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[Page 198]

The Interest–Free Loan Bank[1]
in the Name of Sholem Dovid Vayn of Chicago

Bransk had in various times interest–free banks from which the poor received small loans, usually without interest.

The first interest–free loan bank was at Ezra's, i.e. it was a town institution. It was run by Ezra. That means that it is a town institution, It was administered by Ezra Goldberg. We have already written about this in the first section of the book. There one had to leave an object of value as security. This institution ended in 1915 when the Russians retreated from Bransk. All these objects that had been left as security were stolen and the town interest–free loan bank was but a memory.

The second interest–free loan bank was established by the Bransk Relief in New York in 1919 when the delegates brought a large sum of money and the businessmen in town used this money to organize an interest–free loan bank for the poor.

The administration was in the hands of a few who denigrated the poor when they came to get an interest–free loan. If the poor man had children who were not such good religious Jews or were socialists, he could be certain he would not receive any interest–free loan. And yet, a large portion of Bransk did receive such interest–free loans. However, the times were not favourable. The inflation that everyday lowered the value of money wiped out the entire invested capital and nothing remained of the interest–free loan banks.

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The third interest–free loan bank was founded in 1926 in the artisans' union. However, they did not have much money, with their entire capital consisting of 600 zlotys. Therefore, one could not receive more than 20 zlotys.

On a Passover evening in 1928 in Rabbi Itskhak Vayn's home, a gathering took place, composed of activists whose purpose it was to found a loan–bank that would virtually be capable of lending substantial help to those who needed it.

Sholem–Dovid Vayn was the son of the Maydaner (?) who had the maydan (?) near Rutke which is the tar/pitch works. He had already been in America for the past 35 years, and yet he had not forgotten his hometown. With a generous heart he came to help with a quite large contribution to establish an interest–free loan bank in Bransk.

This bank became known in Bransk as Vayn's interest–free loan bank. This bank turned out to be a lifesaver for many community merchants and workers. The loan had to be repaid within sixteen weeks. Bransk Jews showed that they recognized this good and important institution. They paid promptly. One could get an interest–free loan of 500 zlotys from Vayn's bank, approximately 90 dollars at that time.

The number of borrowers eventually totaled more than 600. The bank was run wonderfully well. The central [bank] in Warsaw gave the interest–free loan bank more money because they saw the good results of the bank which enabled the people to get on their feet and give them the opportunity to earn a living.

The total funds of Vayn's no–interest loan bank consisted of 96,000 zlotys – a huge sum. The Joint[2] considered the Bransk bank as the best in the entire Bialystok area.

Herr (Mr) Vayn's contribution to the bank was 36,000 zlotys. Atlanta sent 4,000 zlotys, New York sent support to

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be distributed directly to the poor. Bransk itself raised 12,000 zlotys. The balance was what the Joint invested.


Sholem Dovid Vayn of Chicago
Founder of the interest–free–loan–bank


The heads of the bank were Khaim Laznik, bookkeeper the younger Reuven Laznik was the treasurer. Their leadership was outstanding. The bank had its own office in the community offices. The bookkeeping was tightly controlled. There were always people in its office, some bringing in their payments while others applied for loans. It was a bank institution.

Hersh Avol was the President. He was very decent and devoted to the institution. In addition, he was a very talented individual. The administration members were Elye Gershon Perlman, Alter

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Kapilikhe's, Ben Tziyon Zarember, Velvl Branski, the Kadluvofker Rihmer, Zakhria Oskart, Simkha Oshpeter.

The Revisionist[3] committee were Mr Khaim Layb Live, Rabbi Ben Tziyon Kagan and Shmuelke Beker.

In 1935, when the community elections in Bransk takes place, the administration decides to play politics. They put forth their own list of candidates. They receive only 12 votes. At the following yearly gathering, the administration is a different one: the President is Shabtai Chomsky, Avrum Verpikhovsky is the treasurer and members Maishe Ratnshteyn and the Kadlubafker rhymer.

The review committee: Rabbi Ben Tziyon Kagan, Alter Trus, Alter Sapershteyn and Yosef Zeyfman.

In 1937 the Polish boycott movement was in full swing. Bransk Jews cannot travel to any markets or fairs. There are Christian stores everywhere. It becomes difficult to earn anything. The interest–free loan bank in the name of Vayn is the only place that can mitigate the terrible situation. Its relief work is substantial. The money from the good–hearted Mr Vayn of Chicago is limitless. People are virtually rescued in the time of their greatest need. The Peoples' –Bank which was a business institution and not a philanthropic one charged interest. Here loans [Vayn's] were given interest–free.

Bransk was one of the fortunate towns, having such a beautiful institution, the interest–free bank in the name of Vayn of Chicago. In 1946 Julius Cohen was in the main office of the Joint in New York. They showed him the records of the Bransk loan bank in the name of Vayn of Chicago as the premier organization in the entire Bialystok area.

During the eleventh or twelfth years of its existence, the interest–free loan–bank accomplished wonderfully good work. Bransk was proud and rightly so with the institution that was founded by the esteemed landsman, Mr Sholem Dovid Vayn of Chicago. When the 10th anniversary of its existence was celebrated,

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Mr. Sholem Dovid Vayn was unanimously elected as honourary President. See “Bransk Life” [later on – newspaper].

We thank you, dear and esteemed friend, Sholem Dovid Vayn, for your beautiful and heartfelt gift to the Bransk community of the interest–free loan–bank that you founded there. It functioned beautifully, conducted itself masterfully, with its relief work always at the ready. Regretfully, it ended tragically, as did the entire Jewish life end tragically and horrifically. On September 7th, 1939, when Bransk was bombarded with Nazi fire–bombs, the town was consumed in flames, the locale, the archives, the notes and all documents were turned into ash. The fiery tongues of flames destroyed everything, the entire Jewish presence in Poland, Bransk included, and her finest institution, Sholem Dovid Vayn's loan–bank remains as a memorial for history. You may be proud, friend Vayn, with your accomplishment. History will evaluate your magnificent work, as is deserved.

Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Gmilas Khesedim. Return
  2. Wikipedia – “the Joint” or JDC is a worldwide Jewish relief organization headquartered in New York. It was established in 1914 and is active in more than 70 countries. Return
  3. Followers of Ze'ev Vladimir Jabotinsky (now Likud in Israel). Return

[Page 203]

Political Activity of Bransk Jews

In order to form a complete picture of all sides of Jewish life in Bransk, we must acquaint you with the political activity of Bransk.

Poland, at least on paper, became a free republic. Everyone had equal political rights and general town rights.

When the citizens of Bransk, especially the Jews, went to the polls, they became totally confused by the many parties that had submitted their lists of candidates. The parties were the following.

