(Memories of my childhood)
by Juda Parasol
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
It was during the days when the sun was unsparing with its rays on the smelly open gutter of the boisterously noisy Okrzei Street and on the uncontrollable pranksters speeding across the dried out, muddy grooves of the very damaged unpaved street. The sun smiled heartily, as if announcing great joyfulness to the world, and the world also seemed to believe in the joyful news from the radiant sun
And yet the hot days of Tammuz [June-July] were already filled with rumors, from which a chill went across the body! From day to day rumors plainly disclosed the heavy misfortune that hung over our skies like a dark, heavy cloud, the approaching German-Russian War of 1914.
We, then still children of six or seven, did not completely understand the horrors hidden by the frightening word, war!! This had for us a sort of attraction, and overhearing the conversations among the grownups that the war was very close, incidentally, concerned us very little. It was very important to us that it would soon be Tisha B'Av [fast day in July or August commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem] and we had to take care of the nettles because this was an acceptable custom in the shtetl, to throw the nettles during prayers on Tisha B'Av, which would get caught in each wool garment and particularly in the long beards of the older Jews!
A group of pranksters from our street actually went to the neighborhood of the zielenieć [greenery] in order to gather nettles there. Not feeling that we were in danger, who among the carefree children allowed into their thoughts that the tragic beginning of the First World War hung so low over us in 1914.
Our parents searched for us throughout the shtetl and when we calmly returned with the gathered nettles a strong panic reigned in the city. People ran to the train with packs. Our parents closed us in the house and forbid us to go outside! Sweets were even left for us so that we would not have to go outside to buy them!!
Wagons of Russian soldiers and police, with loaded baggage, trudged throughout the day until late at night. Everyone went in one direction to the train! This lasted until late in the night. In the morning, the first German soldiers on horses, with bizarre helmets, appeared on Sobieksa Street near the Huta Bankowa [glass works].
But late at night the banging of the horses' horseshoes stopped and a dead silence reigned over the city; the fear of the unknown that I knew would come first emerged in the nighttime darkness and this was confirmed without a doubt for we children that our joy from the expected war was not so joyful.
But suddenly a bizarre shout was unexpectedly heard in the night's quiet; I got
out of bed immediately and with my parents sneaked out of the house in order to
learn what the tumult signified.
This turned out to be Mama Hinda-Rajzl and her family from Działoszyce taking leave of their husbands who were going to the train in order to appear for the Russian military, mobilized for the zafas [emergency], but with luck the leave taking lasted so long that they were late for the last departing Russian train and, in the end, they with wives and children were behind the front that began near the cities of Wolbrom and Olkusz!
Since then I remember the house of the Mama Hinda-Rajzl well! And that is what we called her. For as long as I remember, with us in the shtetl, very few knew her surname Pamacznik. Her husband, Josef Szymon, was a very sympathetic man and, in addition, the best specialist in sewing men's shirts in our area. Up until the end of their lives in Dąbrowa, the firm remained in her name; we are going to Hinda-Rajzl's! And this was sewn by Hinda-Rajzl.
The house in which we were educated from the earliest years together with Mama Hinda-Rajzl's children was by far not the largest in our Dąbrowa shtetl, yet it was very colorful and this was thanks to the various pursuits of the residents of the house that was 95% inhabited by Jews starting with the indelicate porters of the shtetl, Aszer Plachte to Mosze Puter [butter] (Ajzenman), the fanatic with a wide range of various children.
The house had three shops, of which the food and imported goods store of Mosze Puter was very popular. Very few knew his correct surname (Ajzenman). I never knew from where he got his nickname Mosze Puter. On the ground floor, in addition to our family, there was a residence with a business of iron articles and paints, Abram Dawid Prezerowicz both Mosze Puter and Prezerowicz had large warehouses in the large courtyard of our house on Okrzei 16, where horses hitched to large wagons (platormes) arrived non-stop and created difficulties for the large number of children in our house to play games! In a large annex was found the only mechanized carpentry workshop in Dąbrowa that made so much noise in the house from the machines and motors that it even smothered the banging of the mangle [clothes wringer] that was the bread winner for the old widow of the Dąbrower Rabbi with her daughter. (The only son was already in America.)
But from my earliest youth, the music of the clattering of the machines had a power of attraction as it mixed with the well known Jewish melodies and folk songs sung by the working girls who drove the treadles of the sewing machines with their feet the entire day sewing wifrawes [outfits] for the rich daughters and sons of Dąbrowa and its surroundings.
