Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
Klimontów this is a very picturesque village located on the left bank of the Ploczka (tributary of the White Przemsza River), 8 km, south east of Będzin. It developed a hundred years amongst the untamed forests of Paszkonica, on an elevated plain, on its south-east side there were swamps spread out and it was difficult to cross them.
Klimontów was founded by Kilmunt (Klemens) who lived in the 12th century, brother of Jan, the Bishop of Wrocław, and later the Archbishop of Gnesen [Gniezno] (1141-1166). The fist knowledge of the village was in 1361 when Kazimierz the Great approved the replacement of Klimontów and Sielce in exchange for the village of Witanowice (Wadowice district) between Otton from Pilcza (Pilica) and the owner of the Goszyc estate, Marek Ben-Abraham. Otton from Pilica, who received authority over the village, transferred the Magdeburg Rights [were a set of German town laws regulating the degree of internal autonomy within cities and villages granted with it by a local ruler] in 1363 under the auspices of Kazimierz the Great. Several years later Klimontów passed on to the authority of Piotr Szafraniec, the Krakowian settlement minister.
Szafraniec did not continue holding on to the village for an extended period. As early as 1386 he sold it to Wiesław and Piotr Myslawski. Up until 1420 Klimontów was leased by Jan and Adam from Mysłowice, and later was transferred to the Jarockis. Following the Jarockis the village was transferred to Jakub Broniowski (in the 16th century). After this, its owners were Kaspar, Konstantin and Michael Goslowski (1641-1666). Following the death of Michael Goslowski, Klimontów was transferred to Jan Krisztof Mieroszewski, who served as a judge in Siewierz. It remained in the hands of Mieroszewski till the middle of the 18th century, and later was passed on as inheritance to the Szymans family, and they sold it to the Kramsta family, whose heirs transferred the lease to the Sosnowiec mining and foundry company, who held on to till recent times.
Klimontów as a village did not serve an important role in the history of Zagłębie. During the rebellion in 1863 the rebels clashed there with the Russian soldiers under the following conditions: a rebel unit, after conquering Maczki continued in the direction of Modrzejów. In the evening the unit stayed in the courtyard of Klimontów. A short time later the Russians arrived and encircled the rebels dwelling, a battle ensued. Initially the rebels fought defensively, and only after receiving information that help was arriving from Bobrek they broke out of the courtyard and with the help of the local population they defeated the Russians and pushed them back from where they'd come.
Klimontów is comprised of the village itself and three farms known as Browar, Rabka and Skotnica. It never served as an official resident for its lessees. For all that it had an estate, and was called a courtyard by the inhabitants, next to the old road leading to Zagórze (on the right-hand side). On the south-west side, not far from the estate, an inn stood. There was also a beer making plant, which stood in the place where the road from the village connected to the road leading from Porąbka to Modrzejów. Next to the beer making plant a farm called Browar or Pod Browaze was established. On the north east side the Rabka farm sprang up. Stanisław Jendrzejek relates about the founding of this farm in his account called Interesting information on distant corners of Zagłębie.
The news once reached the fortress located in Będzin that a company of
well-armed Germans was heading up to Mysłowice led by a big lout by the
name of Baron von Rhoda. Terror overcame the local residents, who had more than
once had themselves experienced the force of the Germans, and because of this
they became to take hold of defenses in the direction of Będzin. The
Będzin governor of the time, Mieroszewski, who was worried that
Mysłowice would be overtaken and repressive actions undertaken within it,
assembled reasonably large forces, including some of the Będzin fortress
garrison, servants from courtyards from the surroundings, and also five
horsemen who were sent from Olkusz. With these forces he set out in the
direction of Rhoda; ahead of time he reinforced the garrison in Czeladź,
out of fear, that Rhoda was liable to change his plans and instead of heading
to Mysłowice he would attack Czeladź.
After several days of looking through the swamps and dense forests that were difficult to cross, they found the Rhoda gang, dwelling in the expansive bald patches on the banks of the Rawa River.
The view of the aggressor's camp was strange. It was some type of nomadic German settlement. Wagons covered in cloth were dispersed here and there over the grasslands. Men with pipes in their mouths lay under the wagons. Packs of stray dogs wandered about the camp. Women stood next to basins and cooked a light meal. A few young children washed in the river. The German oppressors set out to the east to find riches. Robbers like these were located near the Polish border and from their dwellings they would carry out attacks on the courtyards, villages and towns in Poland. Rhoda's gang that had not yet managed to find a place for permanent settlement was very confident of its force, if it had gone with all its possessions next to Mysłowice.
