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[Page 44]

The Small Traders Organization

by Joseph Malonek

plo219.jpg [21 KB]
Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

An organization of Jewish small traders was founded in Plotzk in 1935. Till then they belonged to the general merchants organization, but the anti-Semitic character of some Polish groups which called on the population to boycott Jewish shops, compelled them to form their own Jewish organization.

Its members were granted loans on easy terms from a special fund for that purpose, called "Gmilut Hassadim".

The organization carried out its functions in times of widespread poverty, when many shops were closed by their owners. The last session of its committee took place three days after the Nazi invasion, when the remaining cash was divided among the community's poor shopkeepers.

[Page 44]

The “Gildene” Street

by B. Gincberg

A poetical essay on the above street in Plotzk, which was inhabited mainly by Jews, published in the one-time Poalei Zion Yiddish periodical "Plotzker Wort" in January 1936.

It contains a description of this narrow and dark street, its inhabitants who were doomed to live "between the ghetto-walls", the synagogues, small retail shops, and longings of the youth for a better life, for freedom, escape from the ghetto and for a Jewish State.

[Page 44]


by Itzhak Tynski

The "Ort" society, which established vocational schools for the training of Jewish youth in the arts and crafts, founded its Plotzk branch in 1938. The founding meeting elected an executive committee with Dr. Nichtberger as chairman.

Twelve sewing machines were acquired and an instructor was hired. Courses for tailoring, stitching and weaving were opened, and the small traders who participated in them were turned into artisans.

After the Nazi invasion all the machinery of the "Ort" schools was confiscated and handed over to a cooperative of Polish tailors.

[Page 45]

Anti-Semitism in Plotzk
Between the Two World-Wars

by E. E.

In spite of the fact that Jews lived in Plotzk for over 700 years, they were always considered as aliens and were persecuted by the Gentiles. An anti-Semitic campaign was initiated by the troops of Gen. Haller in the first years of the independent Polish state. Jews were often branded as supporters of communism and as a result many anti-Jewish measures were enacted both during the war years and afterwards. The execution of Rabbi Shapiro of Plotzk on a false charge of espionage and 34 "Zeirei Zion" members in Pinsk, on similar charges, aroused great anger everywhere.

Anti-Jewish measures did not always succeed in Plotzk. The Polish "Intelligentsia", although by nature anti-Semitic, never participated in riots and could not be influenced by the slogans of "boycott", since they appreciated the Jewish merchants' ability to supply all kinds of goods at cheaper prices that the new Polish merchants, who were specially brought from other parts of the country with the purpose of competing with and ruining Jewish trade.

The authorities protected Jews against anti-Semitic riots, yet supported economic pressures against them, with the aim of eventually taking over their shops and enterprises.

A certain Gustaw Novak from Plotzk wrote a pamphlet "How to clear Poland from Jews" and brought in the thirties Polish merchants from Poznan district to Plotzk, who attempted to take over the Jewish trade. Novak later collaborated with the Nazis and after being used by them, was eventually shot.

The Polish daily "Glos Mazowiecki" which appeared in Plotzk, used every opportunity to accuse Jews of disloyalty to the State and of extending loans at exorbitant rates of interest, etc.

Even on the eve of the Nazi invasion certain Polish circles continued with their anti-Semitic campaigns, ignoring the German threat to the existence of the Polish state. These anti-Semites were so filled with hatred towards Jews, that they did not see where the real danger lay. Many of them later collaborated with the Nazi invaders against Jews in particular and the Polish case in general.

[Pages 45-46]

plo224.jpg [24 KB]
Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

The Mariavits Convent and the Jews

by Israel Gershon Chanochowicz (Kent)

This article contains several parts. The first part gives a historical survey of this unique convent in Plotzk, its relations with the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century and the sympathetic attitude of its residents towards Jews in peace-time.

The second part deals with the cordial relations between the Germans and members of the Convent and the special status they enjoyed during the German occupation.

Finally, facts are mentioned concerning the monks indifference to Jewish suffering, who did not help a single Jew in spite of the fact that they would have been able to do so. Jewish property was left in their hands by many Jews who trusted them, but consequently perished.

The article expresses deep disappointment over the fact that the members of that Convent, who maintained good relations with Jews before the War, were deaf to their anguished cries for help in the hour of distress.

