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[Page 588]

The Sad Tidings

by Rywka Barkai

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The tragic news came unexpectedly that Szlomo Białystok in no longer among the living; who would believe that the joyful Szlomo who stands now before my eyes, would visit Israel no more!

dab588.jpg [16 KB] - Szlomo Białystok
Szlomo Białystok

How great the pain is! We have lost a devoted friend who always looked for whom to help. He aspired to settle in Israel, which he visited often. He even celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of his only, now orphaned son in Israel. Every time when he had just arrived in Israel, he would immediately let his landsleit [people from the same town] know and ask that a meeting be arranged of those closest to him and of his friends. He would then express his satisfaction, speaking about various experiences, as well as about the last World War. And every time, he would contribute generously and sincerely for the benefit of the Dąbrower Landsmanshaft [organization of people from the same town] and, particularly, for the Yizkor Book. But, alas, to our great regrets he did not live to see it.
May his memory be blessed!

My Father Szlomo Białystok, of blessed memory

by Frankie Białystok (Canada)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Szlomo Białystok was born on the 23rd September, 1909 in Dąbrowa Górnicza. His parents, Mosze and Nacha Bajle, had 10 children. Szlomo was the ninth child and the youngest among five sons. Szlomo studied in the Yavne [religious Zionist] school in Będzin. In 1926 Szlomo began to work to help out his parents. Later, he undertook the post in the well known “Fürstenberg” society in Będzin as a technical leader in the laboratory, as well as the construction supervisor. He left Dąbrowa during the years of 1929-31 and moved to Krakow where he worked in the theater under the management of the famous operator named Hladi.

Szlomo was very active in youth unions, such as Histadrut [labor Zionism], Hashomer Hatzair [socialist Zionist youth movement] and in a sport club, Hakoach [sports organization]. While in Warsaw, he joined the Maccabi sports movement. He was then in such good physical condition that he became a tennis teacher in two sports clubs. His all-embracing “hobby” was skiing; he took part in a Maccabi [athletic competition] that was held in 1939 and had the merit to win a bronze medal for ice skating 10 kilometers.

[Page 589]

At the time he moved to Warsaw (1931), Szlomo worked for a Jewish organization for the insurance society “Trieste.” In 1938 he became acquainted with the young Miss Rena Rozenbaum whom he married on the 30th of July, 1939.

Escaping from the Nazis in Vilna, Szlomo was caught by the Russians during the period when they divided Poland – (the 17th of September, 1939). And his wife, Rena was deported to a labor camp near the city of Kotlas. They were freed in 1941 and they went to Andijan, Uzbekistan, where they were until 1946. During the four and a half years there they served the regime well. Szlomo and his wife Rena worked in a health institution.

After a certain time they again came back to Poland where they both met the cruel realities. They saw the catastrophe encountered by the entire Jewish people. In 1946 their only son, Franklin, was born in Łódź. They decided to travel to America to Szlomo's brother in the city of Buffalo. From there, they left for Canada and they settled in Toronto. In the beginning Szlomo worked there under difficult conditions as an agent for a photographer. Beginning in 1956, Szlomo started to work again at constructing houses and their situation got better. He had experience in building from the time when he worked in Poland as an instructor and foreman of construction. He carried out projects according to the newest techniques and thanks to this he was a first-rate tradesman, did well in business and developed the full confidence of his clients.

At the same time, Szlomo did not forget his duty to help everyone who needed help. He donated money to institutions, worked for health institutions, became an active member in the Zagłębier Society and supported all Jewish foundations as well as the trade school in Israel (under the name, Amal [labor), donated money for the history faculty at the Jerusalem University. In 1967, he became the chairman of the Zagłębier Union.

Szlomo and his wife visited Israel three times, the first time in the summer of 1959, with the purpose of celebrating his son's Bar Mitzvah, the second time in the spring of 1967 and the last time in 1969, again in the spring. The Białystok family was devoted and full of love for Israel and planned to settle there. They were informed about everything that concerned Israel and Zionism.

On the 16th of October, 1969, almost a month after his 60th birthday, Szlomo died suddenly after a severe illness. He was a person with a strong character and was goodhearted. His sudden death shocked the Jewish community in Toronto. His wife and son were left orphaned.

The municipality, his comrades and friends will always remember Szlomo.

From English: Rywka Barkai

[Page 590]

The “Bund” activist, Icze Brukner, z”l

by M. S. Geshury

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

There are those who attain their goals in great and celebrated books, and there are those who attain their goals in their businesses, if they have the required specifics to make quick and intensive progress. Icze (Icchak) attained his goal as a “Bund” activist, to the sorrow of his father the Hassid and the members of his family, to which others joined in with the feeling that something happened here “that should not have taken place”. How did it happen that Reb Szlomo the industrialist (aerated drinks) and someone from the middle class, from the distinguished Jewish Brukner family, whose origins are in the long-standing community of Wolbrom – how did they have a “Bund” son, straying from the accepted tradition of the family whose sons would boast that they were not artisans or simple people? How was a son born into the home of a Gur Hassid who would pray in the kloiz of the Gur Hassidim in Szopena Street, who to the words of everyone “fell into bad ways”?

