by Yitzhak Yosef Riba, Ramat Hen
Translated by Menachem Daum
Jewish Zdunska Wola has always been distinguished by her hospitality and benevolence. The readiness to help the needy in distress was one of the most basic characteristics of the Zdunska Wola Jew.
During the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914, when the Germans invaded and destroyed Kalisz the local Jews, having no choice, took the wandering stick in hand and let themselves onto the wide Polish country roads in the direction of the Polish interior.
As soon as the starving and homeless wanderers dragged themselves into Zdunska Wola they immediately felt what Jewish solidarity means. Immediately a committee of local activists was formed to organize urgent assistance for the refugees. Among others in this committee were the brothers Motel, Moshe, Meir and Hersh Rosenberg.
These activists showed paternal devotion to the homeless a feeling that the latter so strongly lacked in their wanderings. While many committee members were busy with providing the afflicted, first of all, with a roof over their heads by housing them in factory rooms and private residences other activists quickly erected a public kitchen in the yard of Committee Member Moshe Rosenberg which provided these refugees and their families with basic needs.
The expenses of the kitchen where the refugees received three meals daily, free of charge, were covered by donations the committee collected from the local Jewish population. Volunteers carried out all the functions of the kitchen, like all the other work related to supplying the needs of the refugees.
Meir Rosenberg took these extremely important responsibilities upon himself in order to enable the refugees to have undisturbed freedom of movement, so that the latter could, without burdens, dedicate all their free time to learn how to adjust to the new abnormal conditions.
Meir Rosenberg solicited storage areas where they gathered all the packages and luggage that the homeless still managed to save from their destroyed homes. Every item was numbered and registered while every homeless person had the right at any time to come to his luggage a fact that significantly alleviated the fate of the victims and freed them, other than for the concern of looking after their meager moveable belongings, from the so difficult soulcrushing refugee nightmare.
Despite the fact that our committee fulfilled its Jewish and human obligation to ease the condition of the refugees, endeavoring by all means to provide for them locally, however the objective conditions at that unsettled time were far from suitable, as will be seen from the continuation of the story. Indeed, a number of refugees decided to leave our city. The committee provided these refugees with horse drawn carriages there was no train traffic due to the war conditions transporting these people for free to theirs closest destination.
The needy among the refugees received pocket money to use for the first period of their arrival at their new place.
The Need Swells
The war conditions and their effects did not only affect the expelled homeless refugees from Kalisz. Also Zdunska Wola itself, especially the Jewish population, began to experience what neediness is. At that time the textile factories the major industrial source of livelihood in town stopped, and complete stagnation entered into the realm of general life unemployment and lack of earnings characterized our city. Neediness continuously increased, becoming a frequent guest that touched almost every family. At that time, the committee, which was initially created to help the afflicted fraternal refugees from the destruction in Kalisz, was forced to widely expand its area of work taking under its concern the evergrowing number of locals in need.
Inexpensive Kitchen and Tearoom
When the committee faced this new situation, it organized an inexpensive kitchen and tearoom. In this temporary lifesaving institution, set up in Kosko's factory, the guiding principle was, All who are hungry come in and eat and We do not assess for food. Anyone who applied for help received a loaf of bread with a glass of tea for one kopek while a meat soup with bread cost two kopeks.
Just as in the public kitchen for the refugees so too in the inexpensive kitchen (where incidentally Liebel Kempener served as cook) and in the tearoom, all functions involving the organizing, lighting, maintenance and serving, were all carried out voluntarily mostly by our city's girls. It operated with a precise distribution of labor according to a previously developed welldefined work plan: who was assigned to peel potatoes, who to wash the dishes, who to serve the food, who to shop for the products and so forth. In short, everything was well thought out and organized so that everyone involved knew exactly what they had to do and when for this general extremely important cause. And the purpose! To ease the needs of the poor and impoverished strata of the Jewish population affected by the economic furor that befell them as an unavoidable result of the war operations.
