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[Page 182]

23. Gentiles who Saved and Gentiles
who Murdered Jews

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

It would be wrong and a great injustice if we would be silent about the closest faithful assistants and helpers that the mass murderers found among the Poles, Ukrainians, White Russians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and other people who took to heart the “idea” of killing the Jews. They, the Germans, could not have achieved such a result if they had not had such devoted, true assistance.

But it should also be said that there were some cases when Poles rescued Jews, hid them, gave them food and even risked their own lives.

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Many cities and towns had a few such righteous people who were not swallowed up in the sea of hatred and wickedness that flooded the world but instead helped to rescue Jews. So it was over the whole area of the slaughtering ground in the country of Poland, and our city was no exception.

One cannot generalize about the righteous Poles who stretched out their hands to help a tormented Jew and showed that they listened to him—or to some ideological or social voice in the Polish society.

For the most part, these were the exception, who showed their individual humanity and raised themselves from their poisonous surroundings and ideological attitudes. Some were from the rich, prosperous camps whose daily ideology was always a wild hatred of the Jews; some were working people from the socialist camp; some were individuals farmers from a village; some were mid-level city clerks; and some were poor—a washerwoman, a servant, or a butler.

* * *

Thus we know that the well-to-do Alexander Woitaszewicz, a well-known merchant in the Siedlce area, had, in Gut Szianna, near Braszkow, hidden the Jews Yehudit Kwiatek-Greenwald, David Lustik, Yisroel Orlantszik, Levi Orlantszik, with their wives and Henech Banalewicz from Braszkow. He hid them with food and an apartment, comforted them, and gave them strength to persevere and survive. Trusting that the war would not last long, he stated formally that they worked for him. This lasted from 1940 until 1942, when the small ghetto in Siedlce was liquidated and their further stay with him in Gut was no longer possible. He sent Yehudit Kwiatek, Levi Orlantszik, and David Lustik with their wives to Warsaw to his former farmhand. Woitaszewicz often came to them in Warsaw, bringing necessities and supporting them with an open hand. He did all this without thought of reward, only out of humane feelings.

Possibly because of his humane attitude toward Jews in those unhappy years, Woitasewicz paid with his life. At the end of 1943 he was attacked by an armed group, who shot him. Since nothing was stolen from him,

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people assumed that this was a political murder by the A.K. as revenge for hiding Jews.

* * *

In Roskow, at the well-known Siedlce magnate Count Stephan Humnicki, a group of 50 Jews worked. They were treated humanely and correctly. On November 29, 1942, when the group was forced to go to Genszi-Barky, some Jews still remained with Humnicki. Among them were Aaron Perlman from Loszic and the two Feinholtz sisters from Siedlce (the daughters of Gulf Feinholtz). They were hidden and cared for my the count and his wife Sophia until the liberation.

* * *

Shomer and his wife Anna, owners of a brewery and a sawmill in Sarnak (in the vicinity of Siedlce), hid and cared for several Jews (among them the brothers Yoel and Berl Liberman) until the liberation. When their hiding place was suspected by neighbors, the Shomers took the Jews to their relative Josef, in another village, and all survived.

* * *

The owner of Chwalatszice near Loszic hid several Jews. The neighbors betrayed him to the Germans, who hanged him for this transgression and shot the Jews.

* * *

In the village of Kszimos (near Siedlce) a group of hidden Jews were discovered by the A.K. The Jew ran, and the A.K. people shot after them. Eliyahu Gaszelinski, after being shot, dragged himself to a second farmer who hid him, cared for him for a long while, and healed his wounds.

* * *

In the village of Glucha-Piaski, the innkeeper Jaszinski hid seven Jews.

* * *

When Moyshe Mendel Gora and his two sisters were wandering around, starving and weary, in the fields and woods, they found a hiding place and a bit of food with farmers they knew, Antony Karczewski, Waclw Liszecki, Jan Dszewalski, and others.

* * *

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Zubrowicz Josef, from the village of Kszimos, near Siedlce, recounts that a farmer from the village had set aside weapons and provisions for Jewish partisans, a group of 450 who for a while had lived and conducted their partisan activities in the woods near Kalusz. The Germans seized the farmer and shot him.

* * *

Yitzchak Bornstein and Zatorski survived in a bunker in the thick of the Mezritch woods thanks to a religious monk who provided them with food.

* * *

The teacher Aszinski from Apola near Siedlce, known as a socialist activist, hid a group of young Jews from Siedlce in a pit: Dr. Loebel's son Witek, Dr. Glaszwski's son Ramek, Lola Salzman, the brothers Yisroel and Leibl Wisznia, the young woman Shassenfoigel, and Bracha Rawinska from Apola. For two months the bewildered Jews found a hiding place and protection with the idealistic Christian. They were recognized by the neighbors, however, and had to leave. They went to the village of Caton near Braszkow. For a long time they hid together with the Kiszelinski brothers. Later on they were killed by the murderous Polish police.

* * *

Theophile Ruszinski, a well-known pauper in Siedlce, hid and cared for the young Berl Rabinowicz (a son of Yishayahu Rabinowicz) until the liberation, with no care for himself. One time, they saw through the window that Gestapo members were going by in the direction of Ruszinski's apartment. The frightened Rabinowicz was sure that he had been detected and that they were coming for him. He wanted to run outside in order to prevent the detection of his protector, but the idealistic Christian did not allow him to, saying, “What happens to you will also happen to me.”

* * *

When Moyshe Kiszelinski escaped from the slaughter that the Polish police had carried out when the pit was discovered in the village of Katon, where nineteen Jews were murdered, he found a hiding place with the poor shoemaker in Siedlce, Philip Smolinski, who kept him for several weeks without payment. Later, when Moyshe and Raphael Kishenski and son escaped from the death that threatened them from all sides and had nowhere

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to turn, they again found protection and a hiding place with that same Smolinski, until they were detected and had to flee.

* * *

The poor Christian woman in Siedlce Jadwiga Budna hid six Jews in her poor apartment, without payment: the three brothers Avraham, Melech, and Itsche Halber, two Galicki brothers, and David Greenberg. The hidden Jews gave her money solely to buy food. After the liberation, this Christian woman married Mottel Galicki, whom she had saved.

* * *

The Christians Sophia Alszakowska and Jadwiga Zawadzka inn Siedlce took from the parents Yakov and Tchipa Sonnschein their one-year-old daughter Rochele. The parents committed suicide in Gensze Barki. This Christians protected the child, took care of her, and after the liberation went to the Jewish congregation in Poland and to her relatives in Israel to hand over custody of the child and for her education. (This child lives now in Israel, in a children's home in Nahariyya.)

* * *

The Christian Maria Kowalska for two years in her home hid Mrs. Leonia Greenspan-Halberstat, receiving compensation only for her actual expenses.

* * *

Mrs. Gutsze Szinalawa and her daughter Lily, who had managed to get to Chentshin, survived with a poor beggar, Karl Kitszinski, who was 68 years old. He created a hiding place for them in his home. Later, because of security concerns, he hid them in a camouflaged grave in the cemetery. The beggar did not have enough food for himself, so he went around to houses and begged from the farmers. Whatever he collected he shared with the hidden women, who survived thanks to the goodhearted beggar. After the liberation, the beggar begged Mrs. Gutsze and her daughter to leave him so that no one would know that he had saved Jews.

* * *

Even in view of the conquest, stealing, or inheriting Jewish possessions, which was so normal for most

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Poles at that time of extraordinary “good fortune,” there were also some exceptions.

Such a one was the Christian Bunik Antony in Siedlce, to whom the Do a brothers had entrusted various articles and valuable. After the liberation, he sought relatives of the Do a family and returned everything.

* * *

There was also an occasion when a man from the Polish underworld extended a hand to save a Jew.

Moyshe Rotbein and his daughter decided in the darkness of night to get away from the ramp where together with thousands of Jews they awaited the loading of the trains that were headed for Treblinka. They crawled away on all fours, unnoticed by the killers who surrounded them in a thick cluster and they managed to get to a nearby garden. There they were accosted by an unknown man. They lay there as if they were dead, motionless. The man came near them and said, “I know who you are, unfortunate beleaguered Jews. Come with me. I will take you to safe spot.” And he took them by back roads to his friends who were waiting outside the city. He brought them food and helped them escape. Rotbein offered the unknown man money, which he refused to take, saying, “Keep your money. You'll need it. I have more money than you.” It later turned out that their rescuer was well-known thief from the Siedlce area.

* * *

There were certain cases in Siedlce and its surroundings when Poles either rescued or helped to rescue a Jew in that sad, hellish time. However, these were exceptions by individual righteous Christians, whose like Avraham our father sought in Sodom and our unfortunate sisters and brothers south and very seldom found.

Instead, if one looks, one finds the evil and bestiality that our neighbors showed to Jews in those dark years, their active assistance to the Germans in their extermination efforts.