Before I acquaint you with the parties, I want to tell you that each party had under its wing many smaller parties. These hangers–on created more tumult than anything else. Naturally, the youth did not have voting rights, and yet all the parties made the effort to keep youth organizations connected with them.

THE BUND – The oldest Jewish party since 1905 and later under the Germans, the Bund figures as a political party. The number of members in Bransk is unknown.

The leaders of the “Bund” were: Alter Sapershteyn, Itzel the Vartavnik's son, Zaydl Tsivyatshekhe's, Ayzik Motl Shuster, Alter Kapelikhe's eldest son, Alter Susel, Shloyme Efraim Kvasnik's son and Sroyt's girl.

The “Bund's” first vikhovank (?) was the youth Bund, which

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The Bund in 1920


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was called “Tsukunft” (future). The leaders of “Tsukunft” were: Peshe Susel, Shloyme Efraim's girl, Leyzer Susel, Shloyme Efraim's son Menakhem Rifke. It must be said about Peshe Susel that she was a well–educated girl. The “Bund's” second vikhovank (?) was an artistic division by the name of “Skif”, which was led by Gedalye Susel, Shloyme Efraim's son, who was also a talented youth. It was said in Bransk that Gedalye is the most talented boy in town.

As you see, this Shloyme Efraim the kvasnik[1] was a fortunate person. His sons and boys and girls worked for the “Bund”. There was also a sport division called “Morgnshtern” (morning–star). I do not remember who its leaders were.

THE LEFT POALE TSIYON – the second important party. The organization was in existence from the time of the German occupation. Its leaders were: Yankl Pribut, Elye Yentchman and another Yentchman, Tseplinsky the rope–maker, Rozke Glezer, Itche Levin, Elye Kratz, Bomtche, Elye Dovid Pribut and Nakhke Glik. Nokhke was also a thoughtful, calm and well–informed worker.

The left Poale Tsiyon had a youth division called “Borukhovtses.” The leaders were: Itche Levin, Shmuel'ke Beker's son. This Itche was a genius. One seldom encounters such boys. He was very polite and had a great desire for physical work, and Alter Kopelikhe's youngest son – small and a great comedian. His comic roles in a theatre performance were loved by Bransk, and Maishe Khaim Dambravske.

The left Poale Tsiyon also had a sport division with the name of “Shtern” (star). The leaders of the Shtern group are no longer familiar to me.

RIGHT POALE TSIYON – This was the third political party in Bransk. Its leaders were decent Jews: Yankev Gotlieb, Yeshaye Tsuker, Yekhiel Don, Beynish Okon, Bishke Safran, Khone Sokolovitch and Fradl Hurvitz.

Their divisions were: “HA'KHALUTZ”, whose leaders were: Mann, Elye

[Page 206]

People's fraktsya (wing of a party) Tseirey Tsiyon (Young Zionists) in Bransk
Centre sign says: Eretz Yisroel L'am Yisroel (the Land of Israel to the People of Israel)
Right–hand sign says: Ha'avoda Hi Khayinu! (Work is Our Life!)
Left–hand sign says: Arad, Arbeit, Fraihait! (Forward [?], Work, Freedom!)


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Goldfarb, Sender Shafran, Hodes Susel, Keyle Smurztchik, Bertche Vilkansky and Minke Levortafskil.

Their sport organization was the “HAGANA.” The right Poale Tsiyon also had a workers' group called “HAOVED” (the work), which was intended to show the world that they also have workers included in their party.

At a gathering the left Poale Tsiyon or “Bund” would shout to them: Where are your workers? With pride, the right Poale Tsiyon would point to Gershon Kopke's, the single worker.

MIZRAKHI – This was the 4th political party in Bransk, led by the rabbi's son–in–law, Rabbi Ben Tsiyon Kagan. I do not know much about who the Mizrakhi members were. Two of them are known: Maishe Piekucki[2] and Khaninah Khafetz.

THE AGUDA – The 5th political party led by Ben Tsiyon Zarember. Its members were known as being khasidim and other participants. They were in charge of the Beis Yakov School.

BETAR – The 6th political party led by Yosef–Betzalel Kestin, the Betar had a division called “Brit Ha'khayal” (the soldiers alliance). Yosef–Meir Skolke was their commander. His adjutant was Pinye Pontchke, the corporal was Gutman, Tchane's son–in–law, and the greatest wise man in town.

COMMUNISTS – They were not legal. It was then common knowledge that Praysl the Blacksmith's children were all red. Khaim Mann, Velvl Pulshansky, Rivtche Kofke's, Broyzman, Pesakh Malkhle's, the glazier, Dovid Tsuker and Benye Fayvl Shuster's were also known to be Communists.

Their youth division was called “Komsamol.” Another division of theirs was “Mapar” (?), led by Libe the Redl's. Their sport organization was “VITZ”.

These are the political parties in Bransk – six legal, and illegal, totaling with their branches more than fifteen.

It begs the question – what did all these parties do in Bransk? Of what did their major activity consist? Only of one thing – to fight among themselves. If this was their main goal, then they were very successful.

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When any one party arranged a gathering, all the followers of the other parties came as a united front, not to hear something but to cause a disturbance and undermine their opponents. Naturally, such tactics result in fights, fights to the blood. Then the fights would flow out into the street, mostly on Shabbos or holidays. There was not a Shabbos or holiday without party fights. When Jewish passers by asked questions about why they were killing each other, they did not have an answer. Really, why?

Most serious was when the fathers inserted themselves, and then it would virtually result in scandals.

There was a gathering in 1936 on a Shabbos at four o'clock. The speaker was Doctor Tal of Warsaw. Those who were causing trouble were busy handing out blows and the fight erupted into the street. Yenkl Voytek becomes aware that his frightened children were being beaten and quickly, he runs there, becomes enraged, and blood flows.

Velvele Sehpsl Katsev's also hands out blows on another occasion when his children were insulted. The following day – the children all discuss these same questions again among themselves and the fathers remain enemies.

Bransk was a very important centre for political agitation. There came here speakers from the higher ranks: Wasserman, Mikhailovich, Himelfarb and Yankev Pat from the “Bund,” Zrubvel, Lyev from the Left Poale Tsiyon, accredited doctors from the Right Poale Tsiyon. Jabotinsky was the only one who did not come to Bransk.

Bransk businessmen ask why here in Bransk? Why are they all coming to Bransk, so that we should all beat up each other. It was bad when several youths from one home were members of different parties. The father of such a ‘lucky’ family was not to be envied. Babtche was blessed with four sons – two Right Poale Tsiyon, one Left and one a Betarnik. Friday evening, Yekhiel Leybl and Babtche want to rest a little after a hard week of work, and there develops a fight among the members of the three parties at

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the Shabbos table. The result was that the hot noodles flew overhead. “Unhappy,” shouts Babtche, “join together in one party and do not disturb the Shabbosim.” The following day, Shabbos, the town knew about what had happened in the house. Babtche's sons went about with bandaged heads.

