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SECTION 5

 

Memories

 

Kozienice in the Year 1903

by Pinie Katz, Buenos Aires

In autumn, 1903, I came home from Odessa, to my birthplace, Orgayev, in order to present myself for military conscription. There were rumors that the recruits would be given a short military preparation, and they would be immediately sent to the Japanese front.

 

They Convinced Me To Desert

My family began to talk me into deserting, as many others had done. I couldn't convince myself to do it. In their hearts every one wished that the Czar and his government would suffer a defeat because of the Kishinev and Homier pogroms, the slaughter of the Kiev students, for sill the decrees against Jews for the crowded prisons filled with political prisoners, and for Czarist rule in general. But I didn't do it and I didn't cross the Russian border. We, the recruits, were drafted as soon as we were declared fit for service.

Only in the evening were we able, for a few kopeks, to go wherever we pleased. That evening I went to a Bessarabian wedding and I saw our Bessarabian Jews dancing up such a storm that their slippers flew in the air. The second evening, I together with a couple of local recruits, were guests in a prominent home. Young men and girls held a philosophical discussion. They were showing off for me, the Odessaite, and I sat, looked at them, and didn't understand a word. Afterwards, we hired a carriage and rode from Orgayev to Kishinev to see the place where the pogrom had begun.

 

To the 25th Smolenski–Division in Kozienice

On the second day we already rode by train from Kishinev to Kozienice, to the 25th Smolenski–Regiment, where we were assigned to serve. Finally, we stopped off in the town of Rozdielne, where my father came to say goodbye to me. We also stopped off in a few larger cities: Berditshev, Dubne, Kovel and Brisk; crossed the Polish border cities: Lublin, Ivangrod and Radom. We ate Polish foods in restaurants and came to Kozienice, the city of the Kozienicer Maggid, who blessed our regiment, that as long as we were stationed in Kozienice, no Jewish soldier should die. We came to Kozienice on Friday morning. In the courtyard of the regimental headquarters the adjutant wrote with chalk on our jackets, the number of our company, and gave us leave. As he did so he shouted: “Go wherever you want to go, but in the evening you must be in the barracks.” Jewish soldiers were already waiting for us, in order to acquaint us with the town. They took us to Jewish homes, where we were able to eat a kosher meal in honor of Shabbat. We could also receive letters at their address, and spend our free time on Shabbat and Holidays.?

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I Become Acquainted With Kozienice

In one home we became acquainted with nice, intelligent girls. That home was called the “Staff Headquarters”. To that home used to come soldiers, craftsmen, tailors, shoemakers, and other skilled craftsmen, or sons of the wealthy who used to receive packages from home. From there I went to the Rebbe's shul, or as Jews used to call it “The Maggid's Shul”.

 

A Very Large Shul

For the first time I attended a shul of Polish Jews. I stood like a stone by the entrance, like a stranger. Such a strange melody for welcoming the Sabbath I had never heard. Not at all like ours. A march tune was used for singing “Lecha Dodi”, come my beloved. Boys in long kapotes, with thick sidelocks surrounded me. They looked at my sewn blue shirt over my pants with the strange belt, with the black lace and tassels, and they didn't know how to treat this “uncircumcised one” who stumbled into their shul. I understood that if I didn't say something, they would ask me to leave, so I remarked to one of them: “Young man, let me look into your siddur”. He looked at me with suspicion and curiosity. I returned the siddur to him and went to the barracks of the fourth regiment, according to the number which the adjutant had written on the flap of my jacket.

 

I Became a Regimental Scribe

I took upon myself the strict barracks–discipline: to sleep on a hard straw sack, to do muster and gymnastics patiently, and I gained the respect of the authorities, in order to be on their level, and to be able to speak to them as an equal. I had presented myself upon registering for the regiment as not having been too well educated and trained.

But already by the morning of the second day, I betrayed myself. The commander of the regiment a “chochol” (nickname for someone from Little Russia) with a sense of humor, asked everyone where they were from, and posed several riddles which not everyone understood well enough to solve. I sat silently, since I had pretended not to know too much. But this officer, staff–captain Sadavski, comes to me and says: “And you, why are you quiet? A Jew must know!” This officer, I think to myself, is a bit more perceptive than the Jewish youngster who, yesterday, in shul saw in me a goy. You can't fool this one. Why shouldn't he see that a Jew does know everything? 1 figured everything out for him, that he had requested. From that day on I became the scribe and bookkeeper of the regiment. Every day I had to figure out how much meat had to be cooked for a whole batallion and how much groats and bread are needed.?

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My Prestige at Staff Headquarters Grows

Because of my position, I was exempted from the early morning gymnastic drill. I would first go into the writing–room, and later leave. My greatest privilege was when I was assigned to guard duty at various posts in the city and on the outskirts. They started saying that the staff wanted to organize an evening school for the “unlettered” and that I should be the teacher. Nothing came of it. The high command decided that learning to write means too much of “liberalism”. The only thing that did come of it was that my prestige rose a bit. My friendship was therefore sought not only by common soldiers who called me brother Katz and asked me to write letters home for them, but also among the noncommissioned officers. They used to invite me for a drink or a snack.

My prestige rose even higher, when the officer, Tzvietkov, the son–in–law of staff–captain Sadavski, used to converse with me about literature, and even got me to read the novels of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and others. Also the officer, Zacharov, used to invite me at times to his office to discuss Jews, Zionism, and Socialism. But I kept my distance, I listened and didn't answer, as if I was not concerned with these matters. I told him that Jews believe in the Messiah, as he probably knows, and we don't want to know about any other Messiah. He left me a bit annoyed, because I didn't answer any of his questions. The soldiers, who were on duty and saw how much time we spent together in his office were amazed to see us speaking together as equals.

 

I Become a Hebrew Teacher

As I've already mentioned, I wasn't destined to become the teacher of Russian soldiers in the barracks. In spite of it, I became a teacher of Hebrew in the prominent Kozienice homes. I don't know how my fellow Jewish soldiers found out that I knew Hebrew, and that I was a “scholar”. It's possible that my friends, with whom I traveled from my town to Kozienice, learned of it as a result of a conversation that I had with a student from Odessa, who was traveling to the border, and conversed with me in Hebrew. Maybe they had heard it in our town, where I had relatives, who boasted of their relationship to my father, the “Maskil” (enlightened one), and his talented son.

Once, a Jewish soldier of the Kiev group, by the name of Kovalsky, came into my barracks. He had already completed his service, but they kept him on because of the war. He said: “Katz, I want to propose a match for you with a beautiful and rich girl”. This Kovalsky, if you could ignore his military garb, looked exactly like a born “Shadchan” (matchmaker). But I understood that he wasn't talking about a match, but that he was plotting something. “Tell me!” I said. “What's going on here?” “Do you want to have an interesting Jewish home to go to, and right here, a short distance away?”?

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“Then listen: Not far from the barracks, there lives the contractor, Yustman, a very wealthy Jew.” “He has two daughters and a son, and he is stuffing all sorts of knowledge into them; Russian and Polish, and they also converse in French and German and Hebrew.” He writes in the Hebrew journal, “Hatzfirah”. “He wants, and even more so, his daughter wants, that you should come to their home. In fact it was she who sent me to you. She has seen you pass by and wants to meet you.”

 

I Teach the Yustman and Mintzberg Children

The very next day I became the teacher of the two girls and the boy. I received a pass to leave the barracks daily in the afternoon, from iny boss, who was proud of his secretary and bookkeeper. He would boast about me to his colleagues. My pupils were “open heads” (very bright). Especially the oldest one, a young lady about 18 years old, blond and rosy–cheeked. 1 taught the younger one the Prophets, and I would forget myself and chant the Heder melody, because of the beauty of the language and prophetic vision. I also taught them Hebrew grammar, in a special way, as if I was taking a gun apart, or a watch with its wheels and gears. They understood what I taught and learned it. The older girl read and understood Hebrew very well. With her I would read the daily political articles by Sokolov in the “Hatzfirah” under the title “Words of the Day” and his weekly reviews which were called: “From Sabbath to Sabbath”, which were filled with many words and expressions of the sages, and old and new Hebrew. Through Sokolov's Hebrew I was able to inculcate my intelligent student with the knowledge of where Sokolov had acquired his rich language knowledge, and his great erudition. I had acquired the reputation in the Kozienicer Jewish homes, as a good Hebrew teacher, and obtained a teaching position in a second prominent Kozienicer Jewish home, the Mintzberg's.

 

I Make the Acquaintance of the Kozienicer Rebbe's Daughter

I also began going to the home of the Kozienicer Rebbe, R'Yerachmiel–Moishele Hopstein. This was thanks to a second soldier, Nachum Twersky, who was one of the Rebbe's relatives from the Tshernobiler family, which had remained in Kozienice due to the war. I made the acquaintance of the Rebbe's daughters: beautiful, intelligent, well brought up. I secretly became their teacher. I brought them secular books, which my father sent me from time to time from home. I became so popular in Kozienice that I did almost nothing except teach. The owner of the Koziencer beer brewery, Yona Tzemach, who was Mintzberg's son–in–law, asked me to teach his children. He used to boast that he was descended from the great scholar “Tzemach–Tzedek”, and therefore his name was Tzemach. He was a Vilna Jew, a fine man, hospitable, with a good Jewish heart.

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An Event Happened

An event occurred – it happened just at the time of the Christian Easter – my sergeant, a family man, who lived outside the barracks, induced me to commit a sin – I should record a few pounds of meat more, because he wants to invite guests to stay with him for the holiday.

The captain of the first company audited the books and discovered the theft. He came to the barracks, called me to him and asked me what the story was. I didn't want to implicate the sergeant, because he was, after all, a family man, so I pleaded guilty. As clerk, it is understood, I had to record my own punishment with my own hands – 10 days under arrest. I had to remove my belt and order two soldiers to accompany me to the guard–house. To my good fortune, after a day of confinement, they opened the door of my prison and ordered me back to the barracks. There I met the commander of the battalion, a strict German, and he began to reprimand me: “You, a Jew, a teacher, a secretary, should commit such a folly, and implicate yourself.”

I remained quiet. He understood my silence and said: “So, nothing to say. We already know everything. Please be good enough to record 10 days of confinement for your sergeant.” He immediately left the office and said: “Tell Miss Yustman that I fulfilled her request.”

Of course, I immediately went to tell my student, that I'm a free man. But she already knew everything since Kovalsky had told all. She had then told it all to the captain, and asked him to set me free. According to all the rules of the novel, I should have taken my blond, 18 year old student, with the rosy cheeks into my arms and kiss her. And I must admit that I felt a strong desire to do so. And it was obvious that she was awaiting it. But what is the story of that “particular Hasid”, who was beaten in the face by his hanging fringes, I simply extended my hand to my student and like a cavalier in uniform, I brought her hand up to my mouth and kissed it. From there I no longer returned to the fourth company, but went to a work company, and became a painter and a teacher of the children of the sergeant. From then on I had more free time and became almost exclusively a teacher.

