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Between the Two World Wars

 

Szydlowiec – A City of Labor

by Jacob Pomerantz

Szydlowiec had not only many Jewish scholars but also many religious societies such as a Chevra Mishnayes, a Chevra Gemorah, and Chevra Tehillim, as well as a Chevra Shomrey Shabbos, whose function was to make the rounds Friday afternoons and remind people to close their shops and stands and light the candles. (Mostly this was done by Anshl Hittelmacher or his father–in–law, Abram Moshe Weinberg.) There was one society that studied Talmud with the head of one of the yeshivas. In the Little Bes Medresh, the dayan Elezar studied Bible and Rashi with a group every Shabbos afternoon after the main meal.

The extent to which Szydlowiec was known for its political, cultural and professional activity can be seen from the fact that the central offices in Warsaw sent us such party leaders as Yizhak Greenbaum, Dr. Joshua Thom, Zerubavel, Erlich, Chmurner.

A city of labor and commerce, Szydlowiec was famous throughout the country for its shoe and leather craftsmanship. It had 13–14 mechanized tanneries, plus several small shops where the work was done by hand. It had some 30 shoe factories and 35 or 40 quilt–making shops. There were still about two dozen custom–made shoe shops.

There were about 35 tailor shops that made cheap trousers and blouses that they sold to the peasants. Wintertime on the coldest days, they would get up at 2–3 o'clock in the morning and not return until midnight. There were many orchard–keepers in Szydlowiec. Most of them were also tailors and shoemakers. During the winter they worked at their trade; summertime they tended their orchards. They and their

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families lived a very hard life, sleeping in the field–huts, cooking their meals on field–stoves like the Gypsies, exposed to the rains and storms and the stones thrown at them by the peasant boys.

Szydlowiec had Jewish carpenters, construction workers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, mechanics, and so on. Ninety percent of the Jews in Szydlowiec worked hard and long to earn their living, but at one time or another, half of them didn't have enough to eat or were short of money for their Sabbath meal.


Szydlowiec's Religious Life

By Simcha–Bunim Blander

One of the interesting types in Szydlowiec was Noah Chaims, a nephew of the “Yehuda Hakodesh.” He was completely divorced from worldly things. People called him a Lamed–Vovnik. All day long he wore his tefillin. He lived in dire poverty. If it hadn't been for Yitzhak Eisenberg, who supported him, he would have died of starvation. Day and night he studied the holy books with his son Chaim. The room where they ‘learned’ looked like a grave. It was curtained off by a bed sheet, and whoever brought them food left it outside the curtain. Even on the coldest days Reb Noah never failed to go to the mikveh.

There were other pious Jews, who were not content just to study themselves but who also concerned themselves with other religious needs of the community.

There were about 20 hedorim in town. In the 1930's a yeshiva was opened, with Nisn from Nowaredok as director. His father–in–law Eliezer also taught there.

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The Talmud Torah was administered by a committee consisting of Chaim Rosenberg, Chaim–Hersh Blander, Yankl Wigdorowicz and Eliyohu–Meir Broness, who was the director. The enrollment was about 150 students. There were six teachers: Israel Neiman, Yitzhok Rosenzweig, Jacob Moshe Abramowicz, Chaim Tovyeh, Shimon Bitter and Moshe Govichever. The Talmud Torah was later combined with the yeshiva.

The Mizrakhi organization was headed by Rakhmiel Chaim Blizinski, Aaron Lieberman, Aaron Blumenfeld, Shlomele Eisenberg and Hersh–Nakhman Blatman.

Active in HaPoel HaMizrakhi were Moshe David Shchenshlive, Nota Zucker and Moshe Blander.

There was a Mizrakhi hakhshara whose members worked mainly in the sawmill. Mizrakhi also had a Yavneh school.

In the Kehillah, Mizrakhi had three representatives, Agudah had three, the Bund had two. Representing the Agudah was Moshe Citron, Shlomo Neiberg and one other whose name I can't remember.

Despite the conflicts between the various religious shadings, Szydlowiec had a dynamic religious life.


Jews in the Szydlowiec City Council

By Abraham Finkler (Toronto)

The Poles used to call our town Zhidlowiec because Jews were the majority of the population there. The district head in Radom (his name was Kirkles, probably a German from Lithuania) used to call it “Judenstadt.” Jewish participation in the city administration, however, was always minimal. Before the elections, Levinski, the starosta (district governor) from

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Kinsk would pay us a “friendly visit.” He would call together the Jewish community leaders and explain to them that, for the sake of maintaining peace, the Jews should demonstrate their good will to their Christian neighbors by drawing up a joint slate to elect the mayor. After a bargaining session over how many councilmen each side should have, it always ended up with a majority of non–Jews.

