Elkune Chrobolowski zl
Between the Second Aleja and the Third Aleja, from ul. Kilińskiego to ul. Dąbrowskiego, is Plac Magistratcki [Municipal Square], which is located the local Town Hall. It is from here that the Ruling Gods and the Mortal Rulers reign. The Ruling God lives in an edifice with tall cupules, surrounded by a peaceful and lovely garden. The Mortal Rulers in a house with a tower and a dungeon nearby, without which no human existence on earth is possible.
The building, with its byzantine cupules, was actually built for the Russian Orthodox God who, in earlier times, played an important role here. But, of late, he has been ejected from his comfortable dwelling and in his place was brought in the God which the government now has. The former Mighty Ruler, the Russian Orthodox God, was not even granted the rights of the Tenants' Protection Law. His was the lot of a subtenant, whom one may evict on a whim.
The ruling humans have also been replaced, together with the God. Or perhaps it happened the other way around the Gods were replaced together with the mortal rulers.
Military battalions come from time to time to the square between the two seats of power, displaying their weapons, to reassure each of the two rulers, on either side, that their reign is as secure and as permanent as the force upon which they rely.
Then arrive the city's simple burghers in their finest attires and stand on the pavement from both flanks and gush forth contentment and joy, hearing their military band playing their military marches in a parade.
A row of poplars also stood there, thick and tall, like ancient giants. There they had stood for generations, indifferent to all the changes happening before their eyes whether children play with this plaything or that. To them, these are all but flitting games. Constant are only summer, autumn, winter and then the spring, when they blossom, and clamour and resound with the eternal Song of Life.
A multitude of birds would nest in these trees. The birds only live here during the summer. They migrate for the winter, without applying for passes or visas, consequently not paying the thousand andone duties. But the worst they allowed themselves to do was that, in the thick of the imposing parade, when the townspeople crowded round with foolish enthusiasm and open mouths, they would play a trick and soil someone's elegant hat or something even worse.
The Town Elders could not allow such an act go unpunished. They held a meeting and decided to cut down the thick, tall poplars where the birds, which were perpetrating such outrages, nested.
And early one fine morning, the birds, which were beginning to return from the warm lands, saw how men were cutting down the poplars in which their nests were. They raised an alarm, calling entire flocks together, entire armies, and swooped and swirled around their nests and, in one voice, incessantly shrieked:
Cheepcheepcheep you are driving us away from our nests [and] destroying our dwellings, because we accidentally speckled someone's hat or his bare head! But you yourselves saturate, day in and day out, human minds, human hearts and human souls with falsehoods, hatred and jealousy, turning them into killers and murderers you remain unpunished, yet you condemn others.
Cheepcheepcheep in your midst murderers and killers roam about, who have attacked unarmed, innocent folk in broad daylight, robbed, murdered and stained their hands with innocent blood, and you, the Town Elders, were not even willing to assume a resolution of protest. And yet you condemn us to homelessness and exile without any trial.
Cheepcheepcheep we demand honesty, we demand uprightness! The world in not without a Master. There is a God in this world and He shall take our wrongs up!
Any Jew, who was born and bred in Częstochowa, recalls its Aleje with a holy tremor inside. Memories of a bygone life arise the lives of one's parents, relatives and friends and of the entire area. There is a forevergnawing, unquenchable longing for the rich, entertaining, pulsating Jewish life which is associated with the memory of the Częstochowa Aleje.
Two large cloisters were encompassed within the area of Częstochowa's Aleje one in the Nowy Rynek [New Market] (in the heart of the former Jewish quarter) and the other being the world famous Jasna Góra. The former is at the beginning of the Aleje, while the latter is located at the end. Wherever one stood, the tall monastery's spires loomed, with their glittering, menacing crosses.
Chassidic Jews would avert their glance to the ground in avoidance, so as not to see the filth with their own eyes.
Small, religious, Chassidic boys from the poor, dusky little streets, who had once desired to see the beautiful Avenues with their trees in bloom, would cross over to the other side of the pavement on the alley that connects the Stary Rynek [Old Market] to the Nowy Rynek [New Market], where the monastery is located, so as not to catch a glimpse, heaven forbid, of the impurity.
Jewish labourers, after a full week of hard work and no little hunger and cold, would emerge on Saturday afternoons from their dwellings in the cellars and attics, from the low, stooping little houses of the Kozia backstreets and make their way to the Aleje.
Other Jews just went to breathe in a bit of fresh air and admire the stately, majestic Aleje. Some went to their Union and others to their Party, to meet with fellowworkers and share troubling thoughts and also to hear, occasionally, words of commiseration and encouragement of a better and more beautiful world to come.
Jewish youngsters went to their youth organisations, which were on the Aleje, to dream their youthful dreams. Other youths, dressed in their best clothes, caroused in the Aleja, expressing their spirited youthfulness.
Revolutionary songs of mankind's progress blended with the hum of Talmud study emerging from the Chassidic shtieblech, and both were drowned by the laughter and singing of the children and youngsters which, together, created a resounding, unforgettable heavenly symphony.
Evil, terrifying winds began to blow, which promised nothing good. As hatred of Jews and terrorism increased, people began confining themselves, concentrating in a tighter area. They went no further than Pazderski's clock, up to the end of the second Aleja. Then the tightness became even worse. On a Saturday evening, or just any regular summer evening, it literally became impossible to pass through there.
If a young, dreamy couple felt the urge to escape the crowdedness and attempted strolling on to the third Aleja, nearer to the sacred monastery, or if they wished to sit down in a peaceful corner of the park at the end of the Aleje, they would instantly get a taste of the Polish hooligans' cudgels, to remind them that Jews were not allowed to enjoy the park.
Later, in the times of Owszem, Polish rioters drowned the Aleje with loud yelling to boycott the Jews, shouting the basest insults at them. The Jews witnessed this in pain and in grief, but were compelled to remain silent. One by one, the Jewish shops on the Aleje closed down, where there had formerly been almost exclusively Jewish shops. Polish shops began to open, changing the Aleje's appearance. Furthermore, one saw shops open on Shabbes, creating a dissonance with what had once been. It had been, after all, the Jewish pulse that had forged the character and aspect of the Aleje!
