As the kehilla secretary, he came into contact with all kinds of people. He received them all pleasantly and faithfully fulfilled his task of serving the public, over and above what would have been expected in his modest role. He was always ready to provide assistance, good advice, and a kind word to anyone in need and to devote his time, day and night, to others.
When the Second Word War broke out and all the Jews fled the town in panic as the enemy approached, we were among the few families remaining, and our late father took charge, toiling with all his strength and energy to prevent the looting of Jewish property that remained virtually abandoned, without its owners present. He was successful. When the Germans took the city and everyone fended for himself, then too he remained at his post caring for community interests, continuing to run kehilla affairs until the Jews returned and until a new kehilla council was established.
Twice he strove to save the Great Synagogue and prevailed. The third time he
failed. Under cover of darkness, the accursed Germans set the synagogue ablaze,
and we were devastated to see the flames and smoke rising heavenward.
At that time, our father fell ill and never recovered. Perhaps it was his great fortune to leave us by dying a natural death in bed, which allowed us to bury him according to Jewish tradition, accompanied by a great crowd on his last journey on 20 Teveth 5700 (December 31, 1939).
May his memory be a blessing!
Our hometown, Oswiecim – or Oshpitzin, as we called it – was an important fountainhead of Hasidism and Zionism. On one hand, Hasidic youth streamed there even from afar, it being a center of learning with many batei midrash for the study of Torah and Mussar , and thanks to the assistance of its residents who provided food and lodging. Every household hosted a student or two day after day or, as it was called, "gave them eating days." In the same vein, the Zionist youth movements were active in the organization of hachshara contingents preparing themselves for kibbutz life and for aliyah.
A Chinese Wall separated the two camps, each flocking to its banners. If the religious sector divided itself according to rabbinic dynasties, such as Belz, Bobowa, Radomsko, and others, then the Zionists congregated according to their political affiliation, Poalei Tzion, Zionist Youth, Akiva, and Mizrachi.
The delineations were clear, and if it did happen that someone left his organization and transferred to another within his camp, from one Zionist movement to another, or from one bes medrish to another, it was quite rare for anyone to cross the wall. Should a yeshiva bocher have thought about a return to Zion prior to the coming of the Messiah, on second thought he would abandon such musings since his religious philosophy would overpower his nationalist leanings. This was so until word filtered through to the bes medrish about the activities taking place in the Akiva ken [cell] led by Hans Loew.
At times I would see Hans on the street and I would stop to watch. I don't know what drew me to him, whether it was his brilliant smile or his proud and noble gait, and subconsciously I compared him to one of the great rabbis, always ready to convey wisdom and inspire others. His face was suffused with wisdom and culture, and I could only regret that he was not in his milieu. Several times I wanted to approach him on the street to speak with him and get to know him in order to learn about his perspectives, since I was convinced that he had a wealth of knowledge and was very cultured, a cut above the rest. It was only because a wall of religious difference separated us that I did not dare to do so, and I was very distressed about it. Once, I learned that he was leading an oneg Shabbat [Sabbath get-together] at the Akiva ken, and that was when I decided that I would take the opportunity to check him out and to see if I was correct in my judgment.
How surprised I was when for the first time I hid behind the window, hid because I didn't want my friends to catch me in my disgrace (in spite of feeling somehow convinced that my friends thought as I did) and because it was late on a Shabbat afternoon, when I was always accustomed to sit in the bes medrish listening to the melodies, the Shabbat chants, which had a unique charm about them at the time of the communal shaleshudes. There was a kind of uplift of the soul and exultation of the spirit, and I was afraid that by comparison I would be disappointed in my hero. Perhaps they were just sitting around frivolously, as I had been led to believe. To my amazement, I saw youths of various ages sitting in a circle with eyes wide open and mouths agape listening to Hans, who sat in the center telling a story softly, clearly, and convincingly. In the unique atmosphere at dusk it seemed like a distant echo of the historic Jewish past.
It was the Binding of Isaac that he spoke about in German, but in a style and tone all his own, which is difficult to define. I confess that after hearing it I began to understand the ethical principle inherent in the Binding of Isaac. He had provided me with a dimensional depth of the Act, rather than with fear that might lead me to attenuate my religious belief.
Then I thought that perhaps it was coincidental that the story had come out that way – perhaps it was a dramatization – and I told myself that I had to test this again. I learned that on the evening of Tisha B'Av they would gather again and Hans would lead. Heavy-hearted, I decided not to go to the synagogue that night but rather, again in concealment, to listen to him speak. In a sad, quiet voice he told about the destruction of Jerusalem, the Roman exile, and the Messianic hopes. Then I felt the destruction and the redemption in a more profound way since, in contrast to what I had expected, he spoke specifically about the spiritual redemption that would come about as a result of political liberation. It was then that I decided to approach him and get to know his spiritual world.
Indeed he was great, great in wisdom and suffused with morality, and in spite of our different ages and ways of thinking, he treated me as an old friend and not as teacher to the student I so yearned to be. With each conversation I got to know him better and discovered that there were many paths in religious belief.
