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[Page 69]

The History of the Town


Once, Once…

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

It is difficult to know when the first Jews settled in Czyzewo as it was a small community that transformed itself into a village. In Brokhauser's “Jewish Encyclopedia”, written in Russian, we are only told that Czyzewo was one of the places where Jews were not limited in their living-rights and that in 1856, 34 Christians and 1457 Jews lived there. According to the census of 1897, the total population amounted to 1785 people of whom 1596 were Jews.

From the same source we also learn that Czyzewo then belonged to the Ostrów District in Lomza Province. According to the general encyclopedia of 1861, Czyzewo belonged to Plock Province and Ostrolenka District.

Old documents from the end of the 18th century, that were in the Provincial archive in Bialystok, show that during the years 1770-1780 Czyzewo – that was the name of shtetl even back then – had 47 houses and 370 inhabitants. Of those, over three hundred were Jews.

Development at that time was very slow, as shown by documents of 1827 stating there were 74 houses and 811 inhabitants.

The mail highway between Warszawa-Petersberg went through the shtetl. The shtetl had no other distinction, except its poverty. The Jews, mostly ran small businesses traded among themselves and later with surrounding honorable Polish nobility. With time various artisans arrived, but in general, the craftsmen trades were difficult to develop.

Czyzewo did not have any economic base and therefore, at the time, the Jewish population of the community was not able to grow as in other places.

In 1854 the railroad line was built between Petersberg and Warszawa and went through Czyzewo. This helped the shtetl flourish.

The Polish Slownik Geograficzny (Geography Dictionary) of 1880 mentions the date of the new railroad line as a turning point in the development of Czyzewo. Then the businesses grew because of the grain industry. There were also new opportunities for artisans.

At the time, new sources of income were being creating. The manufacture of tsitses (the undergarment with four tassels worn by Orthodox Jews), developed and because of the excellent quality of the goods, they were greatly appreciated throughout the country. This product was also exported and was in great demand by American Jews, but the highest demand for tsitses, until 1914 – was from Russian Jews. The trade with Russia was cut off at the outbreak of the First World War in the aforementioned year.

So, life for the Czyzewer Jews alternated between sad and happy, cheerless and sunny days, black and bright spots – two colors that accompanied business and economic life up until the outbreak of the brown plague that led to the complete destruction of the Jewish community in Czyzewo.

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[Page 74]

A Tear For A Generous Friend

by Julian Dawidowicz

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

Julian Dawidowicz, a writer and journalist of Polish radio, warmly responded to our appeal for help in gathering particulars about the past and present in Czyzewo. At the risk of his life, he traveled from Warszawa to Czyzewo several times during 1959, hanging around with Poles who looked at him with suspicion and hatred. He assembled even the smallest trace from the past about the life and destruction of the Jews with great dedication. He gathered them bit by bit and created his finely designed articles about the past and present of the desolate village, where gentiles have taken over the places of the former Jewish residents and since then the village has remained a wasteland. He absorbed the cries that were still carried in the air and described all of it in several articles that are included in various sections of our yizkor book.

Julian Dawidowicz followed our work to perpetuate the memory of the murdered Jews with interest and was prepared to give further help in publishing the book faster. He did not succeed in seeing the fruit of his significant help. A terrible illness interrupted his life.

[Page 76]

An Overview of the Origin and Growth
of the Jewish Community in Czyzewo

by Dow Gorzalczany / Tel Aviv

Translated from Yiddish by Judie Ostroff Goldstein

We can and we must with amazement and with satisfaction find the joyous phenomenon in our difficult Jewish lives: ordinary Jews writing history!

It is an amazing, but certain fact that surpasses all dreams. Who would have thought it possible that an ordinary Jew would be able to revive a story from once, once upon a time. To assemble, brick by brick, all that he knows about his shtetl, about past generations, about all the parts and corners of Jewish life and tell this in chronological order. In striving to revive, to create for future generations, the history of a destroyed and obliterated shtetl, I endeavored to comply with the immense will and strength to perpetuate the struggle of generations from our shtetl. This is not an academic article, because nobody in our poor village, myself included, had received the necessary preparation to be a historian. Also there was not any indisputable source about Czyzewo and its Jewish community. The old pinkus (Jewish community book of records) that I remember from Rabbi Boruch Herszman's time, who we all knew so well as Reb Boruch Krajndl's, was given to Jakow Deb Rav's (Plocker) after Reb Boruch's death. Later it was burned along with the village and there were no other books written about our shtetl because it was too small to be included in the general geography or Jewish life in Poland. The only remaining source for my historical "research" was my memory. Therefore, I felt strongly that it was my duty to write and recount everything that I know about our shtetl, about its rise and development. I did this to the best of my ability, embracing everything, exhausting everything, but with the same love that I devoted to helping establish and publishing this yizkor book. With the same persistence, in spite of all the Jewish deaths from hatred, to tell and tell again about the horrifying story of destruction, and the ordinary chapters of daily life.