As a contrast, it was known that at the candy–maker's all the children were of one party and it was always quiet and peace in the house.

In 1935, there took place a large political debate about a united peoples' front of all the parties. This now interested the adults as well. The gathering took place at Avrume Makofske on the front porch there was a Polish crowd. One would always encounter there Aryeh Leybl Adesnik, Pesakh Malkale's, Khone Sakalovitch, Menasha Levin, Zagel's son–in–law, Leybl Poliak, Leybl Krinsky, Yenkl Shnobl, Pesakh Shloyme Valfke's son–in–law, and the Kanival. (?) Everyone discussed the peoples' front. Some said that if the “Bund” does not join the peoples' front it will not happen, and the “Bund” does not want to be with the Communists because it doesn't want to lose its legal status. Kanival shouts ‘Tshemnotcha.’ (?) They will never unite. Pesakh Shloyme Volfke's says the “Bund” “Zobatovtchiki,”[3] (?) Leybl Poliak says right at the beginning that nothing will come of the peoples' front and nothing did develop.

The decision is made to hold a peoples' meeting and demonstration on the First of May. The day before the First of May, the “Bund” informs the other parties that it is pulling out of a joint demonstration. The Left Poale Tsiyon states that they don't believe in a First of May demonstration in the Diaspora. The leftists are afraid for their parents and they too, are pulling out. The Communists certainly cannot demonstrate by themselves. After all, they are illegal, and so the entire plan disintegrates.

In 1937 the “Bund” organized its own demonstration. Approximately 40 schoolchildren and transports participated. They barely made it to the locale at Zaydl Tsivatchike's house.

There was only a single occasion when in Bransk there took place a joint demonstration on the

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First of May. On that First of May I (Alter Trus) heard Peshe, Shloyme Efraim's daughter speak. She made a good impression on everyone. Rivtche, Dovid Kafkev's was also one of the speakers. This was the one and only time that the parties in Bransk did anything in a united fashion.

The activity of the Communists consisted of disseminating flyers and hanging up Russian banners (with inscriptions) and collecting money for the “Mapar.” They were arrested many times and were sent to prison for a term of three to eight years. Broyzman, Shepsl Treger's grandchild, served five years, Benye Fayvl Shuster three years, Velvl Yosef Khaim's eight years, Rivtche Pitlak 6 years, Dovid Tsuker 5 years, Berl Praysl's 5 years, Khaim Mann 3 years. Others suffered prison time for their Communist activities in Bransk.

The “HAKHALUTZ” used to send its members to the kibbutz so they could immigrate to Palestine. The MIZRACHI sold shekels.

The AGUDAH was one of the aggressive parties. They were active in every election, never missing a political action.

The “BETAR” was satisfied with the members dressing up in brown shirts decorated with emblems, mostly Jabotinsky's picture.

ELECTIONS – By 1939 there were taking place about fifteen elections in Bransk. Magistrate elections took place three times every seven years, community council elections also every seven years, Parliament elections every seven years, for the Linat Ha'tsedek, Interest–Free Loan Bank, Peoples'–Bank, all town institutions made use of the elections system to elect their officials. There were no longer any permanent community activists or community representatives for generations.

At these elections, Bransk Jews learned the political game. They knew very well what they wanted to have passed at the elections.

In 1926 the first elections for magistrate took place. The Jewish parties went as a united bloc together with all the people. The Christians united, and the result was –

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two parties. The Jews win seven and the Christians five to the town council. Khaim Gotlieb becomes the mayor's representative and Berish Kagan a city councilman. The Jews have a total of nine representatives in the town council and the Christians have seven. The elected were: Mordekhay Askart, Alter Trus, Zaydl Varaftig, Itchke Tchigelsky, Yankl Pribut, Yankl Gotlieb and Shabtay Chomski. The Jewish majority decides to name the “Beys Hamedresh Street “ the “I.L. Peretz Street.”

At this same time, houses and streets receive electricity. The streets, are paved with asphalt. At the second town council elections in 1933, the Jewish parties are unable to unite. Luckily, the Christian parties as well are unable to unite. At that time the representatives of the authority consist of six Jews and six Christians. The Jewish representatives were: Khanina Khafetz of the Merchants and Zionists, Mr Khaim Leyb Lyev of the Mizrakhi, Alter Trus, Avrum Verpikhovske and Gedalyeh Aynemer of the Artisans' Union, Avrum Yentchman and Itskhak Finklshteyn of the Small Merchants' Union is elected burmishtsh. (?)

Finklshteyn is not like Khaim Gotlieb. Khaim Gotlieb would take the part of the Jews. He demanded and received the right for the Jews whom he had not represented. Most importantly, he was a true people's representative, but some of his wealthier friends accused him of having certain personal benefits from his position. They went to the police and prosecutor. Khaim Gotlieb is in prison for two months. He is freed without any blame. Khaim is no longer the same person. This had affected him deeply and he dies, six months later his father, Itche Gotlieb passes away.

In 1939 the elections take place for the third time for the town council. This election battle was a very bitter one. All the parties desired to represent the Artisans' Union which had its own list. The Artisans' Union demanded two spots at a unification so they refused. The result of these elections was

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that three were elected from the Artisans' Union: Alter Trus as calendar keeper, Avrume Verpikhovsky and Motl Rihmer as councilmen, one from the “Bund,” one from “Betar”. Three combined Zionist groups lose.

It is a characteristic fact that the Jews who lived on the “Untershter” Street did not have any voting rights. Due to certain regulations they were included in the Christian election circles.

KEHILA ELECTIONS – These elections were for all the town representatives to the community. The Jewish community in Poland was recognized as one with the full rights to devote itself to special interests regarding the Jewish community life in town.

The times when the Jewish community activists inherited the right to be the leaders of the town in all Jewish undertakings vanished. There had to be official elections for the Jewish community.

The first election took place in 1925. The election battle was a bitter one. Twelve lists were submitted. The following were elected: from the Artisans' Union three, Alter Trus, Nisl Lavitch and Motl Kanapiate, from the “Bund” one, Alter Sapershteyn, Right and Left Poale Tsiyon one, Khone Sokalovitch, Agudah one, Khaim Leyb Lyev, Businessmen Class one, Elye Gotlieb, Beys Ha'medresh Poale Tsedek one, Shloyme Kantchik and also the rabbi.

The second community elections in 1930 elected two from the Artisans – Alter Trus and Berl Rozen, Right Poale Tsiyon – one, Yekhiel Dan, Left Poale Tsiyon, Yankl Pribut, Khasidim, Motl Kanapyete, Agudah, Khaim Leyb Lyev, the Old Beys Ha'medresh, Avrum Yentchman and Merchants Khanina Khafetz.

