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The Teacher of Children

Leib Fursztenberg

Translated by Jerrold Landau

It was in the schoolyard of the Powszechner[1] School. It was the major recess. The place was full with a few hundred children. Happy resounding voices were heard; people played, danced, sung, had fun, and one could see various pranks.

In one corner of the yard opposite the window of the administrative office, where the teachers rested and prepared for the second lecture, a group of children gathered together and built a type of large castle. In the meantime, two children were fighting, a Pole and a Jew. Although the Jewish child was one of those who does not let up, nevertheless… he accepted the blows, while all of the Polish friends added heat to the situation and encouraged the sheketz with shouts of “Give it to the Zyd!”, “Kill him!”, “Knock his teeth out”, etc. We Jews stood and kept quiet, a bit from fear and a bit from timidity, and we could not help our beaten friend at all, for a statute existed in the Sochaczew school yard – if one student beats up another, no children should interfere. The sheketz became wilder, for the cries of the poor endowed him with more chutzpa[2]. He administered stronger blows to the Jewish child, and the Jewish child was already bloodied.

At that moment, a new teacher ran out of the teachers' room. He was chubby and not very tall. On his large head, which was out of proportion with his body, he had a bit of blond hair. He resembled a Christian, but with a pair of brown, Semitic, good eyes. He ran to the children quickly, broke them up, grabbed them both by the ears, and took them to the office. The Jewish child was saved from further blows and mockery from his mates. We Jewish children accompanied the teacher with thankful glances as he went back in. This was the teacher Kampelmacher.

He came from a city in Galicia. He was a retired officer of the Austrian army. He was less than forty years old. He was very assimilated. He did not know Yiddish or Hebrew. He was sent by the committee of trustees to be a teacher in the Sochaczew public school.

He came at a time of disarray in the lives of the youth of Sochaczew. The “Hatechiya” Hebrew school had been liquidated, Hashomer Hatzair was dissolved, and the wind orchestra and stadium had disintegrated. It was prior to the organization of the workers organization. The only organization that existed was the library, which functioned in a weak fashion. There was a crisis due to the struggle between the Zionists and the Folkists.

Kampelmacher quickly sensed the situation. As a man with a sparkling temperament and a great deal of initiative, he realized that something must be done for the Jewish youth of Sochaczew. He approached the youth, initiated contact with them, and decided to create a non-partisan sports club. This was a new thing in Sochaczew.

However, from where does one obtain the money, for the city was impoverished? There was simply no money with which to purchase the first football[3].

He gathered together the more capable children from among the students of the Powszechner School and organized a choir in his own room (at the home of Velvel Pinczowski). He taught us a few songs in the Polish language (for he did not know Yiddish), and organized a recital on the intermediate days of Passover in the former hall of “Hatechiya”. The purpose was realized. The following week, when the “teacher” was in Warsaw, he brought back the first football.

This was the beginning. We used to meet three times a week at the horse market near Mikhalski's mill to play football. None of us knew the rules of the game, including the teacher himself, for he had not received any training and had very little knowledge. He brought in Kova Gutein, who had studied in Warsaw and was one of the best players in the Warsaw club. The struggle for the maintenance of the club was now in process.

The youth of Sochaczew joined the sports club en masse. The rented rooms became too crowded, and it was not appropriate to run a club in an attic. One has to have a location. But from where would the money come? The teacher Kampelmacher had a new idea; to arrange dance evenings with a light recreational program such a choral singing, recitals, gymnastics events, or musical numbers. These evenings were given impressive names such as “A Grandiose Purim Ball”, “A Chanukah Celebration”, “A Dance Evening with a Jazz Orchestra from Warsaw”. This was a new thing in Sochaczew. Until then, young people danced only at events in private houses or at weddings. At every meeting of the drama club, they would move aside the benches and dance.

{Photo page 215: The Women's Section of the Z.T.G.S. Editor's note, the Polish inscription on the placard reads as follows: “Z.T.G.S. Sochaczew I. Druiyna Zeniska 1923-1926”.}

Kampelmacher made completely new innovations. Tables for guests were set up in the finest halls of the city, which had already been decorated. There was a buffet with good food, and a good dance orchestra. The guests dressed up in evening dresses, each in accordance with their means.

In time, the club moved in to its own place. The football players already played with people from other cities, and with the local Polish clubs, who quickly began to imitate the Jew Kampelmacher. The premiere players already began to play in new football shoes and in a special club uniform – black pants and jackets with black and white stripes and an emblem: Jewish sport and touring club of Sochaczew in Yiddish, and Z.T.G. in Polish. A large mandolin orchestra was established with sixty people, conducted by the teacher who played the fiddle.

The first concert took place in Sara Ajzenman's as yet unfinished house, in rooms without windows or doors, with blankets hanging. Since it was during Chanukah, it was a little cold and we warmed up with Chanukah-punches and hot tea. The concert was successful and had positive reverberations the next morning in town.

