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[Page 104]

The Joselewicz School Parents' Committee

Josef Chrust

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

Behind the Joselewicz School teachers' educational achievements stood the parents' committee. The committee participated in their work with much love and devotion, always ready to help and solve problems and to highlight the care for children from poor families.

From various news clips published in the “Official Bulletin,” we learn that, while searching for financial sources, the committee would occasionally organize charity show nights or parties to raise money for hot meal projects, books and day camps for those children.

A notice from 1935, for instance, announced that the parents' committee managed to equip all the needy children in school with schoolbooks and learning aids, in addition to hot meals for 200 of them and 100 pairs of new boots for the winter. Occasional notices of gratitude to stores and factories in Katowice can also be found in the bulletin, thanking them for generous donations of shoes or clothing.

A financial report from November 1935 showed a total annual budget of 5,039 zloty, including 804 spent on clothing, 1,012 for learning-aids, 1,000 for summer camps and trips and 45 zloty for medical expenses.

In January 1936 a report of the giveaway was published, consisting of 87 pairs of shoes, 108 pairs of long woolen socks, 84 pairs of pop socks, 48 pairs of gloves and 48 sweaters. The next report of December 1936 included 140 pairs of shoes, 150 sweaters, 40 pairs of ice skates and more.

Another interesting item from issue No. 111 of “the bulletin” (September 1936) read as follows: “In the beginning of the new school year, the school's Christian principal quit, and his position was filled by Professor Bolchower, due to community's involvement. Making use of the official regulations, stating that the principal and teachers in Jewish school ought to be Jewish themselves, the committee demanded to appoint a new, and Jewish, principal.”

kat104.jpg Joselewicz School  [34 KB]
Joselewicz School

[Page 105]

The Beith-Yaakov school for girls

Cila Katriel

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

Mrs. Chawa Tauba was the principal and only teacher of the Katowice Beith-Yaakov until September 1939.

During the 1930-1931 period, Chawa Tauba, an intelligent, young woman, was asked by the initiators — Rav Kalman Chameides and the Szolowic family — to establish an Orthodox school for girls. Eight girls of various ages attended the first meeting at Rav Chameides's house on a Friday night. The lecture on the weekly portion, Vayeshe, was given in Yiddish. The day after, all the girls got together in the synagogue's women's section. In a period of only several months, many girls joined: up to 250, in several age groups. Chawa devoted even her Saturdays to spending time in conversation and strolls with the girls.

Most of the students came from non-religious homes, but the lectures, combined with the warm social atmosphere of Beith Yaakov, had an effect even on the families. Many of them started to keep their kitchens kosher and to close their businesses on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

The students learned to read and write in both Hebrew and Yiddish, recite grace for food and prayers, learn Bible and Jewish history, and also study speech and drama. Chawa Tauba herself wrote, directed and ran all the school's plays with much success and talent. In issue No. 99 of the “Community Bulletin” (March 1936) appears an ad for a show night for kids, and another special one for the adults — a fact that shows the parents' great interest in the school's activity. Fancier shows, to which tickets were actually sold, were held to raise money for the reconstruction of the school building. She was constantly supported by Rav Chameides and Mr. Abrahamer.

In 1938, the entire school was given a public test. The results made a tremendous impression. They reflected the grand efforts and devotion that teacher Tauba had invested in her work. The students and their parents adored her. She encouraged several of them to continue their courses of study in the original seminary in Krakow, founded by Mrs. Sara Schenirer. The education they were given was proved to help them get through the hardest hours, and try with dedication to protect their Jewish identity.

Teacher Chawa Tauba was saved from the Auschwitz death camp and arrived in Israel after the war ended. She was married to Rabbi Grinfeld, and was widowed a number of years ago.

I was granted the merit to meet her again in Jerusalem in 1987, and we keep in touch until today (1993).

[Page 106]

The Talmud-Torah

Jakow Tajtelbaum

Translation edited by Hillel Kuttler

A report published in the “Community Bulletin” of August 1932 (issue #14) consists of details of all aspects of the school's activity.

According to the report, the community financed the institution, which was divided into sections for boys and for girls, and a classroom for Hebrew studies for the benefit of both girls and boys.

The Talmud Torah's boys section was originally planned as a seven-year school, but because of financial problems and its location, it turned into a five-year one. This way, the students finished elementary school when they were only 11 or 12 years old. The curriculum included the following subjects: reading, writing, Hebrew grammar, prayers and their meaning, Chumash [Bible] and understanding the Rashi commendatory, Nevi'im [Prophets] and Halacha [Jewish laws and rituals]. In addition, a unique class for excellent students was opened upon parents' request. In the younger grades, schooldays were two hours long; in older ones, schooldays were five hours. At the time this report was published, a total of 180 students were learning in Talmud Torah.

