« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 101]

Between Two World Wars

 

Nowy Dwor – One of the Nicest Towns

by Yitzhak Grinbaum

Translated by Amy Samin

Nowy Dwor – a town near the Magdalen Castle – was, during the days of Czarist Russia, called Novogeorgievsk .

This proximity to the main fortress of Congress Poland, especially after the closing of the Warsaw Citadel, always brought calamity on the Jews of Nowy Dwor during times of war: the Jewish population expelled, their property looted by the Polish residents, and the Jewish portion of the town destroyed.

Thus it was in the days of the First World War, and also during the invasion of the Bolshevik Army, in the days of the battle for Warsaw in 1920.

When Poland was invaded by Hitler's forces, the Jews were not expelled by the authorities. They themselves ran away from the monster, and those who remained behind suffered the same fate as all of the Jews of Poland.

In my speech before the Polish Sejm on 14 October 1920, which was entirely devoted to the suffering of the Jews of Poland during the advance and retreat of the Soviet forces, I dedicated a section to Nowy Dwor, in which I described the suffering of the town's Jews. This is what I said:

“After the Yablonka operation, or during it, things happened that reminded us of the antics of the Russians in 1914.” (A voice interjected: “That's interesting.”).

“From the same places around the Magdalen Castle, they started expelling only the Jews. Every Jew, with no exceptions: the rabbis, the Haredim. Later, they were given certificates of loyalty and patriotism. They were expelled with their wives and their children.” (Voice: “With the garlic and with the onion.”).

“And the reason, as was told to us by an official source“: “Our generals cannot win if the Jews remain in Nowy Dwor, in Varver or Plenitz” (Noise).

“How did the simple folk understand this expulsion?”

“The act was perceived, as were the flyers identifying the Jews with Bolsheviks, as anti–Semitic propaganda, and an invitation to commit robbery.”

“Nowy Dwor was robbed after the Jews had left. Every store and apartment belonging to Jews was robbed. The same thing happened in Zakroczym. Jewish homes and the synagogue of Zakroczym were desecrated, just as in Nowy Dwor. They brought horses into one of the synagogues and made it into a stable.” (Voice: “Who?! Certainly it was Trotsky, to save money when he brought his cavalry.”)

“Then came the intensive attacks against us, and we began to receive official announcements of Jewish treachery.”

“From Bialystok they reported that armed Jews had joined the retreating Bolshevik army, and in Siedlce they said the same thing as they did in Bialystok.”

“Those announcements were published by headquarters and were denied by the Polish committees of those same cities and towns. The Polish generals were killed in the same places from which they had expelled the Jews and their families in order that they could not betray anyone; and their betrayal could not harm anyone. In any event, they lost, or in those places nothing happened. In any event, the fabrication of betrayal makes no sense.”

When I described in my speech the plots of betrayal that were fabricated against the Jews with no foundation, one of the listeners to my speech called out:

“But it was a good weapon, since we won.”

“From here the blood and suffering was spilled following intentional acts and use of anti–Semitic libels, the cause of which was obvious: the generals, who could not win, found a different path to victory…”

*

Before reading a an article about my visit to Nowy Dwor, anyone who read a description of Nowy Dwor would certainly be surprised at the freedom given to the Jews there and in the surrounding area, to prepare such a wonderful and cordial welcome for me. Nowy Dwor was not

[Page 102]

unusual among the towns and cities of Poland which I visited during my term in the Sejm and with the Zionist movement.

The passive attitude of the authorities towards my visit lasted only a certain length of time. It changed with the establishment of the second minority. In the first adjusted session of the Sejm and in the regular Sejm, the national holidays during which my visits were arranged were not interfered with. I was not harmed, nor were my speeches censored, despite their being full of criticism of governmental policy. It seemed they feared the matter would be viewed negatively abroad, and it would not be worthwhile to display such a reaction. Things changed with the revolution of Pilsudski, and the rising wave of anti–Semitism in Germany and indeed in all of Europe. At that time, Demovski published statements in the press belonging to the National Democrats that there was no longer any reason to fear that the Western democracies would react to increasingly anti–Semitic policy with outrage and a demand for restraint in anti–Semitic attacks against Jews.

The victory of Pilsudski and his faction required the National Democrats to begin a struggle within the party. [This was] [n]ot just in the Sejm, but on the political and public fronts, as well. Based on their experience, the leaders of the National Democrats knew that there was no more effective weapon than anti–Semitism and anti–Semitic plots.

Pilsudski's faction, even in the honeymoon phase of its government, wanted to prove that it had no need of a formal contract of compromise with the Jews, and was willing to fulfill their just demands, particularly in the area of civil equality. But they were afraid they would be seen by the masses as the defenders of the Jews.

Their rival, the National Democrats, knew this was a weak spot and began to openly criticize them, more and more rigorously, and staged anti–Jewish demonstrations. Gradually, it was the youth, especially the students, who moved on to open clashes. They challenged the faction in power as if to say: “We'll see if you will dare to defend the Jews who support you.”

The authorities avoided making a response. For the most part, they rejected the demands of the Jews and did not respond to provocations against the Jews on the streets of Warsaw, Vilna, and Lvov.

The government responded with terrorism against small merchants, attempting to coerce them to vote against the bloc. The candidate lists of the bloc were disqualified, and all sorts of tricks were utilized to ensure that candidates from joint lists would also not be elected. At the same time, they did not oppose the lists of the National party, which were appended to the minority blocs.

Then there were interventions in and the closings of our meetings. Next, the towns ceased their warm welcomes and demonstrations of appreciation, which I had been privileged to receive during the first period. The programs of anti–Semitism invaded the Sanation faction of the party, saturating it deeply.

