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The Essence of Our City


[Pages 765-766]

The Pogrom of 20th[1] May 1919

Ezriel Ben–Moshe

When the pogrom on the Jews broke out in 1919, I was [only] four years old, yet I am unable to erase the images of it, which were etched into my memory and which loom before my eyes to this day.

I remember my father's warning in the early hours of that Thursday morning – “Do not dare to go out on the street”. I felt that something out of the ordinary was about to happen. I saw great concentrations of Poles from other cities, among whom the “Hallertschikes[2] stood out in particular.

From moment to moment, the tension rose and, suddenly, the Jews began closing their shops and fortifying the entrances to their homes.

And then the hordes of vandals swarmed. Villains and men of the “underworld” fell upon the Jewish shops, which they broke into and robbed. Horrifying cries of “Death to the Jews” echoed in the air and those unfortunate Jews, who were unable to disappear from the plunderers' sight in time, were killed on the spot.

From the windows of our rooms in Szama Tennenbaum's building, I was able to observe these horrific events as they occurred.

One Jew, who had failed to conceal himself in time, ran from house to house, from door to door, trying to escape from the cruel hands of the rioters. Because all the entrances were sealed, the vandals caught him and beat him until he bled. He fell near the entrance to the building of the melamdim Pinkus Arkusz and Gold. The Jew tried to protect himself, but his strength had left him and they did not stop until they saw a puddle of blood surrounding him.

There was a moment's silence – we thought that the worst was over. And here came a well–dressed Pole, who examined the profusely–bleeding body and apparently ascertained that the victim was still breathing. I thought he had come to offer aid to the severely wounded man, but the “kind Pole” kicked the body several times (the victim's name was Zvi [Hersz] Działoszyński).

The commotion in our house, inside which our neighbours had also gathered, was colossal. Women fainted and burst out crying. My father demanded that the gate be opened, to go out and bring the dying man inside, but the neighbours opposed this, saying that the blood–thirsty mob might force its way in, making more victims.

On that same day of bloodshed, Jews were murdered in different parts of town. The rioters were especially successful at the abattoir, where several shoichets were killed. Below, we present a list of the Jews murdered on that cruel day:

Mojsze Nisanowicz[3], Mojsze Brokman, Zvi Hersz Działoszyński, Anczel Cymerman and the shoichet Reb Nechemie Gotlib hy”d – two of his colleagues were severely wounded at the abattoir.


The combined tomb of the five 1919 pogrom victims


Fifteen Jews were severely injured, and thirty–seven slightly injured.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. In Tshenstokhover Yidn, p.171, the date is given as May 27, as is in other sources. Return
  2. Yid.; followers of the anti–Semitic Polish General Józef Haller. Return
  3. In the subsequent article and also in the records, the surname appears as Nasanowicz. Return

[Pages 767-772]

The Bloody Tragedy

A. Chrobołowski z”l

I went through hell on earth to its entire breadth. During the First World War, I marched over fields with corpses and bathed in a sea of mortal hunger, pain and human suffering. But all this pales by comparison to what is called a “pogrom”, the terror of terrors – Man in his murderous frenzy and cruelty. As if by the sweep of a demonic hand, all laws of human coexistence are erased. Man is transformed into a bloodthirsty beast and spares no one – no elder, woman or child. He destroys, stabs, murders [and] robs, reverting into a barbarian as thousands of years ago.

The sanguinary Nero has remained a symbol of horror from ancient times. In order to reinforce his rule, he wished to silence the collective anger, hunger, suffering and fury of slaves and subjects with the blood and killing of the weak and helpless. His spirit finds no rest. It dashes from one place to another and, once, his bloody wrath fell upon our Częstochowa.

This is what happened:

[It was] in the month of May of 1919, with the blossoming of spring. The creative Force of Nature had artistically decorated the fields, parks, gardens and yards with greenery and with flowers. The branches of the two rows of trees on the Second Aleja had grown out, blossomed and become intertwined from both sides, as if making a processional way for spring.

Those were hard times, there was nothing to eat. Hunger gnawed at the poor. Men's hands lacked work. Children wept and cried for bread! The despondent father and mother roamed about and silenced their pangs with the bitter drops which they were able to come by from somewhere.

In Poland's Kresy [the Eastern Borderlands], a war was blazing over Poland's historical boundaries. Debauched men dominated the streets, outcasts from all around the globe in different military uniforms, rampaging freely and wantonly. They beat Jews and cut off their beards. Depravity grew, the Human disappeared and the Beast prevailed.

The antisemitic newspapers incited with “Jews Shoot Polish Soldiers from their Hiding Places”, “Jews Spy for the Enemy”. Anger, rage and murder–lust accumulated in embittered and despondent hearts.

Suddenly, one day, we found ourselves in a desolate, savage wilderness. A group of street–pavers hurled themselves at the Jewish barber–surgeon Nasanowicz, who was being accompanied by a soldier to treat another soldier who was wounded. They hacked him apart with their crow–bars and spades. Then it all began. Like a wild animal that had tasted blood, the masses of civilians and soldiers let themselves loose in the poor Jewish streets. They dragged the shoichet Reb Nechemie Gotlib out of the abattoir and split his skull with clubs and staffs. They slew the baker's apprentice next to his bakery, stabbed the broker Herszel Działoszyński at his aged mother's doorstep, to whom he had run to protect. They speared him with a military bayonet before his mother's eyes – her young, only son. They broke windows [and] doors, tore up pillows and mattresses from the houses of the poor in the street and robbed, rampaged, cursed and yelled, “Beat, kill! Poland's traitors – the Jews!