There were also instances when the starosta was unhappy with the selection of a local man for Mayor and wanted to put in one of his own people. Months in advance he would pay us a visit, call together the Jewish representatives and explain to them that it would profit the town a great deal to elect such a person. The Jews understood what he meant and the elections ended up as he wished…

For a long time the same Jewish councilmen were elected to office in Szydlowiec: Moshe Citron, senior councilman; Abraham Blicher and Shabbatai Lacks, from the Bund; Shlomo Neiberg, from Agudah and Leybush Shchenshlive, independent. They were almost like “professional” councilmen. Later, with new winds blowing, there was a feeling among the younger Jews that they should be represented by a younger person, and Joseph Tenenbaum was also elected.

In the years prior to the war the authorities put a lot of pressure on the population to beautify the cities and towns. Urbanization became almost an obsession with them. And it all fell on the heads of the Jews.

A regulation was passed, for example, that petty traders who sold their wares from stands in the marketplace had to pay a daily 2–zloty tax to the city. This aroused a great protests – it was practically their daily profit. Chayele Rosenberg (now Gutman, lives in Toronto), who owned a newspaper kiosk, called together all the interested people and appealed to the Kehillah representatives to do everything possible to get the

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law rescinded. A large delegation, consisting of Kehillah representatives and councilmen, headed by the rabbi, went directly to the county board and after long negotiations, managed to have the law revoked.

But it wasn't long before a new decree was promulgated: All the hedorim were ordered closed, for the following reasons: (1) The melamdim (teachers) had no teaching certificates; (2) the places were not suitable for classrooms; (3) the melamdim had not had medical examinations; (4) the rooms were not properly ventilated, and they were large enough for only 4–5 pupils, whereas they were now holding 30–40.

Again there was a protest, even louder than before, because this was an affront to religious feelings, and what it would have meant to Jews to close down their schools needs no elaboration here. The starosta was flooded with complaints. He turned them over to the county board of education in Kinsk, which consisted of the directors of the existing state schools, the county physician, the Catholic Bishop of Kinsk, several city council representatives and the county school inspector. The starosta was Chairman. The only Jewish representative on the board was Abraham Flinker, who reported n the whole matter and tried to put it in the proper perspective. The board finally decided to turn the matter back to the City Commission in Szydlowiec that would be set up for this purpose.

The matter was settled in the following way. The melamdim had to be examined by the county physician in Kinsk; they had to be photographed bareheaded, they had to whitewash the walls in their hedorim, install metal ventilators in the windows, and hang portraits of Josef Pilsudski and President Moscicki on the wall, along with a license issued and signed by the County Board of Education. There was to be a maximum number of 8–10 children in the room at any time. That's what it said on the wall, but in actual practice the number of children remained the same as it was before…


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Melamdim, Hedorim, Schools

By Isaac Milstein

Reb Hershl, the oldest melamed in Szydlowiec, was seventy when I attended his heder. He lived with his family in a room next to the heder. He started from aleph–beys and worked his way up to the Five Books of Moses (khumesh). We called him “The Pincher” because he seemed to enjoy pinching his pupils.

Yeshayele Zlatovicz, whom we called Yeshaya Hoiker (hunchback), was the exception among the melamdim because he was always neat and clean, you might say even dressed up. In his vest pocket he wore a silver watch on a silver chain. Moreover, he read newspapers – which was most unusual for those times in his circles.

Mordecai Koltsker used to terrorize the boys in his heder. A mean–spirited man, he would beat them unmercifully. The boys used to fight back against such melamdim by giving them nicknames that stuck to them for the rest of their lives. As bad a person as Mordecai Kotsker was, that's how good he was as a cantor. It was a joy to listen to him sing.

The Talmud Torah in Szydlowiec, a large building with four big rooms on the first floor and two on the second, was administered by a committee. The school was divided into four classes. Over the entrance to the building was a large sign reading: EDUCATE THE CHILDREN OF THE POOR, FOR FROM THEM WILL COME FORTH TORAH.

Great emphasis was placed on good manners. Whenever any member of the Administration Committee entered a classroom, all the children would greet him with a welcoming borukh–habo.