These were with the Mama Hinda-Rajzl! Simple sincere people with whom we lived in such a family atmosphere and this was thanks to the sincere, good mother who created such a homey environment. I was like one of their own and, in addition, the best friend and comrade of their son, Alter!
The Pamacnikes were simple, hardworking people, artisans who acquired a good name for the quality of their work. But they still were different from the other artisans in Dąbrowa. The Mama Hinda-Rajzl had so much sincere, genial goodness towards friends, towards those close to her and mainly to people. She was successful in creating warmth around her and trust in her house!
An ideal coexistence existed in their house with its very quiet, modest
hardworking Josef Szymon, who was as silent as a dove, standing the entire day
with a long tape measure hanging over his shoulders and with the heavy scissors
in his hands with which he cut his famous men's shirts.
A real old traditional Jewish way of life reigned in the house although far from an exaggerated fanaticism. To their praise it must be said that they never used any unacceptable expression in their house as among the other Jewish artisans in the city.
Hinda-Rajzl, whose door it was not difficult to recognize because of the characteristic clatter of the sewing machines and the simultaneous singing of the girls working there, lived on the first story.
Their residence was very modest and possessed one room and a kitchen. Although the house was large enough, I today still do not understand how they succeeded with their three children and a consistent half dozen guests. Thank God, there was never a lack of guests at Hinda-Rajzl's. Relatives from the farthest cities both on her side and on his side would often visit the Pamacnikes and were in no hurry to leave And the Mama, Hinda-Rajzl, had enough time to take care of everyone and to show them full cordiality!
There were three windows in the large room of approximately 40 square meters: two along the length of the room and the third along the width. The last window was divided by a curtain, under which was found their room for sleeping, with two beds, one opposite the other on each wall. Between the two beds, their only son, Alter, worked at a half mechanized workshop. He had learned to work with the special machines for embroidery, hemstitching, knitting and to mechanically embroider holes in various linens, from his uncle, Mordechai Fajgenblat in Częstochowa! In the middle of the room, the Mama, Hinda-Rajzl stood at one side of a large table and opposite stood her husband, Josef Szymon, who prepared work for the six to eight girls who were pressed together near the only window in the kitchen and sewed the outfits for the rich houses of Dąbrowa and its surroundings. One bed also stood on the other side of the not large kitchen that was found in the corner of the large room and for the remaining constant guests, beds were made on the floor! The tumult and shouts of the wagon drivers who maneuvered their flat wagons in the courtyard where the flour, sugar, rice and other food stuffs, as well as paint and ironware from Prezerowicz were loaded without stop at the storehouses of Mosze Puter was constantly heard through the windows in the large room.
At the window of the large room stood two large old fashioned trunks crammed with various expensive fabrics the constant supply that assured work for Hinda-Rajzl's workshop for a whole year.
And yet they barely earned a modest living with all of the work. Thank God, and not worse. This answer would be heard often from Mama, Hinda-Rajzl, to every question of how her life was.
While the work time for the girls was limited and had its set time, this did not include Hinda-Rajzl or her husband. They worked until late at night! However, Friday was an exception when at the lunch time hour all of the machines were moved into the corner near the kitchen window. That was until early Sunday when the smiling girls would again come, singing their tasty Yiddish folk songs, tapping to the beat on the iron treadles of the machines.
On Shabbat one would not recognize the Pamacnik family. Everything smelled of
Shabbat as if here in the house there had never been a workshop. And the large
table that had served for work the entire week was covered with a beautiful
white tablecloth, adorned with the Shabbat candlesticks. Josef Szymon with his
round, black hat, with a black, silk strip over the front of the visor, in the
special Shabbat long coat, did not rush his prayers then.
His sincere Hinde-Rajzl also was not like the one from the rest of the week; she had more time for the children to whom she was an exquisite mother. She was particularly busy with the oldest, a little sick daughter, Chajale, as well as having time to dedicate to the frequent guests.
And thus life flowed from Shabbat to Shabbat! In addition to the arriving guests there were always the steady ones who lived in the house like their own children. When Hercke, the husband of her relative from Działoszyce, died before his time leaving her a widow with two children, she lived with the Mama for a long time until she learned a trade in order to be able to earn money and feed her children.
And when the children little by little grew up, they again came to Mama for a longer time to learn various work and lived there for years and all of this did not cause the good, sincere Mama, Hinda-Rajzl, to lose patience.