Night came. A bleak desolation and complete darkness descended upon the poor Jewish streets. No one lit any lights at home. It was as if the little houses crouched, clinging to each other, like a defenceless flock of sheep attacked by sanguinary wolves. The old, eternal misery had strengthened its grip.

The following day, they celebrated their Feast of the Ascension. En masse – among them being the antisemitic instigators and the murderers – they kneeled before the icon of the Holy Mother, the Protector of Poland and Mother of the Crucified [One], the symbol of love and mercy for mankind. The sun was shining. Young couples promenaded along on the pavement and in the parks, rejoicing in their youth and love.

For us, it was as the Ninth of Av [Day of Mourning]. We were all mourners, none washed their faces. A dreary grief lay on all Jewish faces and hearts, for there, at the morgue in the Jewish Hospital, five Jews lay, old and young, with broken skulls, brains bashed out, eyes gouged [and] bloodied hearts, as a testimony to the shame and woe of men.

On the morrow – the third day – all the city's Jews, men and women, gathered in front of the Jewish Hospital, with heads cast down and bitter hearts, and awaited the funeral. Grandfathers and children, black–haired and grey heads, came all together. Two rows of young men stood by the gates, clapping their hands to make way for the funerary procession.

The Hospital gates were opened and a black, dark train of coffins appeared. Religious Jews with long caftans carried their shoichet. Middle–aged Jews, wearing hats, carried their barber. Jewish merchants of varying apparel carried their broker. Young bakers' apprentices carried their bakeryworker and very young labourers carried their friend.


The five victims of the pogrom of 20th May 1919
Mojsze Nisanowicz, Mojsze Brokman, Zvi Hersz Działoszyński, Anczel Cymerman and the shoichet Reb Nechemie Gotlib May God avenge their blood!


Suddenly, a wail of bereavement arose from the colossal multitude, like a raging sea, which shook the air and reached the heavens. Thus the impoverished masses from the Jewish quarter raised a cry to Heaven with the painful question, “Why?” Why were their lives so hard and their deaths so gruesome? They had suffered hard, hungry war–years of epidemics and the deaths of their children. They had hoped and waited for the War to end, that the hunger may no longer gnaw at their bodies and the epidemics no longer consume their little ones. How they had waited for that “Bright Day” of Poland's liberation! Oh God, Oh Heaven – for what and for when [had they waited]??

Black clouds spread over the sky, as if it were wishing to hide its face so as not to see the sorrow and pain of mankind on earth.

hen, the black procession proceeded towards the cemetery. From both sides of the road, green meadows and fields of ripening sheaves stretched forth. But, today, they were veiled in black, the same as the hearts of the people in the funeral procession, as if they wished to accompany the dark funeral. The company, with the five coffins, entered the cemetery and circled the five combined graves and, with trembling voices, cried out to the dead ones to not remain silent in Heaven and to not allow their disgraceful tragedy to be silenced.

Only the deceased shall continue to lay peacefully in their graves. The living find no repose at all. An agonising pain wraps itself, like a venomous serpent, around the heart and will not turn cold or be silenced!

[Pages 771-774]

The Three–Day Pogrom
(in May
[1] 1937)

The Book Committee

We have deemed it necessary to reprint the description of the pogrom on Jews which Polish hooligans perpetrated over three days – from Saturday 19th to Monday 21st May, which was published in Vorwärts[2] [The Forward] on 27th May 1937, by Abraham Litman.

This description conveys an image of the conditions in which our brothers in Częstochowa lived in the last years before their complete destruction:

“Shabbes”, 19th May[sic], at half past ten in the morning, as the cantor in the City Synagogue was ending the Musaf prayer, a Jew suddenly entered and announced that a Jew had shot a Pole in the street. A great panic immediately ensued. People quickly threw their prayershawls off and began running home. The streets were already filled with startled Jews, all hurrying home.

Until six in the evening, only a few attacks were carried out against Jews. But from six to eleven at night, the pogrom on Jews spread over various streets. We left the house and made our way to the Aleja, but there I witnessed a horrifying scene. The hooligans had torn off the Aleja's benches and were using them to hack at and break the windows.

But, waiting for the “nechume” [consolation], you could've give up your “neshume” [spirit]. By the time the police patrols arrived, the hooligans had broken into the larger shops on the Aleja and the neighbouring streets [and] looted the merchandise, thus turning dozens of Jewish merchants into paupers.

The police patrols were “on guard” everywhere, but, after all, the hooligans are “their own”, while the Jews are, in the end, “alien”.

The Jewish Kehilla contacted the Jewish Sejm members in Warsaw, asking them to intervene with the higher powers. But, sadly, their intervention was of little help.

Sunday was a little calmer. Police patrols appeared, which somewhat hindered the hooligans in their destructive activities. On Monday, the Jews still feared opening their shops and stalls. Hundreds of victims registered their losses with the Jewish Kehilla. My personal situation – continues the informant – is very difficult. I trade almost exclusively with Christians and our relationship with them has become very strained. And who knows if anything will change for the better? Even the liberal Christians now hold that it is undesirable to do business with Jews.