Yisroel Neiman introduced new methods of discipline. He never struck a child. He made them feel their guilt in other ways. I remember when one of the boys persuaded a classmate

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to steal something. Neiman made them both stand in the room for a couple of hours, each one wearing a sign. One sign read: “I Stole.” The other: “I Instigated Him.”

In addition to Hebrew, we were also taught to read and write Yiddish and Polish; also arithmetic. Several times a week, Israel Zucker taught those subjects.

There were no special places in our shtetl where children could play. We had to find our own places to play hide–and–seek, tag, or a game called “Burned Kasha” (for which we needed four trees). That was during the summer. Wintertime, especially on Shabbos afternoons, we would find a corner in the Big Bes–Medresh (where the grownups were reading Psalms) or in the Small Bes–Medresh (where old Hersh Motte was translating the Torah portion of the week for the “common folk.”)

When you “graduated” from heder you had three alternatives: to learn a trade (which 75% of the children did, though some of them continued their education with private tutors); second, to enter the yeshiva (most pious parents sent their boys there); third, to enroll in a Polish school, of which there were two, one for boys and one for girls. The higher the class, the fewer Jews there were.

All the teachers were Christians. Once there was one named Unger, but he turned out to be an apostate. Only the teacher of religion was Jewish – our own Rabbi Chaim Sholem Yekutiel Rabinowicz. He taught us from a Bible translated into Polish, and his class was very enjoyable. His Polish was perfect. Later, Abraham Finkler took over his post as teacher of religion.

Most of the students in the Polish schools were girls. The Jewish parents did not want their children to spend 4–5 hours a day in a Christian school, so they would engage a private tutor to come to their homes and teach the general subjects. Actually it usually turned out to be a class, anyway. For example, in our house there were my two brothers and myself and several of

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the neighbor's children – about 8–10 children altogether. We had a five–year program, then the Director of the Polish school would give us an examination. Those who passed received a diploma equivalent to completing the courses in the state school.


Customs and Nostrums

By Devorah Rosenzweig–Blander

Like every other city and town in Poland, our Szydlowiec also had its customs. Some of them I remember.

Whenever a funeral procession passed by, Jews shut their doors and windows, even their shops.

When a bridegroom and his guests came into Szydlowiec from another town, they would be driven through the streets three times round, in the same carriage they came in.

Weddings would take place usually in the synagogue yard. The neighbors around the synagogue would place lamps or candles along the way to the synagogue. After the ceremony, the grandmother of the groom or bride would dance up to the couple and sing out: “Chosn, do hostu a kuchen, zolst nit darfn mer ken kalleh zuchen.” (Groom, here's a cookie, so you won't have to look for a bride any longer.)

In the home of a woman who had just given birth, they hung a sheet around the bed. On the doors and windows they hung amulets and inscriptions to drive away the evil spirits.

To cure a swelling or inflammation on the face or other parts of the body, they would place around the patient's bed a sheet of heavy paper on which the following was written in Latin letters with straws from the broom: PILA RUZA AFFA POSTA. Not everyone was empowered to write such an inscription – only Yehiel Abish blander or Zelik Soyfer.

Anyone, however, was permitted to drive away the Evil

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Eye. We learned that in heder as kids. One method was this: Take the ember of a burnt piece of wood and put it into water. If it sinks, the Evil Eye will be difficult to avoid. This method was called “Extinguishing the Evil Eye.”

We had two badkhonim in Szydlowiec. Yudele Vignanski was the very pious one, but he could entertain the guests and sing to the bride. Yitzhok Moyshe Rafalowicz the Drummer was the more worldly one, with the more modern style.

One of the tastiest dishes in our town was called tatishane – brown flour. The flour was dissolved in water. This was spooned into small tin trays and baked in the oven. It was delicious.

Our borsht was different, but very simple to prepare. In a big pot of water we put some bran. We let this stand until it turned sour. Then it was sold. You could make it to taste – with sorrel or with the leaves of new beets or with cabbage or with garlic (this was called knobelborsht). Several families made a living out of selling this. The borsht–makers were Frumet, Yankel, Sarah Elka and Freyda.

Griskelech were also baked with brown flour, mixed with wheat flour and sugared on top. These were almost as big as a roll. The larger ones we called griskes. You could buy them in any bakery in Szydlowiec.


Blood Libel in Szydlowiec

By Hershl Kriss

This happened a few years before the destruction of our shtetl.

