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The Jewish Scout Movement “Hashomer Hatzair” in Zloczew (cont.)

Influencing the Environment Around Us

With the activities of the Jewish scouting movement, a new period started for the local Jewish youths in general, and in their social lives, in particular. The older generation who did not see youth movements as anything other than child play, started to understand that change was in the air. The education for values such as love of others, love of life and nature and helping others as well as morality and love of neighbour, the thirst for knowledge and placing a value on education to advance a person in life, the love of country and the land and the joy of life - “He who is happy will never harm his fellows”. The discipline and order - in the fullness of time, it became a permanent feature of this movement. When I look back at this wonderful panorama from afar, I ask myself “What was so special about the Zloczew nest? More so that other Hashomer places in Poland?”

The “Shoshanna” group

Seated on the ground from right to left: Pola Lual, Dozia Solomonovitch, Zenia Davidovitch, Dozia Betz, Regina Dzebeth
Seated: Yaakov Freund the head of the nest, Dozka Margolis
Standing: Sarah Kampimnsky and Lidzia Katz

 

The famous rule says that the baker should not testify as to the quality of his loaf and this restricts me somewhat in telling you what I think about those beautiful years and perhaps someone else would identify this as boasting, but I think just as it is not nice to boast, it is not nice to be too humble either. So, when I talk about Hashomer Hatzair in Zloczew, I cannot pretend that I am not exaggerating yes, the Zloczew nest was different we did not have any deviation from the scout code. The Jewish national principles were all carried out without any deviation from a special kind of inner motivation and a very clear spiritual need - please understand.

Just to demonstrate the Hashomer way of educating and how it affected me, I will recount two separate cases of personal confessions divulged to me at different times and in different circumstances. The first one concerned the Friedman family who were looking after a relative of theirs, a boy who was an orphan by the name of Czerni Benek or Benek the black as he was called to distinguish from his cousin Benek Friedman who was also a member of his group. He was a quiet, shy person, who kept himself to himself but was rough-hewn and solid like a rock. He was short, hairy, with thick eyebrows and piercing eyes that were examining his surroundings and looking at you in defiance. I tried to delve into the depth of his spirit and soul to find out what he was about, as he seemed to be suffering alone. After returning to his father's house in Piotrokov, he was almost forgotten, but a few months later, perhaps a year later, I received a letter from him which was exciting and this is what he said - (I translated this from Polish from memory) -

“From afar I look at you and I think about those beautiful days with longings. To you, Yaakov, I am grateful for everything you have done for me. You have opened my eyes, and you illuminated my way to life. I will never forget you.”

I have kept another letter with me from a former student who survived the Holocaust. After a lot of searching, he finally settled in America, where he made a home and had a family and this is what he had written -

“Much of my memories are associated with you. You filled my life with purpose and enriched my years. This was proven to me again while I was suffering under the Nazis and when I met other people who were also suffering like me and saw the difference between us and how much better placed the youth movement people were in the way we saw the world to survive and all that thanks to your blessed education and guidance. I believe within my heart that thanks for this education you gave us to trust people, and to believing in the triumph of good over evil, I have managed to survive the horrors of the war.”

Does that not show what I mean and does that not fill the heart with pride?

With much satisfaction, I can say that till this very day I still feel the warm feelings that had been shown for me by the members of the movement that I had the privilege to be an instructor for. It is such a shame that so few of them have remained alive and that so many had left us, may they rest in peace.