 

Kozienice in 1905

Almost two years, my years of soldiering, were spent in Kozienice, with small interruptions, for shooting practice, somewhere near the town of Konsk, in the province of Radom. At the time, I also had the opportunity to become acquainted with a variety of Polish and Jewish towns between Kozienice and Konsk; their inns and stores. With their healthy young wagoners, and with their worthy, tender and enthusiastic daughters. When I returned at the end of the summer of 1905 from camp, I received a letter from my brother, Yosl, who worked at the time in Odessa. He wrote to me about the uprisings which were occurring in all of Russia.

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I read the letter to my friends in the work company. We looked at each other and asked the question: “What are we doing here?” Great events are taking place in Russia. Her very foundations are crumbling, and then I made the decision to return home. It wasn't difficult for me to convince my sergeant that he should place me at the head of the leave list. He helped me a great deal. I bade farewell to my fellow soldier friends, my students, and all of the Jewish homes that I had visited. On foot 1 went to the Garbatke station, because the railroad tracks in all of Russia hindered communication. For 25 days I was stuck in Lublin. While there I looked up the Lubliner Jewish Workers Movement, in a dark attic, occupied by a few sad young men, like the walls of the house. I had gotten the address from the Bund in Kozienice. They were overjoyed to see the soldier, who brought them such warm regards from the Kozienice shoemakers and from the Worker's Bund. My soldier's uniform opened for me a place on a fully packed wagon, which finally started its journey after 25 days of a strike. I arrived in Odessa on the 6th of November, 1905, only after all of my leave was up.

 

A Few Words About Kozienice

Kozienice was a town of shoemakers, with all of the details involved, and even in those years was already a stronghold of the Bund. The leader of the Bund was Yidl Weinberg, a Yiddish teacher, who conducted a school. He was a relative of the wealthy Yustman family.

His brother, a student who belonged to the P.P.S. came from Radom. Another brother studied in Paris, and in those years traveled with Prof. Feitlovitsh's expedition to Abyssinia, to determine the relationship between the Falashas (Black Jews) to the Queen of Sheba. The Weinbergs knew that I was a member of the Russian party, “Iskra”, but we didn't have any party discussions, even though we would meet often. It was unnatural to me that Kozienice, a Hasidic, Jewish town, should be Bundist.

I would come into a shoemaker's home, and I enjoyed hearing how a boy, who worked for a different shoemaker, used to speak about Socialism and the workers' struggle. The Bundist theory of cultural autonomy did not concern him in the least. He had a dark complexioned charming sister, Reshke the dark–complexioned one, who used to tastefully sing the song “Oifen Pripetshik” (In the Fireplace Burns a Fire). And when she sang the words: “Whichever one of you will learn better – will receive a flag”, she would smile coquettishly, so that it would pluck at the soul. Jewish soldiers were tied to and connected with the town. They had their Jewish homes and true friendship. Very dear folksy Jews and hospitable people were the Kozienicer Jews. Some of them attached themselves to Kozienicer permanently. Afterwards, when they completed their service, they got married, remained there as sons–in–laws, led fine family lives, and raised children and grandchildren with pleasure and joy.

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The Soldiers' Synagogue

Jewish soldiers had their own synagogue, separate from the large synagogue, on the side of the enter room. It had all of the holy articles and other necessary minuates. The synagogue had a large enter room, like all Jewish synagogues. In it stood the sink that was used for the ritual washing of the hands of the “kohanim” (priests) by the Levites with copper pitchers. This was done on the holidays before the kohanim blessed the congregation. Near the sink there hung a long wet towel for drying the hands. The enter room also served as the place where the overflow crowd and young people (who did not pray) congregated. On the day before Yom Kippur this was also the place where the collection plates were set up. On Simchat Torah this was the place where people were called for an Aliyah (calling up) to the Torah for everyone attending the services. The enter room was also the place where the youngsters would fool around and joke about the Rebbe and his followers who would come to him seeking advice and blessings.

On the side of the enter room the soldiers set up their synagogue, with their own officiators, cantors and readers (of the Torah). Passover they would conduct the Seder there. The Jewish community provided them with Matzah, meat, fish and wine for the “four” cups necessary for the Seder. Also, on the other holidays they would conduct the festive holiday feasts there. The Jewish towns of Russia would send their craftsmen, religious functionaries and also their Yiddish and Hebrew teachers to Kozienice. When the Kozienicer Rebbe married off a daughter, the Jewish soldiers were participants just like the other Jews. The drummer of the 8th company led the bride and bridegroom with his drum when they were escorted to the wedding canopy. On Simchat Torah when Jews carried the scrolls and danced with the Rebbe around the shul, we, a group of Jewish soldiers, stood a side and enjoyed their enthusiasm. At that time, I received a resounding slap from the Rebbe. I don't know if it was meant for his relative, the soldier, Nachum Twersky, who was very tall or for me as revenge for misleading his daughters by bringing them the secular books, which my father, the enlightened scholar would send to me from time to time. I accepted the slap with love, and hide it away in my memory, as a reminder of my feelings very much at home in the Polish town of Kozienice, where I spent the two years of my military service.

 

The Smolenski–Regiment

I consider it my duty to acquaint Kozieniceites with the Smolenski–Regiment.

After the partition of Poland between Russia, Austria and Germany, at the beginning of the 19th century, the russian government built the Ivangrod Fortress. In order to reinforce the fortress the government sent the 25th Smolenski–Regiment to Kozienice, because it was the center–point; 18 versts (a verst was the Russian measure of distance, about .66 of a mile) from the fortress and six versts from the River Vistula and a railroad fan from Kozienice to Radom and Kielce.?

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The barracks were set up in three parts of the city: On Lubliner Street, across the bridge, in the village of Stara–Viesh stood the first barracks. On the Radomer rail–line, not far from the Jewish cemetery stood the second barracks. These barracks had a Jewish commander: Yosl Tzitrin. On Varshaver Street, not far from the forest, stood the third barracks. Not far from the barracks were Jewish shopkeepers, who drew their livelihood from the soldiers by buying and selling.

The important officers lived with their families in the beautiful homes on Varshaver Street, not far from Chrystian Church. There they had their military club, the chancellaries and the court. They also had their own Greek Orthodox Church with a priest, their own hospital with doctors and barber–surgeons and their own undertaker for Greek Orthodox. Jews were the contractors who provided food and merchandise of all sorts for the military. They became wealthy. Among them were the Yustman, Itzkovitsh, Avenshtern and Freilich families.

Four years before WWI in 1910, the 25th Smolenski–Regiment was sent out of Kozienice. The reason for the move was a military secret. When WWI broke out in 1914, the Jew–hater, Nikolai Nikolayevitsh, may his name be eradicated, issued a decree that all Jews be driven from the towns surrounding the fortress, including Kozienice, within 24 hours. It's understandable that everything was left in a mess. They .ran wherever their eyes led them, to the towns around Radom and Warsaw. When Germany drove the Russians from Poland, Kozienicer Jews returned to their homes and the youth began to build cultural institutions, which had not been tolerated during the rule of the Czar.


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There Was a Town Kozienice

by Sarale Hirshenhorn, Stockholm

Once there was a town, Kozienice
where the glory of God did dwell
Whosoever saw it even once,
would burst with pleasure.

There were the righteous of the highest degree
Craftsmen without limit
Yeshiva boys, with the flame of Torah,
Merchants, dealers – and few wealthy.

There was only one mill – Freilich's
And Yona Tzemach had a brewery,
Honikshtoks, Shabaszons – Saw Mill
And Leizer–Itshe's – biggest house.

Chaim Samochod – a deliverer
Shlomo – a porter, Nute – a blacksmith,
Moshele Gott – a peddler to the villages
And Moshe Goldtzveig – a scholar a Jew.

Aaron Leib – a bathhouse attendant,
Moshe–Leib – head of the burial society,
The Flakes dealt in orchards,
And in the synagogue a beadle – Tokazsh Itshe.

If I would mention all the names
Which as I write rhyme so nicely
And so that I shouldn't miss anyone,
We must begin with the Rebbe – and end with
the water–carrier, Shame.

Where do we get the time,
To describe what there was in town:
The singing of joy, the sadness of suffering
And everything that was heard and seen.

For eternity a curse on the lips,
For those who harmed our nearest and dearest
For destroying the beautiful figures and types.
For our little children, that they burned.

Let us cry aloud, and let tears fall,
Scream, demand and call
So that the whole world hears and God punishes the murderers?


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The Military Conscription in Kozienice

by Yerachmiel Sirota, Paris

Kozienice was a centrally situated city and every year, right after the Succot holiday, the military draft would be held there. From all of the area, the towns and villages, the young peasants would come to Kozienice. During this period, the Jews of our town were fearful, because immediately afterwards the young peasants would drink up, and the local antisemites would use the opportunity to stir them up to attack Jews. This happened a number of times, until the young peasants were taught a lesson by our local Macabees, that they well remembered. On the Jewish side there arose a group of leaders who carried on the battle. Our group was armed with iron pipes, thick sticks, rocks and shoemaker knives. The strategy of our leaders was to fool the drunken peasants into coming into side streets, and there to beat their brains out. Many of them would return home crippled. The city would then resemble a battlefield. The Russian householders would side with the antisemites, and never worried about the defenseless Jewish population. Quite the contrary: Russian officials would arrest innocent Jews. But these officials never caught the members of our group, who were too fleet to be caught. And if our group was not around, the antisemites would attack and rob, even the poor women who sold a bit of fruit and sugar. We can be proud of our youth who with so much devotion defended the honor of Jewish craftsman, merchants, shopkeepers, and students.

Our Macabees have not disappeared from my mind: Gutman Meltzer, Itshe Hoffman, Shmuel Fleisher, Simcha Fleisher, Yankl Vasserman, Shlomo Lampe and his brother, Note Kovall, and many young butchers and porters. All of them would year in, year out, prepare themselves for the struggle. I also want to mention the sons of Leizer Kotter and Falye Bondol and his brother Chaim of the Veitzman family, and many others who unfortunately have slipped from my mind. From all of these workmen there was organized an army of defenders of Jewish honor in Kozienice.

Besides all of the troubles that we had to endure, the economic situation in many Jewish homes was tragic, because their sons had been conscripted and were sent to serve in the army for almost four years. The wailing of Jewish mothers can not be described. They knew that their children would be far away deep inside of Russia, near the Japanese border. They wouldn't know of Shabbat or holidays, and would eat non–kosher foods. And they would hear that their sons were serving in the cavalry, mounted on horses, then the tragedy of the Jewish mother would be unbearable, and their eyes swelled with tears. Young children would never see the world outside of Kozienice, and of course, never spoke Russian. Who would take care of them in the bitter cold? How often would the mother go down at night to see if the child was covered.?

