Times of the Past
Translated by Bill Leibner
Zloczew was a small town with a Jewish community of about 500 families. The community was very close and many families were directly or indirectly related. Almost the entire community attended a wedding or a funeral in town. If someone was very ill, the entire population knew about it. Some visited the patient, while others expressed their hope of a speedy recovery.
Shmuel Yona Keizer
The communal life of a small town expressed itself in its appearance, its types of people, its leaders and in its colorful characters. Sometimes, nothing distinguished one type of person from another except for the nickname that was attached to the party. Years passed and nobody remembered the reason or the situation for the nickname, but it remained with the party. A case in point was Shmuel Yona, a hard working simple Jew who suddenly gained public notoriety. The event occurred in 1905 when the Russian revolution started after Japan defeated the Russians. For us Jews, the Russo-Japanese war created different associations, namely that Russia lost the port city of Port-Arthur where a Jewish officer distinguished himself in defending the city. In the battle, he lost his arm, but continued to fight. He later joined the Zionist pioneers and left for Palestine where he became the legendary hero of the Zionist movement. (Joseph Trumpeldor defended the settlement of Tel Hai and was killed in the battle.)
The Jews of Zloczew gave a different interpretation to the Russo-Japanese war, the Revolution, and the aftermath. They hoped that the Revolution would succeed and implement all the ideas and aims that were written on the banners of the protesters. They hoped that the virulent anti-Semitism would be erased and that the Jewish masses would be allowed to develop freely and equally with the other citizens of the nation. As the Revolution spread throughout the empire, its echo even reached Zloczew where the event was celebrated symbolically in the market. Several barrels with tar were lit. The fire symbolized the light of freedom and attracted a huge crowd of people. The latter acted out their feelings and emotions in different manners. Shmuel Yona took out a five-ruble bill and tore it publicly, shouting, Down with the King!. Unfortunately, as the masses were to find out a bit later, the Revolution failed and the Tzar survived. Shmuel Yona, however, remained forever with the nickname the Keizer or King.
Susak with the Medal
Translated by Bill Leibner
A second Jew that I remember due to his name or nickname, was a certain Meir Shmuel, who was called Susak. His story began with the establishment of the Polish state. With the end of World War I, a Polish state was established. The new government paid a great deal of attention to military matters due to the fact that it was closely linked to the Polish legions that fought for Polish independence under the leadership of Joseph Pilsudski. The Poles also liked all things military, especially military parades. The new government began to issue medals to all Polish officers and soldiers that fought for Polish independence. One Saturday, a military delegation arrived in Zloczew from Warsaw and ordered all former soldiers and officers to assemble in the market place. There, a document was read and medals were distributed to all former combatants. Among these was the above mentioned Shmulik Meir Susak from Zloczew.
The Engine Danced
Following the Russo-Japanese war, a Jew from Zloczew named Dawid Gelbart returned home with a great idea. He heard many wonderful stories about a new means of transportation, notably the car that is propelled by its own motor and does not rely on human or beastly power for mobility. As the great writer Sholem Aleichem defined it, a horse with a carriage, but without the horse. The idea possessed him and he devoted a great deal of time to understand and digest the idea of the car. He was determined to build one in his native city of Zloczew. Without further ado, he decided to begin to implement his idea. He did not return empty handed to the city, but brought many parts and invited engineers, mechanics, and people in the know. They all started to work in a rented room. Here, the car was being assembled that would carry the people of Zloczew.
The Demolished Wall
The assembly work went ahead full speed. All participants gave their maximum efforts to the car. But the efforts could not overcome the fact that the exit door was too narrow and the wall had to be demolished for the car to move out to the street. But before the car could move, it had to be pushed a bit to get it started and then it would roll by itself. However, the car could not make it through the door. The people pushed and shoved and still the car remained inside the room. Nothing helped and the people realized that the wall must come down. They brought hammers and spades and began to dismantle the wall Then the exit floor was aligned with the street. Finally, the people began to push the car out to the street. At last, the car was out in the fresh air. A mechanic entered it and began to fiddle with all the screws while the crowd began to rock the car sideways, first the right side then the left side. Suddenly, the engine started with a coughing roar and began to dance. Sparks, thunder and smoke emerged from the car. The smoke reminded the people of the chimney smoke during the baking of matzos for Passover.
The people did not budge, for their curiosity got the better of them. Furthermore, the dense smoke clouded the vision in the area. Everybody was curious to see what will happen with the car that refused to budge. The engine was dancing, but the car was glued to the spot. All attempts to move the car failed, it was given cold and hot water, it was pampered, but it refused to budge an inch. It huffed and puffed, but did not move an inch forward. The people began to despair of the situation and slowly began to disperse. Some of them added jokingly, The engine can only dance, but can't roll.