And just as one cannot pinpoint the ideological camp or social faction to which the individual righteous Christians who helped Jews

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belonged, so one cannot pinpoint the ideological camp or social faction to which the great number of wicked Christians who helped the Germans rob and murder Jews belonged. They came from different factions of Polish society and were drawn to their deeds in a variety of circumstances. Sometimes it was greed for Jewish possessions, the desire to steal Jewish goods. Killing a Jew provided the opportunity to steal from him his clothing and shoes, to take whatever money he had. It was worth whatever kilograms of sugar he had, or flasks of brandy with which the German killers rewarded the murder or the turning in of a living Jew. Sometimes it was the product of bestial instincts, the thirst for blood that the Germans awoke in certain portions of the Polish population. But mostly it was the result of the confirmed hatred of Jews that certain circles had long instilled in the Polish masses. And they, the masses, had finally found the opportunity to unload this amassed hatred, to set their hands to making real the slogan “Poland without Jews.”

Immediately in the early days of the occupation people heard at every turn from the greatest part of their Polish neighbors threats, backed by the specter of the Germans. Betrayals and interventions by outsiders became daily occurrences.

Even small children would gather around Jewish homes and yell, “Jew,” indicating to the Germans where Jews lived and helping the Germans seize Jews for work or help those seeking Jews who were in hiding.

* * *

In October of 1939, a German with a Polish wife held a sexual orgy in the courtyard of 25 Pienkne Street. The neighbor of that house, the shoemaker Arszech, in total ignorance, happened to wander past and took in the spectacle. The neighbor, whom the Jew knew well, not wanting anyone to know of her good deeds, told the German, who seized the Jew, led him to the Gestapo, and told them that the Jew had attacked him. The Jew was taken to a court martial, which called as a witness the German and the neighboring woman. You have to understand that the Jew's guilt was “proven.”

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A special notice was pasted up on the streets of Siedlce announcing the death sentence that was carried out against the Jew for attacking the German soldier.

* * *

Long-time acquaintance and friendship were no help, even when people had been school friends, studied together, or worked together in business.

Avraham Nadwarna decided not to go to the ghetto, not to be locked in the ghetto-cage that had been established in Siedlce. He got Aryan papers and left for Lukow so as not to be in his home town where he would be recognized. Sitting one lunchtime in a Polish restaurant, he was recognized by a Christian whom he knew, who immediately reported him to the Gestapo. Nadwarna was tortured for four days before he died.

* * *

The same thing happened to Salek Tabakman (the son of Avraham Tabakman). He also provided himself with Aryan papers. He did not go to the ghetto and he avoided the first slaughter in the Treblinka gas chambers. After the liquidation of the ghetto, Tabakman arrived at the train station in order to travel to Warsaw. He had a good “appearance” and good papers, and no one would know he was a Jew. But there he ran into a school friend who had studied in gymnasium with him and attended lectures together. The school friend called a German gendarme and denounced Tabakman as a Jew. Tabakman exclaimed to him, “My colleague, what are you doing?” To this his colleague responded, “Shut up, Jew!” The Germans did not hesitate to arrest Tabakman, remarking that he did not look Jewish. They warned the young Christian that he would have to face a higher power if he freed a Jew. This former school friend was not released until Tabakman was shot.

* * *

The fiendish attitude toward the beleaguered Jews and the unwillingness to help them afflicted all classes, as much among the village farmers as among the educated intelligentsia.

Sarah Goldfinger (daughter of Baruch Mordechai Kleinman) tells that

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Dr. Butszinski, who was a house doctor for the Kleinmans and a close acquaintance, turned her out of his home when she came seeking a place to hide. As Mrs. Goldfinger tells it, Dr. Butszinski, desiring to be free of her, have her tea to drink mixed with poison, which she detected at the first swallow.

* * *

A large number of Poles did very well for themselves in the Jewish tragedy, having sought to acquire goods or wealth by dealing in unclaimed Jewish property. All methods of obtaining these were considered “kosher.”

The young Siedlce Christian Tofek Artik put together a treasure in sacred objects: Torah scrolls, megillos, mezuzahs, tefillin, taleisim, religious books, and many other sacred things, telling people that American Jews wold pay a lot for them. Nothing interfered with his achieving his goal.

* * *

Professor Buchholz, a Pole of German ancestry, well known in Siedlce as an antisemite, was named by the Germans as guardian of the stolen, movable property of Jews. This position gave him the opportunity to gather valuable Jewish objects, from which he grew rich. With particular industriousness he gathered Torah scrolls that later, after the liberation, he sold them to Jews for a good price.

* * *

The poor teacher Henryk Chrominski also decided that people should take advantage of the seldom-good “circumstances” and simply use his position once and for all to become wealthy. With the help of his wife, who had a flair for business, he opened a secret mediation office. The oppressed ghetto Jews would bring him their clothing, linens, jewelry, and furs, which they would trade for groschen.

At the liquidation of the ghetto, he would get Aryan papers for those who could pay him well. He also dealt in hiding places. He created a hiding place for Mrs. Yehudis Greenberg and her daughter, for the Kleinman family, and for others.

The poor teacher made a fortune. After the liberation, he bought up many houses that had belonged to Jews, including the house of Mendel Cohen.

[Page 191]

The well-known Siedlce merchant of electrical accessories, Leonard Oskerka, always maintained that being an antisemite was a key to business—and he always stood by his slogan of “What's yours is yours” [i.e., one should patronize one's own people]. With the arrival of the Germans—as Moyshe Halberstam tells it—he reached new heights and he created terrible troubles for Jews at every opportunity, cursing and beating them, saying “Now my time has come. This is the end for you Jews.”

Even wilder and more brutal was his son. He betrayed Jews to the Gestapo and the Sonderdienst with whom he was friendly, and he was responsible for the deaths of many Jews. He often cam to the ghetto with the Germans to help them. He ceaselessly embittered the lives of the Jews in whatever ways he could.

After the liberation he was seized by a Polish court martial and at his trial he had to give an accounting of his deeds. His mother, however, utilized various protections and interventions until her brat was released—he was afraid to remain in Siedlce and went to Bratislava. There he resumed the wild actions to which he had become accustomed in the years of “good conditions.” He committed acts of robbery and murder until the Polish government condemned him to death.

* * *

Sarah Yom-Tov Halberstam, before she entered the ghetto, left her best clothing with a Polish family that she knew, the Mazurs. At the beginning of 1943, when she had to leave Siedlce, she sent a messenger to the Mazurs and asked for her clothing, to which the Mazurs replied that they had no idea what she was talking about. No one had given them clothing. And when, one dark night, Mrs. Halberstam came to the Mazurs for her clothing, no one would even open the door or let her into the house. They warned her that if she did not leave, they would call the Gestapo. Right after the liberation, fearing the consequences of their actions, the Mazurs returned the clothing.

* * *

Most of the Gentiles who helped Jews did so for the high prices that Jews paid them for help or for other

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self-interested reasons. Many Jews who gave away their possession to Gentiles for safekeeping were turned out into the hellish streets (if they were not simply killed) after their goods were taken, because the Gentiles knew that the Jews did not matter and were not protected by the law.

* * *

My brothers Shlomo and David made a deal with Christian whom they knew, who lived int he woods, that he would hide them for a high price. After being with him for several days, he took their possessions and threw them out.

* * *

The brothers Raphael and Moyshe Kishelinski paid a Gentile in the village of Astrawek, near Siedlce, four thousand zlotys a month to allow them to make an underground bunker in his field. That was the equivalent of 800 dollars a month.

* * *

Moyshe Rotbein, Tsirl Kaplan and others had to sign over their houses, aside from the large amounts of money they paid the Gentiles for protection.

* * *

And when the fifteen-year-old Idsze L. found her way to her father's Christian acquaintance Kardowski and asked for help in hiding, he cynically agreed to do so for a price—that she should give herself to him.

* * *

Yisroel Orlanczik, who was hidden by the prosperous Wotaszewicz (near Siedlce) went to a neighboring village, Chlewisk, to see his wife, who was hiding there. He was noticed by Gentiles whom he knew. They informed the police, who surrounded the house where he was hiding. Orlanczik was dragged out and shot.

Before that, Orlanczik had left his five-year-old child with Christians whom he knew. The Christian himself killed the child.

* * *

Yosef Kesselbrenner, who went around disguised as a Christian in various villages, as a shepherd, as a tinsmith, as a carpenter, as a miller, as a janitor, came to the village of Faganow (in the Lukow area). He arrived a half hour after two gentiles from the village,

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Mircah Krasicki and his partner in killing Jews, Witkowski, had murdered his 20-year-old grandson Alter Zakalik.

Witkowski bragged to Kesselbrenner the “Christian,” who had to control his feelings over the death of his grandson, that this was the eighth Jew that he had killed with his own hands (as he showed him his bloody hands).

* * *

Yosef Zubrowicz tells: In the village of Kszimos, two families from Siedlce were hiding with a farmer: the Finkelsteins and the Konopnes, altogether eleven people. The farmer Wachowicz found out about this and went to get the Germans and showed them the hiding place. The Germans shot the Jews.

* * *

Young Asher Warszawski from Mord fought from under the German oppression and ran away, but Gentiles pursued him for several kilometers until they caught him and brought him to the Germans.

* * *

Kuba Ellberg says: The Pole Radzikowski Kaszimiesz, who lived outside of Siedlce had lured to himself Jews who had fled from the slaughters and from the death trains. He made empty promises of providing hiding places. When Radzikowski had enticed 40 Jews, he turned them over to the gendarmes, who killed the unfortunate Jews.