The Mayor even published a proclamation in which he appeals for calm, due to the international disgrace. The proclamation did bring some peace, but the blows we received produced a feeling of humiliation within us, a feeling that our possessions and lives are there for the taking. Darker elements saunter about openly and freely. Our fates are in the hands of the Government… But it does not fulfil its obligations towards its Jewish citizens!

On Tuesday the 22nd at dawn, the city was struck by a barbarous attack on the New StudyHall. The hooligans tore inside and toppled the modern cooker, which had cost 1500 złoty. They also wrecked the Holy Ark and tore the Torah scrolls… Jews weep and sit “shive” [7 days of mourning]. The vandals were not content with the desecration, but also set fire to several Jewish shops!

The terror continues to reign, and how this will all end, nobody knows!”

These were the conditions under which our brothers lived in May [sic] of 1937 in our dear Częstochowa.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. In Tshenstokhover Yidn, p.178, the date is given as June 19th – 21st , as is in other sources. Return
  2. Jewish–American Yiddish newspaper. Return

[Pages 773-774]

The Events of Sorrowful Days

M.Ch. Tiberg

In the strained atmosphere that prevailed in Poland following the suppression of the revolution in the years 1905–06, Polish antisemites found fertile ground for their activities against Jews and, in this context, riots also occurred in Częstochowa. I want to relate one of these occasions.

This event took place at the close of the Shabbes. My father, Reb Berisz Tiberg, was returning from the “Third Meal” at the Aleksander shtiebel on ul. Rzeźnicka, accompanied by Reb Duwid Bruk and Reb Jakób Krymolowski. To shorten their way, they crossed a side–street in the direction of their homes on ul. Garncarska and ul. Nadrzeczna. There, Polish ruffians fell upon them and severely wounded them with their daggers, after which they fled the scene. The victims barely made it home alive. My father lost a great deal of blood along the way and fainted as soon as he reached home. For several weeks, he lay in bed recovering, treated by Dr Wassertal.

On that same Saturday evening, over twenty assaults were perpetrated upon Jews, many of whom were seriously injured. There were attempts to raid their homes and loot them. The marauders also used firearms but, thank heaven, all the wounded survived.

(Such were our lives in Poland, even in normal times! But our “good neighbours” showed their true colours, most notably after the invasion of Poland by the Nazis, in whom they found “kindred spirits” in their cruel operations to exterminate the Jews.)

[Pages 775-776]

The “Repentant Sinner”

Ch.Z. Rozen

Barber–surgeon Dawid Windman's barbershop was located In the alleyway between ul. Krakowska and ul. Rzeźnicka.

This medic was a godless man. He scoffed at everything held sacred in Judaism and at its traditions and publicly desecrated the Sabbath.

On Saturdays, he would go round to Reb Duwid Hofer, who was an observant Chassid, and commit transgressions intentionally. Reb Duwid would plead with him and demand that he leave the house, but the barber–surgeon would burst out laughing and jeer.

Suddenly, his soul underwent a transformation. No one knew what had brought about this change.

Windman turned into a “repentant sinner” and became very religious and god–fearing, observing even the slightest precept.

Every morning, he came to the Old Study–Hall and, in the evening, holding a prayer–book, he would offer up such supplications that people deemed him insane.

He began to implore the lads studying at the study–hall to teach him Torah and would not leave them alone. He would sit for long hours, listening very attentively to the Talmud lessons.

His appearance also drew attention. With an upright posture, graced with a beard and clad in the long garb of the ultra–orthodox Jews, he would march along ul. Warszawska, from the Dziubas house to the study–hall.

He drew close to ultra–orthodox homes, those same homes which he had, previously, come to offend, but whose company he now desired. He played the violin well and would invite young men, to his house, who knew how to sing Chassidic tunes and whom he accompanied on his violin.

He returned to his profession and gained renown as a professional and expert healer. The ultraorthodox factions treated him with admiration and, over the course of time, he gained the trust of wide circles in town.

The Rebbe of Pilica, when approached by one of his followers seeking remedy and cure, would send him to Reb Dawid Windman for advice. Doctors also treated him respectfully. Dr Koniecpolski, when called upon to attend to a patient, would recommend taking medications that the medic Dawid Windman prescribed.

After examining a patient and prescribing medicine, the “repentant sinner” would repeat the name of the medication out loud and add, “This medicine is meant to cure so–and–so disease and may God grant you a full recovery”.

Reb Dawid Windman married the daughter of the Halachic authority Reb Józef Klajnplac and they had two children. (Both he and his family perished in the Holocaust.)

[Pages 775-778]

Our City's Characters

Chaim Szymonowicz

Like every other city and town, Częstochowa also had its fair share of various odd characters and it is my duty to commemorate some of them in the way they have been imprinted in my memory.


1. Little Szaja

He was a Jew, small in stature, born into practically abject poverty, but always content with his lot. His entire “business” was concentrated in a small basket that contained several dozen yo–yos which he made jump up and down on elastic, with little children running after him and calling, “Again! Again!”. Despite his slight frame and meagre livelihood, he attained longevity and lived to ninety – [May we live] to one–hundred–and–twenty! He maintained that the “Angel of Death” was shortsighted and, therefore, failed to notice a “little Jew” like him and [always] passed him by unharmed.