Among these who were forced to turn to social assistance due to the previously noted objective circumstances were also many respected families who only yesterday were still counted among the welltodo circles. For these people it was degrading not only to come into the kitchen and to sit and eat with everyone for them it was also shameful just to be seen in the kitchen and take their portions with them. In these cases, the committee with its eyes on the needs of the community and responsibility for the community immediately undertook the necessary steps so that these people should receive theirs in private and not be forced to give up their human dignity and social position factors that for many were often more important than momentary material satisfaction.
Typhus Spotted Fever Epidemic
The important material support that the aid committee distributed to the population in need through the previously described institution, a support that meaningfully eased the lives of many hungry adults as well as children, turned out to be insufficient. A handful of food will not satisfy a lion. The longlasting suppression, accompanied by other disruptions usual and unavoidable outcomes of war conditions eventually caused the outbreak of a large spotted fever epidemic in the city.
The disease infected hundreds of Jews, and characteristically, mainly Jews.
Because at that time in the city there was no civilian doctor (the Jewish doctor, Neumann, only settled in the city later) the committee also took upon itself the difficult and dangerous task of fighting the epidemic and relieving the needs of those already struck by the illness and their families.
For this purpose the committee established a health division, to which belonged Motel Rosenberg, Itche Meir Goldhammer, Yaakov Finetuch and Mendel Groskop, and established contact with the military doctor of the German invasion force to get instructions for this division. As a result of a broad recruitment campaign taken by the committee a hundred young people were attracted to this urgent health action.
To effectively carry out these selfimposed responsibilities the health division was divided into three groups! The first group, led by Solomon Hershberg, Avrohmche Abramson and the writer of this account, were busy with caring for the sick themselves until they got out of the sick house.
The second group, headed by Berel Ragovy, had the task of transporting those infected to the sick house. This group also had the thankless duty, often done alone, to uncover the homes where the families of those sick with typhoid struggled, for understandable reasons, to keep this hidden from the public. In addition this group also evacuated the families of the sick, quarantining them in a purposelybuilt isolation house for 7 to 10 days.
The third group, headed by Pashentevsky and Menachem Bratzlowski, was busy with disinfection: supplying the sick with fresh stacks of straw in the place of the old ones that were then destroyed, taking out the bedding and the clothes of the sick and their families, etc.
The health section, whose job, as previously noted, was to combat the epidemic disease on the one hand came to the aid of those affected by the sickness and their families on the other hand it did not consider its task fully completed with the recovery of the sick.
It often turned out that not everyone who already overcame this severe and grueling illness was able to go home to their house and family, lacking the minimum ability to get back to being themselves during the important recovery period. For these people the committee set up a convalescent home where the recovered but still very weak patient was transferred and enjoyed a quiet home, better nutrition, good service and preventing this burden from falling on the family which had itself endured much during the time and which was incapable, physically and materially, to provide these conveniences and for the greatly increased needs of their affected family member.
And here it should also be noted that this incredibly important provision of assistance and services in these conditions were volunteered without hesitation a feature that is very characteristic of Jewish Zdunska Wola.
The Health Section is Disbanded
The volunteer health section existed about two years until the Germans began grabbing young people and sending them to prison including a number of the health workers. Thus, the health workers were thinned out and no longer able to carry out their essential and blessed activities, the section disbanded. However, the need for health workers did not disappear with the disbanding of the section. That is why the German authorities were forced to establish a small section of paid health workers. The latter, however, were met with distrust on the part of the Jewish population. Formerly, when the health workers performed their services as volunteers, moved by noble motives of love of man, by a sense of responsibility of one Jew for another, this fact to a large extent weakened the natural opposition to the sick in the isolation institutes. The devoted work of the voluntary Jewish health workers elicited trust leading to a more or less normal and respectful relationship between both sides. Different, completely different, relationships formed when the new, paid health workers began to function. The afflicted saw them only as heartless officials who had little interest in the fate of their nearest and dearest. So it was no wonder that Jews increasingly began to hide their sick in order to avoid surrendering them to the hands strangers in sick houses and families to houses of isolation.