* * *

Natke Levin-Kutin tells us:

Her sister, Felle Levin-Adler (daughter of Yehoshua Levin) and her four-year0old child Chanale were hiding in a stable in the village of Mircha. Once, her husband Henpeck came to her. Gentiles saw their hiding place and informed the village magistrate. This resulted in a wild pursuit by many peasants with scythes and axes. They dragged their unfortunate victims frothier hiding place, put guards over them, and sent a messenger to the police in Skurszec with the news that they had captured three Jews. The police took the three victims to Siedlce, to the Gestapo, where they were shot.

* * *

In October of 1942, Felek Goldberg and Frimet Rotbard

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were working in Rolnik, They did not go to the small ghetto to sleep but to a Christian whom they new in Siedlce, Sztszor at 10 Loti Street. The owner of the house, Glusztszak, found out about this and and he informed the Gestapo, who came at midnight, dragged the victims to the Sports Plaza and shot them.

Sztszor and his wife were arrested for hiding Jews. He was shot and his wife was sent to a concentration camp.

* * *

Chantshe Dvash-Miedziinski from the village of Plifk near Siedlce recounts:

Her father Mottel Dvash was for a time hidden by a farmer he knew in the village of Plifk. After a certain time the farmer threw him out. He roamed through the fields with nowhere to go. Eventually he went to another farmer whom he knew where his daughter and her child were hiding and he begged to be hidden—or at least to be allowed to stay for a bit with his daughter and her child. The farmer, the murderous Tadeusz Orszelowski, killed Dvash with an axe, took his body into the woods and buried it.

* * *

Four young children—Shmilke, Yossele, Shyele, and the little girl Peshke Dvash—were hidden in a stable at the farmer Tadeusz Rumkominski in the same village. One day the farmer went to the police and told them that four Jews were there and asked them to come and kill them. When the police, who knew them, refused to do so, the farmer went off to the Germans and told them. The Germans then ordered the police to go and shoot the four children. When the police arrived, they told the children to flee and then shot them from behind. The farmer buried the children nearby.

* * *

The two brothers Shmuel and Simon Dvash from Siedlce, who found themselves in a village, were seized by the murderous farmer Franzishek Korpus, who forced them into his stable where he struck them in the head with an axe.

Two women—a mother and a daughter, both from the Dvash family—sought a hiding place in a haystack in a field. They were noticed by two farmers, Czibulski and Kszimosik, who killed the unfortunate women.

* * *

Twelve Jews lived in the village of Plifk. They were all
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killed by local murderous farmers whom they knew.

* * *

In the same village there were several other Jews hiding in different spots, among them a woman, Manya, with her child Sevik from Warsaw, a young woman Chnshe from Nashelsk, a young man from Siedlce who had just eaten in the village restaurant. The local farmers went after them—then brought them into a barn and killed them with axes..

* * *

Shimon Shanshein, who survived in the woods around Sarnak, near the Bug, tells: The farmer Jan Grigorczik in the village of Floskow near Sarnak hid nine Jews, for a high fee. The hiding place was in the farmer's house in a cave under the floor. On January 20, 1943, after the Jews had been hidden there for three months, the farmer opened the cave and in a horrible manner killed the unfortunate Jews. The Farmer poured boiling water that he had prepared over the Jews in the cave. Those who had remained alive after the horrifying executions he ended with blows of an iron bar to the head. One of the victims—Eliyahu from Loszic—who was scalded, fought back against the murderous farmer. He went to the village magistrate and begged to be taken to the gendarmes. You must understand that the magistrate obliged him. At the gendarmerie, Eliyahu told them about the horrifying slaughter by the farmer in the cave. The gendarmes made an inspection at the farmer's and and found weapons. For that infraction (and not for killing eight Jews), they arrested and executed him.

* * *

At the same time a second farmer in the same village, Teodor, observed what his murderous neighbor Grigorczik had done and he killed several Jews who were hiding out with him. People found a chopped off woman's head and recognized her as a young woman from Sarnak—Dvorah Zilberstein. There was also the body of Aaron Shvartzbard from Blashki.

* * *

Sarah Yom-Tov Halberstam recalls that to the Krinskis in a village between Siedlce and Mord, at the time of the liquidation of the ghetto

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there came a Jewish woman, a seamstress from Mord. They hid and supported her while she made all kinds of clothing for the whole family. When the woman completed her work, they tied her up, took her into the city and handed her over tot he gendarmes, who immediately shot her.

* * *

After the liberation, there occurred in the Siedlce courts a trial for the Wengrow firemen with their leader Eichler—for their bloody actions. There were no Christian witnesses—the Gentiles feared retribution if they testified against their neighbors. Of Jewish witnesses there were almost none. They had all been killed. Only one Jewish witness, M.M. Gora, was at the trial. He related the deeds of the firemen. The court acknowledged their guilt and the leader of the firemen was sentenced to eight years in jail and his helpers to two years.

* * *

In the numerous trials of Polish murderers that occurred after the liberation, people learned the dreadful details about the murderers. Thus did people learn that in a village between Siedlce and Lukow, several Jews were in hiding with a 70-year-old farmer. During a winter night, the old farmer and his son used scythes and axes and to kill the group of Jews. While they were burying the bodies, they realized that according to their count, one Jew who had been in hiding was missing. The murderers searched around in the snow and found footsteps and drops of blood. It was clear to them that the footsteps and the drops of blood were evidence that the Jew was still alive and was fleeing. The old farmer followed the footsteps and the drops of blood in the middle of the night. They led to a farmer in another village. He went there and demanded that they return “his” Jew, and when the farmer refused to hand over the Jew, the old killer threatened to go to the Germans. This was effective and the Jew found himself again in the murderous hands of the old killer, who took the Jew into a field and killed him.

People learned of this bloody killing later on, when the second farmer, from whom the unfortunate Jew had sought sanctuary, told the story. The old murderer and his son were

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put on trial in the Siedlce court. At the trial, the farmer-witness—fearing vengeance—withdrew his testimony and the killers were acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

* * *

Yontl Goldman tells:

Farmers in the villages were stubbornly silent and would not reveal where in their fields or courtyards Jews who were killed by Poles were buried. They feared that they would have to be witnesses against their neighbors. But they willingly revealed the places where Jews killed by the German murderers lay buried.

* * *

A horribly bloody chapter concerned the participation of the “grenadiers” and their prominent contribution to the extermination of the Jews. Armed with their ancient, deeply instilled hatred for Jews and having the extraordinary opportunity openly to kill and to steal, they left nothing to chance either in their destructive activities either in the whole of Poland or in our destroyed home. They did all this voluntarily and on their own initiative. They showed great industriousness in the days of liquidation by surrounding the ghetto and ensuring that no Jew could escape. They actively cooperated at the Umschlagplatz, at transporting victims to Treblinka, and, like bloodhounds, going into the city after the liquidation, as well as into the villages, the fields, and the woods, seeking Jews in hiding and killing them.

All of the surviving Jews know and can relate how the bloody hands of the “grenadiers” killed more hidden Jews than even the German murderers did.

* * *

David Listik, who at first was hidden in the area of Braszkow, says: When the transport of Jews from Kalusz on the way to Treblinka went through the station in Braszkow, a young man jumped from the train. In jumping, he injured himself severely and remained lying by the train tracks in pain. He could not get away. His groans, like an evil wonder, attracted a group of Gentiles. He begged for someone to help him get away from the train line, to which they responded with wild laughter. Instead,

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they found someone to go to the police. The remaining Gentiles meanwhile tore off his clothes. When the police arrived, they found him naked. They shot him.

* * *

The same police in Braszkow shot Yisroel Orlanczik, who was betrayed by Gentiles whom he knew when he went near the village of Chlewisk to see his wife—the police surrounded the house where Orlanczik was hiding, pulled him outside and shot him.

* * *

People tell: In the village of Stak-Lanci, during the winter at the end of 1942, there was a pretty young woman, Leah. A Russian partisan, Shura, took pity on her and hid her in nearby woods. He took her to himself and hid her in his own hiding place in the woods. A Polish policeman learned about this. He searched for the young woman and shot her.

* * *

Forty-two Jews who were hiding in Kotun were discovered by the police agent Marciszewski. He blackmailed them for three months, took everything they had, and in the end he sent in five policemen who killed nineteen of them.

Six of the survivors, the Kiselinski family, while they were hiding in a pit in the village of Ostowek, were fallen upon by Polish police, who killed two women and a child.

* * *

When Moyshe Mendel Gora and his two sisters were sleeping in a hiding place in an attic in a barn, they were set upon by Polish police. The police arrested them and prepared a grave for their victims, who were due to be shot. Through an astounding chance they escaped by digging under the village's prison cell and ran away.

* * *

One cold, wet winter day, when hunger and cold drove out from their hiding place two unfortunate young people, half-naked children on whom the village farmers had taken pity, given them a bit of food, they were seen by the local murderous police commander Moshkowicz, who followed them for three kilometers through snow and water, shot at them

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many times, the killer did not stop until the unfortunate children fell dead.

* * *

Getzl Vaysberg from Sarnak in his testimony before the tribunal in Munich said:

Jumping out from the death train that took the last transport of Jews from Siedlce to Treblinka, he met up with his cousin Noson Goldbert and his friend Gedalyahu Moncorsz by the train plant. They had also jumped from the train. They stayed together and went to their home town of Sarnak seeking a hiding place from farmers whom they knew. When Noson Goldberg went to one farmer asking for a bit of bread, other farmers saw him. They informed on him to there Polish police. When they found him, he began to run. They pursued him and shot him.