 

now102.jpg
[Handwritten message signed by Y. Grinbaum and M. Grinbaum. Below is an approximate translation.]

In memory of my visit to Nowy Dwor, and with pleasure that you received and appreciated
Hashomer LaLeumi [the National Guard] and his words – Be Strong and Brave.

 


[Page 103]

In 1905

by Shmuel Kokhalski

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Shopkeepers

How did Jews earn a living in our town? Just as they did in other Jewish towns in Poland –mostly from keeping shop. There were many shops, one next to the other, and all the shopkeepers slaved away for a bit of income, for a day's living.

These were mostly food shops, which were supplied by three or four wholesalers who brought supplies from Warsaw to Nowy Dwor. Things were worse for the dry goods and clothing shops. There were no wholesalers to supply them and each shop owner had to travel to Warsaw on his own to buy his little bit of goods. This took a lot of effort and worry. Each small merchant who travelled to Warsaw had to run about looking for a loan of a few hundred zlotys, and since there weren't many rich men or benefactors, this caused much trouble and anxiety.

I remember two Jews in Nowy Dwor who would provide an interest–free loan in times of need: the baker Zakhariye Kartosovitsh, who did it modestly, quietly and with kindness, and the well– known merchant Berl Tsinaman, around whom about 20 families “warmed themselves.”

For all of the shopkeepers, the six weekdays were days of toil and care. Each one of them wished –as in the story by I.L.Peretz, “The Golden Chain”–to relax on the carefree Sabbath. But as soon as the Sabbath ended with the words, “Have a good week,” their cares returned.

 

Craftsmen

The major craft was tailoring. Some people worked for themselves, taking orders from clients. But the great majority of tailors filled orders from the well– known Warsaw firms, Tselmayster and Shniadovitsh. These tailors had a lot of work and employed a lot of workers, but they didn't do well. There were times when they had no orders and employers and workers alike didn't have enough to eat.

Among the other crafts, shoemakers played an important role. There were about 20 shoemakers in town, who in hard times barely made a living. Some of them worked for the military at the Modlin fortress. Most of the shoemakers there were Christians, but if there was a lot of work, they also called in Jewish workers.

Most Jewish shoemakers did not fill orders, but rather made cheaper, ready to wear shoes and boots to sell at fairs and market days. On market days, which took place two days a week, and at the fairs, which took place once a month, all kinds of craftsmen –shoemakers and tailors, hat makers and carpenters – sold their products to the peasants who drove in from the surrounding area. They mostly bought things after they had harvested their fields and sold their grains and products in town. After the golden summer months they would prepare for winter, buying a pair of boots, a warm fur, all from Jewish tradesmen.

After the rainy season and in the winter months, when the peasants no longer had products left to sell, they bought less. And the Jewish artisans had to wait five months for better times and higher prices.

 

Droshky drivers and wagon drivers

The droshky drivers [coachmen] took passengers to and from the train station. From 5 in the morning to 1 in the morning they worked hard to make a living. There were about ten

[Page 104]

families who engaged in this kind of work whom I remember from the 30 years before I left town. They were various types: quiet men like Moyshe Hener, whom one hardly saw or heard. The merchants and middle class men in town liked to ride with him. He would go house to house and shop to shop picking up passengers and taking them to and from the train. In contrast, Khayikl the droshky driver was a loudmouth; you could hear him coming from far away; that's how loudly he wielded his whip. He would pick up people who were running late at the last minute, and by rushing managed to get them to the train on time. We young people generally preferred to walk to the train, but if we were going to be late, we mounted his droshky, trusting Khaykl to get us there on time.

Among the droshky drivers there was one fellow who, seated “at the head” between horses and passengers, like to talk politics, about the rich and the poor, class conflict and justice. He later became a representative of the Bund in the kehila [organized Jewish community] for many years.

As I have said, the droshky drivers worked mostly in the town, but it was different for the wagon drivers, who carried goods to and from Warsaw. These journeys were frightening and risky. To drive the 30 kilometers between Warsaw and Nowy Dwor required travelling through thick woods, and the drivers were often attacked by bandits who took all the cargo. It also happened that the Jewish wagon drivers would pay with their lives. For that reason, they would travel together in a group.

But they didn't always work together; there would also be conflicts and physical fights between the wagon drivers while they were waiting at the market place for a job carrying wood from the train and coals to Leybl Goldpfenig's warehouse. When they were competing for a trip, blood would sometimes flow like water. Their screams could be heard by their wives and children at home. The family and household members would come running and joined the fight. Things got lively at the market place. The bystanders tried not to get involved. They were afraid to get close to the wagon drivers, who were such strong men; everyone wanted to avoid a blow from their hands.

This all happened because the drivers were competing for so few jobs. They would get more work before Pesach, when the ice on the river would start to break up. The Christians would chop it into large pieces and the Jewish wagon drivers took it to the soda–water factories owned by Borekh Tik and Yehiel Mendl Roznboym and to Moyshe Berman's beer warehouse. There they kept the ice in the cellars to preserve it for the whole summer. Workers in rubber boots bustled about with big pieces of ice, chopped them up and salted them to keep them from melting on warm days. The ice warmed the souls of the wagon drivers, because it gave them work and there were fewer fights.

 

The Porters

The porters were stationed at Shaye Boym's brick building. People used to say that the building would never fall down, because the porters stood leaning against it with their sturdy backs day and night. They stood there waiting for a job carrying something – a sack of flour, a bag of sugar, and other loads. Most of their work occurred when the wagon drivers returned from Warsaw with their cargo.