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Poor parents had only one hope – perhaps, with God's help, their sons would be exempt from military service, or receive a red or green ticket. In this matter the difference between rich and poor was immense. For 300 Rubles, an exemption could be bought. Every official, from the lowest to the highest could be bribed. Everything was done to escape the draft. Some would even cripple themselves for life – chop off the toe of a foot, pull out all the teeth, give oneself a hernia, redden the eyes, and even make oneself deaf – everything and anything to avoid serving in the Czar's army. The poor who didn't have money and didn't want to cripple themselves for life, had to go serve. This was no secret to anyone.

And the leaving for military service? The poor mother could no longer sleep at night. Till the parents survived the return of their son after four years of service, their eyes would pop out of their heads. And so the years passed one after another. Every year there were new troubles in many Jewish homes. And the moaning and tears of the mothers never ceased.


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The Russian High Command Seized Our House

by Chava Shapiro, Kfar–Hasidim

In 1916 the Austrians invaded Poland, and with the speed of lightning conquered the Demblin Fortress, and approached the gates of Kozienice. The Russian High Command seized our new house, and called it Port Arthur, like the well–known fortress in Russia, because the walls of the house were more than half a meter thick. It's possible that the enemy knew this, therefore they considered the house a strategic place and directed most of their artillery fire at it. Our family and all of the inhabitants of our city didn't move until the situation became impossible. On Simchat Torah, under a hail of bullets, grandmother, the rebbetzin Sarah Devorah, grabbed me in one hand, the boys, among whom was Yisroel Elazar, of blessed memory, in the other hand; my mother, rebbetzin Bracha with her big children and left the Houses of the Maggid.

 

All of the City's People Followed Us

When they saw the Rebbe's family go and leave, all of the city's people streamed after us. With devotion they loaded the sick and the pregnant women on vehicles. That picture will never be erased from my memory! Thousands left, in a fleeing moment, leaving their homes and possessions, dressed in holiday finery, and fleeing from the enemy gunfire. I remember that they persuaded grandmother and my mother to mount a carriage, but they wouldn't consent. Their concern, as always was for others. It was they who had founded the society for visiting the sick, a free–loan fund. They used to distribute loans to small business men to enable them to support their families. I also want to mention the respected and wise lady, Mrs. Haikl, of blessed memory, grandmother's friend, who faithfully helped her carry on her charitable work; Their palms they spread out to the poor, and their hands extended to the “poverty–stricken”.

 

We Arrived In Radom

We walked about fifteen kilometers without turning around, and without resting for a moment, until we reached the village of Yedlna. There we rested until the holiday ended. And from there we turned our steps towards Radom. We got an apartment in the house of one of the Hasidim. For a long time our ties to Kozienice were severed and we didn't know what was going on there. Only after the Germans had conquered all of the territory and the cannons were silenced, did some individuals begin to seek ways to return home. The conqueror raised difficulties and didn't even permit passing from the German areas to the Austrian ones. But in spite of all, there were some people who risked their lives and crossed the border. Some returned to their homes and possessions with pure expectations, but others with dire thoughts. There were old people who were afraid, perhaps, God forbid, they would die in a strange place, and not in their own city. Among them was Mrs. Chana Miriam, of blessed memory?

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It was impossible to convince her to wait and not return to Kozienice. She returned. I'd like to mention something that I heard from her: When she came to Kozienice, she headed for the house of the Rebbe. At the entrance she saw an elegantly dressed man standing before the mirror with a fan (which one of our girls had left behind) in his hand, and another young man playing a violin. She turned to them and said in German: “Pure and righteous people live here. Watch everything, because this belongs to the Kozienice Maggid.” One of them answered me very politely: “Yes, my name is Yoachim. I am one of the sons of Kaiser Wilhelm”. And he promised me that he would guard the house, which belonged to important people. My dear mother thought that the story was a figment of Chana Miriam's imagination. But afterwards it turned out that it really was Prince Yoachim. Also our father's expensive violin disappeared.

 

The Conquerors Didn't Permit Us To Leave and Go To The City

A few weeks later, the people of our city began to return to their homes and businesses. The situation was difficult, but life began to return to normalcy. The conquerors didn't allow us to leave or return to the city. It was impossible to send letters, since there was no mail. Travel required a special pass which could only be obtained with difficulty. Only two people began to come and go. They were R'Velvele and R'Chaiml. They would leave surreptitiously, for Warsaw, and cross the border. The German and Austrian sentries got used to them. The first had no children and the latter had many. They were both the kind of individuals who sought a livelihood, required little, and were very good–hearted. They got low prices for the goods that they brought in. They also performed charitable deeds for people, since they were the only ones going and coming. They buoyed the spirits of many with the news and messages which they conveyed from place to place. When they arrived from Warsaw, groups would gather around them on the streets of the city, to hear the news, because there were no newspapers at the time. The two of them were given the title: “News Vendors”. We will remember them among the martyrs of our city, who perished in the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi conquerors.


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Kozienice, a City and Mother in Israel

by Elimelech Feigenboim, Ramat–Gan

Kozienice was a typical Jewish town like all the towns in Poland. There were all kinds of Jews there: Rich, poor; merchants, workers and craftsmen; religious and free–thinkers. All of the various parties that existed than in Poland, could be found there: Starting with the Communists and ending with Agudas–lsrael; Hasidim of all kinds and also Mitnagdim (those opposed to Hassidism). Until 1914 all Jewish affairs were conducted by three prominent Jews, who represented us before the government and city fathers. The leader of the three was R'Abraham Chaim Freilich, of blessed memory, a Jew of pleasant outward appearance, tall, with a black beard, wealthy and acceptable to Jews and Gentiles. He devoted his entire life to the welfare of the community, freely, and everyone who had any dealings at all with the city or government would turn to him and he was always ready to help. The second was R'Yitzhak Milgroim, owner of a stationery store, more progressive in his thinking, but not any less devoted to the affairs of the community.

 

The Young People of the City Throw Off the Yoke

In this way were the affairs of the city conducted until the outbreak of WWI. In 1914– the war broke out. The front, which was at the Demblin Fortress, approached our city. One month after the outbreak of war, the order was given by the commandant of the Fortress, that all Jews leave within 24 hours. A delegation of Jews, with R'Freilich at its head, went out to the commandant to request that the decree be rescinded or postponed. But to our great sorrow the delegation didn't succeed, and all Jews had to leave to a distance of 12 kilometers from the city. The Jews panicked when they heard the decree, and they began to leave their homes. Everyone who was able to, took his possessions. The poor didn't have this opportunity, and the mayor promised that their possessions would be guarded. The Gentiles took advantage of the opportunity, and offered to help move Jewish possessions at inflated prices. They weren't ashamed to ask for 10 to 15 Rubles, for the 12 kilometer distance – a very high price in those days. After 2 days, permission was given to the Jews to return to their homes. The mayor had kept his word, and had guarded Jewish property. A month later the Germans approached the city and the Russians began a retreat through the city. It was during the Holiday of Succot, and all of the Jewish owned stores were closed. There wasn't enough food for the soldiers, and the Rabbis decreed that it was permissible to bake bread for the retreating army. Jews were afraid that the retreating Cossack army would make a pogrom and loot their homes, so they had one of the city's inhabitants, a reserve Russian General, by the name of Simyonov, go out in full–dress uniform, to prevent the Cossacks from looting the Jewish homes.?

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Suddenly, a German patrol appeared, and almost captured the General, but the Jews managed to hide him. He changed out of his uniform and in this way was saved from the Germans. A few days later, the Germans and Austrians battled the Russians in the fortress. The Russians drove back the Germans, and the battle was conducted in the city. Part of the city was destroyed, and Jewish property went down the drain. A year later the Russians retreated and the Austrians ruled in Kozienice. Life returned to normalcy. As a result of the change, the young people threw off the yoke. Political parties were formed – from Zionists to Communists. A modern community was formed with a communal head. A cultural center was established where lectures were held, and also political debates. The most important was the activity of the workers' organization, the Socialist Bund, that fought for the improvement of workers' conditions. Most workers were engaged in the manufacture of shoes. The shoes of Kozienice were renowned throughout Poland.

 

Kozienice, the City of the Holy Maggid

Kozienice was famed as the city of the Holy Maggid, R'Yisrael, who lived 150 years ago. A street in Kozienice bears his name. On this street were located the Synagogue, the House of Study, and the house of the Maggid. During the period with which we are dealing, the chair of the Maggid was occupied by R'Arele, of blessed memory, who was murdered by the Nazis, may their name be eradicated. He was a 6th generation descendant of the Holy Maggid, the son of R'Yerachmiel Moshele, who died in 1910. On the cemetery there was a special tomb (2 rooms) where the Holy Maggid and his five sons were interred. On the anniversary day of his death or of the death of one of his sons, thousands of Jews from all over Poland would come to pay their respects at the graves of the holy ones. At the time of R'Arele, the rebbetzin, Sarah Devorele, of blessed memory7, his grandmother, and also the rebbetzin, Brachale, of blessed memory, his mother, were still alive, and also brothers and sisters.

To the Rebbe of Kozienice, there flowed Hassidim from all of Poland. Especially on the High Holy Days. Then the Rebbe and his Hassidim would pray in the Synagogue, which had existed for hundreds of years. The walls were more than a meter thick. The doors were of brass, the Holy Ark was permanently set into the wall, and its doors were also of brass. In this Ark were to be found hundreds of Torah Scrolls from all generations.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Synagogue was full. The congregation would greet the Rebbe by rising en masse, with respect. The prayers were conducted with enthusiasm. My grandfather, of blessed memory, led the morning prayer, and we, his grandsons helped him. Thanks to this we were privileged to stand close to the Rebbe, of blessed memory.?

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The Rebbe would be dressed in a white silk “robe” and a wide white silk belt, which he inherited from Rebbe Elimelech of Lizansk. The big event of the day was always the Rebbe's blowing of the shofar. The huge congregation waited for it impatiently. Silence pervaded the synagogue, before the uplifting of the spirit. TTie Musaf (additional service) was then led by R'Elimelech Freilich, of blessed memory. Barely were the townspeople able to grab a light meal before setting out for the river bank for the Tashlich Service (symbolic casting of sins into water on Rosh Hashanah afternoon). Men, women and children streamed to the small river which was outside the city limits. By the time they returned it was already dark, and the procession moved to the light of torches and the accompaniment of singing. On the Rebbe's street, dance circles formed as young and old danced together. The enthusiasm reached it's peak.