The innate essence of the Zdunska Wola Jew to perform acts of kindness, to help a fellow Jew in time of trouble found its expression in a new type of social benevolence during the changed conditions of the paid health workers in the socalled called visitors.
To avoid the hospitals, as already noted, the families of the victims took upon themselves a heavy burden that was not always within their abilities. Visiting volunteers came to help them. They were most often observant, religious Jews, looking literally with candles to do a mitzvah, to fulfill their human and Jewish duty of course without any remuneration. One of the visitors was also my father Israel Meir zl, who, by the way, became infected himself with typhus disease during these visits and died from it.
And at this opportunity it should be mentioned that my father zl, a deeply believing Jew, was an institution unto himself. To alleviate the need of a Jew and in general to give pleasure to another, was basically in his nature. Ignoring that he was himself not rich he took upon his shoulders more than his means permitted. For example, every Sabbath eve he would boil a number of kettles of water to give pleasure to hundreds of Jews throughout the Sabbath with hot tea. This honor already began Sabbath morning before sunrise when R. Nahum Haz used to roam the Jewish streets of the city calling our Jewish brethren to wake up and serve their Creator. In our home no less than 10 challahs were baked placed in the prayer house of the Ger Hasidim for the Sabbath Third Feast.
My father also took upon himself the difficult burden to support four orphans. Sharing with them the food from his mouth he raised them for years and also married them off at his own expense.
These lines, devoted to my father and his behavior towards fellow Jews, should, Heaven forbid, not be understand as an exception to the general behavior of all Zdunska Wola Jews.
Quite the contrary; These attributes of hearty devotion for another, from feeling as responsible for the fate of a Jewish individual as for the fate of the entire Jewish community, in the category of All of Israel are responsible for each otherthese qualities and good deeds that sprang from them belonged to the natural daily reality of the entire Zdunska Wola Jewish community.
Zdunska Wola A Model
The extensive very important philanthropic activity that Zdunska Wola developed in the wartime, in all areas of interpersonal needs in general, and particularly in the field of the typhus spotted fever epidemic became widely known throughout the region. Many communities who were also affected by this illness turned to us for help meaning; for us to send instructors to their localities to organize initiatives similar to ours in order to fight the illness. Among other communities that turned to us regarding this issue was also Zloczew.
Our delegate, Abraham Avrahamson, fully carried out his mission in Zloczew, establishing a health section there according to the model of Zdunska Wola.
In his holy mission for the sake of a neighboring community Abramson himself became infected by the terrible illness, gave up his life and there he was given a Jewish funeral.
by Y. Riba, Ramat Hen
Translated by Menachem Daum
Difficulty Being a Competitor
The year is 1907. Along with a vital, spiritual and intellectually capable Jewish community Zdunska Wola also possessed a beastly antiSemitic Party the Endeks, who had nothing to be ashamed of, neither in ideology nor in practice, in comparison to their Russian friends of the Jews the Black Hundreds.
Searching for all means, legitimate or not, to realize their declared Jew hatred in daily reality, especially in the economic sector, our local antiSemites seeing how Jewish industrialists were successful and Jewish commerce was blossoming were determined to establish pure Christian industry as well as their own commercial enterprises. Their intention was bold as if the results were almost lying in their grasp. It was obvious: if Christians produce for Christians it is selfevident that they will buy from one another! And what will be the result? The Jewish factor will be completely strangled and forced again to take up the wandering stick in hand the outcome the Endecja dreamed for
Said and done. In their generosity the Endeks, excluded from their area of activity articles of Jewish rites such as prayer shawls and ritual fringes, and began with the production of apparel for priests and headscarves for Christian women to wear to church on Sunday and holidays.