Ester Rozental (Sznajderman)
My father changed our living quarters often, not because they were not to his liking, heaven forbid! Quite the opposite they were fine rooms, only too expensive for him. He was always looking for cheaper lodgings and affordable accommodation was hard to come by. They were usually in outoftheway streets and, thus, we wandered. From ul. Ogrodowa, we moved to ul. Krakowska and, from there, to Garncarska. In this manner, we were constantly further and further from the city centre, until we found ourselves living on the property of the German Herr Pusch, at ul. Warszawska 33, not far from the Three Crosses and the city's checkpoint.
Why have you dragged us to this farflung place?, Mother bemoaned. But Father contended that this specific apartment had, literally, a thousand good points.
Here,, he reassured us, the rent is much lower, the courtyard is large and the air is just like at a summer house. On ulica Garncarska one could really suffocate with the tightness.
True, this was actually a halfGentile courtyard. Already, by the first week, the neighbour Malinowski's little scoundrels hurled a sharp rock at our poor little fellow, threeyearold AvrumSzlojmele, hitting him right in his bright little face, [saying], That little blond Jew is not to cross over to our Polish side! Swój do swego! which means each one to his own corner.
AwrumSzlojmele wept for a long time, not so much from the pain, as from the vexation of having been so brutally driven away from the little Gentile girl, with the blue eyes, who, incidentally, resembled him so much.
For weeks we had to treat the wound on his reddened, tender, little cheek, which already had much matter [granulation tissue?], and left a distinct scar on his little face for life a reminder of AvrumSzlojmele's first attempt at friendship with a Polish child.
Our German landlord did not approve of such contretemps. So he sought a solution, which he found.
He rented the right section of his large building exclusively to Poles and the left, only to Jews. He stuck to this principle with German precision.
But this was not all. The territory of his large courtyard had a dividing line the right side for Poles and the left for Jews.
This was no abstract, theoretical boundary, but a very concrete, practical one. He dug a narrow ditch along the entire length of his unpaved courtyard which, as it happens, would fill up when it rained, becoming a gutter. This gutter constituted the neutral strip, which belonged to no one and which neither side could cross.
When letting rooms to a new tenant, Herr Pusch would inform him of this unwritten law. He would also take him to see the gutter and give him to understand that transgressing this unwritten rule could lead to undesirable deeds on part of the tenants on the other side of the line. The established Jewish neighbours would also warn the newcomers, Have a care, guard your children. But children are children after all, and they do not obey their parents. They knew nothing of these intricacies and would cross from one side to the other. The two and threeyearolds lived peacefully sidebyside and wished to play together precisely as equals.
But the four and fiveyearold urchins already understood more about borders. They would rough them up and cruelly force them back to their own territory yelling, Out of here, Jewish bastard!
The older children seldom left their own side. But this did not prevent the Polish scamps from pelting the Jewish half of the building, quite often, with a hail of stones which, many times, even ended in blood. At this point, the Jewish and Gentile mothers would come running up and, with a curse on their lips, would quickly grab hold of their children and take them inside the house. The perpetrators would run away [and] the war would be stopped, but not for long it would be resumed shortly afterwards. This time, two new companies of sworn enemies would be doing battle, for revenge needed to be taken for the victims.
Nowhere did you see as many bandaged heads, feet and hands as had the children of our courtyard!
The Jewish comrades abided by the law. They almost never crossed over. The reason they were not the first [to start], was not because they were, heaven forbid, pathetic little cowards, but because they simply had no time. Besides their constant preparedness for battle, in case they were attacked, they were occupied with matters of importance. Are there not enough amusements in the world?
Since both sides were in a perpetual state of war, they were always in readiness and had the necessary stores of ammunition. Large stockpiles of stones of all sizes lay at the ready large, medium and small.
Even the older children and the parents guarded these caches of projectiles.
The warfare in our courtyard was not only waged with the hands. Each stone thrown was accompanied with a fitting epithet. These insults were always appropriate to each [individual] situation they will never grow old!
Below, we set forth [some] of these fine epithets, only translated into Yiddish [and now into English]:
Hey, Jewish scoundrel!, Little Jew with sidelocks!, Jewish beast!, Jewish mug [i.e., face]!, Hey! Woe, oh Moishe!, Red Rivke!. But the most popular exclamation was Beilis go to Palestine!
The most common abuseword at the time was Palestine.
Our left flank also possessed an arsenal of derogatory expressions. They did not usually target the opposition's racial feelings Pig!, Churl!, Idiot!, Daft numbskull!
But the older children already knew how to hurt the enemy's national pride, and would shout at the tops of their voices, Pranaitis!, Helena!, Macoch!, Żebraczka! [Beggar?]. The Right Flank would feel particularly insulted by this and would retaliate with a reinvigorated onslaught. From time to time, a Great Champion, whose sole purpose in life is to vanquish the enemy, arises on either side.
Malinowski's jewel, Wacek, no longer goes to school. He helps his father to slaughter pigs in their sties. Wacek saunters about the courtyard from quite early in the morning to late in the evening, his pockets stuffed with stones. He is always ready to attack. But Wacek is a coward he never launches an assault before his comrades arrive.
Our company harboured a murderous hatred for him and would aim their stones at him in particular. When one found its mark, his outcries were heard once. He would run to complain to his father, who was a bruiser. But when Wacek's father arrived, he would find an already empty yard.
The enemy also had other military strategies against the Left Side. Occasionally, someone would unlock a Jewish coop in the night and drive out the hens.
During the days of Sukkos, the atmosphere of war in our courtyard heated up. The enemy camp was then prepared to perpetrate the ugliest acts.
Already, on the morning after Yom Kippur, our German landlord saw it necessary to go pay his tenants on the right side of the border a visit and warn them that the sheds would soon be approaching and to not disturb the Israelites. Speak with your children about this, he appealed to their conscience, with his permanent smile.
He went through these same motions every year. But his efforts were in vain, as he knew better than anyone else.
Someone would quietly part the thatching on the roof to one side and slip into the sukkah during the night. The lock on the door of sukkah would remain hanging intact, as if nothing had happened. But the colourful paper chains, lanterns and Stars of David would lay in tatters, scattered on the ground and on the table of the locked sukkah.
Our neighbour, Mendel the painter, once forgot to take down the sheets draped on the walls of his sukkah. In the morning he found them on the ground, torn to shreds.
Everyone knew they had done it, but we could not catch anyone in the act and were thus unable to take anyone to task over it.