In addition to his intellectual depths, I also came to know his generosity when he was a leading figure in West Galician Zionist circles, helping with time and money those chalutzim who were in financial straits; more than one owes him thanks for enabling him to make aliyah.
Like a good and responsible leader, he postponed his own aliyah as long as he was in a position to help others– until the outbreak of the Second World War, when he realized that he could no longer do so and made aliyah. In spite of other opportunities and his advanced age, he chose kibbutz life and joined Kibbutz Bet Yehoshua. For personal reasons he later moved to Neve Eytan and from there to Kibbutz Usha, where he died.
Indeed he was one of the greatest to stem from our town and from of all of West Galicia's Jewry.
May his memory be a blessing.
R Hershel belonged to a well-known, dignified family of Oshpitzin. He was one of the most influential people in town. He, himself, was wealthy and owned agricultural land and real estate. He also had fishponds and large stores of hay. The leather tannery that was later sold to H. Stempel also belonged to him.
He dealt in grain, fish, hay, cereals, edible foodstuffs, fish, and cattle. He did business with the landed gentry near and far, and even across the border.
In town and in the region he was popular for a completely different reason. He was a specialist in setting broken limbs and dislocated joints. If someone was injured or dislocated a joint, he would not go to a hospital – there was no hospital in Oshpitzin then – nor would he look for a doctor, but he would turn immediately to R Hershel Enoch. He repaired everything successfully and without remuneration.
The specialty of fixing broken bones he passed on to two of his children. His daughter, Mrs. Fuchs, who lived in a beautiful home that her father had built opposite his own, handled the lesser orthopedic problems. In contrast, his son Akiva, like his father, treated and repaired the most difficult and more complicated cases. Hundreds of people, Jews and gentiles, came to him and were healed. The peasants of surrounding villages would come with all kinds of injuries because they didn't realize that he could treat only broken limbs; for them he was an angel of mercy for all maladies.
There wasn't a home in Oshpitzin that hadn't on some occasion required his help, which he rendered with compassion and without expecting recompense.
R Hershel had three sons. The two older ones, R Yakov and R Wolf, occupied themselves with the business. They bought a house on the main square and expanded it so that it was the largest house in town.
R Yakov died in 5681 . His widow sold her husband's portion of the
home and made aliyah with her children.
R Wolf ran a large hardware store in his building, and his family and some of his children lived there as well.
R Akiva was a wood and coal merchant. He built himself a nice home in Zasola and there he also received his patients.
Of this famous Enoch family, grandchildren remain in Israel and others are spread throughout the world.
"R Ilo'e said: A man is recognized by three aspects: In his cups, in his pocket, and in his anger." (Eruvin 65:)
"You get to know a person in adversity." (In suffering)
"You get to know a person when you live with him." (Yiddish folk saying)
All three of the above tests for assessing an individual, especially for
knowing a person's character, are valid and sound.
Our sages listed traits for knowing a person in the form of an alliterative play on the words kosso, kisso, ka'asso, which have a deeper meaning:
All of this is in normal times, when an individual is in charge of these three traits: when he refrains from overindulgence in drink, when he is in control of his funds and his wealth does not lead him astray and, finally, when he is in control of his will, his anger, and it does not control him.
Under abnormal circumstances, God forbid, and certainly in a time of eclipse such as obtained during the Second World War, in the years of the Shoah when people lost their godliness, and especially in the concentration camps where the conditions under which the "prisoners" existed were such that the three traits lost their very significance, one could not judge anyone by his pocket or his cup, since these things did not exist. As far as anger was concerned, the concept was so overwhelming that it could no longer serve as a test for judgment of the nature of an individual. In the camps, the "prisoner" either found himself in a continuous state of agitation, in a turmoil of anxiety, anger, and rebellion against everyone and even against himself, or he lapsed into a state of apathy, falling into a type of despair and depression. In any event, the signs that are applicable to normal human living conditions could no longer serve as a norm for judging the humanity of the camp inmate.
Jewish history is a long chain of affliction and martyrdom, heroes and kiddush HaShem, inquisitions and expulsions, pogroms and rebuilding, hope and not giving in to despair.
On this long journey of exile, with the passage of time and under difficult conditions, new concepts and tools for judging human character were created. Aphorisms and folk sayings came into being. These concepts were expressed and were transmitted from mouth to ear, from generation to generation. I mentioned earlier two of them from Yiddish folk wisdom:
During the winter of 1942-43, in the Bunzelau forced labor camp in Silesia, shortly before administration of the camp was transferred to the S.S. and it thus became an official concentration camp, a group of more than a hundred Jewish "prisoners" from the Wiesau [?] camp arrived, as it was in the process of liquidation. Among them were many musulmaenner [apathetic, robot-like inmates]. The entire group as a whole was in a pitiable state.
When we passed them standing in a row, where they stood so that we could see if there were any relatives or acquaintances among them, we stopped when we noticed townsmen, Oshpitziner. I heard a voice: "Don't you recognize me?!" I understood from the question that this had to be a friend, but this skeleton in rags with his protruding jawbones and eyes sunk deep in their sockets reflecting only terror reminded me of no human shape that I had ever known.