Gedalyahu Moncorsz went to a second farmer, who told him to come alone, without other Jews, and he would find a hiding place for him. After the liberation, people learned that for about two months he lay in a potato pit. Other farmers saw him and informed on him to the Polish police. The police found him half dead, with frozen hands and feet, and they shot him.

Because n o farmer that I knew was willing to take me in—continued Vaysberg—I went to the fields. I arrived at a barn, where I heard a quiet voice. I stood still and was shocked at what I heard. It was Yiddish. I knocked and begged to be let in. They opened up for me. I was with them for several days. But the farmers learned about us and told the Gestapo. At noon the police attacked us. They ordered us out of the barn. We were hiding in the straw. They began to tear off the doors and to shoot at us. In great despair I opened a door and began to run. They shot after me with different kinds of guns—but they did not hit me. When the other six fellows saw that I was escaping, they left the barn. Running through fields, three of them were shot. One fell wounded and a Polish policeman beat him with a club. Two of the six continued to run. Two days later, one

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of the six was shot. The other was with me in the woods. On November 15, 1942, he was also shot in an attack.

For four months I hid in a pit that I made in the stable of a farmer I knew. On March 21, 1943 I went into the woods. There I encountered 25 Jews and we were together. On May 25, 1943, Polish police attacked us in the woods. Six Jdws from Sarnak were shot: Gavriel Zucker, 33; Shmuel Chibowski, 27; Markl Rosenberg, 18; Moyshe Rudzki, 35; Yitzchak Wladower, 18; and Velvel Wladower, 22.

At the time of an attack by the Gestapo and the Polish police on November 15, 1943, three more men were killed: Yidel Chibowski, 29; Hershel Chibowski, 20; and Ezriel Moncarsz, 22.

When the day of liberation arrived for Siedlce and its surroundings—July 30, 1944—the liberation affected only a small number of JewsThey had been murdered by German and home-grown murderers, mostly by Polish police.

* * *

Lilka Lautenberg recounts:

In the village off Zakszwuek, where she was living with her husband and father as “Aryans,” a rich innkeeper saw how his neighbor, a poor innkeeper, had begun to dress better and was leading a better life. He began to observe him with curiosity and he noticed that in the middle of the night he messed with the ground outside of his house, dug in it and then covered it up.

The rich farmer informed the police about this. The police came, conducted a search and brought the farmer in for an interrogation. The farmer, without much thought, explained the matter:

One time a man came to him and asked to spend the night and get some food, so he complied. At night, he saw how the stranger went away to a corner to say prayers, just as Jews do. Then he understood that the stranger was a Jew. Later, when the stranger was sleeping, the farmer took an axe and cut off his head. He found that the stranger had some pieces of gold,

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a little money, and other valuables that he took and used to better his material condition.

He buried the Jew near his house. The police shook his hand in appreciation of his being a good and brave patriot and asked him to prepare a meal. They went to the village magistrate and then had the meal with brandy and other dishes.

As they became more inebriated, one of the police asked the magistrate to sell him the beautiful rug that was hanging on the wall. He would pay whatever was asked, but when the magistrate refused the offer, the drunken policeman tore the rug off the wall and thereby revealed a secret door that the rug had covered. The police went through the door and, to everyone's surprise, brought out six Jews, who were hiding behind a double wall.

Everyone suddenly sobered up. The police forgot about the rug. The unfortunate Jews were led out to courtyard and under the observation of many peasants who had been drawn to this spectacle, the police shot the six Jews.

* * *

In a nearby village, where the Lautenbergs were hiding, a farmer was hiding several Jews. The farmer had thereby gotten a lot of money. After the farmer had used the money to buy a horse, a cow, a farm machine, and so on, he went to the police and confessed to them that his material condition had been bad and he wanted to better it. Just then the Zhids came to him and paid him well, so he took them in. Now he was delivering them into the hands of justice.

This farmer also received congratulations from the police, who shot the unfortunate Jews.

* * *

Out of the large number fo Polish police who were “active” in the city at that time, almost all were active participants in the extermination of the Jews. They sought to distinguish themselves by killing more Jews.

On August 22, the day of the mass slaughter, at the Umschlagplatz

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Soszniak, a policeman, spent the whole day shooting at the crowded mass of Jews. When his hours were up, he boasted to a second policeman who had come to replace him: Today I killed a hundred Zhids. Now show what you can do.”

* * *

And when the policeman Jankowski saw that in Gensze-Barky that the end of the Jews was near, he called out Avraham Bressler, the assistant commander of the Jewish police, and shot him.

But they, the bloody police murderers, no one judged. They took care that no witnesses to their bloody deeds remained. No one could call them to justice and they remained the guardians of law and order.

The sacred “idea” of killing and robbing Jews also possessed the partisans—Poles and Russians who went to the woods and the underground so that they could from their hiding places assault their common enemy. Many of them forgot their primary purpose and made deals with the A.K. and with other murderous groups or they took it upon themselves to take the light and at that time popular way of killing Jews. Russian partisans who lived in the Polish woods and in the villages forgot, in that poisonous atmosphere of the Nazi epoch, the Soviet teaching about the brotherhood of all that had been drummed into their heads for three decades, and they renewed the old motto of czarist Russia, “Get the Jews.”

Yontl Goldman tells us: The village of Gola-Piaski, a group of Jews hid. Polish and Russian partisans in the area found out about it. The partisans set fire to the house where the Jews were. As they ran from the fire, five Jews were shot by the partisans. Some were burned, and two Jews were forced to run. The local farmers buried the Jews who had been who had been shot and burned. Several days later, Polish police came from Mord. Together with the local farmers, they dug up the corpses, ripped out their golden teeth, took their clothing and shoes, and reburied them.

In the forest of Mord there was a Russian partisan named “Franek,” whose murderous deeds caused terror in the whole area. He would seek out hidden Jews, then kill and rob them.

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Sarah Yom-Tov Halberstam knew a young man from Warsaw who had jumped from the death train on the way to Treblinka. He hid in the woods around Mord. All of a sudden, his dead body was found, naked and barefoot. His clothes and boots were being worn by the murderous partisan “Franek.”

* * *

The Gentiles from the villages around the train lines leading to Treblinka distinguished themselves with special ferocity, bloodthirstiness, and greed.

From the transports that rushed with such speed, taking the victims to the death factory, many showed courage and tore off the doors, broke the iron bars on the small windows, or made other kinds of openings in the death wagons and then jumped from their blind fate. But there, by the train lines from Siedlce to Treblinka, waited, lurking like hunting dogs, were camps of bloodthirsty and robbery minded peasants who, with extraordinary wildness and ferocity, through themselves upon their unfortunate victims, whom they murdered and robbed.

We hear much about them from the small number of people who jumped and by some miracle were saved from the murderous onslaught and survived, such as: Melech Halber, Leib Mandelbaum and his wife Itta, Sheyna Sarah Goldfinger, Getzel Vaisberg, and others.

As they tell it, the area around the train lines resembled a slaughter house for people, littered with corpses swimming in blood, twisted in the agony of death. Around them, working feverishly, were groups of human beasts, pawing, seeking, cutting, ripping off clothing and shoes, pulling gold teeth out of dead and half-dead mouths, and throwing themselves on a still living victim who had been hiding amid the dead. One threw himself quickly on the victim with an axe, clearing the way for another killer who wanted to get his hands on the clothing. Having finished, they moved on to another victim, then to another, and on and on.

Others stationed themselves in fields, under bushes or trees, and awaited their prey who had escaped from the first batch of kiilers, from those who lurked by the rail lines, and who managed to run further and further away from that road to hell, only to find death.

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There were others who did their work more quietly. They led their victims away from the slaughterhouse, from the rail lines: they led them home to their villages, where they promised them a place to hide, seeking to gain the trust of their victims. Then they led them into a part of the forest or just a field and there ended their lives.

Then there were others who used horses and wagons for their murderous and thieving purposes, as was the case with Melech Halber. His farmer, for a good price, took him almost to Siedlce, where Halber wanted to join his brother in hiding. The farmer took roads that he did not know. In the woods near the Liwiec River, the farmer and his son, whom he had brought along for assistance, attacked him with an iron bar. Only through extraordinary luck was Halber able to escape from the killers.

Many, very many, darted to jump from the rushing transports, from the death wagons, and escaped from the clutches of the Germans and Ukrainians, escaping from the road to the gas chambers. But they fell into the clutches of the homegrown murderers and thieves on the roads around Treblinka, who waited and threw themselves upon their victims and treated with equal ferocity as had their German and Ukrainian exemplars.

Few survived to tell of the bloody deeds of these homegrown thieves and murderers who terrorized the roads that led to Treblinka.

* * *

In this “sacred” work of helping to exterminate Jews, women, young people, and children also played a role, if not directly with their own hands, then by betraying Jews to the Germans or to the police.

* * *

And as the young Kleiman (Baruch Mordechai's son was forced to move from one hiding place to another, he was recognized by a woman on Florianski Street. She informed the police and showed them his hiding place. They seized him along with the six-year-old Liverant child and hanged both of them.