There is no doubt that if Icze had taken a Zionist direction, to a free profession [lawyer, accountant etc.] or to groups more suited to the family's status, he would have displayed greatness, apart from this he wouldn't have brought shame on his family who saw him as embittering their life and their honor. More than once the father Reb Szlomo was immersed in thoughts and searching for a reason for the punishment from his offspring, who saw him as a “rebel” of mitzvoth and good manners, straying from the agenda that had reigned in the family over generations and joined a group that turned his back on all that was dear and holy.

Icze (Icchak) was born in 1897 in Dąbrowa. He studied in chadarim [religious elementary schools] and was educated in the ways of tradition. He was regarded as a young man endowed with a deep analytical talent and wit. The atmosphere outside, in the Russian and Polish towns was full of rebellion and hatred for the Tsarist government and a desire to improve the social state of the laborers. Within Jewish circles the idea of “Chibat Zion” [Lovers of Zion] and the yearning for Eretz Yisrael [Land of Israel] arose and political unrest began. Most of the educated youth were drawn to the Zionist idea and to the study of the Hebrew language, and clandestine groups for Zionist activity were established and the sale of shekalim [annual membership fees for Zionist organizations] and also for Zionist bank bonds in London, an activity that was forbidden by the authorities, however clerks turned a blind eye because of their relationships with people in these groups.

In the Jewish street the “Poalei Zion” and “Bund” showed their faces and began preaching to become organized independently. The “Bund” (an abbreviation of the full name of the Jewish Socialist party in the Diaspora) was an illegal party in Russia and was compelled to operate clandestinely, in particular in the large towns which had Jewish settlement. The “Bund” only operated in the Jewish street amongst the Jewish laborers – as the only national representation of the Jews. Hebrew was seen as a “dead language”, and Zionism – “Jewish nationalism” and they fought aggressively and with great loathing against both. Their plan was: a professional struggle to improve the work conditions of the Jewish laborers, and a political struggle to eradicate Tsarism, to impose democracy and achieve equal rights for the Jews.

The appearance of the “Bund” made an impression on a multitude of Jews as a movement striving for emancipation, initially in the Jewish street. In Dąbrowa, itself, there wasn't a Jewish proletariat yet, in the wide meaning of the concept. For the most part the working people in this town were tradesmen (carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, watchmakers, metalworkers and so on) who employed apprentices. The tradesmen themselves didn't want to allow a revolutionary organization to operate against them, as providers of work, even though their own social conditions weren't any better. On the other hand, the apprentices and the domestics in private homes were drawn to “Poalei Zion”, and placed great hopes in it, whilst the “Bund” had no support in the town.

Icze had a strong inclination to study and gain general knowledge. He studied languages self-teaching literature, and finally was accepted in a school in nearby Będzin in which he supplemented his studies. He completed studying the bookkeeping profession, worked as a bookkeeper in a number of places, and in the end was taken on as a bookkeeper in the “Potok” oil factory, and after he was financially stable, he dedicated himself to activities amongst the youth.

Icze was the first only follower in town of the “Bund” idea, that later began to infiltrate to other Zaglembian towns and began to compete with the “Poalei Zion” movement, that had already enrooted itself in Będzin and Sosnowiec. His acquaintances regarded him as someone “who had lost direction in life”. Indeed for some time he was the only one who remained loyal to the “Bund” and very slowly he began to advance and hold a place in the movement as an activist, lecturer and a gifted and well-known debater who knew how to stand up and defend his principles.

[Page 591]

He was ostracized and boycotted by the townspeople who saw him as inciting and distracting the youth away from the Jewish Torah and Jewish customs, however he found his way under these conditions. He gained knowledge, studied social science and economics, bought a great deal of books and he had a large library in his home in four languages in which he gained comprehensive knowledge. And after he managed to attract a number of followers he founded the “Jugend-Bund” in Dąbrowa, and was chairman of the “Bund”, founded the Y. L. Perez Library in town, and later also founded a theater for “Bund” followers, and even contributed to articles in the party newspaper.

Icze grew in the “Bund” movement and was a typical “Bundist”, and his existence was intertwined with its existence. He was never one of those who forced his way to the front of the queue, on decisive and historical occasions he was always amongst the leaders.

dab591.jpg [25 KB] - Icze Brukner
Icze Brukner
one of the leaders of the “Bund” in Dąbrowa
(together with his sister)

From the outset he stuck to party values. Work, brotherhood, responsibility, and a personal example with principles, not just ideology in general or for his fellowman, but rather the doctrine of his life.

