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[Page 60]

“Agudat Israel” in Plock and Region

by Leib Geliebter

"Agudat Israel" was established in Plotzk in 1919, about seven years after the world conference at Katowice, where the world organization of orthodox Jews was founded.

The speakers at the first meeting emphasized that the Jewish Kehila (community) was run by assimilationists who constituted a minority in town, and that the time was ripe for giving orthodox Jews their rightful place in the Kehila.

In the following years the Aguda established several Jewish religious schools in town. The movement secured a prominent place in the Kehila for itself, and its representative was elected its Chairman. It took part in the municipal elections and its representative who became councilor, obtained the agreement of the municipal authorities to employ religious Jews in their service without their having to desecrate the Shabbat.

The economic activity of the Aguda included the establishment of a prosperous bank, which extended loans on easy terms to small merchants and artisans.

When the Nazis invaded Plotzk they confiscated the property of the bank, arrested the author of this article who was tortured and wounded, but survived thanks to the medical treatment of the unforgettable Dr. Feinberg.

Members mentioned: R' Iczel Burstyn, R' Jakob Jaszjewicz, R' Jeszayahu Spierstein, R' Kalman Lajbisz Kilbert, R' Fiszel Benet, R' Icchak Meir Zilberberg, R' Dawid Warszawiak, R' Mosze Mordechai Geliebter, R' Jakob Nagel' R' Arie Kosowocki, R' Sinai Wolf Rozen.

[Pages 60-61]

The Activities of the “Bund”

by J. M. Oliver (Ilover)

Like other leftist movements, the "Bund" party's primary aim was the organization of trade unions among Jewish workers. Only after the First World War were they free to engage legally in their work.

The "Bund" movement was very popular in Plotzk and most Jewish workers voted for its list at election time. In 1920 it had two seats on the municipal council.

The local Bund branch organized the Jewish working youth in a special group, called "Skif". A Bund representative, Israel Gershon Burshtyn, was Lavnik (senior municipal councilor) of Plotzk and was very popular with all Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. He particularly distinguished himself in frequently preventing the eviction of poor tenants from their homes for non-payment of rents.

In the last years preceding the war the Bund tried to combat anti-Semitism in joint action with the Polish Socialist Party (P. P. S.).

I. G. Burshtyn survived the holocaust and spent the last years of his life in America where he felt lonely, without contact with the Jewish working masses to whom he had devoted his whole life. He wrote his memories on the destruction of Jewish Plotzk, and bequeathed his legacy to the Plotzker Association in Israel, who established a Loan Fund for new Olim (immigrants to Israel) from these funds.

plo445.jpg [23 KB]
Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

[Page 61]

“Hashomer Hatzair”

by E. E

This youth movement, which combined Zionist aspirations with "self realization" (i. e. going to Eretz Israel and becoming a worker and pioneer) found its first adherents in Plotzk after the end of the First World War. The history of "Hashomer Hatzair" in our town may be divided into two parts:
a) From 1921 to 1927, when this youth organization was linked to the local ''Jewish Gymnasium''
b) From 1927 to 1939, as an independent unit.
In its first period its pattern was that of a purely scouting organization, on the lines of the "Blau Weiss" Zionist youth movement in Germany and the "Wandervogel" groups there. Two local teachers, Baruch (Bernard) Silber and David Eisenberg had then a great deal of influence on the local branch of that organization. Especially the latter made great efforts to acquaint the young boys and girls with Judaism, teaching them Hebrew, Jewish history, etc.

During the second period (1927-1939) the local branch became more dependent on other factors in the community and distinguished itself by its activities. It exerted great influence on the younger generation and many of its members played an important part in re-settling Israel, among whom there were some of the founders of the famous Kibbutz Negba in the Negev. Although "Hashomer Hatzair" later turned to the left and became very radical, it still exerted great influence.

Two young girls of the Plotzk branch of "Hashomer Hatzair" (Tova Beatus and Rozka Korezak) belonged to the anti-German Partisan units, who fought in the ghetto of Wilna against the Nazis. The first one perished on one of her missions and the other lives now in a Kibbutz in Israel.

[Page 62]

Revisionists and “Beitar”

As in other towns and townships in Poland there existed also in Plotzk a branch of the Revisionist party and Beitar, its youth organization. In spite of the tension, which prevailed in those years (prior to 1939) between this movement and other Zionist groups, no clashes occurred in Plotzk.

The Beitar youth movement had a number of adherents in Plotzk and like other youth-groups organized summer-camps and pre-military training. It called upon its members to immigrate to Eretz Israel and take part in its struggle for independence.