In order to mask the poor quality and high prices of their manufactured goods, they imprinted on the cloth screaming wellknown antiSemitic slogans like: Don't buy from Jews! From one of your own to one of your own! Everything was fine and well until the goods arrived to the consumer. The uselessness of the whole patriotic enterprise soon became apparent. It soon became clear that pious patriotic arguments were not enough to replace economic competence. As soon as the Christian buyers realized the approved merchandise was of lower quality and cost much more than those in the Jewish businesses they came to the latter and purchased what they needed leaving the patriots with their merchandise on God's beard.
Seeing what they had done it became gloomy for them. Wasted money, drowning in debt and full warehouses with no way to empty them! The disappointment was great and the shame even greater. Having no way out of the trouble in which they buried themselves, the proud lordly Endeks, having no choice, turned to the same despised Jews as if they were trying to confirm the familiar Polish expression, which is probably based on generations of experience: Yak beda tu du Zhida
And the end: After much pleading the headscarves, with the slogans removed, appeared in the Jewish shops for half the price! There were those who said that only thanks to this were the Christian merchants able to get back on their feet.
So go assess the value of a Jewish soul!
The Torah Litigation
Everyone knew that Reb Henoch Groskop was a Torah person and Gd fearing man. But that he has also been involved in giving charity anonymously was truly a novelty and only the needy beneficiaries knew about it. One of these one was a Jew, a great Torah scholar and also a very poor halfblind man who lived across from the synagogue. Knowing the behavior of this the honorable Jew, his condition, and the poverty he endured in private so that others should not know Reb Henoch took upon himself the responsibility of doing whatever he was capable of to make life easier for this Jew in his difficult lot.
This went on quietly for a long time. Both parties were pleased. Reb Henoch because he came upon such a precious mitzvah to fulfill and the Jew who received the help not being forced to humiliate his dignity by extending his hand to beg.
And suddenly a news item! Who could have imagined that feelings of jealousy could arise in such a gentle and humane setting? Suddenly it became known from the Jew that Reb Meir Kozhnitsky was taking care of the mitzvah also sending his gifts to this Jew. When Rabbi Henoch heard of it he was distraught. Such an injustice! This is truly trespassing! And so if one Jew commits an injustice against another, of course, the best Jewish way is litigation according to Torah law. Regarding this story it is absolutely unimportant what the ruling of the religious judge was. What is important that on a beautiful summer day in 1910 at Rabbi Gedaliah Dayan there was a bang on the table accompanied by a loud, What do you mean by taking away my mitzvah?!
So go and measure the greatness of a Zdunska Wola Jew!
During the great controversy between the Gerer and Alexander Hasidim, who at one time did not permit matrimonial matches between each other, which also led to broken engagements both sides were at odds with each other like two hostile camps who did not recognize each other.
The worst was the question of kosher slaughter. Here the controversy reached its high point. For a Gerer Hasid what an Alexander Hasid slaughtered was as unkosher as a pig while similarly for an Alexander Hasid what a Gerer Hasid slaughtered was untouchable and disgusting.
What does one do that in a slaughterhouse in which there was only room for three butchers and the Gerers had already acquired two positions? So after a stormy meeting in the Alexander shtiebel they resolved to remove one of the Gerers from the slaughterhouse and replace him with a slaughterer from one of their own. This act must be implemented forcibly by all Alexander Hasidim, men, women and children who were to assemble themselves at the place at an agreed upon time.
And this is what happened. On a Friday morning, in the midst of the hectic slaughter of birds for the Sabbath the delegation appeared in front of the slaughterhouse. When the two Gerers, Reb Jacob Aharan Riba and R' Leibel Shochet, noticed what was happening they stood by the door with fingers in their belts and firmly exclaimed, Louts! Leave quickly! And the end was that they quickly withdrew.
