our mother who found a compromise between general and Jewish studies. She herself was educated in secular subjects, and she aspired to impart

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education to each child so that they could support themselves honorably.

In the past, Reden was observant of tradition and the 613 commandments in accordance with halacha, as in all towns. Jewish youth wore the traditional garb, grew peyos and beards, donned phylacteries, covered their heads, worshipped, and were careful about not neglecting Torah study. The settlement congealed its observant people and they were satisfied with what they had: meager livelihood, and study of Torah and commentaries next to the oven in the Beis Midrash. The lads continued with tradition, and drank the words of the adults, until here too, the new winds from the wide world broke through – from the Jewish intelligentsia world and the enlightened outside world – causing a revolution in ideas and a change in way of life.

I recall the first maskilim [enlightened ones] in the personas of the young men Hirszfeld and Grosfeld (and perhaps others) from the time of the First World War. The former was shot to death by an Austrian soldier as he was walking on the railway tracks, immersed in debate with his friend and missing the command to halt.

Slowly, the ferment of the youth broke forth, and affected the love of Torah and traditional garb. People began to shave their peyos, shorten their cloaks, and change hats. They participated in various groups for Zionism, Socialism, and literature. I entered the confidence of these groups, which were called kreizlach [circles]. It was a literary group led by Mietek Kricer. We became attached to reading foreign material, and we required a library for personal education through the means of the book. One such book (I believe by Otto Wiginer) was sentenced to be burned by my father's Tehillim [Psalms] group. My father incited them to pass judgement on heretical books.

After time, when my brothers and sisters grew up, the influence of the Haskalah penetrated the bounds of the house and disturbed the family tranquility. Each brother or sister belonged to a different kreizl [circle]. Debates on important matters in the world of youth broke out during the Sabbath and festival meals.

My father and his honorable friends did not make peace with the los of their authority, and they blamed the kreizlach and the lokaln [club meeting places] for pushing us off the straight path. At such times, Mother was the mediator who found compromise between the opinions.

Our family connection loosened with the passage of years. Our older brother, from whom my father derived great satisfaction [naches], married a fine girl and moved to a different city. He eventually disappeared. I went to hachsharah and made aliya in 1934. My sister was in the Freiheit youth group, and made aliya in 1938 with her husband Hillel Brott. My younger brother finally made aliya as well.

My parents, two sisters, and two brothers were murdered by the Nazis.

Translator's footnote

  1. The distribution of charity to those in need, done discreetly so as not to embarrass the recipient. return

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Fragments of Memories

by Kalman Barkai

Translated by Jerrold Landau

After the establishment of the State of Poland in 1918, a sort of civilian guard arose in the city of Mielec, including also the following Jews: Feivel Berliner, Moshe Goldblum, Yaakov Fuks, and several others whose names I do not remember. They acted in the position of policemen, albeit without weapons or even a baton in their hands. They only had whistles in their pocket and a white band on their shoulder. At night, every householder had to go out to guard duty. Of course, this was only provisional. In time, a police force was set up in the city.

Once, at midnight on a winter night, we suddenly heard a loud noise outside, and fear overtook us. On Szufna Street, next to our house in front of the Great Synagogue, where the bakery of the brothers Menashe and Avraham Honigsztajn had been located, they were all calling out “Bagatela”[1]. Shots were heard. My father, who did not know fear, immediately went outside in the direction of the bakery. The following is what he saw: Moshe Honigsztajn and his son Binyamin were lying dead next to the baking oven. The incident shook up all the Jews of the city. A widow named Yetka and four orphans survived.

The Chevra Kadisha [burial society] ensured that the widow would not remain without livelihood, and that that the burden would not fall on the communal council: During time that the tahara[2] was performed for the deceased, they called his brother Avraham, and asked that he make an agreement before the deceased man that he accepts upon himself to sustain his sister-in-law and her orphaned children until they become adults.

After some time, I heard that this tragic incident took place due to a dispute between the brothers and a certain Christian. They were afraid to lodge a complaint about the incident lest they murder the entire family. The bakery continued to exist until the Second World War. Two sons of Avraham survived and live in Germany.


