by Juda (Lajbcze) Parasol
Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal
Everything in our lives flies by, becomes transformed into shadows, and disappears into the abyss of the past. All people, especially in their last years, carry deeply within themselves small cemeteries, not only of relatives and near ones, whom they had loved, but also of events and things with which they were intimately involved.
In the rush of time, the past becomes partially sleepy, sometimes even erased from our memories; but there comes a day when forgotten events awaken in our minds, corpses leave their graves and speak to us with their bloodless lips.
A terrible sadness rules our hearts then. We feel deeply alone, and the thought that all is in the past, and will never return, tortures us. We think that we would give everything in our lives for one day of those beautiful, sunny days of our youth.
An enormous desire awakens in us to revisit the places where we had spent our youth, the young carefree years.
I spent the first 20 years of my life in my birth town Dąbrowa. I also spent a time in Krakow, Warsaw, and later settled in nearby Będzin, where I lived until the Second World War broke out. During this time I often visited Dąbrowa, where my father and close family lived.
After the outbreak of World War II, during my wanderings and assorted transformations, my home town beckoned to me more than once like a flame in a dark night in both the fat years, spent in Baranowicz, or in the distant Siberian Taiga, where I was sent together with my wife and child, as well as in my difficult battles with death languishing in the hard tower-rooms. More than once, I had a sickly vision that had no compassion: Never. All of a sudden, the giant factory chimneys swam up as though in a fog, with the black, smoky skies of my home town lying so far away, with all my near and dear ones, to whom I had said farewell, and who endlessly waited for my return.
On the 15th of June 1941, my blessed father, tragically cut down, wrote me a letter sent to the Siberian Taiga, so far away from Dąbrowa which was already occupied by Hitler's criminals. Among other things, he wrote: Don't complain about your fate On our sky in our town heavy, black clouds are moving, and only one God knows how this will end! And he concluded, Mazel-tov to you, my dear Lajbcze, your sister Fajgele gave birth to a daughter.
Unfortunately, I never saw them again; all were burned in the crematoriums in Auschwitz. These are heavy memories, which eat at me day and night, weaken my body and often lead to depression...
Now after 15 years I revisit my old birthplace Dąbrowa-Gur. In the bus I don't see a single Jewish face!
The wheels clap monotonously, and looking through the window at the passing
scenery, I search for a small remnant of my previous years. But nothing. My
thoughts run with the speed of the telegraph wires, which rise and fall, and
carry me over to the distant past, when the buses here were overflowing with
Jews. As we were travelling through Będzin, I searched the characteristic
Jews with their long, black capotes [coats], and round hats.
They used to be busy, hurrying to their jobs. The old marketplace in Będzin was always full of people from the whole neighborhood buying all the goods. There were so many overcrowded businesses and stores. But now, there are benches set outside, there are planted shrubs and flowers, and people relax in lonely silence! The Jews of Będzin's old Market are gone forever, and their former stores are walled up and have been transformed into private apartments.
And so, travelling through the streets of Będzin, and erasing the well-known panorama of the Koszelow mine, from Aleksander Zawadzki, I am schlepped to my shtetl of Dąbrowa-Gór.
I go out of the bus, step on home territory, look into the eyes of people, search for a familiar face, and I am prepared to run towards the best person and beg him to shake my hand!
I sense strangeness in the place where everybody had known me, and I get the chills. Nobody knows me, and I don't know anybody!
It seems to me, that I am not myself, but somehow somebody else, that my former ego was taken away by the tragic times, that here only my shadow soars. I span emptiness. In my city, which was always open to me, where at every step I was met by acquaintances, I am now unknown.
It is spring; four days divide us from our most beautiful holiday, the holiday of freedom, Passover, the happiest and nicest holiday of our childhood, of our youth. We used to feel this way in every corner of my birth town Dąbrowa, by the rushing and tumult in the stores, especially by the tailors and shoemakers. Every Jew, no matter what his material situation, worked hard so that his children could renew something on Passover; we would already be counting the days.
There was the smell of the newly baked matzos. Before dawn, the Hassidim themselves would bake the special Shmura [guarded] Matzos. Today there is not a sign of this in our town. And the weather is cold and rainy like it is in autumn, which is similar to our moods and feelings.
Your soul becomes sad when it comes in direct contact with the town in which you were born and spent your childhood, in spite of the fact that our street was never too jolly. Our childhood was never too nice, as reflected in the black mud puddles of Dąbrowa. Yet childhood is always nicer, happier than today. There is no sign of our former presence.
The bus threw us out on the main street of our shtetl Sobieskiego, which has changed very little in appearance: it is spread with black tar-soot from the giant foundry chimneys which never stop, which were so characteristic for our town. On the entire front of the main street, black soot would pour down on the fresh, white blouses of our pretty girls walking before the pond on holidays, where the Frenchmen would slowly swim with special nets to catch fish.
The Frenchmen, who owned the Huta Bankowa, the colony Paris, and the colony Reden, were a privileged caste in our shtetl; they lived in special, pretty houses near the foundry. In addition, they had their own street, which, by the way, was called the French Street for a long time; we, the Dąbrowa inhabitants, only had the right to breathe from a distance the unpleasant stink emanating from the standing water.
With the disappearance of the French, the stinking pond, with its afternoon croaking of the frogs, also disappeared. Today flowers grow there. Only the Christ monument remains the same on its place, which is on the very front, full of greenery, surrounding the moss-covered pond.
We turn into Fabryczna Street. With slow steps, I try with my weary eyes to
search every corner, in every house, in every passing person, and all at once I
am standing at the house of Josef Siwek. Characters like shadows, like visions,
twinkle in front of my eyes, and disappear.
There is a crazy stillness reigning around here. The external is freshly washed. The windows are smeared with fresh lacquer, covered with shades and curtains, which means that people are living in all the rooms; yet when I try to speak with somebody, it seems that nobody knows me, nor longs for those who had lived here, created, or built the house. Nobody has the slightest interest in me, a living person, who stands in front of him or her.
Nobody cares about the former fellow townsman, once known by the entire street. After such a long absence, I come with a broken heart to glance at my former hometown, which pampered and rocked my youth, and used to fill my heart with joy and hope!
The street is the same, but it became prettier, cleaner, fixed up. It is only missing my brothers and sisters, who should be greeting me! There is nobody with whom to reminisce about good times. Here, by the Siweks, was a concentration point for the very sympathetic, intelligent youth of Dąbrowa.
Saturday afternoons young people of assorted ages would gather in the garden, entertaining themselves by discussing everybody and everything. There used to come to Jicchak Siwek his friends and acquaintances, like Szlomo Wajnrajch, the Hebrew teacher; Symcha Nusbaum the former school boy; our so well-liked teacher Mindl Nusbaum; Chaim Grajcer, and all those who used to come there, whom I am not in a situation to remember, like friends and acquaintances also from their son Pinchas and his daughters. There was also a time when young people learned the basics of working in their garden, preparing to go to Israel.
The Siweks were a well-to-do family in Dąbrowa. They also had a telephone quite early, with which they would, on more than one occasion, allow themselves to play mischievous tricks. Red-headed Abram used to come to them from Pińczów and bring butter, eggs, and cheese to sell; that was his livelihood. One time he learned from them that eggs were up in price, and butter was down. Red-headed Abram said to Josef Siwek, If I could relate this to my wife and daughters, I could make a little money. Why not? Josef answered him, while sending his daughter upstairs where they had an extension to their telephone. Red-headed Abram screamed into the phone: Gitl, you hear me? And Josef Siwek's daughter answered from there: Of course I hear you Abram, I hear every word very clearly. Know, Gitl, that eggs have increased and butter has decreased, so buy more eggs and do not buy any butter! Happy, Red-headed Abram marveled over the wonderful machine that enabled him to connect with his Gitl so quickly. But when he came the following week with eggs and butter, and Josef asked him if his Gitl had done as he asked, Abram disappointedly, quietly answered him that his Gitl had never spoken with him.
Deep in my thoughts, I stray with shaky steps over the streets of today's Dąbrowa, which by the way, has spread out, in the direction of Gołonóg where the so-called new Dąbrowa is growing. Where there used to be the market place is now a built-up a Culture palace called Zawadzki, but I don't encounter a single Jew in the town, and I feel as though I am losing my balance. In my head is confusion.
And so I went to the French street, on the corner of the French Street and
Okrzei stood a nice, presentable Jewish house, whose owner was Chrzanowski. In
that building I studied under my fine Rabbi Szlomo Josef Monele. Here several
grown up Gemara students would come and carefully look at his ascetic face,
when he taught us so finely.
Szlomo Josef was a fanatical but honest Jew. He would not speak directly to a woman, including his own wife Sore-Laja. He would turn his back to her and speak in the third person. He spoke directly only to one daughter, with complete reverence. She was a pretty girl with long, blonde braids and a pale complexion, with a sickly appearance, although, as it turns out, she was not ill. He was very generous to her, giving her money to buy white rolls. That was his Rochele.
My blessed father and Szlomo Josef were with the first group taken to Auschwitz in late September (?) 1941 and burned there.
The local chapter of the left Poale Tzion was located for years in that same house.
I remember several stores in that building. Among them was a wig-making store owned by Hairdresser Londner (the son of Mendl Jakman). His father called him that because of his giant height and silly-looking face.