And in addition to the heavy toiler's life, she also had time and feeling for everyone; after a difficult day of work, to spend the entire night with a very sick person; to go across the city gathering donations for the needy and for what did Mama Hinda-Rajzl not find time? If a woman had a difficult birth, they came for Hinda-Rajzl. She never refused. And when my godly mother became very sick and left her children while still young, Hinda-Rajzl received yet another house with children. There was no day when she did not come to us two or three times a day to provide everything that was needed by we who had been hurt so early.
And thus flowed the time. The children grew up and the Mama, Hinda-Rajzl, lived to give her children, first the oldest daughter, Chajale, and then her only son, Alter, in marriage. She was particularly proud that her successful son became the son-in-law of the distinguished and well known Dąbrowa communal worker, Chanoch Szpilberg, and when Hinda-Rajzle had with luck given her youngest daughter in marriage, she and her sister, Chajale, took over the then well run business in Chorzów of their brother, Alter, who had decided in the 1930s to settle in Eretz Yisrael with his wife, Ester.
Remaining alone, the older people did not think for long about the invitation of their son, Alter, in the 1930's and left for Eretz Yisrael. No longer responsible for anyone with their work, they lived a pleasant old age. Alas, of their beloved daughters and their families, only grandson, Zysl, their daughter, Chajale's only child, survived.
When, after 10 years of wandering, I returned to my family in 1949, she still had time to exhibit her help for us.
Honor her memory.
by Baruch Symchoni
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
In the midst of an alert and the stressful period of May 1967, before the Six Day War, our attention was turned to a general call up. We anxiously opened up a newspaper and were anxious in the face of what was installed for us, in the face of a war that was going to break out and here on no account did we believe and didn't want to accept the black framed announcement, in the name of the Haifa port workers, on the sudden passing of Mordechai, and unfortunately, our doubt was affirmed.
|Mordechai Egozi zl (Nusbaum)|
The writer of these lines was older than him, and I had the opportunity of observing him, and seeing how his personality was formulated. I see him in front of me going up to the bimah [platform in synagogue for Torah reading], sheltered under the wing of the prayer shawl of his father, Reb Dr. Dawid Nusbaum the Cohen. Standing amongst the great Cohanim [priests] and with ten figures stretched over his forehead, Motek blessed us, all the assembled congregation.
The education that he received, of moderation, of spiritual calm and sensitivity, formed his personality. His education in the Zionist pioneering youth movement, in the organized labor movement in Dąbrowa also contributed to this.
This background brought Motek to dedicate himself to his fellow man and serve the group of laborers in the Haifa Port. He invested his spiritual efforts and talents into this project with all his strength. He didn't speak a great deal and lived up to his principles.
These pleasant attributes were embodied deep in his soul, the foundations of truth and righteousness within him influenced all the laborers in the Haifa Port, and he helped them to solve problems in their work place.
I personally had the opportunity to follow Motek's activities through my relative Asher Cygelbaum, one of the laborers, and the port workers testify of him, that Mordechai was their representative without arrogance and without condescension to others.
How will we and his family be consoled?
When we came to the country he gave a few details about what he had gone through in the Holocaust years in the Nazi forced labor camp, together with my brother Mosze (Moniek), his friend, who was killed in the Holocaust.
If there is a next world according to the beliefs of our forefathers, his mother Mindel received Motek with open arms and hugs, caressing, and pampering that she didn't manage to give him in her lifetime, since she was killed when Motek was a young boy.
The pain and sorrow are great for the loss of this man beloved by his family
by Kalman Barkai
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
He was born in 1902 in Be'er Tuvia. In the riots of 1929 the Zlotnik family farm was burnt down and they moved to Haifa, where they founded a metal workshop.
active in the Etzel resistance movement
After he ceased his studies and joined Etzel, he was forced to leave Haifa for fear of the authorities and wandered to Rehovot and Petach Tikwa. His friends organized work for him in Petach Tikwa as a clerk in the Ha'orez society.
He dedicated his nights to instructing his people. At the time he was head of the Nimrod group. His friends grew to know, like and respect this handsome young man, whose attraction was all over his face, his speech and manners were pleasant, and above all – he was a talented and gifted commander.
Jakob was commander of the small band that assaulted the Ramat Gan Police fortress, and managed to silence the resistance of the police in the section of the fortress over which he was in charge of.
Whilst retreating from the fortress he was hit by a bullet and killed. This was three days after his twentieth birthday.
May the Lord avenge his death.
by Baruch Symchoni
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
Chaim was born in Dąbrowa Górnicza, a town of coal furnaces, whose life tempo took place according to the sirens of the three shift changes.