Another sad incident place on the street upon which I lived. Thieves came one night, two days before Rosh Hashanah, to the house of Moshe Warszawski, and demanded money. Moshe-Warszawski's father-in-law, Avrahamele Szwarczbaum, nicknamed Ronckila, was in the house, along with his neighbor Yehoshua Cziszel the baker and Moshe's wife Chavale, who was a woman of valor. When she saw what was transpiring, she did not think too much. She jumped out the window shrieking “Gevald[3]. The thieves were startled, fled for their lives, and shot indiscriminately. The two men sitting in the room were killed. Moshe Warszawski himself was miraculously saved from certain death since he was away from home.

May their memories be a blessing!


It was the time that the Poznańczyk[4] soldiers reached us. They originated from Poznań, and they were anti-Semitic murderers who used to go from one Jewish shop to the next to pillage merchandise. My parents had a grocery store, with their dwelling place adjacent to it. When my father of blessed memory found about what was taking place in the city, he removed the best of his merchandise from the store, brought it to a back room, closed the door, and placed a long bench next to it with a pitcher of water and two pails on the side, as well as some clothes, as if this was a wall.

When the Poznańczyk appeared and saw that there was not much merchandise in the shops, they began searches, but they did not find the room in which the merchandise was hidden. Since they did not want to leave emptyhanded, they took what they could find and left.

Here, it is worthwhile to explain what took place in Old Dąbrowa with Reb Mota Rozencwajg of blessed memory. He had a grocery store, and they stole all his merchandise. In general, the Jews did not complain about such things, because they had nobody before whom they could present a complaint – for the police was also afraid of the Poznańczyks. However, Reb Mota's father-in-law, Nachum Brener (The father of Miriam Brener, now living in Israel, went to complain about to the captains about the pillage. The next day, two Poznańczyks came to him and said that they captured the two soldiers who had pillaged the merchandise. They request that he go with them to identify them. Brener agreed to go with them, for he did not think about the plot that the murderers were plotting. They shot him in the leg on the way to the office, and left him wallowing in his blood. This took place on a Saturday night, as Megillat Esther was being read[5]. When those in the house became concerned that he was late in returning, they went to search for him, and found him dead on the street.


After some time, the period of the Olczyks of General Haller's army came. Most of them were former prisoners. They would cut the beards of Jews. Who does not remember Kalman Kalmanowicz the shoemaker, with a splendid countenance and a long, fine beard?

[Page 249]

The Hallerczyks captured him on the street and cut his beard. He was the first victim in the city Nobody recognized that he was Kalman Kalmanowicz when he entered the synagogue.


There was a Christian teacher named Lewicki in our city, who had a fine, long beard. The Hallerczyks did not imagine that he was not a Jew. One bright day, they captured him on his way to the school, and began to deal with his beard. He began to shout: “Dear sirs, I am a Christian, why did you attack me!” When they realized what had happened, they had already cut half his beard.


A Jew named Mendel Londner lived on Szupna Street. He was known as Mendel Yoktin. He was tall and thin, and would read the Torah in the Beis Midrash. I recall once during the reading of the portion of Noach, all the children stood in the Beis Midrash waiting until he would reach the name Yokton[6]. We all burst out in laughter. He of course noticed the laughter, got embarrassed, and never again appeared in the Beis Midrash on the week of the Torah portion of Noach. We children waited in vain for his arrival.