Taking into account that most of the students were also going to public schools, that was five-six more hours of classes daily, which were divided by alternate groups: one week of morning classes, the next week of afternoon classes – with homework on top of it all.

kat106.jpg Hebrew School  [20 KB]
Hebrew School. Mixed class
Center: the teacher Winer

[Page 107]

It appears that the Talmud Torah students were under pressure. Yet, the educational administration believed that this was for the students' benefit, as they would leave the institution with sufficient knowledge to continue their course of study.

The girls' section, “Beith Yaakov,” had five classrooms. At the time this report was published, 140 girls were studying there. Classes filled only one hour daily.The curriculum included reading and writing, Jewish prayers, Jewish history and customs.

The annual report from August 1933, published again in the issue #37 of the “Community Bulletin,” remarked that the year before, 145 students attended Talmud Torah. It also detailed some of the materials learned in each class, i.e.: Bava Metsia in the fourth grade and a group of 13 boys learning Bava Kama, Pesachim and Shabbat – all Talmudic tractates.

Despite the impressive educational results the school managed to achieve, some parents were unsatisfied. It was claimed that not enough hours were being dedicated for learning Hebrew as a language. Others claimed the opposite: that more time should be spent teaching Talmud. Due to these disagreements, the administration staff decided to change the system: Talmud Torah would continue regularly as a school focusing in the teaching of Bible, Mishnah and Gemara – all taught in Yiddish. A separate institution would be opened simultaneously, focusing more on Hebrew and its related subjects: history, Hebrew literature, prayers and partially Mishnah and Talmudic texts – all taught in Hebrew.

Two items published in the bulletin reflect the parents', and in fact the general public's, interest in the institution and its activity. In May 1932, the bulletin announced a meeting led by Rabbi Chameides and Rabbi Fogelman, where the seven-member parents' committee was to be picked. In December 1935, it posted a notice about a public test of the Talmud Torah students, to be given as a part of the Hanukkah party.

kat107.jpg Talmud-Torah  [32 KB]
On left: Zajdman. On the right: the teacher Winer

[Page 108]

High school Memories

Aleksander Rakower

I am originally from Krakow, where my father's family was rooted for generations. I was not pleased with my father's decision to move the Katowice, where he and his brother Isaac ran for several years the local branch of a Lodz textile factory. We, the kids, weren't asked for our opinion, so we were thrown into a new and different world.

Krakow had an elementary school and a Hebrew high school, as well as the Akiva and Sharon youth groups, which were led by our mentor Szymek Dringer and would later found a Jewish underground group that fought the Nazis. They were among the first resisters who made use of power and arms. I had a diverse family from both my father's and my mother's sides, and lived mostly among Jews. On our way to school, we would occasionally meet Christian boys, and if it came to any incident, we always won, through clever tricks, organization and inner discipline. It's possible that back then, Shimmek Deranger and his group developed their fighting method, which was a basic characteristic of their later resistance against the Nazis: in Krakow and then in other Polish districts.

My first day in the Katowice high school

We were four Jewish boys in class: Isaac (Isio) Floksman, a fencing champion and member of the Silesian high school's first fencing team; Levine, an amateur boxer from the Maccabi sports organization,;Lajzerowicz, from Sosnowiec; and me. For some reason, all four of us were seated in the two front rows of desks — seemingly, a sort of a expulsion, but I personally enjoyed being among Jews, as I was used to. A student started to pass around a scrap of paper that landed on our desk. Drawn on it was an eagle and a Magen David, a sickle and a hammer, and the writing, “A Jewish Communist messenger is out to the world.”

I asked Levine whether he could recognize the talented sketcher, and he replied, “Yes, it's doubtless Shladzic.” I told Levine that I thought we needed to hit the guy. I must remark that I am not a violent person, not even slightly, but I was raised to react this way, directly and with no hesitations.

Levine passed a note to Floksman, with the added notation, “The new guy is suggesting we hit Shladzic. What do you say?” Floksman agreed. During the break, we sent Lajzerowicz to guard the door, so that no one could go in or out. Levine showed the drawing to Shladzic and asked whether he's the one who made it. The answer was, “Yes, is there a problem?” followed by a flat hit to his nose. Some blood erupted, and the classroom went very silent. We were waiting, very tense, as Eli Kubiszik, who was the oldest of us all, came up to me, patted my shoulder and said: “New guy, we are going to be friends. Come shake my hand.” Indeed, we became good friends, and we kept writing letters to each other even after I came to Israel, until the war broke out.

The Szymek Dering method proved efficient again. A good example that reflects how the atmosphere in class became calmer for a long while after is the story of Warecki. Warecki was a student who converted to Christianity with his entire family when he was a little boy. He was a pleasant, keeping-to-himself kind of boy. One day, we were playing volleyball, and, as it so happened, four of the six players in one group were Jews. Warecki noticed it and called out, “Hey, the Maccabi group is playing!” Our entire class responded, “If it's Maccabi, then come on, too, Warecki, and join them!” Warecki, actually in good spirits, joined us and we were all, including him, laughing.