The Girl with the Apron
An episode that took place prior to World War I was frequently told in a variety of ways in Zloczew for years to come. The Jews of Zloczew had various occupations and made a living from various sources. However, many of them dealt with hats, especially straw hats. The raw materials for the production of these items were not available locally or in the area, but in Germany. Thus, the raw materials had to be smuggled to Zloczew. Many families made a living by smuggling the materials and providing the local industry with the necessary supplies. Smuggling was, of course, against the law and the Russian police were on a constant look-out for contraband. It frequently raided places and confiscated the smuggled merchandise. The Jews that dealt with contraband were well-connected and were frequently informed of police actions before they took place. But sometimes the connections failed or the warning arrived late, as in the case of Yossef Chaim Susak. The latter had a large supply of smuggled raw materials that he was unable to hide in time. Some of the material was barely covered when two policemen arrived at the doorstep of the place. It was obvious that they would discover the contraband when they would start the search. The owner was at a loss and was certain that everything was lost since the policemen were already in the room. Suddenly, one of the seated girls lurched forward, holding her folded apron in a manner that indicated that she was hiding something, and began to run to the street. One of the policemen followed her and she began to run faster. The policeman began to chase her; soon the second policeman joined the chase. As soon as the policemen were out of sight, the owner and the family hid the smuggled materials. When the policemen returned from the chase to the home, they, of course, found nothing. The owner understood the trick that the girl played on the policemen and saved him lots of trouble and money.
During World War I, when the Russians retreated from Zloczew, the Jews did not abandon the city nor were they terribly upset about the change of administration. The Russians were, of course, furious and sought revenge on the Jews. They detained a young Jewish man named Moshe Aron who was about to be married and hanged him. The act of killing an innocent man nauseated the entire Jewish population and depressed them. The Russians were not satisfied with hanging one man and decided to seize two more Jews, Hanoch Cohen and Hersh Itzhak Katz for supposedly dealing with a German agent. Of course, the accusation was a lie and a mere pretext for more killings. Both young men managed to disappear from Zloczew. Hanoch Cohen, dressed as a woman, left town unnoticed and Hersh Itzhak Katz totally disappeared from Zloczew.
A Story with a Kozak
Before the Russians retreated from Zloczew, they used a military trick. They left a Kozak behind who was supposed to fire on the entering German soldiers. The soldier was hidden in a Jewish house. The intent was obvious: provoke the German army into attacking Jewish homes for it would be quite obvious where the shots came from. At first, it looked like the plan was going to succeed for the Russian soldier fired on the Germans. The latter proclaimed an ultimatum that stated the German army will burn the city by evening if the culprit that fired on German soldiers is not delivered to them. By chance, someone spotted the Russian Kozak running from the house where he was hidden. The news spread like wild fire and soon reached the German command post. The German army and the entire population began to search for the sniper who was soon apprehended. (There is another version to this story, see later.)
Also the Poles
With the end of World War I, the Polish state was established. The new rulers of Poland soon found a Jew from Zloczew named Jablonski and accused him of collaborating with the Germans against the Poles. The Jews from Zloczew sent petitions and delegations to the effect that the man was innocent, but to no avail. The Poles proved to be as gruesome as the Russians when it came to Jews. The man was killed.
Names and Nicknames
by Leib P.
Translated by Max Lipszyc
Quite often, when people who come from the same town reunite and turn to their common past, it happens that suddenly they cannot remember a certain family or a citizen by his surname until someone remembers the person's ancestor's name or his occupation of long ago. I mean by this such people whose name was inseparable from their profession. Even though there were other citizens practicing the same trade, there was only one that was crowned with the title as the Man. Until this day, I have no answer why this was fact, but who cares, as long as memory still functions and we can remember.
The following are names of people according to their trade or of the places they wandered from into Zloczew. I write the names in maybe slightly incorrect Yiddish, but this was how they were known and pronounced. I have not listed them by ABC order, neither by their trade, only following their appearance in my memory.
||Channe die Manglerke
||Rochel die Shneiderin
|| Naftoli Schuster
||Hinde Reizel die Haybat
||Masha die Opnemerin
|| Watte Macher
Below are families that came to Zloczew from other places in those times, primarily from surrounding villages. The names of the previous towns were added to the name of the head of the family and this was how they were called until their death.
||Herschel und Moishe Stolzer
Many times, such a family came down and became prominent in town, getting even the most honored seat in the synagogue. It depended upon material wealth, initiative and abilities of the family members. The size of the family was important when occupying a social position, as well as the period of time when the family came to Zloczew. The sooner they arrived, the less official positions were occupied.
Take, for example, the Klotschkevers. Some 150 years ago, two brothers - Avrohom and Jaacov (Yankel) Davidowitch came from this town to Zloczew. The latter had a son and 4 daughters who did not increase the tribe by much. On the other hand, Avrohom had 4 boys and 2 girls who had many descendants. We can see here how the division was:
Itsche: 2 sons and 2 daughters
Yankel: 6 sons and 3 daughters
Dvasche: 4 sons and 2 daughters
Moishe: 1 son and 2 daughters
Sara Lea (Volkovicz): 4 sons and 4 daughters
Rivka Boda (Iland): 18 children
All of them were well off - tradesmen owning their own dwellings. It is clear that such conditions permitted them to occupy high positions in political parties and congregations and to have their say in business and trade.
Until the outbreak of war, many of them enjoyed grandchildren.
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