On Simchat Torah the Rebbe took part in the first Hakafah (circling of the shul holding a scroll of the Torah). It was the custom to do the Hakafot under a wedding canopy. After the first one, the Rebbe went with prominent Hassidim to Kiddush (a collation) at grandma, Sarah Devorah's house. After the Kiddush, at midnight, began the Hakafot in the Synagogue of the Rebbe, and continued almost all night. In the Rebbe's house there was a room, which the Holy Maggid lived 150 years ago. In this room stood the furniture of the Maggid: The table, chair and bed. This room was used only at the end of a holiday. The Rebbe would then enter the room, sit in the chair and play the well known melody of “Elijah the Prophet” on the violin, using the Holy Maggid's melody. All of the Hassidim would sing along with enthusiasm. At those moments of uplifting, they could forget their troubles. Near the Synagogue, stood the Study House, which was open all the hours of the day and night. This was used by the public at large. Besides prayer it was used by young men from Bar Mitzvah to their weddings, for study of Holy texts. Married young men, who were supported by in–laws, also used it for study. In the evenings it was a meeting place for all. In effect it was the place where all groups socialized, studied “Ayn–Yaakov” (a folklore and fable text), Mishnayot, or just engaged in secular conversation.

 

The Rebbe Bakes Matzot

In one of the villages of the area lived a Pole, from whom the Rebbe bought wheat before it was even ploughed and sown. It was agreed that this wheat was special for the Rebbe and his family, come the Passover. On the fast day, “Tisha–B'Av”, the Hassidim went from the Rebbe's house to the village, harvested the wheat and brought it to the house of the Rebbe. During the winter the young men from the Study House would separate and choose the kernels of wheat. A month before Pesach they brought mill–stones to one of the rooms and ground the kernels into flour. In the Rebbe's house there was also a stove for the baking of the Matzot.?

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This work was done only by the men. A carpenter was always present so he could smooth and polish the boards, so that the dough would not stick to them. Every year, on the eve of Pesach, the Hassidim would bake the Matza Shmura (guarded matza). Everyone would come with his own bag of flour, and they would cast lots to determine the order. During the baking the Hassidim recited Psalms of Praise (Hallel). A few select individuals were privileged to receive Matza Shmurah from the Rebbe for the first Seder night. The first Seder at the Rebbe was reserved for family only. His Hassidim participated in his second Seder, which would last all night. When they got to the passage: “Pour out thy wrath upon the nations…” the Rebbe himself would open the door of the Holy Maggid's room.

 

My Family

My family was one of the largest in Kozienice. My father, RTtcha son of R'Mordecai Natan, of blessed memory was a “shochet” (ritual slaughterer). My grandmother, of blessed memory, Tzivia daughter of Rivke, was the daughter of R'Chaim Yaakov Rozen who was a merchant manufacturer on the main street. He was a respected householder, and honest merchant. He had six sons and two daughters. In our family there were 4 sons and 2 daughters. Father was a follower of Rebbe Yerachmiel Moshele and his son, Rebbe Arele, of blessed memory. He served them with all his soul. My brother, R' Aaron Berish, the first–born, was a candy manufacturer. On the Days of Awe he would lead the services at the Rebbe's. My second brother, Moshe Hersh led a modern life in Warsaw. My sister, Nechama, of blessed memory, lived in the village of Yedlnia near Kozienice, and my second sister, Raisel, the wife of R'Abraham Zucker, the watchmaker, lived in my father's house in Kozienice. My twin brother, Fishl, lived in Warsaw. I'd like to memorialize all of my relatives, who were murdered by the Nazis.

 

Levi Feigenboim, Of Blessed Memory

My son, Levi, was born in April 1925 in Safed (Israel). He was educated in elementary school in Haifa, where he was accepted in the “Camps for Immigrants”. From Haifa he went and finished school in Kiryat–Chaim. From an early age he wanted to be a farmer, so he entered the district school in Yagur. In 1942 he finished, was drafted into the Palmach, and stationed in Upper Galilee. From there he went to Tel–Yosef, where he distinguished himself with his courage and devotion. He loved sport. He was among the first of a group of Palmach members in the lower Galilee. He guarded fields of a kibbutz. He organized the library in the kibbutz, Beit–Keshet. He read a lot and was the first father there. On 16 August 1948 he went out with 8 comrades on patrol and didn't return. He fell defending Beit–Keshet. May his memory be blessed!.?


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My Birthplace, Kozienice

by Pinchas Feigenboim, Moscow

It is more than 30 years since fate has driven me from my birthplace. Ignoring the fact that I find myself far from my town, there they stand before my eyes the superb, historical places, which were my daily companions: The large Study House, the Synagogue, the Maggid's small prayer–house, the palace, the river, the forest, nature, the beautiful spring nights and my companions and friends.

 

It is Difficult to Forget

A person can forget many things, but that which he digested with his mother's milk, is difficult to forget. How can one forget the Heder years and their impressions? My teacher, Berele Melamed, whom I will not forget until my dying breath, and other teachers, who would beat me with their cat–of–nine tails whether you deserved it or not. How can one forget the mood on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and other holidays? When I remind myself of those days, a shiver passes through my body.

No small thing – such days! Doctors, shoemakers, tailors – all, like one, would tremble on those days, like fish in water. It even seems as if the sun and the moon were in the holiday spirit, because all would serve those holy days. Weekday worries were cast away. Everyone attempted to forget the bad that he did and that was done to him. Those, who had the opportunity and means, would give charity, so that poor Jews, on the Holy Days, would feel as equals of everyone, and that on their tables there should be food and drinks. Comrades and friends used to meet and enjoy a glass of wine. And then there would be the Hakofot in Shul, which we prolonged until after midnight. Who doesn't remember how the Kozienicer Rebbe, R'Aaron Hopshtein and his brother Elimelech, would do their Hakofot. It was a pleasure!

 

Wise Jews

There were in our town many wise Jews, who knew how to learn (holy texts). For example: R'Elimelech Freilich, Abraham–Chaim Freilich, Ben–Zion Freilich, The Kozienicer Rabbi, the Tshepelever Rebbe, R'Yosef–Leib – an extremely clever and progressive man, Yaakov–Hersh Weinberg, Chaim Chmelnitzky, his son Moshe, Yitzhak Milgrom, Itshe Feigenberg, Yona Tzemach, Chaim Borenstein and many other talented and wise people, who earned for themselves the right not to be forgotten. The majority in our town were laborers. Jews were occupied with the daily worries of a livelihood. They weren't boors, the striving for knowledge was widespread.

 

Many Parties

There were many parties in our town, and each one had its local chapter. They would arrange discussions, readings, quiz evenings, and always there were many participants. Very often lecturers would come from Warsaw.?

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We also had a very large library, and newspapers, so that the cultural life did not cease even for a moment. Now a few words about the parties, dust as it is customary among Jews, there were, thank God, many parties in Kozienice, who conducted ideological warfare among themselves. Fathers and children, sisters and brothers – each would defend his party. The orthodox fought fanatically. The progressive parties conducted their struggle with the help of ideological literature.

The warfare would heat up before elections. There were elections to the Siem (Polish Parliament), to the city council, to the Jewish Community Council and to other organizations. There was no bigger holiday than election day. Big and little would on that day participate in party propaganda. Nobody was neutral. Even old and sick women would be healthy on election day, and go to vote.

In our town there were people who loved to occupy themselves with theatre. They performed the “Dybbuk”, Two Hundred Thousand” and many other plays, Jewish performers from other towns would also come.

 

Let's Not Forget the Mothers?

I want that in our book, we shouldn't forget our mothers, who did not have easy lives. We, children, did not feel the burden which they carried upon their shoulders. I remember, that after WWI, when we returned to our town, everything was burned and destroyed. But our mothers, with their own hand repaired and rebuilt everything. We won't forget our mothers, who wouldn't eat or sleep, but provided all for our development. Eternal honor to the memory of our mothers and fathers, who fell as a sacrifice of the Hitlerite bandits.


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Story of a Bottle of Chometz (Not For Passover) Whiskey

by Yissaachar Lederman, Rio de Janeiro

Maybe the story, which I tell here is known to all of you, and many of you remember it. It happened in 1927, before I left for Brazil. The purpose of my writing is to refresh our memories of days gone by. It is enough to recall a small episode, and I desire to record it, because that life will never again come to pass. That observant Jewish life has vanished, therefore we sanctify the memories. Now to the story:

A chometz bottle of whiskey led to a spoiled Pesach in town. People became enemies. The prayers and reading of the Torah were hindered and interrupted. Yosef, the judge, ran around like a crazy man. THIS IS HOW IT WAS… A Hassidic Jew, a merchant, named Shmerl Shvartzberg, forgot to sell his chometz on Passover eve. The truth is he didn't deal in chometz goods, but in leather. As he returned from Warsaw at nightfall on the eve of Pesach, he had no time and just forgot to sell his chometz. On the second day of Pesach, Shmerl went up to his attic and saw a bottle of Chometz whiskey. He became frightened – chometz in his home on Passover! It's a sin! No chometz is to be seen or found in a Jewish home on Pesach! What should he do? Not to tell is also a big sin! Immediately he ran to the religious judge, Yosef Shapiro, to ask what to do. There was no greater scholar then Yosef, therefore he was the judge. A joke about him circulated in town that he could only adjucate in matters concerning women. Yosef listened to Shmerl, took out various tomes, the Shulchan Aruch (Religious Laws) creased his forehead, and gave his opinion: to take a Goy to go up in the attic and throw down the bottle of whiskey, since it is forbidden to enjoy it. Shmerl didn't like it! What's this? Throw out a bottle of good whiskey? Why? He left Yosef very upset. A Gerer Hasid, a bit of a joker, approaches him and says: “Shmerl, what happened? So troubled on a holiday? You didn't sell your leather? You have to pay I. O. U.'s?” “No,” answered Shmerl, and he tells him the whole story. So the Jew said to him: “Fool! Make out as if you know nothing and go ask the Rabbi what to do!”

Shmerl took the advice, ran up to the Rabbi, and asked the same thing. The Rabbi answered: “Shmerl go home! After Pesach bring the bottle to services and we will make a good L'Chaim over it, but also bring some Pesach goodies.” Shmerl ran immediately to the Study House, and told the whole story– that Yosef had told him to break the bottle and that Rabbi Mintzberg told him to leave it till after Pesach. Nu! What happened then in the Study House! Two sides formed: For Yosef and for Rabbi Mintzberg. The Rabbi was also a great scholar, a pupil of the Ostrovtzer Rebbe, so he invited a few Gerer Hassidim, scholars, and showed them that the Rabbi of the town has permission to sell, on the eve of Pesach, all of the chometz in his community, and the bottle of whiskey is included in the general sale of chometz.?

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What did Yosef the judge do? He didn't sleep either. He gathered about him a few Jews from among his supporters, and they surreptitiously went up to the attic, took the bottle, threw it out into the street and broke it.