Mieroszewski, after seeing the situation, decided to attack the Germans without delay who were unprepared for this. Hence, he ordered his foot soldiers to attack the camp from its two flanks, whilst the main brunt was assigned to the center, to the middle. Since near the bald patch the forest was quite scant and there was no coverage, the Germans immediately sensed the approaching army. There was great panic in the camp. Screaming, the women loaded the scattered utensils on the wagons. The men grabbed weapons and hurried to the horses that were grazing in the pasture. The dogs began barking and whimpering. Baron Rhoda with a sword in hand burst out from a not particularly large tent, and following him came his four sons. Everyone stood helplessly, without knowing what to do. It was too late to consider defense, and there was no way of escaping. They also could not surrender themselves to the enemy without a fight, knowing that a severe punishment awaited them for murders they had carried out in the past. In the meantime the horsemen broke into the camp, and from the two flanks the foot soldiers approached materializing out of the forest. The Germans had no choice but to exact a dear price for their lives, and they began defending themselves in desperation. Hiding under the wagons they shot from their guns, and several tens of them riding on horses defended against the invaders. The Baron called out to his men in a hoarse voice to band together, but the defense was useless.
After a half hour battle Mieroszewski took over the camp. Many Germans were killed, several tens of them crossed the river and escaped. The rest, including Baron Rhoda with three of his sons, after one of them fell in battle, went together with the women to the prison in Będzin. In the fortress they didn't know what to do with the prisoners and the treasures they found with them. In the end, at the suggestion of Mrs. Mieroszewski, it was decided to build a church with the money taken from them, and the people taken hostage would be used for the construction of the building, amongst them being several officers. The church was to be built in a high place, near the Klimontów courtyard. A building contractor was ordered from Krakow and so that the workers would be located close to the building, the prisoners were moved from the Będzin fortress to a small island surrounded by swamps on all sides, on which they built huts for temporary refuge. The work to build the church began. Some of the prisoners began digging holes for the building's foundations, and later quarried stones in Kamionka near Zagórze. After they brought the first shipment of stones they began to lay the foundations. However on the night previous to the beginning of the building there was a tempest, lightning followed lightning, the storm howled and uprooted huge trees, and it seemed that the end of the world had arrived. In the end, after the same terrible night had passed, the stones were found scattered, and stones brought to brought to build the church were found on the hill between Klimontów and Zagórze.
A fear engulfed the residents of the area, who began to suspect that the Germans were operating with the devil, and more than anyone the despairing building contractor wailed. The matter would have ended badly, had not the priest from Będzin intervened, rid the village of the devil's forces, declaring, that the Almighty has much more power than the devil, and apparently since He doesn't particularly want prisoners to build this holy place for Him with money that came from tormented people. And thus a slackening began in the building of the church, and in the place designated for it, a prayer house was built which stands to this day. In the meantime the industrious Germans began to get organized on their island, they erected comfortable shelters, arranged gardens next to them and began uprooting the wild vegetation on the north side of the island. Mieroszewski, seeing the industrious work of the Germans, helped them found a village and since it was nicknamed Rabusie (robbers in Polish) it was named Rabka. Almost all of the Baron Rhoda's gang lived in Rabka, and he himself with three sons were for some time under the auspices of Mieroszewski. Over decades many of the Germans escaped from Rabka, some returned to their homeland, and others moved to nearby Porąbka. Whilst all of Rhoda's descendants remained in the village of Rabka, and became Poles in every sense, they changed the name Rhoda to Rodek, and to this day many people named Rodek live in Rabka and in Klimontów. The homeowners German names found in Rabka and Porąbka, like: Hunda, Okampra, Hangilda, bears witness to their German origins. A large pear tree that stood in the middle of the road at the entrance to Rabka, according to legend was planted by one of Rhoda's grandchildren, over the grave of this grandfather.
The failed Polish Rebellion against the Russians in 1863 caused the downfall of
Rabka, which till then had developed well. The Russians going through Rabka
began destroying it, attacked its population, murdered several homeowners,
stole property and burnt down the village.
The large coal mine called Klimontów
Klimontów's population grew, up till the beginning of the 20th century 1,000 Christian families lived in it, living on 15 streets and alleyways. The place was surrounded by villages in every direction: Zagórze, Dańdówka, Rabka, Porąbka, Opadowa, Bobrek and a village near the forest called Brayhoys [brewery], named after the beer making plant that stood there, and from which Jewish settlement in Klimontów began.
A railway line did not go through Klimontów itself, but it bypassed the
village along its whole length without reaching it. The toots of the engines
could be clearly heard in it, and it was even possible to stand and watch the
trains going backwards and forwards from Sosnowiec in the direction of
Kazimierz Strzemieszyce, without delay, and if one of the people of the
village needed to travel by train he was compelled to reach the railway station
in Dańdówka or the station in Kazimierz near to Porąbka. There
the railway lines diverted one that came from the direction of
Dęblin through Kielce and Radom, Miechów and Olkusz, and the other
from the direction of Granica to the Austrian border through the
border-town of Częstochowa, and from here in the direction of Sosnowiec.