"Yes," I stammered in embarrassment, "of course I recognize you, wait a minute, I'll be right back." Meanwhile, I quietly asked R Dovid Borenfreind [?], who had also come with the group and stood nearby (he, too, was a shadow of the R Dovid whom I knew from home), "Who is that?"
I shuddered when I heard that it was Akiva Bornstein. I saw before me only a shadow of the former well-rounded and husky Akiva Bornstein. We immediately took him to the infirmary but, regretfully, we could not save his life and only were able to ease his last few hours. His constitution was too far deteriorated to make a recovery. Only his eyes had a little more life in them than before, as though a ray of hope was visible before they closed forever. HY"D!
Later, with the passage of time, when the newcomers became "acclimated," each acquaintance from home began to tell me a bit of his past sufferings and experiences. At every opportunity they spoke with pride about the "Oshpitzin bochur," Moshe Shmuel Frisch, who had become a paradigm for them, simply a supernatural phenomenon. "A paragon of humanity," they said, "that everybody, even those far removed in outlook, behavior, and character, all of them– even the Kapos and the camp personnel – respected him and spoke about him and his deeds with esteem."
Again and again I heard, "Oh, that was a mensch!"
"You can't possibly know what a friend you have," a distinguished Jew from a family of Kohanim said to me, he who had been an important Oshpitzin balebos, a scholar and talmid chacham. "What kind of a mensch he is! He gave us all courage, consolation, and hope, there in that hell of troubles and pain."
He related it in this fashion: "There, in Wiesau Camp, he arranged circles for learning in the evenings and whenever we had free time. He was the planner, the organizer, and the one who carried it out. He, himself, led classes in Gemore in which I participated. I never knew that he was so learned, that he was such a scholar. His classes drew not only those who had at times learned a page of Gemore but also those who were from various backgrounds; also among the audience were free-thinkers and even some members of camp personnel (this brought about an eventual change and a more positive treatment by the personnel towards the 'prisoners'). He led these classes in Tanach and Gemore (mostly by heart) as well as discussions of various scientific and cultural subjects. Everyone was fascinated listening to him. These were the hours of satisfaction, of spiritual joy, because one was able to forget the suffering, at least for a while. 'There are those who can gain eternal reward in one hour.'"
"You should be proud to have such a friend. I never realized how much he knows and that he was such a mensch!" he concluded. I, for my part, was in complete agreement. I agreed that one could and should be proud of my friend Moshe Shmuel Frisch, HY"D, because I really knew him and what he was (in normal times), bekisso, bekosso, and beka'asso, and knew it yet in Oshpitzin.
I also agreed with him that he and many others did not know that he, my friend, knew so much. They didn't know his many good points, his diligence, and his constant desire to learn as much as possible and to do so thoroughly, in spite of the fact that in recent years he had been occupied all day with mundane things, with work and business.
They didn't know about his drive to know, whether it was the study of languages or rhetoric, music or poetry, literature or other fields of knowledge.
They didn't know that he, my friend, wrote songs signed in Hebrew, "M. Ra'anan" [Fresh = Frisch], composed folk music, rhymes, and popular songs (Gramen) , and also wrote real poetry. He wrote songs with which mothers lulled their babies to sleep, and mostly songs about Eretz Yisrael. (He had a special love and weakness for songs about Eretz Yisrael, which he would translate and disseminate. They were then sung by many people who didn't even know their origin).
They didn't know that while still in Oshpitzin he had taught Tanach and other subjects in the PAY meeting hall, where very many people– not only PAY members– would come to hear and enjoy him.
They didn't know that he would wake me every day, summer and winter, between 4 and 5 A.M. and we would learn for two to three hours "with a clear head," as he always used to say.
They didn't know his heart, his devotion to family, to relatives and acquaintances, because they didn't know his character and his humanity, and when they suddenly discovered it all at once– as a consequence of the terrible reality – they were extremely surprised. In the end I agreed with them that, because they had lived with him in overcrowded conditions and shared with him the common distress, they had the opportunity, then, in those abnormal circumstances to get to really know my friend, the mensch.
My father, Avraham Feiler, served in the army and was demobilized with the rank of an officer, founded the organization of Jewish War Casualties in Oshpitzin, and helped many arrange for allotments for the disabled from the Polish government. He supervised all of the work of the organization and represented the members before the authorities until his death in 1926.
He obtained many substantial allotments for the disabled through his untiring and energetic efforts.
He also organized a singing and drama group named Shir and brought various artists to town. Townsmen, too, participated regularly, among them Mendel Wolf Meitels [?] and Yitzchak Schafenhof [?]. All of the proceeds of these appearances were contributed to the town's poor and charitable institutions.
May his memory be a blessing!
He was born in 5672  in Oshpitzin. His parents, Pesach Avrohom and Rechil, of the well-known Zwerling family, were closely associated with the admor R Elazar. He was one of the elite of the yeshiva bochers and a loyal follower of the admor of Bobowa, HY"D.