Reb Mendel Londner had a son named Hershel. When he was young, he volunteered for the Polish Army using the name Sokoli. Three other lads from the city joined him: Yechiel Szabak (who was called Dropac), Zaks, and Moshe Lewkowicz. When Hershel was freed from the army, he married Fuks' daughter. He was a barber, and opened a barber shop on Jromski Street, in the home of Kopel Kszanowski. He worked on the Sabbath as well. When the barbershop owners saw that Hershel himself worked on Sabbaths, they also decided to open their barber shops on Sabbaths, but they hired Christian lads to do the work. Hershel found out that he had competitors, so he turned to the city rabbi, Rabbi Alter-Moshe Aharon Lewi of blessed memory, and told him, “Rabbi, enough with working on the Sabbath. From today onward, I am a Jew and will close my barbershop on Sabbaths, on the condition that my competitors also do so.” When the rabbi saw that this was an issue of a penitent, he summoned all the Jewish barbershop owners and demanded strongly that they not work on Sabbaths. However, this lasted for one month only. For what did Hershel do? He said to himself, “I have been a Jew enough,” and once again opened the barbershop on the Sabbath. Since the others were closed by the agreement, people stood in line for him throughout the entire Sabbath. Thus, did he gain the customers of all the barbershops of the city.

Reb Reuven Lichtcier (Gluzerman) lived in Reden, but I still recall that when he lived on Mieiska Street, I saw him a few times a day and used to visit his house, for his son Hillel of blessed memory learned with me at Reb Motel the Melamed.

I recall that there was always a cauldron of vegetable soup cooking in Reb Reuven's house to give to the poor people who knocked on his door. One room was dedicated as a bedroom, and any poor person who entered received food and lodging. Tending to guests was the main aspect of Reb Reuven's life. Any poor person who came to our town already knew his address, and Reb Reuven greeted everyone with a wide hand and open heart. Once, I saw Reb Reuven going to the synagogue in the morning to worship. He saw from afar a poor person from our town and already took out a sum of money from his wallet and held it in his hands. When he approached him, he said to him, “Reb Gedalia, I have not seen you for many years. Greetings to you!” At the same moment that he extended his hand to great him and wish him good morning, he placed the money in his hands.

He would also visit the sick. When he was about to end a visit to a sick person, he would wish him a speedy recovery, and did not forget to leave money under the tablecloth. I recall once, when I was a small boy and I was playing in the yard with my friends on a Sabbath afternoon, Reb Reuven was sitting in the Beis Midrash studying Torah with other Jews. Of course, the noise of the children bothered them. Reb Reuven came out and said to us, “Children, I will also join your game, but on the condition that after ten minutes, you will join us in the Beis Midrash to study Torah.” Of course, we liked his suggestion, agreed to it, and he immediately joined.

I further recall an incident that took place when he was delivering a lecture. The congregation listed intently. Among his words, he said, “Jews, do you know the meaning of the word 'good morning', and the response 'good year'? This means that you merited an entire year for one morning.”[7] He continued by speaking about helping brides, and since there was a need to gather money, he told the congregation, “Do you think that the money in your hands belong to you? You are making a mistake. The money belongs to the Master of the World, and you are only guarding it!” At that moment, several members of the congregation stood up and wanted to give him money and leave, but he got upset with those who were leaving and screamed at them, “You want to bribe me? What am I, a policeman?” Return and listen to my words, and then give me your donation and go in peace to your homes.”

I recall one other incident: At the time when the communal council

[Page 250]

authorized an annual budget called “Amat” and imposed a tax on every person. There were those who complained the size of the tax. However, Reb Reuven complained about the opposite and asked, “Why did you place me among the middle class and not among the wealthy!”


During my childhood, I had a friend named Moshe Goldblum, the son of Reb Gershon Goldblum. We worked together in the sewing trade, and always spent time together with other friends. One bright day, Moshe suddenly became ill, and nobody knew what his illness was. They consulted physicians, who also did not know his illness. He began to speak off topic, and did not permit anyone to visit him other than friends and his parents. I visited him several times. When he felt that his end as approaching, he asked that Reb Motel the Melamed be summoned. He confessed to him and exposed all the pain of his soul, as well as the sins that he committed in this world. He died three days later.

Berl Fuks - dab250a.jpg [15 KB]
Berl Fuks
belonged to a group with the idea
of founding a synagogue in the city

Reb Motel eulogized him next to the synagogue as if he was a righteous man. This entire strange incident made a strong impression in our city, and was the topic of conversation in the city and area for a long time.