Later when they asked the Alexander leader Why? Why did you retreat so quickly from the battlefield, not even attempting to carry out your plan? came an edifying reply: Controversy is indeed controversy but being respectful stands higher!
Translated by Menachem Daum
It was the eve of the outbreak of the war of 1914. Jewish life in the city goes on with its usual rhythm. Among the areas of communal activity that stand out are the benevolent deeds of the philanthropic organizations and, no less so, of individuals, every one of whom was like an organization themselves. Among the various forms of extremely important philanthropic work was the very popular system of anonymous giving, which prevailed among a great portion of those whose hearts were open to the worries and needs of their fellow man. This form of aiding others was considered as the highest expression and manifestation of a sense of responsibility for the Jewish community and individual without any ulterior motives of selfpromotion. These noble and highly altruistic acts of anonymously helping the needy for its own sake was something I already experienced in my early childhood when on the eves of Passover and other feast days my mother ah would secretly buy potatoes from the peasants and give them addresses where to deliver them, with the express demand that no one should know where they comes from.
One Sabbath, at the end of the summer, we noticed that something is not right. The faces of the congregants in the House of Prayer were creased, indicating severe worry, while they whispered one to another. Among the interrupted whispers that reached our ears we could make out a single word that we more or less understood the word war. Not knowing exactly the reality of what it means, we children were also disturbed by the restlessness of the parents.
Suddenly, right after the morning services, a pale frightened Jew arrives who immediately heads to the eastern wall to the rabbi. Their agitated discussion instills us with fear. It seems that something terrible has occurred. Soon a bang on the table is heard and the rabbi exclaims with his trembling voice: Jews, hitch your wagons and drive immediately to the Kalisz road to receive our unfortunate brothers Saving life takes precedence over observing the Shabbat!
It turned out that the Jew was a messenger of the Jewish community in Kalisz, which experienced a great massacre immediately on the first day of war. In the murderous pogrom that the Germans unleashed on the population, shooting right and left, the Jewish residents were the main victims. In great panic the survivors set out in the direction of our city. The help that Zdunska Wola extended to the unfortunate refuges was not limited only to bringing them to our place. They were welcomed by the entire local Jewish population with friendliness, as befits brothers of a single community whose fate is intertwined, until they were provided with temporary homes and other basic needs.
Love of Zion
In the list of memories and thoughts that predominated in the minds of thinking Zdunska Woler Jewish society, the idea of Love of Zion, eternal love of the Land of Israel and its reconstruction, already occupied a highpoint since the 1880s. Then it was first seen in town among a few individuals who later increased and organized themselves into larger groups that devoted their souls totally to working for the Land of Israel. With the appearance of Dr. Herzel and the rise of political Zionism, the Love of Zion idea in its modern Zionist form, became even more popular with the dynamic Jewish nationalleaning society.
This is a characteristic episode that shows how much local Jews identified with the Zionist idea, with its movers and spokesmen. When the tragic news arrived in town of the death of Dr. Herzel my father ah tore his clothing and sat for the Seven Days of Mourning. This was not an exception. Many other Jews did the same. Our father also displayed similar seriousness and devotion for the Zionist idea financially both through his own contributions and encouraging others to do so. For example, he established a custom to deduct 1% from every business transaction to benefit the Jewish National Fund.
When he was appointed a member of the appraisal committee at the tax office, as a representative of the Jewish population, the Jews who had tax refunds gave from 5% to 10% for the benefit of the Jewish National Fund. In this way our Jews showed their deep attachment to the idea in which they believed, serving it with words and with all ways and means.
In 1918, when Polish independence was proclaimed our father called the family together and said: Children, you have to get out of here there will be no life for us among the Poles. As if he had a premonition of the Jewish tragedy that played out over 20 years later, he warned the children they should leave as soon as possible. The warning, which seemed to stem from a completely otherworldly realm, in fact, probably drew its sustenance from same source his deep absolute misgivings of the diaspora, in general, and of the Polish diaspora, in particular and his burning desire to see his children in their own land on the soil of the Patriarchs.