It was a few weeks before Pesach. Early one Shabbos morning a rumor raced through the town that a city official named Gomulczinski had disappeared.

His two friends, Geniek Schlessinger and Pajonk said that the Jews had probably lured him into a trap and killed him, so

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they could use his blood for making matzos for their holiday. The Christian population picked up this rumor and very soon there was a pogrom atmosphere in Szydlowiec. Schlessinger and Pajonk accused a Jewish baker of the crime. The Chief of Police and his deputy searched the bakery and arrested the baker. Panic spread among the Jews – what could be more dangerous than a blood libel?

Gomulczinski was a young Pole who lived with his mother and sister and worked in the office of the Mayor. He was known as a Polish patriot and a man of conscience who had been on good terms with the Jews. Schlessinger and Pajonk were spoiled ne'er–do–wells from wealthy families. Schlessinger was the worst of the pair. Pajonk was not as rich – his father was an organist. Both of them loved to flirt with Jewish girls.

The police soon began to suspect them of having had something to do with Gomulczinski's disappearance. The chief witness against them was the wife of Seta the carpenter. The windows of her home faced the yard of the Schlessinger's. She testified that several days earlier she had seen three men walk past her window, but that only two had come back. She had also noticed that Schlessinger was digging in his field, something he had never done before. The police searched Schlessinger's field and found the body of the missing Gomulczinski. The two suspects were tried and convicted of the murder.


“Mendl Trotsky”

By Sarah Zeller (Goldwasser)

My father Mendl came to Szydlowiec from Radom. There he married Esther, daughter of Nehemia Schneider. He was a shoemaker who worked hard at his trade from early morning to late afternoon and often far into the night. When there was work, he had to do as much as he could to make up for the lean times that he knew lay ahead. It was a life of hardship, but we

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did have happy times. We loved each other and were devoted and close–knit family.

My father quickly acclimated himself. He became active in the leatherworkers union, which was then under the influence of the “linke” – the communists – as was usual at that time, especially in the new independent Poland. Mendl Goldwasser was the tone–setter and the advisor in all the conflicts that arose between the employers and the workers. Everyone listened to him. That's why he was given the nickname “Mendl Trotsky” – a name that stuck with him until the end. Mendl was an idealist.

He loved the workers and helped them in hard times – which were frequent. Mendl often needed help himself, but his belief never wavered. Along with his comrades, he believed that help could come only from the East. He perished in Treblinka with most of the Jews from Szydlowiec.

My mother was a wonderful woman who suffered hardship as a result of my father's political and union activities. Her greatest anxiety was that he would be taken away by the police and never return. But he always came home after the police interrogations. The summers, the winters, the periods of labor unrest and strikes, all this meant hard times – no work, no money. Regardless of our own circumstances, however, my father, as president of the local union, always had a helping hand for his union brothers in need. He was well read in Yiddish books and newspapers.

On July 15, 1942 I was taken to the Skarzysko Hassag labor camp, where we worked in a large munitions factory. In July 1944 we were transported to Czenstochowa along with the entire factory.

As the only survivor of my whole family, it has fallen to me to leave a remembrance of them here. It was only through the love and devotion of my husband that I was able to survive the terrible trauma and rebuild my shattered spirit.


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Theater, Film and Szydlowiec Artist

By Isaac Milstein

I'll begin with the dramatic circle which was part of my trade union. It was general knowledge that they were preparing a theater production, but no one knew what it was or when it would take place. One day my brother's friend, Shlomo Zuckergut, asked me to come to a rehearsal, because they needed someone to make posters and the stage decorations. I accepted the invitation with pleasure, because I've always loved art and the theater.

They were rehearsing Goldfadn's Bobe Yakhne (also called Di Kishef–makherin, The Witch.) Lazer Sharfer was the director. Later they called him “Hotsmakh”, after his role in the play – he was so well suited to that role that the name stuck to him. By trade he was a cake baker – the rehearsals actually took place in his bakery. The other players were: Meir Sternshas, Goldele Ungerovitch (a pretty girl with a fine voice), Leah Schwartzfing, Nota Stern (prompter), Shlome Zuckergut, Shmuel Rosenzweig, Motl Verzbniker, Reyzl Chamentowski, Chaya Dina Saltzman, and Leybl Wasserstein. There were a lot of songs in the play; the music was played by the brothers Isaac and Aaron Geiger.