There was a very honorable Jew named Berl in our city, who lived on Szapna (Mieska) Street, in the same yard where Reb Reuven Lictcyger lived, but with a different entrance. He had a very nice house. I would go to his house often, because I studied with his son Yisrael in Reb Motel's cheder as well as in Kaspszyk's school

The synagogue belonging to Reb Berl Fuks - dab250b.jpg [30 KB]
The synagogue belonging to Reb Berl Fuks
comprised a substantial section of his building

Reb Berl Fuks was a handsome Jew, without a beard. He used to say, “Better a Jew without a beard than a beard without a Jew.” How unfortunate is it that this Jew is no longer with us. He would have been able to provide us with a great deal of material for the Yizkor Book, for he was one of the early ones of our city. The synagogue in Dąbrowa was built thanks to him. It was a large, fine building. He was the first to enter seriously into this matter. He dedicated a great deal of work, energy and money into it. He was an expert at all work. He was a manager in a tinsmithing company with many Jewish workers in the Huta Bankowa factory. Reb Berl himself was not ashamed to roll up his sleeves and work.

He endured many crises in life. He was once very wealthy, the owner of a factory in partnership with another Jew. Approximately 100 Jews worked with them. He worked in a factory in Germany during the First World War, for his factory did not operate. After the war, he returned to work in Huta Bankowa as a contractor, and became wealthy once again. He then moved from Mieska Street and built himself a house on

[Page 251]

Sienkiewicza Street. I heard that he had the first gramophone, the first radio, and the first telephone. He also had a private car. His eldest son had a camera, and he loved to photograph us. He also had a bicycle and all the modern devices that were considered exceptional in those days. Reb Berl's house was considered one of the most modern in the city.

Reb Berl had a good friend at work, an engineer from France named Kawa. They sat together in the synagogue, and were good friends. I loved to hear them chat among themselves, but I did not understand anything, for they spoke French. The engineer Kawa came to the synagogue when he observed yahrzeit. I recall that his tefillin were as small as sugar cubes. He would get an aliya to the Torah on festivals and pledge 18 zloty. I would see him standing on his feet the entire Yom Kippur, even though he had an honorable seat.

When I was already in the Land, I heard that they wanted to get rid of the Jews at Huta Bankowa. They issued tenders every year at Huta, but that time, the Jews who applied did not receive a response, since the N.D.K. (Endekes) were already in charge, and only gentiles received the tenders. Reb Berl was then left on the outside. He arrived in the Land, lived in Kfar Ata with his entire family – his sons, and daughters-in-law. He built a factory for the construction of pails, from which he earned his livelihood. He died here in the Land after several years.

His wife Achsa, may she live long, and their sons Leibish and Yisrael and their families, live today in Kfar-Ata

What happened to the engineer Kawa when the gentile wanted to rid themselves of him? I was told that when he came to his office in Huta Bankowa one day, he found an onion on his writing table, as a symbol that the Jew smells more than an onion. He was embarrassed, and took the hint of that onion that the cleaning woman left on his desk. He understood that his place was no longer at that job. He approached his managers and tendered his resignation.

He was sent to Auschwitz with his wife during the Second World War. His only son, who was taken to a labor camp, got sick with typhus and died.

Translator's footnotes

  1. In Polish, this means a trifle or something of insignificance. return
  2. Literally “purification” referring to the washing and preparation of the deceased for burial. See https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tahara/ return
  3. A Yiddish expression of alarm. return
  4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pozna%C5%84czyk_(armoured_train) return
  5. Purim night. return
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joktan return
  7. “A good year” is a traditional Yiddish response to “Good day” or “Good morning”. return

[Page 252]

An Opinion on the Identity of Six Chairs from the Dining Room
of Theodor Herzl of blessed memory

that are today in the home of Dr. Wolf Gutman of Haifa

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The chair on which Dr. Theodor Herzl sat - dab252.jpg [35 KB]
The chair on which Dr. Theodor Herzl sat

I travelled to Haifa today at the invitation of the main office of the Jewish National Fund from the 8th of Tevet 5615 (1955) to identify the six chairs that are in the home of Dr. Wolf Gutman (Har HaKarmel, 10 Lotus Street), which he claims originated from the dining room of Dr. Theodor Herzl of blessed memory. Mr. A. Yaale, the director of the Jewish National Fund office in Emek Zvulun, accompanied on this visit. I brought with me on this journey a photograph of Dr. Theodor Herzl's dining room from the photo collection of the central Zionist archives. One of the chairs that stood in that room was visible in that photo. The most characteristic sign on that chair, aside from its shape, was the monograph on the leather backrest of the chair.