One rainy night, the tapestry which so splendidly decorated our upstairs neighbour's sukkah was stolen.
There was no option but to take down even the smallest decoration every night and to see, each evening, the sukkos stand impoverished and unadorned. But this, too, was to no avail. The pious and circumspect Kalisz chassid, whose modest little sukkah was built directly on the threshold of his small dwelling, one morning found a large dead mouse covered with thatching on the table, which the antisemitic scum had thrown in during the night.
His fragile wife, who could barely keep soul and body together, lay the entire holiday sick in bed from the anguish. Her humiliated husband, with their little children, ate their meals during the remaining days of the festival at Mendel the painter's sukkah. Although there were enough places at the table for both families, the Kalisz chassid, with his five pale, frightened little boys, would wait patiently until Mendel Painter had finished his meal and left the sukkah. We all understood the reason. The noble and proud woman did not wish anyone to see, God forbid, what food she gave her husband and sons to take into the sukkah. The Kalisz Chassidim family was the noblest and most religious, but the poorest family in our courtyard.
Henech Kolin, the flour merchant, was our neighbour further down the courtyard. He lived right up against the city's checkpoint. One night, they set his sukkah on fire and he and his family were only saved by a miracle. After this, we set up a night watch in our half to guard the sukkos. Each night a different neighbour stood on guard.
(All this was once. Now there is no longer any border across Pusch's estate. Everything is in their hands they have been relieved of the Jews!)
Ester Rozental (Sznajderman)
After my mother became a wageearner, her little lad AwrumSzlojmele was left at home unsupervised every Tuesday and Friday. (These were the two market days in Częstochowa.)
The infant would wander about Pusch's huge courtyard, yearning for his mother. On one market day, just before Pesach, he grew weary of the loneliness and set out to find his mother.
Although she was quite a distance from him, he knew the way. AwrumSzlojmele had more than once made this walk to the Nowy Rynek [New Market], with his little hand clasped in his mother's warm hand. He knew that one needed, first, to walk along ulica Warszawska until one reached the postoffice, from which one reached the corner and, from there, his mother was not far. There was the Nowy Rynek, where his mother stood at our stall, selling glassware.
So then, there he was, at the central marketplace. But instead of turning right, he strayed up to St. Zygmunt's Church. AwrumSzlojmele then forgot all about looking for his mother. As if in a dream, he wandered about among the unharnessed horses and wagons which stood in front of the church courtyard. The wagons were loaded with fowl, vegetables, calves and fruit. People came and went, and there was a bit of a stir around him.
A young peasantwoman noticed the blond, Jewish infant with the white shirt. She stared at his little, upturned, Slavic nose. His little eyes reminded her of the blue rye flowers in a field of grain. Ah! Most holy Mother of God! an idea runs through her mind.
You Yourself have sent me this great trial. We must save this little soul from unclean, Jewish hands! Crossing herself piously, she then cried out, JesusMary! JesusMary! Two shiny, red lollipops were enough for my little brother to let himself be taken onto a wagon, where he remained, Sitting quietly, next to the smiling peasantwoman.
AwrumSzlojmele sat contently licking the lollipops.
The old peasant, who had meanwhile arrived, poured tasty oats into the feedbags, thinking, Let my horses not stop along the way and he quickly harnessed the horses to the wagon. The old man was happy. He was taking home a great find in one or two years, a pious, little, Christian shepherd would grow up to tend his sheep and cattle.
Our cousin Gittele Szczekacz chanced by there, as she was looking among the farmers' wagons for a cheap sack of potatoes for Pesach.
Suddenly, she sees her little cousin her auntie Dwojrele's little fellow, AwrumSzlojmele sitting in a happy, young, peasantwoman's lap, licking sweets. She animatedly stated who the child is and attempted to take him down from the wagon. But the peasantwoman begins screaming, with the old farmer helping her, This is my grandson! Away from here! he shouts, threatening with his fists. In a minute he will be off.
My auntie's little boy! Gittele screams ever louder. Give up that child! A hubbub ensues, Christians and Jews. The atmosphere becomes charged, the tumult is great. Hateful insults against the Żydzi begin to be heard.
The newlybaked mother stuffs the child with one sweet after another. AwrumSzlojmele sucks away and looks on with interest.
The yells become increasingly louder Poles! To the rescue! A Catholic soul is in danger! Żydzi want to steal a little Christian boy!
And suspicious characters let themselves loose about the Jewish stalls, wishing to stuff their pockets with Jewish goods.
Mothers seize hold of their children and run home. Jews begin to close their shops. Stallholders scrape together what little property and goods they have and hide them.
The braver Jews surround the wagon they will not allow it to move from there. A few resolute individuals cling tightly to the wagon's siderails.
The despairing Gittele hits upon a idea She runs into the church and complains to the priest there, begging him to assist, Holy father! Please help! He really is a Jewish child!
He does not refuse her, but he does not hurry. He says he will come out soon, but he doesn't. Each moment seems like a year. The clamour steadily intensifies. At the other side of the marketplace, a Jew woman already screams, Help! They're robbing the little merchandise I've got! There, in a corner, a cluster of Christians is fighting with Jews. A curse on the Żydz! Poles, come to the rescue! A true brouhaha ensues.
Who knows how the upheaval will end? But then the priest arrives and the Jews breathe more freely. The Gentiles bare their heads. Both sides warmly appeal to his sanctity.
The cleric looks at the child. Why must you squabble? he says to the public. Let us seek signs as to whether this is a child of the Jews or not.
A sepulchral silence falls throughout the marketplace. The tension grows. All eyes are turned to the Holy Father!
He takes the infant in his arms, pulls down his little trousers and inspects him. The crowd holds its breath. And then the priest holds the child up high, for all to see.
See, dearest Christian brothers, he turns with a smile to his congregation. This child is circumcised. He does not belong to our Holy Creed and he hands him over to ecstatic Gittele.
When my mother arrived running, scared to death and breathless, she found her child already safe in the arms of the joyous Gittele.
AwrumSzlojmele then noticed his mother for the first time and exclaimed: Mameszi! [Mummy!]
Szlojm'l, my child! cried Mother, pressing her little rescued fellow to her heart, her face awash with tears.
In the Shabbes prayers at the Częstochowa studyhalls and shtieblech, thanks were given to God for the twofold miracle a child was saved from Conversion and a pogrom in the city had been averted.