* * *

In February of 1943, when Sarah Yom-Tov Halberstadt was hiding

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at Mrs. Wohlgemit's, she told her that in a store where she was recently, a young man came in to buy something. A young Gentile who was in the store recognized the young man as a Jew. He quickly called a policeman, who took the young man out, stood him against a wall, and shot him.

It appears that that young man was from a group of slave laborers who were allowed to live. They worked for the trains and were not allowed to leave their workplace or the barracks where they were stationed.

* * *

Mrs. Sarah Karcz-Charnobroda with her son managed to escape from the Umschlagplatz and went to the former servant in Raskasza (outside the city). They spent the night there, and early in the morning the servant's mother arrived. She threw them out. She would not allow them to stay until the evening, as they requested.

In the street they were besieged by Polish children who ran after them yelling, “Zhid, Zhid.” The children left them and went to find Germans to inform them about the two victims. They were saved by chance when the Polish policeman Jurek happened to come by and arrest them, Mrs. Karcz and her son.

She begged him to let her go, and she offered him money, to which the policeman responded, “Come with me to the police station. Nothing will happen to you.” Truly they had no confidence in the police, but they had no choice and had to go with him. He locked them in a cell, but that night he let them go free.

* * *

On a hot summer day, when Yontel Goldman emerged from his underground bunker to get a bit of air and stretch with a short walk, he encountered a group of young toughs. They followed him like shadows, going after him with shouts of “Zhid, Zhid.” These young people who had been poisoned with antisemitism were ready to find a German and turn their victim over to him. Goldman, who was ready to die, saw from a distance, on Pienkne Street, a German. He went up to him and started talking. The children saw this and left him—a Jew, they thought, would not go up and speak to a German. Goldman was thus spared from certain death.

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Even priests—the preachers of goodness and love for neighbors—were also (not all of them, of course) caught up in the wild pursuit of Jewish lives.

Dvorah Tuchnitz and her child to whom she gave birth in the Mariansk hospital after the liquidation of the ghetto in Siedlce was killed thanks to a priest who had come to the hospital and saw that she was a Jewish woman. The holy father informed on her to the police.

* * *

Fourteen-year-old Dvorahle from Mezritch, who through some miracle escaped from the mass killing in her city, went from village to village and finally found a resting place in a village restaurant, where she worked as a server. The local priest subjected her to an interrogation to see whether she was a Christian girl, as she had claimed. When he determined that she was Jewish, the holy father became angry at her deception and ordered the owners to turn the poor girl out of their house.

* * *

The Jewish tragedy also served as an entertainment:

In December, 1942, when Sarah Yom-Tov Halbrstadt was in a village near Mord with the Naszilowskis, who thought she was a Christian, a bedraggled Jew who had jumped from the last transport to Treblinka showed up and asked for a drink of water. The Naszilowskis drove him away and chided: “Get away, Zhid. You want the Bolsheviks to come. Go to hell, to the Bolsheviks.” The Jew searched in his pockets and pulled out his last possession—a little box of shoe polish—and asked for a little water in exchange. The transaction was made. When the Jew left, after drinking his water, the Naszilowskis immediately released from their chains their fierce dogs and set them upon the unfortunate Jew. While the dogs tore his clothing and bit him and bloodied him while he wrestled with them, the Naszilowskis stood by the window and fully enjoyed the fine spectacle.

* * *

There often came “comedians” who supported themselves , mainly by mocking the way the Jews grimaced and shrieked when they were being tortured by the Germans. In such a way, one Christian

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depicted how after the war, all the Jews from the entire world would go on foot to Treblinka, take a bit of dirt inter hands, kiss it and say, “Oy vey, this is my father this is my grandfather, my grandmother.” He demonstrated how the Jews would do this, and everyone got a kick out of it.

Among the peasantry who stood around talking, there was one who was regarded in the village as a wise, “cultured” person—he read newspapers and loved to talk about two things: politics and Jews. As he maintained that there should be a Bolshevik Poland, he considered himself a communist—only without Jews—he solemnly maintained. “We have enough of them.”

Another time, the conversation was directed by a young Christian student who was there on a visit. Believing that Sarah was a Christian, he spoke freely and openly, maintaining that the Poles should long ago have made an end to the Jews. Enough with them! “But we Poles, as Christians, with Christian feelings in our hearts, would not allow ourselves to do so. But,” he concluded, “we should be happy that the Germans have done the job for us. We Poles should always be grateful to Hitler.”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

* * *

Both before and after the liberation, large camps of robbery-inclined peasants from the area around Treblinka and on the roads leading there abandoned their home duties and their work in the fields and devoted their time to the most profitable labor at that time—digging cup dead Jews on whom could be found gold or other valuables. For a long time this was the chief occupation of whole villages of peasant vandals.

Yontl Goldman, who, after the liberation, took on the obligation of exhuming widely scattered corpses from the fields, roads, and woods and bringing them to Jewish cemeteries, tells us that in many cases there were indications that the dead in their graves had already been sought after, with their teeth ripped out, fingers hacked off for rings, clothes and shoes taken, and women's hair cut off.

Even in 1946, when we came to the desecrated cemeteries, we encountered open and dug up graves

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of the Germans' victims, all the work of local vandals who sought the money and the valuables of dead Jews.

* * *

With the approach of the Red army, rumors flew around that the Jews would take vengeance on the Poles, who helped in the killing and who themselves did the killing of Jews. Thus the bloody rampage against the hidden Jews grew stronger—in order to eliminate any hint of living witnesses.

* * *

Yontl Goldman and other survivors relate: In a village between Siedlce and Loszic, a farmer hid two Jews. A few days before the arrival of the Russian army, the farmer fooled the Jews into going to the woods, saying that he had prepared for them a better hiding place. He took one of the Jews first, then the other, and one by one he killed them.

After the liberation, when the farmer quarreled with a relative, the relative went to the police and informed them about the terrible murders. The police arrested the murderous farmer, but inexplicably the farmer was allowed to escape and disappear.

* * *

On May 29, 1944, local bandits drowned in the Liwiec River three children wo had been in hiding with the farmer Lirka Dmowski.

* * *

Moyshe Ratbein tells: In the last weeks before the liberation, he, along with the other inhabitants of his bunker, noticed that the farmer who was hiding them was “making preparations.” They saw this in all of his actions, felt it in all of his words, in the fire of his eyes. They expected every minute that he would arrive with an axe or a scythe and all would be over—therefore they, the partners in the bunker, who had no more money, gave the farmer written assurances that they would give him their homes. That worked, and the farmer calmed down.

* * *

Slowly the days passed for the small number of surviving Jews. They awaited the dreamed for day of liberation.

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No more of the wild German beasts!

They emerged, the skeleton-Jews, from the dark underground bunkers, from the damp, stinking cellars, pits, and holes. They emerged lamenting the destruction, the tragically cut-off lives of those near to them and their own loneliness and orphanhood.

They wander around in the cities and villages, the few living shadows, dried-up skeletons with yellowed faces that betray years of hunger and pain, young men with gray hair, old before their time, with dull, half-blind eyes that for years saw no gleam of light. They seek the hidden graves of their dearest ones. They wander around like in a world of confusion between dream and reality. They have no homes to go to. Their homes are ruined, burned, and if there is anything left—it is now occupied by thieving Gentiles. There is nowhere for them to go. The air is suffocating, poisoned from the stench that the Nazi angel of death left behind. It is hard to breathe. It constrains the soul, desolate on the ground, where they where they encounter cold, hostile looks of mockery and contempt, of hate and ridicule, and in the best case of pity and sympathy in ways that disgust and disturb as much as the hatred and ridicule.

They search, these lonely shadows, these solitary survivors of whole families. A communal fate of loneliness and sadness, all equally tormented and crushed, brings them together in a single place that some Christian has provided so that in collective sorrow they can bemoan the destruction and their own fates.

But these survivors see something, something distinct, in the eyes of those who still desire a “Poland without Jews” and who can in no way make peace with the thought that after all that has happened there still remain “so many Jews,” from whom they need to be free. And since they would be free of Jews, they know well the homegrown killers. They saw not long ago and learned from their ideological friends—the Germans and Ukrainians—and too they attack these surviving Jews and they kill them with no less frenzy and terror than did their German and Ukrainian teachers.

There is variety in the murderers of the surviving homeless Jews. Sometimes they are solitary practitioners of theft and murder, which has been their profession for many years. Sometimes they form nameless bands dedicated to the “sacred

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task” of robbing and killing Jews, which brings them together and unites them. But most are groups with nationalistic and “ideological” coloring, remnants of the half-defeated fascist militia who now call themselves by such resounding names as the A.K. (Domestic Army) and N.S.Z. (National Armed Force).

Formerly they had been corroded, these demoralized bands of helplessness against the powerful German enemy. Now they were corroded by the that Poland was freed thanks to the victorious Red army, by the hated Bolsheviks. They took out their sacred regrets on the last remaining Jews. They attacked at night and in the light of day. They attacked in the homes and in the hiding places, in the cities and in the villages, on the roads and on the trains. Anywhere that they could find a wandering, surviving Jew, they lusted after his life and killed him. There was a saying: “To kill the few Jews that Hitler did not kill will free Poland of Jews once and for all…” So ordered the Polish pro-fascist government in London, and so ordered their own rotten consciences.