In 1935 the third community elections takes place. The Artisans win three, Alter Trus, Maishe Rotenshteyn and Motl Rihmer, “Bund” one, Alter Sapershsteyn: Right Poale Tsiyon, Yeshay Tsuker, Merchants, Khanina Khafetz, Khasidim, Ben Tsiyon Zarember, “Betar”, Yakov Meir Kharlap's son–in–law.

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In the elections for the Interest–Free Linat Bank the majority elected was always from the Artisans' Union.

At the elections of the Linat Ha'tsedek all the parties were always represented.

There were elections in 1929 for the Peoples' Bank. The Artisans were defeated by the Merchants in all the parties.

There were elections to the Zionist Congresses. There were always fights at these elections. Warnings had no effect. There were always hot–heads who fomented fights.

At the elections for the Polish Parliament there were also big election battles and although the Bransk area never had any Parliament deputies the activities never stopped.

At the elections to the Senate, Rabbi Rubinshteyn was elected from our area in spite of the agitation by various parties against voting for him.

This is how the political life in Bransk looked during the time of the Free Polish Republic.

The arrival of the Soviets in Bransk changes the entire political picture.

Footnote (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Manufacturer of kvass, drink made by fermenting rye and barley or sour fruits. Return
  2. Related to Rubin Roy Cobb's maternal grandmother. Return
  3. The nearest that I could find was in the “Slavic Review” Vol. 49, No, 3 (Autumn, 1990), pp. 427–445 by Robert Weinberg – ‘The Politicization of Labor in n1905’: The Case of Odessa Salesclerks. “One remarkable feature of the 1905 Russian Revolution was the efflorescence of labor organizations that occurred throughout the urban regions of the empire. Many workers throughout the empire demonstrated their resolve to promote and defend their interests in an organized and rational manner.” Return

[Page 214]

The Cultural Condition in Bransk
after the First World War

A great change took place in Bransk with regard to the cultural condition of the population. In the years following the war, Poland was a free Republic. Government schools for children are recognized. In addition, parties are legal, with the exception of the Communist party. All the other parties were legal.

Every party in Bransk had for itself and its members its own library. In actuality, these party libraries were cliques. There were a few books there, but mostly there was party literature. This was very important for the existing parties. No party wanted its followers to go to other parties to look for books to read. They could, God forbid, become confused with strange ideals. That is why there were special little libraries at each party.

The Bransk youth had by now grown up. They were not satisfied with the few books that they had already read many times. They wanted new books, more reading material, the classics, not party brochures. Among these young people were Yisroelik Mek, Hershele Rubin[1], Ruven Ayzik Trus, Avruml the cake baker's, Kayla Smurzhik, Ruven Kazak, Khaim Ravak,

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The group that consistently lost at the elections never abandoned its cultural work. They, using their few groshens, established a library in Bransk that could be a source of pride everywhere. All the Jewish classics were there. They quickly purchased the newest works for the library. Regardless of foolish people bothering them, enlarged and made their library nicer. When I sometimes came for a book from the library, Itchele Levin, with pride, brought it to me. I remember a particular book that first now has been praised. The Bransk library had seven copies of this book.

The accomplishments of the Left Poale Tsiyon in raising the cultural spirit in Bransk were very great. They virtually devoted themselves to this mission with respect, in comparison to all the other parties, like the Bundists, Zionists and the Communists, who wore their party emblem on their lapels but did not take into earnest consideration any cultural questions.

The library was the actual cultural centre of every unaffiliated, or even affiliated who sought to quench their thirst for education and literature. Thanks to the earnest efforts of the Left Poale Tsiyon Bransk was the recipient of the written word.

THEATRE – The youth was very interested in the Yiddish theatre as a spiritual pleasure. They made an effort to make use of their own talents, carefully studying the best theatre productions: “The Dybuk”, “The Puste Kretchme (the empty tavern), “Der Dorfsyung” (the village youth), “Sergeant Grishe.” For difficult presentation, special theatre directors would come to Bransk. The youth was interested in earnest in theatre art. A large number participated in the performances: Ruven Kazak, Banish Okon, Elye Yentchman, Maishe Khaim Kapale, Leyzer Oskart, Khaim Raibak, Datche Melamed, Rikl Oyshpeter and Yankel Susel.

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Their performances were well–attended. The Bransk population valued the young amateurs because they knew that it was treated as a serious matter and the town–folk really had pleasure from the performances.

Sometimes they brought other artists in for concerts or to help direct. In Bransk there was Zjak Levi, Kurt Kotch, Turkov, Zabludofsky, Grinhoyt and others.

There were also recitations read by Ruven Kazak and Company. There were frequent lectures about various subjects. Doctor Kaminetsky would lecture about sanitary methods. There were party lectures and evening courses which the Bransk youth enjoyed and where they received their education.

Many concerts and dances were arranged, mostly by the Jewish National Fund. Mayofes (?) would take place out–of–town.

All these various undertakings were well–attended. The population was very interested in learning, in listening to good music. Bransk was not a backward town.

Bransk also liked the older preachers who would come to town to give sermons in the synagogues. Everyone came when there were good preachers, even the youth, filling all the seats. Bransk had its own town preacher, Shmuelke Pinye's. His surname was Kruk. Shmuelke Kruk was a good preacher.

The Bialystok[2] preacher, Rappaport, came to Bransk. The entire town awaited his first sermon which turned out to be a great success. The youth filled the synagogue every evening when Rappaport spoke. There was nothing that could deter them from these sermons. For ten days, the Bialystok preacher brought full attendance.

However, it happens that Rappaport lost his prestige in Bransk because of an event which is worth mentioning. He possibly underestimated his listeners, who were mostly plain folk. Itche–Yankl the Shnayder died in 1921 in Bransk. He had no children. Years earlier, Itche Yankl the Shnayder had made a will stating that after his

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death, his house should revert to the community to serve as a rabbi's residence. The community said the Bialystok preacher should give the eulogy for the deceased Itche Yankl. They did not want the Bransk rabbi to give the eulogy. The ordinary person did not like this, but kept silent.

The Bialystok preacher begins his eulogy with the following topic: “From plain ragezje (?) one makes silk.” (I believe this is the equivalent of making something from nothing) MGM This immediately upset everyone. Itche–Yankl was not an ignorant man. If the Bialystok preacher thought a tailor is uneducated, Bransk thought differently about its shoemakers, tailors and other workers.

Now no one in Bransk came to hear Rappaport's sermons. His appearances remained unattended. He quickly left Bransk. This is how Bransk taught the Bialystok preacher a lesson.

CHILDREN'S SCHOOLS – The question of the education of Jewish children was a very painful one. Poland was divided into various parties. Each party wanted the education of Jewish children to be in accordance with their party program. Yiddishists, Hebraists, Bundists and Poale Tsiyon, The parties had central headquarters in Warsaw to which the province paid money and they fought among themselves about the responsibility for Jewish children's schools.