The door used to be open in the summertime, and we used to, on our way home, watch for a long time the women with soaped up heads waiting to be shaved.
Going out of the intersection on Okrzei Street, there were many stores, most of them owned by Jews. On the right side leading to the synagogue were also workshops of artisans. Szmul Szramp (Grinberg) also had his shoemaking workshop; few people knew his real name. We called him Szramp [scar] because of his cut lip, which he brought home from the First World War. He was a son of Zalman Kate [tomcat], who also received his nickname from his wife, who bore 24 children, all giants, healthy, and spread throughout the world.
The closer to the synagogue, located on Szopena Street, the smaller, the lower, the older the houses. Some are dilapidated. There in a corner not far from the synagogue, by the water pump, the lame Mayer taught the first clever things about the alphabet to his small children. Some of the houses even closer to the synagogue, which exist to this day, resemble houses of an old story, with crooked roofs, half fallen chimneys. In the middle of a hole there is an entrance to the cellar, in which there also used to live whole families. Here was also a bakery, and across, Jankel Wloszczower taught in a cheder. These houses have not changed in appearance up until the present.
Dąbrowa did not have too many rich Jews, and the town itself was not especially rich. Yet life flowed interestingly enough, and people loved their shtetl.
In the shtetl many people had nicknames that were chosen; not always was it possible to give the derivations, or the reasons for the names. This was not specifically a Dąbrowa quirk, but the weakness of all small towns. For example, Herszl, a Jew who went through the First World War, was widely known, but not for his cleverness, with which he never sinned. He was able to make a little more money during the time of the Austrian Occupation, and he had in Dąbrowa a wholesale business of colonial articles.
(Various jokes used to circulate in the shtetl about the newly rich man, and especially about his slovenly wife and his oldest son Moszke).
On Saturday nights we would often call for Dr. Mitelman, because Herszl
Glezerman [glasses-man] would almost die from overeating the Shabbes foods.
When he would question Herszl if he ate too much, the patient took half an hour
listing all the fatty, special Shabbes foods, like fish, cholent, kugl
[pudding], and roast ducks. While reckoning, he would add:
You know what, Herr Doktor, I am convinced that the piece of cake my wife gave me today early in the morning before praying did me harm. Yet he did not die, and Dr. Mitelman often had to rescue him from death on Saturday evenings.
And how was it fitting that Mr. Herszl did not have a telephone, and that was the only thing he was missing. There were many in the shtetl who did not allow him to sleep peacefully. They used to wake him at 2:00 a.m. One time the rich Sheynglach [nice smooth] desired to have elegant shoes. Without thinking too long, he went to Szmul Szramp, who had had the reputation in Dąbrowa as a specialist of men's shoes. When he picked out the style, and measured his feet, Herszl turned to Szmul Szramp: Mr. Szramp! I beseech you, no matter how much the cost, I want a pair of elegant shoes. The other answered him: Mr. Sheynglach, if I will make you shoes, they will certainly be elegant and good. How are you speaking this way to a customer? Am I called Shmentloch? And my name then is 'Szramp'? Szmul answered.
And so they almost came to blows and the transaction understandably did not materialize.
One of the most interesting and characteristic types in our shtetl, spread his kingdom on the Baybe [?], not far from the ritual bath, where Zysia Luksenburg with his wife also carried on their kingdom until deep old age.
Over there lived also Mr. Ruwen Lichtcyjer [candle puller] (Gluzerman). We called him that because he occupied himself with the production of candles, which he produced in the old hall of the former brewery. There, in a modest house, he also had his kingdom. The interesting, characteristic candle-puller, who like one of the righteous 36 souls, paced through the shtetl with his greasy sack on his back, in spite of his already thoroughly white beard, which betrayed his age. He would appear every day on Okrzei Street, where all the butcher shops were, and he would buy out the cheap fat for the production of his candles.
There was not another Jew in the town who was as popular as he; who would not take the opportunity to greet him with a hearty good morning? His popularity did not come from his candle factory, but from his special, characteristic behavior. He was famous for being a big philanthropist, and his house was open to all who were hungry and those who were searching for a place where to put down a tired head.
He had many and varied children. In the shtetl people would say that his living wife was already the third who bore him children, and that she used to be his maid. She had enough work, not only by having his children and taking charge of the household. She additionally had to cook a giant pot of food every day that would be enough for all those who wanted to come in and eat.
Assorted legends in the shtetl were told about him. Once he took off his boots in the middle of the street and gave them away to a Jew who begged him for a pair of shoes. And he himself continued to walk in the street barefoot.
One of his philanthropic weaknesses used to be marrying off poor girls, the number of which, unfortunately, was very large in our shtetl.
After he had already dissipated his fortune, he still did not want to quit his
generous philanthropic activities; he decided to make collections from all of
Zagłębie for the needy. The old, gray Ruwen Lichtcyjer became a
popular speaker, and Shabbes he would show up everywhere where Jews assembled,
in their study houses in his black silk caftan he wore on Shabbes, with his
wide, combed, white beard, with his fat, smiling, good appearance, and
immediately after finishing the Shachrit prayers, with his heavy hand he would
give a bang on the lecturn and begin to sprinkle passages of Midrash.
He held long enough speeches, which had the contents of one aim and call: Jews, give me money, the more the better, in order that I can continue my philanthropic activities, and help all those needy who wait for our aid.
There was a rich man in the shtetl from whom it was hard to get out even a few złotys: Chanoch Rechnic, owner of a colony. But for Mr. Ruwen Lichtcyjer, even Chanoch's heart of stone became weak. Ruwen would loan him money for a business that would supposedly bring large profits, yielding Chanoch a gain of 50%. When the return took too long, and he did not receive his money back, Lichtcyjer was forced to declare to him that with the borrowed money he married off, with luck, two old maids, and he gave them the money for dowries. The profits of that business, he declared, will be reaped in the next world.
In the Dąbrowa cemetery, demolished by the fascist vandals, there lies a walled in old tombstone, the remains of Chanoch Rechnic.
Not far from the Jewish ritual bath, on Mieszka, also lived Chaimke Shochat [ritual slaughterer], a corpulent Jew in his middle years, who used to, in spite of his girth, wear a long jacket that was twice as wide and tall as his own large, fat body.
With his wide appearance and dark blonde, wide beard, he would pace slowly and majestically the length of the study house, up and down, and fuss with his beard. He had no children.
When I accidently learned that he, Chaimke, learned in the Woloszyner Yeshiva, with the great Jew Nachum Sokolov, I decided to discuss this with him.
And when I asked him if he remembered Nachum Sokolov from the Woloszyner Yeshiva, and what he was like at the time, silly Chaimke answered me with a smile, you mean that Sokolov? Go on! Go! He was barely respectable
That is how our shtetl lived and breathed, with assorted types, with which the towns in Poland were rich.
Dąbrowa had its Herszele Ostropolier, known in the shtetl as the small Merele because of his especially short growth. His wife and his three already old maids were also short; in their entire lives, they never knew the feeling of being full.
None of this stopped him from pushing his way through his difficult life with an eternal smile, and weaving the pains of his life into jokes.
There was in the shtetl a difficult year with an etrog [used during the Jewish celebration of Sukkoth]. The sexton would, for a certain price, carry around the single etrog in the shtetl to the businessmen so they could bless the etrog. Then Merele came to the Rabbi and asked, can he free him from having to make the blessing on the etrog, because he blesses etrogs a whole year round? When the Rabbi did not well understand his question, Merele said, What is there not to understand, Rabbi? A whole year when I make the blessings, I am hungry for an etrog, Merele screams out and bursts our laughing.
In the shtetl it was told later, that when he was already very sick, in the
last minutes of his poor life, he lay in the hospital attended by Dr. Lipski.
After a serious, difficult operation, he noticed in the doorway the familiar
figure of the soul catcher Wowe, so he motioned with his finger for him to come
over to the bed, and then he used the opportunity to tell his last joke, saying
to Wowe with a barely audible voice, You should, Wowe, be as desirous to
live as I am desirous to die.
Such was the small town of Dąbrowa Górnicza, as it was called. In spite of the fact that geographically it did not stop existing and growing, it was for us only historical, the tragic history of a cut-down shtetl, with its approximately 4,000-5,000 Jews, who lived here, loved, suffered, worked and created. Remaining are only the mute walls of the former synagogue, which only externally can remind us of those who had lived here, of the masses of Jews that would gather here on a holiday or on the Sabbath, in order to pray in the synagogue to their God for health and luck and their future lives
And I am again in Dąbrowa after an interval of 17 years, and again I pace over the streets of my birthplace. It is a Sunday. The streets are empty and quiet, and I can listen to every rustle of the shadows that stray around here, of our so tragically cut down near ones and dear ones.
What happened to us here is long over, and now I alone wander lost among many, for me empty, rooms, in whose windows I search the well known faces of my near ones, beaten, laboring and smiling, of the children of my annihilated people.