However in Klimontów there was a railway terminal for the transport of
the production from the Klimontów coal mine. In the period
of independent Poland, after the First World War, an electric railway was
established throughout the Zagłębie region, and then Klimontów
attained an electric railway connection to Mysłowice via other villages
B. Jewish Settlement in Klimontów
The settlement of Jews in Klimontów began late, apparently because of legal difficulties caused by the Russian administration through anti-Semitism. Indeed the place was located in an area close to the Austrian and German border in which it was forbidden for Jews coming from outside to settle there, and the Jews who had already settled there were suspected of border smuggling. It is indeed possible that in spite of the official attitude on the part of the Russians there were individual Jews that had evaded the ban and dealt there with different livelihoods that were of use to the mine and industrial plant workers.
The large Klimontów coal-mine, that belonged to the French Rainard company was one of the largest mines in the area and employed hundreds of workers and clerks. Some of the village residents dealt in cultivating the fields that they received as inheritance from their fathers and it was difficult for them to completely abandon their privately owned land and work as hired workers for others. However most of the residents of the place worked in the large mine whose name was the same as that of the village. In the village there was a rich nobleman, the owner of a large estate with several hundred cows and also a fine fruit garden in which there were the nicest pears, apples and plums in the area. Every year the nobleman Wielozowski would rent the garden to the Jew Lajbisz Fogel from Dańdówka. However this brought about great problems from the Jewish children who lived close to the garden. They would sneak into the garden through the fence and pick fruit, and till the tenant would discover them, they had managed to escape through the fence. This nobleman allowed the Jew Lewi to build a beer making plant on his land near the forest. Subsequently Lewi emigrated with his family to Hanover in Germany and from there kept in written correspondence with his friend Mosze-Fiszl from Klimontów. Lewi had one son who became renown because of his acute intelligence and they called him Ilui [genius]. The beer making plant was transferred from Lewi to another Jew by the name of Chaim-Wolf Zelinger. Several years after a fire broke out and destroyed the whole plant. Zelinger moved from there to live in Sosnowiec, and opened a restaurant in Targowa Street. These were the first attempts of Jewish settlement in this place.
Mosze-Fiszl Bornsztajn was regarded as a veteran in the Jewish settlement in
Klimontów, arriving there in 1880 and opened a fine store for food and
clothing supplies. He originated from the town of Szczekociny, and in his
family there was a rabbi, who was the pride of the family.
Mosze-Fiszl was a Kocek Chassid, and married Chaja of the Langer family of Modrzejów. There were legendary stories about Chaja because of her bravery in her youth and because of daring deeds that she carried out. After their marriage they established an exemplary home in a central position in Klimontów that was accessible to all who needed. On Shabbatot [Sabbaths] and holidays one could find visitors, who dined at the owner's table. There were sons and daughters born in this family, all of them successful and talented. Mosze-Fiszl kept a small library in his home of Torah and Chassidic books, and in his free time he would sit and look at them. On winter evenings he loved to play cards or Kwitlech [a card game], and from time to time Jews from the area would also come to him and during the evenings of Chanukah, they would play Kwitlech. He excelled in his wit, and the village residents would customarily come to him to request his advice. He endeavored to enlarge the Jewish community there, and after he managed to reach a minyan [ten male worshippers required for public prayer] he was the gabbai [beadle], the activist and dealt with all public matters. Later a shtibel [small synagogue] for prayer was opened and a teacher was even hired to teach the Jewish children in the village.
In addition to Bornsztajn amongst the first Jews in the village included were Efraim Cwilik the tailor and Szymon Szpigler the boot-maker. In the prayer house that was established, initially there was not a minyan for prayers, and the Jews of Klimontów were compelled to take part in prayer houses in the nearest villages Dańdówka or Porąbka. On Shabbatot it was possible to see storekeepers and craftsmen from Klimontów as they strode to join a minyan in a nearby settlement and they would enjoy the food and drink that was served to the visitors who had walked a considerable way to undertake the mitzvah of public prayer. However, finally a minyan was established there. Mosze-Fiszl Bornsztajn with his two sons Herszl and Jossel indeed they were three; Chaim [should be Efraim?] Cwilik had three sons above Bar Mitzvah age indeed that made seven; Szpigler the boot-maker had two adult sons indeed that made ten. Single Jews from the area joined with them, such that the minyan was stable. In this same Bet Midrash [place for Torah study] (this Bet Midrash was small but expansive enough for the small community) a teacher from Pradła near Myszków would sit, and he would always talk about the members of his family that he had left behind where he had lived.