The Agudaniks did not give it much thought and opened a school in Bransk for girls called Beis Yaakov. The Aguda school quickly became popular in Bransk. Girls of all classes and parties recognized the school as being the best.

The Aguda is completely entitled to receive credit for their accomplishment in the education of Jewish girls.

The private kheders and Talmud Torahs were not sufficient to satisfy the population.

There were a number of older boys who studied with Mr Khaim Leyb

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Lyev and Rabbi Avrum–Yankev Sekerevitch. The boys enjoyed the reputation of being good students.

SANITARY CONDITIONS – The sanitary conditions in Bransk were much better than in earlier times, despite it being very crowded in the houses because of the population growth in town, and therefore, much attention was paid to the sanitary conditions. The houses were cleaned more often, not only for Shabbos every couple of weeks. Even the courtyards were cleaned more often.

In addition, the authorities paid strict attention, ensuring that the courtyard cleanliness would not be neglected, as well as the streets and houses.

The Linat Ha'tsedek helped the poorer population with medicine needs. This helped much in the general improvement of the sanitary conditions in Bransk.

CLOTHING – Bransk was not any more backward in this respect than any large city. The latest styles, the newest outfits quickly arrived in Bransk. All the workers of the wealthier elements quickly began to wear the new styles. The older folk also quickly paid attention to their mode of dress, keeping themselves neat and clean.

Women were still wearing shaytls (wigs), but styled in the latest fashion. However, many gave up their shaytls altogether, even women from religious homes.

It was a special pleasure to look at the Bransk youth on their Shabbos strolls. No longer quiet and solemn, their faces were happy – proud Jewish children who took their walks. The older people as well looked different. It felt like a new life was developing in the free Polish Republic for everyone.

CONSTRUCTION – Bransk began to build houses. There is no room to spread out, so they added a second story, a second floor and added more rooms.

Lazer Broyde, who was the architect, the engineer

[Page 219]

and builder at the same time, was the one who knew where one could build or enlarge the house. Lazer Broyde was very busy because Bransk was building.

Overall, the town had a nicer appearance. New sidewalks were laid, the river was straightened, a modern slaughterhouse was built, as well as an electric plant that produced power for the entire town. The streets of Bransk were bright with electric lights.

The town's wells were cleaned. A new building was built with a modern tiled mikva. A special building is constructed for the Bransk courthouse with new offices. The marketplace is paved, new roads built to Lapy, Tchekhenoftse, Drogetchin and Symyatitch.

People are buying new furniture for their homes – modern with closets and mirrors. The stores have large display windows.

The nicknames with which every Bransk person is familiar are no longer used. Surnames are now in use. No longer do they say: Maishke Yankl Zalman's Avrum but Maishe'ke Susel, etc. Other sorts of surnames arise, translated names – a “Bundist” is called Medem, a Communist is called the Moscow preacher, Mussolini, Goebbels, Fashist, Zrubbl, Jabotinsky. These were now mostly nicknames that became popular.

The little stores also had a different appearance and character. What now attracted the customers was a large billiard table where there were almost always to be found about 30 people playing billiards. Avrume Makofski had such a table.

It was even worse at the candy stores where they arranged back–rooms where they played cards. The card playing was in full swing at Makofsky's, Shnebl's and Burak's. Various types of people would be at the card tables – Jews and Christians. It developed that each place had its own customers – at one, semi–intelligentsia,

[Page 220]

at a second – just plain young men for whom cards were most important and at others, just plain drunks.

We must mention that the youth was not involved in such things. They were more interested in education, in reading, but nevertheless, there were those who did participate in card playing.




Jednodniowka Price 15
“The Bransker Life”



Bransk dn. 25 wrzesnle 1936 Bransk, Friday Yom Kippur eve 5697
A Happy New Year [Heb]
A Happy Year, Healthy and Prosperity
We Wish All Our Brother Members of
the “Bransker Union”, the President
Mr Rosenthal and Mr Cohen Shloyme.
Rabbi Yitzkhak Ze'ev Zukerman
Greetings from Gmilas Khesed [Heb] Bransk
Secondary District Committee . . .
Bureau Personnel . . . .
  A Happy New Year [Heb]
A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year
We Wish All the Leaders of the
Loan Interest–Free Society [Eng] in Bransk,
Sholem–Dovid Vain and Family, Chicago
Rabbi Yitzkhak Zukerman
Management of the Gmilas Khesed [Heb] in Bransk
Secondary District Committee. . . .
Tzyoro Perfogal (?)

To the Head of Betar
Ze'ev Jabotinsky
With Blessings and Affection
For the year 5697

The Commander and Unit of Betar
“The Group (?)”
To All Our Friends and Good Friends
in Chicago, Local and Overseas,
May You All Be Inscribed in
the Book of Life
Khaim Lasik and Family
from Bransk

The President and Executive
of the Jewish Community in Bransk
Wish All A Good Year
Khaim Lasik and Family
To My Potential (?) Students From Their
Elder I Wish You All Be Inscribed in the Book of Life  Yosef Zeyfman
An Easy Study (?)
I The President, Executive of the
Gmilas Khesed Treasury in Bransk and District
I Committee Wish All
I A Good Year
I Khaim Lazik and Family


[Page 221]


New Year Greetings to Branskers All Over the World


A Happy New Year
We wish our daughter
Yospe Kobylanski husband and children
Yossele, Khone, Ruven
Akiva Skornik and Wife


In 1935, Bransk published a holiday newspaper called “Bransker Life.” Yosl Zeyfman was the editor and the co–workers were: Yosef–Betsalel Kestin, Fayvl Shapira and Velvl Rosenblum.

[Page 222]


Critical articles about Bransk institutions – “Bransk Life”


Reports about institutions, town news and critiques would be reported in “Bransker Life.” The newspaper had a good healthy humour. There remains no copy of the newspaper.

The “Bransker Life” was published every holiday until 1939. The twelfth issue of “Bransker Life” was ready to print. Regretfully, it did not make it because of Hitler

[Page 223]

who in September made certain that not only should a single Jewish word not be printed, but that no Jew should live through the horrific elimination campaign that he was then carrying out.

When the book was already at the printer, I (Julius Cohen) received from Chicago, from Yosl Artche's daughter two of the examples of the Bransker newspaper. I have photographed three different pages for you – the first page and a second page with greetings from many landslayt to their families and relatives throughout the world. Perhaps this is the first time in your lives that you have seen these greetings. Very few of those who sent the greetings are alive today. I reproduced two articles that cover in a broad fashion Bransk's important institutions.