While quite young, he was recognized for his wisdom and understanding, for his exceptional talents, and for being an upright, honest person, and he was well liked by all. He always strove towards excellence and precision in whatever he did. He had a pleasant, sweet voice, which he used in the service of the worship of the Holy One, blessed be He, as a prayer leader on the Sabbath and Festivals and – to the great delight of his friends – at celebrations and joyous events.
In his teens he studied by himself, and later completed his studies to become an expert electrician at the top of his field, so that most of the contracts for electrification of buildings and factories were put in his capable hands. It was an unusual sight, even in Hasidic Oshpitzin, to see Akiva on the scaffolds at various building sites, a young Jew with beard and payes, of noble appearance, hobnobbing with the gentile construction workers, himself doing various tasks, and giving operating instructions to others to be sure that they would perform their tasks with the necessary precision, all according to his directions.
He was one of the founders and builders of the PAY branch in Oshpitzin and one of their leading lights. He devoted most of his free time to this activity and was especially active in projects for Eretz Yisroel, such as fundraising, remitting the money directly to institutions in Eretz Yisroel, hachshara, aliyah, and so forth.
He experienced all the horrors of the Shoah and due to them emerged a sick man, but his spirit was unbroken and remained as it had been in spite of his many trials: surgery followed surgery and hospital followed hospital, yet we never heard him complain or moan. He accepted his afflictions in silence and with grace. He was a wonderful man, a beautiful soul, a gentle spirit, and a God-fearing Torah scholar in all his deeds. His smile never left him and he was always prepared to help others in a modest, quiet fashion. When he came to Israel via Cyprus, he was drafted into the IDF, and after completing his tour of duty settled in Jerusalem, reestablished a beautiful home, and kept in close contact with his acquaintances and all of his former townsmen.
May his memory be a blessing!
A. Avinoam [From Yiddish]
In ancient times strategists believed that a war was won by the side that had good generals and officers. Today we know that the most important factor in a war is the well-trained and conscientious soldier who stands on guard to defend a beleaguered position and places himself in jeopardy for the emperor and the holy battle he is waging.
R Avrohom Halevi Ringer was no general. He was not involved in public affairs. He shunned honors and hullabaloo. Instead, he quietly and modestly nurtured the active performance of charity and kindness, mitzvahs and good deeds, visiting the sick and helping the ailing and suffering, gmilus chasodim and burying the dead. Our sages say that our patriarch, Abraham, taught his children the three good traits of: compassion, humility, and acts of charity. Avrohom Ringer willingly carried out these three with all his heart and soul, not for personal gain.
He was born in 1887 to an old, established Oshpitzin family. In his youth he studied in cheder and bes medrish, like all young people in those years. When the First World War broke out he was drafted into the Austrian army, excelled in his duties, and reached the rank of adjutant to an officer who was a prince of the royal family, the commander of the occupation forces in Czernowitz [Cernauti].
After his marriage to his intended, Chane Toibe, the daughter of the first Hebrew teacher in Oshpitzin, Somel Rosner, R Avrohom set up a workshop for the manufacture of shoes, which quickly developed into an enterprise with 20 Jewish and gentile craftsmen. He maintained a very hospitable home. There were always guests at his table and often he would make the rounds Friday evening in the botei medrish looking for guests to invite to his Sabbath table.
He was by nature a hearty person, always smiling, the first to greet everyone, and giving all their proper due. He was friendly and beloved by God and man. His personality reflected an inner peace with noble, refined manners that aroused the respect and admiration of all.
He was a regular worshiper through the years at the Chevre Mishnayes. He was a heavy contributor to the Chevre and was one of the initiators of the plan to build the new, beautiful, large edifice of the Chevre. When R Jeke'le Komarner, of the Komarno rabbinical Safran family, was engaged to be the rabbi of the Chevre Mishnayes, R Avrohom Ringer and R Yudel Silbiger were his main supporters, arranging for his steady income, and they were his close, good friends.
In the last years before the disaster, R Avrohom was much involved with the mitzvah of caring for the sick. He frequently left his business and ran to care for poor and even rich sick people with medicine and material assistance, and in critical cases he would even spend the night with the sick, helping and consoling them in their time of distress.
During the Second World War, when the Nazis shut down the batei midrash in town, R Avrohom, as one of the last gabbaim of the Chevre Mishnayes, transferred a number of the Torah scrolls of the Chevre to his home and set up a synagogue there.
The magid, R Mordechai Boruch Donner, used to teach Torah and mishnayes and people would say kaddish there for their perished relatives and martyrs. In spite of the dangers involved, R Avrohom maintained the bes medrish in his home until he was deported to Sosnowice with all the Oshpitzin families.
In Sosnowice, too, R Avrohom continued his social service work. His house was the address for all the suffering, hungry, and ailing people, especially for the Oshpitzin townsmen. Even the Judenrat recognized R Avrohom Ringer's "Relief Organization" and protected him from deportations for the entire period. In the last deportation near the end of the summer of 1943, R Avrohom, his wife, and their daughter Chane were sent on the final journey from which no one returns.