Ezriel BenMoshe (Jakubowicz)
I wish to describe here how the Stary Rynek looked in the 1930's, when no booths stood there anymore and, in place of a little house, Gajsler had erected a huge kamienica [tenement house]. It is possible that I may forget someone and, for this, I ask your forgiveness.
In order to describe the different characters that lived and worked in the Stary Rynek, we shall chronologically go through the buildings which surrounded the marketplace and which, together, formed a foursided figure.
I begin with the houses at Number 1. Coming from the Nowy Rynek [New Market] into the Stary Rynek, one crosses a narrow street, which runs parallel to the kościół [church], which religious Jews used to call Die Tymme [the impurity].
Sadly, an entire row of houses is now missing. A whole block of buildings was shaved off by the Nazis, who desired to create an open space connecting the Nowy Rynek with the Stary Rynek. They tidied up the houses and, now, one can stand on the First Aleja and, already from there, make out the Stary Rynek.
As [some of] you surely still remember, the first building (on the corner) began with Welgryn's little herringshop, to which one needed to descend a few steps. Then came a Christian pharmacy. Next was Rozen's small flourshop and, then, Hofman's paintshop, which was crammed full of merchandise, in addition to the storerooms in the yard. After the old Krauze house came Grundman's ironmongers and Karmazin's haberdashers. In the courtyard, one of the Leischlech brothers sold shoes and the religious gaitermaker Ajchenwald, with his secular, leftist children, supplied shanks for shoes and boots.
Szajek Gold's building contained his large wineshop and Jakubowicz had a small glasswareshop there. The melamed Pinches Arkusz conducted his cheder in its courtyard, where he taught his pupils Torah. The great scholar Reb Wolwisz Borensztajn also lived in that same building.
Then we walk on and come to Jakubowicz's ironmongers, or Pulipipa as it was called, and to Szlezinger's confectioners, after which was Cymberknopf's leather goods. Now we stand at Kasriel Szenker's [building], which was really something. Other living here were the Kaufmans, Abale Shoichet's dynasty and the Złotniks with their glasswareshop, Kromołowski with his leather goods and Rajchman with his grocer's. Aleksander Chassidim continually crossed the courtyard on their way to attend prayer services at their shtiebel there. Next begins Gajsler's House the great fortress built of red brick, with very many shops, which encompassed three streets. Then we would enter Frania's to eat a nice bit of marinated herring with a glass of beer. You could smell the distinct aroma of the delicacies from the street. Further on, there was Funtowicz's leather goods and, on the other corner of the alley, Gittel Esterele had her haberdashery and Monowicz his grocer's. Opposite him, Sziffer baked his wares. Earlier, the longbearded Elio Ber had had his little perfumery there.
Next, we come to Abale Krumkopf's building. Here too, Groskopf had once baked bread. Further on, at the second house, lived another of the Leischlech brothers, who were shoesellers. Now, we would come to KupkaZomper's fine bit of butter and a little, fresh cheese and, in the courtyard, we would find the longstanding Szydłówer shtiebel.
Then came Turner's vinegar and oil shop and we would pass through a dark gate to the Cossacks' Shtiebel (of Radomsko) and the Keser Torah Yeshiva. In that same building, which ends on the old border, lived the unwashed and here the Semicircular Gate is a remnant of the Old Ghetto. This narrow alley leads us to ul. Garncarska and ul. Nadrzeczna even straight to the crates. Right at the end of this alley lived the Lemelech. And from there, one could enter Luzor the Hunchback's publichouse and [also] see Klajnman's little shop crammed with leather.
We continue our promenade.
At Kopinski's House once stood Wargoń's publichouse, where Radoszycki later opened a haberdashery. The shoichet Bergman lived in this building as well as Klajnman, who had leather for sell. He was a very Chassidic Jew, who had heaven preserve us a daughter who was not only an intellectual, but also held extremely leftist views.
Next is Szama Tenenbaum's House, which later belonged to Zusman Krauze. This house was famous due to the fact that the Rebbe of Żarki lived there for several weeks when he settled in Częstochowa.
In the yard, the Zajdmans sold parsley. Mojsze Chussid had been making gaiters and soles here for many years. Ordon had his skład aptecznych [wholesale chemists] here, which his Jewish employee Praszkiewicz bought from him. Celka, Rubin Szaulewicz's daughter, had a little grocery shop and the Nudelmans sold suits of clothes here.
The nearest house was one of the most famous on the Stary Rynek, because of the bookseller Emanuel Bajgele. Who did not come to him to buy sforim [religious books] and textbooks? On the threshold, one could buy gherkins from Binibut [nickname?]. At the top lived the capmaker EliBer Zajdman. Nearing elections, his windows were always filled with posters of [both] Left and Right Poalei Zion. In the front was Tobiasz's ironmongers, which he later sold to the leather merchants Jesionowicz and Szlingbaum. Nudelman the jester [at weddings] also lived in this house.
Thus we arrive at Rotbart's Stables House. Here were more leather shops those of Lichter and Laks. One house there also belonged to a Christian. The gaitermaker Mojsze Działowski lived there. He used to tell interesting stories of the bygone RussianJapanese War.
Next, we come to a building which was wellknown because the bookseller Lapides lived there. Here, also lived scribe and fisherman, Natan the Mute, and Helfgot had a leathergoods shop. There was also a tiny, little shop there which sold sweets for one grosz. It was called the little red shop, because its doors were smeared with red paint.
And then, at the corner, Mancia Truskolaski had his famous publichouse, which he sold in the last years to a Polish leather merchant named Olczyk. On that alley also lived the Szajn, Dorfgang [and] Swerczynski families and, across it, was Bejnisz Broder's publichouse and Jossel [Józef] Goldberg Ze'eviuk's barbershop.
We then come to where Grinbaum's leathergoods shop and Gonszerowicz's spirits shop stood.
In the second building, gaitermakers Tauzewicz and Kozusznik lived and Włodowski had a fruit shop there for many years.
And now we stand already at Żubrowski's building, with his Christian publichouse, where Wajnberg once had a wineshop and the Edelist, Wajsfelner and Wolski families also lived.
Then there is a small building where Herc had his little ironmongers, Gewircman a haberdashery and Fajerman a large oil and soap shop. And there already begins the meatmarket [Targowa] street.