And from the empty windows, winds wail their gloom Now I am standing in front of my father's house, and tears, dismal, bloody tears, wash the window panes, and from the doors blow cold, distant, strange winds, and my heart does not want to believe that here was once a Jewish life
I pace over the Okrzei Street, where there once were so many poor Jewish shops. Today there are few stores to be found, and yet it is all so similar to that which used to be. Little changed here, and it all reminds me of what was. I pace and I search for a sign of my people! And bothering every passerby, I reached the last Mohican! In the house of Dawid Josef Grinbaum on Okrzei Street lives his lonely sister, sick, old, broken and left over like a remnant of the murdered 9,000 [sic] Jews from Dąbrowa, who worked here, lived, and suffered, and more than once heard the curse, Jew to Palestine. Still there is so much reverence for the place of your birth, for your childhood home! It is difficult to learn from her what is keeping her here in this place; she is the one and only Jewish woman! But now all is behind her. She just left the hospital; rarely do any of our near ones come to her. But today was a holiday for her. We visited her for a time, and two Jewish boys from Będzin surprisingly showed up and brought her matzos for Passover.
After so many trying years, I still did not become enough of a person, and the dreams of my youth still did not change Up until today I have not found a reason for my longing. My blood boiled up when I stood in front of the Dąbrowa synagogue, the one concrete monument of our former Jewish life here! This, by the way, is the single Jewish synagogue that remained whole in Zagłębie after the Holocaust. I stand in front of the synagogue and cry out my entire sorrow, which had been accumulating from before the time I wandered over the town!
We still strayed for a long time over the town, searching for at least a little shadow of the past, and here we again met descendants of Dąbrowa Jews who live in Dąbrowa: Josef Stawski from Okrzei, who lives in his father's house, and works as a pourer in the former Huta-Bankowa, and has, by the way, many awards for his good work. He lived through many of Hitler's camps, and I learned from him that also his older brother Lajb Zalman lives in Dąbrowa on Cmentarna Street, and also works in the same foundry.
I came home today as a visitor where once my cradle stood, I came today
to my parents. The cemetery is silent, but somewhere a leaf touched my deep
pain for everything that is no more to be found
In my home, where once my cradle stood, the kingdom of the dead rules today with a thin silence!
But life is stronger than all the deaths. It has long forgotten about those who were so cruelly torn up with their roots.
We will not forget them!
by Pinchas Lustiger
Translated by Jerrold Landau
|Hah, the earth of man!
The entire German nation is not equal in tears, to a child
With his bitter despair
|The following story is taken from the realties of the natives of Jewish Dąbrowa, which was still embedded in the pre-WWI era, an era of renovating ruins and the ashes of fires. The child was an integral part of the environment, with his ear cocked to the conversations of the adults. The Jewish child had very quick grasp and ability to absorb, he was particularly thirsty in the time and place. His playing was an expression of his internal world, and his hidden subconscious quest.
The story exposes to us Jewish Dąbrowa as it was then. It includes within it the love of the Jewish mother, the worry of the father for the continuity of tradition, and the strong desire of the Jewish child to live a life of childhood in the full sense of the term, despite the restrictions placed upon him by the environment of that time.
Let these words serve as the kaddish that was not recited at the graves of the natives of Dąbrowa by their parents, for they too were taken along the path of tribulations.
One such street was Olman Street, that was later called Okrzei. This was a neglected, unpaved street, filled with mud in the winter and covered with a cloud of dust and soot in the summer. It absorbed moisture, and was enveloped with air polluted by smoke, with the choking hard to bear.
An open sewer meandered through the length of the road, raising a stench. Dark houses with a gloomy appearance stood at the side of the road. Old, grey trees peered out between the houses, which were dark, shaky, and liable to fall. Rain came in through the roofs, and poverty cried out from all directions.
Everywhere that you turned there were stores. Many stores: for trades, for haberdashery, a grocery store, butcher shops, and workshops for sewing, shoemaking, and tailoring.
When you raise your gaze upward, you would see a forest of gigantic, sooty chimneys, from which pillars of dark, thick smoke constantly rose, obscuring the view of the sun. The sky always appeared as if it was cloudy. The view inspired sadness and sorrow.
In the evening, when the road was lit with a weak light, the chimneys would spew forth tongues of fire and smoke into the night sky.
Indeed, Dąbrowa was a factory town, from which coal and iron were dredged up from the depths of the earth. Thousands of workers found their livelihoods there, however very few of these workers were Jews. A covert boycott was declared upon the Jews, to not employ them in any factory, not in the mines, and not in any government or civic office. Therefore, the sources of livelihood for the Jews of Dąbrowa were restricted, and the livelihood was a difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea.
The Jewish citizens of Dąbrowa struggled hard for their existence, and they earned their livelihood with difficulty from trades, small-scale trade, and all types of airy businesses. The street was therefore always embedded in the pincers of mass poverty. This was a doleful street, whose residents suffered constantly from multiple sufferings, with a coin rarely found in their pockets.
To the extent that their straits worsened, they increased, multiplied, and filled the street. Masses of lovely children ran on the street without supervision. The parents were unable to watch their children due to the worries and concerns for livelihood, and every child did what was right in their eyes.
The Children of Dąbrowa Organize into Military Units
It was during the time prior to the First World War. In those days, there were no educational institutions in our city that concerned themselves with children. There were no kindergartens or Jewish schools, only cheders. The children spent most of the day in the street, playing hide-and-seek or catch, playing with buttons, cherry or plum pits, or jacks (five stones). Children of the world of their age would play all types of games, fight, climb over trees and fences, and tear their clothes. They would destroy and ruin anything that comes to their hand. They would fight and exchange blows until blood flowed.
|Okrzei Street (Olman) desolate from Jews
The murdered children of Dąbrowa played their games of wars here
There was a child named Izik who was forged of the material of heroes. He imposed his fear on the rest of the children by force, and ruled over them with a strong hand. Therefore, this Izik succeeded in organizing an exemplary military group. He had an iron discipline to ensure that his soldiers follow him and fulfil every command emanating from his mouth.
With time, this group took control over the entire street. They wreaked havoc to their hearts content without fear and without concern. Their hand was against everyone, and everyone's hand was against them. There was no end to their mischief.
Bundles of troubles were the lot of the residents of the street, and there was no recourse. The residents of Olman (Okrzei) groaned from the pranks of Izik Kaluc and his friends.
The Difficulties of Child Rearing
The difficulties of child raising were more painful and agonizing than any to the red-haired shoemaker Drabinowski, the father of our acquaintance Izik Kaluc. This son embittered his life, caused him despair, and dampened his spirit, for after every prank, everyone knew that Izik Kaluc and his friends were involved.
When they appeared before him in anger and wrath to complain about the caprices of his son, he received them kindly. He was a thin, fragile man, whose forehead looked like a triangle standing on its end. His cheekbones were prominent. Red haired people were in general considered to be angry spirited people. However, his bluish grey eyes sparkled with charm.
When he heard the complaints, he would shrug his shoulders and gaze at the person in astonishment, Is it only my son who is perpetrating all these pranks? There are other children who are no better than he.
No! your demon is guilty of everything, they hurled at him bitterly. He is their leader, and he makes them crazy. They he raised his eyebrows and responded with emotion, They are all guilty for the pranks. Education is not just in the home. There is also a street, and the children wander about the street all day without supervision. If the child is not watched incessantly, the nature of children will push them to activism. If there is no direction from above, they do this by their nature and their understanding.
This response assuaged their anger a bit. While they were standing on the threshold of despair and ready to go, they met another group of bitter parents who came to pour their wrath and the bitterness of their heart regarding the caprices of Izik and his friends. These people stood and discussed the lot of their children for a long time, especially of Izik the demon, whom they regarded as the cause of all the evil that has befallen them. It seemed mysterious to them how the good, pure shoemaker, who sat
bound to his bench all day, performing his work faithfully to bring sustenance to his family could have such a suborn and rebellious son?
Just as the children were subordinate to the strong, brave child, and were in his hands like clay in the hands of the potter, they would also mock and vex any child in whom some weakness was found.
Take Itche for example! He was a charming, quiet, modest, obedient child. He did not participate in the pranks of the other children, but rather was diligent at his studies and gave his parents satisfaction. He was known as a genius, and everyone praised and extolled him. They saw a bright future in him in the rabbinate. When he went with his father to the shtibel on the Sabbath, dressed in a sparkling silk kapote and colored belt around his waist, with his beautiful, curled peyos rolling over his cheeks, his father was filled with satisfaction, as he walked proudly, with all the parents jealous of him.
However, for some reason, he was not liked by the children. When they saw him, they would call him derogatory names, mock him, throw stones at him, and utter mocking rhymes.
Or take Berele for example. This Berele, his limbs were built in such a symmetric fashion. The children called after him, Berele, the hunchback with short legs and long arms. In this environment, debates and disputes broke out, reaching the point of battles, for Berele did not remain idle. Rather, he attacked them in anger to avenge his affront.
There was a principle with them: When a child struggles with his friend, they stick out a hand to him with a four-finger sign meaning I am angry. If they wanted to make up, they would stick out two fingers.
The Children of Olman Conduct Trials with their Hostages
One day, a group of lads from Myszki Street, armed with homemade weapons, came to Olman Street. Izik and his group regarded this as a trespass of boundary. They attacked them, beat them soundly, and removed their weapons. Those who did not succeed in escaping were taken prisoner.
