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[Page 412]

Jewish Livelihoods

By Leibel Frankel

Translated by David Rendelman

The economic structure of the Jewish population in Wolbrom was not, for the most part, different than the structures of the surrounding towns.

Wanting to make a survey of how our unfortunate elders - mothers and fathers - struggled for survival - from Sunday morning until Shabbat Eve, week after week in the hot summer-days, or in the rainy, snowy or freezing days, looking to make a living in the poverty stricken environment, I will try to present each branch separately.

  1. Peddlers
  2. Many dozens of Jewish families living in poverty, who used to begin every Monday very early, having done the morning prayers with the first Minyan, and gone on the way, wandered in the villages, buying up from the peasants, whatever they were able, a new born calf - and carried this home on the shoulders, or a cow which no longer gave milk, and brought it to Wolbrom, a tiny sack of produce, some feathers for a newlywed couple, geese, ducks or hens, a rabbit fur, some fruit - and from such making a living.

    Jewish mothers used to purchase everything and tried to make Shabbos, or other special occasions, joyful in the home.

    For the most part the peddlers were poor people who had no possessions themselves, however with the help of the Handworker-Bank, every Sunday they used to receive a small loan (without interest!) to be able to purchase in the villages, whatever they were able to purchase, and such they bore the yolk of making a living.

  3. Artisans
  4. The artisans were in the majority for Wolbrom Jews. Tailors, shoemakers, quiltmakers, hatmakers, tanners, joiners, housepainters, bakers, carriers, and other forms of these professions. The artisans used to employ laborers, or as they were called, "gezeln", who used to work hard without air from morning till late in the evening (till Mincha), and could hardly make it by. Their products - for the most part (shoes, clothes, hats) were exported to Zaglembie.

    The shoemakers had a tough life, because there seemed to be more shoemakers than peasants. However, in the winter when the fields rested, they had a second way of making a living, making shoes for cheap prices, because everyone purchased cheaply and sold them later for work. Thus did Jewish shoemakers have to live, also selling their shoe products to the town merchants, because this was the way of the market. They had no choice.

    There were shoemakers who wandered, packed their bags, left for the world with their families, to Paris or Belgium.

    Sheike Yungerman and Shmuel Navlatski were good traders Š the middlemen for the artisans in Wolbrom.

    From the branch lived dozens of families, who used to wander with their wares to the markets and fairs, unpacking their items and selling to the peasants, who used to bring their village products and household items, shoes, articles of clothing, and other such things.

    In the early morning hours, they used to pack their packs onto the wagons buckled to horses, and headed on their ways, to Olkusz, Pilica, Zarnavtse, Skale, Miechov, unpacking the merchandise, purchasing some, and packing once again, and in the late evening hours, coming home.

    This was a hard way to make a livingŠ in the rain, in the burning hot days of Tammuz, and also in the days of winter with the snow and freezing temperatures. Here there are a number of sentences about merchants who sold "shtivel", and the Wolbrom shtivel merchants were famous in the region for their "shtivel". The most famous of these were the three Poltarak brothers, and the Wolf brothers, Getsel, Moniek, and Moshe Kivkovits. In the evenings, even their father used to sell shoes on Elgoter Street, or shtivel, and go home carrying them by hand. Shlomo Kivkavitsh, a neighbor, also a shtivel-merchant, was a Jew with a good heart, and a friend in the time of trouble, used to help needy villagers or for a sick person would set him up in the hospital.

    There was an artisan, a hatmaker, Mendel Biber, and his wife, Rivka'le, the daughter of Shaya Dovid Weindling, in the house the tic-tock and noise of the machines were heard at the market. He had a huge family.

    R. Mendel (that he should be remembered with blessing) was a simple, virtuous Jew, without malice, nor did anyone ever hear him say anything unbecoming a virtuous Jew. He respected every Jew with honor, was a regular at the synagogue, gave much to tzedakah, and was active amongst the hatmakers. In the early evening hours he could be seen with his friends Wolf (Shamshi) Velner, and Hershel Yakubavitsh. They were modern-types, standing tall in their artisanry.

    They were all murdered. Honor their memories.

  5. Merchants
  6. The manufacture-merchants were the wealthiest amongst the Jewish population. The merchants used to travel to Lodz to bring their different material for their businesses.

    Inclusive were the families: Tsigler (Zeigler), Hocherman, Lesman, Avraham'le, Burnstein (Groles), Yekutiel Fishel (at the post), Dovid Erlich (Gembe) from the city hall, Alter Levitt, Melech Silberberg (the Rav's son). You could get cloth for clothes from him.