This occurred in the year 1925. Our brother, Moses, had in the meantime moved to Judea, in the Land of Israel, where conditions were very difficult. Occasionally water was unavailable for basic daily necessities. Since his wife was expecting, Moses decided to return to Poland. Our father, who was broken up over this did not great him upon his arrival, bitterly saying, Who has the audacity to descend from the Holy Land? One has to go to the Land of Israel and not come back!
Only some time later, during the circumcision of the newborn son, was there a reconciliation only on the condition that Moshe and his family would return to the Land of Israel.
Yes, our father's love for the Land of Israel did not recognize any boundaries or difficulties even personal difficulties.
Though the above episodes are of a personal nature they are far from limited to but a few individuals. In truth they were characteristic of and deeply embedded among a portion of our ZW society, whose emotionalworld and mindset deserves to be mentioned.
We have to be thankful for this mindset, so that eight of the ten children in our family saved themselves, and so also our mother came to the Land after the death of our father who, was due to his severe illness, could not join us.
In Defense of Jewish Honor
Jewish life on Polish soil was never completely free of external pressure. The hand of the oppressor, who by all kinds of repression and chicanery, whether economical, cultural, or political restricting the rights and normal development opportunities of the sizable Jewish collective in Poland, was always felt. However, there were times when the Poles were not content only with nonviolent repressions and restrictions. A sizable portion of Polish reactionaries, being true to the tradition of General Haller and similar beastly devourers of Jews, went from agitation against Jews in the press, from antiSemitic slogans and heated appeals, to more forceful arguments. Physical attacks on helpless Jews, especially on religious Jews, and at times, even on cheder boys became common occurrences.
When the attacks became more frequent and Jewish lives became increasingly cheap, Jewish SelfDefense spontaneously organized in the city, consisting mainly of young athletes from the existing local sports clubs, but also of Jewish porters, wagon drivers, butchers and others whose energetic reactions more than once convinced the hooligans that it is a lot healthier for them to halt their adventurous accomplishments.
Two episodes, from a large number of this kind, will significantly illustrate the activity and effectiveness of our selfdefense, whether it was immediate or delayed.
It was in the early morning of a spring day in the 20's. During the conscription time when the recruits had to report to the assembly point Sheradz, a group of Polish recruits arrived in our town from Shadek on their way there. On this occasion the carefree recruits took to the Jewish streets and began amusing themselves at the expense of Jewish passerby. One had his beard cut off; another had his clothing torn in addition to dispensing blows right and left. Finishing their work, the cheerful gang continued on the long road to Sheradz, with the intention of repeating this spectacle on the return journey.
It didn't take long and the hooligans appeared again in the city trying to renew their attacks. At that moment, from the Jewish taverns on the market square, groups of youths and Jewish craftsmen from the Jewish SelfDefense, who had been waiting for them, honored them with such a thrashing that the heroic hooligans scrambled for any corner in which to escape or hide.
From then on Polish recruits from the surrounding area knew that in Zdunska Wola you do not amuse yourself with Jews.
The Turnverein in Kalisz organized a gathering of all the Turnvereins in the area from Kalish to Lodz with athletes marching on the city streets accompanied by orchestras as was common for such processions The public parade of Jewish athletes, especially on the central streets of the city did not please the antiSemitic population. Incited by Polish students, a large group attacked the marching athletes. At that moment our Zdunska Wola Turnverein athletes and members of SelfDefense, who were taking part in the parade, showed what they are capable of.
The result: Many of the attackers were wounded and hospitalized.
As a result of their great embarrassment the antiSemitic champions did not even file a complaint.
Zdunska Wolers outside Zdunska Wola.