Apart from this all, the Stary Rynek also had various characters who made the rounds there, such as the wellknown Po pięć i za pięć [Pol.; For five (groszy) and in five (minutes)], who went about wearing a vintner's apron and sold a bite to eat for five groszy. Or Shokele [Yid.; Nodder] with the tilted head and a cane in one hand, and a pair of trousers or a marynarka [Pol.; jacket] to sell in the other. A yellowhaired Jew sold papier na muchy [Pol.; flypaper] in the summertime and piping hot chickpeas in the winter. A lady sold hot potato cakes.
A tall gypsy, whom people called Szaje Schlitten [Yid.; Sledge] sold herring from a barrel, roaring and shouting, Uliki, uliki jak te pajnski byki [?], and a tall Jew with a little yellow beard [also] sold herring at a small table.
Among the stallholders was a cobbler, whom people referred to as The Kozioł [Pol.; Goat]. He was a tall Jew with a blonde beard. When someone had an urge to taunt him and, passing through the marketplace yelled out Mehmeh!, he would chase him over all the streets until catching him and properly breaking all his bones.
The merchants themselves waged a strenuous war against each other. Each had his own criers, who brought him the Szlonzokes directly from the trainstation. They ended up actually physically pulling clients one from the other. The hardest battles took place among the tailors.
The most interesting were the Annual Fairs. The peasants brought their butter and hens to sell. They came to sell off their merchandise and buy their necessities.
Every morning, the pachciarze [leaseholders], who came from the villages with dairy products, would stand by Bajgele's house.
The Shtarke [Yid.; Strong], or socalled Good Boys also operated around the Stary Rynek. For a long time, JankelHudis also stood there with fish. He was so strong that people said that, when he walked, the stones shook under him.
Szymon Expresstrain Małpa, and the Zompers also went around there, seeking their livelihood. The marketplace stalls were set up in a specific order. First came the floursellers, then shoes, suits, leather, then fish, and at the end chickens and butter. Each stallholder had his permanent place in the market. Every morning, he would erect his stall with poles and linen sheets and then pack it up before the night.
The porters also had their places healthy Jews girded with ropes, with the red faces, stood with their carts in front of Szajke Gold's house. To lift a sack of sugar or flour was, for them, the easiest feat. They were simple folk, but good, warmhearted Jews.
On Shabbes afternoons, following their postprandial nap, the men would go to study a chapter in the studyhall. The Chassidim [among them], obviously, went to their shtieblech for the Third Meal, and the women took benches out to the front of the house and sat down to a session of gossip.
The youth at the Stary Rynek were active in all areas of social and political life. Various sports clubs stood here and it was here that the amateurcircles made their start. Theatrical performances were held and, more than once, one could hear at night, from under the windows, [Levin] Kipnis' Jewish folksongs being sung and zmires on Shabbes, [or] a recital of Józef Kamien's declamation. Around us, also, echo the little songs by Misha Kolodny [later Moishe Kol], Dziek Rechtszajt and the heartrending melodramas of [Izrael] Białkowicz and other Jewish actors, who so often visited Jewish Częstochowa.
(Alas, my description is [only] a result of my old memories. When I came to Częstochowa in 1945, my mind was a web of bygone fantasies
In reality, I stood on the ruins of my socherished Jewish Częstochowa.
Our bloodthirsty enemies had celebrated their demonic victory over Jewish Częstochowa, [with] its Stary Rynek and Nowy Rynek everything was washed away in the bloody deluge of Poland's Jewry!)
I. Elchunon [Chune] PlaiFilik
Warszawska 5 was the property of the Gryczmański family, who belonged to the Polish nobility (the Szlachta). The husband was no longer alive, just the widow without children they had died in their youth. It was one of the largest buildings in town, and it bordered ulica Ogrodowa. This Christian owned building housed Jewish tenants almost exclusively who, amongst between themselves, made up practically an entire allencompassing little shtetl merchants, artisans, stallholders, public activists and men of Torah. Several families of musicians also lived in this house, among them the Szmulewicz family and one always heard music being played there although it rattled the ears more often than not. This was, on the one hand, also the social aid centre for the poorer sections of the population, for there, also lived the renowned Zionist activist Mr Natan Gerichter, who was also very active in the management of Dobroczynność and who, to the poorer residents, would hand out coupons for different products and the monetary stipends.
Every morning, the courtyard became the meetingpoint for the Jewish poor, who [all] waited for Natan Gerichter.
His home was also the venue for secret Zionist meetings, during the times when Zionist activity was conducted very clandestinely.
Natan Gerichter, a great flour and grain merchant, was the most intellectual tenant in the building, and his dwelling was also the cultural corner for literary meetings of old and young Maskilim. Natan Gerichter, who was a delegate to several Zionist congresses, often reported and lectured in his home about Zionist problems, as well as delivering reports on the congresses and other Zionist conferences. All factions supported him, including his political opponents.
On the other hand, this same courtyard was the centre of Torah study and the Chassidic music of the Gerer and Radomsker dynasties. The representatives of these two Chassidic courts constituted, on one side, the apartment of my grandfather Reb Józef Szaja Wargon and his children, who were exceptional in Chassidism and great singers as well, Reb Józef Szaja serving as leader at the [High Holidays] morning prayer service and blowing the shoifar at the Radomsko shtiebel and, [on the other,] Reb Manasza Margulies, who leaded the Mysef service at the Gerer shtiebel. When the month of Elul came, the courtyard echoed with the beautiful Chassidic melodies sung by the two choirs.
One also heard the building's Chassidic tenants' constant singsong of Torah study. I remember how Rabbi Bencion Wdowinski (a son of the Rabbi of Radzymin and a soninlaw of Reb Mojsze Margulies, a great scholar who studied with young Torah students) would often be visited by the Rabbi Reb Wolwisz Borensztajn (the young prodigy from Sochaczew) and Reb Wowczy Piotrkowski (the soninlaw of the renowned Gerer chassid Reb Chaskel Fiszel), and all three scholars would walk around the two courtyards for hours on end, immersed in Torah conversations.
(Such was the life of the tenants at ulica Warszawska #5, until the terrifying operations of the Nazi murderers.)
The remembrance of the destruction of the Częstochowa Jews pierces and tortures the heart and mind incessantly.
From the mist of memories, which are drenched with blood and extermination gas, the names of streets, where once only Jews lived, peel away.