May their memory be everlasting among the martyrs and unblemished of Jewish history.
The Jews of Oswiecim were renowned for their generosity. Hundreds of Polish and Russian Jews who had sneaked across the Austrian border on their way to America testify to this, namely that they found help and relief in our town.
Here, in Israel, I met many Jews who had been taken prisoner as Russian soldiers during the First World War and were interned in Oswiecim. To this very day they remember and praise the Oswiecim Jews for their hearty and kind efforts. There was, however, one who was extraordinary in this regard, and his name was R Hershl Stiel.
Everybody knew R Hershl and his wife Shulamit. He was a Jew with a warm heart, a Hasid, pious, always happy, loving a good argument, and even treating the "heretic" Zionists with respect, out of true love for all Jews.
For the first time, I heard him say, "Zionism is similar to the 'Red Heifer' : it purifies the unclean and defiles the pure. It turns the assimilated 'goyim' into Jews but turns 'our' Jews into goyim."
He had a large fruit and vegetable store in the main square, run by his wife and daughters. R Hershl himself was a wholesaler of fruits and vegetables and would be on the road all week, traveling as far as Italy. There were always dozens of guests at his Shabbes table. It was his custom every Friday night after the prayers to make the rounds of all the synagogues and gather guests to bring to his home for Shabbes meals. When God helped him and he bought a house, he set aside the basement floor as a guesthouse for such people. He equipped the rooms with beds and linens so that every wanderer would have a place to stay. More than once, a "guest" made off with linens the next day, but R Hershl didn't fume or fret: he would immediately put out fresh linens, and those too would soon disappear. R Hershl happily continued to perform the mitzvah of hospitality and generously continued to disburse.
At the end of the First World War a virulent influenza epidemic broke out. They called it "Hishpanka" [Spanish], and many died– especially the young. In order to halt the epidemic, the heads of the community decided to marry off a pair of orphans at the cemetery, and that is what they did. Who covered all the expenses and made the arrangements? Why, R Hershl, of course. He raised the funds, gave the dowry, took the trouble to organize the wedding, rented a room and furnished it, and set up the young couple. Who will tell about his other good works? Why, every "failure" and every bride unable to contemplate marriage for lack of a dowry who found a helping hand and relief through his efforts.
With the establishment of the Polish government, riots erupted in all of the Galician towns. On a Friday night word came that rioters were approaching the city, and the youth of the Self-Defense went out to stop them. Every once in a while a Jew with beard and payes would arrive at their outposts with hot tea and sandwiches. "Eat and drink, children, and may God protect you and all of us," said R Hershl Stiel, the older Jew, and one of the very few who did not lock himself up in his home but helped the defenders of the town in his own way.
He lived to see his son Yosef be among the first to make aliyah with the Third Aliyah in 1920. He joined the pioneer builders of the Shomron and was among the first workers in Karkur. He married, and one of his sons fell in the defense of the homeland.
I am certain that in the world beyond, R Hershl, who loved Jews, has met his son Yosef, who was one of the first builders of Eretz Yisrael and his grandson, Oded, who fell piloting his plane in the defense of Israel.
May their memory be a blessing.
Yechiel Schindel's bakery was near the Oshpitzin railroad station. R Yechiel was a pious, simple Jew who together with his wife Pesel Beile worked hard to support his family of 11 souls. In addition to providing for them he also saw to their education. He sent his sons to yeshivas and his eldest daughter Esther to the Beis Yakov Teacher's Seminary in Krakow.
I would like, as far as I can by words alone, to describe Mrs. Schindel. This good-hearted woman was always prepared to be charitable, and her home was wide open to anyone in need. Daily she fed the poor who came to town, and she would also put them up for the night. I know that her children protested the overnight hospitality in their home, because according to them [the guests] were not clean. She used to answer, "May God help you that people should eat and sleep in your homes, and that you should not need to eat and sleep by strangers."
She would also note which of the poor people who lived in the area had not bought challah or bread for the Sabbath and would send them bread or challah before the onset of the Sabbath.
Such a woman and her deeds are unforgettable.
He was born in 5673  in Limanowa, the son of R Yechiel and Pessel Beile. He grew up there and went to cheder and to the primary school.
In 5684  he moved with his family to Oshpitzin. His father, R Yechiel opened a bakery close to their home opposite the railroad station. It supplied baked goods to the area residents and to the nearby village of Brzezynska.
Moshe Ahron continued his studies. He was a diligent student and excelled in the yeshiva while at the same time completing his general and professional education.
In 5693  he joined the PAY hachshara contingent in Gorlice. When he returned from hachshara, and his aliyah was postponed, he devoted himself to organizational tasks. He was a very active member of the branch leadership of the PAY in Oshpitzin and its representative at regional and national conventions. He was one of the organizers of the program for vocational training and a youth leader.
In 5698  he married and moved to Bielsko-Biala but remained in close touch with his comrades in Oshpitzin.
