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[Page 425]

VII - Surrounding towns:
Leczyca, Krosniewice, Dabrowice

 

History of the City

 

 

Łęczyca, the city on the river Bzura. The name of the town is derived from the Slavic word ‘lenki’ (mud, swamp). The city is located in an area of valleys, full of swamps.

Łęczyca was established in the tenth century as a Slavic fortress. The first chronicles tell about the city in the days of the Polish king Bolesław Krzywousty. In 1108, the reigning king conquered Łęczyca. The city stood at a crossroads and therefore served as a meeting place for princes and kings, as well as a place for synods of the Catholic Church (such synods took place there in the Middle Ages around 20). At the time of the feudal disintegration, the city belonged to different princes of the dynasty of the peasants, in 1321 the city was burned by the German crusaders,

In 1655 the city conquered Sweden. In 1794 a great fire broke out which destroyed the city. From the 6th to the 8th century, until the partition of Poland, Łęczyca was a province town. The Jewish community is one of the oldest in Poland. It can be assumed that the first Jewish inhabitants came to Łęczyca in the 11th–12th century.

The Jewish community received the privileges in 1453 from King Kazimierz Jagiellończyk. According to the census of 1564, the Jews owned in the city 17 houses. Besides, they lived in three more Christian houses. They then paid a pound of pepper tax for each house. It is believed that the famous Magid Ephraim of Łęczyca came from the city.

In 1629 a blood libel trial took place here. The Jews Meir and Eliezer were accused of killing a child for ritual purposes. The two Jews perished on Kiddush Hashem.

In the church of Łęczyca there is still to this day a coffin with the bones of the child and a picture on which is depicted the scene of bloodshed in a child by the Jews. The clerics staged this process in order to obtain a relic for their new church (it was built in 1632),

In 1656 a massacre of Jews took place in the city. King Jan Kazimierz captured the city from the Brandenburg troops, and after the storm, the Polish troops destroyed virtually the entire Jewish community. The Jewish sources tell about 3000 fallen. The Jewish children were abducted. He then burned 600 Torah scrolls.

After the Swedish wars in the first half of the eighteenth century, the Jews settled in Łęczyca en masse. In 1724 the Jews were given a privilege to trade and occupy themselves with liquor and production of beverages, as well as renting inns and bars. In 1728, they received permission to build the synagogue. All handicrafts were then in Jewish hands. According to the 1765 census, the Jewish community numbered 1,067 people. The Jewish community of Łęczyca was made up of the congregations of Stryków (625 people), Brzeziny (243 people), Sobota (114), Parzęczew (267 people) – and a couple of smaller Jewish communities.

In 1789, the Jews owned 47 houses in Łęczyca.

(Sent by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw)


[Page 438]

The Sports–Club “Hakoach” in Łęczyca

by Zalman Bornsztajn, Australia

One of the bright spots in town was the sports–club “HaKoach”. It was not easy to build this non–partisan sports organization, which was very popular and beloved by everyone. An organization where anyone, regardless of party affiliation, could enter. The color of her banner was also impartial: purple–white.

After the First World War, attempts were made to create the “HaKoach”. However, there were obstacles among the religious Jews. They held that a Jewish boy should only study in school.

After years of efforts and efforts by a group of dedicated workers, such as: Josef Kotek, Aharon Rabinowicz, Ber Beatus, Henech Ampulinski, Mosze–Lajb Bornsztajn, Mordechai Bzrezinski (the first manager), in 1928, they managed to open the sports– association on the Ozorkow Street, in the house of Abraham–Nissen Bloch, who was later rejected by the Chassidim for giving the premises. He was not allowed to pray until he had to promise that boys and girls would not be together during the exercises…

The slogan of “HaKoach” was: “a healthy body – a healthy spirit”! People really went to the physical exercises with great enthusiasm. Boys and girls deliciously learned the laws of gymnastics, under the guidance of instructor Abraham Metalena, a native of Kutno. The results of the work did not wait long: beautiful and impressive were the sporting celebrations, which took place from time to time, in the open air or on the stage. “HaKoach” has produced a number of good athletes, such as: Lajbel Kenig, Jerachmiel Kilbert, Josef Cielski, Arie Lifszyc, Mosse Glicensztajn, a. Opoczinski, Benie Jastrzębski and others. The girls also excelled in sports celebrations.

In order to maintain the interest of the youth and the parents, the “HaKoach” from time to time invited lecturers to speak about the important importance of sports for the Jewish youth. I especially remember a paper by Dr. Lesser from Kraków, who was a member of the Central Committee of the “Maccabi” Union in Poland. It was an interesting lecture, which left a strong impression.