2. “Client–Pullers”

As is known, Częstochowa was a city often visited by many Christians and in which they, of course, purchased various commodities. Local traders, eager to sell their merchandise, sent forth various “agents” to meet them in order to pull them to their shops. They paid them a commission for each sale made through their assistance. Elimelech Kutner and Milsztajn, the son of the city's renowned midwife, particularly excelled in this.


3. The Zorski Brothers

It is true that the Zorski brothers were not the owners of a famous, commercial Firm in town but, throughout their lives, they were under the illusion that they were the city's greatest cantors, with their pleasant voices and the lovely melodies with which they delighted the congregation when they served as prayer–leaders. But their conduct was indeed amusing. They lived together in a narrow little room and had but one bed. However, they were nevertheless content with their lot.


4. “Piorun”[1] the Carter

In our city, there was a beggar whose wagon was always lashed together with ropes and “bandages”. For years, he walked behind the cart, urging his horse on with his shouts of “giddy–up”, never daring to actually sit in the wagon.

In view of his difficult financial situation, he wished to reduce his costs on the horse's feed and it occurred to him to begin training the horse to eat, progressively, less and less. But his experiment failed. The horse died and “Piorun” was left with a horseless cart[2].


5) The City's “Celebrities”

Some peculiar characters were notorious in town, such as:

  1. the man nicknamed “Tzimmes[3], who was destitute and despondent and used to call out to every passer–by, “Father, give me to eat.”;
  2. “Riwale” the dwarf, who went around the busy part of the first Aleja, begging for alms and, whoever did not hasten to offer her his contribution, was sometimes “reminded” with a pinch'
  3. Everyone also knew “Queen Jadwiga”, who promised she would help the People of Israel attain Independence and Kingship
  4. “Tiny Little Judis'l”;
  5. “Godele Riwale”;
  6. “Mechel”, who had the delusion that “The river is on fire…and there are no firemen in town!
(All these characters, too, were annihilated and murdered by the Nazis!)

Translator's footnotes:

  1. פיורון in the original Hebrew, with quotation marks. Although the surname Piorun (Pol.; Thunder) does exist, this seems to be a nickname connected with the way he goaded his horse on. If read “Fiuron”, it could be the peasant's mispronunciation of “furen” (Yid.; travel). Return
  2. This is actually a well–known Jewish joke. Return
  3. Sweet carrot stew. Return

[Pages 777-782]

Some “Regulations” of
the Bygone “Tailors' Society”

Mojsze Asz

In an article (by Mojsze Asz) in the “Częstochower Zeitung” No.4, dated 24th January 1936, the following regulations were printed.

(Unfortunately, there is no explanation as to why clauses 1–2 were not published):

  1. No member of the Society may encroach upon his fellows by taking their work or competing with them. Any member not adhering to this rule will not only be ousted from the Society, but will also be fined.
  2. Cap–makers may not take on any tailoring assignments, and vice–versa.
    A great quarrel arose in connection to the fifth regulation. The tailors had requested permission from the Kehilla to pray (especially on Shabbes and on holidays) in their [separate] synagogue, in order to have the proceeds of the donations pledged. Kehilla leaders did not wish to agree, since the construction of the [Main] Synagogue, which had only been completed three years earlier – in 5570 (1810) – had left the Kehilla with large debts to pay off. Therefore, at the inauguration of the [Main] Synagogue (which took place that same year), a decision was made not to allow the existence of any other prayer–houses, and that all must worship at the [Main] Synagogue. Kehilla leaders were of the opinion that permitting the tailors to have their own synagogue was against Khilla regulations, as well as posing a threat to the community. A compromise was finally reached and the following regulation was formulated:
  3. The “Tailors' Society” is permitted by the [Chief] Rabbi and the Kehilla leaders to leave the [Main] Synagogue for the Torah Reading[1] and to read separately, but they must return after the reading to the [Main] Synagogue to attend the Musaf prayer service.
  4. Only members of the “Tailors' Society” are permitted to be present at their reading – other worshipers are not to be allowed entry.
  5. The room, where the tailors hold their weekly reading, must be clean. The Torah scroll must be kept in an appropriate place.
    Great arguments arose regarding the following point: How much Kehilla tax should the “Tailor's Society” pay? The fledgling Kehilla was, at the time, not yet legally recognised by the State and thus did not possess the right to impose compulsory taxes. Considering that the Kehilla was in need of money, a “Great Charity” [fund] was created, of which each Jewish resident was required to be a member and to which they were required to pay a specific annual amount, which qualified as a voluntary donation. The heads of the Kehilla demanded that the tailors' guarantee that they would continue being members of the “Great Charity” and pay their membership fees down to the last grosz.
    The tailors desired to be freed of the “Great Charity”, for their association's sake. Their representative, Leibale Szenker, who regarded himself as a scholar, based the tailors' standpoint on a verse from Scripture and argued that, when our ancestor Abraham created the world's first Jewish community, he vowed not to take any payments from tailors, saying, “I have lifted up mine hand [etc.], that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelace and that I will not take any thing that is thine” [Genesis 14:22–23]. “From a thread” – a tailor; “even to a shoelace” – a cobbler; “and that I will not take any thing that is thine” – I shall impose no tax upon you.
    “Therefore”, continued Leibel, “You too, the founding fathers of the Częstochowa community, must uphold Grandfather Reb[2] Abraham's oath and make the “Tailors' Society” exempt from tax.” But he received a fitting rebuttal from the Kehilla President Juda Frenkel, who explained that the fact that Our Father Abraham did not wish to levy the tailors[3] did not create any excessive honours for them. Because Abraham, who was “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” [Genesis 13:2], a very wealthy man, who took in a great many guests, reckoned that it would not be worthwhile for him to take fees from them, that they should not then offer up any opinions: “Lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” [Genesis, 14:23]. With us, however, in our newly–baked community, there are no philanthropists and hosts the likes of Our Grandfather, and yet we must have money, and thus cannot make you exempt.
After many discussions and negotiations, the following regulations were established:
  1. In order that the municipal “Great Charity” receive no damage by the establishment of the “Tailors' Society”, this Society takes upon itself to pay the “Great Charity” three ducats (Red [złoty]) a year – the first instalment in the month of Cheshvan and the second in Iyyar. The “Great Charity” must issue receipts for the moneys paid.
  2. Should the Kehilla receive authorisation from the State to impose a compulsory tax on the Jewish population, and the municipal taxes of the members of the Tailors' Society be found to amount to more than three ducats, every one of them must make up the difference between the sum he paid the “Tailors' Society” and his part [of the official tax].
  3. Should the instalments to the “Great Charity” not be scrupulously paid, the tailors will lose their right to conduct their own Torah Reading.
This is how our grandfathers used to settle their communal affairs among themselves in the olden days!