With my recounting I was not only delivering, releasing, throwing down the large story of survival and memories, but also felt a clear, distinct and firm mission, an iron duty not to fail, so the life and destruction of all those murdered should not disappear without a trace. I also put demands on myself to collect every detail of our old life in Czyzewo. This is not simply a memorial, not only sitting shiva (observing seven days of mourning for a close relative) and bringing comfort to a mourner, this is a condemnation of the destruction of those murdered. This is our perpetual demand for dues from the world not only for the murdered fathers, mothers and children, but also for the children never born, killed together with their mothers, in their mothers' wombs. And they demand the continuity of their spiritual existence, of their dreams about a beautiful, brotherly, humane life.

The exact date of the establishment of Czyzewo is not clear. But it is certain that it existed for hundreds of years. The old people said that Czyzewo was one of the first Jewish communities in the area, a lot earlier than Ostrów Mazowiecka, but later than our neighbor Zaremby Koscielne[1].

The witnesses to the age of Czyzewo were the gravestones in the old cemetery. They told of hundreds of Czyzewer Jews already at rest under them. In 1820 there were about 800 souls living in Czyzewo and the old cemetery was already, at that time, no longer used. The area of about 4000 square meters was already, at that time, completely used.

Until the outbreak of the Second World War, the area of Czyzewo took up one square kilometer. It was located on the borders of the following three noble estates. The terrain on the north and southeast belonged to porec (Lord) Sokolowski. On the west the village bordered the fields of the manager's courtyard that belonged to porec Poznanski. The southwest portion lay on the border of the land belonging to the Kosker Lord Marzik Godlewski.

We also know that the Jewish community in Czyzewo began to develop along porec Sokolowski's border because all the Jewish institutions were located in the area that had once belonged to his estate. Both bote-midroshim (study and prayer houses), to be precise: both locations on which stand the first and second besmidresh (study and prayer house), both old and new cemeteries, the Jewish slaughter house, in passing, served as the community slaughter house; the steam bath, the almshouse, etc. All of them were built on porec Sokolowski's land.

The public town institutions were also, for the most part, in the same area. Only the new Christian cemetery and the later marketplace were located in the area of the manager's courtyard. Just like all towns and villages[2], Czyzewo was built near a river, the Brok, which did not have an excessively large amount of water during the summer.

No ships sailed this river. But in bygone years, when the village was surrounded with dense forests, in the pre-spring weeks logs we sent from there to the sawmills using the Brok River and then to the Bug River and from there to Danzig using the Wisla (Vistula). Supposedly wood was furnished by Czyzewo to build the capital Warszawa.

Geographical Position

Czyzewo is located on the 107 kilometer-long Warszawa-Bialystok railroad line. One of its closest neighbors was the very ancient village Andrzejewo, 7 kilometers northwest, a small village that existed for many, many years but has only a small population, located off to the side, without any highway connecting it to any neighbors.

Only in the late 1930's, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, was a road built through Andrzejewo from Czyzewo to Ostrów Mazowiecka. 14 kilometers to the west was the village of Zaremby Koscielne. Between the two was located the small village Szulborze that later in 1941, played such a shocking role for both towns. Zaremby Koscielne also did not have a highway connecting it with any of its neighboring villages. South of Czyzewo was located the small village Nur through which ran the large Bug River.

From the river Jewish fishermen and in later years the well-known Jechusza Dojcz, supplied Czyzewo with fish for shabes and yontef.

To the southeast is the town Ciechanowiec, which was connected to the Czyzewo railroad station. Ciechanowiec had strong commercial ties with Czyzewo, particularly through the grain industry.

To the east was Wysokie Mazowiecki, a village no larger than Czyzewo that served as the District City for many years. To the north of Czyzewo was Zambrów that was also tied to the Czyzewo railroad station. Another neighbor, Tykocin was 40 kilometers away and in the past it had been the seat of the "council of the four lands". 50 kilometers north was the Provincial City of Lomza with its famous yeshiva, where many Czyzewer young men went to study.

Bialystok, the large industrial city, was 67 kilometers away. Before Polish independence it was also a Provincial City.

The First Step on the Road to Development

In earlier times, before the development of Czyzewo, Jews lived in various villages throughout the area. There were Jews in the villages Dombrowa, Godlewo, Rosochate, Przezdziecko, Sutki, Chmielewo, Koski, Brulin, Siedlisk, Zaliesze and many others. The Jews in all the villages were busy trying to make a living as mill lease-holders, distillers, milk lease-holders, etc. It seems that the Czyzewo court attracted the best as tenants. This attracted more Jews from the area to settle on the Czyzewo porec's land.

Among the first Jewish inhabitants besides the water mill tenants, were the windmill owners.

At the eastern border of the village there were four windmills belonging to the old Czyzewo families Glina and Hersz Nata. As the Brok River had little water during the summer, the water mills could not work and they had to use the windmills. The four Jewish families, young and old, stood watch in order to use all the wind. Day and night the large sails turned and ground the grain that brought by the peasants and was processed it into bread and feed for the animals. The shtetl children were allowed to climb and play on the sails on shabes and yontef, because no matter how much wind there was, the mill had to rest and the sails were not allowed to turn.