Located there were synagogues and studyhalls, educational institutions and yeshivot, commercial professional unions and political parties, and financial and communal institutions.
In Częstochowa, the Jewish manufacturers, large merchants, craftsmen and retailers played a great role in general commercial life.
The jewels of our local Jewish culture were the Jewish periodicals, libraries, courses and cultural institutions.
All this is deeply etched in the memory. Before your eyes, as if you had just seen them yesterday, stand the city's streets, the hundreds of Jewish houses which were built by Jewish initiative and energy. Jewish manufacturers, such as Dr Zaks, Wajnberg, Neufeld and others, were the pioneers of industry and large trade in Częstochowa.
There were industrial enterprises in our city, which were among the most highly regarded in their field in Poland, such as the Warta papiernia (paperfactory).
The Jewish, smallscale industry literally uncovered [i.e., brought fame to] Częstochowa with its production in the sectors of celluloid, ceramics, bicycle parts and Catholic ritual paraphernalia.
All this, together with over 33,000 Jews, was destroyed by the murderous, cruel Nazis.
The deeplyrooted and multibranched Jewish settlement in Częstochowa became, just as with all Polish Jews, terrified upon hearing of Hitler's rise to power in 1933.
Hitler's Jewmurdering and extermination policies, sadly, found sympathy with the greater part of the Polish politicians.
Before this, too, Jews in Independent Poland had suffered from financial, political and cultural adversities. But these troubles became much more serious once Hitler had risen to power in Germany the Owszem policies of the reigning Polish Prime Minister, General Składkowski, then began to be implemented a period of intense discrimination and persecution.
The activity of the Ozon Party, which was founded by the Sanacja movement, and of its leader, Pułkownik [Colonel] Koc, was aimed at giving themselves over to the antiJewish economic riddance policies not just of the Endecja, but even of the hooligans that ran alongside them, the Narodowcy [Nationalists], who set up pickets in front of the Jewish shops and, in addition, carried out cruel and murderous physical attacks on Jews.
The Polish sky cast a dark shadow on Jewish life in Poland, including that of the Jews in Częstochowa.
Exactly like the Jews in other cities in Poland, the Czestochowa Jews also sought means to save themselves financially and politically.
To this end, divisions of the nationwide Polish Jewish Economic Committee were established, whose principal goal was to strengthen the existing, small industry and craftsmanship with the aid of machines [and] credits, and by assisting in the export of goods produced by Jews.
The most prominent representatives of Jewish industry and craftsmanship, headed by Mr Engel, took over the management of the committee. They were extremely active and conducted their activity energetically and with the utmost responsibility.
In order to organise the work better, a regional assembly was formed in Częstochowa. A precise registration of the craftsmen and manufacturers started to be conducted. A special commission, with Eng. Lewkowicz at its head, composed a list of their machines, inventories and the credits that they had received.
A branch of the Ort organisation was created, which was also headed by Eng. Lewkowicz.
This organisation, in coordination with the Wawelberg Crafts School, took charge of the productive elements of the Jewish population, and the youth in particular, and, as part of this activity, created courses for electricians and for motorwinders.
There was a plan to also create mechanical workshops in which to train Jewish machinists for the wood, textile and metal industries.
At the same time, political activity was also not neglected. The Jewish political parties organised, as the result of the BeckHitler alliance, an imposing protest rally against Hitler's extermination policies. The mass protest took place on the ramparts, because an appropriate location in the city centre was not received.
Dr Bram's proud words, at this protest, ring in my memory to this day. He likened Hitler's blood orgies to the Crusades in the 11th century.
A second action against Nazism was to create, under the management of Mr Sztyller, a boycott committee of the Merchants Union against the German goods which used to be brought to Częstochowa.
On 10th May 1935, the General Jewish Committee of the political parties and financial organisations, under directorship of Professor Saks, organised a large protest assembly against the Nazis' medievalstyle autodafé in Berlin, the tearfully famed Kristallnacht, in which were burnt down the finest achievements of Jewish and nonJewish, but liberal, creators of culture.
At this assembly, in a detailed report, Dr Batawja described the great contribution of Jewish artists and scientists to global human culture and science, in general, and in Germany in particular.
Dr Batawja also mentioned several JewishGerman scientists whose origins were in Częstochowa.
All this was burnt at the stake by the German barbarians on Kristallnacht, to the sound of the bestial song with the words Wenn das Judenblut vom Messer spritzt [When the Jewish blood sprays from the knife].
Jewish society had imagined that, with these palliatives of a boycott and protest rallies, it would be possible to undo, or at least weaken, these inhumane, barbaric extermination policies of the Hitler hordes.
Dark tidings reached Częstochowa from around the world ships of Jewish refugees from Germany wander from sea to sea, the lands to which they turn not granting them entry. The English Mandate power in Palestine was particularly troublesome in this respect.
Zionist organisations sought all possible and impossible means to bring Jewish youth to the Land of Israel, but this could not be done, for priority was given to the most urgent task to save the German Jews from their burning inferno. The certificates for countries such as Poland, automatically, became more and more scarce.
Despite all strenuous efforts, the threeandahalf million Jews in Poland, among them the more than 33,000 Jews of Częstochowa, in the last years leading up to the Second World War, took very little part in the legal and even the illegal Aliyah.
At the end of October 1938, Polish Jewry became terrified by the brutal act of the German government, which banished thousands of Polish Jews from Germany to the borders of Poland, among them even those who had lived there for many years or who had actually been born in Germany, but had remained Polish citizens.
One dark and rainy night, the Nazis herded these Jews and, like cattle, herded them across the Polish frontier.
After many great efforts, the Polish government established a camp in Zbąszyń (near Poznań) in which the expelled Jews were concentrated.
Jewish Częstochowa, just as the Jewish communities in other Polish towns, created a relief committee, with Dr Hirszenberg at its head. The committee did everything to aid the wretched, homeless Jews, among whom were also wealthy manufacturers, bankers and merchants.
The aim of the operation was to offer first aid, both to the refugees who were able to make their way to Częstochowa, as well as to those who still remained in the Zbąszyń camp.
It impossible to describe the tribulations and pain that the refugees experienced.
Hitler's dark hurricane continued spreading and flooding incessantly. In the aftermath of the political Anschlüssen, which were supposedly voluntary but, in truth, took place under heavy military pressure, the Jews were always the first victims.