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Donations are pledged during the Torah Reading. Return
  2. “זיידן ר' אברהם“ in the original Yiddish; a transparent ploy by the clever scholarly journalist to poke a bit of fun at the uneducated tailor, as if he considered the Patriarch Abraham a rather recent ancestor, whom he might touchingly call “Dear Grandad”. Return
  3. This is by no means the accepted interpretation of the verses; he was playing along with Leibel's own rendering of the Scripture, which was also obviously meant in jest, to make his point. Return

[Pages 781-784]

The First Jewish Kehile
(an interesting episode)

Godl Frajtag




About 200 years ago [viz. c.1760–70], some thirty Jewish families lived in Częstochowa. They had neither a synagogue nor a cemetery of their own.

The little Jewish settlement was bound to the Kehilla of the small shtetl of Janów, near Częstochowa, to which they paid a sum of 16 (sixteen) gulden a year, as Kehilla tax!

For the High Holidays, the handful of Częstochowa Jews would go to Janów because there was no one among them with the capabilities to lead the prayers and “obtain” for them a “good kvitel[1] [note; slip] for the New Year.

Once, at the close of Yom Kippur, when these Jews came out of the synagogue with their wives and children and wished to set off towards home, they noticed that one of their wagons was missing a wheel. This caused an uproar, but the Janów shames promptly reassured them, saying that no one had stolen the wheel, but that he, himself, had taken it as a security until the Częstochowa Jews paid him the 32 gulden which they owed the Janów Kehilla, for two years' worth of “Kehilla Tax”.

They were compelled to send two men home to fetch the 32 gulden, for none of them, due to Yom Kippur[2], had even a grosz upon their person. They were forced to spend the night in Janów and only in the morning did the diligent shames return the “confiscated” wheel and they set out for home in their Shabbes clothes.

This incident, however, brought them good results.

The Częstochowa Jews resolved that “Come what may, we must have our own separate kehilla.”

They applied themselves energetically towards this cause. They raised funds, each of them giving above his means and a plot was purchased by the Warta River where, in the course of time, the Old Synagogue, the study–hall and the Old Mikvah would stand!

Later, they later also bought a “field”, in the village of Kucelin, on which to establish a cemetery – and thus Częstochowa was “freed” from the Janów Kehilla and its “energetic” shames!

From year to year, Częstochowa eventually grew to become a large trade and industry centre and, in 1939, 35,000 Jews lived there!

Janów has remained a small shtetl, as it was 200 years ago.

I heard the story regarding the confiscated wheel, which caused those few Jewish families to lay the foundations for the large Jewish community of Częstochowa, from Mojsze Moriker [sic.; should say Mokraujer], whose family was among the first in Częstochowa 200 years ago and which has passed this narrative down from generation to generation.

(It is fitting that this, too, should be mentioned in the Memorial Book of both communities – of Częstochowa and of Janów – which no longer exist!)

Translator's footnotes:

  1. People wish each other a “good note” on Hoshana Rabbah, the last of the High Holidays. The idea being that if something negative was written in the Book of Life for an individual on Yom Kippur, then perhaps God will insert a correction on a small slip of paper and paste it in, before it's “too late” … Return
  2. According to Halacha, one may not carry on his person or touch any weekday things, such as money, on the Sabbath or a holiday. Return

[Pages 783-784]

The Jewish Combatants' Union

The Book Committee

Our city also had an organisation for former front–line fighters and reservists, which was named “The Jewish Combatants' Union”.

This union's task was to raise the awareness of former front–line fighters and to induce them to continue contributing their time and energy to strengthen the State of Poland, while also protecting the Jewish National interests, by ensuring their rights as citizens in Poland and by increasing their active participation in the building of our National Home in the Land of Israel.