Due to the lack of documents the editor is unable to quote figures and mention names connected with Beitar. None of its members survived after the war, and no photos are left.

The editor concludes by paying tribute to this extreme Zionist group which played its part in the sphere of Zionist education in Plotzk.

[Page 62]

General Zionist Youth Movement

(“Hashomer Haleumi” – “Hanoar Hazioni” – “Akiba”)

by Benyamin Galewski

This movement comprised two groups: "Hashomer-Haleumi", later known as "Hanoar Hazioni" and "Akiba". The first group was founded in Plotzk in 1929 after a lecture held there by its leader Dr. R. Feldshuh (Ben-Shem). It had a considerable influence on the Jewish youth in town and distinguished itself in educational and other activities. "Summer colonies" (camps), where intensive Zionist work was done, were organized every summer. In 1930 the movement split into two groups. One of it joined the Progressive General Zionist faction, led by I. Grinbaum. The second movement, called "Akiba" was founded in Plotzk in 1931, and comprised mainly students. This movement adhered to Jewish tradition, although it was not orthodox in character. A summer-camp held in 1933, in which a youth group from Plotzk took part, had a considerable influence on the future of "Akiba" in town. The author quotes, in this connection, some excerpts from periodicals which praise the important work done by "Akiba" in Plotzk.

Three members (Meir Pagorek, Benyamin Galewski and Eliyahu Eisenberg) were elected members of the Central Committee of the movement. The activities of "Akiba", continued until the outbreak of war in September 1939.

[Page 63]

The Local Communist Party

by Sh. P.

The Communist party in Plotzk, as in all other towns of Poland in that period, was illegal. Its aims were of a general political nature, but a considerable number of its members were Jews. Its main spheres of influence were the trade unions, a library and a sports circle called "Wicher" (Storm).

When the frontier between Nazi-occupied Poland and Russia was opened for refugees, many young Jews took advantage of the opportunity and escaped to Russia, thereby saving their lives. Being later on confronted with the realities of the Soviet regime, they left the U. S. S. R. and emigrated to Western countries and to Israel after the war.

[Pages 63-64]

The History of “Maccabi” in Plock

by Moshe Rubin

The author of this article was one of the top leaders of the "Maccabi" organization in Plotzk, who served many years as its Honorary Secretary and Vice-Chairman.

First steps to organize Jewish youth in a sports-organization were taken during the First World War (in 1915). A group of Jewish boys used to gather on a free plot near the "New Market" and do exercises under most primitive conditions. They were assisted by ex-students of the Russian Secondary School. When the town was under German rule, a special Jewish committee of sports-minded citizens was constituted and attempted to obtain the necessary license from the German authorities in order to organize the until then sporadic sports activities.

That year a special sports-gathering took place in the local theatre which marked the beginning of Jewish sports activities in town.

"Maccabi" organized a great festival in 1916, in which hundreds of its members from Plotzk and neighboring localities took part. When the town came under Polish rule, the authorities did not view Jewish sports activities with favor and tried on many occasions to limit them, but in spite of it, "Maccabi" grew in members and opened various branches of sports activities. Its members also took part in many general Jewish and Zionist campaigns. The outbreak of the Polish-Soviet war 1920 restricted the "Maccabi" activities, but later on, when Poland was re-established and battles ceased, many instructors and leaders of "Maccabi" left for Warsaw to study. A newly-elected committee redecorated the sports-hall, bought equipment and organized new groups. The years 1923-1934 marked a steady development of "Maccabi", which became a part of Jewish life in Plotzk and played an important role in the physical training of Jewish youth. New sections were organized: for light athletics, boxing, bicycle-riding, ski, etc. Members of "Maccabi" were in that period engaged in general cultural and Zionist affairs, besides their sports activities.

The author recalls one of the most significant events in the community's life: The arrival of Jewish sportsmen from Eretz Israel. It was a motorcycle group which toured many countries of Europe in 1930 and while in Poland, visited Plotzk. That event - says the author - was unforgettable and all those who witnessed it, will forever remember it.

The dedication of the "Maccabi" flag became a Jewish national festival. An article published in the Warsaw Yiddish daily "Haynt" (The Day) gave a detailed report of that important event and its influence on Plotzk's nationally minded Jewish youth.

At the end of 1934 the author left for Eretz Israel. He was confident that his followers and the younger generation in Plotzk would continue his work for "Maccabi" which was inspired by the slogan "mens sana in corpore sano".