At the outbreak of the Second World War he became an exile and wandered to distant places.
He perished on the plains of Peczura [?] in 5701 .
May his memory be a blessing!
Ruven Rotenberg [?]
Just a few members of my distinguished family remained alive after the Shoah. I will attempt to list those of my family whose images are etched in my memory and whose memory does not fade with time:
My uncle, R Selig Wolf, and his wife, Frumet, died before the Second World War. Their daughter, Keile, was killed during the German bombardment of Oshpitzin. Their children, Mendel, Rosa, Yehudis, and Leib, perished as well.
My uncle, R Chanoch Barber, and his wife, the sister of my grandfather, R Ze'ev Wolf Rotenberg, perished with all their progeny.
R Chaim Eliezer Sternschuss was a Hasid and tzadik who kept to himself. His wife's name was Miriam and their son was Avromtche. His daughter was Malka Kopman[?] and her husband was Wolf. Their sons were Ruven, Moshe Yakov, and Leibel. They had two daughters, only one of whom survived and is living in England. Their daughter was Breindl and her husband was Yosef Wolf Wolfgang, an upright man, a Hasid of Sadigora and Belz. They had sons and daughters whose names I don't remember.
R Avrohom Gross and his wife, Roda, the daughter of Ruven Scharf, who was formerly the head of the Oshpitzin kehilla.
My grandfather, R Ze'ev Wolf Rotenberg, popularly known as R Welwele, was the kashrut supervisor of the slaughterhouse. He regularly worshipped at the Chrzanower kloiz, and he regularly led the services for Ne'ilah on Yom Kippur. This service he led with great enthusiasm, with feeling, and with awe, until the very walls and foundations were moved. He loved justice and right and was one of the honored frequenters at the home of the chief rabbi R Eliyahu Bombach. I remember that when I was a child I once stayed over to sleep in his home and I heard him mutter a prayer before going to bed. I asked him what he was saying, seeing that he had already said his prayers before sleeping. He replied that he was repeating the Ani Ma'amin [I Believe] in order to recite the Principles of the Faith once more before sleep.
My mother's family stemmed from Mielec. Her father, my grandfather, R Yisroel Yitzchak Kluger, was the grandson of the famous tzadik, R Yisroel Yitzchak of Radoszyc, a wonder worker and descendant of the tzadik of Wielipole and the rebbe R Moshe Teitelbaum from Ujhely, author of Yismach Yisroel. My grandfather's brother was R Ruven of Debice; he, too, was famous as a good Jew in his own right. My grandfather made a living from a grocery store run by my grandmother Pessil, while he sat and studied Torah without interruption. My grandfather died on the second of Iyar 5698 [May 3, 1938], and my grandmother died on the third of Tammuz the same year [June 2, 1938].
My uncle, R Chaim Silbiger, and his wife Tzirel, my mother's sister, lived in Mielec and perished with their children. My uncle, R Menashe Yechezkel Kluger, lived in Krakow. He had a mansion in town and a large leather-goods business. He was wealthy and was a chasid of the admor of Bobowa. He was charitable and hospitable. Every day two yeshiva bochers ate with them. He perished with his wife and children.
My uncle, R Leibush Kluger and his wife Beate [?] lived in Hungary in the city of Kosice [Kassa]. He was a wealthy man and conducted his home according to Hasidic standards. They were transported to an extermination camp and did not return.
Oshpitzin was a town blessed with elderly Jews who were fortunate to live to a ripe old age. Rabbi Shmuel Hersh Landau had been in his younger years one of the first manufacturers in town, the owner of a soap factory. When he reached his nineties he had already been blind for some years, barely seeing the light of day, but everything he had ever learned he remembered by heart: entire chapters of Tanach; Mishna; Talmud with its commentaries, and so forth. He recognized everyone by voice. When he fell ill with the ailment from which he didn't recover, bocherim would come every night to watch over him. Once, when it was my turn to "stay up" with the patient, his wife, the old lady, asked me, "Who are you, young man?" When I told her that I was a grandson of R Shmuel Better, she was delighted and said to me, "Oh! A grandson of the good Shmuel! Come, I'll tell you a story. Many years ago, your grandfather Shmuel would travel several times a year to the great fair. Often he would come to our store to exchange Austrian krone for kreuzer, which he would take with him on his trip. Once, on his return from the fair he didn't go directly home, but got off the carriage in front of our store. He came to me and said: 'Genendel! You changed my money today and made a mistake. In one roll you gave me there were only 98 kreuzer instead of 100.'
"I looked at your grandfather in anger. 'Shmuel. You see! One shouldn't do anyone any favors. Even good friends repay you with evil instead of good, and all you get is a heartache.' Your grandfather answered, saying: 'You don't believe me? Well, I brought back the roll of money which you gave me, take it and see for yourself.' Saying this he put the roll on the table. I took it, opened it, and what did my eyes see? Gold coins! I had made a mistake and had given him gold coins instead of kreuzer. Embarrassed, I lowered my head, and when I lifted it once more I saw the deep gray eyes of your grandfather looking at me with a smile and kindness. It was then that I first understood why all the estate owners of the region and all the merchants of Upper Silesia with whom your grandfather had dealings called him "The Good Shmuel".