It was a town of well-organized laborers in which the P.P.S, the Polish Socialist Party, was the strongest amongst the parties, founded wonderful cultural meetings.
The number of Jews there was small and they dealt in supplying services to the many laborers: in commerce and trades.
Young Chaim continued to dress in the typical Jewish attire. His parents concerned themselves with teaching him a worthy trade sewing.
Chaim joined the Z. S., the Zionist Socialists, when it was founded, which
managed to enroll many from amongst the Jewish youth, and served as a barricade
against of many Jewish youth secretly joining the Communist movement.
|Chaim Gruszka zl|
The influence of the movement following its merge with Tzeirei Zion [Young Zionists], and its numeric size, was that it was the most active and ran all the pioneering Zionist movements; Keren Kayemet LeYisrael [Jewish National fund], the Hechalutz [Pioneering] organization, the Haleega lma'an eretz Yisrael ovedet [League for a working Eretz Yisrael], and also the elections for the Zionist congresses.
Chaim Gruszka found a wide field for activities amongst the vibrant youth.
The youths who studied in the Hebrew school as well as those who studied in the Polish government school, did not know how to read and write Yiddish (everyone knew how to speak). Chaim was recruited to teach and train so that they could learn this language, to enable them to read the works of the Yiddish authors Mendle Mus, Shalom Aleichem, Y. L. Perez and others. In addition to this he was drawn to activities in various committees, and in every place Chaim's gifted hand in clever writing was felt.
However his heart was drawn to realizing the idea of making aliyah.
At the height of the 1929 riots he organized a small group of six male and female members, to join the training kibbutz in Kłosowo, named after Josef Trumpeldor.
There, in a granite stone quarry, Chaim's character is prominent as a symbol of a man and a pioneer. He was an example of dedication beyond his abilities, enthusiastic about the idea of life in a collective [settlement].
Hundreds of members who were assembled during this period in Kłosowo quickly learnt to discern his personality and admirable qualities. Only after four months of his stay in the training camp, the kibbutz approved the right of Chaim to make aliyah, despite the limited number of certificates that the Jewish Agency had received from the Mandate authorities for all countries.
The Agency protested about the small number of certificates and responded by returning a thousand certificates, and in the meantime another year went by.
At the end of the nineteen thirties Chaim was sent home to prepare for aliyah. The meaning of the preparations was: to get funding for the outlay in making aliyah.
After a year Chaim reaches his destination, a kibbutz belonging to Gdud Ha'avoda [Labor corps] named after Yosef Trumpeldor in Ramat Rachel. Like most of the members of the kibbutz he worked in building and in the Dead Sea [plants]. Here he found a natural continuation of his life in Kłosowo.
He was aware of public life and quickly joined into the life of the collective, however together with this he kept in contact with his friends in the Diaspora. In his letters he spoke about the realization of the idea [of making aliyah] and the joy of creating.
Since he knew the international language, Esperanto, he was in contact with
distant and foreign peoples and explained the Zionist idea to them.
Likewise he translated songs that were sung in the nineteen thirties into Esperanto. I have in my possession letters and rhyming poems, written in pencil, and amongst them working songs, apparently experiments, amongst them a song in the spirit of Y. L. Perez, since Bechel Tchelta was born in his hometown, Zamość.
On receiving news from his parents about the dwindling of sources for a livelihood and the financial degeneration, he decided to leave for a couple of months in order to earn a wage and help them out.
He left the kibbutz for a time was taken to work in the Bromide plant in northern section of the Dead Sea. In spite of the stormy life that he gone through he remained modest, mild in manners and speech. During six days of the week he worked in the Dead Sea and on Saturdays he returned to his home in Jerusalem, to his wife and son Amos.
As on every Sunday, I accompanied Chaim to the truck leaving with the laborers to work in the Dead Sea and I continued on my way.
For two years from then up until the day of his accident I didn't visit him; these were the years of riots 5686-5689 [1926-1929], and the period of maintaining the existing and the erecting of chomot vemigdalim ['towers and stockades' a system of building Jewish settlement in Mandatory Palestine], and I was located in the Jordan Valley, far from Jerusalem.
The newspapers in those days were followed in the main because of the riots and bloody insurrections, and almost no-one paid attention to a short article about Gruszka's funeral, who was killed when he fell from a truck carrying laborers from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea plants as it did at dawn on every Sunday.
I saw the vision of the parting from his wife and son Amos that I had witnessed two years earlier.