    There was a branch of leather merchants like Avraham Velgreen, Yisraelevitsh and others who did not dare stray from their line of work.

    The haberdashers had shops both big and small.

  7. Produce-Merchants
  8. Amongst the produce-merchants who did business with the pritsim were my Great-Grandfather Moshe (Ben Nathan) Nartsin (that he should be remembered with blessing), Mendel Korfeld, and others.

    There was a produce-merchant named R. Moshe Feivel Blakubski (that his name should be remembered with blessing), a Jew, a scholar. He was a Gerer Hasid. In the Gerer Shtibel he was greatly respected. He loved Shaharit to pray before the congregation. He was pious also in his work.

    There was a produce-merchant, Geler Yosel Tsukerman, a Radomsker Hasid, a good leader of the Mussaf prayer. Every word he spoke out with grace and with a special tune. Everyone loved it when he led the prayers. A pious Jew, a talmid chocham.

    All were murdered. Honor their memory.

    Amongst the bigger businesses was the business of Beirech Yanovski, a Hasid with a splendid looking face, which held a generous hand, being a Gerer Hasid, with a much sought-after lineage.

    Also Moshe, a Yungerman, a Mashchil, dreamed of the Land of Israel, was murdered with the entire family, who incidentally was shot in his home in Harshnitse in Miechov.

    Honor their memory!

    The iron-bronze was concentrated in several hands. The biggest business was from Shlomo Auerbach. A little further on were the businesses of Avraham Landau and Yosef Zielanki. On Krakow Street was the business of Yosef Goldberg, a Jew a Mashchil, a modern Hasid mentsh. Moshe, the only son, a Zionist. He was a bookkeeper in Isser Zaltsman's sawmill. He was very much loved by the Jews.

    In the final years they lived in Krakow. The entire family, all murdered, except for three sisters who live in Israel.

    Honor their memory.

  9. Horse-Handlers, Animal Merchants
  10. On this branch were dozens of families. The brothers Elezar and Baruch Hakman, the brothers Dantsiger (Balshevits), Mordechai Levitt and many others had businesses centered on animals, and they were well known by the peasants in all the villages. They were respected, and led good lives.

    Amongst the horse-handlers were the popular merchants Haim Nunberg (Yakel's son), the brothers Yosel and Reuven Birman (Shileshevers) and our unforgettable neighbors, Lozer Meitlis and his sons: Leibel (Itshe Bekers son-in-law), Reuven Itshe and Yaakov, all well-versed merchants from the bronze and also skilled horse riders, who often rode on horseback to Kieltz for the city fair and used to make a good living. Leibel and Reuven were strong men. The goyim were afraid of them.

    Once recruits came to town and began breaking windows and cutting off Jewish beards. Reuven happened to be sleeping, as the day before he returned from a riding trip on his horse that had lasted an entire night. I woke him, he went out to the empty houses, and showed his strength. Blood ran in the street from the colleagues. Reuven was also wounded. Several of the colleagues turned him over to the police.

    Also Lozer's father was a "people's person". He lived with perfect trust in God, never said a bad word about anyone, the goyim who came to purchase a horse used to shake his hand strongly. A shudder is what they felt at the strength of such a Jew.

    All were murdered. No one remains from the entire huge family. Honor their memory!

  11. Butchers
  12. Many of the butchers had their butcher shops on Elgoter Street in Grossman's house. The rest were spread around the rest of the city.

    Amongst the outstanding butchers were: Heimel Roitmentch, (Jek), Yosel Zarushinski, Berish Ratmentsh, all religious Jews.

  13. Coachmen
  14. The coachmen, a pair of families, they used to stand with their harnessed team by Potash at the market. They used to drive passengers to the train or from the train, which took an entire day.

  15. Factories
  16. There were several factories in the town, each of different production. Melech Patsanavskis soap-factory with a Jewish worker (Reuven Dorfsberger's father). He was a wealthy, Hasidic Jew with a stately appearance, a master of charity, an Alexander Hasid. There fell a Korban, a sacrifice, in the name of the holiness of God. Dressed in a tallis and tefillin he was murdered in his own home not wanting to abide by the roll call of the S.S.

    Honor his memory that is filled with light!

    Hershel Verdiger, a bicarbonate of soda factory, worked personally in the summer with his workers, his syrups and gases could be smelled in the surroundings.

    There was a so-called Mizrachi Eskn, that dreamed of the Land of Israel, participated in all the projects for the building of the land. A warm Jew. He did good for many families and all in secret. By him there was always an open door. He was loved by all the neighbors on the street. His entire family, all of them were murdered, not even one remains from his family.

    Let us never forget - who were the murderers of our relatives - and the mass death of the community of Wolbrom.

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