In the summer, various activities were organized, such as: Leichtathletik[4], handball, ping-pong, gymnastics, boxing, chess, amateur photography, and touring.

The choir was well known at all of the concerts and entertainment balls in the city. It was the first organized section, and it sung songs in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish. The teacher, who himself did not know Yiddish and was far from Hebrew, suffered greatly to teach us the Yiddish and Hebrew version, to make the songs appropriate for Jewish holidays and celebrations.

The club grew in quick steps, and incorporated and interested almost all of the youth. Z.T.G.S. became a place for the youth of Sochaczew, where their interest could be stimulated. The teacher derived pleasure from his efforts and toil, and he always came with new plans. He intended to build our own tennis court. To this end, he obtained a plot of land behind the city from the magistrate. We went there with spades and hatchets, and flattened out the area with our own efforts. Several of the capable members built a tennis court with asphalt. Tennis rackets and balls were purchased, and the teacher was honored with the first game in Sochaczew, the first in the history of Sochaczew – on the tennis court.

The teacher set another, larger goal. He came with a plan to build our own house with a sport hall for gymnastics and entertainment evenings. We would obtain a plot from the magistrate. We had a few thousand Zloty, and the rest of the money we would have to raise from the people of Sochaczew. Due to the large sum of money that the house would cost, we suggested that the Jewish library build a Jewish culture house in cooperation with us. However, due to various personal reasons in the life of the teacher, for the first time, one of his plans did not come to fruition.

The youth of Sochaczew were musical. People loved to sing in Sochaczew. There were fine prayer leaders, and fine choirs that accompanied Cantor Shmuel Yechiel Liberman and the final Cantor Hersch Helmer. It was pleasant when Meir Nasielewicz sung. Between the two world wars, there were three wind orchestras in Sochaczew. The first was for simple music lovers. There was a second affiliated with “Hapoel”, and the third was affiliated with “Beitar”. This was over and above the mandolin orchestra and the choir affiliated with the sports club. Sochaczewers were active, good listeners, with a good conception of music; however they had very little knowledge of world music, of famous composers, musical works and the history of music.

It is said that foreign tourists used to come to visit the birthplace of Frederick (Fryderyk) Chopin, which, as is known, is Zelazowa Wola (6 kilometers from Sochaczew). One came a cross a notable woman from Sochaczew, and asked her if she knew how one get to the Chopin memorial. She answered “The 'szopes', the 'szopes' are not far, on Trojanower Street”. She pointed to the fire station, which was known as “Di Strazhacka Szopes”.

Kampelmacher taught us who Chopin was. He led us into the world of music, and imbued a love of music, fine arts and nature. He often took us to the house in which the great composer was born, and which had been converted into a small museum. In the evenings we would bring us out into the fresh air near the stream that crosses through the yard, and conduct a light discussion with us on the history of music. Even though not much changed in the house and yard of Chopin, we enjoyed visiting there often. We would sit in a circle by the willow tree, where Chopin used to sit for many hours, listening to its faint noise as he created his wonderful Polonaises and Mazurkas. We would listen to the teacher Kampelmacher relate his interesting discussions.

The holiday of the P. W. (youth organized into military cadets) was celebrated with an annual solemn parade and march-by. However, the high point of the program on that occasion was a football match between representatives of the Christian clubs with a club from another city. It happened that one day prior to the game, the foreign team decided that it was not coming. As the saying goes “Jak bida, to do Zyda” (“when in need, turn to the Jew”). They turned to the Jewish team and asked us to be the opponents. At first, we were frightened. First of all, we would be playing against a group of the best Polish football players, who had been preparing and training for this match for many weeks. We had not prepared at all. Secondly, we were afraid of being embarrassed in front of the population of Sochaczew. However, the teacher accepted the invitation, and believed in our abilities.

{Photo page 218: The football team. Z.T.G.S. Sochaczew.}

On the designated Sunday, several thousand people, Jews and Christians, along with some guests from outside, gathered in the new sports place near the Kalajka. The Jews were nervous and awaited with fear the end result, which could have come with an embarrassment. The gentiles were in a good mood, and waited in crowds so that they would be able to make fun of the “Zydkes”.

With pounding hearts, we played honorably. Our eleven players ran out, and were treated coldly. The Polish team was greeted with strong applause. The Polish referee, a captain in the army, blew a whistle – and the game began. A miracle happened and instead of we being on the defensive and them scoring one goal after another, we were on the offensive, and it was not long until we were in the lead by one goal. The power of our team continued, and they went over in a storm. At the intermission, the Jewish sport club was in the lead four goals to zero. The gentiles could not even score one goal against us. The Christian audience was siting with lowered heads, ashamed. They did not expect such a terrible outcome, and from whom – from a group of Jewish youth?