The small shopkeepers, who tried to save every zloty, tried to manage without the porters and unloaded the goods themselves. But the porters organized and joined a

[Page 105]

transport union and from then on only porters were allowed to unload the wagons.

The work was very hard. They would have to carry sacks from the mills of Nokhem Neufeld and Nakhman Knaster to the other side of town. With a groan they would unload the sacks.

Hershl Morde was a very able porter. He could carry a heavy sack on his back with his hands in his pockets and everyone on the street would stare and marvel at his strength. Other strongmen among the porters were Khaim Yatsek and Laybshtek. The weaker porters, who did not display such strength, still performed their difficult work, accepting the fate that had destined them to make their living this way. Later on, the porters bought horses and wagons to make their work a bit easier.

It was not easy for the porters to wait for the wagons to return at night from Warsaw. The waits could be very long. They suffered especially on nights when it rained and was windy, and also when it snowed and was very cold. There was no place to warm oneself, so they would drop in on Ratse the baker woman and warm up there.

The porters demonstrated their strength and skill not just at work, but also at critical times for the Jewish community when strength and bravery were needed to fight off attacks. The hooligans in town feared them; when they fell into the hands of the porters, they were done for.

In 1936, at the time of the troubles in Eretz

 

now105.jpg
Part of the Warsaw Road near the market place, where porters and wagon drivers gathered

 

[Page 106]

Yisroel, the porters were very concerned about the situation of Jews there, about whether Jews were showing their strength and resisting. When people started to talk about the need for porters to work at the ports of Eretz Yisroel, it evoked great interest among the porters of Nowy Dwor. Two of them, the brothers Asher and Yankl Vant, were ready to travel to Eretz Yisroel, but that didn't happen. But the interest in Eretz Yisroel continued, and every person who made Aliyah [emigrated to Israel] was seen off by the porters, with their blessings.

 

Factories in the Town

There were two factories in town where Jewish workers were employed – the crockery factory and the plywood factory. The crockery factory belonged to semi–assimilated Jews who had no contact with the Jewish community in town. Tens of workers were employed there, with only one Jewish girl among them. They also employed one Jew in the office, Halinka Mundlak, and later also Khane Tsaytog. It appears that the employers cared little for the social conditions of the Jewish population.

The Jewish workers were more fortunate at the plywood factory. After World War I, Kleinman, a Hasidic Jew from Warsaw, built the factory on the outskirts of town, at a convenient location between the Narew River and the train station. The wood was transported by water and the manufactured plywood was shipped off by train. The factory administration was Jewish and liberal. The rabbi's son, Nokhem Neufeld, the social activist, was very close to them, and that provided a means of access to them.

Once the first few boys went to work there, they paved the way for more. The work went on 24 hours a day in three shifts, and Jews constituted a significant percentage of the workers, from 20% to 60%. The Jewish workers had to exert themselves to keep up with the Christian workers at dragging the logs from the water then sawing them up and arranging them.

Hakhshore groups [training to prepare emigrants to Eretz Yisroel] from Hashomer Hatsair [Young Guards] and Mizrachi [religious Zionists] also came to work in the plywood factory. They were strongly opposed by the Bund and the Communists, who thought that their employment conflicted with the interests of local workers. This idea reached the Polish workers and a danger arose that they would get involved in a conflict among the Jews. We in the factory had a difficult task, to explain to the Polish workers what hakhshore meant, that the work of the pioneers was only temporary and that they would soon leave for Eretz Yisroel.

With the outbreak of World War II, everything ––the factories, workshops, stores and market – disappeared. It was as if Jews had never lived there, struggling day in, day out for their existence, in the hope of seeing better times.


[Page 107]

The Anti–Semitic Falanga
[Fascist political organization]

by Meyer Blake [Blakharek]

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

The extremist anti–Semitic Falanga was active in Nowy Dwor. Their goal was to embitter the lives and the spirit of the Jewish shopkeepers. The Falangist hooligans would stand in front of the Jewish shops and pour kerosene all over the merchandise that the peasants purchased from the Jews. This also deterred the peasants from bringing their products to sell to Jewish stores.

The Falangists would attack and terrorize Jews and scatter the merchandise, despite the high fees that the Jewish merchants paid for a small place at the market. In addition, those peasants who had preferred to deal with Jewish rather than Polish shopkeepers weren't permitted to have contact with the Jews, and this ruined Jewish business and Jewish life in the town.

The Minister of the Interior, Skladkowski, lived not far from Nowy Dwor, in Pamiekhove. He had a French wife who would buy food every day in Nowy Dwor from Jewish grocers. But her husband the minister was far from friendly to the Jews. Every day, Minister Skladkowski had the opportunity to observe Jews and Poles conducting business on the bridge over the Vistula outside of town, because the Falangists had made it impossible for them to do business in town. The Minister saw but didn't care about what was happening to the Jews.

In the summer of 1938, a year before the Nazi invasion of Poland, Skladkowski delivered his famous anti–Semitic speech in the Sejm [Polish legislature]. In explaining his position, he used as an example his own region, where Jews conducted business with Poles on the bridge over the Vistula, and he proposed that such business not be permitted. This speech encouraged the Falangists and the very next day they set up guards throughout the whole area to assure that no Jew would be able to buy goods from the peasants. All the roads were blocked. It felt as if a pogrom was brewing and Jews were on the alert for any provocation that could serve as a reason for an attack.

My little boy Yankele almost caused a Falangist attack. It so happened that a little Christian boy insulted him, shouting, “You Jew! Go to Palestine!” and my son retaliated by throwing a stone at his head.