 

Saying Farewell

At the beginning of 1925, as my day of immigrating to Israel became nearer, I felt worse and worse. I remember the Lag Ba'omer (mid May) trip, the last one I ever did, when joy was tinged with sadness. I was not able to stop thinking that here I was, leaving everything that was dear to me because I loved them so much. For four years, when I lived amongst them, they became a part of my soul and that is why it was so difficult to say goodbye. The time passed and the day of departure came, the hardest of all that came before it. The sleepless nights, the saying farewell, leaving the forest at dawn, my mother, may she rest in peace, packing my things, and taking leave of my brothers and sisters and, at last saying goodbye to the nest. I remember how I stood in front of all of them in the hall without speaking as speaking loudly was forbidden. Farewell words were not said, just the beating of the hearts were felt as I saw their tears flowing as it was difficult for them as well and the atmosphere was tinged with sadness It all happened a long time ago, perhaps more than 45 years ago, but in spite of that, every time I remember this particular day, my heart skips a beat and tears of sadness and longing come to my eyes and I feel a lump in my throat. I hoped that the parting was temporary and that in the fullness of time, all of them would join me, but to my great sorrow, very few had managed it, as most of them were devoured by the Nazi beast and I will remember them all my life.

A regional assembly of Hashomer Hatzair in Kalisz

With delegates from Zloczew - Yaakov Freund, Ruth Freedman, Yehiel Freedman (Shlomi) and Yehuda Davidovitch


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Personalities of the Hashomer Hatzair

by Israel Katz (New York)

Translated by Pamela Russ

Donated by Hyman Katz (son of Israel Katz z”l)

( ) writer's comment
[ ] translator's inserts, remarks

Somewhat distanced from the town, on a Polish, sandy, side road, there was the house and business of Moshe Friedman. [He was] a prominent Jew in our town, a lover of Zion, and a maskil [enlightened individual]. While other city maskilim quarrelled and could not free themselves from the accepted, semi–primitive life situation, the Friedmans

 

Caption in photo: Friends of Hashomer Hatzair in Zloczew, on a Lag BaOmer outing, 5684 [1924]

 

had a completely progressive, European household.

They spoke Polish in the house, the children studied in Polish gymnasiums in neighboring, larger cities, and the sons were of the first to go around without hats, even when they passed the “church,” something inconceivable for the religious town Jews, considering it almost as [if the person] converted. Other than all that, they remained decidedly nationalist–Jewish, and not “arrogant” towards the local youth. (See separate article [on page 211] “Friedmanuvka” – by Yakov Frajnd.) Around this home, that came to be known among us as “Friedmanuvka,” especially because of the large yard and neighboring flat, large, urban pasture, the first “shomrim” [members of Hashomer Hatzair] began to gather and organize themselves.

One of the Friedman sons “Chilek” (today in Haifa – Yechiel Shloime), who as a young gymnasium student, registered as a volunteer in the Polish legions to fight for Poland's freedom, he – after the establishment of Poland's independence – discovered that as a free person, he found himself in a Jewish environment. Since he was in Kalysz in gymnasium, he joined up with the recently established Zionist

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… Scouts movement, Hashomer Hatzair. When he came home for summer vacation, he transmitted the ideals of Hashomer Hatzair to Yakov Frajnd, who, very quickly, with great enthusiasm, began to organize a “unit” in our town, and by the middle of 1921, the first group of the “Shomrim” had gathered at a “zbyurka [Pol. “assembly”] asifa” [Hebrew: “gathering”] (the Polish terms that were used at the beginning were soon changed to Hebrew).

The founding of Hashomer Hatzair came to many of us as a huge, cosmic event. Before this, in the evenings after school, or during vacation time, we would go around, aimlessly, without any purpose. We would fill our time with all kinds of games. When we were very young, we would play “buttons,” or use coins from former governments. As we knocked on the wall with the Tzar's copper rings or Wilhelm's nickel coins, we tried to make the coins fall close to our friend's rings. And if, with the fingers of one hand, we were able to reach from one ring to another, then we were the winner and took our friend's ring or pants buttons.

Later, when we were older, we used the large place “Vinitsa” (a royal place that lay free, not worked on), and we were able to run around freely there with tires [hoops], or play “father–mother” (a miniature baseball). But all these games seemed to us to be empty things and really gave us no satisfaction. The founding of Hashomer Hatzair first put an end to all that. It gave a young diaspora Jewish boy everything that he could dream of – a national and pioneering romantic [vision] and ideals of Biblical justice.