But it was not always like that. For instance, a younger class included a boy who had converted with his family right after his bar mitzvah. Ever since, he was the editor of the Catholic Boy Scouts bulletin, involved in each and every activity. He also was a loud anti-Semite. One winter day, during break time, we saw this “new Christian” throwing a snowball at the Rabbi Dr. Fogelman, who had come to give us a religion lecture. Levine and I were in a rage, and we came up to him and started pushing him around, back and forth between us. The insult to an honored rabbi, especially coming from a convert, made us push even harder. All around, Polish boys circled us, definitely enjoying the spectacle of two Jews humiliating a third one. (For them and for us as well, he remained a Jew.)

[Page 109]

None of his “friends” helped him then, and his anti-Semitism became very restrained. Another memorable incident occurred during our military training. The officer responsible for us was a first lieutenant who was also a Polish aristocrat. He hated the simple people, including, of course, Jews. The Polish sergeant, howver, deeply admired us for our serious attitude toward the course, and was also repulsed by the lieutenant's approach.

We were given old weapons from World War I, but four were constantly missing, so four of us couldn't carrying guns; two Jews and two Christian boys carried a lighter weight. The officer, who was riding his bike next to us as we marched, noticed it, yelled, “Can't you see how the Jews trick you?” and ordered that the two Jewish boys be given guns immediately. While he was at it, someone called to him from behind, “Hey, bum, you should walk by foot like us! Off your bike!” And the proud officer did.

Nonetheless, the Polish sergeant proved to us there was an alternative. When one of the students, encouraged by the sergeant's presence, made an anti-Semitic remark at us, the sergeant ordered him to do 20 pushups right on the spot. As he phrased it, “Kiss Mother Earth 20 times right this second!”

My High school Teachers

The teachers formed a non-homogenous group. One teacher, who liked me a lot, told me once, “We need 100,000 Jews like you to stay in Poland, and let the rest go to Palestine.” I replied that although I thanked him, I was already in the process of acquiring a student's “certificate” pass to that very Palestine. He shook my hand warmly, said that I would be “a good and descent citizen anywhere” and wished me luck.

Another was Mr. Jakubowski, the Latin teacher. From his appearance, and because of the trip to Palestine he claimed to have made, it was impossible to figure out whether he was a converted Jew or a Christian. His hostile approach toward the Jewish students could have equally derived from inherent anti Semitism or from a will to cover for his Jewish origin. As an average Latin student, I made great efforts to improve, including taking private lessons with a tutor from a higher grade. But even after I felt more confident with the material and started to raise my hand in class, Jakubowski would never let me answer. Even when I was the only one who knew the correct answer, he would simply say, “I see you don't know it” and go on with the lecture. When I told him the story and said that I thought his ignoring me was a symptom of anti-Semitism, our high school principal, Mr. Sztojer arranged for me to take an external exam in Latin. Although Jakubowski tried to persuade me to back off, I took the test and ended up outstandingly successful. I thanked Mr. Sztojer for his consideration, and celebrated my sweet victory. Years later, when I arrived in Italy, I was among the soldiers in the Jewish Brigade to understand the Italian language — thanks mostly to Mr. Jakubowski.

Our chemistry teacher, Mr. Mor, was a convert yet a descent person. He treated us fairly. I had a closer relationship with Mr. B., a history teacher and a member of the Polish academy, who was intelligent and open-minded. History was my favorite subject, and as I read a lot and acquired general knowledge, a special contact started to form between us.

[Page 110]

Due to a daring and critical comment I made during class (concerning one of Poland's national heroes, Kosciuszko), he later told me in a private conversation, “I had many Jewish friends during my academic life and later on. You all seem to suffer from a similar quality, which I consider negative and destructive. For the one, definite and ultimate truth, you are ready to destroy everything else: the people's faith or their hope, the will to find empathy. Since I like you very much, I beg you to try removing this Jewish flaw from your character and to try and act so that others who are as smart as you will try to overcome it as well.”

These days, whenever I hear people complain about twisted history – how Bar-Kochva was a disaster to the Jewish people in his time, or how Trumpeldor actually cursed on his deathbed – it sadly makes me remember the words of wise, well-wishing Mr. B.

The Bnei-Akiva Youth group

I had several Polish friends in my class (Piontek, Kubiszik, Muczygemba and a few more), but the social life was focused on the youth groups' gatherings. I was in a group with kids my age (of whom Irena Bajtner-Wygodzki, Mina Szif and Hela Haas now reside in Israel), and with younger children I was guiding. We spent our summers in a summer camp, filled with non-stop Zionist Scout activity. Despite that fact, moving from Krakow to Katowice made it much easier for me to leave and move again to Israel on my very own. Katowice was a stage in my severing.

On my visit to Poland in 1945, attempting to find any survivors from my family, I felt a complete stranger everywhere. This was a different Poland, out of Jews.

kat110.jpg The Polish church  [30 KB]
The Polish church

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