There was a large, open yard next to the home of the Zingreich family on Sienkiewicza Street. In the winter, they would pour water on it to make a skating rink for all the people of the town, but in the summer, it was fully under the jurisdiction of the children of Olman.
They brought the prisoners to this yard and tormented them. They tied their jackets on backwards, bound their arms behind their backs, and set them free in humiliation.
They kept one of the prisoners in order to hold a victory celebration. The children sat in two rows, facing each other. They lay the prisoner on their laps with his back upward, so he could serve as their table. This table was set with all sorts of delicacies. When they started their meal, they first performed the ritual washing of the hands, and then dried their hands on his shirt, pushing against his flesh to hurt him. Then they cut a slice of challah on his back with their hands serving as a knife. When they reached the meat course, they acted as cultured children and used a fork: they stuck their fingers into his back and pricked his flesh while the prisoner cringed and twisted from pain. Suddenly the children turned their attention to taste: the meat is tasteless! It is lacking salt, salt! Where is there salt! Each one took a pinch of salt and placed it on his back, another pinch and another pinch. At the end of the feast, they broke out in mighty song, banging on his back with their first in rhythm, to the sounds of the groans of the prisoner.
At the end of the feast, the prisoner stood trial for the crime of crossing the border without an entry permit. He was sentenced to two hours of prison. They imprisoned him in an abandoned hut in that yard, with his hands and legs bound. They continued with their celebrations. They lit a bonfire, baked potatoes that they had pilfered from the surrounding fields, and for dessert stuffed themselves with sweet pears that they had cut from the orchard that bordered on the yard of the members of the family of Yeshayahu Feldberg. The children of Olman would sneak into that orchard during the nights, and pilfer the juicy pears. This time, however, they did so to the light of day in honor of the event. When they were satiated with food, they uttered juicy curses directed toward the gardens of the Myszkiites, who had been their constant opponents at all times. They spiced their words with coarse language that they had learned from the drunk gentiles.
The children of Olman dispersed to their homes happy and goodhearted, to get a pleasant sleep.
The Children of Myszki are Angry and Incensed
The next day, when the Myszki children found out what was the Olman children had done to their friend, their wrath burned to the point of destruction such a disgusting act. The news passed very quickly from mouth to ear, and the wrath increased. Revenge! declared the Myszki children, Revenge!
The Myszki children energetically and enthusiastically started to draft, organize, and prepare to give back to the Olman children what they deserve. Weapons workshops were set up in every room. Iron scraps,
wood, and work utensils were corrected. Swords and guns were fashioned out of strips of iron, and bayonets out of wood.
News of the draft and the preparations for revenge reached the ears of the Olman children, and a great pall fell upon them, for the Myszki children were known as mighty, stronghearted, fearless children. They were liable to be defeated if they would not defend themselves against them. The Olman children discussed their worry, and realized that they must prepare to respond properly in battle.
From that day, the Olman children all greeted each other with two fingers, as a sign of brotherhood and friendship. The prickly disputes and mocking stopped for the enemy was at the gate, threatening evil against them. Therefore, they must stand united so that they could deal with the invasion.
Izik Kaluc declared a high roll call of all the fighters of Olman. The draft command was issued to all the children of Olman and the area, and preparations started to repel any possible attack. Many weapon stashes were heaped up in hiding places: Swords, bayonets, spears, and guns. Heaps of stones were gathered in all corners of the street.
The Secret Weapon of the Olman Children
During those days, a toy tool was common amongst the children of Olman, which was very precious to them. It could even be said that this was their invention, however, there were differences of opinions regarding this. Some stated that this toy was already previously in use. It is a fact that only the Olman children knew how to operate it properly. They would take a hollow key, and fill it with material taken from matches. They would put a nail in the key, and tie a string from the key to the nail. When they scratched it against a wall, the apparatus would give of a loud explosion, like a gunshot.
A Jew would walk by laden by bags and immersed in his thoughts and worries. Suddenly, a crack! There was a powerful explosion below him. The Jew would become startled, would shake, drop his packages and tremble from anger. He would utter a flood of curses at the sound of the children's laughter.
The children made a deduction. If such a quantity of material in a key would cause such a powerful explosion, they could take a stone, dig a large hole in it, and put a great deal of explosive matter in it. Then, the explosion would be larger by multiples. Perhaps the stone would even break into fragments. This could serve as a trap that could be used against the children of Myszki were they to attack.
They decided and did. They set out to the task with unparalleled enthusiasm. They brought hammers and chisels. They dug a hole in a stone, put in the flammable dust, lit a wick, and hid it under a cover some distance from the stone, waiting for what would happen. Then they met with bitter disappointment. The matches indeed ignited and mushrooms of smoke rose upward. However, there was no explosion, and the rock did not break apart.
However, the children of Olman do not give up. In this case, as in other cases, they turned to Leibel Fuchs. Leibel Fuchs was a pleasant, goodhearted child. Two dimples could be seen on his pale face. Leibel was graced with a sharp, alert eye, manual dexterity and the talent of invention. He always hastened to help his friends, solve their problems, fix their toys, and invent new toys. He was the one who invented a complex apparatus to spin marbles, and he was always first in marble races. His kites were the largest and best. He would fly them up high with their bounty of colors, until the eye could not see them. He would also build excellent winter sleds. While his friends operated their sleds from the trade school above the mountain, he would always sit behind and direct the vehicle so that it would never collide with others, and never overturn. Even though it slid quickly, it always reached the end of the path in peace. He was the darling of the children of Olman.
Leibel Fuchs girded his loins, wrinkled his forehead, and set out to the task. With the help of several other intelligent children, he toiled and worked, and conducted all sorts of experiments. After the effort, he discovered that after placing the explosive material, one must seal the hole, and cork would be good for this. He sealed the surrounding crack with putty.
After he discovered the logical principle that defined the invention, to enjoy himself a bit more, he stuck a bayonet into the putty, and set up a parachute with a flag on top. After appropriate efforts, it was time to try it out. Many children gathered and waited impatiently for the results.
Suddenly, shouts of joy burst forth from the mouths of the children. The experiment succeeded beyond expectation. The sound of the powerful blast frightened the area. The cork flew up high and then descended slowly, spun around, and sunk.
The joy and emotion of the children was boundless. They hugged, kissed, rolled on the ground, and played around in joy. They raised Leibel on their shoulders, lifted him up, and sung in chorus:
Our Leibel is a fellow forever
He brought us salvation immediately!
The children of Myszki will yet stand silently before us
As our flag is raised upward with pride!
When the spirits calmed, and the wave of enthusiasm settled, the children gathered around their commander and decided unanimously to keep the secret. This plaything was liable to be a decisive factor in our battle against the Myszki children if we know how to keep the secret and surprise them.
In an abandoned hut in one of the yards, every child approached a shaky chest that served as a table, placed his hands on a chumash, and repeated the words of the oath in awe and fear: In the name of G-d and his holy Torah, in the name of dear Mother and Father, I swear to keep the secret. If I reveal the secret, let a limb be cut from my body a foot or a hand, or let me lose an eye. Amen, Selah. And they kissed the tzitzit and chumash.
From that day onward, strange, mysterious things began to take place. Suddenly, corks, matches, and hollow keys began to disappear from the homes of the parents, for an order of confiscation was issued by the high command of the Olman children. All of these objects were dedicated to the military effort. The command was fulfilled with extra care, and simultaneously, the troubles of the parents began. Mother wanted to go shopping, and wanted to close the door and the key was not there. Where was the key? Mother got flustered, was it no there a moment ago? She looked everywhere and, in every corner, and it was nowhere.
Having no choice, she took measurements with soap, and ran quickly to the iron utensil shop of Mr. Prazorowicz. There, other desperate mothers were waiting with soap in their hands. What a coincidence! Father wanted to drink a glass of liquor in the morning before breakfast, and the cork of the bottle was missing, and the taste of the liquor was damaged. Guests came and you wanted to treat them to cherry or berry juice and the bottles had no corks and the inside was full of dust. The anguish of the parents was great.
In the evening, Mother wanted to light the kerosene lamps, and the matches were gone. Woe! Where are the matches? yelled mother, Today I bought a full box of matches. She runs to the neighbors, and their matches also disappeared in a mysterious fashion. The parents did not know that the hand of the children was in this caprice.
The Big Battle
The tension between the opposing camps increased from day to day. The scouts of the Olman children brought shocking news, they had forged an alliance on Myszki: the Germans and Austrians against the Russians from Olman, and they were making feverish preparations for a decisive battle. A great pall fell upon them, and they set up guards so they would not be surprised.
The children of Olman feared for their lives. They sent messengers to negotiate peace, and the two sides met often with white flags between them, and conducted tiresome negotiations. It seemed that the spirits had been calmed, and the two sides had made peace. However, at the end, the negotiations failed, the Olmanites were pushed off brazenly, and the delegation returned disheartened. The wounded pride of the Myszki children led them demand very harsh conditions: a) unconditional surrender, b) a payment of damages of two good, fine rubles, c) that the Myszki children would be permitted to cross the boundary to Olman Street at will in processions.
Of course these Olman children could not agree to these conditions, especially the last condition, so they rejected all the demands. The stresses of the stockpiling of explosive material pervaded around the area, and a clash between the two sides appeared unavoidable. The time of the test approached in a dizzying fashion.