At the meetings in the field, we were as if transported. The “diaspora” just disappeared from us; the cramped, damp “cheder,” the pale and quiet seriousness that was characteristic for young Jewish boys. Suddenly, we felt free! The fresh winds that carried from the fields to our beautiful dreams, that evoked the speech of leadership, awoke our spirit and boiled up our young blood to a quicker pulse. Our hearts were lifted with a romantic tremble and filled us with tremendous joy, such that we never knew before. Young wells of life were freed and blossomed from all our limbs. We began to dance the group “hora” and sing with spirit and passion. We wandered into the nearby fields, set up tents, lived in them, and felt exactly as if we already were in our own, free, Jewish Land of Israel…

The branch in our town was called “Kein” [“Nest”] and we were compared to birds in a nest. Every evening, we would fly to the location of our nest, stand and danced the “hora,” and held meetings. Each “kevutza” or group to which we belonged with its head of that group at the top, over all of them was the head of the “Nest” (later called the leader), and understandably, the head of our nest was actually the founder – Yakov.

 

Yakov Frajnd

As long as I remember him, he was always honest, with a soft, mezzo–voice, which, I think, could not be raised to a higher tone. Maybe he did become angry once, but his voice always remained quiet, soft. I remember him from the earliest times of Hashomer Hatzair: It was in the first years after Poland's liberation, when the Jews felt themselves free after the difficult war and years of destruction, and every Shabbath afternoon, they would go out for a stroll on the “wide” Vielun Street. There, you could also find Yakov walking with his friend Cora, his open tie fluttered across his shoulder, with a sprightly step, gesticulating hands, serious face – and quiet, soft, voice. To a stranger, or from a distance, he gave the impression of a cold, somber, calculated businessman, but in reality, he was the exact opposite: an idealist, a romantic, very perceptive, conversing with someone and then going into a quiet, fiery passion for God, just as a religious Jew. At the meetings, he would begin speaking calmly and to the point, while his eyes would become misty and wander into the distance, through

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which he could see the distant, longed for land.

When he was 14, he received rabbinic diploma, and at the same time he became an orphan. His father died of typhus disease that was brewing that time in town. With the help of a teacher, but primarily as an autodidact, he began to study secular subjects, until he became a teacher (in Lututow “Tarbut” [Hebrew culture] school). He became active in the Zionist organization, the Hashomer Hatzair, and dreamt of a new future in life.

 

Two groups of Hashomer Hatzair, Bar Kochba, and Shoshanim,
in the center – the head of the regiment – Levi Loifert

 

But sitting for a long time, satisfying himself with his dreams, was not something he could do. In the year 1925, he fulfilled his lifelong dream and made aliyah to the Land of Israel. It was only here in the land that he began to live life to its fullest meaning of the word, and he developed a synthesis of seriousness and romanticism. He worked in orchards, was active in the Haganah [paramilitary organization in Israel], and studied at night in order to be able to enter university. He then went to study in France, and as soon as he earned the title of engineer he immediately returned to Israel. He opened an engineering office in Tel Aviv, which he runs until today (until 120). He continues to work there, and in his modest manner, he helps to build, and at the same time he is amazed at the quick tempo and evolution of the entire country. Nowadays, he not only speaks quietly, but he also walks quietly. But when he meets someone from the same city from outside of the country, and begins to speak to him about Israel, he might speak quietly, but he quickly forgets all the doctors' recommendations, and begins to speak “with heart” and passionately. His hands begin to gesticulate and in his eyes, the flames from the past ignite once again…

 

Binyomin Friedman

Or as we called him, “Benek,” was the recorder of the “Nest” [group]. He was the younger brother of Yechiel Shloime, and came from a very musical family. From his father, who would always be humming a tune, and his mother who was busy with her household tasks and always singing to the children, who would always sing with beautiful voices and play all kinds of musical instruments. And Benek himself, was soaked through and through with music. He lived in a world that was