Feelings of solidarity of Zdunska Wola descendants towards landsleit who needed help were not limited to the physical Zdunska Wola, at the we were still living in our old home. Also outside of its physical boundaries, when our landsleit found themselves far from their birthplace, a warm, mutual sense of responsibility and readiness to help accompanied our people everywhere, wherever they got together.
When we arrived at the beginning of the 1930s in the Land of Israel, where a severe economic crisis was going on, we were warmly welcomed by Tziril Glitzenstein zl (Tzila Solomon) called The Mother of the Zdunska Wolers.
Although she lived with her family in a basement lacking any comforts, it absolutely bothered her not to greet a newly arrived townsperson with the greatest friendliness giving up her bed and sharing her last bite. Indeed our encounters with this kind woman eased our absorption problems upon arriving in the country and gave us courage to overcome all possible difficulties.
She was tragically killed while traveling home from a meeting of our organization.
May her memory be honored!
The change of conditions in the old home also changed the form of help our townspeople who are in the Land offered to those originating from our town who were torn from their homes and escaped to Russia. At that time, during the difficult conditions of war and need, we undertook an extensive campaign of sending packages in order to ease their lives in unfamiliar surroundings.
In the postwar years, when the surviving remnant, including those from our city, began arriving in the Land we created a charitable fund with nointerest loans to ease the resettlement pains of the newly arrived, the socalled agonies of absorption. As is well known, the fund was established thanks to the great material assistance of the Zdunska Wola Landsmanshaft in the United States, which has shown, and continues to show to this day, the greatest interest in the fate and wellbeing of our townspeople here in the country and not only with those in this country.
Finally, let the great efforts be recognized that our union, then headed then by Moshe Rosenberg Zl, displayed in providing a Jewish burial in the old cemetery on Trumpeldor Street in Tel Aviv, for the casket of ashes which was brought after our war by our landsman, Zelig Frankel.
Thanks to their efforts, the day of mourning at the cemetery evolved into a giant mass demonstration in which 25,000 Jews participated who, in crushing silence at the annual outbreak of weeping and during the eulogies, expressed their sorrow, pain and burning protest against the shameful Nazi horrors against our people.
Also, in erecting the monumental memorial in remembrance of the tragic fate of our community, the organization did not rest or stop for any difficulties, in order to complete this Holy task. A special sense of responsibility and sacrifice for this immensely important cause was demonstrated by the previously mentioned president or our union, Moshe Rosenberg zl and, may he live a long life, Yermiyah Pik.
by Moshe Leverant, Hadera
Translated by Menachem Daum
AntiSemitic attitudes, which were a stable element in thought and practice among all classes and strata of Polish society, were especially noticeable in the military in their treatment of Jewish soldiers.
This finding may very well sound odd and incomprehensible. The very essence of the military is to promote positive elements that unite and not negatives ones that divide and separate. The basic nature of the military requires this: to provide all of the people and all of its citizens regardless of nationality or religion all the physical, intellectual and technical resources needed for the wellbeing of the country, to protect it from all enemies and secure its existence a ceaseless obligation that demands cooperation; full mutuality and loyal collaboration on the part of the various segments of the population.
However, the reality turned out to be just the opposite. There was a great unbridgeable distance between what should have been and what actually was.
And this is easily explained.
In civilian life, it is understandable that the Jew was and had to be in frequent contact with the nonJewish environment with the urban as well as the rural element. But this contact was not a continuous one. It was, so to speak, a weaker contact that generally was limited to business or professional activity. In contrast, for all his other needs the Jew mostly lived mostly with his own and his own people's circles. Naturally this was so in fulfilling his religious duties as it was in his spiritual, cultural and social activities. The situation was quite different in the military. Here, the Jew was in continuous unavoidable contact with his nonJewish neighbors, soldiers and officers, in an environment and a mindset that was completely foreign whether because of unnaturally intensified nationalist antagonism, or because of differences in culture or education, or because of differences in upbringing.
