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Chapter XVIII

Redeeming Jewish children operations come to an end


The great Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhailovich Mikhoels who was murdered by the Soviet secret police in Minsk, Soviet Union, in 1948


In Eastern Europe new winds began to blow. The Soviet Union was having problems with Yugoslavia, which refused to follow Stalin's political line. Marshal Tito, of Yugoslavia, and Stalin, in the Soviet Union, were at each other's throats but Stalin could do little since there were no Soviet troops in Yugoslavia. The pro–Soviet elements in Yugoslavia were rounded up and disarmed. Tito was ready to fight and had the support of the West, particularly the United States. Stalin had to accept defeat but decided to tighten control over his empire. The cold war began to escalate between the Soviet Empire and the West. The Soviet secret services received orders to tighten controls in Eastern Europe. No more Tito–type situations. The various communist parties in Eastern Europe were ordered to seize power or tighten the reins of power. Ties with the West began to be tampered with. Organizations and institutions were advised to desist from dealing with the West. Fear and panic swept the communist world as the winds of the cold war progressed.

Stalin's paranoia with Jews began to emerge into the open. Soviet papers began to write anti–Jewish articles. The Yiddish theater in the Soviet Union was being dismantled and in 1948, Stalin had the great Yiddish actor Solomon Mikhoels bludgeoned to death and his body run over by a truck as a thinly veiled hit–and–run accident in the city of Minsk. Mikhoels received a state funeral. Most of the Yiddish actors and writers were arrested or exiled. The Moscow Yiddish Theater was dissolved. Jewish culture was closed in the Soviet Union.


Zdenek Toman or Asher Zelig Goldberger, assistant minister of the interior in Czechoslovakia


The Soviet secret services received orders to begin replacing the Jewish communist leaders in the various East European countries, including Zdenek Toman, who was one of the first casualties of the new policies. He was a Jew, well–connected with Zionist and Jewish American organizations, had lived for many years in Britain, and was very independent and sure of himself in relation to the Soviet secret service. He was also very close to the Czech establishment, particularly Jan Masaryk. The decision to destroy Toman was made in typical Stalinist fashion: he was promoted to the Czech Ministry of Interior but lost the position of head of state security. He lost control over the security forces to one of his subordinates in the fall of 1947. [1] Toman was neutralized by the change and lost his power in Czechoslovakia. Other important Jewish communist leaders, including Rudolf Slansky, general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, would soon follow suit. Ana Pauker, leader of the Romanian Communist Party and foreign minister of that country would also be arrested and charged with anti–party activities.


Ana Pauker, Romanian foreign minister


Similar events involving Jewish officials would begin to occur in other Soviet satellite countries including Poland where the hard liners or pro–Stalin faction gained control of the party and the government. Wladyslaw Gomulka was removed from power and later jailed.

Harsh police measures soon followed in Poland. The cold war atmosphere swept Poland. The police began to harass the Zionist parties and their institutions across Poland. The orphanage homes were visited by the secret police. Leib Koriski, a Palestinian emissary and head of the “Koordinacja” office was arrested and released on condition that he stop his activities in Poland. He continued his “Koordinacja” activities and was arrested and interrogated. The police insisted that he provide evidence that all children who had left Poland had done so legally. While Koriski was in jail, Pinhas Kribus, another Palestinian emissary, was appointed to replace him. But the police hampered all activities of the “Koordinacja” office. Koriski was released and forced to leave Poland. Sarah Dushnicka–Shener and Menachem Kondo, Palestinian emissaries, were also forced to leave Poland. All Palestinian officials were forced to leave the country. No entry visas were granted to emissaries from Palestine. Rachela Sternbuch was a Swiss citizen and represented the Vaad Hatzala in Europe. This organization was created by American orthodox rabbis to help orthodox rabbis and yeshiva students in Europe. She was also very active on behalf of redeeming Jewish children from non–Jewish homes and institutions. She was arrested, kept in jail for a short period of time and then escorted to the border.

Many Zionist officials began to leave Poland for Israel. Slowly but effectively, the Zionist political parties and their cultural institutions and homes were forced to close their doors. Many Jews felt threatened and began to leave Poland. The Jewish communities lost a good part of the Jewish population. Many Jewish activities in Poland stopped.


Group passport for Polish children traveling to Israel. All children listed were from the Zabrze home. They traveled via Czechoslovakia to Germany and France and then sailed to Israel


Children who could leave Poland for one reason or another, were placed with Jewish families as is the case below.




This Polish document states that on “September 8, 1949 appeared before me Doctor Emilia Siliat Aleksandrowicz from the city of Gliwice. She officially adopted Sulamit Stefania Gottenberg from the nearby orphanage of Zabzre. The release from the orphanage was signed by Major in the Polish Army named Jezajasz Druckier (Yeshayahu Drucker) service number 0783, residing at 16 Szucha Alee, Warsaw. 12 Copy of adoption paper of Sulamit Gottenberg in Gliwice, Poland.”