The Schenker family was one of the best known in Oshpitzin, and its members were also known outside the borders of the town, throughout the whole of Galicia. R Yosef Schenker, who was one of the giants of the Polish chemical industry, was considered an expert in chemical fertilizers. He promoted and developed the field of super-phosphates throughout Poland. He devoted his best years and all of his energy to this branch of the chemical industry. His wisdom, intelligence, and modesty made him attractive to all and earned him many friends in Poland.
R Yosef Schenker was a source of pride to all the Jewish industrialists in Poland.
The president of Poland, [Ignacy] Moscicki, was a professor of chemistry and before becoming president had been a member of the board of directors of the Agrochemia factory, which belonged to the Schenker family. While he was president of Poland, Professor Moscicki would visit Yosef Schenker whenever he passed through Oshpitzin and have a chat, which he categorized as a "consultation."
Yosef Schenker died of hunger in the Bergen-Belsen camp one month before the end of the Second World War.
Yosef Schenker had two daughters and two sons. His daughter Sarah died giving birth to her son Ignas [?]. His second daughter, Liba Hofstetter, was killed along with her two daughters in Wieliczka in 1941, during the occupation, by the Germans. The youngest son, who was full of life and youthful energy, was shot to death in 1941. The only survivor after the Shoah was the oldest son, Eliezer Leo, who honorably represented his family tradition.
Leo was born in 1902, and from a very early age showed much interest in the field of art and sketching. During the First World War, when the two Schenker sons were in Vienna, the lad Leo – he was then but 14 – was accepted into the Royal Academy of Art in Vienna. After the war, he continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. The next step brought Leo to Paris, the city of artists, where he studied at the Beaux Arts Academy. While in Paris he receives word of his mother's critical illness. Leo Schenker hurries home, arriving in time to be with his mother before her death. After his mother's death he remains in Poland, marries Mina Mintz [?] from Rzeszow, settles in Krakow, and launches his career as an artist. With the passing years, he becomes recognized as one of the foremost artists of Poland. His close friends are the painters Neuman, Lewkowicz, Mane Katz, Shingal [?], and Rubinsky.
Leo Schenker also held many exhibits, and the critics praised his work.
One of his paintings of that period hangs in the Bezalel Museum in Jerusalem. It had been contributed at the request of the leaders of the yishuv at that time. Another of his creations of that period hangs in the Hermitage in the hall of contemporary art, together with the works of the great painters of the last century. One of his major works was the decorative painting of the sanctuary of the ancient ReMA synagogue in Krakow, an attraction for tourists even today.
Leo Schenker not only paints and holds exhibitions for which he receives much publicity and praise, but also devotes time to public affairs and is elected president of the Krakow Artists Association. He is a steady contributor of articles to Nowy Dzienik [?], a Polish-Jewish newspaper, and takes an active role in Zionist organizations and philanthropy.
In 1936, he complies with his father's request and leaves Krakow and the life of an artist, returning to Oshpitzin to help his father administer the plant. In the three-year period before the Second World War, he manages to acquire much knowledge in the area of super-phosphates and is of great help to his father.
When the war breaks out and the German invasion begins, he is in the plant and, under the circumstances, comes into contact with the invading forces and is able to establish correct and decent relations with them. He is elected chairman of the Oshpitzin Kehilla Council and throws himself entirely into the battle against the various prohibitions declared against the Jews, intervening to modify them in order to ease the burden of the community and the plight of individuals. He participates in various secret missions and makes plans to provide assistance and rescue. Some time later he is arrested along with some of the members of the council. After much effort he is released and flees to Krakow, and there he is joined by the other members of his family.
The war years are a long chain of confrontations with imminent death. A number of times it seemed that the end was near, but the hand of God decreed otherwise. At the time of the deportations he was in Wieliczka near Krakow; he and his family were then transferred to the Bochnia Ghetto and from there to the Montolopy [?] prison and, finally, together with his family and his father, to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
After his release at the end of the war in 1945, Leo Schenker returns to Oshpitzin and begins to rebuild the ruins of his family's industry. The Communist regime regards private enterprise with a jaundiced eye and places obstacles in his path. Leo decides to leave Poland and make aliyah. His plans are blocked by the authorities with his arrest in 1949. After his release, having spent 20 months in about a dozen different prisons, he renews his struggle to leave Poland. In 1955, Leo Schenker and his family leave Poland and come to Israel.
His last years are spent in the mountains of Safed and in Akko as he paints constantly and with all his vigor, just as he had in his youth. On October 15, 1965 his heart gives out at the age of only 63. The memory of this noble man, this good-hearted gentle soul, remains etched in the hearts of the many who knew and admired him.
May his memory be a blessing!