The Falangists soon surrounded my house and tried to break down the doors, but the police stopped them. I managed to send my son away to stay with his grandfather in the countryside and his absence made it possible for me to persuade people that no one had done anything, neither my son or anyone else, that it was a false accusation. And so we avoided an attack on the helpless Jewish population. But the Falangists continued their anti–Semitic activities.


[Page 108]

Heroism in the Nowy Dwor Market

by Dovid Tap

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Around the market place, the shops were prosperous, crammed with merchandise. But outside the actual market place was where the poor people did business. Fabric and notions, glassware, bread and second hand goods were displayed on tables. Many sellers just spread their merchandise out in a row or heap on the bare ground.

Opposite the tables sat the women fruit sellers, some whose baskets held a variety of fruit, others with just a few apples, as shriveled as the sad faces of the impoverished women. During the winter, when it grew colder, their faces looked as red as beets. Their eyes and noses ran with cold and they each had a pot with hot coals on which they sat unmoving, as if frozen.

But the soldiers from the fortress made sure that no one got left in peace. Drunken soldiers would gather at the market place and provoke disturbances, targeting the freezing fruit sellers. They would send the baskets flying, spilling the apples and destroying the pitiful wares. The police were nowhere to be seen. There was no one to defend the women except the plain, poor Jews who showed great courage and risked their lives to do so.

Often, the brothers Yosef and Shloyme Lubelski, the “devils,” as they were called, selflessly came to protect the women, as did Melekh Shvaytser, Hirshl Kishke and others. They were butchers and porters, real salt of the earth, with noble souls. They would confront the drunken hooligans, the wild gangs. Their Jewish solidarity would not permit them to stand by when Jews were harassed. They came to their aid like heroes until they drove the assailants out of the market place, and they always emerged the victors in this unevenly–matched battle.

 

now108.jpg
The market place and part of Zakrotshiner Street

 

[Page 109]

Between Two World Wars

by Fayvesh Kronenberg, Lignic, Poland

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

The First German Occupation

My family – my parents Anshel and Feyge Rivka, their six sons and three daughters – gave me the opportunity to see how to earn a living by doing business with the military fortress and its soldiers, one of the major sources of livelihood in Nowy Dwor. My father had several teams of horses and employed wagon drivers who transported construction material for the fortress in Modlin under orders from the Jewish contractors Rozenshtayn, Yungrits, Knaster, Mundlak et. al.

In the summer, when rafts carrying wood floated down the Vistula and Narew rivers, the raftsmen would come to town to buy supplies and that, too, contributed a lot to the town's livelihood. But all of this business didn't do much to alleviate the difficult economic circumstances of that time which impelled people to emigrate. These difficult circumstances affected my family as well. My oldest brother Khaim emigrated to America even before I was born. My second brother Yehiel went to work as a tailor for Master Gothelf, whose nickname was Borkhi Nafshi [first words of Psalm 104, “Bless the Lord, O my soul”]. Yehiel got into trouble because of his leadership of a tailors' strike and also left for America. My third brother, Hershl, who became a locksmith in Warsaw, was drafted in 1914 and was killed fighting in the war. And so the family suffered and became scattered overseas.

At that time, the town had a thousand Jewish residents and a strong Jewish character, but with the outbreak of the First World War there began a series of persecutions of the Jews. A Tsarist decree required all the Jews of Nowy Dwor to leave their homes because of their proximity to the Modlin fortress. They thought up all kinds of false accusations against the Jews, claiming that they were spies who would reveal the secrets of the fortress to the enemy.

This anti–Semitic agitation affected my family. When my cousin Balaban from Pomiekhova drove over the Modlin bridge with a wagonload of potatoes and lifted his whip to urge on the horses, the military guard immediately stopped him on the pretext that he was using his whip to signal to a German airplane how to bomb the bridge. They sent my cousin to Siberia and my family never found out what happened to him.

At that time, our Rabbi Neufeld got the commander of the Modlin fortress to grant an extension of time for the evacuation, and in the meantime the Jews gradually ran away to Yablonne and from there to Warsaw. They returned to Nowy Dwor only after the Germans occupied Warsaw.

Later we found out that the Tsarist regime had planned to blow up the whole town, but that didn't happen because the Germans very quickly took over the town, along with Modlin fortress.

During the German occupation of the First World War there was a high level of unemployment. All the Jewish artisans lost their livelihoods and were forced to work for the German army at various public works at the fortress, mostly at menial labor. That happened to my brother Binyomin, a highly

[Page 110]

skilled tailor, who was forced to work at a sawmill, operating a saw. Other Jews worked at the reconstruction of two bridges that had been blow up, one on the Vistula and the other on the Narew.

A new profession also started up –smuggling products from one town to another. There were a lot of women among the smugglers, who carried up to 30 or 40 kilos. They were especially involved in this new trade because they could more easily avoid the German guards.

In 1916, when economic life had stabilized a bit, there began to be signs of an awakening in social life. A Hebrew school with a large enrollment was established in Nowy Dwor in the house of the dentist Shmuel Grabman. I was a student there and among my schoolmates I remember: Hershl Aksamit from the “Piasek” [Piaskove Street] and Dolek Turtltaub, a very good student. Dolek's mother, who knew Hebrew very well, worked in the school and was an official of the examination commission. In addition to Hebrew and Polish we were required to study German. The German teacher was a Jew, a non–commissioned officer in the German army, and a German patriot. His lessons always began with the chauvinistic song, “Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles,” and similar songs.

We had a lot of trouble from the “steamer machines.” At the time, a serious typhus epidemic was raging and every house in town had several typhus patients. So the Germans sent a giant steam machine to sterilize all the household items and clothing. We were forced to go to the baths, where they shaved our heads. In order to save her daughters' hair, my mother identified herself to the authorities under each of their names –Fradl, Grune, and Yaspe–and fooled the German authorities.