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filled with music. He even saw ordinary things with different eyes. He became hypnotized by a beautiful sunset, a flower, or a tree, and for long hours, he was able to watch an insect crawl up a pine needle, fall back, and not become tired crawling like that even one hundred times. As a secretary, he voluntarily he compiled a chronicle of the events in our “Nest.” After a certain time, when he read his chronicles to us, we were stunned by how incredibly beautifully he had described things that had happened, which we almost had not noticed at all. With the sound of his “okaryn” [Polish “folksy” musical instrument, like longitudinal flute], we marched to an outing. But when he started to play his fiddle, he was transformed into another person: with hardly a noticeable smile at the side of his mouth, and with dreamy eyes that probably were looking at another world, he melted into his fiddle as one body. His entire musical education was almost completely self–taught, but in any case, he became part of the Warsaw conservatory. Sadly, he very quickly had to leave this, because it was almost impossible to support a child in the higher grades, even for a financially comfortable Jew in our town. That is how he remained, with unfulfilled desires, as if on the border of two worlds.

 

Shoshana and Leah Katz

My two sisters belonged to the girls' group “Shoshanim” – flowers, irises. When we were still children, we lived at the edge of town, where the road to Burzenin [Buzhenin in Russian] began, at a rich Pole's house, who had a large business. Right behind our house, there stretched a big meadow like a green tapestry, as if sketched with pictures of all kinds of wild flowers that grew wildly there. But in front of the house, there was a special garden where the homemakers would plant all kinds of flowers and roses that spread sharp and intoxicating fragrances. We, as many other Jews, had several small flower pots and we did not have a lot of time to spend with this.

 

Shoshanim” group

Seated from right to left: Roza Katz, Gitta Friedman, (comrade “leader”), Regina Zhubes
Standing from right to left: Sarah Davidovitch, Luzye Katz, Shoshana Solomonovitch

 

From keeping them in the house all winter, they would become lifeless, as if covered with dust. Only when a warm May rain would come, we grabbed the flower pots and put them into the street to catch the rain. The “washed” flowers revived and were invigorated by the sun (that would appear soon after the spring rains), regaining their natural colors. A similar process took place with the Jewish children. They were as if enclosed in fear from what the surrounding Polish world threw at them, and their lives in the abnormal situations became normal. I remember an episode from that time: When my older sister did not want to go into the city to buy something because she was still young and was afraid of

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the hoodlums who lived along the route to town, my mother showed her the neighboring Polish girl with whom my sister often played, that she was the same age, but was not afraid at all of going into town. My sister replied with an understandable statement: “But she is a Polish girl and I am Jewish!”

And just as the May rains had meaning for the Jewish flower pots, in the same way, the Hashomer Hatzair affected the children in the diaspora. It gave them new knowledge and a new desire for life, and the young, Jewish flowers blossomed.