The play was presented on a Saturday evening in January 1930. The hall was packed. The play was so well received that it was performed again a couple of weeks later. The songs were afterward sung in all the workshops in town.

After “The Witch” they began rehearsing Jacob Gordin's “God, Man and Devil,” a very difficult drama for amateurs. This play was performed with a new director, Moshe Shia Zuckerman. New actors came forward. Leading roles were taken by Yekutiel Horowitz and Reyzl Birenblum. Also, Rivka

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Wistonshka, Chaya Fuchs, Masha Silberstein and Nota Stern. Leybush Yosl Rosenbloom became the prompter. Also in the cast were Shmuel Rosenzweig, Leybe Wasserstein and myself.

The evening of the presentation was like a festive holiday. The house was sold out and the play was a great success.

Later, in addition to plays, we did revues with song and dance. We also did “The Dybbuk” and “The Fruits of War.”

A year before the war, Yeheskehl Lichtiger, a well known artist, managed to produce “A Mother's Heart.” He also organized a chorus which gave some concerts. This was during the last days before the outbreak of the war, when the curtain came down forever on the theater and its players.

The movie theater in Szydlowiec was built right after the First World War. Chaya Glickes, the former wife of Chayim Osher Shotland, was the manager. She brought in some very good films. Since they were silent films, a violinist always accompanied the showing. Sometimes it was Akiba Mendelsohn and sometimes one of the Geiger brothers. If it was a religious film, like “The Ten Commandments,” special showings were arranged for the school children (one of whom was me). I remember marveling at the way they had brought Mt. Sinai to Szydlowiec…

With the arrival of sound movies, the theater was taken over by a man named Golach, a non–Jew. The last owners were a couple named Katz.

One of our best artists was Leybush Chustetski. His father, Shimele, was a house painter and also did inscriptions on gravestones, but could barely earn a living.

When the bes–medresh was rebuilt they put in a new Torah Ark. The artist who did the wood–carvings was Leybush Shcherbutski, a Master at his craft.

When Nota Eisenberg built his magnificent house, the finest in the city, the landscapes on the walls were done by Leybush Chustetski and his father Shimele. Here Leybush won

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recognition for his artistic ability. His painting on the creation of the Polish constitution and of Thaddeus Kosciusko (who took part in the American Revolution) hung in the city hall. It was the fashion in those days to paint the four seasons of the year on the ceilings of wealthy homes. Leybush did this for the first time in the home of Chaim Rosenberg.

The youngest artist in our town was Yankele Saltzman, son of Abraham Abish the mechanic. The teacher in the Polish school had high hopes for him. He once painted a portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt from a newspaper photograph and it was very well received in the White House. He even made a deck of cards for himself – they were incredible! Before the war he studied in an art school in Warsaw. He was also a talented violinist. A musician from Lodz, who had somehow landed in Szydlowiec, gave him lessons gratis. The day before the deportation, Yankele escaped with his brother Moshe, carrying Aryan documents. That was the last time we ever saw him.

Yosl Silberstein and I, who both attended Yeshayele Melamed's heder, started by drawing pictures on the pages of siddurim and chumoshim – and were properly punished. Later, Yosl painted large portraits of Jabotinski and Theodore Herzl. Today he lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he has had several exhibits.

My cousin, Yankl Milstein, was also a gifted artist. When he and I were students in the Polish school, the teacher sent our drawings to an exhibit in Kinsk. Today Yankl is an artist in Ramat Gan in Israel.

Moshe Chaim Vignanski, the son of Yidele Badkhen, was also an artist. Every year before Shevuot he would make paper flowers for himself. The custom was to hang pictures in the windows of your home – pictures of fortresses, of soldiers, of historic personalities. Moshe Chaim painted his own pictures and hung them in his windows. They were greatly admired by

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the townspeople. Moshe Chaim died in the camp at Jedlne, leaving a wife and children.


Doctors in Szydlowiec

By Reyzl Midlarski–Kwiatowski

As I remember my childhood, there was no doctor in Szydlowiec. Whenever anyone took sick they first tried all the old methods – cupping, castor oil, and similar remedies. If you sprained your wrist or your ankle you first ran to Lazer–Yoske, who was a “specialist” in putting such thing right. Who was this Lazer–Yoske? He owned a two–wheel cart on which he delivered a variety of merchandise.