Because of their parents' economic situation, many children had to leave school and go to work to help support the family. At the age of 14, I too had to start earning money. But I immediately encountered great difficulties because employers wouldn't hire me because I was too young.

Finally, I got work through my brother Takhne, who left his position so that I could take it and found another job for himself. The Jews who were on the work brigade suggested that I stay out of the sight of the supervisors and by doing this, I, a small boy, began to work in my brother's stead. And when they called out his name, I answered, “Jawohl.” I worked in the fortress for the garrison administrator, together with Shimenovitsh and his sons Mordkhe, Moyshe Yankl, Mendl and Aron.

Among the tailors was Old Mikhl, who lived at the edge of town in a wooden house. His job consisted of reporting in when he arrived in the morning and before he left in the evening. He even got paid for the Sabbath, when he didn't come to work at all because Thomas, the German supervisor of the tailors, was very respectful of the old man. There was Jew who helped Thomas run his household whom we called “Shloymele Jawohl,” because whenever the German would address him, he would respond like a soldier, saluting with his fingers to his cap, and shouting “Jawohl” to please his supervisor.

We workers were set to various tasks in the fortress, such as renovating horse stalls and the barracks,

[Page 111]

and building barbed wire fences. We didn't know the purpose of the buildings and fences, but a while later we saw political arrestees there. Once, when we were working on the Modliner train station unloading coal from the wagons, political arrestees were also working there. Although they were kept separate from us, we still got to make contact with them and learned that among them were members of the Polish Socialist Party and the Bund. [Bund is a short form of Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poylin un Rusland, “General Jewish Workers Federation in Lithuania, Poland and Russia.” ]

Also interned in the Modliner fortress were the Polish Legionnaires, including a large number of officers. One morning when we reported to work in the fortress, the political arrestees were marching about freely, singing revolutionary songs. This was in response to the news that a revolution had broken out in Germany. We didn't go to work, but joined the freed political prisoners, who gave revolutionary speeches to the workers at the sawmill on the Narew.

The Polish Legionnaires immediately took power, and we Jews who had worked for the Germans were able to work only two more days at the fortress. After that we were barred, because we were Jews. Anti–Semitism showed its face immediately upon the liberation of Poland.

 

After the Liberation of Poland

Jewish cultural life in Nowy Dwor was centered on the “Education Federation” (in the house owned by Lipstein), which had first become active during the German occupation. From the beginning, it had been under the influence of the united Zionist Socialists, whose leaders in Nowy Dwor were Mendl Lipski, Yosl Korn, Nisn Shaynberg, and Yisroel Levenshteyn. Later the Bund became more influential in the federation. Its leaders were Leon Grabman, Rudovski, Khaim Rozenshtayn, Shamay Kalikhshtayn, Khaim Finklshtayn et. al. Also active in the Bund were Hertsl Dubnikov, Gortsovitsh and Didek Zilbertol.

Among those listed, Leon Grabman distinguished himself with his activity. A student at Warsaw University, he was very active in creating the first workers' councils. He unceasingly travelled from town to town giving speeches to large gatherings of workers. Later, he was imprisoned for his political activities in a prison in Krakow, where he became seriously ill with tuberculosis. He died of the disease in 1922, and almost the entire Jewish population took part in his funeral. The community provided a grave near the ohel [monument over a grave] of a very holy man, but the Hasidim did not approve and a rumor circulated that they intended to dig up his body and rebury it elsewhere. The Bund then set up a 24–hour guard at the cemetery to prevent this from happening and I participated in one of the guard shifts.

The father of the deceased Leon, the dentist Shmuel Grabman, was renowned for his love and knowledge of Yiddish literature, and he was also quite good at reciting. Every Friday night he would read aloud from the works of the Yiddish classical writers in the Bundist office and these events drew a large audience.

At that time, the Bund and the Zionist–Socialist were in sharp conflict, each group trying to broaden its influence over the workers of Nowy Dwor. There was also another Zionist organization under the leadership of Shimshen Note Srebrenik. Among its activists were the Mudlaks, the Turkltaub family and Yosef Baranek.

[Page 112]

There were also two Zionist workers' parties, the Left Poalei Zion [Workers of Zion] and the Right Poalei Zion. Yosl Vronski was very active in the Left Poalei Zion and Henekh Tik and Sholem Kartsovitsh in the Right.

The Sholem Aleichem Library was also very active. It was sponsored by the Zionist organizations. Rivtshe Yerzalimski (daughter of Hershl) and Elke Pintshevski–Melman were librarians there for many years. The library also had reading circles, both Bundist and Zionist. The Bundist circle was led by Motl Rozenshtayn and Elkhanon Rozental and the Zionist circle was led by Yosl Shimkovitsh and Yankele Grabman. Both operated with the approval of the library directorship, but the two didn't get along and because of their conflicts the library withdrew permission to meet there.

The whole array of social advances, with all its faults and the conflicts between parties, suddenly disappeared when Poland went to war with the Soviet Union [in 1920] and mobilized almost the entire youth of Nowy Dwor. I was not yet eligible for military service, but I still was required to go into the army. I was supposed to report to the 13th infantry regiment in Pultusk, which was nicknamed Moses's Regiment because it had so many Jews. When I arrived in Nashelsk, my uncle warned me not to travel further, because Pultusk had already been occupied by the Bolsheviks.