Leah, the younger sister, was always happy, and would go around with a youthful lightheartedness, always singing. Shoshana (Raizel) was more serious and did everything with thought and real responsibility. Leah studied herself so that she could go from one grade to another, and Shoshana studied to be – the best. When doing their assigned homework, she would, at the slightest error, begin her work again. And if she wrote a composition on a liberal theme – in the fourth grade, then the teacher would read it to the seventh grade class – as an example of beauty and intelligence. She and her friends would arrange performances when she was just in the second and third grade, and the children from the neighboring courtyards were the spectators. Later, she was at the same capacity in Hashomer Hatzair: Leah was the happy lively one, and sang and danced along with others, as Shoshana was more reserved and serious. She was passionate about ethical principles and could not understand how people could speak about great ideals that Hashomer offered us, and at the same time could occupy themselves with such insignificant, unimportant things such as gossiping about friends right under their eyes, as many of them did. After completing volksschule [public elementary school], my sisters, as all their friends in the group, felt lost. There was no higher form of schooling in our town, and to go live in another city and pay for board and tuition in the gymnasium (all of which were private) was almost impossible for the households in our city. But Shoshana tried to raise [the monies], but after half a year, she had to resign from this and come home. While searching for things to do, some of the girls left to Lodz and found work there in wealthier Jewish homes, as children's caregivers. Leah, who did not want such work, which often also included housework, learned the skill of knitting, and found work in that. A tragic event happened and decreed that she be cut off from life at an early time. [She and a friend of hers went to Lodz, where Leah worked as a knitter. Leah caught a cold and developed angina, but made very little of this. When she thought she was better, she went out again, and caught cold one more time. She developed a high fever and was taken to hospital, where she died.] For Shoshana, who remained in town and found work in a bank, this made a shocking impact and put her into a depression. Her physical weakness interfered with each of her steps, and even made it impossible for her to go to a larger city where there was a theater, cinema, and also a larger library, which she so wanted but could not attain. This was her future vision of a life in a small city, and this made her apathetic. When she came out of this apathetic state, she became close to Dovid Kempinski, whom she later married. But the sun shone for her only for a short time. Soon the black clouds of war arrived with the Nazi invasion and the terrifying nights when the tragic event happened, the destruction of the Jewish people in Poland. The Nazi invasion came at a time when she was pregnant, and in that condition, she had to run to Losk on foot under the rain of bullets and unending physical difficulties. Hard days came, one worse than the next, but she made it through them with great dignity. In silence, she suffered phases of dulled, primitive moods, which began to rule over many people because of the deficiencies and tremendous lack of basic needs. Shoshana was very sensitive and her perceptiveness generated double the gatherings of other groups and was attended by the founder. [She]

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remained in it, and also by her husband, until the tragic end. Shoshana, along with her husband and child, hand in hand, went to their terrible death.

The Kevutza [Group] “Nesharim” [“Eagles”]

There were seven of us in this group, which was named “Nesharim.” The founder and leader of this organization – the “Rosh Hakein” [“Head of the Nest”] – Yakov Frajnd, came to the first meeting. As he was speaking about our goals

 

Kvutza [Group] Nesharim [Eagles] in a tent

 

and tasks, connecting to the name of our group, he said that eagles are the only birds without fear because they are certain that no other birds fly higher than they do. Metaphorically, he said, that we too, loyal to our name, have to fly high with our goals and efforts, and fearlessly carry them out in our lives. Our dreams and efforts really did fly high, but the gruesome reality of life mercilessly broke our fragile wings

 

Monish Davidovitch

When we remember him, we have to think of how many bochurim [young male students] remained with untapped talents, whose skills were lost because of the difficult circumstances and handicaps in which the Jews in Poland lived. Monish, who was the leader of our group for a short time, had a reputation as a “walking encyclopaedia.” I remember when I had to take an exam in school, and I told him that I could not sit in front of a book and study, he took me into a corner and reviewed the entire material with me, precisely with all the names and dates, by heart, without a book, and he was already far from his student years. He was knowledgeable in every area, even knowing all the pictures on the wall of our center, and the artistically painted portraits were done by him. Other than that, he also played the fiddle (self–taught), but first and foremost, he was a “student,” a scholar.

After completing the volksschule (in Zloczew there were no higher level schools), he himself

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completed the gymnasium program and received his degree as a special student. Since he did not have the opportunity to attend university, he decided to become a teacher. Even though the teacher's seminary was practically “Judenrein” [“cleansed of Jews”], they accepted him, because his answers were perfect, and also at the highest level. He completed seminary as the best student, but this did not help him to receive a teaching position in a volksschule, because of his answer to the question of “religion and ancestry,” which was not acceptable to the Polish school directors.

Finally, he was able to access a position for himself in a Vilna “szabasuwka” (that was a volkschule that had only Jewish students and was closed on Shabbath – not on Sundays as the other schools). It was in Vilna that he first found his true direction. He taught in a school, and at the same time he began university. He became like newly born, as someone starved who is let loose at a completely filled table, and he does not know what to take first. That is how Monish threw himself from one faculty to another. Everything interested him, and he wanted to study everything.