David Lustik, Shimon Shanschein, and many others who came in contact with Poles at that time read the order from the government in London that was published in the underground press and spread among the Poles and the few surviving Jews. A large portions f the Polish population took this order to heart and followed it eagerly

* * *

Eli Gaszelinski, who survived for nearly two years in the woods with a group of partisans, tells much about the problems that his group and other Jews had in withstanding the bloody deeds of the A.K. who rampaged through the villages, fields, and woods around Siedlce. He gives the impression hat their sole activity was to search for hidden Jews, to rob them and to kill them. They did so through the whole period, but they did so most fervently in the last days before the arrival of the Red army and after the liberation.

* * *

After the liberation—March 10, 1945—seven Jews

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Who were preparing to go to Lodz were killed.

* * *

At that time in Mord, eight Jews, worn out after their liberation from their hiding place in bunkers, paused for a rest. As they prepared to move on, they were attacked by the A.K. and all were killed.

Those killed were the brothers Avraham and Shimon Garbarsz, Mrs. Furman, two young women from the village of Czelemin, a woman from Warsaw, and two Jews from Mord.

* * *

Shiimon Shanschein tells:

Yehoshua Kalan from Sarnak survived in the woods, having gone through all seven levels of Gehenna as a hidden Jew in the bloody era of Hitler. Nine months after the liberation, while he was at home asleep in his bed, in the middle of the day, he was attacked by people from the A.K., who shot him.

On the same day, Polish killers dragged out from his home the 23-year-old Shepsel Kleidermacher, who also had survived in the woods. They took him to fields outside the shtetl and, after torturing him, buried him alive.

* * *

Nineteen-year-old Yisroel Shulmeister, who worked for the police, was sent to a village near Sarnak. He was killed by A.K. men on the way.

A Russian military unit went to the village after the killers. A battle broke out between them and the A.K. and seventeen soldiers were killed.

* * *

Eli Gaszelinski and Yosef Zubowicz relate that in the village of Kszimus near Siedlce there were seven Jews after the liberation. They had survived in the local woods. The A.K. attacked and killed them.

* * *

Two women from Kolibiel, Rude Granatower and her daughter Feiga, survived in a hiding place with a farmer in the village of Glupianka. When they emerged after the liberation and went to their own home-on the first night they were attacked and murdered by locals.

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Henech Chanalewicz, who survived by hiding with the landowner Witaszewicz on his estate Shiano, came outside freely after the defeat of the Germans. He was murdered by farmers he knew in the village.

* * *

Kalman Oszel, who escaped by jumping from the Treblinka death train that had left from Gensza Barki, dragged himself with his last strength to the village of Pruszin to his teacher from the gymnasium. The Christian professor remembered him well as as his best student. He sent him to another Christian whom he knew, where he hid for a long time and—survived. After the liberation, he moved back to his own apartment at 38 Aslonowicz. He married Rusza Szubrowicz and he worked as a secretary in the police department. Once—on February 2, 1945—as he was returning from work at around 5 in the evening along with his friend, the prosecutor Fimek, he was near his home, near his bedroom window, there were three rapid shots. His wife, who had heard her husband's cry of “Oy,” quickly came out to the street and, seeing him lying on the ground, she took him immediately to the hospital, where he breathed his last. His last words were for his wife, whom he left in difficult circumstances.

* * *

Mottel Orlanski had escaped through some miracle from Treblinka, where he stood with the rest of his community before the open doors of the gas chamber, ready to be forced inside. He went through all the tortures of Gehenna until the liberation. He came out of his wet underground bunker an ill and broken man. A year after the liberation, while he was traveling on a train, he was kidnapped by a band of Polish killers, who tortured him, and no one even knows where his bones are.

* * *

Yosef Vunderbaum from Radzin, a Jew of thirty-some years, was traveling three years after the liberation from Radzin to Siedlce. Near Lukow, several armed Poles came along looking for Jews. They took Vunderbaum off the train and shot him.

* * *

continued to run. Two days later, one
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At the same time, Mendel Steinberg from the village of Kreszlin, a police employee, was traveling outside the city with the Christian Sokolowski. They were attacked by an armed band who mistook Sokolwski for a Jew as well and shot both of them.

* * *

We have conveyed here only a selection of horrifying facts that speak to the bloody deeds of our neighbors in that time regarding the area of our destroyed home town, to their active participation in the extermination of Jews. We are more or less certain about the truth of these tragic stories, and they show how it is incumbent upon us to collect all such stories. The greatest portion of such horrifying stories have remained hidden, taken by the murdered victims into their unmarked graves.

We must never forget and always remember the few righteous Poles who rescued Jews—but we must not forget the greater majority of Polish murderers who killed Jews and helped in their extermination.

When people recall the bloody deeds of the Germans that destroyed our nearest ones, our community, and our people in Europe, they should not forget who their helpers were. Without their aid, the extermination would not have been so nearly total.

24. At the Graves of our Fathers

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Like a thriving, spreading forest, there stand before our eyes the many institutions and organizations, societies, and fellowships, philanthropic and cultural, financial and social-economic, medical and educational, political and religious that over the generations our tragically cut off community created in our once so beloved and now cold, strange, and ruined home town of Siedlce.

Those institutions and organizations formed a protective belt, a kind of armor, that the instinct for self-preservation called to life in order to defend the national, cultural and religious

[Page 214]

uniqueness, the social-economic positions that were constantly assaulted by the hostile voices of their surroundings.

Each one of these many organizations that we had in our destroyed home town, some to a greater extent and some to a lesser, had an important function. Each was loved, dear, and important. But there were some among them that had particularly deep roots and grew especially broad and tall, like some mother trees that tower over their smaller neighbors and grow deeper, wider, and higher with their won atmosphere, shade, and aroma.

Now not one of those beloved institutions remains. They were cut off along with those who created them and with those for whom they were created. Hardly any of them have left behind a embarrassed silent monument in the ring, or a surviving building where they were once located that now has brand new owners and new institutions. But most of them have left no trace. They were erased, wiped out in the chaos of destruction and will never exist again.

We should recall the most outstanding of the institutions on the day of remembering and give them the honor they deserve and visit the graves of the fathers of these now-gone offspring.


A. The Talmud Torah

As we leave the home of the former mikveh, later on the slaughterhouse, where so many of our unfortunate fellow citizens were killed, and which now serves as the poor lodging for the remnant of wandering souls and community organizations—our desolate thoughts are interrupted by joyful, ringing children's voices—a mixture of song, laughter, and dance, that comes out into the street through the open windows of the great Talmud Torah building that stands there in its wholeness, just as it did in earlier times.

For a moment our hearts tremble. We are captured by the childish happiness that comes from the Talmud Torah. It seems to be the singing of hundreds of young boys who once studied there. The

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Moyshes and the Shloymes, little Jews with pale faces, black eyes that remind us of days past, of little birds. They sing while they learn for Shavuos the strange, difficult vocabulary but well understood poem “Adams,” the sweetly beloved hymn in honor of the Torah that they study for the whole year, which states that “if all the heavens were parchment, all the woods pens, and all the seas ink, still we could not inscribe all of Your greatness.”

And then the voices change suddenly, take on a form full of rhythm and cadence, singing out in chorus the song that the congregation of Israel sings for its beloved, for the Holy Torah, in the springtime Peach Song of Songs, “in the poem that is the greatest of all poems, the poem that is the Holy of Holies, because it was sung by the sage son of a sage, by the prophet son of a prophet, by the king son of a king.”

And again there is a change in the chorus of hundreds of voices. They turn to a sweet, melancholy elegy, to a gnawing longing that runs through the blood, through the heart, and through the soul. A tune that comes from times past, from thousands of years ago, ancient but still inflaming the young hearts, lighting up their young eyes with sparkling fires as they all sway over their Chumashim and sing out together harmoniously: “And I, and I, although I am concerned with my burial, I did not do so to your mother Rachel when she died on the way to Padan Aram and I buried her along the way, as was the will of the Lord of the world, so that when Nebuzaradan sent the Jews into exile, she could leave her grave and weep before God over the fate of her children.”

But be silent! Who suddenly breaks into the sweet melody of the pale little children and throws into the midst of the fantastic choir such alien, strange tones? Whence comes such strange music in the sanctuary of the Torah? Instead of those dreamed-of boys, with pale, drawn faces, dark eyes and black hair, looking through the open windows of the Talmud Torah are playful girls, laughing, with round, rosy cheeks, blue eyes, blond hair, wearing white blouses, whispering mischievously. How did they get here? This is a place for studying Torah for young boys, and “All who study Torah, it is as if they study prayers. So what are these girls doing here?

Their playful laughter woke us from our sweet, beautiful dreams

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interrupting our thoughts of the long ago when from there emanated the Torah-inspired voices of hundreds of young boys, children of Jewish poverty, with their ringing voices filling the surrounding, darkening streets with their always penetrating, nostalgic melody that began at Mount Sinai.

The large sign in Polish in front of the entrance: “Trade School for Girls” tells us without doubt who the current owners are and who are now the students in the Talmud Torah, which for fifty years was a place dedicated to teaching the Torah to schoolchildren, created by the former Torah luminaries and donors in Siedlce: R. Yakov Dovid Korona, z”l, R. Shimon Greenberg, z”l, R. Berish Ekheizer, z”l, and other scholars, God-fearing and righteous, who believed that they were founding a building that would last forever.

I do not know if they wanted then and there such a visitor, but it was difficult to hold back. I went in. It was still “our” Talmud Torah.

