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[Page 52]

Steinitz the Conductor and the Temple Choir

by Dr. Natan Greenbaum

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

A physically large man with a double chin, prominent eyes, and a strict and serious demeanor. That is the way I remember Mr. Georg (Jerzy) Stenitz, the conductor of the choir of the central synagogue of Katowice. A tuning fork in his hand, he seemed forever to be squinting at the mirror connecting the choir, located on the upper level, with the cantor, who stood at the prayer stand below; both of them coordinating the “entrances' of the cantor and choir.

Ours was an exclusively male choir. It was well known that some members wore a skull cap only when singing in the synagogue. In our special place, standing in rows on the upper level and to the right of the hall, we each had our assigned places. We the small ones, the “sopranos” stood in front. To our right stood the bases, and behind us the altos and tenors. We sang on the Sabbaths, holidays, and special events, primarily the compositions of Lewandowski.

We rehearsed in one of the halls of the community building. I especially remember the meetings of the chorus after Cantor Dembitzer's death when Mr. Steinitz arranged auditions for new candidates for the cantor's position. A new candidate appeared almost every week and we would have to give him an opportunity to show off his voice and his ability to blend his singing with that of the choir. On these occasions, Steinitz was at his best. He strikes a note with the tuning fork in his hand, lifts it to his ear, hums it, and then gives each group their specific note. He would go through the same routine with each new candidate. He then raises the conductor's baton, alternatively looks to the cantor and the chorus, stops and corrects, stops and scolds, and finally there emerges the most wonderful harmonious blending of the voices of cantor and chorus.

Steimitz is remembered warmly for the “salary” he paid us for participating in the choir. He would be seated in one of the rooms of the community building behind a window and through it would greet each member, check the name on a list in his hand and distribute the coins according to the list - a full zloty or a half. We, especially the little ones, never checked the accuracy and we would never remark on the amount. We were happy with what we received and ran to buy - candy.

This is the place to try to bring up from the depth of our memory some of the names of the members of the choir. The bases included Majdrzowinski from Anadze street, and the brothers Czewiklizer. The tenors I remember include Tennenbaum and Jakobowicz. Belzer was one of the altos, and Israel Teitelbaum sang with me as a soprano.

Our musical education was not confined to the choir. As we approached the age of Bar Mitzvah when we were allowed to lead the afternoon service on the Sabbath, we received instruction from a teacher whose name I have forgotten. He also taught us the Torah notes and he prepared us to read the passage assigned to us on the holiday of Simchat Torah. To this day, each year on Simchat Torah when I am called to the Torah as a Cohen, I read the passage “This is the blessing” using the notes and the melody that I was taught by this anonymous teacher in Katowice.

I was told that conductor, Steinitz was assigned by the Germans at the beginning of the war to manage Jewish affairs in Katowice until the order that expelled all the Jews from our town.

May their memory be for a blessing and may G-D avenge their blood.

[Page 53]

Chosen to be in Charge of a Holy Place

by Dobka Buchstein (Krotman)

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

kat053.jpg Krebs family  [38 KB]
Krebs family

The cemetery in Katowice, as I became acquainted with it in the 1930's was maintained in an exceptional manner. The Krebs family, which was in charge of maintenance, deserves credit for the exceptional cleanliness and daily care lavished on this holy place. Every day, workers came to sweep away leaves that had fallen from the trees and to care for the flowers which were planted by families of the deceased.

Salo Krebs maintained a card file of the graves and if a family came to visit but did not know the exact location of the grave of their loved one, they immediately received the correct location from the Krebs family who consulted this card file.

The noble members of the Krebs family were always prepared to help those in need, whether for a night's lodging or with food. When Jewish refugees started coming from Germany, they immediately came to their rescue.

Even in regular times beggars used to come to Katowice from nearby cities such as Bendzin or Sosnowiec to ask for alms. Sometimes one person would come and ask for help for additional help for two, three, or four others and after a few minutes another from the same group would come and ask for help for “four others”. But even such behavior would not deter Salo Krebs from helping those in need.

The entire Krebs family perished in the Holocaust except for a daughter, Amy, who married Jacob Yarczin from Sosnowiec and they now live in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In the cemetery, memorial services used to be conducted by the Rabbis accompanied by the choir from the Great Synagogue.

Today, the cemetery is neglected. The entrance is damaged, and the gravestones many of the gravestones are unkempt or even destroyed.

These words are dedicated to the memory of the Krebs family whose grave is unknown.

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