We express hearty appreciation to you, Esther Margolios, for the opportunity you gave us to acquaint ourselves with the “Bransker Life”, edited by your father, Yosef Zeyfman.

Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Related to Rubin Roy Cobb's paternal grandmother Return
  2. Birthplace of the maternal great–grandparents of Rubin Roy Cobb's wife Renee Davidoff–Cobb. Return

[Page 224]

Professional (Trade) Movements in Bransk

There were three functioning professional or class unions in Bransk: 1. The Needle Trades Union; 2. The Carpenters' Union; 3. The Leather Workers' Union.

These unions had the responsibility of improving the material and cultural conditions of the workers.

The workers in the professional (trade) unions suffered a great deal from the political parties that sought to obtain influence in the unions. There were instances when the Needle Union agitated for a raise in the amount of loans. The party that had no influence in the union destroyed the agitation attempt. Strikes happened in the unions and members of other parties in the same union agitated in favour of going to work. The “Bund” had the upper hand in the Tailors' Union, the Left and Right Poale Tsiyon were the driving forces for the Carpenters' Union.

In the Leather Union, it was the Communists who had the power. All these parties sought to bring their control into the unions. Each party, however, wanted to rule the professional (trade) unions as well, so you can imagine that there were plenty of arguments and the workers of all the unions suffered from them. There was no question now about competitive cultural work. It was political work, but in very cultural activities. It was a

[Page 225]

shame in the times when the working class throughout the world was already so aware and understanding of their economic interests to defend in the best manner. There continued to be in Bransk a struggle between politics which did not permit the workers to receive improvements to which they were entitled.

Eventually, the workers came to the realization that they were suffering from the parties, and they freed themselves from the party bosses and became independent. The Bund was quickly sidelined by the professionals (trades).

The united professional (trade) federation then began to be active on the right path for the workers.

The eight–hour workday is instituted. According to position, each worker had to ensure that at his workplace the proper loan increases be carried out – that they received the appropriate increased amount. They regulated the subject of the apprentice–boys. They completely controlled the matzah products. There were several modern matzah bakeries that immediately exchanged the old shavalnyes (?) that were found at Itskhok, the puree maker Shakhnikhe's, Noakh Shmid, Partselaiknik, Smuelke Ainbynder, Yosl Firshkhrler's and Yankitchke. There were now modern matzah bakeries: Ayzik Zaifman, Menakhem Rifke and Yekhiel Don, Layzer Kapeloyzh and Rivka Motl's bakery, Henye Hershl Stolyer's bakery, Bobbe Gershon Ber's bakery.

The head of the united professional (trade) movement was Itche Levin. Everyone had full trust in Itche. His impartial leadership led to a substantial improvement in the material and cultural situation of the Bransk workers in all trades.


The Physical Condition of Jews in Bransk

During this period, the physical well–being of Bransk also greatly improved.

Right after the war when people were suffering from hunger and living in

[Page 226]

broken houses, it was inevitable that the health condition of the Jewish population was at its lowest ebb. Slowly, the situation began to improve.

The Jewish population in Bransk grew. Newspapers now became available. In 1928 there were 2,700 Jews. At the census of 1933, the count was 3,762. These are the official census reports. During the last years, the numbers increased. There were almost no incidents of child deaths. The death rate of the elderly was within a normal range. Life was normal. The population now ate meat every day. Salad ingredients were available year–round. Everything was available for purchase at the marketplace – and people did buy. Their diet was now a balanced one. People no longer had to make do with a diet of grits and fat to last the day. This exerted influence on the health condition of the Jewish population. Children were freer, allowed to participate in various sports and their bodies developed.

The different sports groups that the parties had: e.g. “Skif”, “Shtern”, “Morgenshtern”, “Haguda” – all attracted the older boys and girls. There were specific times for exercise, football, rowing, motorcycling and swimming. Swimming became very popular. There were always competitions among the various sports organizations. Military exercises carried out by the “Brit Ha'khayal.” In addition, the volunteer firefighters in Bransk were young men who participated in exercise.

The conscripts[1] – This was an institution in existence from long–ago when the young boys would fast entire days and at night, recite psalms in the synagogue and not sleeping. This had a physical effect on their bodies, breaking them down, so that they had the appearance of being victims of torture their entire lives. At the present time, the conscripts were always active but no longer fasting. They

[Page 227]

wandered about at night and horse around, doing various kinds of mischief. They would take the sign off the pig butcher shop and hang it above Jewish food–stores.

The conscripts would bring all the wagons and place them in the middle of the street. On the following morning, their owners had the job of disentangling their wagons from the circle. Usually, they could buy their way out from such punishment which cost them a kilo of seeds. By paying this price to the conscripts, one could sleep. It also happened that much damage was done at night. The trees that had been planted along the streets were uprooted. The conscripts accused their admirers. Then an order was issued stating that their admirers should not be permitted, with only the conscripts being allowed to spend the nights in the streets. The police now paid attention. On one particular night the conscripts took the cleansing board from the cemetery and placed it near the door of Kaddish the ritual slaughterer. They brought the wagon/hearse to Itchkale. Just imagine what transpired in the morning when they found these tools of death near their houses. They happened to be very afraid of death.

The conscripts brought much amusement to Bransk. They no longer feared military service as they had once been even though the anti–Semites in the Polish army made trouble, laughing at Jews because of their Polish speech. And yet, Jews studied the Torah and it was not detrimental when in six months they became corporals. The six weeks of exercise did not frighten anyone. Remember the fact that when Aron Kagan, Merimke's grandchild left for the service, he looked like victim of tuberculosis. He returned on furlough and nobody recognized him. He was filled out and his posture was straight.

Physical work – Nobody was any longer afraid of this in Bransk. The time had passed when one had to hire a Christian to saw a pood or pud (Russian weight of approximately 36 lbs) of wood. Jews did it themselves, and actually by many young boys.

[Page 228]

The desire to work was great in the Jewish youth. Every boy went from one boss to the next, asking him to be taken on as an apprentice to learn a trade. Every year there were more requests for apprentice boys in the trades. The anti–Semites searched for any remaining possibilities to escape from Jewish hands.

In 1924 there were 36 apprentices in Bransk, and in 1937, there were 122 at the 315 Jewish artisan workshops in Bransk. The apprentice boys did not have to spend more than three or four years until they became fully certified in their trades because they had the will for it, had the necessary education during their school years. Therefore there were many boys who quickly received diplomas as artisans.

The facts will give an understanding of the desire in Bransk to work. Aizik Zaifman's grandchild, Yosl Zaifman's child, Maishe Aron Vasser's son all quickly became fully competent in carpentry. Avreme Sushin's son was a tailor, and a good one at that. Yankl Vaitek's son who had studied to be a wheelwright became the best wheelwright. His wheels fetched the highest prices. He gave up his father's trade of buying horses: “Let the horses die,” he said.