[Page 47]

Education, Religious Life,
Cultural Organizations, Personalities

The Jewish Gymnasium

The "Jewish Gymnasium" (an all-Jewish secondary school) played a very important part in the cultural life of Plotzk. It was founded in 1915 by a group of nationally minded people, who understood that suitable secular education for Jewish youth could be provided only by an all-Jewish secondary school. General subjects were taught in Polish, while special attention was paid to Jewish subjects (Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history etc.).

The Gymnasium was very soon incorporated in the organization of Jewish schools in Poland, whose chairman was Mordechai Braude, and which maintained and supervised many similar national Jewish schools.

Among the Hebrew teachers of the "Jewish Gymnasium" were Hayim Fridman (Avshalom), Yakir Warszawski, Pua Rakowska, David Eisenberg, Skarlat, Choronsky and Flam.

Their educational influence on the Jewish youth in Plotzk and neighborhood was noteworthy. The school was recognized by the Ministry of Education as equivalent to Government-Schools, which enabled graduates to continue their studies in universities. Many Jewish parents preferred therefore to enable their children to get there a Jewish as well as a secular education.

The Jewish public at large assisted the school financially and its founders and directors were devoted to its cause, yet their efforts were not always crowned with success. It existed only till 1936. The number of pupils constantly decreased in the thirties until the school was forced to close its gates.

[Pages 47-48]

Jewish Primary Education

by Itzhak Ben-Shai (Fuchs)

Before compulsory education was enforced by law, the Jews of Plotzk maintained a primary-school network. The oldest institutions were the "Chadarim", religious day-schools directed by "Rebbes" who taught their pupils Torah, Hebrew reading, Mishna and Talmud, etc. Never having obtained teaching licenses, these "rebbes" had to bribe the authorities in order to engage in their profession.

There also existed a "Cheder Metukan", a reformed elementary school, which taught modern Hebrew and prepared its pupils for higher secular studies.

A Hebrew kindergarten was established in Plotzk during the First World War, where Hebrew was taught as a living language.

Other schools were added to the network of private schools during the twenties: a religious "Mizrachi" school, a school where Yiddish was the language of instruction, the "Yesodei Hatorah" school founded by the Aguda and various others.

[Page 48]

Shmuel Penson

by Benjamin Grey (Graubart)

A biography of the above teacher, educator and youth-leader, who had great influence on the younger generation of Plotzk. He arrived in Plotzk from Lithuania, married there and became an influential figure in the community.

Thanks to his pedagogical qualifications, his lessons were favored by his many pupils who adored him and owed him their knowledge in Judaism, Jewish history and Hebrew.

The author, one of his pupils, describes the death of Penson in 1939 and the funeral which took place already under Nazi rule and adds: "We were all satisfied that our beloved teacher Penson died of natural causes before the Nazis succeeded to turn Jewish life into hell. His memory lives in the minds of his pupils, wherever they are, in Israel as well as in other countries of the world".

[Page 48]

My Father, Reb Shmuel Penson

by Abraham Penson

The author gives some biographical data on his father, a writer and journalist, who published translations of works by Heinrich Heine and other poets in "Hatsefira" and other Hebrew periodicals. He devoted his life and energies to the establishment of Hebrew schools and other cultural activities. He died in September 1939, a week or two after the Nazi invasion.

plo229.jpg [21 KB]
Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

[Page 48]

Jewish Education in Plotzk

by Prof. David Eisenberg

This article appeared in a provincial newspaper at Wloclawek in 1927 and deals with the necessity to expand the Jewish school system by establishing secondary schools for the education of children of the poorer classes. The importance of adding extra hours for the teaching of Jewish subjects, in order to promote Jewish national consciousness among the younger generation, is stressed.

The author urges the members of the Jewish middle class to contribute substantial sums in order to enable children of poverty-stricken families to benefit from secondary education.

[Page 49]

Memories of Yehiel Meir Kravietz

by A. Sh.

Yehiel Meir Kravietz, a melamed by profession, was of phenomenal intelligence. Although a religious man, he was conversant with secular topics such as Darwinism, Socialism, etc. He used to quote passages from a great variety of books which he read in the public library, and was popular with the "Mariavits" sect, whose members he was often invited to address on religious and other subjects.

Kravietz was very poor but never cared about that. When he once received a rare manuscript as a present, he would not even think of selling it and thereby improving his deplorable economic situation. Years later, when Jewish community representatives were invited to a reception held by a Catholic bishop and wanted to present him with a suitable gift; Yehiel Meir did not hesitate to offer his precious manuscript to the community for this purpose.