I returned to Nowy Dwor with my sister, who was travelling with me, and there I found my parents' house locked up, its shutters nailed shut. The hooligans were rioting, carrying out pogroms, robbing and cutting beards along with the flesh. But Rabbi Neufeld and Meyer Rozental (son of redheaded Mendl) intervened with the commander of the fortress and the pogrom was stopped, and the hooligans weren't permitted to enter the town any more.

There soon came an order, upon threat of death, to present oneself to the military, and all the youth of the town aged 17 and up –including my brother and I – were mobilized. Only old people and children were left in the town.

In order to find everyone who had hidden themselves to avoid the military, the commander played a clever trick. One Sunday morning they rang the fire alarm bell and when everyone left their homes, fearing a fire, they were met by the police and soldiers, who arrested them and took them to the Nowy Dwor barracks. There the anti–Semitic soldiers went at the Jews, taking off their boots and shoes and stealing anything useful.

The older men were sent to do menial labor at the Vistula, carrying barbed wire and water. Those of military age were taken to the police station, where we got beat up. I was again sent to the 13th regiment at Pultusk, along with Feferberg, Yisroel Bornshtayn, etc. From Pultusk, we were sent back to the Modlin fortress. The Polish recruits were sent back in wagons but we Jews had to go on foot, under guard by Polish officers who rode behind us.

Not far from the Modlin bridge, my mother waited for me, with a package of food. She wept when she saw me. She had

[Page 113]

a lot to cry about. Two of her sons were already in America and one had been killed in the First World War and now her two sons and her three sons–in–law had been drafted into the Polish–Russian War. At home were only Father and Mother, three daughters, and the three orphans of the brother who had been killed.

Those who remained in Nowy Dwor were under constant danger of new problems. After the pogroms, a series of governmental decrees were issued. The commander of the fortress issued an order expelling all Jews from Nowy Dwor. Because the Polish military had been defeated on all fronts, they blamed the Jews and made all kinds of false accusations against them, claiming that the Jews were traitors. General Sonkovski issued an order establishing internment camps for Jewish soldiers in Jablanna, near Warsaw, where they were starved and tormented.

Only after the Russian–Polish War ended did the Nowy Dwor Jews return to the town. It was before the High Holy Days. The army horses were still stationed in the besmedresh [house of study, also used for worship]. Only after Rabbi Neufeld intervened did they remove the horses and people were able to pray there.

 

After the Polish–Bolshevik War

After a while, the living conditions for the Jews stabilized and all the parties and cultural institutions renewed their activity. The Bund was very influential at this time and a large labor union movement was established, with the needle trades the most prominent. With the help of my brother Takhne, who had been released from internment, I was hired to learn tailoring with the master tailor Yitshak Radziner. I was 18 years old and worked with many other student tailors and apprentices. I was soon drawn into the trade union movement. I became a member of the youth section of the needle trades union and later also of the central council. But my tailoring career soon ended when the boss saw that I was with the strikers and he no longer wanted to teach me the trade. I had to leave his employ and went to do menial labor at the Zilbertal's sawmill.

Embroidery was a very widespread trade in the town at this time. It had played an ever growing role in the town's economic life since the end of World War I. About three hundred women and girls worked in the trade and were members of the needle trades union. The Bundist activists in the union tried to raise the cultural level of the workers, so they could read the Folkstsaytung [People's Newspaper] and become readers and members of the Sholem Aleichem Library. The fight for control over the library had become very acute. The Bundist and the Jewish Communists presented a unified slate for elections to the library directorate and the Zionists joined with other groups to keep control of the library.

There was a big strike by the embroidery workers, which led to a lot of political arrests. The whole Bundist Committee was arrested, including Rudovski, Hertsl Dubnikov, Yankev Zamyatin, Motl Rosenshtayn, Didek Zilbertal, Mendl Rozenfeld (“Trotsky”), and Khaim Tishler. One of the most active Communists in town managed to escape abroad. The arrests evoked an oppressive feeling in town and threatened the continuation of the strike. Nevertheless

[Page 114]

we did continue the strike thanks to the devoted collaboration of the needle trades union Secretary, Shimshen Gomberg, Khane Rozental, myself, and the members of the strike committee, Comrades Royze Gothelf, Ester Laketsh, the Turkltaub sisters, Finklshtayn and Hershfang. We were aided by members of the youth section: Rokhl Marako, Prive Roytman, Vielkanets, Vronski, et.al.

It was very hard to continue the strike after the arrests. The union members were afraid to go to meetings, but thanks to the influence of those mentioned above we were able to reorganize the embroidery workers. Ester Loketsh was especially influential. The strike ended in victory.

The embroiderers suspected that the arrests came about because the bosses informed on us to the police. One of our members, Yehudit Mendlson, even wrote a song about this that all of the embroiderers sang. But it later turned out that the arrests had come about by accident, that during a search of a Communist worker the police found a list of candidates for the directorate of the library and arrested the people on that list. After several months in the Maktower Prison in Warsaw, all of the Nowy Dwor arrestees were freed and the workers of Nowy Dwor received the freed prisoners with joy and enthusiasm. The ex–prisoners went directly from the train station to a meeting of the Bund committee and immediately resumed their organizing.

In the 1927 elections for the Town Council, there was a unified workers front. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Bund, the Polish Socialist Party and the Communists, a Socialist majority was elected. The councilmen from the Bund were Khaim Rudovski, Sinek Hirshbayn, Didek Zilbertal, my brother Takhne Kronenberg, and Nisn Shatynberg and his wife. From the handworkers [union], those elected were Binyomin Kronenberg and Aron Shulbank. From the Communists, Fishl Brotski and a Polish comrade. The mayor of the town was the Polish Socialist Party activist Turek and the Vice–Mayor our comrade Khaim Rudovski. The Jewish workers and common people could talk to him at the town hall in everyday Yiddish.