The union also conducted widely, diverse, cultural work amongst its members, organising lectures for them at our existent People's University. Lectures were held systematically on general and Polish history and on the geography of the Land of Israel. Scientific information was also provided – how to protect oneself from an enemy chemical attack, and lectures on first–aid, and on hygiene in general.

The work was headed by the former military personnel Galster, Erlich and Freund.

(Sadly, we have been unable to find any details regarding the first founders and their activities. This important organisation, too, was destroyed in the destruction of Jewish Częstochowa.)

[Pages 783-786]

Fragments of Jewish Life

Chaim Szymonowicz

Jewish Częstochowa, alas, is no more. But it lives on in every Jewish heart, not only of the very small number who were saved in the normal manner (by abandoning the Diaspora in time and ascending to the Land of Israel), or even by emigrating to one of the free countries but, above all, of the Surviving Remnant – those who experienced the horrifying inferno of Hitler's barbaric rule, his camps and torture–centres – and survived. They in particular, so strongly desire to immortalise at least something of their memories of their old childhood home, of their suffering and happiness in their dear Częstochowa.

In normal times, Częstochowa had a population of 135,000, of whom about 35,000 were Jews. This racial minority, nevertheless, held the foremost position in the city's financial life. The Jews developed industry, creating employment for many thousands of Christian workers, because the number of Jewish workers in the factories was very small.

In handiworks, however, the Jewish craftsmen were the most important element. This was also the case in small manufacturing. From year to year, Jewish minds and Jewish working hands grew in number. Częstochowa Jews – large and small manufacturers, wholesale merchants and retailers – were famed for their industriousness and diligence and, as a consequence, their undertakings constantly expanded.

Much as the opulent Jews were also “men of the people”, who did not “put on airs”, separate living areas, as it were, were quite naturally created.

Mainly labourers and poorer craftsmen lived on ulicy Senatorska, Kozia, Garncarska and Nadrzeczna (which were also referred to as “der Meksyk” [Mexico]).

Manufacturers, merchants and the wealthier craftsmen lived on the Stary Rynek (Old Market), [from] Warszawska to the end of the First Aleja whereas, in the surrounding streets, lived the extremely rich magnates.

As I have already mentioned, the Jewish manufacturers employed a very small number of Jewish workers. This was not always through any fault of their own. The Polish workers' organisations blocked the way and even prevented Jewish apprentices from learning and becoming qualified in Jewish factories.

And if the Jews, as a rule, made their livelihood mainly from the Christian population and the hundreds of thousands of pious Christian men and women, who thronged to the “Holy Mother” at Jasna Góra from throughout Poland, the fierce hatred of the Polish antisemites who, unmolested, set up pickets by the Jewish shops and prevented any Polish clients from entering, brought great losses to Jewish commerce and craftsmanship.

The ferocious agitation took acute forms, particularly in the last years leading up to the Second World War.

There was some small consolation in the fact that some of the Polish Workers–Socialists had understood what sort of regime the Polish antisemites strived for and some of them conducted a counter–agitation. The Jewish radical youth, in fact, found a way to carry out, together with them, cultural operations among the working youth.

(Jewish life in Częstochowa was fine in all respects, but the greatest Devil of all generations destroyed it all!)

[Pages 787-788]

The First Concert
(Old Memories)

Lipa Gutfrajnd

Just uttering the word “concert” was once considered heresy amongst religious Jews.

Even though a large section of Częstochowa youth at the time favoured the new, modern life, we still needed to be extremely cautious nonetheless.

The Jewish periodicals “Der Freund” [The Friend], “Der Telegraph”, “Heint” [Today], “Moment”, and various holiday fliers, as well as the weekly “Roman Zeitung” [Novels Newspaper], which also contained a section on music and concerts, already then had a great influence on us youngsters.

So, we plucked up the “courage” to attend the first concert ever played at the great theatre, under directorship of the renowned concert musician Pinkus [Paweł] Kochański and his two brothers, who performed a trio for viola, piano and cello.

The spacious theatre was fully packed with the Jewish and Polish aristocracy, as well as the with our city's higher–ranking Russian officials. We were “stuffed up” into the highest gallery. With the sound of their first notes, some of us quite simply uttered forth a “Shehecheyonu”[1], so momentous was our experience. Our enthusiastic and unceasing applause was beyond description. A new world had been revealed before us. The tones became deeply imprinted in our hearts and, when the younger Kochanski began playing the “Kol Nidrei” melody on his cello, the tones carried us off and we repeated the holy prayer of “Kol Nidrei” silently word by word. A divine tremor passed through our limbs. It seemed to us as if the Spanish Conversos were there, murmuring this prayer together with us. A surge of thunderous applause awoke us from our dreams and we began to slip out of the concert hall one by one, so as not to be caught, heaven forbid, in the “transgression”.

Such were the circumstances the first time we “gave in” to “sin”, and attended our first concert.

It had been the first, but – by no means the last! Those were the days!

Translator's footnote:

  1. “Who has given us life”; a blessing which is said on particularly joyous occasions. Return

[Pages 789-790]

From My Memories

Godl Frajtag


Photo of the author in 1914


A Częstochower in Germany in 1914

Right at the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, the Germans seized young men for forced labour and sent them to Germany. A group of Częstochowa Jews was also sent off in this manner.