This vision did not leave my memory, up until now, thirteen years later, many of our common friends from Kłosowo still ask: Where is Gruszka?
His brother was unable to arrive from the Diaspora after the foundation of the State [of Israel], and his friends were unable to see him established and settled in Israel.
Chaim Gruszka was unable to see his son Amos as a successful doctor in the Hadassah hospital.
What remains is for us to immortalize his memory on paper.
by Dawid Krauze
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
The melamed [teacher in a religious elementary school], Reb Mosze Hercberg, was called Mosze Kop [head]. Why he was called this we never knew; he was always hoarse. The cheder [religious elementary school] was located in his home, two houses from the Dąbrowa synagogue at Chaim Ruszinek's house. The apartment was dark and the rebbe harsh. When parents wanted to punish their children, they threatened to enroll the child with Reb Misze*.
*[Translator's note: The melamed is referred to as both Mosze and Misze.]
Neither of my parents knew of any rebbitzen [rabbi's wife] she probably died earlier.
There were three children in the family. The oldest son, Szlomo Lejb, a lean, thin young man, the daughter, Ruchama, also was thin and tall. All three children always smiled. Szlomo Lejb, the oldest son, was not a rich man. As I remember, although he knew Tanach [the Bible] and the Psalms by heart, he was not occupied with Torah. He spent time with wagon drivers and they hired him for short trips he did not have his own horse and cab. Religious Jews would hire him to go to Będzin and its surroundings on business. Szlomo Lejb would recite chapters of Psalms and Tanach by heart on the way and the passengers would have great pleasure from it.
His [Mosze's] daughter, Ruchama, contributed very much to the fact that many
Jewish daughters knew how to write in Yiddish, to read and also to pray.
Possibly, she helped her family with this. At that time, after the First World
War, few Jewish girls were in organizations and, in general, there were no
Jewish schools for girls here.
Ruchama married a young man from Wolbrom at the beginning of the 1930's and settled in Wolbrom.
The youngest son, Abram Chaim, was a typical yeshiva-bocher [student in a religious secondary school], emaciated and bent. He was a belfer [assistant teacher] in the cheder of the Talmud-Torah [religious primary school usually for boys from poor families] in Dąbrowa, in Herszl Glikstajn's courtyard. Shortly before the Second World War, he became a teacher in the same Talmud-Torah and also married someone from Olkusz and moved there.
As I learned, no one from the family survived after the Holocaust.
Honor their memory.
by Juda Londner
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
A Jew, short, a round face with a sparsely grown goatee, smart eyes that always searched for something. He lived on the then Królowa Jadwiga Street, a house after Ruwen Grosfeld – and there he had a hair salon. One could also receive leeches from him when suffering from high, strong blood pressure; have teeth pulled and he was a terrific specialist. To stop the pain, he smeared a little peppermint cordial and the smell masked the pain. He also dispensed various purgatives. He applied various salves against rashes on the head, gave enemas and placed bankes [cupping glasses]. He did everything with an easy hand like a specialist.
A story went around the city about a poor, sickly girl and there was no one to
heal her. Mordechai* Feldsher took special care of her, healed her and then he
also married her. When Jews asked him: Mordechai, she is sick; why are you
marrying her? – Mordechai answered: If I do not marry her, she will, God
forbid, remain an old maid.
*[Translator's note: Motl, the given name in the title of this article, is a diminutive of Mordechai.]
Mordechai had 4 children with her, two daughters and two sons – Gabriel and Szlomo. He cherished his wife vi an oyg in kop [as an eye in his head – i.e. he cherished his wife greatly]. He gave the children a very strict upbringing. When his wife ate, he did not permit the children to disturb her, even when they cried: Veyn, veyn kinderlech [cry, cry children], he would say, Because of it, you will have a healthy mother!!!
Mordechai Feldsher also had artistic capabilities; he would go to weddings and perform various badchn [wedding entertainer] pranks. On Purim, he would conduct a production of The Selling of Joseph with the help of the boys from the Bet haMidrash [house of study and prayer]. Jews would be delighted with his capabilities, particularly when they saw the Torah portion about our Patriarch Yakov with his 12 sons face to face.
When a sefer Torah [Torah scroll] was taken to the synagogue, Mordechai (and we Bet haMidrash boys) would all be disguised as clowns on horses and ride through the Jewish streets with a bugle in his mouth, to trumpet and announce that another sefer Torah was soon coming to the synagogue.
Young wives would pay money for permission to glance at a sheet of Torah
parchment as a remedy for themselves and many children.
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