One bright day in the afternoon, as the sun was setting, a surprise pillar of smoke appeared from Myszki, with a large camp of fighters in the cloud. It advanced with strength and great force, with their flags and commanders. They arranged themselves for battle. They were armed from head to toe with bayonetted guns, spears, knapsacks full of stones, and slingshots. They wore military caps, with belts around their waists. The commanders wore signs of their rank on their chests, and were decorated with medals. Tall Yosek marched at their head, instilling fear with his thin, blond forelocks, and the sword outstretched in his hand.
This Yosek was a brave person who instilled his fear upon the entire area. Yosek, who was a head taller than all the other children and had unparalleled leadership qualities, was known as a fearless hero. Woe to any child of the opposite side who fell into his hands.
The Myszki children arranged themselves for battle in the following order: the cavalry marched in front these were the soldiers who rode on the shoulders of their friends, wearing helmets, with long spears in their hands. The infantry marched behind them with bayonetted guns. The sharpshooters marched in the rear.
The soldiers of Myszki advanced in this form until the corner of Fabryczna and Olman. The camp of Izik Kaluc arranged themselves against them.
He was short, broad shouldered, and firm. The expression on his face indicated readiness for battle.
Do not cross! declared Izik in his authoritative voice. We will crush your heads if you try.
Who is afraid of you, you Olmanites. We will take out your guts.
After mutual threats, their spirits were inflamed and the battle began. When the sign was given, the children stormed in formation from all sides, and the stones flew over their heads like hail. The battle intensified from moment to moment with deafening shouts of Hurrah! Hurrah! From the noise, the sounds of shattering windows and the cries of pain of injured passers-by could be heard. A great tumult fell upon all the passers-by, who found refuge in the shops and the stairwells. There were many injuries, but who feels pain in the flames of battle?
The street looked like a battlefield. Stones flew in the air, and fistfights broke out here and there.
The children of Myszki stormed forth in anger with calls for revenge, whereas the children of Olman repelled them with might. Reinforcements for the Olman fighters streamed out from all the alleyways, girding themselves with might and launching the counterattack.
However, the decisive factor in the battle was numbers. The Myszki children, who were more numerous, stormed forth in waves and advanced, reaching the intersection of Franczoska and Olman.
In their despair, the Olman children acted craftily and placed a trap in front of their combatants. In the yard of the Berish Liberman, the owner of a grocery store in that home and the son of the blind cantor of the city Mordechai Liberman, the Olman children carried out a tactical retreat. While the Myszki children pursued them, the Olman children burst out of the yard and attacked them from the rear, so that the Myszki children faced a front from the front and the rear.
The Myszki children did not lose their cool. They burst into the yard and attacked them with anger.
The first victim was the window of the home of Berish Liberman. A stone that was tossed damaged the windowpane and penetrated inside. The sound of the breaking of household utensils was heard, followed by the frantic voice of his wife.
Berish Liberman left his store, burst out angrily with a broom in his hand, and attacked them with shouts and threats. At that moment, he was hit by some clump material that covered his eyes. When the clump fell from his eyes, Berish remained standing open mouthed, and without his glasses. (The glasses were very precious for him, for he could not see without them.)
Berish no longer thought about the children, the windowpane, or the broken objects. His sole desire was to find his glasses. He drafted his entire family, as well as the neighbors. All of them searched for the glasses, but did not find them. They disappeared, and were no more. The suffering was unbearable. What would Berish do without his glasses that let him see? The glasses were made for him by a famous doctor, one of the eye doctors of Kraków. Where would he find the doctor now? And from where would they get them money?
Grief, sadness and depression now enveloped the home of Berish, and all his friends and neighbors joined in his agony.
The battle continued to wreak havoc with full strength on Olman Street. The Myszki fighters stormed forward and reached the butcher shops. As they approached the area of Mordechai Parasol's hide shop, the secret, mysterious weapon of the Olman children began to operate. Powerful explosions burst forth. At first, the explosions frightened the Myszki fighters; however, when they discovered that nobody was injured, they quickly recovered. The voice of the commander thundered, Don't be afraid! Forward! They launched a renewed attack with great energy. They came to the corner of Olman and Sienkiewicza. This was the last defensive line of the Olman children. They arranged themselves as fortified wall to protect their final stronghold.
The atmosphere was tense. Nervousness and breathlessness pervaded on the street. The face to face combat began. Here we will take a pause to clarify something: At their meetings, the children loved to hear thrilling stories of spirits and ghosts, of robbers and murderers, but most of all they loved to hear about the adventures of battle and might. Stories of face-to-face combat, called na-shtich (battle with bayonets) by the children, made the strongest impression on them.
Thus did they tell When the warriors meet face to face, and each side stubbornly refuses to retreat, a bayonet battle breaks out and the band begins to play so as to encourage the fighters and muffle the groans of the wounded. The fighters attack each other with fury poured out, and pierce each other's bodies. Blood flows like water. The fighters wallow in their blood and continue to fight until the last drop of blood.
When the command Na-shtich! (bayonet battle) was issued, the brigade of children attacked each other with great fury, using outstretched swords.
They shouted frightening battle cries. Passers-by tried fruitlessly to separate them.
The fighters attacked each other with fury. Clusters of children clashed with each other, wrestling in a cloud of dust. One received a blow in the abdomen and shouted out, and another jumped to meet the attacker, and kicked him in the face. The former then returned the kick, while the latter faltered, fell down, and rolled into the sewage ditch. Fistfights broke out everywhere. Here and there people fight, fall, and wallow in the mud, as one does not let up from the other.
The children of Olman fought with might and bravery, and successfully repelled every attack.
When the Myszki fighters who apparently knew something about strategy realized that they could not subdue their opponents with a forward attack, some of them went behind the front, snuck through narrow holes and fences, and appeared from the rear. The Olman fighters were suddenly surrounded from all sides. Then a desperate, fierce, and stormy battle broke out. The Olman fighters utilized their personal weapons: their nails and teeth, to the best of their ability. After a cruel battle, the Olman children succeeded in breaking through the ring of siege, and began to abandon the battlefield.
There were still pockets of opposition here and there, but they were quickly liquidated, and the defeat was crushing. The Olman fighters retreated from the battle field, and dispersed in a disorderly fashion. They hid in every room and every hole. The failure was complete.
However, the fight was not yet over for the Myszki fighters. Prisoners! Take prisoners! echoed the command. Quick as the blink of an eye, the Myszki fighters scattered to search for prisoners. They snatched someone from the yard of the Plimpel Rebbe. (One day a Rebbe arrived in the city and settled in the house in which lived Yaakov Fuchs, who had been the chairman of the workers union. In time, he opened a house of worship, and gained Hassidim. However, this Rebbe did not have a name, so David Feldberg gave him the name Der Plimpel Rebbe, since he lived next to the water pump. The name became accepted by everyone.) Who did they snatch from there? Oh, woe! Let the eyes be darkened, you will not believe if I tell you: Itche-Pitche, with the long sleeves, that is poor Itche-Pitche! It fell specifically to his lot to fall prisoner to them.
Yes, even Itche-Pitche was among the fighters. This Itche was the pride of the family. He was an obedient child without fault, who never vexed his parents or his teachers. He was calm and serious, and never hobnobbed with the tramps or became involved with their pranks. This time, even Itche joined the battle. Now, he would be caught in his disgrace, and it would be known to everyone, including his parents and family members.
Itche the prisoner was hauled under heavy guard to the middle of the street, with a barrage of curses directed at him. They rolled up the sleeves of his kapote, bound his arms and legs with fetters, placed a sword at his waist and hung a bayonetted gun on his shoulders. They placed a helmet with a black, shiny visor on his head, that was too large for him. They took out his peyos, which were hidden behind his ears, and laid them over his face. They ripped the seem of his pants and pulled through a part of his cloak. This was considered the ultimate disgrace. They blackened his face with soot, and left his groaning in the street, to be mocked and disgraced by everybody. Thus did the Myszki children take revenge upon the Olman children.
The retreat began. A heavy cloud of dust rose up again, through which the Shlomoles and Yoseles returned from the battlefield, injured, defeated, beaten, wounded with blood flowing. Their clothes were torn and worn out, dirtied with mud and grime. One was limping, and the other was completely wounded and bruised. One ran with only one shoe on his foot, having left the other one in the battlefield and another ran without a sleeve, with torn pants. Thus did the proud hoodlums retreat from their bright victory.
Silence pervaded the area. The street resembled a battlefield: military equipment such as swords, guns, bayonets, knapsacks and stones were scattered about. Here and there were shoes, hats, and parts of clothing. On the side of the street: overturned stalls, sacks of potatoes, baskets of vegetables, crates of fruit scattered about. Worried mothers called out to their Zalmanlach and Shmuliklach, and nobody answered. They had disappeared and were nowhere, as if the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed them.
Then we see a stubborn Jew snatch up a child whose tzitzit corners were out, and whose peyos were fluttering in all directions. I will show you, such a sheketz as yourself! The father threatened with his finger, I warned you not to involve yourself with such schmendricks. He hit him in the behind, I told you not to join up with them. A war? I will show you wars! He plucked at his ears. The child wailed out loud until his mother came to rescue him.