But, even in the prisoner camps, we were active. We created a management committee which conducted cultural activities and was in contact with our city up until the end of the War.


A Częstochower as a Railroad Worker

When I returned to Częstochowa from Germany in 1916, I started working on the railroad.

Being a metal–worker, I was admitted as a member of the “S.S. [Zionist Socialists] Party's” Professional Union, and also elected to the management.

When the Germans left the city, under the orders of Commander Chrobołowski, I participated in the disarming of the Germans who had fled Poland in panic.

Once the Polish government was established, it dismissed all Jewish railroad workers. We sent a delegation to Warsaw to demand adjudication. The delegates were Jakób Lenkinski, Abram Gotlib and me.

After lengthy efforts, we achieved our aim. We then planned to travel to the Land of Israel and continue working as railroad workers there but, sadly, we received no certificates.

[Pages 790-796]

Simple Jews


Our city Częstochowa was famed for its intellectuals, both from Chassidic and the progressive circles. Much is said in our Memorial Book of personalities of different shades and tendencies. But it must also not lack that sort of Jews whom one does not find by the [synagogue's] Eastern Wall, those simple, honest Jews who also deserve to be mentioned and not only because they, too, were among the martyrs, but also due to their modest, decent lifestyle. They toiled heavily and bitterly to earn a livelihood, helped one another and, at the same time, did not fail to go at dawn to the study–hall to fulfil the precept of public prayer. To these simple Jews – some of whom I no longer remember even by name – I dedicate my subsequent lines.


1) Bajer's “Hotel”

[This was] a courtyard ay Nadrzeczna 16, which belonged to the Christian landlord, Bajer. It was a long courtyard, which stretched to the banks of the Warta River. Right by the street stood a two storey house, whose lower floor lay almost half–sunk into the ground, with the windows barely higher than street–level. Upon nearing them and peering in, one could see a small table covered with boxes of wooden pegs, bits of leather and other shoe–making materials. On the low cobbler's bench sat the cobbler with his sons, working very diligently.

Structures stood on either side of the long courtyard. On one flank were small, one or two–room dwellings, in which lived craftsmen, general labourers, and most of all, carters. On the other side were stables for horses. On top of the stables, “loft–apartments” were erected, topped with slanted, wooden roofs covered in roofing felt. Directly under the roof were the dwellings' tiny windows. In one of these, one could see a woman cleaning and polishing the panes of the minute window, singing a song.

But this did not deter a few cheder–yingelech [young boys] from walking about on the sloping felted roof, which no longer showed any signs of tar. They clambered up onto the roof of the neighbouring courtyard, in fear of the tenants because, for a bit of work such as that, they were wont to receive a fine serving of clouts which they did not soon forget. On one occasion, one of them, a boy wearing a long cloak, suddenly discovered he had remained alone. His friends had been able to escape quickly. He trembled at the yells which arose from the courtyard below – “Listen, you scamp, if you don't come down from there, I'll tear your foot off!” And, good as his word, he snatched up a rod from his wagon, with which to honour the uninvited guest on the roof. But the boy vanished with lighting speed onto a low, adjacent rooftop and scurried off.

Ulica Nadrzeczna – one of the oldest in town – was very narrow. The distance between one row of houses to the other was very short. The courtyards were also very narrow, so it was almost impossible to turn a wagon around once inside. There was no other option, but to push each wagon in reverse. But directly opposite the gate stood the gruel–maker's house, with the windows at the very front. As is customary, every wagon had a shaft and freight–wagons had very long ones. Reb Leibel Bleszner would unharness his wagon and set the horses free. They already knew the way to the gate and, from there, straight to their stable. Habitually, one would then take hold of the shaft and push the long wagon in reverse. But the owner of the wagon would never perform this task by himself. A “helper” would always appear – usually a “professional colleague”, for this type of work demanded not just “brawn”, but “brains” as well.


2) “Hard” Water and “Soft” Water

As is known, Częstochowa was blessed with abundant water. There was a pump in practically every courtyard, but the water that was “hard” was used only for rinsing utensils and ritual hand–washing. But when clothes needed to be laundered, “soft” water would be brought from the river. Besides, there was separate water for cooking – “tea water”. This had to actually be fetched from the third street, a chore which was carried out by Reb Berl Wasserträger [water–carrier] (Reb Berl Bomba), a tall Jew with an unkempt beard and a yoke on his shoulders, with a wooden bucket on each side, with which he would provide the housewives with both “soft” water and “tea–water”.

Every day, early in the morning, immediately following the prayer–service, Reb Berl would set off from “Bajer's Yard”, bearing the yoke with the two buckets with which to fill the barrels in the homes. As he did this, he would give the little children a smile and sometimes also a sweet, which made him popular with different Jewish families. He was all the dearer before Pesach, when he appeared with his brand–new buckets and poured the water through a silken cloth into the special Pesach barrels. Reb Berl's beaming countenance registered great contentment then, for he was not merely performing a task, but was engaged in a sacred service – in honour of the sublime Pesach festival.