Nu, it sure was lively in town after that! After the holiday, Shmerl sued Yosef before a rabbinical court (Din Torah). He demanded to be paid for the bottle of whiskey. Yosef said that the law was that one couldn't enjoy what had been chometz, once Pesach was over. The conclusion of the story was that the community council called Shmerl Shvartzberg and paid him for the bottle. This was what the Rabbi had ordered and the money was deducted from Yosef's salary.

But for months and years the story remained on the daily agenda in the Study House. Rabbi Mintzberg sent the problem to the Ostrovtzer Rebbe, and to the Brisker Rav, and both sent him an answer which concurred with his decision in the case!


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Memories of Our Town

by Yehiel Mandel, Pariso

With my writing, I want to recall, and relive in our memory, our town, which laughed, sang and, at times also cried. There were many houses in which people plainly hungered, but they would jest and tell stories. The plain folk of Kozienice were simple but sharp–minded.

 

Maksimenko Got It In His Hand

I recall the fact that in our town there was a chief of the police named Maksimenko, who ordered that all drain holes and chimneys be painted white. This caused a commotion. Jews took off their long kapotes and set to work, because it had to be completed in one day. On the next day the Russian officials with Maksimenko at their head came to the Jewish streets. Whoever had not completed the painting was given a fine of several Rubles or go to jail. When it had to take several days, Maksimenko was called in, a bribe placed in his hand and everything was OK. The Jews calmed down a bit!

 

Thursday Was Market Day In Town

Jews would stroll, touch every bag of grain, taste it, haggle over price, until the peasant agreed. The grain merchants would go around with a straw in their mouth, touch the bags of grain, and bargain a bit. And what about our old–clothes dealers, shoemakers, tailors and milliners. They would unpack their merchandise and wait for buyers. If a peasant would approach and want to buy, he would be kept so long that he wouldn't leave emptyhanded, and other merchants (competitors) would gaze upon them with envy.

I remind myself that I studied with a teacher, who was named Nachum Ezra's. I remember: A full house, packed with children. The teacher would go hungry ten times a day, so he undertook another job: exorcising evil–eyes. Women would actually come to have him exorcise the evil–eye, and the teacher would mumble and then sneeze, meaning that help was on its way!

 

Pese Sells Chestnuts

Pese, the chestnut vendor, gave pleasure to the young. When they saw her in the street, with her pot of chestnuts they would run after her: “Pese, give me a groschen worth of chestnuts!” She had a little measuring cup with which she would measure the amount and then add a few more chestnuts, so that all would know that she's giving a fair measure. She had another livelihood. She would bake honey cake. Whoever made a nice wedding, used to hire Pese to bake honey cake. The guests and in–laws would plainly lick their chops.?

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Pinchas Sofer Sells Pickles. He would set up barrels full of cucumbers, and people would indeed run to him with quart jars, and carried home sour pickles with lots of pickle juice, which was very sour. And these were the Jewish livelihoods, of little or no consequence!

 

A Wedding in Town

When a wedding took place in town, the tall Yisrael went with his trumpet, and Meir Shachne with his clarinet, and Yitzhak Klezmer with his fiddle, and Nechemia Klezmer with his fiddle and escorted the bride to the wedding canopy at the Shul. In winter, late at night, teeth chattering with cold, townspeople, with candles in hand and children trailing behind. Often non–Jews, who knew the bride and groom, would come to see the entire ceremony. On the way back from the wedding, the mother–in–law, with a cake in her hand, would sing and dance: “Bridegroom, here is a cake, for life, so seek not another wife!”

 

On the Eve of Yom Kippur Even Fish in Water Tremble

“When the eve of Yom Kippur arrived even the fish in water trembled!” – This was the folk–saying. For every child, a hen, rooster or fish was bought for the Kapparot ceremony. (Expiation of sins) At the time of the afternoon service, they would run to the Study House for the traditional Malkos (whipping with a branch). I would see how Jews would lie on the ground, face down and with their right hands beating their hearts. At the shoulder stood a Jew with a whipping branch in his hand and he would whip the shoulders to drive out the sins. The person would then rise red–faced, and run home to eat the final meal before the fast. I remember the awe that seized everyone as they started to run to Kol Nidre. Every Jew exuded Holiness, so it would seem to me that I am seeing God and all of his seven heavens, with all of his ministering angels placing their stamp of approval on all sides. Yom Kippur and the fast would pass. I say fast because there was no alternative. Every move I made was watched.

 

The Night Ending Yom Kippur We Build the Succah

At the end of Yom Kippur, after eating, we went out with a spade and marked the spot for the Succah. The custom was that several neighbors would chip in. One would bring a bundle of s'chach (covering for the Succah), another some branches of pine trees, and together we would set up a Succah. When it came time to eat, after the prayers, rich and poor would eat together in the Succah. The rich would eat all sorts of delicacies, starting with braided challahs, gefilte fish, a good hen, and a good plate of soup with kreplach (meat wrapped in dough). Since the poor person was embarrassed, because he had nothing prepared for the holiday, he would arrange with his wife to ask him: “Do you want gefilte fish?” “No.” “Do you want chicken?” “No.” “A bit of compote?” “Yes!” The poor fellow would explain to his neighbors in the Succah that unfortunately, he had no appetite.?

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On the Sands

By us in Kozienice there was a neighborhood that was called “On Sand”. There, lived mostly poor laborers, carpenters and shoe polishers. The “On Sand” reminds me of unpleasant things. There we would escort the dead to the cemetery. There we would sink in the sands, almost unable to drag the feet. Before the High Holidays we would go there to visit the graves of our near and dear ones to request of them to beseech the Lord to give us a good year to come.

 

Recruits Promised Not To Bother Jews

I remember a fact. We received an alarm that the young recruits from around Kozienice, who have to report for military conscription, are going to engage in a pogrom against Jews. They didn't conduct a pogrom, but they seized Jews and beat them. They also fell upon and robbed Jewish shops. Nu, our Jewish youth got organized. In order to protect us they went out on the street and beat up on the hooligans, and broke their bones so that they would never bother Jews.

I want, with my writing, to awaken memories of my dear town, Kozienice, in order that they be engraved in the memory of young and old for generations to come. Kozienice was well–known in all of Poland for her impressive forests, and her Hassidism.

 

It Should Be Engraved In Memory

Who hasn't heard about the Kozienicer Maggid? And about R'Arele, who was founder of a Progressive Hassidism, in order to attract the youth, to keep them from the wrong path. In the entire area they spoke of it, and said that, God forbid, the Rebbe has abandoned his Rabbinical ways. I remind myself, that prior to the High Holidays, there used to come to our town Hassidim from all over Poland to go to the graves of the Maggid and other holy rabbis to request a good year. Our town was pleased to have such an influx. We would live it up, especially the merchants who sold prayer books, fringes and mezuzot. The scribes did a brisk business, and who even mentions the paupers of the entire area? They had a full day begging.

 

Three Quarters of the Jews Lived From the Shoe Industry

Almost 2000 Jewish families lived in our town. Seventy five percent of them lived from the shoe industry and spats making. The remainder were small merchants and shopkeepers plus a few grain merchants. All lived, I should say happily – but that would be a lie. But they were satisfied. They married off children, and grandchildren, and life went its merry way.

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A Fine Cultured Youth

We had a fine, cultured youth, a rich library containing the classics, a drama circle, a professional association where we would gather, discuss things and carry on strikes. A few of the communist influenced youth were imprisoned for 3 or 4 years for opposing the established order. There were also other organizations: Hashomer Hatzair, and the Folks–club, which arranged for lecturers and concerts. Our Kozienice folk were very active in everything and involved, each to the best of his ability.

 

Rabbinical Disputes

I also want to mention the dispute which broke out when a portion of our Jews were not happy with a specific Rabbi. They brought in another Rebbe, more modern, the Tshepelever. Things were hopping “on tables and on benches” as we used to say. People fought tooth and nail. If one of the rabbis said something was kosher the other said it was treyf. It was lively in town, until one of them capitulated, and fled with his family to another place, and only then did things calm down.

 

The Youth Searches For The Practical

A portion of the youth, especially the more progressive youth, did not see any future for themselves in town. So they left – some to Warsaw, some to other large cities in the province, and only came home for the holidays dressing in the latest big–city fashion. They would bring gifts for father, mother and their young siblings. They would also bring grapes for the recitation of the Sheecheyanu blessing. That's how life went by. Children grew. Some went out of the country looking for a purpose in life. They would send letters or a package with a few zlotys, in order to support the rest of the family, since help was always welcome in Kozienice. After receiving letters from abroad, parents would run to neighbors, to show off the letters and photos: this one with a wife and children already, and that one with a bride.

 

A Number of Types From Our Town

Feivl Oger was a tall, thin Jew, beardless. He was called Oger because he pulled a wagon, just like a horse. If someone had to move some rags, he would hire Feivl Oger. He was very honest, occupied all of his life, with never enough to eat for himself or his family.

Crazy Mendele didn't bother anyone. They used to throw him a piece of bread and an onion, and this would sustain him. Mordecai Hoke suddenly became angry, leaped onto the platform in the Study House and called out: “Jews, I'm leaving town. Get yourselves a different Mordecai Hoke.”?

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Shammai, the water–carrier slaved away all of his life. With his two pails of water hanging on his shoulders, he used to fill many utensils with water among the housewives, and barely earned a living.

Hersh–Leib Bozer knew why he was slaving away so hard and bitter: because he wanted that his son Moshe, should become a scholar. And so it was. His son actually became a scholar. He would sit day and night in the Study House and learned. People said that he was a genius. He went away to Yeshiva, and there a very wealthy man chose him to be his son–in–law. All this until the accursed war broke out with its atrocities and Nazi hordes.

 

My Family

My father had the good fortune of dying in the ghetto, a few weeks before the selection, and he was buried on the Kozienice cemetery. A sister of mine and her four children were thrown into the ghetto. When they took my sister, Rachel to the gas–chambers, she could barely stand on her feet, her oldest daughter, Sarale, ran after her and cried: “Mama, I won't leave you alone.” And she clung to her. As soon as the Nazi in charge of her group saw this he said to her: “Don't cry, Fraulein. You will go with your mother. You will go together.” In this way they were both gassed and cremated and martyred. That was how our dear town of Kozienice burned together with her martyrs. Only a few Kozieniceites saved themselves. Some are in Paris. Together with those who had come earlier, we formed a society, and each year we visit family graves to weep. We also set up a memorial for our departed fellow townsmen, and in this way we have eternalized their holy names.


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Our Cursed and Beloved Kozienice

by Yerachmiel Kestenberg, Tel Aviv

I'll forever remember my birthplace, Kozienice. Til remember you in your prosperity and in your tragedy. In you flourishing and in your destruction. There, where I saw my first light, and where for the first time, I heard the word, “Jew”. Kozienice – there where I went to Heder, and learned in school, and played with children. There I also received the first stone on my head, from the hand of a Goy.