Not all the Jews had the possibility to go wandering, even in the manner the German Jews had done. The unhappy Jews, living in the annexed territories, fled as if from a horrific fire.
Under these circumstances, some of the escaping Jews came, in a terrible state, to the bordercities of Katowice, Sosnowiec, Będzin and Częstochowa.
Although the Częstochowa Jewish community was in a deplorable situation [itself], great monetary means were mobilised to alleviate the plight of these transient refugees.
Later, Częstochowa's relief activity was coordinated with the aid organs of these abovementioned cities.
But all the mustered moneys were like spitting into the ocean. They were insufficient and could not help Hitler's tortured and pursued Jewish victims.
There was great joy in Polish governmental circles due to the BeckHitler agreement. The masters of the Sanacja were convinced that Hitler was a politician who would definitely spare the Poles. They believed he would not make any territorial demands of Poland and as proof, [they stated] that, at the Great Happening, viz. on Göring's and Goebbels' visit to Poland, not even a hint was heard regarding this.
True, Goebbels, may his name be obliterated, did say at the University of Warsaw:
If certain nobleminded men in Europe are opposed to the Germans exterminating Jews, who are living human beings, then why do these same nobleminded gentlemen exterminate fleas, which are also living creatures?
The Sanacja press was inspired by this fiendish comparison. Those great politicians presumably imagined that they would, in Poland, take an antiJewish course of action, such as would be to the liking of their noble friend and neighbour, Germany.
They thought that this would give the Sanacja, and the other bloodthirsty antisemites, the opportunity to completely eliminate the Jewish population from political, financial and social life.
But this joy was shortlived. The Sanacja politicians were unable to rejoice long in their smallminded, political conceptions.
The Jewish side repeatedly warned Sanacja politicians that their policies were leading Poland to a horrific catastrophe. They were constantly told
Instead of cementing all Poland's forces against this one greatest, murderous enemy, your idea is to just throw the Hitlerhound a Jewbone.
And, indeed, it soon emerged that Hitler made demands of Poland, which were similar to the actual facts and occurrences of the attack on Poland in 1939.
Shortly before Hitler's invasion, placards were to be seen in Poland in a tone conspicuously contradictory to the elation at the time the BeckHitler agreement had been made.
These placards openly proclaimed: Hitler is a bloodthirsty beast of prey.
But regarding the policies on Jews, the Sanacja did not change in the slightest. The old plan of all the Polish antisemites remained in place to distance the threeandahalf million Jews from economic, political and social [life] in Poland.
In higher education, the powerwielders continued applying the same systems of ghetto benches and numerus nullus [Lat., none at all] with regards to Jews. They encouraged the sombre agitation of the Jewdevourer Mrs Pistor. They intensified the battle against the Jewish marketstalls a battle which led, usually, to open pogroms, such as in Przytyk, Częstochowa and other Polish cities and shtetls.
Even worse, Sanacja politicians openly demanded that the Arierparagraph be implemented. Precisely on the eve of Hitler's invasion, the antisemitic propaganda intensified.
Częstochowa, naturally, was not the last to join in with these slogans. The Polish streetflyer Goniec [Messenger], which was published in Częstochowa by the leader of the [local] Endecja [National Democratic Party], Mr Wilkuszewski, openly preached boycotting Jews and distancing them from having any influence in financial or social life.
This same leaflet truly became the standard of the local Sanacja governmental circles.
Characteristic of the Naziantisemitic atmosphere in these circles is the fact that the Starost [Gov. of the province] Kyn, as a principle, would not greet Jews.
The general associations of doctors, engineers and largescale industrialists in Częstochowa by then endorsed implementing the Arierparagraph.
The subsequent fact is particularly characteristic of the atmosphere in those days. The General Doctors' Association of Częstochowa was then celebrating its 25th anniversary. Dr Zalman Bychowski from Warsaw was sent to the function as representative of the central administration of the Polish Doctors' Association.
At the festive banquet, which was held at the Polonia hall, antisemitic activists within the Częstochowa Doctors' Association arranged things so that the Jewish members should sit separately at a table on the left side of the hall.
As one may well imagine, the Zionist activist and proud Jew Dr Zalman Bychowski sat among his Jewish colleagues. At the opening of the banquet, the chairman Dr Szaniawski forbade Dr Bychowski, the delegate from the Central, to occupy a place of honour at the presidential table to which the guest replied, The place of honour is where Dr Bychowski sits. Dr Bychowski did not forsake his Jewish friends.
Even a blow to their morale such as this, did not deter the aforementioned associations from putting the Arierparagraph into effect. They excluded their Jewish colleagues, despite the fact that some of them were the founders and the most active members of these associations.
Furthermore, around that same time, a plaque was put up in the home of Dr Biegajski, on which the names of the deceased and fallen doctors were engraved. This plaque did not include the names of Jewish doctors[a].
This fact displays vividly how sacrosanct it was for these gentlemen to dance in attendance on Hitler and his animalistic hatred for Jews.
In this period, the Jewish intelligentsia, throughout the whole of Poland, established their own associations. In Częstochowa, too, an Intellectuals' Club was founded. This club was of a markedly assimilationist hue the word Jew was not mentioned, Heaven forbid!
Certain Jewish intellectuals, such as Drs Bram, Lewkowicz [and] Kagan did not join this club, in protest.
As I mentioned already, the financial situation of the Jewish population, in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War, was a very difficult one.
This was caused by several factors the open boycott, the pickets in front of Jewish shops and serious physical assaults on Jews all these things literally paralysed Jewish financial life in all of Poland, and no less so in Częstochowa.
On the militarypolitical front, the Sanacja government was already, on the eve of Hitler's invasion, brandishing a sword.
The gallantly uniformed officers, headed by Marshal RydzSmigły, famously made the laughable declaration, We shall not yield even a single button [of our overcoats].
Although this was a tragic time for Poland, the attitude towards Jews did not only not improve but, on the contrary, it greatly worsened!
The Jewish representatives on the City Council were forced to wage an extremely fierce battle both with their overt enemies, such as the members of Endecja and Chadecja (Christian Democracy) and the newlyfledged Sanacja antisemites.
Very often, it was necessary to escort Neufeld, the proud Jewish representative, on his way home. He was an old man and there was a fear of him being attacked, by hooligans from the antisemitic circles, for his stalwart defence of Jewish rights.
The other Jewish council members shared similar fears.