Bertche Vilkanski was also a boy from parents who were storekeepers. If it had ever been said to his father that he would have a son who was a worker, he would not have believed you. This Bertche quickly became proficient in carpentry.

Emigration: The yearning to emigrate was great, but this was out of the question. America's doors were closed. The only way was to go to a kibbutz, learn and then be able to immigrate to Palestine.

There were many kibbutzim, free and religious and they were all full. Branskers joined these kibbutzim. There were no luxuries in the kibbutzim. They had to work hard. This did not scare anyone. There were boys and girls in the kibbutzim. There were

[Page 229]

many marriages, both true and fictitious, because a kibbutznik could bring with him his wife as well to Palestine.

Many times, these fictitious marriages resulted in real marriages. This was the case with Motl Rimer's daughter and a strange youth, Elye Nosn's grandchild with Zhamele's son.

This was the physical life in Bransk until 1939.

Footnote (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Prizivnykes – In Czarist Russia; hum. modern) military conscription; conscription draftee, conscript. Return

[Page 230]

Shattered Jewish Hopes for a Better Life

This is how Bransk lived during the period of the new Polish Republic, slowly recovering from the war years, from the wounds that the war had brought from 1914–1918.

Bransk Jews, along with all the other Polish Jews, worked and conducted business, helping to rebuild the entire economy of Polish life.

Regretfully, this period did not endure long. Slowly, Poland began to veer off in other directions which very much frightened the Jews. Laws forbidding Jews to participate in various forms of Polish life were established. Little–by–little the laws became harsher. Their goal was to sideline the Jews from everything that enabled them to earn a nice living through work and trade.

In 1933, with the uprising in Germany and Hitler agitating to kill Jews, it is noticeable in Poland that Hitler's agitation has taken root there. A new era comes to Poland. There is new talk, new anti–Semitic rants at Parliament meetings. Poland wants to surpass Hitler in restrictive laws against Jews.

There slowly begins agitation to boycott Jewish stores, Jewish small merchants and Jewish professionals. Agitation now comes out into the open, out of the secret meetings. The boycott against Jews later becomes the official government policy, shameless

[Page 231]

before the eyes of the world, which pleases Hitler's Germany.

Poland becomes blind, does not see that its neighbour Germany, will make it the first victim of its war machine. Poland believed that it would ingratiate itself with Hitler with its strict laws against Jews in Poland.

At the same time that Poland was clamoring for national defense, for strengthening its army, its air force, she choked the only group that would have been able to make Poland strong and capable of defending itself.

The politics of Poland severely affected Polish–Jewish life. We will return to Bransk and see how Bransk lived through the times of the Polish anti–Semitic politics, politics that destroyed all Jewish hopes for a better future, politics that made Hitler more daring upon seeing how his hatred towards Jews quickly becomes part of the Polish population.

[Page 232]

The Allowed (Ovshem) Anti–Semitic Politics
Jews Expelled From All Economic Positions; Pogrom in Bransk

About the beginning of 1935, there is a substantially noticeable change in Jewish life in Bransk.

A Polish bakery opens in Bransk. Written on the sign are the words: “one's own to one's own.” Clothing manufacturers make an appearance, food shops with large Polish signs with the same content: “one's own to one's own”.

The markets and fairs in Bransk and neighboring towns are filled with Polish merchants. Christian tailors, blacksmiths, carpenters, hat–makers are now in Bransk. Poles go to Jewish homes, asking to rent their stores. They are not successful. The Polish cooperative opens a business in the centre of town, near Yankl Khukar.

There are not enough stores for the Poles. The Polish majority of the Bransk Magisterial District decides to build a merchants' halye (?) in the marketplace. They want to make an inroad in town for this undertaking. This requires an Agreement Decision by the Magistry. The Jewish representatives in the Magistry do not want to agree to this project. They sabotage the meetings and the market shops are not built.

On one particular Sunday in 1936, the Vice–Administrator of Bielsk, Doctor Mesayev, comes to Bransk. He summons the Jewish council members of the Bransk Town Council to a meeting, at which I (Alter Trus) was present as a councilman.

[Page 233]

The Administrator informs us if we will not agree to the budget for the failing shops, he does not guarantee that Bransk will not burn. He warned us that we should keep the fact of burning with which he threatened us, a secret. Aware that several towns have already suffered from fires, we agreed. The Council stores were built with Jewish credit.

At the beginning of 1937, Christian sellers displayed their merchandise out by the windows, but they don't sell anything. They have no customers. Only the Jewish shops have customers.

The decision is made that it is necessary that the village Christians must be chased with sticks to the Polish stores. At this same time an announcement appeared in the anti–Semitic Polish press: “Let us start to push the Jewish small merchant out of business.”

Now there were Bransk youth, hired by the stall merchants who, armed with sticks, chased the Polish Christians from the Jewish shops to the Christian businesses. Many Jews were beaten. They question the Interior Minister, Skaladkofski. His response: “boycotts yes, beatings no.” This meant boycotts, why not? This how the word ovshem 1 became popular. Those who did the beating were crowned with the name of pickets. Now begins the era of picketing. We become aware that in Tchizshev, Vysoke, Sakole, Lapy and Tchekhenoftse pickets stand at the doors of shops and chase the Christians away from the Jewish businesses.

Bransk Jews who travel to the above–mentioned town fairs are met with a hail of stones. The pickets do not permit anybody near them. There are instances of attacks upon Jews. At a fair in Sakole, there is a pogrom. Merchandise is stolen from the Bransk Jewish tailors, shoemakers and turners. They abandon their merchandise and come running to Bransk, barely escaping with their lives. Jews return to Bransk from the Vysoke annual fair. They come with bandaged heads. Mordekhay Fuhrman's grandchild, Zelig Yellin is murdered in the Tchyzev marketplace.

[Page 234]

The anti–Semitic hooligan attackers come closer to Bransk. The traveling Bransk village merchants can no longer go to many villages. They are showered with stones.

In Pyetrosk, Smurle, Prushanke there appear words written at entrances: “Jews are not permitted to enter.”

Bransk is in a panic, most especially after the pogrom in Pshitek where they arrested not the perpetrators, but the Jews who defended themselves. There are enough capable youths in Bransk to fight back. The Bransk leadership depended on the police commandant who, each week, received his salary in order to be on the alert and not permitting any unrest in Bransk.

Vishank is a little town, much older than Bransk where there were about 30 Jewish families, mostly artisans and several shopkeepers. The pogrom–mongers had a free hand there. Every several days, Vishank telephoned: “Bransk Jews, rescue us.” We were attacked, robbed and beaten in the middle of the day.