  1. The Identity and Situation of the Chairs

    One of the chairs was located in the room in which Dr. Gutman and his wife greeted me. When I entered the room, I immediately recognized it as a complete facsimile of the chair that had been photographed in Dr. Herzl's dining room. Therefore, I immediately told Dr. Gutman, even before he pointed out the chair to me, “This is a chair from Dr. Herzl's dining room,” for I immediately recognized not only its shape, but also the unique style of the monograph that I had recognized from the photo. This monograph was composed of Latin letters. Dr. Gutman then brought me to a second room, where five more similar chairs stood. The chairs were in good condition – apparently they had been well guarded. Only one was missing part of the decorative wood of the backrest. The leather upholstery was completely in good shape, with perhaps only the color having become somewhat paler than it originally was.

  2. The Travels of these Chairs after Dr. Herzl's Death

    From another source, that is from the well-known writer Ben-Gavriel in Jerusalem who gave me many years ago the aforementioned photo of Theodor Herzl's dining room, I knew that after the dismantling of Dr. Herzl's home, his furniture was purchased by Dr. Haflich in Vienna, the father of Mr. Ben-Gavriel. From Dr. Haflich's hands, or after his death, the furniture was purchased by the veteran Vienna Zionist Nachman Gutman, the father of Dr. Wolf Gutman and father-in-law of Dr. Tulo Nusenblat of blessed memory, the researcher into the life story of Theodor Herzl. Dr. Herzl who published “The Yearbook of Theodor Herzl” in 1937. He was murdered in Poland, where he had fled from Vienna in escape from the Nazis. He had received the furniture as a gift from his father-in-law and arranged them in their original form in a special room in his house in Vienna. The furniture remained there, as I heard yesterday from Dr. Gutman, even after his brother-in-law Dr. Nusenblat escaped to Poland from the Nazis. Apparently, the concierge of the house, which belonged to Mr. Nachman Gutman, sold the rest of Herzl's dining room furniture after Dr. Nusenblat had fled, and kept only the six chairs for himself. Dr. Gutman found them when he visited Vienna and his parents' home for the first time after the Second World War in 1952. They were in the home of the concierge. With great difficulty he obtained from the court an order of confiscation for the chairs and some of his brother-in-law Dr. Nusenblat's furniture. Later, through a verdict of the Vienna court, Dr. Gutman also received his parents' home back as well as the aforementioned chairs. He transferred them to Israel in 1953 along with the rest of Dr. Nusenblat's furniture.

  3. The Future Places of the Chairs

    Dr. Gutman told me that he offered the Jewish National Fund the opportunity to take over the guardianship of the six chairs from him. He set certain conditions – of which I only know one: the demand that the Jewish National Fund is obligated

[Page 253]

to affix a memorial plaque to the parents of Dr. Gutman and Dr. Nusenblat in proximity to the chairs of Theodor Herzl. I can give full confirmation of the acceptance of that condition, and I add one request of my own, that is to under no circumstances the six chairs are to be brought to the workroom of Dr. Herzl that is now located in the communal building of the Jewish National Fund – for the six chairs were never part of the furniture of Dr. Herzl's workroom. I am prepared at any time to participate in offering advice on the place of future guardianship of the six chairs, if this is acceptable to the directors of the Jewish National Fund

(--) Dr. G. Herlitz
The founder and director of the General Zionist Archives of the Jewish Agency
13 Tevet 5615, January 7, 1956.

The chairs from Herzl's home that were recovered by Nachman-Aron Gutman - dab253.jpg [41 KB]
The chairs from Herzl's home that were recovered by Nachman-Aron Gutman

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