He was born on 2 Teveth 5673 [Dec. 12, 1912], the last day of Chanukah. He was named after his grandfather, the gaon and tzadik R Chaim Zvi Kuperman [?] who had served as the av besdin in Oshpitzin for 40 years. He became a disciple of R Berish Frumer, the av besdin of Oshpitzin, and was an adherent of the admorim R Osher of Ropszyce and R Chaim of Sacz.
His father, R Yosef Simcha was a noble soul and a talmid chacham, a prominent Hasid of Bobowa. It was he who educated his son in the paths of Torah and tradition and imbued him with the fear of heaven and the love of fellowman. After R Chaim finished his studies at the cheder and completed his secular studies with private tutors, his father sent him to the yeshiva of Bobowa where, under the supervision of the beloved admor, R Benzion Halberstam, HY"D, he immersed himself in his studies and was educated in the spirit of Hasidism to become a loyal Hasid of the Bobowa court until his very last day.
As the anti-Semitic movement in Poland increased its provocations and the Polish government moved in directions intended to harm Jews and their livelihood, R Chaim decided to leave the yeshiva, but continued with the study of Torah and Hasidism. With the approval of the rebbe he turned to the area of business and industry and became a clerk in the textile factory of the famous Hasid and industrialist, R Abbale Rapaport of Bilice. His many talents helped him to excel in his post and he quickly advanced to become the industrial foreman of the factory. He did not, however, refrain from public affairs. Together with friends he founded the PAY branch in Oshpitzin and organized Torah classes, lectures, and vocational training courses for youth, as well as pre-aliyah hachsharot.
From his childhood on he had an affinity for the medical sciences. It is likely that his love for his fellowman inspired him to help others who suffered from physical complaints. He acquired medical books and perused them whenever he had a free moment and soon had basic knowledge of various medical specialties. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, he negotiated with government health authorities and arranged for first aid courses for the youth and primary care for the wounded. They heard lectures from medical and army personnel. At the conclusion of the course, he passed the examinations and was granted an official certificate. Not very much later the terrible war broke out. He was taken to the Zywiec and Bunzlau camps for internment and forced labor. Due to his knowledge of medicine and his certification, he was permitted to open an infirmary and to care for the sick and wounded. Thanks to this medical certificate, he was saved from death many times and managed to survive the war.
After the war he returned to the ruins of his birthplace. The apartment he rented became a shelter for the few survivors who returned to their ruined city. One day a goy came to him with a rusted tin can, which he had found buried in the crematorium grounds. Inside were pages written in Yiddish. R Chaim bought the can from him for a goodly sum and discovered the shocking, heart-rending diary written by the well-known poet and author Zalman Gradowsky, who had been a prisoner in the camp and later a leader of the revolt at Auschwitz.
After marrying Jetka Ringer, R Chaim left his birthplace and moved to
Germany. For a time he lived in Lauf [?] and then moved to Munich where he
became the secretary of the chief rabbi of Germany, R Shmuel Abba Seniag [?].
He made aliyah before the establishment of the State of Israel and was immediately employed at the Hadassah hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. He quickly became a favorite of both the doctors and the patients, and he was particularly sought after by those patients who were great Torah sages and prominent officials. He treated the gaonim R Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveichik, the rabbi from Brisk; the av besdin of Trzebinia; the presidents of the State, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi and Zalman Shazar; Mrs. Paula Ben-Gurion; government ministers and senior officers of the IDF. He had a unique way of treating patients, with pleasant conversation and soothing, caressing hands so that the patient would not feel even the most painful procedure.
The home he established in Jerusalem was a meeting place for the wise and welcomed guests from near and far. No one could ever claim that his home was too "narrow" to have a meal or spend the night there.
He looked after orphans and widows and was generous to all in need.
After retiring from his work at the Hadassah hospital, he continued to work part-time running the Rephael Clinic for haredi patients, and here too he was much admired. In his free time he took on the strenuous work of editing the yizkor book for his hometown, Oshpitzin. He did much to beautify and embellish the content to best represent the glory of his famous city. All by himself, he did everything that an entire crew would have done: he wrote, he edited, he supervised the proofreading, the pagination, the printing, and the binding, and he even saw to the fundraising to finance the publication of the book. Indeed, he saw it through to the end. The book was published several days before his death. At that time he also published the book of the martyred author, Zalman Gradowsky, with consummate taste. This book will no doubt make a tremendous impression on readers and will be translated into many languages.
On the eighth night of Chanukah, R Chaim invited his entire family to a double celebration: the housewarming of the new apartment he had recently purchased and the celebration of his 65th birthday, which fell on that day. During the festivities, his daughter, who was on a mission for Ezra [a relief organization of Agudas Yisroel] and was living in England, made a surprise appearance, and joy reigned supreme. He made a point of remarking to the writer of these lines that this was a mitzvah meal in celebration of settling in Eretz Yisrael and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and he wished, therefore, to mark the occasion by saying some words of Torah. He drank l'chaim with his family and bid his family good night. Just a few hours later he collapsed on his way to visit the sick.
He left behind a generation of good Jews, a widow, two married daughters, and a son who is studying medicine at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
May the memory of this excellent and distinguished man be an everlasting blessing.
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