The blacksmiths were also important to the porec.

Next to the windmills, on rented court land, the Paw, Kowadlo and Kon families, stood at their forges from generation to generation.

A strong attraction for Jews to settle in Czyzewo was the fact that the fair took place there.

Jewish traders and artisans were attracted from the surrounding villages to Czyzewo. This is how things went for hundreds of years. Czyzewo grew bit by bit and in 1820 the village had grown to 800 souls.

In the second half of the 19th century, the shtetl began to grow faster when the railroad line connecting Petersberg with Warszawa and with Western Europe (built in 1854) went through the village.

The fact of why the railroad station was built two kilometers from the town is explained two different ways. One version is that the Tzar's engineers purposely moved the station away from Jewish Czyzewo. Another version said that according to the calculations of the Czyzewer porec, the station would have to be built on his land. Therefore he demanded an extremely high price for his land from the Russian government. Instead, they bought land from the Siedlisker porec at a cheaper price and built the Czyzewo station there.

The railroad created new sources of income for freight forwarders, guest-houses, etc. From that time on we note a faster growth of the Jewish population in Czyzewo.

In the vicinity of the railroad station, in the villages of Biala and Siedlisk, lived the three brothers Abram Chaim, Szlama and Judel Lubelczyk as well as Mendel Zusman. They were the owners of the kretchmas (inns) and the milk leases. After the rebellion in 1831, the Russian government forbade Jews from keeping kretchmas. The Jews were advised to take Christian partners who would figure officially as the owners. With time the new partners began to be seen as the only legitimate owners and pushed out the Jewish partners.

After the Czyzewo station was built, the first of the Lubelczyk brothers settled there and made a living as a freight forwarder. The Zusman family, who held the milk lease, opened a kretchma called "China", a teahouse where also, unofficially, strong drink was sold. Among the first inhabitants at the railroad station was also the Czyzewer family, but from the time of the First World War none of them were left in the village. They had all immigrated to America. The Lubelczyk and Zusman families were also drawn here, as well as the Gromadzyn, Wrona and other families who settled at the railroad station. These families, as far as Jewish affairs were concerned, were independent of the Czyzewo rabbi, ritual slaughter, mikvah (ritual bathhouse), cemeteries and the like. But they had built their own besmidresh with Szlama Lubelczyk and created a miniature community.

czy0076a.jpg [10 KB] czy0076b.jpg [9 KB] czy0076c.jpg [10 KB] czy0076d.jpg [9 KB]
Reb Aba Rotnberg, born in 5595 (1835) in Suwalk, died - 5690 (1930) in Czyzewo, a sharp mind from the Wolozhin yeshiva, traveled to see the Kock. Along the way he stayed in Czyzewo where he married Szejna = Chai'ke. Reb Zajnvel Ajdelsztejn, from the respected old heder. A Gerer Hasid and a distinguised scholar. At the same time he was also the largest manufacturer in town, a generous donor and hospitable man. He was greatly loved by the entire Jewish population, regardless of class.

The founders of the Jewish community at the railroad station

czy0076e.jpg [30 KB]
Szlama Lubelczyk – the father Mendel Sielisker's wife, the of this branch of the Lubelczyk grandmother of this branch family of the Zusman family.

Village Jews, Who Belonged to the Czyzewo Community

The Jewish community in Czyzewo also spread its spiritual domination over the individual Jewish families in the neighboring villages. In Rosochate, 7 kilometers from Czyzewo, there were several Jewish families who had lived there for generations. There were several Jewish families also in Dombrowa. They prayed together on shabes and yontef as a minion. These families remained in the villages until the end. There was a score of Jewish families living in the villages Przezdziecko, Sutki, Godlewo and Chmielewo, but under the pressure of anti-Semitism they did not feel that their lives were safe and at the end of 1930 they moved to Czyzewo. The blacksmith Icchok Wapniak moved from Brulin to Czyzewo and later moved to Israel where he died a ripe, old age.

Only the daring Okon family kept their windmill in Kosk until late in the 1930's, until they also in the end could not resist the pressure and left their home where their father and grandfathers had lived for generations.

The following people paid a heavy price for living in Polish villages. In 1921 the miller, Gdalia from Godliewe was murdered together with his wife.

For having the nerve to be a good settler, the Jewish landowner Meszel Wolfsman and his wife paid with their lives in 1905. After he had already both the estate, he and his wife were murdered at his son's house in Chelenowe village.

[article continued on next page]

  1. From the poll tax taken in 1765 in Ostrów Mazowiecka, there were 68 Jews (20 families) and a gravestone found in Zaremby Koscielne was dated 1681. (trans. note) return
  2. Ostrów Mazowiecka was one of the few towns, perhaps the only one, not near a body of water. There is only a small spring and a natural pond created by the spring. (trans. note). return

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