However it was difficult for him to get used to the movement lifestyle in the final years. Negative phenomena saddened his soul. More than a few obstacles were placed in his way. When he came up against agitators – he retreated. When he met up with aggressive people – he relented (by will or by force), since he wasn't capable of turning into a combatant within the public arena in the years before the Second World War. He lived within the framework of an internal struggle, the struggle of a man fighting for his opinions, who is doesn't adapt to “new manners”. He never demonstrated his dissatisfaction with injustices and crazes. He made an effort to create a pleasant atmosphere above the gloom of this world. He raised a smile in the wrinkled faces of the disgruntled, encouraged friends, gave a hand to those seeking help, he would give a friendly slap on the back to the young people, and everything in order to bestow an enjoyable feeling of life in a group.

In his private and public life he was unpretentious and very modest, perhaps even with a gentle personality and without a means of defense that were sometimes needed by a public figure within a campaign and they were very stormy campaigns, in the main amongst the “Endeke” [Endecja: N.D. – Polish for “Narodowa Demokraczja” (National Democracy)] and anti-Semitic Polish authorities. Even when he sometimes found himself offended, he yearned for friendship, brotherhood and he certainly suffered greatly in seeing a number of difficult manifestations within the movement.

The authorities treated him with suspicion. He was arrested by the Tsarist regime, and later by the Polish regime. He continued studying and contemplating the changes and transformations that began in the state and in Zagłębie in particular, as a central site for workers and socialist issues. In 1919 he was arrested by the Polish Police and incarcerated in the Dıbia jail, in which he sat for about four months, whilst his friends with similar views who were Christians, sat there for only three months. His home was searched and the writings found there were incinerated.

In 1927 he married Fela (Fajgl) Hercberg from Sosnowiec. More than once he didn't pay any attention to his own happiness and he endured a number of misfortunes. He was faithful to the saying “a righteous man falls seven times and rises up again”. He chose this situation freely.

He was prominent in his wide-ranging activities and numerous successes in the field of education for the masses. Imbued in culture and a love of literature and workers, he inspired in them a yearning to learn and study. His stormy, warm and noble soul dominated, and captivated the hearts of all his acquaintances with the charisma of his gentle soul. More than once his disappointment was considerable with the results of the revolution, for which he had dedicated the best years of his life. He suffered considerably physically and was depressed, but for all that he didn't despair. He had a strong belief in the unforeseen future that flickered in the distance, and was considered to be one of the elite members of the “Bund” and his name was mentioned in praise in the party newspapers.

[Page 592]

With the outbreak of the war which quickly reached Poland, Icze fled from the Zagłębie region to Galicia and arrived in Lviv [Lwów], and from there wanted to continue wandering on to Russia, however his wife did not agree to do so. Hence, he stayed in Lviv [Lwów], which was occupied by the Russian armies by mutual agreement with the Nazis.

dab592.jpg [16 KB] - Nuta Szwimer
Nuta Szwimer
a “Bund” activist

Several months later, with the invasion of the Nazis into Russia, Lviv [Lwów] was quickly occupied and the Nazis began a mass murder of the Jews. Icze's fate was the fate of all the Jews who sought refuge there, and he was also murdered.

Reb Szlomo Brukner, the father of the family, died in Dąbrowa on the 19th December 1938, about a year before that war at the age of 72. He was always healthy in body and he had the soul of a Hassid who believed in miracles and awaited Divine intervention. His wife Tehila died at the age of 44 in the prime of life from grief at the conscription of her eldest son into the Russian Army. The daughter Miriam was shot to death in the Kraków region by Nazis who took her out of the ghetto. Her husband Erlich survived and lives in Australia. The daughter Jente was murdered in the Auschwitz death camp.

The daughter Bella stayed alive after experiences that she endured during the war years in various camps. Her husband, Naftali, and son, Szmuel, were murdered in 1945, a few days before the collapse of the Nazis and their retreat from Poland. Bella was sent to the Ottmuth (Otmet) camp in Silesia, and from there continued wandering to various camps including Ludwigsdorf and Górlitz. After the war ended she returned to Poland. She found herself alone from the family that had been annihilated by the Nazis and in 1947 married Dawid Szwajcer from Sosnowiec, one of the survivors. In 1959 they made aliyah to Israel and settled in Ramat Gan. I managed to learn from Bella all the details of the family. In her words she always stood by her brother Icze in the period of isolation from his family, and also in periods of distress helped him as much as possible.

Icze died in the Holocaust together with six million Jewish souls. May his soul be entwined in the martyred souls who fell for their and in their death they signaled the revival of the State of Israel.

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