The first meeting of the newly elected town council took place in Yehiel Roznboym's hall. The meeting was chaired by the town feldsher [barber surgeon] Zhurovski. When Sinek Hirshbeyn began his speech in Polish and then switched to Yiddish, the Polish councilmen began a commotion. In general, the Socialist town council was a thorn in the sides of the Polish reactionaries on the council, and they took every opportunity to agitate against it. They got such an opportunity when the council decided to take down the crucifix from the secretariat room and rehang it in the corridor. The Polish reactionaries, headed by the priest, waged such a campaign in opposition that the matter was taken to a governmental commission.

Another major unified effort among the Bund, Polish Socialist Party and the Communists was the May First demonstration in 1926, which went down in the history of the Polish workers movement as “The Bloody May First in Nowy Dwor.”

It happened like this: The Bundist demonstration arrived from the outskirts of town, led by Yehiel Alman. The Communists marched out of their headquarters on Warsaw Street, with a woman comrade walking in front, carrying a banner, which the police wanted to confiscate. The banner–carrier resisted and responded to the policeman with a smack, for which she was immediately arrested, but the demonstration continued

[Page 115]

and the traditional May First gathering was held in the market place.

After that we continued our march on Zakratshiner Street to Warsaw Street, headed by the flag bearer Latukh, a Polish worker. After him came the delegations from all the parties, aiming to pass by the town hall. Near Hildenbrand's apothecary stockroom (in the house owned by Yeshua Boym) the police stopped us and wouldn't let us go any further on Warsaw Street. The Polish comrades Lukashewski and Gustav, who were in the front, tried to resist the police, who immediately began shooting. The flag bearer Latukh immediately fell dead and his blood splattered my and my brother's shirts. The police kept shooting, wounding several more people. Comrade Rudovski and others decided to continue the demonstration, but the town hall was heavily guarded by soldiers and gendarmes and the demonstration was dispersed.

As was the way in such cases, the police tried to whitewash the matter and they accused the master tailor Redheaded Khaim, of having shot at the demonstration from his balcony. They dragged him in several times for interrogation, but it was obvious that the police were at fault. The funeral for Latukh brought out the anger of the whole population. The Communist deputy in the Sejm [Polish legislature] Sakhatski participated in the funeral. The whole town was heavily guarded by large contingents of soldiers and police. At the cemetery, the Sejm deputy eulogized Latukh and the funeral concluded with the singing of the international under the uneasy watch of the police.

Although by this time I had been working in Warsaw for two years, I was in constant contact with my parents, friends and comrades and was always drawn to my dear and beloved town. Our Nowy Dwor had a very aware and active group of young people in all its social groups. The Nowy Dwor workers organizations didn't care for gatherings and entertainments merely for the sake of pleasure.

There was a dance hall run by the popular dance teacher Khaim Yitshak “The Blindman,” but the workers' organizations considered dance to be “bourgeois pap” designed to divert the workers form class struggle. To tell the truth, our campaign against the dance hall, which was conducted by Khane Rozental, Motl Rozenshtayn and myself, didn't meet with great success. The young people rushed there for lessons from the master and his two female assistants, the “certified” dancers Tsirl Klaps the seamstress and the roofer's daughter.

But the true flavor and interest of the young was not to be found in the dance hall. Besides the Tarbut school [secular Hebrew language school]and all the religious educational institutions, we also had a fine Yiddish Tsysho school located in Yunker's building. Two sisters from Kobrin taught there with great dedication and from time to time organized fine cultural presentations by the children. I would travel from Warsaw especially to attend them.

Rabbi Neufeld was a major figure in Jewish life, not just for us in Nowy Dwor. It was upon his initiative that the fine brick synagogue was built in our town. We had a Talmud Torah and various religious associations. One of these, Hakhnoses Kale [financial aid to marry off poor girls] was renowned for its merry feasts on Simkhes Toyre. The members would carouse all night at the house of the gabbai [administrator], the food merchant Yeheskl Yeshaye Segalovitsh.

A sports movement also grew up among young people in the years before the Second World War, with such groups as Morgnshtern [Morning Star], Kraft [Strength], Union and Maccabee. These clubs all

[Page 116]

were very energetic and active in developing our younger generation. Thanks to the Jewish leadership, they were all subsidized by the town government.

*

I will attempt to list some of the well–known activists in Nowy Dwor:

From the Bund:

Kahim Rudovski; he managed to escape from the Nazis and came to America; he died there from cancer.
Yakov Zamyatin, who later joined the Communists. He was incarcerated in Kartuz–Bereza [Polish prison camp for political prisoners established in 1934] and probably perished in Paris.
Khaim Babits, lives in Israel
Moyshe Babits, his brother, lives in Montivideo.
Sore Royzman, Mordkhe Karoltshik, Hershil Radziner, Rukhtshe Marako and her sister – all now in America
Shloyme Vronski, in Israel
Moyshe and Leybl Loketsh in America
Royze Gothelf and her brother Yisroel
Kahim Finklshtayn and his wife Rokhl Radziner
Motl Rozenshtayn, who later worked in the Medem Sanitorium
Leyzer Kirshshtayn, Sheyndl Marako and husband Yankl, Perl Marako, the wife of my cousin
Khaim Kronenberg – who are all in America

From the Zionist organization:

Shimshen Note Srebrenik, the Turkltaubs, Yitshak Griner and Yosef Baronek

From the Poalei Zion:

Henekh Tik, Menakhem Kakhalski, Sholem Kartsovitsh and Khaim Yoel Kohn, who left for Israel before the war.