He was killed, as many others, during the Nazi massacre.

[Page 49]

The Popular Functions of the
Jewish Library “Hazamir”

by David Eisenberg

This article was written in 1926, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Jewish Public Library "Hazamir", founded in Plotzk in 1896.

The author shows that the "Hazamir" library served as a useful instrument in spreading general education and culture among the poorer segments of the Jewish population. The library, a non-party institution, succeeded in being of service to all classes of the population, and especially to the younger generation.

[Page 49]

Local Theater Groups

by M. Magnes

The author describes in detail the first beginnings of theater. performances in Plotzk, which started in 1906. Several Trade Unions organized drama groups in the town. Every performance became an important event in the cultural life of the town's Youth. Despite political differences, the activities of the theater groups encouraged all the various sections of Youth to cooperate in this cultural sphere. The actors were all non-professionals, and the revenue from shows was always used for cultural and social-aid purposes.

[Page 50]

Childhood Memories

by Michael Zylberberg

The author describes the house of his grandfather Rabbi Shimon, who was a member of the Plotzk Rabbinical Court, and one of the leading Gerer Chassidim, where Chassidim used to meet and tell many Chassidic tales. Grandfather Shimon was always very moderate when passing verdicts at the Rabbinical court. In his childhood he had studied together with the famous Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov.

he author further describes the "melamdim" of Plotzk who gave their pupils an elementary Jewish education. They were mostly very poor but devoted to their holy task. One of them was the unforgettable Fishel Posner, a very strict and demanding person, whose "Heder" was situated in "Altman's courtyard".

The "Little Beit Hamidrash" was an institute of higher Jewish learning whose graduates possessed a solid knowledge of the Talmud and other religious books. But many of its students began to show an interest in secular education, obtained textbooks for the study of Polish, German and other subjects. Some of them became later on active in various political movements.

[Page 50]

The Struggle for Restoring the Good Name of
Rabbi H. Shapiro

by A. Hartglas

The author, a pre-war member of the Polish Parliament and former Director General of the Israel Ministry of the Interior, describes the various efforts made by him in the early twenties for a legal posthumous restoration of the executed Rabbi's good name.

Rabbi Shapiro had been falsely accused of spying for the Bolsheviks, and was put to death in 1920 by a Polish Military court.

[Pages 50-51]

Nahum Sokolov and Plotzk

by Yakir Warszawski

(Excerpt from an article in "Hajnt", a Warsaw Yiddish daily,
thirty days after Sokolov's death)

Nahum Sokolov loved Plotzk, that romantic Polish town on the Vistula, where he spent some years of his boyhood. He used to say "Although I was born in Wyszogrod, I consider myself a son of Plotzk, because I studied there. My sentiments are based on the Talmudic saying : Whoever teaches the son of his friend Torah, may be considered as his father".

Nahum Sokolov was regarded a genius and at the age of 15 already had a good knowledge of five languages : Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German and French. He played a role in public life and at a young age already became a friend of the Russian Governor, who took a great liking to him.

The visit of Nahum Sokolov, the prominent Zionist leader, was a holiday for the Jews of Plotzk, who were proud of him as of one who had grown up in their own midst.

[Page 51]

Nahum Sokolov’s Visit to Plotzk and Wyszogrod

by Mark Turkov

A newspaper report on a visit by Nahum Sokolov to Plotzk in the twenties. The author describes the enthusiastic reception accorded the Zionist leader by the Plotzk Jewish population which proudly recalled the fact that Nahum Sokolov had spend some of his boyhood years in this town.

[Page 51]

Shalom Ash and Plotzk

by Michael Zylberberg

The famous Jewish writer Shalom Ash had connections with Plotzk. He wrote his novel "The Shtetl" in one of the town's suburbs. Being fond of its surroundings, he and his wife spent a certain period of their life there.

The author met Shalom Ash in London in 1953. When he told him what had happened to him during the holocaust period, Shalom Ash listened with great interest for many hours. He called Plotzk "our Plotzk", and related how it inspired him to write novels about Polish Jewry and how much he had liked his stay there.

Shalom Ash is quoted as having said in that conversation "The beauty of Plotzk in indescribable. Everything there was so lovely and Yiddish. The town and the countryside inspired me to write…"

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