Here, take your darling. You want him to be a rabbi among Israel! He will become a boor and an ignoramus, may G-d protect us. The mother hugged him, gently caressed his sad face and comforted him, Come home, darling, don't play with those wild children. You are not wild like them. You are an intelligent child. Is that fitting for you? Come home and I will give you some strudel, or perhaps you would like some cheesecake? Come my darling, and drink a cup of warm milk.
The child, seeing his father back off, escaped
in the blink of an eye, amazing haste, from the arms of his mother and disappeared. She stood there, wondering to where her darling son disappeared.
Poor Itche Pitche is still there, still standing in the middle of the street, stumbling with his bound legs and desperately looking with his eyes in all directions. From where will my help come? And help did not delay in coming, in the form of his good, loving mother.
Breindel came quickly, all raging and panting. She was all fire and flames. Her Itche the future rabbi is in such a ludicrous situation. She clapped her hands in despair, and struck her cheek from anguish: Woe to me, what did these hooligans do to my Itche. Her mouth began to utter juicy curses to all those who had perpetrated such a disgrace on her son, her pride. I will go to that red shoemaker, and pull out his beard for the guilt of his mischievous son, his evil affliction.
Shh.. Breindel! Don't shake up the worlds so much, interrupted Shlomo Winer, the wise man who was the shoemaker's neighbor, with his metallic voice. What do you want from that unfortunate? When something happens, everyone attacks him. Your Itche is no better than him. Did you not see with how much rage they attacked the Myszki children, with what zeal they pulled their hair and gashed their faces?
Yes, yes, responded Shlomo Finkelsztajn, the owner of the grocery store, with his bass voice, He measures up to them with his cruelty, and you think he is all silk, the righteous one of the generation.
What! My Itche is cruel!? At that moment, her world darkened. All the dreams that I dreamed last night and the previous night should fall upon the heads of those bastards. Tfu, tfu tfu, three spits to Itche the tzadik, who concerned himself with challahs and fish for the poor people of the street for the Sabbath.
Why are you cursing our children. What do you think, that yours is all silk, pure gold? He is a rascal like all children. You would do well to not let him remain unwatched on the street, and take more care of you children.
Breindel did not dare to respond harshly to the righteous woman whom everyone revered. With lips trembling from wrath, and with a quick movement, she grabbed Itche and disappeared quickly from the place, to the laughter of all those gathered.
Slowly, the children began to come out of their hiding places and return home. Then the mothers saw the results of the battle: the children appeared torn, worn out, dirty, with their bodies all wounded and injured.
Disputes broke out among the neighbors. For some reason, every mother thought that her son was better, more upright, and smarter than all the other children. Only the child of the neighbor was a rascal, who ruined her son. Things came to tearing out the hair.
The battle left a strong impression on the residents of the street, and was a topic of conversation for everybody.
The Fathers of the City Restrain the Anguish of Raising Children
That night, when those who toiled for the entire day and were involved in the worries of livelihood appeared on the street corners to catch a bit of conversation about something or another, the seriousness of the moment was etched on their faces. Sadness was in their eyes and worry etched on their foreheads. Among them were the brothers Yeshayahu and David Feldberg, who were famous for their sharp statements. Their jokes went quickly from mouth to ear, and imparted a bit of laughter into the gloomy houses of the residents of the street. Yosef Shimon Pomocznyk as among them, whose house was always wide open to the children of the street. They conducted their celebrations there. This family will be remembered forever in reverence for their generosity of heart. Reb Leibish Zigreich was among them, the generous wealthy man, a Hassid of the shtibel of the Hassidim of Kromolów. There was also small Melechl, the owner of the grocery store on the 3rd of May Street, Yisrael Moshe Lustiger, the enthusiastic Zionist, Moshe Fetter with his sour face, and others.
What will be with our children. They wander around all day idle, with nothing to do, with no education, without a soul, without Torah, and without a purpose. What will become of them? Complete gentiles! Boors and ignoramuses. They have all gone out to a bad crowd, Heaven save us.
The parents are guilty for everything, said Reb Leibish Zingreich, they are too lenient with their children. Once it was otherwise. The whip was affixed to the wall of the father's house, and it would be enough for Father to raise his eyes to the wall for a fear to fall upon us. If one of the children went bad despite all this, Father of blessed memory would take him over his knee and count one and two, two and three, so they would know. Then, there was respect for Father.
Go tell this to my wife, may she live, said short Melechl. If I merely raise my voice with a warning, my children quickly run under their mother's apron and find protection there. Go educate children under such conditions.
I repeat and tell you, said Reb Leibish Zingreich, that it is not with pleasant words, but rather with the sailor's rope in the hand that one must educate the children, as it says, 'he who spares the rod hates his child'.
Yes, yes, agreed everyone, the mothers are responsible for everything, they are spoiling their children badly.
Avrahamele Nachum David's was among them. He was a short Jew
broad shouldered, with his beard flowing over his chest. He served as the regular prayer leader in the Kromolów shtibel for Shacharit on the High Holy Days. Avrahamele raised his eyes heavenward and wrinkled his forehead as if he was dredging up memories from the depths: Yes, yes, a world such as this today, what should we say and what should we speak: when I was their age, I already helped my father, peace be upon him, lead services. When Father directed his voice to the Dweller On High with Unetaneh Tokef, heaven and earth trembled, the worshippers were moved, and the women wept. Fear and trembling overtook the children, who would stand next to their fathers and worship with devotion, not moving from their place for even a moment. And today?! The children barely hear the prayers. They make noise, disturb, misbehave, and immerse themselves in their games. Yes, groaned Avrahamele, Such is the world today.
Another story: Early this morning, I went out to the yard for a moment I returned and my darling was already eating breakfast. I asked him delicately: Did you already finish praying, my son? He immediately had two ready witnesses the tefillin on the table, and the spittle from aleinu on the floor, and you were raising an outcry! Is it not written that a situation is decided by two witnesses. You are my guarantors that I prayed!? And I not!
And I will tell you, Moshe Fitter joined in the conversation with a red face, that the older ones are no better than the younger ones. I will tell you a frightful story that happened to me, and your ears will ring. It was on Yom Kippur, and I was walking calmly to the synagogue to unite myself with the Creator. Suddenly, what did my eyes see? In a hidden corner in one of the courtyards, a lad stood there eating and enjoying a sandwich. I approached him slowly and surprised him: 'On Yom Kippur! Woe, a thief! What are you doing? Eating on Yom Kippur? His red face testified that he was a glutton. Did he believe in G-d, no! Not at all, still not.
Tell us, everyone was curious to know.
Woe to the ears who heard this. He placed his hand on his heart and said. I was not guilty, I did not sin, I was not a traitor, I did not transgress, I did not commit a fault, I did not cheat, I did not misappropriate, I did not slander, and I did not steal.
What do you want from him, a proper lad, a button and a flower, declared Mr. Finkelsztajn.
There are seven characteristics of a boor! chuckled Moshe Fitter, To a fool you do not show half the work. I had barely finished, and he had barely interrupted me.
So tell, all of them urged him impatiently.
Therefore, he said, I do not have to fast on Yom Kippur.
David Feldberg, who was used to spicing his words with jokes, raised his eyebrows and said with an expression of surprise: I am surprised at this, because of one fast day a year he had to refrain from stealing all year. Everyone burst out in thunderous laughter. Even Moshe Fitter with his angry face laughed out loud and then said with a sarcastic smile, Laugh, laugh my sirs. The crisis is ours, for all our tribulations come to us bon account of these types.
My masters, this is not a joke, said Mordechai Parasol, the owner of the hide shop. He was a corpulent Jew who had spent his youth well, and had a full-grown beard. We parents do not do enough to guard our legacy. The spark within the Jew. They violate the Sabbath in public. Instead of looking into a book, the children go to the Zielona, they bathe in the Przemsza River, boys and girls together. Woe to the eyes that witness this. They fight with the gentiles, uproot trees, throw stones. All this is on the Sabbath, and nobody opens their mouth.
You ask, how, how did they spend their free time on the Sabbath? I will tell you how it once was. Once on the Sabbath, the father drew his son close through pleasant words, and would learn Pirkei Avot with him. When evening approached, the child would accompany his father to Shalosh Seudot (the third Sabbath meal), where we ate bread and herring, and drank beer from the cask. We would sing hymns. After Havdalah came Melave Malka (the post Sabbath meal). What a joy! What a pleasure! The righteous women would cook borscht and potatoes, and we would all sing and dance together the fathers and the sons to the depths of the soul. This is how the child was educated in Judaism. Wars?! This is a Jewish trait?! The shkotzim push them off and do not let them enjoy themselves on the Zielona or bathe in the river then not! They have to give in. Who needs all this? Every Sabbath they conduct bitter battles, and every Sabbath, the youths have to reconquer the Zielona. Is this a purpose?
Avigdor the Maskil jumped in. In general, he was nice to people, had a pleasant disposition, and a constant smile on his face. This time, he was excited and lashed out with all the heat of his heart, raising his voice to high octaves as was his way always during debates: Forgive me Mr. Parasol, you are far from understanding the spirit of the children. All the days of the week, they are stuck in the stifling atmosphere of the wall of their cheder, among gigantic chimneys that spew out filthy smoke and soot into the atmosphere. It is no wonder that the broad fields, the pleasant air of grassy meadows, the rustling of trees and the depth of the blue sky enchants them. What is wrong
with the fact that they want to enjoy themselves in the clear, cool waters of the Przemsza? If they are fighting and not giving in for that right I send them my blessings: let your hands be strengthened.