Kozienice, where I wove my childhood dreams – how beautiful are your surroundings. Hardly anywhere such a panorama of mountains, woods, lakes and meadows, where sheep grazed and where children picked flowers and told wonderful tales. Everything looked so wonderfully beautiful and so cruelly destroyed by the German murderers. Kozienice, the city of righteous shoemakers – was also the city of cultural creativity. Kozienice, the city of the Holy Maggid, of Hassidism and religious belief, together with revolutionary pathos and Zionist activity.

But Kozienice was also the city which bathed itself in Jewish blood; where the German murders slaughtered Jewish children, women and men.

Cursed by your borders, Kozienice. For eternity may your name be erased, and may you never be mentioned because of the innocent Jewish blood that was shed. Kozienice, blessed be your remaining sons and daughters in the newly freed Jewish homeland, and everywhere else, wherever they may be, because faithfully and virtuously they carried Jewish honor. Kozienice, until my last breath, I won't forget you. I hate you so, and still I love you!

I want to mention my mother, Libe Rechthand, a granddaughter of R' Aaron, of blessed memory. R' Aaron was for 40 years the Rabbi of Kozienice. Because of it we were always referred to as the grandchildren of R' Aaron.


[Page 416]

A Bundle of Memories of Kozienice

by Teme Potashnik, Paris

The spiritual life of the Jews in Kozienice consisted of fanatical belief and Hassidism. My father, of blessed memory, had his own library. But, as is well known, books in those days were considered an abomination. Father's friend, named Kuropatve, a secret “Maskil” (enlightened one), told us that in the Study House they say that Itshe Krishpel will come to a bad end, because he is an Agnostic. This information reached the Russian superintendent, who spoke Yiddish. He was told that Itshe Krishpel possesses a library of revolutionary literature. Once, on a nice early morning, the police came and carried away the entire library, in a wagon, together with my father. They kept my father under arrest for half a day, and in that way checked all of the books. Finally, they freed my father and returned the books. It seems that Mendele, Peretz and Shalom Aleichem were not considered subversive.

If we remind ourselves of how our parents lived, it seems a bit strange. But in spite of all they were devoted Jews, even though fanatically religious. The beastly Germans killed the fanatics as well as the free thinkers, and all were dear Jews.

 

The Drama Circle

I remind myself of the superb youth that we had in Kozienice. We organized a dramatic section which performed the “Dybbuk” and other plays. Chaim Berman was director. His sister, Tobe Berman, his brother, Zelick Berman and another brother, Shimon Berman, took part in the presentations. My brothers, Yankl and Benjamin Krishpel, and my sister, Pesye Gutmacher, whom the Germans deported, also took part in the dramatic section. Others, who participated, were Yissachar Lederman, Aaron Potashnik, Sarah Hershhorn, Yisrael–Dov Domb, Yitzhak Potashnik, my husband, and other Kozienicers whose names I no longer remember. I acted the role of Leah in the “Dybbuk”. We lived well in the town of Kozienice. We had a club where we danced, held gatherings, lectures and social affairs. I'll never forget my town of Kozienice, where I was born.

 

Vanyusha the Son of Yasha

Give me, here, Vanyusha, your drunken chin, and I'll kiss you, but what, unfortunately, did you have against the paupers? You should have beaten the wealthy, the rich speculators, who would skin us, and who spread themselves out in the palaces which I built. Oh brother! I tell you openly, my stone is for the Jewish nobleman. But he lives high, so it missed him and hit instead the pauper. And Vanyusha picked tip his stone and I read it: Ivan Chaskelevitsh, I'll ask only you, and nicely, you obedient cur. Did you bring from your home a fortune to me? You want to be called Ivan son of Yasha son of Kish you have a land, it seems, Palestine. Too hot for you there in your Canaan, so you came to cool yourself in my land in my cold Kursk, in my Astrachan.?

[Page 417]

You came dressed in uniform. I don't need a partner. The eating of pork, and dancing of the Kamarski, I can do better without you. And you already want equal rights with me. To spread yourself out at the head in my senate, and that I should carry garbage and clean toilets. No, dear Tevye, my brother! And when all the baptized will be on the verge of death and the priest will sing over them, as loud as he will chant his church melody they'll still hear the mumbling of Kol Nidre in their heads. You may build railroads, and become manufacturers; one may be called a banker, another even Baron, as far as I'm concerned you're only wealth beggars, with imposing fronts, chins without beards, without a nation and without a people. If I revile you and beat you, what can you do to me you wealthy Jewish magnate. You'll complain to the government, but do you have a consulate to defend you? And wherever you'll be rich with sugar factories I don't have to approach a consulate to speak to you, I only have to send my gendarmes, and you are speechless, you Jewish banker. I will spit upon the beatings and drink a glass or two, and then give you such a beating that you will scream. Leave me alone, I'm leaving!


[Page 418]

A Guest For a While

by A. Zilberstein

In 1928, I visited Kozienice. After an operation, I used the opportunity to visit my brother–in–law, Shimon Likverman, the son of Aaron Pinchas, of blessed memory, and my sister–in–law, Yehudis Potashnik, daughter of Mo tele Potashnik, dear and heartfelt people. Without cares, I walked through the beautiful town, and heard the nice stories of the great Kozienicer Maggid. The town looked like a picture by Chagall. It hovered in the air as if pure spirit. Also the people looked to me as if they lack nothing and are seeking only to perform good deeds. It was a small town, but beautiful, filled with charm. You can walk through the whole town, its length and breadth in half an hour, and it bakes itself deep into your heart. I wasn't born in Kozienice, but thanks to my dear wife, I've written these few lines.


[Page 419]

Old Kozienice

by K. H. Band

Among the nations, various scholars, especially historians, dig in various materials, which enlightened the life and work of this or that dead personality. They speculate and hypothesize over every iota which is connected with their lives, and it is all written up, and preserved in various museums. But by us, unfortunately, very little is done in this respect, especially when it concerns a great religious personality. Let's take as an example the Kozienicer Maggid, of blessed memory, who even occupies among Polish historians a very important place, but Jewish scholars, in this respect did not interest themselves in this great spiritual giant, one of the pillars of Hassidism, who lit up Poland.

The writer of these lines recently visited Kozienice. I found tremendous material there which cried use me and work with me! Let them see the role that I once played in Jewish religious life!! The first street on which the car stops is called Magitova, because on this street the Holy Maggid had lived. The street commemorated his name. It is also holy to' the Christian population, and many legends are woven around it. The town of Kozienice, like all other provincial Jewish towns exudes poverty from its windows. Shopkeepers stand at the doors of their shops looking for buyers, and wait. Bent houses, crowded in one next to the other, as if they were connected to protect their existence. Among the row of houses is found the house where the Maggid used to live.

 

Here the Maggid Lived

As soon as you enter the house you must bend down, in order not to bang it on the lentel. You pass through a narrow corridor until you come to the small dwelling where the Maggid lived. The manager of the Maggid's dwelling, R' Asher, a Jew from Vilna, goodnatured gives you a warm welcome and immediately begins to tell stories of the dwelling. And by the way, a few weeks ago, the dwelling was visited by a Polish professor from Kovel. The professor – R' Asher tells – stood awed at the entrance, and was afraid to enter, but only looked in. It is called the “Holy Dwelling”, and consists of two small rooms, whitewashed, with small panes in the only window. Inside are found the Rebbe's “Heavenly Bed”, his stool and low commode, which also served as his writing table, where he wrote his new Torah commentaries. On the ceiling hangs a metal chandelier with six branches. The walls are engraved with names of visitors and requests, and in general whosoever needs salvation would come to pray in the Rebbe's “Shtibel” (dwelling). Every nook and cranny has stories and legends about them. “Look” shows me R' Asher – “You see that small round window, which is cut out in the door? Once through the window, the Mogelnitzer Rebbe, the grandson of the Maggid, when he was a little boy – looked in and saw the Maggid occupied in earnest conversation with a strange, impressive looking Jew. Later the stranger suddenly disappeared, and the boy ran to the Maggid and cried out: ‘Zayde, I've seen Elijah, the Prophet, because that stranger must certainly have been him.𔃷 ‘No my child’ answered the Maggid, ‘That was the great Rabbi, R' Ber and the appearance of great righteous men is greater than the appearance of Elijah’.”?

[Page 420]

One is overcome with fear when they mention who lived here, what a great spiritual giant worked in this dwelling, what a light streamed from the small windows, which lit up half the world. The other rooms, where the Maggid had lived have been done over and locals live in them. There was no one to guard them, and the heart breaks to see how the house in which the Maggid and his children and grandchildren lived, until the last Maggid died, is today a bakery!

“Do you see that hill?” says the one accompanying me at a hill near the Mikve. “When the Berditshever Rebbe, was in Kozienice, and went on Shavuot to the Mikve, a great enthusiasm seized him, and with impetus rolled himself down the hill.”

 

On the Cemetery

Approaching the cemetery, we met an old Jew, who thoughtfully examined the new fence around the cemetery, which the community had recently set up. “Huh, what a waste. Thrown out money! The fence won't last long!” “Why?” “Because whenever a fence was set up around the cemetery, it fell. There is a tradition that the Kozienice cemetery is much larger than is known, and therefore when it is set up, it soon falls.” In the midst of the cemetery stands the Maggid's Mausoleum. Next to it are the Maggid, R' Yisrael, his son, Moshele and then one son after another, Eliezer, Yehiel, Yerachmiel Moshele. They all lie in a line, and partition circles the holy graves.

The eternal lamp flickers silently as it hangs over the graves. A holy shiver seizes one, when you think about the holy and pure who rest under the tombstones. The Jewish heart, which is always so bitter, and constantly filled with pain and sorrow – when one has such an opportunity, to pour out one's feelings, and lighten the burden a bit – the words come out by themselves as if from a fountain.

 

How Can You Rest So Peacefully

Holy, dear souls! How long do you think! How can you rest so peacefully, when your brothers and sisters, the entire community of Israel is in such catastrophic condition? In Germany, Jewish blood is flowing like water, 500,000 Jews in danger of being slaughtered by the Hitlerite bandits, God forbid. The 3 million community of Russian Jews in danger of assimilation, and God forbid, of apostasy. If you find a teacher teaching children, or a father who has circumcised his son, they are sent to Siberia. Thousands of Jews die of hunger and want. Also by us the economic situation is tragic. Jewish enterprises and livelihoods are daily broken. Jews are selling their last household possessions, in order to buy bread for hungry children. Jews don't have the money to pay tuition for the children and there is growing a neglected generation. Young men who want to study Torah, go through fearful trials and tribulations, suffer hunger, and want, and there is no one who interests himself in them. Who can enumerate the many troubles and sufferings. We are drowning in a sea of blood and tears!?