After the intermission, there was a change in the course of the game due to two factors. First, Yisrael Ajzenman, the best player of the team, had to leave for personal reasons. His departure weakened the playing and the morale. Secondly, the referee came to a decision that he must conduct the match in such a manner that the Jews should not, Heaven forbid, be victorious and win the cup.

Indeed, that is what happened. The referee did everything to ensure that we would not be able to shoot into the goal. The shkotzim scored five goals, legitimately and illegitimately. We were indeed defeated, but we left the playing field as the moral winners.

People talked about this football match for a very long time in Sochaczew.

The word that the teacher was leaving Sochaczew and traveling to Grodzisk was a hard blow to us. The reasons were many: Kampelmacher's greatest dream was to become the principal of a Jewish public school, where he would only teach Jewish children, and he would have the opportunity to use his capabilities and talents for Jewish children.

The second reason was that he was not accepted into the Jewish block for the city council elections, where he had always been a councilman, and always defended the Jewish people with his fine Polish. The teacher did not wish to be defeated and shamed before his Polish school colleagues. With our help, with the club, he set up a separate list. Unfortunately, the list was defeated, for we did not yet have voting rights…

The third reason was, I believe, the most important. They had two children, two sons. The eldest was Edek and the younger was Lundek. They were successful, fine intelligent children, who were raised with great love, especially by his noble wife Berta Kampelmacher.

{Photo page 220: the Football team with the teacher Kampelmacher. Libert is on the left.}

It happened that the young Lundek took ill, and there was no salvation from the well-known doctors and professors from Warsaw. Our beloved friend gave up his young soul. The pain and sorrow of the family is hard to write about. A half of the city, Jews and Christians, took part in the funeral.

Kampelmacher left behind the sports club and everything that he had built up during that beautiful period. The majority of the youth from all strata were members of the club. Even Christians became members. The teacher was certain that he had left behind good, active deputies. He created a new management committee with the Wolwowicz brothers, the Miler brothers, the Balas brothers, Shmuel Rechtman, Reizl Brot, Chava Frajdman, Leibel Zand and above all the active and gifted Pinia Wajnberg, who was full of initiative and ideas. He organized Friday night lectures, discussions and other splendid evening events. Every Friday night, the club was full of young members and strangers. Hot discussions on various topics took place.

Wajnberg organized a chess and ping-pong tournament, in which many young people signed up. New sections were formed, such as a drama group, and P.W. (military cadets). L. Fursztenberg conducted the choir and the mandolin orchestra. It performed at a few large performances at the teachers' gathering in Poznan at the Land Exhibition[5] , as well as in Gdynia, Kuzmir and nearby cities such as Plock, Wyszogrod, Bieliny and Grodzisk. New young powers joined the football team, and it later became the strongest football team in the city.

We had a great success with the “Little Maccabiada” in Lowicz. In 1932, the “Maccabi” of Lowicz organized a gathering of Jewish sports clubs from several cities: Kutno, Sochaczew, Skierniewice, Zyrardow, Gostynin and Lowicz.

Our Z.T.G.S. from Sochaczew represented itself finely. First of all, we all came dressed in uniform, and carrying the flag of the club. We obtained the first spot in the parade through the city.

However, these were the last fine active years of the sport club, for a decline started in 1933. Strong political organizations were set up in the city. Pinchas Wajnberg left the club and joined Hechalutz, whose aim was hachsharah for aliya to the land of Israel. The youth joined the new organization en masse. Soon after, Beitar was set up as a bourgeois movement, which also attracted a large number of youth from the club. The workers set up two sports clubs: the Bund set up “Morgenstern” and the Communists youth set up “Gwiazda”.

The teacher Kampelmacher settled in Grodzisk. He set up an exemplary school for only Jewish children. In order to get over the death of his son, he devoted all of his energy, might and activity into his school. He displayed literally wonders in the organization. He built up his own school building, a sports club and a wind orchestra affiliated with the school. He was loved and appreciated by the youth of Grodzisk, just as in Sochaczew. We, his Sochaczewer students, cannot forget him. We remained in constant contact with him. We often came as guests to various celebrations of the Grodzisk school, and we also had sports competitions with the youth of Grodzisk. As well, the teacher, his wife and son came to visit us during our festivals and celebrations.

I believe that the last moments of his life, when his refined soul departed, were spent in some gas chamber in Auschwitz or Majdanek.

{Photo page 222: At the grave of Lundek, Kampelmacher's son.}


  1. Powszechne is public in Polish. The 'r' suffix is a Yiddish adjectival suffix. Return
  2. Chutzpa does not translate well into English – roughly it means 'nerve', 'brazenness' or 'audacity'. Return
  3. Soccer ball. Return
  4. Leichtathletik – athletics. Return
  5. This sentence was somewhat confused, and may not be translated entirely accurately. Return

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