I tell you that this matter is not so simple, said Shlomo Winer. When the children fight it is a situation to which one must pay special attention. A war breaks out. The air smells like gunpowder, liable to explode at any moment. The Yekke (German) is prepared, and the Funia (Russian) does not leave his hands on the plate. A war breaks out! Pay attention to what I am telling you.
Immediately a debate broke out between the Yekke and the Funia sides. A fistfight almost breaks out between them.
Emanuel Wilderfreund saved the situation. He was tall, a conversationalist, with pleasant mannerisms. He was neutral, and calmed them by saying, Two villages on one day! I do not take sides, not of the Yekke with his technical knowledge and all the good he has, nor of the thieving Funia with all the pogroms, decrees, and discrimination. As far as I am concerned, let them burn together.
Amen, Melechl repeated after him, From your mouth to G-d's ear.
What we need, continued Mr. Wilderfreund, Is a state! A state of our own.
This will take place some time, but no in our days, groaned many of them.
Indeed in our day! retorted Avigdor Hirsch enthusiastically.
Parasol told about the battles of the Zielonas. I myself witnessed with my own eyes one of the battles on the railway tracks next to the Zielonas. A battle took place there like my eyes had never seen before. If only you had seen how they pushed off the shkotzim who attacked them with such bravery, daring, and strength, despite the fact that the shkotzim were more numerous than they were. They stormed against them with curses, iron sticks and stones under a hail of stones, as if they ran straight into the mouth of a cannon. They beat them knee to thigh, and the shkotzim escaped in confusion. What can I tell you, this was the first time in my life that I had seen how Jewish lads chase after shkotzim to destruction, and beat them soundly. When I saw all this, my heart swelled from pride. I resolved in my heart that I would proclaim freedom for my children. I want them to be daring, brave of spirit, with strong hearts, not missing the mark. You see this phenomenon as an expression of mischief, but I see in it the first signs of youthful revolution. They will not be like their fathers, who were afraid of every rustling leaf in the autumn. My mastersthe new generation is growing up. They do not want to suffer the disgraces and pogroms. They will not submit to discrimination and oppression. They will lead us to the redemption.
You are already senile, and your intellect has departed, they all mocked him. They, these pranks, will be our redemption? The Messiah will come, with G-d's help, and redeem us.
Avigdor Hirsch responded, Legend tells us that the Messiah will come on a white donkey. The donkey is too slow for them. They will bring the Messiah with force on a cannon. They will bring him, and this will yet be in our day. May we all merit such.
The Miracle that Reb Berish Experienced
The children once again visited the yard of Reb Berish the son of the cantor. This time they placed catch. Berish was bitter and experienced. He immediately left his shop and customers, and attacked them with fury, shouts, and threats.
The children did not pay too much attention to his threats, and expressed their displeasure for his brazenness in disturbing them. They also gestured to him with their hands, as a sign that they were not afraid of him. In his anger, Reb Berish grabbed a clump of clay. At that moment, the clay disintegrated in his hands, and Berish remained frozen in place, staring at his dirty hand, and not believing his eyes. His glasses! Yes, his glasses, those thick horned glasses with a crack in the frame and a grey stain around.
Seeing that Berish was hesitating, his wife approached the window. When she saw him standing immobile, she thundered at him, Why are you standing like a dummy. Come in! The store is full of customers.
A miracle took place to me, shouted Reb Berish with emotion.
Again miracles! All these miracles always take place over your head. I warned you to stop involving yourself with these pranks. Every time that you get involved, you come out injured.
No! this time they brought me luck! He called out and waved joyously with his glasses. Suddenly Reb Berish ran home and shouted, A miracle! A miracle! Happened to me!
A tumult broke out in the yard. All the neighbors gathered when they heard these events. They remained standing perplexed.
A great miracle happened to Reb Berish, they all called out in joy. They grabbed his hand and wished him Mazal Tov.
Joy returned to the poor home of Reb Berish. He ran quickly to tell the news to his father, the cantor of the city. His face lit up when he heard the news.
It was a rare situation when the cantor of the city, Reb Mordechai Liberman, smiled. He was an unfortunate man, and life was cruel to him. He became blind in his old age. In addition to this trouble, he was engaged in a harsh dispute with the elders of the city due to the quarrels against them. They wished to displace him from his position as the cantor of the city, despite having served in that role all his days, and fulfilling
his role faithfully. Therefore he was a man consumed with bitterness every day, and suffered from a great deal of anguish and broken heartedness.
The cantor of the city also had many admirers on account of his personality, which was shrouded in personal charm. Those in the know spoke of him with reverence, and told wonders about his phenomenal memory. He knew all the prayers by heart, even the Avoda (this prayer was recited only once a year, on Yom Kippur). Despite his unfortunate situation, he participated in every joyous family celebration. In those days, there was no couple who stood under the chuppa [wedding canopy] without receiving his blessing. His sweet, trilling voice still echoes And He will bless.
The next day, early in the morning, Reb Berish ran about, very preoccupied and busy. He was wearing Sabbath clothing, with his atlas kapote, and his thick horn rimmed glasses which made his eyes appear enlarged.
As Reb Berish walked to the shtibel for Shacharit [the morning service], he carried a large package under his arms in addition to his tallis and tefillin: a gigantic egg cake and bottles of monofolks (liquor). The bottles clanged as he walked, as if he was being accompanied by a band: This was a treat in honor of the event.
When the worshippers gathered, the treat was already arranged on the table in a tasteful fashion.
The crowd worshipped with extra devotion that time: they waved their bodies to and fro, with their tzitzit [ritual fringes] flying about more than usual, so that they could push aside all thoughts of the delicacies arranged on the table. If, despite all this, someone snatched a glance toward the table, he would close his eyes quickly and began to wave his head right and left, back and forth speedily, and continue praying with extra devotion.
At the end of the services, they sat around the table, raised cups of lechayim, and enjoyed the cake. Between each drink, Reb Berish told of the miracles and wonders that took place to him:
The first miracle: the stone that boke the window pain and entered his room, after exacting its wrath on the utensils, fell into the crib, exactly at the head of the baby. There was nothing other than the Angel Gabriel in his self-standing at the head of the baby and protecting him from any harm.
The second miracle: the clay that the children threw at him was soft. When it hit his glasses, they penetrated the clay and remained hidden inside it. Had the clay been hard, the lenses would have shattered into pieces and would have penetrated his eyes.
The third miracle: the children visited his yard again, so he was able to find his glasses again.
The conversation continued in a calm and orderly fashion, with the rest of those gathered also telling stories of miracles and wonders of the Rebbe. After a non-insignificant among of liquor had been consumed, a stormy debate broke out, becoming more and more fiery.
Our acquaintance Avigdor Hirsch opened his mouth. His face was fiery, and his eyes shot forth lightning bolts, as his internal personality expressed itself with enthusiasm: My masters, we have heard of the miracles that took place to Reb Berish, but miracles are not an ordinary occurrence, even in the home of Reb Berish the son of the cantor. The Angel Gabriel will not always stand at our head and protect us from disasters. The Angel Gabriel is the busiest angel, for there is no shortage of accidents in the world. Such could take place at any moment. Instead of relying on miracles, we must do something to educate the children. Throughout all the days of the year, you relate to the education of your children with deliberations of the soul: but you do nothing practical about it.
Reb Aharon the watchmaker and jewelry store owner stood up. He was an upright man who performed merciful deeds. He was enveloped with personal charm, and a smile was always on his face. He said, Reb Avigdor, we are only regular, day-to-day Jews, but you you should not only be someone who speaks well, but also someone who acts well. Every time we come together, at every meeting, you heap buckets of mockery and scorn upon us, you strike us with a heavy beam, and show us great flaws. With the same spark with which we know you, ignite the torch and show us light from the darkness in which we go.
Avigdor responded: Give me ten fathers who care, and I will make a revolution in the life of our community. We will establish a school and organize the youth into scouting movements like all the nations of the world. Instead of wearing various military hats, they will wear scouting caps. Instead of conducting battles among themselves, they will occupy themselves sport, they will go on excursions, they will prepare themselves to be pioneers of the nation, walking in front of the camp.
Among those around the table there was one ignoramus who presented himself as someone in the know and jumped in at the front, even if the topic was not clear to him. He presented himself in front of everyone as a boor who does not know the form of a letter. That lovely man stood up, and said with his face red as scarlet: Are we like Sodom? It is difficult to find ten lachotniks [snipers] in our community. According to the reaction of those around the table, he saw that he had made an error. He wanted to fix it and said, laptotniks. Then he turned to them and asked, Who of you volunteers?
Those around the table refrained with all their energy from bursting out in laughter.
Reb Aharon declared, I am the first to volunteer.
There are already two, declared the know-it-all, I too am joining.
Another laptotnik shall be registered, said someone.