[Page 64]

The Last Two Years of “Maccabi”

by Adam Najman (Nowicki)

The "Maccabi" sports-organization played an important role in the sport-life of the Jewish youth in Plotzk. It contained all possible sections: football, gymnastics, light athletics, basket-ball, hockey, boxing, table-tennis, etc. The local Jewish youth of the town, being prevented from joining gentile sports organizations due to the prevailing anti-Semitic trends, flocked into the Jewish sports-organizations, and especially to "Maccabi".

The author describes various sports activities which were the pride of the Jewish public and mentions the last football-match which took place in the summer of 1939 between the local "Maccabi" team and the Wloclawek "Maccabi" team. He also recollects one of the cases which proved that the "Maccabi" members did not confine themselves to sports activities only, and were always prepared to protect Jews and Jewish honor: a group of Jewish boys and girls was sitting on benches in a local public garden, when they were attacked by hooligans who wanted to expel them from the park. "Maccabi" members rushed to the help of the attacked youngsters and beat the attackers up.

The author mentions with appreciation the activities of the following: Felix Margulis, and Henryk Shenvits, the last two chairmen of "Maccabi"; Vice-chairman Artek Galevski and General Secretary Abraham Altman. They contributed a lot to the prosperity and success of local "Maccabi".

Sportsmen mentioned (partial list): Artek Galewski, Leon Szczyg, Israel Lisser, Israel Goldman and his brother Romek, Leon Strach, Szlomo Szczyg, Szymon Prusak, Menczyk, Lubranicki, Dawid Krajcer, Dr. Matias Marknstras, Henryk Szenwic, Malgot, Gad Tynski, Eliyahu Baran, Pawel Gombinski, Rudek Lubranicki, Jarzyk Goldberg, Gutek Flajszer, Hela Goldman, Sala Plocer, Sala Kot, Mitek Wasserman, Salek Zilberstein, Alek Rusak, Altrowicz, Gold, Salek Lichtenstein, Adam Najman, Zosia Goldberg, Fela Koza, Teresa Strach, Sabinka Eisenberg, Heniek Najman, Adam Goldberg.

plo446.jpg [23 KB]
Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

[Pages 65-66]

Plotzk-Born Jewish Painters
Nathan Korzen

Nathan Korzen, who perished in the bloom of his life in the Wilna ghetto, was a member of a young group of Polish painters, and was considered one of the important Jewish artists in Poland. The members of his family in Plotzk were engaged in various arts and crafts, and little Nathan loved to observe the handwork of his uncles, who were goldsmiths and silversmiths. His grandfather and father owned a workshop for the manufacture of copper goods, among them Jewish ritual objects.

Eager to take up formal art studies, Nathan left his home and went to Warsaw. Professor Tadeusz Pruszkowsky of the Art Academy there recognized right away his outstanding talents and enabled him to enroll at the Academy. While still a student, Korzen already exhibited his work at a Jewish Gallery in Warsaw. Having finished his studies successfully, he soon became known as one of the finest painters of portraits in Poland. Leading personalities commissioned him to do their portraits and he was never short of work.

He also painted from nature, and whenever he visited Plotzk, which is set in beautiful surroundings, he went out of town to paint the countryside. He spent many days at the picturesque village of Kazimierz, which attracted many painters because of its lovely setting.

As the art critic Yehiel Aronson states in his appreciation of Korzen, he was not affected by the surrealistic school of Post-Impressionism, since he was gifted with the ability to express his longings realistically on canvas.

Korzen lived in Wilna at the outbreak of the war, as he thought that from there it would be easier to escape to the West. His hopes did not materialize, and he stayed on in the Ghetto, where he took part in the cultural life of the oppressed Jews.

Murderous hands put an end to his creative life. His brother Harry, who resides in Toronto, published there a book in his memory in 1948.

Regrettably only very few of his pictures were saved from destruction and some of them are to be found in the collection of Dr. Simchowicz of Tel Aviv.

[Pages 65-66]

Fishl Zylberberg (Zber)

"Poems are talking pictures and pictures – are silent poems"… Melech Rawicz

A series of articles in memory of the above named outstanding Plotzk-born painter.

The first article is written by Harry Koren (Korzen) who was a friend of the artist. After describing the surroundings and countryside of Plotzk which inspired talented young Jewish boys, he portrays the artistic personality of F. Zylberberg. "He was endowed with the gift of a real master and thoroughly analyzed his ideas. He handled the strokes of his brush with great self-assurance and vigor", says the author.

He also recalls their meetings before the war, the exhibition of Zylberberg's graphic works at the "Hotel Poznanski" and describes him as an enthusiastic hard-working painter who had nothing in common with the frustrated "cafe-type artists".

Zylberberg exhibited his works at the "Warsaw Salon of Fine Arts" and was praised by art critics of that time.

He lived during the first war-years in Paris, but was deported to Auschwitz where he was murdered by the Nazis.

