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[Page 489]

Dr. Tolo (Naftali) Nusenblat

by Mordechai (Motek) Hampel (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Although Dr. Tolo Nusenblat was not born in Dąbrowa, I saw it fitting to immortalize him in this memorial book, because of the family connection to the home of the well-known Reb Nachman Gutman from our town. This article about the history of Dr. Nusenblat was written by our friend, M. Hampel, one of the editors of “Pinkas Bendin” and “Pinkas Zaglembie”, who was previously active in the pioneering youth movement in Dąbrowa, before the rise of the “reaper” [i.e. Hitler].

Tolo (Naftali) Nusenblat was born in 1895, in Stryy (Galicia, then Austria). He was educated there, and completed the gymnasia there and continued his studies in Lviv (Lemberg). In his youth he belonged to the educational youth movement “Bnei Zion” [Sons of Zion] and later joined “Hashomer”, and his undertaking was to cultivate scout values, and from this the “Hashomer Hatzair” movement developed after the First World War. When the previous war broke out he was conscripted to the Austrian Army, fought at the front and was even seriously wounded. In recognition of his bravery in the battlefield he was promoted to an officer and was presented with a silver medal.

After the war he moved to Vienna, where he studied law and received a doctorate, however he did not work as a lawyer, since he was completely dedicated to researching the history of Dr. Herzl, and even purchased essays and various items from Herzl's estate with his own money.

With the occupation of Austria by Hitler's armies (1938) and its annexation to the Third Reich, Nusenblat fled to Poland and settled in Dąbrowa Górnicza, where his wife Tamar lived, the daughter of a public activist, philanthropist and dedicated Zionist, Nachman Gutman and his wife Chawa, in whose company the writer of this article was invited to act together in the field of Zionism.

On the eve of the breakout of war that appeared on the horizon, Nusenblat and his family left Dąbrowa, close to the German border, and they went in the direction of the Polish metropolis, Warsaw which was quickly conquered by the Germans. Nusenblat was placed in the kehila committee and worked extensively for his brethren being tortured under the boots of the German troopers. Dr. Natan Ek relates in his book “Hatoim bedarckei hamvet” [Those erring in to path of death], that Nusenblat was very active in the Warsaw Ghetto, participating in assemblies, receptions and meetings: “We once sat in a reception and someone noted that today was Tu Bishvat. Dr. Nusenblat stood up and began lecturing about the trees in Eretz Yisrael. Apparently he had been busy for some time preparing research on this subject, since he enthralled us with the abundance of amazing details: the tree in the Bible, in the Talmud, in modern literature, the tree in the life in Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora, drawings of trees in emblems, the tree in song and poetry and so on. We sat for about an hour and consumed his words”.

In spite of the hardships and shortages in the ghetto Nusenblat did not cease to persevere to deal with his favorite subject, the research of Herzl, his life and work. Tuwja Borzykowski z”l, the writer of the book “Bein kirot noflim” [Amongst collapsing walls], testifies to this: “Dr. Nusenblat even persevered in the ghetto on his far reaching biographical essay about Herzl, and he owned a collection of documents and precious material. Whilst wandering about the ruins of Nalewki (the Jewish quarter in Warsaw), a voice called out to me, and it was the voice of Dr. Nusenblat – his situation was desperate. He had fled his burning home on 44 Muranowska Street.

dab489.jpg [12 KB] - Dr. Tolo (Naftali) Nusenblat
Dr. Tolo (Naftali) Nusenblat,
son-in-law of Reb Nachman Gutman,
the researcher and biographer of Dr. Herzl

Seeing him holding a heavy suitcase, I suggested that he throw it away, since what was the point of saving property when there was no value to human life. Instead of a reply he opened the suitcase and showed me, that he was carrying material for the research of Herzl and said: “I'm not asking for my life to be spared, but at least the archive should survive”.

[Page 490]

He wasn't able to save the Herzl archive, which he had looked after and cared for during the period of annihilation and destruction.

Nusenblat's family were taken out of the Warsaw Ghetto in April 1943 and transferred to labor and extermination camps, men and women separately. According Dr. Wdowinski's testimony, a firebrand saved from the flames, one of the former heads of the Revisionist movement in Poland, who was together in one camp with Nusenblat, who “drank the cup of poison” and was murdered together with his father-in-law, Nachman Gutman (the exact date is unknown).

Dr. Hilel Zajdman, describes in his book “Yoman ghetto Warsza” [Warsaw Ghetto Diary] a different version to the bitter end of Dr. Nusenblat: …Dr. Nusenblat participated in the Warsaw Rebellion, in April 1943, and was killed. These details are unknown to me. According to the book “Sefer Stryy” [The book of Stryy] which came out in Israel in 1962, Nusenblat was captured by the Germans in September 1942, who transferred him to one of the extermination camps and was murdered there.