Many times Bransk sent paid policemen to help or wagons to bring their possessions to Bransk. They now knew that there was no hope for Vishank. They must abandon Vishank. However, it is not easy to leave from the place where you were brought up. This day was destined to come because Bransk found out that preparations were being made for a big attack on the Jews in Vishank on a Friday evening. The Bransk defense committee called the Bialystok police chief and he agreed and did send police. This led to a battle with the pogrom “heroes”. Some of them died and others were wounded, but Vishank Jews abandoned the town and arrived in Bransk.

[Page 235]

Pogrom in Bransk

During the summer of 1937, groups of nore–layt (ignorant–people) {‘scumbags’} [pogrom–heroes] appeared on market day in Bransk. They stand at the Jewish shops and do not permit any Polish customers to enter. They do not allow the Jewish merchants to unpack their merchandise. Bransk Jews carry out their merchandise by sheer force, at least in small amounts in the market, so as not to admit they are subservient. Finally, the Bransk police assured them that no unrest would be permitted.

About 2 p.m. the town siren announces a fire alarm. They look around, there is no sign of a fire. There are rumours that there is a fire burning on Bendige. The firefighters and police rush away to Bendige. Suddenly the scumbags appeared. They attack passersby, Jewish heads are split. Sounds of windows breaking are heard. The tables of Jewish merchants are overturned. The merchandise is stolen. Jews are suddenly defenseless. The police are at the fire. It turned out that it was a false alarm in order to draw the police away from the centre of town. When the police came back, the pogrom was already in full swing. The streets were strewn with Jewish possessions, many covered with broken glass from the windows. This was the first Monday in Bransk. In the middle of the week there once again appear in Bransk pickets. They keep watch, not allowing the Christians to buy from Jews.

The Christian population understand now that they must make their purchases from non–Jews. The actual fact is that the police kept an eye on the pickets to prevent them from being beaten up because the pickets became sure of themselves due to Skladofski's interpretation of the Polish law.

Bransk is now under the scumbags' control. There now opens a scumbag club. Jews are insulted, and now know they must not try to defend themselves. It is permitted to beat them.

Sometimes Jews went to Otposten with kvas and baked goods, so they (the scumbags) confiscated all the bottles and broke them. The baked goods were stamped upon in the street and they (the Jews) were chased away.

Jews rented orchards around Bransk. They paid

[Page 236]

in advance for the fruit. These orchard–renters were Maishe Piekucki[1] , Leyzer Tchaner, Elye Yentchman and Leybl Poliak. All were ruined because the scumbags did not allow them in their orchards. They themselves tore off the fruit for which the Jews had paid to the Christians. Several weeks later on a market–day, the same story again. This time came to Bransk thousands of scumbags. Jews now did not display their wares. They already see the danger. Bransk Jews asked that the market be closed. For them market–day is only a pain. The police chief refuses to close the market. He assures them that there it will be quiet. He was wrong.

The leaders, two Brezhnietzer Christians show the scumbags which homes are Jewish, that they need to rob. They work undisturbed. The policemen did nothing to stop the pogrom because they had not been instructed to stop the work.

The bandits ‘painted the town red’ for a long time in the streets. They (the Jews) wanted to summon more help, but to go to the post was impossible, so they made telephone calls. Yosef–Betsalel Kestin, connected via the telephone with the Jewish National Council, as well as with the interior minister in Warsaw. He also, via telephone, reported the events to the Jewish Telegraph Agency, asking help from everywhere. There was a German officer present at the pogroms who taught the Poles the correct methods. He took photographs of the scenes. In the evening police and secret agents came from somewhere, investigated whether Jews acted defensively.

Results following the pogrom – 80 wounded Jews of whom 20 suffered serious wounds. Some were taken to the Bialystok

[Page 237]

hospital. Among the severely injured were Maishe Yehuda the beadle, Khaim Hersh Kartoflye, Meir Brenner, Yosl Gakes, Bergerman from Rutker Tertak. There were 1500 broken windows and one house was totally destroyed. At Zalman Sane's they tore apart the bedding and the street was full of feathers. They threw children out of their carriages. The lightly wounded were too many to list. The following day everybody went around bandaged. At 1 a.m., the Bielsk police chief came to check on the wounded and view the destroyed town. I was awakened in the middle of the night because I was a community activist to go with the police chief and show him the seriously wounded. There was not a single unbroken window in the Third Synagogue. The police chief asks not to make a tumult, but the opposite happened. When the Jewish Telegraph Agency in America received the news of the pogrom, then immediately on Tuesday morning there were cables from New York Jews, Bransk fellow–townsmen, to Feyge Reizl the watchmaker and to Bobtche. The cables inquired whether they were alive. The cables made a commotion in the Polish ministry. The world now knew about everything. Poland did not like this. On Wednesday two Jewish deputies of Parliament arrived in Bransk, Rubinshteyn and Zamershteyn. They saw the destruction with their own eyes and issued protests in the Parliament. Representatives of the Professional/Trade Class Union show up. Mr Goldman distributes money to fix the broken windows.

Khatskl Shokhet, Alter Kamshin and Velvl Shepsl Katsev's rebuilt Rivke Motl's house because it had been virtually torn apart during the pogrom. The situation worsens. No one has the means of earning a living. Stores are shattered, there is no merchandise. Now the tax collector comes to Bransk and begins his work, precisely at this critical time to collect all taxes, present and past,

[Page 238]

although no one has a single groshn. This is how the Polish anti–Semitism works to break economically the entire Jewish existence.

Poverty increases and the no–interest gmilas khesedim banks already have about 600 borrowers. There are those who advise Jews to flee from Poland. Emigration is difficult. They run to the hakshara farms (preparation for life on the kibbutzim) in order to be able to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel.

Help comes this winter from the Bransk societies in New York. The number of those requesting help grows. 250 Jews ask for help for Passover. Help comes from the Bransk Relief for Passover.

The end took place in the central court. You understand that nobody is punished because beating Jews is now in Poland the fashion according to Hitler's plans.

There was another Monday of unrest, but this time it was against the power, and at that time the police chief used weapons and made the Nore Party illegal. It then became calmer. There were no longer any Jewish merchants, merchants going to the villages, no Jewish orchard managers. Everything was no longer in Jewish hands. It was no longer necessary to stimulate any pogroms. The Jews are now ruined.

The year 1939 arrives. Jews are approached for money for everything. Bransk Jews are taxed 69,000 zlotys for the Polish air force. The Bransk Christian merchant class is taxed 6,000 zlotys. This was the Polish math.

This is how Bransk looked until the war in 1939.

Footnote (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. The great grandfather of Rubin Roy Cobb. His daughter was Henye Rivka (Anni) Piekucki–Skornik, mother of Jospa Skornik–Cobb (Kobylanski) mother of Rubin Roy Cobb. Dr Gold of Chicago (born in Bransk) told that he remembered when he was a boy of about 6 Maishe Piekucki gave him an apple from his orchard Return


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