These natural or artificial barriers were further intensified by the fact that military regimentation imposes severe difficulties and restrictions which limit natural human needs and which, especially among young people, leads to a search for ways to relieve and release oneself from this tension. This cause the barriers of various kinds and the need to restrain oneself was used on the part of the Polish army in broader measure against the Jew as a result of which he tried to ease his difficult life or make it more pleasant.
And if this was the attitude on the part Polish army towards the Jew, the situation of the Jewish religious soldier was immeasurably more difficult. His commitment to carrying out his religious obligations such as donning phylacteries and other religious rituals increased the possibilities of those looking for every opportunity to taunt the Jew. It goes without saying that these obligations took time, generally valuable time which was limited and which was required to fulfill the strict and timespecific demands of barracks regimentation.
Against the background of the above antiSemitic tendencies, attitudes and practices in the Polish Army, in the following lines I want to tell about a tragic episode that happened to one of our townsfolk, my friend from cheder Chaim Dovid Frankel.
When I was assigned to the 18th Company, which was stationed at Skerniewitz, I had already served nine months in the RussianPolish War of 1920. For me, therefore, the antiJewish attitude in the army was not news. However, this was different, very different, for Chaim Dovid Frankel whom I met when I arrived in my company.
Chaim Dovid, a very religious young man for whom it was hard to adjust to barracks life, suffered severely from numerous harassmentswhether from our antiSemitic captain and company leader whether from the lower echelon officers and regular soldiers, who sought to make his life bitter through numerous punishments and harassments.
The fact that the author of these lines was appointed the be company's barber in the first days of his arrival in Skerniewitz provided some ways for me to make life easier for Chaim Dovid and to alleviate his suffering. First of all I got rid of his straw sleep sack, one of the countless factors from which he suffered, and he slept with me in one bed. The bed issue the mockery by all, was targeted at Chaim Dovid, first of all because he was a Jew but mainly because he was short of time since he still had to be seen in prayer.
In this way his tormented barracks life continued until 1922.
Once, on a Saturday morning, I noticed in his sickly appearance that Chaim David is not feeling well. When asked why, he answered that he is in great pain and also has a high fever. However, he refused to turn to the doctor with these reasons because he didn't want to be called a goldbricker which was the term the Poles used for every Jewish soldier who requested medical assistance.
However, his pains did not cease. Since no doctor was on call on Sunday, Chaim Dovid, having no choice first visited the doctor Monday morning, who immediately released him from the exercises, while we, a group of Jewish soldiers from Zdunska Wola, like Gedaliah Warshavsky, Michael Katz, Fedel and the writer of these lines did not leave him, busying ourselves with helping him in any way we could.
Two days later, on Wednesday, his situation radically deteriorated. He was taken to the hospital where he was immediately operated on but unfortunately it was too late. After a few weeks of severe suffering, Chaim Dovid's soul departed.
Then it turned out that during one of the marches he was pierced by a rusty nail. But Chaim David, knew pretty well the antiSemitic attitudes of his comradesinarms, he knew exactly what ridicule and jesting awaited him if he sought help so he lovingly accepted the pain and the accompanying danger in order not to give the enemies of Jews any weapons in their hands to use against him and through him against Jews in general.
In the end the neglected wound resulted in blood poisoning from which he never recovered.
Thus, Chaim Dovid, the quiet, Godfearing young man for whom his honor and the honor of his Jewish origins were dear, fell as a victim to the poisonous Jewhatred of his Polish environment the environment in which he and those like him loyally served to the best of their ability, and through which they were crushed into a situation that sometimes ended in tragedy as it happened to our Chaim Dovid.
Chaim Dovid was brought according to the request of his parents and with the accompaniment of military orchestra, to a Jewish funeral at the Skernivewitz cemetery where a large Jewish assemblage accompanied him to his eternal rest.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Zduńska Wola, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 30 Mar 2020 by JH