Tragically, the war snatched him up in the middle of his studies. The last I heard of him was that he returned to our city from which he was taken for forced labor to sweep the streets, and very likely he died along with all the other Zloczew Jews during the liquidation of the ghetto.

 

Yehuda Davidovitch – The Head of the Kevutza [Group]

He had a head full of thick, black, curly hair, and his eyes twinkled like two flames that lit up his fiery body that could not stand in one spot. He did not walk – he ran. When he left the house and went down the stairs, his speed was felt until the next street. But he could also sit with us as we learned a “sicha” [lit: “dialogue” in one of the Jewish classical texts, but here refers to ideology speech] in a designated evening class, and ignite our fantasies with his sweet voice, and fill our hearts with a desire for a new future in our eternal ancient–new land. He was a beloved and ideological leader of boys such as me, even though he himself was at a period of beginning maturity.

In the earlier times, you would become mature at a younger age, and when someone ended his volkschulle, he already considered himself to be an adult. And Yehuda certainly felt that way too. When he completed his volkschulle, he went to Kalisz, and there he took on a position as bookkeeper, even though he had no notion of how to do any of this. During the first two days, he did not leave the store, until he learned how each transaction was positioned in the books. In a short time, he not only taught himself bookkeeping, but also every detail about commercial knowledge. After two years of working for someone else, he opened his own shop, and he was very successful. But the Jewish economic life in Poland was very difficult, and as the Latin expression goes, “Man is like a wolf to another man,” this same thing happened to him. His clients went bankrupt, taking all his money and leading him to an economic downfall. This hit was very strong and shook him up. He was like a completely different person. The smile vanished from his face, and probably did not return until the end. He died along with the Jews of the Sieradz ghetto – where he wanted to save himself from Hitler's murderers.

 

Meyer

Of the seven comrades of our group, Meyer was the only one who possessed the least defined character. He was really several personalities all at once. As is often the case with young people, we would often trespass the border of compliance and would have to listen to many admonishment speeches from our chairman. And after one such speech, he became on fire with enthusiasm and strove to be the best. He would present daily the appropriate behaviors that were exactly and perfectly what was expected of us. But a few days later, he was already cooled down, and nothing

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bothered him at all. On the contrary, he began to do the exact opposite. For example, climbing over fences in strangers' gardens – to tear off pears or raspberries; he left for days in the forest – to pick blueberries, and so on.

And then later he became serious again, reading and writing. But you had to agree that with little effort he was still able to do a lot more than others. If he himself decided to do something, nothing could stop him or scare him off. He was brave and fearless. During the pogrom on the other city, when a wild crowd of Poles roamed across the streets of the city and systematically smashed all the windows of every Jewish house, he fearlessly went in front of his house and with force he chased away the wild hooligans, and that is how he saved the windows of the neighboring houses.

Since there was not a lot to do in our city, he tried to work in a store but this was too boring for his character, and he did not have the patience to keep this job.

For some time, he just wandered around the city until he left on a “Hachshara” [“preparation”; training center for agricultural work] of the “Hechalutz” [“Pioneer”; Jewish youth movement that trained young people for agricultural settlement in Israel], where he took to the work with great eagerness and became one of the best comrades, earning recognition and respect from everyone. Finally, you could realize that he had reached a distinct point. But right at this time, blind fate hit him. A tragic love led him to suicide.

 

Avrohom Markovitch

His parents were poor village people who moved into town near us. Their home was very tidy and modest, just as the people who lived there. They spoke to one another in a soft tone. I never heard a loud word among them. Avrohom was also quiet and modest, always dressed simply but clean. He was always content and happy, always ready to laugh and sing. He seemed to be withdrawn and would never be caught up in the romantic ecstasy as the other members of our group – during a meeting – when the words of the head of our group awoke in us a romantic, nationalist emotion. It seemed that the poverty of his home dampened these emotions and turned him into a dry materialist. When he left later to Lodz where he began to earn a better living, I was confident that this would calm his unfulfilled longings. But the exact opposite happened. Right when things became better for him, he began to take on socialist ideals and changed his entire life and mind until he left everything behind and left to Soviet Russia where his delicate body disappeared somewhere in a Stalin labor camp.