3) The “Two Brothers”

When a wagon, harnessed with one or two horses, set off from the courtyard, it understandably made no impression at all. No one regarded this as a novelty. When one saw the “two brothers”, each one leading a horse by its reins, without a wagon, it was still difficult to notice them. But when one later saw them in the street, with the horses trudging in front of a black casket, one knew someone had died. They were both clad in long black greatcoats, buttoned up with large buttons, and, on their heads, they wore soft black hats with broad brims. They were also recognisable by their finely–trimmed little beards. Their two horses also wore the same “uniforms” – black mantles with holes for the eyes.

This is merely a small description of life in one courtyard on ulica Nadrzeczna. Jewish factory workers lived in other streets. Early every morning they would hurriedly run to work, carrying in their hands blue canisters with a bit of food, in order to come to the factories on time. Every morning, noon, and evening echoed with the factories' whistles. Children used to be able to recognise each factory's distinct whistle, by which they knew that father would soon be coming home from work.


4) Porters

An exclusively Jewish occupation in Częstochowa was that of the porters. Strong, broad–shouldered Jews would hire themselves out and carry heavy loads around on their backs or on carts. They had one “station” at the Stary Rynek (Old Market), where they would stand with thick ropes coiled around them, in a row, like soldiers. Some had carts, with the shafts pointing towards the marketplace, ready to set out. The second “station” was at the Nowy Rynek (New Market) – from the pavement in front of Reb Mendel Epsztajn's wine shop to “Uncle” Mordche Szwarcbaum's tobacconists shop. All stood with carts here.


5) “Majer Riz” [Yid., “Giant”]

Majer Riz was a short, stocky little Jew and power literally emanated from his every limb. He was not only a porter, but also the gatekeeper at the “German Synagogue” on holidays or when a celebration was held there or a reception for an important guest. Majer Riz would then position himself on the stairs, in front of the threshold. Seeing him there, no one would any longer attempt to push his way up the steps without a ticket, even when Professor Majer Balaban held a lecture there, in his voice with the strong accent and his guttural Jewish “R's” . Here, the desire to gain entrance was very great but, upon seeing Majer Riz standing on the stairs, the “appetite” disappeared and one scrambled back down!


6) “Sojka”

This was not the wealthy Leibel, or Leon Sojka – the great merchant and philanthropist – but a different one altogether. He was not even related to him, but just happened to have the same surname. An older Jew with a greyish beard, it was his custom, on Fridays and holiday eves, to work only until twelve noon. He would not have changed this tradition for any treasure in the world. At twelve sharp, he would snatch up his cart and run home with it at the speed of lightning in order to prepare himself for Shabbes or the holiday. He went to the synagogue immediately after lunchtime, groomed in readiness for Shabbes and was among the first there! Such was his wont all his days.


7) “A Son–In–Law with Full Board”

A great stir and clamour ensued among the porters of the Stary Rynek, one morning at the first hour, when one of their colleagues arrived with his new son–in–law. He was a strapping fellow, tall and broad–shouldered, with a ruddy complexion. He wore trousers that were much too short for him. A seasoned professional in the field, he carried a brand–new white rope wrapped around himself and stood on the pavement, together with his father–in–law and the rest of the porters.

The porters approached him with emphatic cries of “Welcome!” and “Mazel–Tov!”, all the while warmly wringing his hand and inspecting him to see what type of fellow he was. One of them treated him to such a thump on the shoulder, that the sound rang throughout the marketplace. A whack on the shoulder from “nasz brat” [Pol., “our brother”] was enough to “revive the dead”, but the son–in–law was not shaken by this, for he too was an expert at thumping shoulders. It was a trifle awkward for him, because he had omitted to ask his young wife what one replies to a “welcome”. In due time, he came to know that one answers “shkoyech” (yasher koyach[1]). But he did not lose his nerve and, upon being asked how he was feeling after the wedding, he replied: “Nishkusher” (meaning to say – nisht kushe[2]).

His father–in–law was a Jew who knew something good when he saw it and, when negotiations regarding the match had only started, he at once perceived that this was indeed a fine suitor for his daughter and immediately “snatched him up”, not only assenting to the union, but also promising him full board[3]. The loyal son–in–law could not allow himself to saunter about like an unemployed person and, already during the seven days of feasting [following the nuptials], he went out with his father–in–law to the marketplace, where he was given such a warm welcome.

Much satisfied with this, the father–in–law invited the entire company for a “le'chaim” at Bajnysz's tavern. There, they all agreed at once to also grant the son–in–law the right to stand in the front row on the pavement.

The son–in–law soon found his pace and became something to contend with. He lifted the largest and heaviest loads. And one did not envy the shaigetz [hoodlum] who had a quarrel with him or who just got an urge to make fun of Jews. Such a shaigetz did not leave his hands in one piece – he would not show his face in the marketplace again.

The father and son–in–law worked together and, while loading a wagon with sacks of flour or grain, they would sing a Jewish song finely.

The father–in–law never did keep his promise regarding the “full board” because, soon afterwards, it was he who received “full board” from the son–in–law.

(All these were dear Jews lived as brothers and sacrificed themselves for other Jews. May their memory be honoured!)

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Heb., “May it be for strength”; traditional Jewish equivalent of “thank you”. Return
  2. “nisht kushe” is half Yiddish and half Hebrew for “not a problem”, viz., “not bad”, whereas “Nishkusher” is quite literally “unkosher”. Return
  3. To enable him to study Torah without needing to work. Return


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