[Page 421]

Storm the Heavens!

Holy and dear souls! In your lives you martyred yourselves for the community of Israel, and now you are even greater Tzaddikim than in your lifetimes. Storm all of the 7 heavens, so that the Lord, blessed be he, will have pity on us and send us complete redemption. Around the Mausoleum lie the Maggid's students, but unfortunately the tombstones are missing. We don't know exactly who is in the graves. On some of the tombstones the letters are erased and can not be read. On one gravestone there is indicated that here lies Noam Maggid, R'Eliezer Halevi Horvitz from Tarnogrod. He died in 1809. He used to travel to the Seer of Lublin and the Maggid of Kozienice. Once, while traveling from Lublin to Kozienice, passing the Kozienice cemetery – he called out: “How pleasant this place is, here I want to rest”. A few weeks later he passed away, and was buried here, and was eulogized by the Maggid with a great eulogy. (From the newspaper “Yiddisher–Tageblat” – Warsaw).


[Page 422]

How Does the City Sit Deserted?

by Leibele Fishtein

Does the house still stand there today,
Opposite and over the small garden?
Do the branches still reach far
And cast a shadow on my door?

Do the chestnut trees still stand,
As once they did before my time,
And stretch their green Hands
Over the broad unpaved road.

Is the city still encircled,
On two sides, by forests?
And does the shine from the South
Still gleam from the broad grown fields?
Does the hill, the silent one,

Behind Leizer, the stitchers home,
In the winter with slippery snow,
As children with sleds would sleigh.

Did my little boat sail off by itself
From the shore of the lake, as a seagull
May no more boats come,
Rocking themselves on him with my dear Eve.

I am driven from my dear town,
Far into Kazakhstan, exhausted.
Here I have my Bed of Exile,
I dream of coming to you again.

I know
That the German, may his name be eradicated,
Also from our town Made a waste and void.

Only from the hangman's hands torn away the ax
Did the Allied commander.
On my head I do not wear a sack,
But I ask: “How does the city sit so desolate?”


[Page 423]

From My Childhood Years in Kozienice

by Leibele Fishtein, Ramat–Gan

On the western side of the city, before the Radomer forest, there stood, in the form of an H, Yosl Tzitrin's house. The house was called “The barracks”, because it occupied an area of 150 meters, and there lived almost 1,000 souls, Jews and Goyim – all of the impoverished of the town. In the courtyard stood a round artesian well with a bucket, attached with a chain which was wrapped around a wooden log. On the side was a handle for turning, in order to lower the empty bucket and pull it up filled with water.

It wasn't easy to obtain the bit of water, because it was about 20 meters deep and there was always a queue at the well. The house was built of wood, and the roof covered with shingles. In the same house the owner built an extension with a few rooms, where he lived.

 

Yosl Tzitrin Was an Upright Jew

He was also merciful. A few of the locals didn't even pay any rent at all, and he didn't bother them, because he well knew that they had nothing, unfortunately. He had a son Noah, and daughter, Miriam. The son had his father's admirable traits. The daughter was active in the community. Every Thursday, she would go out with two other old maids, collect money, and buy Challos, bread, fish and candles. On Friday morning she would distribute it among a few, poor families, so they would have a bit of the pleasure of Shabbat.

 

The Goy Threw Us Out of the Apartment

When we went broke and my father went off to serve in the military, the Goy, in whose house we lived threw us out because we couldn't pay the rent. There was a disturbance in the city: A mother and 4 children evicted from their apartment, and they find themselves under the open sky. On the morrow, in the morning, the old Shammas of the shul, Chaim Yage, and Feivel Oger with his cart came to my mother and said: “We have an apartment for you. For the meantime, as long as you have nothing, it will cost nothing. When your husband will return safely, and bring lots of money, then you'll pay.” (His name was Feivele). “Put your things in the cart!” This made us overjoyed. As a 5 year old, I remember to this day how my mother burst out crying. I couldn't determine at the time if it was from joy or sadness!

 

Feivele Oger Carries Over Our Things

My youngest sister, Yure (who perished) was then 3 years old. She was placed on the cart on top of the furniture. Feivele harnassed himself and began pulling the loaded cart. We helped him by pushing the cart, until we got to the barracks. In one of the front apartments, a door already stood open, and Feivele carried in the furniture. My mother didn't know who paid Feivele for his work.?

[Page 424]

I know that my mother used to tell that when she asked: “How much do I have to pay you?” the answer was “God will pay me!”

 

Noah Tzitrin Brings a Round Basket

It was Friday at noon. An hour later, Noah Tzitrin came in with a large round basket, which he set on the table and turned towards the door. When he already had the doorknob in his hand, he said to us: “A Gut Shabbos to you, Feige–Sarah, a gut Shabbos to you, dear children.” When mother began to unpack the packages, which lay in the basket, I noticed that tears were rolling down her cheeks. We children, who stood around the basket, became cheerful and hearty, when we saw the good things that mother was unpacking from paper bags: two big challos, a round big bread, a package of Wissotsky tea, chickory, a package of yellow butter, a few herring, flour and at the very bottom – some potatoes.

 

The Fire

The joy of the new dwelling lasted only three weeks. A few sparks fell on the shingled roof, and in a short time the entire “barracks” burst into flame. The sparks came from a locomotive which passed daily, a few times, pulling logs from the forest to the railroad.

My grandmother was an exceptional soul. All week she wore a fringed shawl on her head. On Shabbat she wore a black hat. Since Zayde died, she's been staying with us. In the commotion of the fire she lifted her hands to heaven and called out: “Lord of the universe! You are just and your justice is correct!” She then took the broom on her shoulder and went out with it to the street. I, my sister and mother barely dragged the sewing machine through the window, because the door was already aflame. The machine was an old one. Mother bought it and paid for it with her golden earrings and with a silver Chanukah lamp. The plan was to go to the village to accept work. This would have succeeded if not for the fire, which ruined everything. After being awake all night in the nearby forest, the next day brought another bit of news. On all streets and on all walls were posted notices that by two o'clock in the afternoon, all who were burned out must leave the city and set out for Radom. The wandering lasted for 2 weeks, until we arrived in Radom, where the community set us up in a cellar, and I and my 3 year old sister went from house to house to beg a piece of bread, and brought it home to mother, who was lying sick, and the other sisters couldn't leave her alone. They were mother's doctors and nurses.

 

Return to Kozienice

When we returned to Kozienice, the city was already occupied by the Austrians. All, who had left their homes, returned; and those who had been burned out, were relocated: the Jews – in the Shul and House of Study and the Goyim – in the ruins.?

[Page 425]

We Become Prosperous

Around the Shul the ground was sandy. There I played with other children my age. Suddenly, before my eyes, there sparkled with a blue flame, a bit of sand, which I grabbed with both of my hands. I sifted the sand through my fingers, and there remained in one of them a piece of broken gold with a stone in it, which in the sunlight sparkled with many colors. I was overjoyed with this, and ran quickly to show my mother, what a nice toy I had found. When mother took it in her hand, I noticed, how her face lit up with a smile, and her hands began to tremble. She turned it around and around, took the edge of her apron and wiped it thoroughly. “Mother” I begged, “Give it back to me, so that I can play with it for a while in the sun.” “No, my child”, she answered me. “It could be that it is worth a great deal of money, so we'll sell it and I'll buy a lot to eat. I'll buy you new shoes, pants and lots of candy.” Then she took out her handkerchief, wrapped the stone in it, made a knot and lay it in her bosom.

 

All Night Mother Didn't Sleep

All night mother didn't sleep, but thought about the stone. Maybe someone had lost it? You have to go to the Rabbi and have the beadle announce it in the Study House? Whoever will be able to correctly identify it, will get it back. In the middle of the night, mother turned on the night lamp, untied the knot and began to examine the treasure. She was certain that it was a diamond, because when she placed it under the cover, it glowed in the dark like a shining star. That someone living lost it, is impossible. The piece of gold already has black holes, eaten out by the earth. Who knows how many hundreds of years it has already lain in the sand. It seems to be a broken earring. She retired it in the same handkerchief. The window–panes lightened with the early morning light, brighter and brighter. Suddenly mother stood, opened the hand with the knotted kerchief and shook her head: No, it's not a dream! I was awake all night, like now.

 

Michael Lenga Offers Mother 500 Rubles

When Michael Lenga, the watchmaker, saw the stone, he lifted his head and looked closely at my mother, even though he knew her very well. Who in Kozienice didn't know everyone else? And he said: “How does Feige Sarah, the wife of Luzer Stanslivitzer come by something like this? Could be that she found and doesn't even know what it is! Let me only see what it is”,he said aloud to her and took his watchmaker's lupe, pressed it into his right eye, although he already knew that is was a diamond. He took a look, removed the lupe and said: “It's not such a great find, but for a small amount I can buy it.” “How much are you prepared to give?” “I know…” he lifts his hands to his head, and puts his fingers under his cap and scratches his head. “I'll give you 500 Rubles”. At the moment mother's knees weakened and her head spun before her eyes:?

[Page 426]

“So why did you say that it's worth only a small amount. Is this amount a small sum for you? To me it's a fortune!” This is what she thought. With all of her might, she managed to come back to herself and answered him: “It's too little. Secondly, I'll think about it. Perhaps I'll come back to you if someone else doesn't give me more.”

And she went out! The second watchmaker, Abraham Tzucker, was a capable merchant. As soon as he took the diamond in his hand, he said immediately, that he could give 550 Rubles for it, and then added: “You can go where you want. If anyone will give you more, you can quietly accept it”. Mother thanked him for the advice and went out.

 

My Mother Sells the Diamond

Yakl Ring was the best expert in town and very straight besides. Anyone who gave him a watch to repair or bought something from him, trusted him completely. Besides which he was a Stotzker Hassid and an active communal worker. When he took the stone in his hand, he went under the buffet, placed the lupe, looked for a long while on every side and said: “If you'll let me take the stone out of the gold, I'll be able to tell you what it's worth, and how much I can give you for it.” After removing the stone from the gold, he took a flannel cloth and polished it on all sides. Then he took out a scale, checked to see that it was working properly, put the stone on the scale and on the other balance the little metal weights. When the hand of the scale was in the middle, he figured the weight exactly, lifted his head and said: “It's worth about 600 Rubles but I also have to make some profit on it, so I'll give you 550 and if you want, you can have the cash immediately, but before you decide I suggest that you go to others, maybe they'll give you more.” “God forbid, I trust you completely. I already went to another and he offered me exactly the same” From there, he went into a nearby room, took the stone with him and promptly returned, carrying a book in his hand. He opened the book and removed from it pressed 10 Ruble notes. When he had already counted out the amount, he handed it to mother to count again. “I counted together with you. But R' Yakl, I have a request: Please give me half in paper notes and half in gold coins. You know that it is war time and who knows what will be with the money by tomorrow. They say that Rubles will lose their value, and Austrian crowns will become the medium of exchange.” Yakl thought for a while then removed half of the money and put it back in the book. He again went into the adjoining room. This time it took him a bit longer. Meanwhile, other people came in and also waited. The adjoining door opened a crack and Yakl motioned with his finger, that my mother should come in. She went in and he handed her the golden coins. Yakl wished my mother well and where she had had the stone she placed the money, and went out a fortunate woman.?