In case of a serious illness you called the “feldsher” – of whom we had three: Aaron the Healer (Fisher), Yeshaya the Healer (Moshenberg) and Avremele the Healer (Fisher). They could prescribe a medicine and, if necessary, apply cups of leeches. The feldshers also used to pull teeth for the peasants. At the door to each feldsher's house hung three brass trays, tied to each other, and when a breeze blew, the tinkling of the metal could be heard far and wide. For the feldshers these trays wee like the diploma that hangs in a doctor's office.

In very serious cases, people would call the doctor in Radom.

For women in childbirth there were several midwives who had learned their “profession” through long years of experience. The most popular one was Ruzhe, who had brought most f the children in Szydlowiec into the world. She used to say she was the mother of thousands of children and she called each one “my child.” The writer of these lines in one of her children.

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It was not until the 1930s that we got a professionally trained midwife in Szydlowiec. Both she and her daughter used to deliver the babies.

Actually we already had a hospital in Szydlowiec in those days. But strangely enough, it was empty most of the time. Older people told us that during the First World War the hospital functioned under the guidance of Rivka Zucker, who was a nurse.

Early in the 1920s there was a change for the better when Dr. Nikolski settled in Szydlowiec. He was immediately appointed the town physician and he never lacked for patients.

Several years later Dr. Tadanyer came to Szydlowiec. A recent graduate, handsome and gentle, he soon ingratiated himself with everyone in town.

As the population increased, two doctors were not enough, so a feldsher “migrated” from Lodz – his name was Niechtshisky. He had acquired a great deal of experience from working in hospitals and he proved to be a big help to the people, especially for younger children. Later, Leybush Dimont became our third doctor. His father, Joel, was very prominent in Szydlowiec, a “modern” man with the reputation of being a liberal. He sent his son to France to study medicine, and when Leybush came back a full–fledged doctor, the whole town shared in the glory. It was no small thing.

None of the doctors charged exorbitant fees, but Dr. Dimont never even asked for money. If a patient was too poor to pay, that was all right with him too. Often, in such cases, he would even supply the medicine free.

With the outbreak of World War II, Dr. Dimont remained practically the only doctor for a while, until several Jewish doctors – refugees from Krakow – came to Szydlowiec. They all worked beyond the limits of their strength in the hospital that was set up by order of the Gestapo. In those bitter times Dr. Dimont managed to obtain needed medicines from Paris,

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which had not yet been occupied by the Germans. He had contacts there with a few people from Szydlowiec – the Kwiatowskis and his own brother–in–law Jacob Katz. Dr. Dimont was killed by the Nazis. His wife, Leah (Katz) Dimont miraculously escaped with her son and they are now living in Paris.


Dentists in Szydlowiec

By Elka Goldberg Silberman

For many years Szydlowiec had no dentist. If you had a toothache you were in trouble. Avremele the Healer could only pull teeth, not fix them…

The richer folks went to Radom or Warsaw to get their teeth fixed, but what could the poor people do? So toothaches were very prevalent in our town, and this gave rise to many anecdotes and curses.

The situation improved when a dentist name Kachanowski came from Warsaw and opened an office in Szydlowiec.

Working people and young people had their teeth taken care of in the dispensary, where treatment was free or at very low cost. For a while we had a woman dentist, the daughter of a Polish teacher, but she didn't stay long.

In the 1930s a dentist named Mechner settled in our shtetl, but he was more a technician than a dentist. He had a good assistant, a woman named Kwiatkowska, who helped many patients, especially the young people.

In the least years before the war, the dentist Tobenhaus and his wife came to Szydlowiec. They were middle–aged and so assimilated that they didn't even consider themselves Jews, but when the Nazis came with their “deportations” he went into the trains along with all the other Jews Mrs. Tobenhaus was caught in a hiding–place in their building and shot.


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Szydlowiec Youth

By Pearl Teichman

Szydlowiec, with its age–old way of life and its Jewish homes with their deeply rooted traditions, was indelibly engraved upon our young hearts. But when we grew a little older, the atmosphere in the home became oppressive. New dreams filled our hearts and awakened a striving to get out into the bigger world. The young people of my generation lived through this period of sturm–and–drang that followed World War I. The world–shaking events going on around us dragged us into their raging stream and we struggled to educate ourselves, as well as to bring a little light to the young Jews in the shtetl.

Here our paths collided with those of our parents. Even though we ourselves had no professional education, we took upon ourselves the work of opening schools supplementary to the heder, whose teaching methods no longer suited us. Naturally our parents were opposed to this. But we overcame all obstacles. (These schools were also open to children who had no opportunity of attending the Polish state schools.)