Born in 1909, he was seen painting since early boyhood. Thanks to his teacher, Ms. Gutkind, a painter herself, he continues his studies in Warsaw and very soon distinguishes himself at several exhibitions as a talented artist.

In spite of being a Jew he is being chosen, due to his talent, to represent Polish graphic art in Paris and his works are being exhibited in 1937 at the Polish Pavilion of the International Exhibition in Paris. He studies in that city, takes an active part in its artistic life and is known there by the name "Zber".

In 1941 the Nazis arrested him and sent him to a concentration camp. On 26th October, 1942, he perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, only 33 years old.

Another article concerning the above is written by Itzchak Furmansky, Chairman of the Jewish Deportees in France. He describes mainly his behavior in the Bon-La-Roland camp, his modesty and devotion to art in spite of the inhuman conditions of life there. Zber was recognized by a Pole, who intervened in his favor, and thanks to whom he enjoyed better conditions for a short time.

In his last days in spite of his illness, the optimistic Zber was sure that he would not be sent to death.

A few lines are dedicated to Zber's wife, Stenia, who took part in anti-Nazi activities in Paris and murdered in a Nazi-camp in 1944. She was deported under the name "Guta Rozenstein". She managed to hide some of her husband's works.

[Pages 66-67]

Jechiel-Meir (Maks) Eljowicz - Portrait-Painter

by Moshe Rubin

The above was born in Raci¹¿ but moved with his parents at a young age to Plotzk. He specialized in painting the portraits of persons from the well-to-do classes, (writers, famous physicians etc.).

During the years before the war, Eljowicz worked as an internal decorator and in 1937 was awarded the First Prize for the nicest show-window by the Warsaw municipality. That year he was sent by the Polish Government to arrange the Polish Pavilion at the Levant Fair in Tel-Aviv.

After the Nazi invasion, Eljowicz stayed in the Warsaw ghetto where he, and others artists, were engaged in decorating the Kehila meeting-hall. One day he was sent by the Jewish committee to decorate the walls of a deportees' transit-station. He and his Colleagues painted a most impressive picture of a Jewish smith at work. This picture later irritated an S/S officer so greatly that he ordered to destroy it.

Maks Eljowicz, who contributed a lot to the artistic education of the Jewish public, perished at the extermination camp of Treblinka.

[Page 67]

David Tushinsky - Master of Miniatures

by E. E.

David Tushinsky, the miniaturist, is faithful to the tradition of Jewish religious ornamental art. His grandfather was engaged in writing the letters of Torah Scrolls. David was influenced in his art by three factors the loss of his family and his desire to perpetuate their sufferings, his inability to strike roots in Israel's art world, his desire to become a member of the Jewish-French artistic school.

When only one year old, his parents moved from Brzezany (near Lodz) to Plotzk, where he lived for 20 years, until the outbreak of war. The romantic scenes of the town inspired him just as they influenced other Plotzk artists, such as Korzen, Zylberberg and Eljowicz.

He studied in Lodz, was recruited into the Polish army and soon after the defeat of 1939 moved eastwards. Eventually he got to Israel, but here he felt that his special brand of art would not be appreciated. For several years he worked for a living, unable to further his art-work.

Then he moved to Paris, where, due to his natural ability to make friends and his desire to make his work known, he has succeeded in his career.

Two exhibitions of his work took place in Paris in 1948 and he was awarded an international art prize.

He maintains his relations with Israel and comes here from time to time, both to exhibit his. work (Haifa, Eilat, Petah Tiqva and other places) and to find new subjects for his art.

His drawings are greatly influenced by three factors: The Holocaust, Jewish national rebirth and Europe's culture. One of his critics said that Tushinsky's art is "a mirror of his epoch".

[Page 68]

Shmuel Har-Shalom (Fridenberg)

by Moshe Rubin

The painter Har-Shalom was born in Lodz, and grew up after the First World War in Plotzk, where he was drawn to the world of painting from early youth on. He was inspired by the teacher Strzalka and the painters Korzen and Eljowicz, but was unable to take up formal art-studies for lack of financial means and the need to support his parents.

Only later in life, once he was already settled in Kiryat-Haim, Israel, he returned to his first love - art. After his daily chores at the local glass factory, he devoted all his free time to the creation of copper etchings. After a period of study in Paris, he showed his work at two exhibitions, (1961 and 1963) in Haifa. His work was very favorably reviewed by Israeli art-critics, and he continues to create scenes taken from the landscape and the day-to-day life of the workers and ordinary folk of Israel.

plo388.jpg [17 KB]
Drawing by Yaacov Guterman

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