The activity within the Jewish Kehilla was very intensive but, sadly, it was able to provide only very little constructive aid to the local Jewish population. The relief work was focused almost exclusively on the refugees from Germany and the territories which the Nazis had occupied.
Opportunities arose for some of the exiled German Jews to have a part of their possessions returned to them. But a huge sum of money was demanded in every such case. The Kehilla was compelled to mobilise extremely large amounts of money to this purpose, in order to help them. The required sums were raised from local and foreign sources - and efforts were made to extend aid to all needy Jews.
Jews were hopeful based on the opinions of wellinformed circles that there would be no war. The Polish government also lulled itself to sleep with such frivolous dreams, setting elections to the municipal councils for the summer of 1939. These elections were held in Częstochowa too, in midsummer of that year.
Needless to say, the Jewish population needed to prepare itself especially well for this election, in order to attain a proper, Jewish representation on the City Council. It was clear to every Jew what sort of struggle the Jewish representatives would have to put up at City Hall to defend even the most elementary Jewish interests, during such particularly troubled times in Poland.
Ten Jewish lists presented themselves to the elections all the Jewish parties and financial associations put forward their own separate lists.
It was obvious that with such internal discord, and with such inauspicious electoral regulations, the Jewish votes would be wasted and they would be unable to put appropriate candidates through.
To the honour of the Częstochowa Jewish settlement, it must be mentioned that, after some brief negotiations, it was decided to create only two electoral blocks one block encompassing from Agudas Yisroel to Poalei Zion Right, and the other being comprised of the Bund together with Poalei Zion Left.
A General Committee was chosen to approve the list of candidates, according to the following lineup:
We needed to elect them as our candidates so that they would be able to properly deflect the dark attacks of the antisemitic representatives on the City Council.
They did, indeed, fiercely protect our Jewish financial and political interests.
Three of those, who helped create these two Jewish blocks, are still alive today Rafail Federman, who lives in America, Abram Brum, who lives in Jerusalem and the author of these lines.
But this City Council did not have time to come to fruition the Second World War began. But it is nevertheless important to note the very fact that Jewish Częstochowa still possessed a healthy, political sense.
It is not at all easy to write about the last weeks of the Częstochowa Jews, on the eve of the Second World War.
Everyone thought that, seeing as how Polish Jewry so deeply rooted within Poland's economic life, no misfortune could touch them. Each one told himself that, although we would suffer financially, this would not be the first time that the Jews of Poland were tested in life.
This opinion prevailed not only among the Jewish provincials in Poland, but even the most acclaimed Jewish public figures saw it thus.
But, meanwhile, one decree was being issued after another and they were all against Jews. I shall recount several facts:
In the summer of 1939, the leadership of the Polish military realised that the Polish air force did not stand, at all, at the required level.
For this purpose, the Polish government instituted a voluntary (but, in truth, compulsory) monetary contribution.
The Jewish population was then subjected to many inhuman chicaneries. They [i.e., the government] sent highlyrespected Jews from town to town, for them to gather as much money as possible from the Jews there. Thus, for instance, they forced Reb Chaim Weksler to travel to Kielce to induce the local Jews to give as much money as possible to the air force.
A second occurrence:
General Składkowski, the then Prime Minister and Internal Affairs Minister, had no greater worries at the time, but to prettify the external appearance of the houses.
This same decree created many troubles for Jewish homeowners and community activists at the time. I recall one instance:
One Friday afternoon, Kehilla President Jakób Rozenberg was suddenly arrested. The following day, on Shabbes morning, he was conducted, under a heavy police escort, to the starostwo [district office].
He was held there until afternoon for a starostwo official to explain to him that the Kehilla buildings were not aesthetically pleasing.
The impoverishment of the Jews was increasingly growing and the government extended no substantial aid.
The portfolios of the unpaid vouchers in the banks and the lists of the needy in the philanthropic institutions became fuller and fuller.
From time to time, the Polish government published public communications and bulletins with hints as to Hitler's demands from Poland.
On Thursday, 31st August 1939, the Polish government issued an order for mobilisation. The mobilisation orders caused pandemonium in the Jewish street. Those, who had the merest opportunity to do so, packed up whatever they could and fled wherever possible. People even escaped on the train in the direction of Warsaw. But very few were able to do so.
Already, by Friday, 1st September 1939, Częstochowa was lightly bombarded. On the Polish side, rumours were spread that these were aviation training exercises by the Polish air force.
People began digging trenches in almost every house.
On that same Friday, our situation was already more or less clear.
In the evening, there was already no trace of the Polish army. Hundreds of Jews each took their pillow [as protection] and wrapped a shirt around their neck and abandoned the city to wherever their eyes took them.
Very many Jews were killed by the German bombs, which chased them in their panicked wanderings. Some were able to find their way to the new eastern border. The rest returned broken, tortured or wounded.
A Few Words on Jewish Częstochowa
Jewish Częstochowa, to a significant extent, portrayed in a miniature scale the essence of Polish Jewry in all fields [of life].
But the Jewish group in Częstochowa also formed its own spiritual individuality this same individualistic streak was a product of Jewish Częstochowa's localised development.
Jewish Częstochowa could not pride itself on an ancient lineage. But it embodied a wonderful, harmonic development, based on financialcommercial initiative and creativity, on friendliness and cultural achievements [and] political awareness of the workers and the masses.
During a certain period, Częstochowa Jewish youth took a significant part in the awakening, general socialist and revolutionary movement in the city and its vicinity.
Jewish Częstochowa put into practice not just preached the produktywizacja of Jewish youth. (Jews of Częstochowa!
You were proud in life. You were hallowed and pure when you were cruelly vanquished.
May an eternal curse be cast upon all who participated and all who assisted in your annihilation.
May my words be a wreath of flowers on your graves, which are in all the roads and paths, in the ash from the gasovens and crematoria that the wind has blown to the East and West, to the North and South.
Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'may rabboh!)
Remark from the Editors:
The author of the article Jewish Częstochowa on the Eve of the Second World War, in his very detailed article on the period of the Eve of the Great Destruction, was unable to avoid mentioning Hitler's preparations for the gruesomeness [to come], which we [always] present in parentheses. Unfortunately, it was technically impossible to do this here. We have therefore presented (in parentheses) only the last lines his heartfelt words to the Jews of Częstochowa, hyd.
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