In the hallway and on the steps, carefree girls were whizzing around. They came to the entrance, regarding me with amazement, as if I presented them with a puzzle. They themselves had seen all the Jews there on the Umschlagplaltz and also how they were later herded to the death trains to Treblinka. So did Jews get here? Perhaps they rose from the grave—the resurrection of the dead? I can read the questions in their puzzled eyes.

I enter a few classrooms. Yes, all is the same as it once was: the same walls, the same school benches, but no more Palle, black-eyed and black-haired eager little Jews. There are only blue-eyed and blond-haired mischievous, carefree girls.

Where are you, pale Jewish children with your dreamy, sparkling eyes? What bloodthirsty god or what terrible devil needs such young, innocent victims? For what sin? Whom did your sweet nostalgic melody harm, the melody you hummed as you immersed yourself in the passage about “two people who find a tallis” [a passage in the Talmudic tractate of Baba Mezia], about “an egg that was laid on a yom tov” [from the Tractate Beizah], or about “a woman becomes betrothed in three ways [from the tractate Kiddushin]? No one ever interrupted that melody, not Nebuzaradan and not Antiochus, not Titus and not Haman, but it was now interrupted by the last bloody oppressor—the Germans?

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For hundreds of years were you the object of heartfelt prayers from our religious fathers and grandfathers. They stretched out their hands to the heavens and pleaded, “Do it for the sake of our children,” “Do it for the sake of the innocent infants and children”—were all those prayers in vain? Dispersed like smoke, it is as if they had never existed.

A bell rings noisily. Girls run, jump, dance, sing with mischievous glee. A secretary comes. She looks like one of the older students. She asks how she can help me. I want to say to her: “I have come to see my little brothers who studied here,” but my tongue does not work.

Many blue-eyed looks are directed my way by the mischievous girls, but I see before me black-eyed boys with deeply thoughtful, pale faces—a song rings out, girls singing together “Rata,” but I hear the fervent, sad sound of hundreds of voices that sing together, “And mother Rachel will leave her grave and weep before God over the fate of her children…”


B. Ezras-Y'somim [The Orphan Home]

At 17 Dluga Street, in a poor apartment of two small rooms, lived the then famous teacher in the city Avraham Hersh Osina. Avraham Hersh was a great Jewish scholar and a greater Maskil. He knew Hebrew, Russian, Polish, German, knew the literature of these languages, and was so devoted to them that he spent on them his meagre earnings as a teacher. Although Avraham Hersh was an observant, careful Jew, sporting a beard and sidekicks, praying with two sets of tefillin, and guarding all 613 mitzvos, religious Jews would not support him, implying that he was a secret heretic, and they would not send their children to study with him.

Rather, the children who studied with him had more enlightened parents, partial and total maskilim who wanted their children to have a taste of secular education aside from Torah from the hidden mask Avraham Hersh Osina. Studying with him were: Paltiel, the son of R. Moyshe Abbe Eizenstat; Misha, the son of Shmerl Greenberg; Aaron, the son of Yakov Lerner; Dovid and Berl, the sons of Leibl Kanapna; Yakov, the son of Shimon Ridel; and others.

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At the teacher Avraham Hersh's lessons there was, in addition to several of his own children, a lonely, impoverished child, an orphan who was related to him. Because of the poverty of his guardian, he went around in torn clothing, nearly naked, barefoot, and hungry.

Avraham Hersh Osina's were very concerned about the fate of the poor lonely orphan who was in their rabbi's room. They shared with him the snacks that they brought to school, and the small pocket change that they received from their parents they collected in a little box and used it to buy clothing for the poor orphan.

This activity of the of Avraham Hersh Osina's students grew so much that they were able to help several other orphan children whom they knew suffered from hunger and need, and they provided meals for them and sometimes bought them clothing.

* * *

At that time, on a winter evening in 1903, when it was bitterly cold, there were visitors in the house of R. Zalman Greenfarb, guests of his sons Moses and David and his pretty daughters. The guests were their friends from the different schools they attended, such as: Shia Zilbergleyt, Vulf Tuchklaper, Minia Weintraub, Madzia Kahana, Liebe Zeidenzweig, Berl Mintz, Yechiel Greenberg, the Nietzwiedsz brother and sister, and others. They had gathered to play cards and other games, and to take turns reading from the latest literary works and to sing.

With their sentimental and poetic voices, David and Moses Greenfarb and their sisters sang this currently popular song:

It was snowing and raining
And running quickly down the street
I met a young girl
Who was half-dressed, half-barefoot in the street…
With her unshod feet
She pounded on the cobblestones
And though she was annoyed,
Her childish glance shimmered…
Having sung this, someone called out, “Today, in our terrible cold, I met such a child on the street. That child tramped through the snow with swollen, red, bare feet,

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and extended to passersby frozen, red hands, begins for a couple of groschen, for something to eat.”

“I, too,” someone else said,” several days ago encountered such a poor child, wrapped in rags, begging in the street. When I asked the child who he was and where were his father and mother, he became embarrassed, lowered his head, and whispered, 'I am an orphan. I have no father. I have no mother. I have no home.'”

Another said, “I think this is the time to do something for such unfortunate children who have been shamed and ignored by fate.”

The money that this group of young people had brought to play cards and other games was quickly collected and put into a chest as a fund to aid poor orphans.

* * *

At 22 Dluga Street, under a thatched roof in an attic of two rooms, there lived a poor workman—Reuven Blacharsz. He had agreed to give one of his rooms as a home for orphans whom people had brought together.

A delegation of the young people had gone to the Jewish community organization where they presented to the directors (Moyshe Temkin, Y. N. Weintraub, Hershel Shlipka) their plan to create a home for orphans, and there they received their first help. They bought several beds. Generous, more prosperous men and women from the city donated household items, some clothing, underwear, and food. They brought together twelve poor, deserted orphans who huddled in the study houses or slept in the streets. People washed and dressed them and thus was formed the “Ezras Y'somim,” the Home for Orphans.

From the very time it was established, the “Ezras Y'somim” was received sympathetically in the city. From the aforementioned people, with the aid of the young students from R. Avraham Hersh's school, leaders emerged who participated in this sacred philanthropic work. The circle of people

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who took an interest in the fate of these unfortunate children grew, and the Ezras Y'somim became one of the most important institutions in the city.

For several years the Ezras Y'somim was located in the poor apartment of Reuven Blacharsz.

The poor attic at 22 Dluga Street became too small. The number of children whom fate shamed by taking their parents increased. There was no place to take them. People therefore went to the community organization, which gave them two rooms under the rabbi's apartment that had previously served as the Beis-Din. The Ezras Y'somim moved there.

The Ezras Y'somim grew even larger in its new premises in the center of the city. The directors were joined by Alter Kaminski and Monish Ridel; residents of the city helped by establishing a monthly contribution. The Jewish community organization and the city administration gave stable subsidies, and the number of orphans continued to grow, so that the locale was too small. The directors had a big problem trying to find premises large enough to house all of the city's orphans.

To the rescue came the generous donor R. Fishl Frankel, z”l. He purchased a house on Shenkawicz Street (Ogradowa) as a home for orphans and the aged.

This house consisted of two smaller houses: one was designated as a home for the aged and the other for the orphans.

In these rooms of the house on Shenkawicz Street, the Ezras Y'somim again saw further development. There was surely more room for taking in lost orphans, whose number reached fifty. The personnel increased and teachers were engaged. The number of executives increased. Social events were organized, and again people saw that the premises were too small. The house was simply too small for such an institution.

In 1925, the directorate, along with an ad hoc building committee, proceeded to build on the site of the smaller house that had been donated by R. Fishl Frankel, z”l, a large, modern building that would be designed for the needs of the institution.,

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These city dignitaries belonged to the building committee: Yitzchak-Nachum Weintraub, Asher Orszel, Yisroel Gutgold, Velvel Barg, Dovid Rubinstein, Ephraim Zelnick, Alter Kaminski, Bunim Rottenberg, Hershel Rosengarten, and—for many years—Monish Ridel.

The work of building began with great excitement. Hundreds of observers came to the ceremony of laying the first stones. With open hands, the Jews of Siedlce brought their contributions for this magnificent building that they believed would last forever, an eternal home for unfortunate orphans.

They built a beautiful modern two-story building with all the modern conveniences, large bright rooms with a beautiful hall where musical evenings, theatrical performances, literary evenings, party gatherings, lectures, and other events could be held. Thanks to the “Poland for Poles” atmosphere, such events could not be held elsewhere in the city. Many hundreds of Jews came to the dedication of the building. They rejoiced in this great accomplishment of the institution and generally donated beds, bedclothes, underwear, and other necessities for the orphans.

With the establishment of this large building, the number of orphans increased to 70. Cooks, cleaners, and teachers were engaged. In addition to the normal education of the Folk School, the children learned various trades. They prepared for the time when they would leave the orphange so that they could maintain themselves throughout their lives.

The most important men and women of the city took an interest in the fates of the orphans. At the yearly meetings in the last years, the directorate included such dignitaries as: Yitzchak Nachum Weintraub, Asher Orszel, Yisroel Gudgold, Ephraim Zelnick, Velvel Barg, Alter Kaminski, Avraham Asher Kwiatek, Nachum Halberstadt, Bunim Rottenbrg, the Bialer rebbitzin Chavale Rabinowicz, Chaya Tenenbaum, Faya, Rabinowicz, Esther Levenstein-Czarnobrode, Gutshe Ferster, Yakov Yom-Tov, Leibish Weinstein, Hershel Rosengarten, Avraham Bressler, Berl Konopna, Yehoshua Zucker, and Monish Ridel.