From the Leftists (Communists):

Khaim Tishler, Shloyme Kavstovitsh, Yshaye and Motl Gutman, Yeshaye Zamyatin, Khane Lubelska, Dvore Tishler and her husband Srulik (perished in the Soviet Union), Efraim Shafranker, Avraham Makovski, Aron Blank, Yehiel Almos, Leye Papier,, the brothers Skulski, Fishl Brotski, Yosl Finker.

I should also mention two Polish comrades who were married to Jewish women: Bolek and Vatsek Kovalski. Vatsek and his wife Sima were killed by the Germans in a horrible manner. Bolek lives with his wife and two children in Warsaw. He served many years in prison for his Communist activities. He fought the anti–Semitic picketing actions in Nowy Dwor. In the Second World War he participated in the partisan struggles. He got his Jewish wife out of the Warsaw Ghetto and hid her. After the liberation of Nowy Dwor he was for a time the commander of the local militia.

To the list of Jewish members of the town council from various parties I want to add: Yakov Yurem, Yakob Hildenbrand, Aron Valanov, Berl Zutengazh and Leye Segal. From the Bund, Hershl Kirshatyn.

We must maintain the memory of all of these who worked for the good of the community and so loyally served the interest of Jewish Nowy Dwor. We must also not forget all the institutions that worked for the advancement of Jewish life.

*

This was how Jewish life was until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. And although I was in Warsaw for a few years prior to that, I was still nourished by the communal life in Nowy Dwor.

When I returned to Nowy Dwor from the Soviet Union after the war, I found no traces of Jews or Jewish life. Not even a stone remained from the Jewish cemetery. Everything had been destroyed, ripped up by the roots. With deep pain in my heart and curses on my lips I left the town of my birth.

I remained in Poland, in the city of Lignic in Lower Silesia. There is another Jew from Nowy Dwor here, Leyzer Botvinke, a former porter. As far as I know, there are about 20 people in Poland who come from Nowy Dwor. That is the sum total of our town.


[Page 117]

Before 1939

by Aron Pinker, Ramat Hahayal

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

For many years before the horrific times of the Second World War, the one thousand Jewish inhabitants of Nowy Dwor led a normal life. The majority made a living as craftsmen; a significant portion were small shopkeepers. Jews played a prominent role in the building and growth of the town. Relations between Jews and Christians were amicable. After the acrimony and anti–Jewish excesses of the 1920's, there were no further outbreaks of anti–Semitic actions on a large scale.

Despite political and economic harassment and the impoverishment of the Jewish population, social life continued to develop and cultural organizations continued to grow in number and size. Three libraries – the Sholem Aleichem Library with 10,000 books, the Leon Grabman Library with 3,000 books and the Lipa Mundlak Library with 3000 books–– served many enthusiastic readers and were centers for self–education and self–development. The religious community also had large collections of religious books, and 3000 books on religion and holy texts were kept in the besmedresh [house of study, also used for worship] and in the Hasidic shtiblekh [small houses of worship].

Various institutions – dramatic circles and choruses, the music society “Hazmir” and the sports clubs Morgnshtern, Hapoel, Storm and others – conducted a wide range of programs. Strong political and trade organizations had a great influence on the general social life. The Zionist movement expanded its programs for the Jewish National Fund and in the field of Hebrew education, in the Tarbut school. The religious Jews engaged in extensive educational work, taking progressive measures to modernize religious schools and adding secular subjects to the curriculum.

This active community, with all its various social groups, produced several highly respected people who became well known in the entire Jewish world. These included Rabbi Ruven Yehuda Neufeld, the Secretary and leader of Agudath Harabonim [council of rabbis] in Poland; Dr. Goldshtayn (a son of Kopl Goldshtayn), the well known Warsaw surgeon; Dr. B. Rozenshtayn, the director of the gymnasium [academic high school] Hertzliya in Tel Aviv; Hersh Himelfarb, the beloved Bundist activist and leading figure of the Warsaw labor unions; Rabbi Elimelekh Neufeld, one of the major activists of Hapoel HaMizrachi; Boaz Young, the renowned actor (a son of Avraham Yungvits and husband of the famous actress Klara Young.) Each of these represented a branch of the widespread social blossoming of our town.

With the growth of the Jewish population and the expansion of Jewish life in all its forms, it was possible to imagine that today as yesterday, tomorrow as today, Jewish life would continue for generations. Even after the political changes in Euope in the years before World War II, we did not yet see, or else did not want to see, the shadow of danger, which grew ever darker. Even when the Nazi movement began to display its savage nature, everyone believed that when the wolf had finished devouring his prey, he would calm down and life would go on.

[Page 118]

But on September 1, 1939, everything turned out otherwise.

The war came unexpectedly. The first bombs fell at 5 A.M. Our peaceful life disappeared. There came the panic of dislocation and the struggle for something to eat. Many people died waiting in line for a piece of bread. People ran away to Warsaw and when they tried to return home, it was no longer the same Nowy Dwor. Whole neighborhoods were burnt out; there was terrible crowding in Jewish homes. Jewish businesses were looted and taken over by Volksdeutsch [people of German origin living in Poland] and Poles. Terror and violence reigned everywhere.

Only remnants of the Jewish poor, helpless old people, and women and children were left. That was the sum and total of Jewish Nowy Dwor. The more prosperous went to Warsaw and met their fate there. Some of the more agile, the young folk, managed to escape to the Soviet Russia and saved themselves that way. But Nowy Dwor as a vibrant town disappeared forever. Our belief that the wolf would be calmed was a false one.

 

now118.jpg
Grabman's building

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2021 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 01 Jun 2016 by JH