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Part II: Between Two World Wars

[Pages 69–75]

The Jews of Dzialoszyce

by Abraham Langer

(See English section pp. 20–22)

[Pages 76–77]

From the Old Country

by Chaim Szwimer

Translated by Sheva Zucker
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

Bandits rob the town. A Jewish self-defense organization is established

It was in 1918, several weeks after the liberation of Poland.[1] Gangs were organized in the region of Kielce that attacked landowners and their estates, robbed people on the roads, and sometimes also killed them. Many people became the victims of these gangs, both Jews and non-Jews. In our area, people even knew the leaders of these robbers. But the worst gang was that of the bandit Kazun. Various legends were told about him. One said that he was a patron of the poor; he took from the rich and divided it up among the poor; a second said that he was literally a person who could transform himself––a person with seven faces. He couldn't be caught because he changed his outer appearance over the course of months, and because of this, the police had shot and killed not an insignificant number of people. As soon as they saw a suspicious looking person, they shot him, not wanting to meet up with the live Kazun.

Kazun, however, stood up to them, and in a short time shot quite a number of policemen.

It was an evening in the fall. The stores were already closed. Here and there, a restaurant and a butcher shop were still open. The street lamps burned with a weak light as they do in a small town. The streets were empty; one rarely saw a person pass by. Suddenly a noise was heard, and, as if from under the earth, several wagons with bandits arrived. They made a circle in the market square and opened fire from the wagons, so that the whole town resounded with the shots. There was terrible panic. The few people who had just been in the street fled and looked for protection somewhere.

The wagons placed themselves in the middle of the market square. The bandits jumped down. And one of them called out in a loud voice, "Biedni ludzie, schodźcie się!" [Poor people, come unite!] At this invitation, all the Polish janitors, butchers, underworld characters, and crooks who carried knives came out and went with the gang to plunder.

Szymon Kołatacz was the first to be robbed. They took whole wagons of material from there. Then they set off for all the rich Jews, robbing the stores and the apartments, all within a few hours.

I was standing in the house of Mendel Frydman; a little further down, several people ran out into the street yelling, “Bandits! Murderers!” They thought that with their yelling they would frighten Kazun. In response, the bandits opened fire. The people quickly fled. Soon a victim fell, a water-carrier who was standing perhaps a meter away from me. She did not even manage to let out a groan. The bullet hit her right in the head.

As I was going home at three o'clock in the middle of the night, I saw many stores that had been robbed. In the store of the Cukierman brothers, everything had been emptied out. Only remnants of valuable materials were lying about on the street.

The next day, the police, which had only recently been organized (for the most part, they had little worth, because every day, policemen would shoot each other, being unable to handle their weapons), together with the Jews of the town, looked for the stolen merchandise, but barely anything was found.

Right after the attack, a Jewish self-defense organization was formed; it obtained a few guns. While they were walking with these guns, which they had just received and had not yet managed to load, Poles shot at them and seriously wounded Zalman Cudzynowski, who lay in a hospital in Kraków for two weeks and then died.

And thus was founded and dissolved the Jewish self-defense organization in Działoszyce, which existed only for minutes. Some time later, when the police were better organized, they fought against the gangs.

Kazun, the leader, was killed. People said that he had been wounded in Radom, and a Jewish doctor who had been treating him turned him over to the police. Somebody else said that a policeman shot and killed him at the Skarzysko train station, shooting him through both pockets of his military coat with two revolvers.

Thus ended two legends, the legend of Jewish self-defense in Działoszyce, which cost the town four victims, and the legend of the bandit Kazun, who cast fear on the surrounding population, in general, and on the Jews, in particular.

[Pages 78–86]

A Jewish Island in a Gentile Sea

by David Shlomi

(See English section pp. 9–13)

Editors' Footnotes

  1. After World War I, Poland, which had been partitioned among Austro-Hungary, Prussia, and Russia, was reconstituted as a nation. Return
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