In the magazine of the World Zionist Organization, “Haolam” [The World] (15th of March 1944, edition no. 23), it was written: “The news reached us that together with other dear people – – – Dr. Tolo Nusenblat was cruelly killed in Lublin by the Nazis. For more than twenty years he dealt in the research of Herzl and with great admiration followed all the stages of Herzl's life – – – his aspiration was that in Eretz Yisrael a large research institute would be founded, the “Herzl Institute”, that would continue his activities on a large scale, and would collect original material on the history of Herzl and the history of Zionism in general, however he wasn't able to realize this dream.”

Nusenblat frequently published articles in various magazines, accompanied by documents and informative letters about Herzl. In this manner, for instance, he published in “Haolam” (1939, edition 37 page 719) an article on the first journalistic steps of Herzl on the Jewish question. Nusenblat testified, that he took pains to completely and punctiliously go over, almost unprecedentedly over all the same Viennese newspapers, in which Herzl had worked in his youth as a writer. There he came upon articles by Herzl, discussing the painful question of anti-Semitism, that was written in the “Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung”, on the 16th of March 1889, called “An event in a barrel” (the name was taken from the work “The tale of a tub” by the famous English writer Jonathan Swift, admired by Herzl, and he used his expressions in the number of places in his articles – M.H.) This article – in the opinion of Nusenblat – was liable to throw new light on the development of Herzl as the creator of the Zionist idea, and the visionary of the Jewish State.

Dr. Nusenblat is enumerated amongst the biographers and dedicated bibliographers of Dr. Herzl, his personality, Zionist visions, his activities and his generation. In order to research Herzl, Dr. Nusenblat invested the best of his years, his talent, his strength and capital. He searched for material in archives, in libraries, in stores for rare books, in the homes of Herzl's relatives and friends; he collected letters mainly written by Herzl and to him, scattered here and there.

dab490.jpg [30 KB] - The anniversary of the death of Dr. Theodor Herzl
The 20th of Tamuz [July 3rd]
the anniversary of the death of Dr. Theodor Herzl

He looked after Herzl's archives, which before the Second World War were looked after by Engineer Kremnicki, Dr. Schnitzer, Adolf Boehm and others (these archives were later transferred to Jerusalem).

Dr. Nusenblat, in his research of the smallest details of Herzl's life, discovered a great deal of important original material, and frequently new and previously unknown material about Herzl. Unfortunately all of this precious treasure was lost in the Warsaw Ghetto, that had been collected so diligently and with immeasurable effort. No Zionist historian, in his writing about the history of Zionism, could not miss the original books of Dr. Nusenblat on the subject of Herzl.

[Page 491]

Nusenblat edited a number of books and files in German on the subject of Herzl:

  1. “Herzl as recalled by his generation” (In 1929, on the 25th anniversary of the death of Herzl).
  2. “A nation on the way to peace – Theodor Herzl and Bertha Suttner” (1933). Bertha von Suttner (Prague 1843 – Vienna 1914) was an pacifistic Christian-Austrian writer. She was the first to receive a Nobel Prize (1905) for her book “Die Waffen nieder!” [“Lay down your arms”]. She fought anti-Semitism and helped Herzl with political connections for the Zionist idea; she said of Herzl: “Those who knew him and understood him, loved him because of this – and their heart was saddened by his memory.”
  3. “Theodor Herzl's annual” (1937) He considered publishing an annual every year, but the city of Nusenblat's residence Vienna fell into Hitler's hands, and his dream of regularly publishing an album evaporated.
In the above file, “Herzl as recalled by his generation”, Nusenblat describes an impressive and heart touching depiction: Herzl on his death bed surrounded by his closest family. Zionist students take turns to guard the sick bed, his doctor, Professor Zinger, endeavors to encourage and instill in him the hope of life. Herzl sits up, points to the students, saying to the doctor: “These good and excellent people belong to our nation. You'll see that a day will come and they will go up to the country of their dreams”. As Herzl breathed his last the doctor said: Just as a prophet dies, he sees his homeland from a distance.

Dr. Nusenblat also dealt in the research of Zionist symbolism: “Magen David” and blue and white flag, and published a number of articles on this subject. He planned to write a history of the anthem “Hatikva” and about its composer, Naftali Herz Imber, however his murder brought an end to all his plans – and he being in the prime of his life and full of research achievements.

dab491.jpg [45 KB] - Nusia Sztorchajn and other pioneers in Dąbrowa
Nusia Sztorchajn and other pioneers in Dąbrowa
communing with the memory of Dr. Herzl over his grave in Vienna
before making their “aliyah”

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