[Page 427]

A New Apartment with a Fear of Ghosts

On Radomer Street. On one side the cross from which Jesus, with his bowed head constantly looked down on the ground. On the other side – the big house, which belonged to Chaskel Levi and where the folk–school for girls was located. There stood a small wooden Parter (Gate–House), with a porch, sticking out to the siJewalk. The porch was covered with a roof and closed side walls. At the front there was an entrance the size of a door, but there was no door. On both sides of the porch, to the right and to the left there were firmly nailed to the walls two benches. In summer, late at night, the porch was a good nest for loving couples, where they sat huddled against each other, silently. On both sides were small gardens, fenced with wooden slats. There grew all kinds of flowers, some of which encircled the entire porch. The house belonged to Luzer Rantzkes, a butcher. He had his own butcher shop in the marketplace. Orthodox Jewesses bought their meat only from him, because he himself was very observant. He would remove the veins from meat better than any other butcher. The rear quarters, which other butchers would keep in their shops to sell cheaply to Goyim, he wouldn't keep in his shop at all. Directly from the slaughterhouse, he would take the hind quarters to the Goyish meat markets on the opposite side of the marketplace. In this little house, my mother rented an apartment. The room was furnished: a table, a cupboard for clothes, a few chairs, a bed, an iron stove. There was no chest, since we didn't need one anyway. In the middle of the floor, there was a trap–door, under which there were stairs leading to the cellar, which was as large as the room. On the morrow, after the first night in the new place, the lady of the house, Esther–Malkah, came in and asked: “How did you sleep the first night? Didn't you hear anything?” “What were we supposed to have heard?” my mother asked. “Nothing, I'm simply asking!”

Mother Hears Three Strong Bangs

The next night, at midnight exactly, we were all sleeping soundly in the one bed; mother on one side and I and my youngest sister at the foot. The two older sisters had bedded themselves down on the chairs. Suddenly we heard three strong bangs on the headboard of the bed where mother lay. “Who is it?” mother yelled. At that moment, we again heard three bangs at the same spot, even stronger. The racket which mother made awakened us. We lit a light and began to search all around. But we didn't find anything or anybody.

All of the neighbors immediately assembled, with candles in their hands. It seems that they heard the commotion. Ihe landlord also came in, went to the doorpost and removed the Mezuzah. As soon as he opened it, he immediately stated that the letters had been erased and the Mezuzah wasn't kosher. “Feige–Sarah, I'm telling you that first thing in the morning, go to the the scribe with this Mezuzah.”?

[Page 428]

On the morrow, going to the scribe, Gitl Grashmitz, a neighbor detained her and told mother the following: “I've heard that you've moved into Luzer Rantzkes, into the room, near the cross. I advise you to leave that apartment, as quickly as possible. In the cellar ghosts dance through the night, accompanied by music.” “We've already found the reason for it” mother answered with a smile, “the Mezuzah which was on the door, isn't kosher. I'm going to the scribe to have it examined.” “That didn't occur to anybody” said Gitl, as she wrung her hands.

For a lengthy time after fixing the Mezuzah, it was quiet, and we didn't hear anything. Once the blind Chana came in, while she was going from house to house for contributions. “Feige–Sarah” she said “you're living here in the house, and you hear nothing? They say that in the cellar there are ghosts. Every night after midnight, they play music and dance.” “Chanele”, said mother; “There were really ghosts who danced, because the Mezuzah was not kosher. But now there's a new Mezuzah, and the ghosts are gone.”

 

We Rent a New Apartment

When my father returned from Germany, where he was a prisoner, we immediately rented a new apartment, in the house that belonged to Kalman Bornstein. The apartment had one room. The window and the side walls looked like a chest, set up on a cut–out, ship's deck. Besides the entrance door there was another door which led to the attic. The attic served us as a second room, where there stood a bed, and a chair with benches. There was no window in the attic, so father cut out a four corner hole and set in a frame and pane of glass. The bed he himself banged together with boards. Kalman's two sons, Mote and Yosl, were lumber merchants and there was no lack of wooden boards. Just like in a big store, on the spot lay sorted boards in neat piles. A bit further away lay beams. Three Goyim stood there. One above and two below under the beam which lay upon two four–legged high supports, and a long saw went up and down and sawed according to the marks which were made with a string, which was rubbed with cinders. And from these beams, boards were made. On another side, in the same place, under a corrugated roof, which hung upon four supports, two other Goyim sawed beams with a two handed saw on short beams, and split them with an ax into very thin pieces. Nearby sat Berl the shingle–maker and from them he cut out shingles.

When my father needed a few boards, he would never take them by himself. It was enough to tell Yosl that he needs them, and he would show him immediately from which pile to choose as many as he needed. “If you need for cooking and heating, you can take from the spoiled shingles”, Yosl would say in a pitying tone. Father would alone set up a cooking stove. He would bang out a hole in the brick stove and made a shelf of old metal on four wooden legs, bonded bricks with mortar, and placed an iron plate with holes, which he bought from an iron–monger, Levi Mandel.?

[Page 429]

Then he set in a rack which he himself wove of wire, and underneath he hung a metal bucket, for catching the ashes. When the dwelling was in order, mother took out the kerchief from her bosom, gave it to father and said: “This is for business. Rent several orchards and be successful. The rest of the money I'll keep, since we have three daughters, may no evil eye befall them.”

 

Kalman the Landlord and his Family

Kalman, the landlord was in his sixties. His long thick beard was already half grey, and he himself was a quiet man, upright? and well groomed. He was free of financial worries, because he had those upon whom he could depend. His wife, Chanele a very fine person, was quite alert and young looking. She, together with her two daughters, Chayale and Devorale ran the stationery and cigarette business. His son, Yosl, as I mentioned, was a lumber merchant. He was also a partner in the only bank in town, which belonged to Yontshe Mitzberg. Yosl was the only one of the family who survived. Today he lives in Natanya.

 

Orchard Keepers

During the intermediate days of Pesach, when the orchards bloomed, many Jews went out to the villages, where they dealt in orchards. They were able to determine exactly how much fruit each tree would yield. They also knew which orchard had been fruitful the previous year and whether it would or wouldn't be this year. They would bargain with the peasants about leasing the orchards for a year or two or even longer. Before Shavuot all of the family went out to the orchards. Each large orchard had a lean–to with a two–sided roof of straw and a place for sleeping. Outside was a kitchen, which consisted of cemented bricks, on which there lay two iron rods for holding pots. When a family leased a few orchards, they would assign a few children to each one, to watch that ruffians shouldn't steal from the trees. In Kozienice, there were about 20 orchard–keepers. All summer they would flood the market with fruit. Of them all I'm the only one who survived. All honor to those who so tragically perished!


[Page 430]

My Father's Will

by Shmelke Shpigelman

On the bank of the river, in the valley,
With my glance at heaven sunken in thought
Lime ovens, already many times That I see – so I thought

Jews with their hands tied,
And with Sh'ma Yisrael on their lips,
Like flaming Scrolls of the Torah –
Are being burned on coals.

Mother–father, sons and daughters,
Sisters, brothers, all together,
Uniformed Germans laughingly –
Throw Jewish children into the flames.

Once, there at eventide,
As the sun sank aflame,
Between the clouds, it seemed to me,
That I see there: My mother.

I see the good Shlomole, the little one,
On his chest a yellow badge And another Jew – one,
He was, it seems, my father.

And from the clouds, like wool,
And from the sky, the dull,
I heard a voice,
The will and testament of my father:

The destruction of Kozienice, and its Jews
You shouldn't forget, don't forget!
Hand this testament down to your children
Because for this: You were left alive!


[Page 431]

The Hassidic Serenade

by Yaakov Leibish Eisenman, Bogata

Already from early morning you could tell that this Tammuz–day was going to be a scorcher, because the first rays of the sun with their fine gold darts actually stabbed the eyes, as if with redhot needles. Such a heat there had never been. The business in my soda fountain reached a peak. We became exhausted from the difficult work of serving so many people. By my neighbors at the other side of the hedge, below, in their cellar apartment there lived great grandchildren of the Maggid. Among them some girls and one boy, Chaiml. It seems to me Chaiml Samochod's brother–in–law, very short, stout person with a black well–grown beard. There they sweated today, carried out their house furnishings, and in place of them set up tables and benches, because tonight Chaiml is getting married. That night I went to sleep very late: First because of business and secondly because I was so tired.

 

Loud Singing Awakened Me

How long I slept, I don't know. Loud singing awakened me. I am straining my memory to understand the significance of the singing. What sort of a holiday is it today for Jews? I fall back on my bed but I really want to recall! I try to fall back asleep, but the religious, mystic singing doesn't let up, quite the contrary – it gets even stronger, with more ecstasy. For such joy what does one do? I have no choice but to dress myself and go out to see what is taking place? I approach, slowly, the Rebbe's house and see a group of eight Hassidim in a half circle, right near a blanket hung well hammered window, which looks out from the cellar apartment almost level with the ground. The eight Hassidim are dressed in satin kapotes, with skull caps on their heads and with big talesim, with the wind blowing their tzitzes.

 

What Sort of Singing Is This?

The group is holding small books and continue singing. What sort of singing is this? And why so late at night? I didn't get an answer. But I don't leave it alone, because I want to uncover the secret. Bit by bit I obtained some information from one of them, and you can imagine how embarrassing it was. But listen and don't laugh. A half hour ago they accompanied the young couple to a special room, where our bridegroom, Chaiml, has to perform his third obligation, according to the Germara. These Hassidim are the closest in–laws. They stand here under the window of the special room.

They are singing chapters of the Psalms, and they are designed to insure that the cohabitation should be in holiness and purity and that the act performed be a Mitzvah. And who knows what else.


[Page 432]

Some Dates in the History of Kozienice

In the 12th and the 13th Centuries Kozienice belonged to an order of Norbetaner Mnishkes.

In 1300 the Mnishkes gave up the village of Kozienice and got for it a different village.

In 1400 a bridge was built over the Weisel (Vistula), which led to Kozienice.

In 1467 there was born in Kozienice the Polish King, Cazshimiezsh the First.

In 1549 the proprietor of the village of Kozienice, Piotr Firley, obtained the right to build a city, with an autonomous council, its own court and the right to arrange fairs.

 

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