 

Dovid Bendet

He was the most talented of us all and we simply would wonder at him. We were shocked when he jumped across the farthest river (canals), climbed onto the highest trees, and we were astonished at his confidence of throwing a rock into a window, aiming at the only opening where the window pane was missing, and – he did it!

But we were most envious of him because he had pigeons. For days we would sit in his house and admire how he was so busy with the pigeons. The most beautiful picture was when he went to the pigeon loft, opened it, and suddenly a flock of pigeons tore out high up and surged into the sky like a white cloud, waving in the air for a bit, and then returning to their nest…

Dovid's father had a tailoring workshop and did work for the neighboring farmers. In fact, at that time, things were going quite well for him. He regarded his firstborn with love and hope, dreaming that he would become a doctor. The wish was evidently too high, and he became “confused” and could not keep up with his studies while still in the volkschulle,

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he became as if disappointed in himself. This awoke a feeling of guilt towards his father, and this affected a great change in him. He no longer demonstrated any curiosity, and became withdrawn and shrunken.

At the beginning of the war, he and many others ran to Soviet Russia to save themselves, where he, along with thousands of others, were sent into slave labor camps and died there.

 

Yakov Gelbart

He was a born comedian, who would bring out the humor in everything and imitate all those around him. With a limited number of words and mimicry, he could entertain a whole crowd. His “great talent did not bring great payments” because he did not have a lot of time to spend with this or his other talents. Already from his youth, he had to assist with earning a livelihood, and worked in the “Zloczew industry” with market driving. A “market drive” would mean that he sat in a truck, as a covered truck, on Sunday evening, and then dragged himself to the fairs from town to town through the entire week, until Friday afternoon, in the heat and the frost, in snow and in rain. Understandably, with these conditions, there was not much space for humor and even less for luxury. Nonetheless, on a relaxed Shabbath afternoon, he would get all excited with his humor. With unique skill, he would make fun of the vendors who, at the fairs, would convince other farmers to buy merchandise from their questionable quality. He, along with many other Jewish people, died at the shores of the Warta River, defending the Polish Fatherland that in fact did not even recognize him – or other Jews – as an upstanding citizen.

 

Binyomin Wyszniewski

He was frail from childhood onwards, and he would always bite into the “Latin kitchen,” that is he would always take pills or medicinal drinks to increase his blood or strengthen his weak heart. When we would line up at the meetings, he would always be the last. This underprivileged status, made him even more sensitive and self–aware, but not depressed. The opposite – he would be happy, and with good humor, he would push himself to do things beyond his capabilities. He was a very good person by nature and always ran to do someone a favor or share whatever he had. As many others, he fled to Soviet Russia, awaiting a free and good life there. But instead of that, he was sent to Arkhangelsk to a slave labor camp. While he was at work, a tree fell on top of him and broke a hand. This unfortunate event depressed him so much, that he could never recover from this. Even after the liberation of the Polish citizens, according to the agreement with General Szikorski, when he went to Tajikistan, the warmer climate did not help him either. He died and then was buried in Stalinabad – Tajikistan.

*

I once saw a French film which I found at that time not particularly interesting. But now thoughts about this film are coming back to me more often. The film describes a scene with the foreign legion in the Sahara Desert. The legion is encircled by Arabs. The unseen enemy shoots from behind a mountain, in the direction of the legions. They defend themselves very heroically, but slowly they are shot down, one at a time. Finally, one is left alone, and he runs around shooting the enemy until most of them are killed and they surrender to the situation. The legionnaire dances with joy, and not having anyone with whom to share his joy, he runs to the graves of his friends and shouts out the news to them…

I also have the sentiments of this legionnaire. I am the only one left of this group, one of the family, of many families – and I want to go shout this out to the graves….

 

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