The Mill

By Frieda Kurlender–Kuplik

My grandfather, Itzik Kurlender, owned a big mill which he had built himself. The mill employed about 25 people who worked in three shifts. The mill served the entire area.

The head miller was Meir Monk.

Sarah Anshels, my other grandfather's wife, was the real breadwinner. My grandfather Anshel studied Torah all day and was the right hand of Szydlowiecr rabbi, Chaim Rabinowicz. Sarah was a very charitable woman, always helping out the hakhnoses kallah society, the synagogue, the cemetery, etc.

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After my grandfather Itzik died, the mill was managed by my father, Hershl, and Israel Warshafsky, one of the most prominent men in Szydlowiec.


A Matter of Spirits

By Yankl Silberman

This happened during the time when shopkeepers in Szydlowiec used to order their goods through a broker who had contacts with large wholesale firms in other cities, notably Warsaw and Lodz. These brokers would hire wagon–drivers who would start out early Sunday morning, taking along also various Szydlowiec products such as whetstones for scythes, soft leather for shoes and boots, and other such things. A trip like this, in which merchants and passengers on special business would also go along, used to take almost a week. If everything went smoothly, they would return on Friday. The wagon drivers had hardly enough time to eat or sleep. They would grab something in an inn and drive further. All they could think of was to get back early enough on Friday so they could unload the merchandise for the merchants who had ordered it, then go to the bath–house and get a good wash, then greet the Sabbath in the synagogue and have an oneg–Shabbos for the coming week.

This was how it was with Simchele Baalagole. On one such Friday evening, when he came into the synagogue, he sat down on a bench near the anteroom and davened mincha. When the cantor started singing the L'cho–dodi, Simchele fell fast asleep. The cantor finished the service, the shames said the Kiddush, the synagogue emptied out, and the shames, being the last one out, locked the door behind him. The candles burned down and went out.

Simchele woke up and found himself alone in the dark synagogue, but he was not a man who scares easy. He went

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over to the window in the anteroom which looked out into the yard and began to bang on it and call for help. Suddenly he noticed that Sholem Bushkevich, who lived near the synagogue, was coming into the yard to fetch some water from the well. He gathered up all his strength and started yelling: “Sholem! Sholem!” Bushkevich, hearing his name being called from the dark synagogue, was so frightened that he began screaming “Spirits! Evil spirits” and fainted dead away.

Meanwhile, Sholem's family had become concerned and gone out to see what happened to their father. They found him lying on the ground in the yard. Simcheleh's children too had come out to look for their father. Finally they put the story together and went to get the key from the shammes.

The next morning the whole town was buzzing with the news: Last night, evil spirits had been hiding in the synagogue and calling to anyone who passed by – by name …


The Death of Two Boys

By Leybush Glass

This happened on a bright summer day.

Leybush and Moyshe, the children of Israel and Leah Radolnick, went out to the pond near the “castle,” where people in Szydlowiec used to go to bathe. It was very early in the morning and no one else was there.

The two brothers went into the water. After a little while they sank beneath the surface. A woman who was washing clothes some distance away noticed this and began to scream. Members of the Kanovski family, who lived nearby, came running and leaped into the water with their clothes on. They found the two boys – but it was too late.

This terrible tragedy left the whole town shaken almost as much as the parents.

Yankl Radolnick, the older brother of the two boys, later fell on the battlefield in the war against the Nazis.


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Tragic Memories

By Majorek Rosenberg

Time heals, time consoles, time makes one forget – but memories of one's youth remain forever.

In the center of my memories is a group of friends who are now only shadows for me. Yet they are real. Friends like Shlomo Kleiman, Avigdor Shuster, Motek Milstein, Abramek Milstein, Shlomo Eisenberg, Yankl Eisenberg, Samek Redlich. These are names that live on in my thoughts. Samek was the first victim.

In order to attend the gymnazie, some of us had to get up at six o'clock in the morning, ride five kilometers on our bikes to the train station for our ultimate destination – either Radom or Skarzisk or Kielce. More than once we had incidents with anti–Semitic students who were riding the same route.

I remember our summer excursions tot eh pine forests near the village of Sodek, our swimming expeditions in the pond – and even the political discussions in my father's kiosk, where he sold newspapers.

Now there are only a handful of us left. And though we came from various circles of the community, we all have the same tragic memories of our past.

 

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