Suddenly, the Zabrze orphanage received an official invitation from the Polish government to participate in the celebration in honor of the heroes of the Jewish revolt in Warsaw in 1943. Drucker and the children were very excited and special uniforms were acquired for the event. Rehearsals were practiced and the children were ready to partake


Zabrze children waiting their turn to enter the parade in memory of the Jewish revolt in Warsaw


Zabrze official delegation at the memorial service for the Jewish ghetto revolt in Warsaw. The delegation was headed by Dr. Nechema Geller. Behind her stands Rudolf Wittenberg, gym teacher of the Zabrze home, and to his left is Captain Yeshayahu Drucker dressed in military uniform. The rest were officials of the Jewish community of Zabrze.


in the 1948 ceremony marking the 5th year of the revolt. The ceremony did not reduce the fears of Drucker and his staff. They saw the situation and feared the consequences. Drucker redoubled the efforts to remove as many children as he could from the Zabrze home. Meanwhile the pressure mounted for him to integrate the Zabrze home with the homes of the Central Committee. He procrastinated and used the time to remove most of the children and staff from the home.

Then on December 31, 1949, the Polish government informed the Joint Distribution Committee in Poland that it had to stop all activities on Polish soil. William Bein, head of the Polish Joint Distribution Committee tried to intervene, but in vain. Beim was very familiar with Poland; he was the JDC director in Poland between the wars. Then he returned to the United States with the German occupation of Poland. We already mentioned that following the war, Guzik was in charge of JDC in Poland. He was killed in a plane accident. Schwartz appealed to Beim to assume the directorship of JDC in Poland. Beim returned and started to work immediately in helping the Polish Jewish survivors.


William Beim, JDC director in Poland


Beim was familiar with the Polish government officials and tried to use his connections to delay the order. He was told that the decision was final and irrevocable. The decision shocked the entire Jewish community for the Joint Distribution Committee had extensively supported the Jewish communities and all Jewish institutions including the Zabrze home. The news dealt a death blow to the Jewish community in Poland. Institution after institution closed the doors. Yeshayahu Drucker closed the Zabrze home and returned the key to the Jewish religious association, which in turn gave the key to the Central Committee of the Polish Jews.

The Polish secret police began to check closely the Zionist parties and institutions. Active members were called to the police and questioned. All were told that they were being watched. Many Zionist officials began to leave Poland for Israel. Slowly but effectively, the Zionist political parties and their cultural institutions were forced to close their doors. Many Jews felt threatened and began to leave Poland. Even the members of the Bund or Jewish Socialist movement were being followed. The Bund was the best organized movement in postwar Poland. It had a wide variety of institutions and branch offices in many cities in Poland. The organization frequently cooperated with the Communist Party in Poland. The Polish government decided to attack the Bund on two fronts. One way was to order the police to check and control the party activities. The Polish government also urged the Bund members to join the Polish Communist Party. The simultaneous pressure was irresistible, and the Bund decided to close its doors in Poland. Most of the “Bund” members left Poland and headed to Australia, Europe, Argentina and even Israel, which they had so fervently opposed.

Rabbi Herzog continued to raise money for the children homes and rescue operations of Jewish children but he had less and less time for these activities since he was very busy with” Halachic” rulings that the various governmental agencies demanded. He was the recognized Jewish religious authority and the Jewish Agency of Palestine consulted him on religious matters. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, Rabbi Herzog became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the new country. The rabbinate office was flooded with requests for help on all sorts of issues. Rabbi Herzog was also a key adviser to the government on religious and theological matters. Since the Jews had had no state of their own for two thousand years many original Jewish precedents had to be formulated. Rabbi Herzog carried out extensive Talmudic research to provide answers to many problems that faced the new Jewish society. His sons Chaim and Yaacov Herzog who used to help him were no longer available. Yaacov David Herzog who used to help his father with the children transports was now fully employed by the foreign office of the Jewish Agency and later by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His services were needed and demanded his entire concentration.

Chaim Herzog was a high ranking British intelligence officer during the war. Upon his discharge, he returned to Jerusalem and joined the Haganah intelligence service. He later became a general in the Israeli army. He was appointed to the second highest office of the country, namely the presidency of the country.

Evelyn Chenkin retired and later moved to Israel.

Captain Drucker was promoted to the rank of major in the Polish army. He married a survivor of the war named Miriam Wolfeiler whom he met while she was working at the Zabrze home. Miriam was much younger than Drucker. Their daughter Rachel, named in honor of Yeshayahu's mother, was born in Warsaw, Poland. Drucker decided to take his wife and daughter and follow his rescued children to Israel. Drucker retired from the Polish army. In 1950, the Drucker family left Poland for Israel.

Thus ended a beautiful chapter of Jewish history.


  1. The Czech police charge sheet. Return


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