Mosze-Fiszl Bornsztajn, who was the eldest Jew there, had in 1913, traveled with his son Herszl and daughter Fajgla to Wrocław, the Silesian capital, for medical treatment. He was operated in the hospital there, however he died ten days later and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Wrocław. His eldest daughter Michal and her husband Eliezer Pozmantir (born in Będzin) remained settled in Klimontów and continued their father's business and even added a butcher and a different convenience store, till they sold their wares wholesale as well. The daughter Sara married to young Żerykier from the village near Zagórze and settled there. The daughter Rachel married someone by the name of Winer in Będzin and went to live there. Chaja, Mosze-Fiszl's widow, went to live with her daughter Fajgla in her son Herszl's home in Dąbrowa Górnicza and she died in Dąbrowa in 1926.
Over time other Jews joined the small settlement, like Cwilik's son-in-law who
also worked in boot making, Szlomo Fogel owner of a convenience store, Szymon
Krzesiwa owner of a convenience and clothing store, Szlomo Bornsztajn owner of
a convenience store, Michal Bornsztajn with her husband Eliezer Pozmantir
stayed there and did well (they married in 1901). However not all the young
generation stayed there. Herszl Bornsztajn moved to Dąbrowa, his brother
Jossel was enlisted into the Russian Army and in the First World War was taking
prisoner by the Germans and sent letters from Riga where he was held in a camp.
After his return he married a woman from the village of Jęnzor and settled
there. However the minyan strengthened, and there was no longer a fear for its
fate. Lajzer Pozmantir was the gabbai in the Bet Midrash, became wealthy and
his name became known in the whole area as a Jew dedicated to the Jewish people
and their Torah, he looked after the poor extensively and his home was open
wide [to them]. Michal had nine children. During the period of Independent
Poland she became seriously ill and died in 1927. Eliezer who was widowed moved
in 1931 to his hometown of Będzin, and there he died some years later. Of
his children that survived the Holocaust were Icchak, Chaim and Franja. Icchak
and Chaim made aliyah to Israel, however because of lack of a livelihood Chaim
went to live in Canada, Franja married a Holocaust survivor Szaul Goldhor from
Częstochowa and they reestablished their home in Moshav Yockneam.
The headstone of Michal Pozmantir (nee Bornsztajn)
in the Modrzejów cemetery near the headstone of Reb Joel Langer.
Chaim Pozmantir is standing by the grave of his mother
Efraim Cwilik the tailor was killed in Auschwitz together with all his family (15 children), and including the families of the in-laws. His father-in-law the boot-maker was killed with his seven children, Szymon Szpigler with his seven children, and Szlomo Fogel with his seven children. Also killed were Szymon Krzesiwa with his seven children, and Szalom Bornsztajn who of his six children only two survived.
Thus came an end to the small Jewish community in Klimontów, that had a
good name in all the Będzin region, and only a few of its Jews survived
the Nazi Holocaust and manager to rebuild their lives in Israel or in other
A short summation
I have described here only the Jewish settlements in the Zagłębie
region that were more well known for various reasons, and were regarded as the
main arteries in the life of the area, knowing that this is only a first
attempt and also a last one to immortalize most of the Jewish settlements in
the Zagłębie region in the Yizkor books. Up until now Yizkor books of
the Zagłębie region have appeared for Będzin, Dąbrowa
Górnicza, Pinkas Zagłębie (by Zaglembian Jews in Melbourne,
Australia), Żarki and Szczekociny, and none of these made note of the Jewish
settlements in the neighboring villages, and in my opinion this is an
unforgivable crime against those settlements whose people were killed in the
Nazi Holocaust. I, the editor of the Book of Sosnowiec and the
Surrounding Region in Zagłębie, saw that we should extend out
and also include those outside of Sosnowiec and include more than twenty
settlements, and this was not an easy task. And only with the knowledge that
our book has a combined local and general character I took on this task. Most
unfortunately, I was forced to skip several lesser known settlements and those
that are further away from the three central towns in the area, and for example
I will note other names: Koziegłowy (the Rabbi Gaon Arie Zwi
Frumer, may the Lord revenge his blood, from Czeladź was named after
there), ancient Siewierz in which the old palace that served for hundreds of
years for Polish princes and ministers during the period before the partition
of Poland, Łazy and others in which a few Jews lived, and I hope that the
survivors of these settlements located in Israel and the Diaspora will forgive
me for this omission and will make do with the mention of their names only.
|Fajwel Szraga Ginsburg and his wife Chawa zl
A lover of Zion, son-in-law of the rabbi from Sieradz,
a very wise scholar
and his wife Michal
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