These directors of the Ezras Y'somim, the members of the steering committee, thee teachers and

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educators, intended to be for the orphans the parents that fate had taken away from them., The directors would dine and celebrate with the orphans. On Pesach the most important citizens would come and celebrate the seders with the poor orphans. The venerable R. Yitzchak Nachhut Weintraub often delivered talks and lectures to them.

People showed affection and warmth to the children. They strove to create an atmosphere that help them to forget their somber fate.

Still, because the biggest job and the highest goal of the institution were to remove these children who were victims of fate from their deplorable situation and make them into useful citizens, the Ezras Y'somim was one of the most beloved institutions in the city.

* * *

After the first four weeks of Nazi rule in the country, parts of the Red army spent several week in Siedlce. The staff of the Ezras Y'somim took advantage of that time and evacuated the facility to Russia with almost all of the children and personnel. At first they were in Minsk, where the government took care of its upkeep. With the German attack on Russia, the Ezras Y'somim collapsed. Some of the children were evacuated deeper into Russia and survived. But some remained in Minsk, where the bloody paw of the Nazis reached them and they were killed.

Some of the personnel, along with the educators who went with the children and could not be evacuated, were also killed. Among them was the director of the Tarbus School, Bronstein, who at that time had taken over the direction of the Ezras Y'somim.

Some of the surviving children remained in Russia. Some of them returned from distant places to their destroyed home town and went to the building that was built specially for them, where they had found a warm home, but now they found the doors shut. There was no place there for abandoned Jewish orphans. Now it was the “Polish Artisans School”—so said the new sign by the doors

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in place of the former inscription: “Ezras Y'somim—Foundation Donated by R. Fishl Frankel, z”l.”

These returning orphans pass by and look with distress at the building that not long ago was their home. They have no where else to go in their orphanhood, which has now become greater and more painful.

They pass by, these gray, homeless orphan wanderers, having emerged from bunkers, from woods and taigas, and they look with pounding hearts at the building that not so long ago was the pride of Jewish Siedlce and should now be their home.

They go, these homeless orphan wanderers, to the current orphan home that is located in the building of the former mikveh, and from there they wander further away in search of a new orphans home.


C. Ha-Zamir

As we wander through the ruins, we remain standing by the building at 61 Warsaw Street. The building is intact, and we ask the neighbors who live there-both Jewish and non-Jewish: does anyone know what happened to “Ha-Zamir,” which was the largest and oldest cultural institution in the city? Where is the library with its accoutrements that cultural Siedlce had assembled over the course of decades? We asked many passersby on the half-ruined street. We asked the few surviving friends, former members of “Ha-Zamir,” but no one knows whether that treasury of books from the library was stolen by the Germans for Rosenberg's and Goebbels' purpose of “Researches in Judaism” or whether homegrown thieving neighbors stole it for scrap paper. Or perhaps local and German punks made a joint auto-da-fe and burned the Jewish secular and sacred books that they hated for generations.

What became of the treasured musical instruments that the music section of “Ha-Zamir” created with such devotion? Did the vandals steal it and send to their homeland, prepared to use it for playing their victory march, when the “New Order”

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would rule over besieged Europe? Or were the instruments in the surrounding villages, in the storage chests of thieving peasants, who take them out for their Sunday amusements to play for the dancing young men and women their polkas and mazurkas on the “Jewish instruments.” Or perhaps the last members of the music section of “Ha-Zamir,” the students of Aaron Shpilfidel, took the beloved instruments with them into the death trains along with some linens and food, in the naive belief that they were being sent to labor camps, so that in their new, unknown exile they could play a new version of “By the rivers of Babylon.”

These and other questions were ask of those among the living whom we encounter. We seek answers, too, from the silent walls that lodged Ha-Zamir. But no one can answer our painful questions.

We have some foggy notions: At the beginning of the destruction, when the German hordes entered the city and began their murderous and thieving attacks on Jewish homes, they also ripped off the closed doors of Ha-Zamir and rampaged through it: they ripped from the walls the pictures of Grandfather Mendele, of Peretz, of Sholem Aleichem, Bialik, and the picture of the founder of Ha-Zamir, Mordechai-Meir Landau, z”l. Because they did not find any living Jews there to torture, they took out their murderous Nazi rage against the pictures: they tore them up and stomped on them with their brutal nailed boots. They took many books from the library shelves, ripped and shredded them.

A group of young men who often accompanied the Germans as they robbed and pillaged Jewish homes helped to steal whatever was left.

In those first hellish weeks, one often found shameful ripped up pages from and Jewish and Hebrew sacred and secular texts blowing around in the gutters.

At the end of December, 1939, after the Germans burned the shul and the beis-medresh, along with the community office, the Jewish Council was moved to the premises of Ha-Zamir. Some supporters of Jewish culture came and packed up the remaining books and instruments in chests, sealed them, and took them to the attic—they might yet be useful…

But that did not last long, for the Germans commandeered the

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premises. They ordered the Jewish Council out. Together with the Jewish Council, the chests left their ruined home and ended up in a variety of places.

At the closing of the ghetto, the dispersed Jews took with them the remnant of the spiritual possessions of Ha-Zamir into the enclosed ghetto and distributed them in cellars and attics wherever there was a little room for the disgraced chests of books.

With he liquidation of the ghetto, also liquidated was any trace of the great, rich cultural institution. It disappeared into the chaos of the destruction to an unmarked grave, just as its creators, members, readers, and friends disappeared.

Ha-Zamir and its library had existed for thirty-three years, After great effort and many intercessions, in 1906 the cultural activist Mordechai Meir Landau, z”l, was able to obtain permission from the czarist government to open a library in Siedlce.

Earlier, people would be able to obtain a book from a beis-medresh bookseller who would have secretly in his home some books like Shomer and Bluestein's “moral” novels that he would lend out for a few groschen a week. From a modern teacher with maskilik leanings one could also obtain Mendele's “The Nag,” Smolenski's “Burial of the Ass,” and Linetzki's “The Polish Boy,” but until Ha-Zamir, there was no normal library in Siedlce.

So it is no wonder that the opening of such a library, where people could get hold of the best books in Yiddish and world literature in a variety of languages, was regarded as a great event and the culture-hungry young people formed the bulk of its readers and members.

Beginning modestly with a few hundred volumes, with limitations imposed by the rules of the czarist government that oversaw such institutions as if they were dangerous, half-revolutionary undertakings by a seditionist movement, even so the library developed and grew until it became the most important cultural institution in the city.

At that time, the road to education was closed to Jews: there were quotas for the mid-level schools, quotas for the high

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schools, so the library was everything—the beginner's school, the middle school, and the high school. It provided a little taste of the forbidden to a yeshiva student; a forbidden socialist book for a worker; an exciting novel for a young bride; Enlightenment literature for live-in son-in-law; a book of metaphysical speculation for an old heretic. But everywhere the books of the library Brough knowledge and enlightenment.

After 1915, as the reactionary czarist government began to withdraw, so did some of its restrictions on Jews, and Ha-Zamir took another step in its development.

As the number of readers and the number of books increased, a drama division was formed under the direction of the writer Yakov Tenenbaum, where such artists developed as Nina Goldfarb, Moshe Grabia, and Rusze Tenenbaum, who presented the best works from the Yiddish repertoire. A music section also developed with a choir under the direction gifted violinist Aaron Shpielfiddle. There was a chess club that produced such masters a Zukerman. New young people contributed: Asher Livrant, Berl Czarnobroda, Levi Gutgold, and others, who devoted much if their time, knowledge, and energy to the development of the library; literary evenings were organized with the participation of the greatest writers and authors; musical and artistic undertakings where noted musicians and artists took part.

Ha-Zamir attracted the best young people in the city and conducted an enlightened cultural life for its members and readers, whose number eventually reached a thousand (four hundred members and six hundred readers).

The library contained twenty thousand volumes in six languages: Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German, and French.

All of this was destroyed by the Nazi axe and sank into chaos and destruction.


Founders of Ezras Y'somim in 1903

Sitting, from right to left: Simcha Rubinstein, Moses Greenfarb, Yitzchak Eli Zucker, Dr. Moyshe Temkin
Second row: Shia Zilbergleyt, Vulf Tuchklapper, Minia Weintraub, Madszia Cahana, Libba Zeidentzeig, Berl Mintz


Tarbus Administrators and Teachers

At bottom: Sitting, from right to left: Yakov Yom-Tov, Chanuch Ribak, Gitl Veyman, Asher Orszel, Tzvi Bakser, Ch. Levenstein, A. Wlodowski
Middle row: Rubin, Yehoshua Eckerman, Finkelstein, Fishl Popowski, Yitzchak Freilich, Leib Mendiszecki, Flaashin, Moshe Yudengloibn, Levi Gutgold
Third row: Elimelech Feinzilber [author of this book], Moyshe Rotbein, Moyshe Yom-Tov, Rachel Heller, Velvel Lev, Avraham Alternberg, Yosef Gutgold, Hillel Schwartz


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