Yes, yes, register, there are now three. I promise you to bring three more laptotniks. You Avigdor only need to ignite the match and ignite the torch, and a large fire will break out and take over our entire community. It will burn and burn endlessly, and a large, blinding light will be exposed and light up the path upon which we should go. Then all will see, and even Reb Berish will no longer require glasses.
Someone placed a full portion of cake in his mouth, and began to cough and clear his throat. Another one passed him a cup of liquor, and everyone raised their cups for Lechayim! To the lives of our children, of the children of our city. Even if he [the child] is mischievous and loves to make pranks, I say that this young person will grow up. On the other hand, I am not enthusiastic about an innocent child who does not know how to ask questions, or does not disturb anyone. Lechayim! Lechayim! Would it be that we will succeed in raising and educating our children to Torah, wisdom, mitzvot, and good deeds. The main thing is that they should be healthy, and that we should receive a great deal of satisfaction [naches] from them.
On the Sabbath, Reb Berish received an aliya to the Torah and donated double chai to the Talmud Torah, so that the children should be occupied with Torah and will no longer busy themselves with his glasses.
The Olman Children Mourn their Defeat in Battle
There was a two-story house at the corner of Olman and Sienkiewicza. This was the only house on the street built of red bricks. This gave it a pleasant appearance. The Judkowicz family lived in that house, and their grocery store was next to their house.
Something had happened at that place which shook up the Olman children and upset their spirits. Its impact remained etched deeply in their souls and influenced their path of life.
At that place, the children had been witnesses to a scene that aroused fear: the Poznanczyks (soldier hooligans), infamous for their evil, perpetrated a pogrom in the city. They went from shop to shop accompanied by a wagon hitched to horses. An excited crowd followed behind. They emptied all the merchandise from Jewish owned shops. They burst into Judkowicz's show. Judkowicz' full grown beard with white streaks imparted a handsome look, and his entire appearance elicited honor. He stood there without recourse, with his head down, and swallowed his bitterness with agony. The despicable Poznanczyks tormented and cursed him with foul language, and pushed him and shook him back and forth, complaining that he was disturbing them. They demanded that he help them load the merchandise on the wagon. They beat him when he did not hurry. One punched him in the chest, and another pulled out his hear and beard. They quickly snatched the sacks of flour, sugar, and any merchandise of value. His wife Feiga stood at the door leading from the shop to their dwelling and cried. The hooligans looked at them with disparagement and disdain, as their mouths were full of laughter, in joy of the occasion. Whatever the Poznanczyks left behind was pillaged by the riffraff.
The children stood frozen and watched the frightful sight in shame and shock. Their hearts broke to pieces and their soul exploded inside them from a great deal of anger, pain, and agony. They watched the labor of years go to oblivion, and the morsel of bread of a person be cut off before their eyes.
They understood well what was transpiring. They also knew that their fathers were locked up in their houses at that moment, from fear of being seen on the street, lest they cut off their beards.
They stood without recourse and without the ability to react. Their pained hearts shouted for revenge, fierce revenge.
They stood silent and gritted their teeth. But they did come up with ideas. In time, they were among the first olim, and they filled the camps of the youth movements.
The rounded stairs led to Judkowicz' shop. That place was a sitting place for the Olman children.
At the time when the shadows foretold the advent of evening, the Olman children would sit on the steps and swallow up with thirst stories of adventure and enjoyment: stories of the world and what is in it, of the wonders of the world, of new invention, of famous personalities, as well as bloodcurdling stories.
The children would sit crowded and cramped around the only streetlight on the street, which provided weak light. They did not tire of telling and hearing more and more, without end.
In that place, they wove their plans and dreamed their dreams.
This time, they conducted a stormy and incisive debate about the course of the battle! Such a frightful defeat! Who would have imagined? Despite our secret weapons!
They did not spare the rod as they encountered expressions of weakness and strategic errors. With biting words, they struck the cowards who had not shown sufficient bravery in battle. They all castigated with all sorts of derogatory words the fainthearted people who did not present
at the battle, and they excommunicated those who were the first to abandon the battlefield. The Myszkiites were stronger and more aggressive. In addition, they were well organized and greater in number. All this led them to victory.
An atmosphere of sadness and oppression enveloped the meeting this time, and their spirit was very gloomy. At the time that the Myszki children rejoiced and arranged a stormy party over their wonderful victory, the Olman children were mourning with covered heads, depressed, and in a melancholy spirit. They buried their heads in the sand. They could not look each other in the eye. Now, they had to swallow jugs of mockery that would be poured out on them by the Myszki children.
They recovered when Itche-Pitche appeared. He took advantage of the moment when his father went to the Mincha-Maariv service. He snuck out of the house and went to visit his comrades in arms. This was the first time that Itche appeared among the children as someone in favor with them. The children received him pleasantly and slapped him over the back. He was the hero of the day, and therefore he was given a place of honor, sitting in the middle of his group. How he was beaten down, lifted up and dropped to the ground, and then then pounced on him.
Were they all like him, said Velvele Feldberg in his soft voice, We would have defeated them. All of the children looked at Itche, with no small amount of jealousy.
The compliments heartened him greatly, and his face beamed with happiness. Just yesterday, he had been in a state of excommunication from the group of children. He was hated by them, and they did not accept him into their company. However, after he participated in the battle and excelled, he was accepted into the group of children as an equal.
On the other hand, Izik Kaluc was very depressed. It was clear that his entire world had been destroyed. He could not have imagined such a terrible thing, even in a nightmare. The other children joined him in his sadness. The fact that they could see no chance to repay the Myszkiites for their defeat irked them, for the Myszki children were more numerous and stronger. From now, they would be forced to be subordinate to them, and woe to such a disgrace.
The Olman children mourned their defeat in battle and did not want to be comforted.
Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, oh children of Olman
The mighty children of Olman will rise in the future!
Let not your spirits fall on account of your defeat this time. Let your hearts not fear. Even though the many overpowered the few, you earned yourself a bade of honor for your bravery.
This was not your first failure, and will not be your last. You will yet face many experiences, many failures, and many disappointments. But you must always be daring, brave, and unswerving. Even if you fall seven times, you will rise each time. With your strength of sprit and patience, you will overcome all obstacles.
In the future, you will more than once stand before cruel experiences. You will stand for your souls, fight for your lives and struggled for your Judaism. You must become forged like steel, for the task of being among the redeemers of the nation will be placed upon you.
Therefore, wake up, children of Olman, who will survive. Raise your heads, and march forward with an upright posture! Go with your strength and succeed!
Strengthen and be brave, children of Dąbrowa, who will eventually rise up in the place of those who were murdered in the midst of their game.
by Avraham Bajtner
Translated by Jerrold Landau
The coal mines of Dąbrowa Górnicza were owned by foreign companies, Belgian and French. This was a concern with a broad concession to search for coal deposits. A private individual was prohibited from digging for coal on their property. Dąbrowa was known as a city that sat atop coal, and if one would dig several meters deep, one would reach a layer of coal.
The mine workers were the proletariat who provided vital fuel for the operation of the manufacturing machines in heavy industry. The coal served as the food for the gigantic ovens for smelting iron, for the benefit of the trains, and to warm the houses during the long winter days. It is unbelievable that in that city, the proletariat who dug coal for everyone did not have coal to light the oven and warm their houses, for the salary was insufficient to purchase the amount of coal needed for the entire winter.
Dąbrowa was indeed rich in coal mines and heavy industry, but the wealth was concentrated among a small number of individuals. The majority of the population was poor. The industrial workers would make the long trek on foot to their workplaces in the morning with carbide lanterns in their hands. The company did not see fit to provide them with transportation. In contrast, one could see the owners of the concern and their partners traversing the roads in coaches. The hunger spread strongly among the population due to the firings from work or illness.
Once, an unemployed worker (who had been fired due to illness) was shot after he exhausted the small amount of severance pay that he had received. He searched for a source of livelihood for himself. Since he had experience in the mines, and under no circumstances wanted to die of hunger, he opened a mine in a pit in his warehouse in his yard he dug with primitive utensils to a depth of two or three meters into the belly of the earth. He raised the coal with the help of pulleys and pails, just as his ancestors drew water from the well. He also employed his wife in this effort. The work was done in great secrecy, for there was great fear lest the matter be known. He packed the coal in sacks, loaded them on a wagon, and sold them to poor people, to whom cold was like a member of the household. All this work was fraught with great danger: the danger of the collapse of the mine, as well as the danger of falling into the hands of the militia, who watched with seven eyes lest someone dig in their yard. More than one person paid with their life for such a deed.
Once, the militia exposed a worker who mined coal outside the city, in an abandoned place covered with trash. The police demanded that he leave the place. When he did not do so, they shot him into the pit and killed him. Three days later, the workers of the district of Zagłębie (its nickname was Red Zagłębie) organized a funeral in which more than 50,000 people participated. According to the newspapers from that time, all the shops were closed, and a heavy silence fell over the city as if before a storm. The atmosphere was tense, as if loaded with fire and sulfur, with only a match to ignite it missing.
In all the instances of anger and tension due to unemployment and hunger, the Polish anti-Semites knew how to direct the channel of resentment toward the Jews. Therefore, the fear of the Jewish community increased sevenfold. Jews did not dare to leave the doors of their homes on the day of the miner's funeral as well as the following day.
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