Apart from the sports celebrations, in the summer

[Page 439]

people used to make trips to other cities and places, even as far as Ciechocinek, where the Jewish musicians Gold and Petersburski played. Very often people used to drive or walk in Sierpow's forest, which was not far from Łęczyca and Ozorków. The youth of both cities used to meet there and spend the day comfortably.

It is especially worth mentioning the Sunday entertainment in Miles' Garden, with its own orchestra, buffet, various attractions. The Jewish clubs of the surrounding towns are also invited to join us and we often go to them for celebrations and entertainment.

Like everywhere else, soccer had become a popular sport for us. When playing with non–Jewish clubs, the atmosphere was tense. Mostly we play with Jewish clubs from Kutno, Ozorków, Zgierz etc.

One time, I remember, we played with the 7th Polk of Kutno. We had invited three guest–players from Łódź “Maccabi”: Frenkel, Bumets and Sinaderko. (Efraim Rogożynski, who played with me on this match, is also in Melbourne, as well as the player Abraham Benedik).

Not many Jewish clubs in Poland have their own orchestra. Therefore, the creation of such an orchestra by Łęczycer “HaKoach” was a great event. First and foremost, we owe it to the fact that we had the brother–in–law, Szymon Brodzicki, a man with a lot of enthusiasm and patience. The musicians themselves paid a significant portion of what the instruments costed. The rest of the Jewish population was pleased. One can imagine the festive mood when the orchestra is out on the street for the first time. Young and old, small and large, came to see and hear this great miracle – their own Jewish orchestra!…

The well–known anti–Semite Szimanski in the city closed his attic, when the Jewish orchestra marched and played on the streets of Łęczyca.

The Łęczycer “HaKoach” and his orchestra soon became known in the surrounding province as well. We were often invited to their celebrations and concerts.

An episode of such trips in the towns, I remember:

 

Staff of gymnastics–club “HaKoach” in Łęczyca

From left: Binem HERMAN, Zalman BORNSZTAJN, Berel SZKULNIK, Josef KATEK
Sitting: Zalman NAJHAUS, Mosze JAKUBOWICZ, Mordechai BRZEZINSKI

 

In Łask, near Pabianice, when the orchestra was playing an overture called “The Polish Queen”, the representative of the Łask club approached us and gave us a bottle of beer for the beautiful march we were playing.

On my way to Australia, in July 1938, I wished people to experience good, although the thought of the dark clouds looming over the European horizon, which came much faster than expected, came to my mind. But we, Łęczycers, the small group of survivors who are scattered all over the world, those who have lived and worked together in the “HaKoach” will never forget the wonderful years of Jewish activity, of an enthusiastic Jewish youth so prematurely cut off, along with our closest and dearest.

Honor their memory!


How the Jews of Łęczyca Perished

Testimony of Mosze SZERPINSKI, recorded and delivered by David VACHTEL z”l, Paris

Shortly after the German march into Łęczyca area, harassment and decrees broke out, the aim of which was to terrorize, confuse and demoralize the Jewish population.

Later, the “Jewish Councils”, “Elders of the Jews”, and the Jewish police began to function.

In early 1942, in the ghettos of the “Vartegau” (Lodz and part of Warsaw 'Voivodeship) rumors were spreading that in the forests between Dąbie and Koło, the Germans had set up a special camp, where they gassed and burned Jews. It was believed that the Jews were taken away from there –– and disappeared. Farmers in the Dąbie area said that in the village of Chelmno, 110 kilometers from Koło, the German troops were bringing Jews, where they are being killed. Jews who used to work at the train station often noticed long freight trains, packed with Jews, who were being driven to an unknown destination.

[Page 440]

A young man, who managed to escape from the Chelmno death camp, told to the ghetto what he saw there. But no one wanted to believe him. He was considered insane or a provocateur. The Jews themselves threatened to hand him over to the Gestapo. In order to be convinced of the correctness of all the rumors, the Jews in the Łęczyca ghetto decided to send scouts to Koło, which was the last station for the Chelmno extermination camp. Using bribery, the “Elder Jew” was able to obtain from the Gestapo a special permit for two Jews to travel to Koło. The delegation came back with nothing. Beyond Koło, they could not pass.

The situation in the ghettos became tense, the control over the ghetto – everything got tighter.

On Purim 1942, the German assassins hanged ten Jews in each ghetto – a reference to the ten sons of Haman. The ghetto inhabitants were required to register: first once, then twice daily. It became clearer that the situation was hopeless, the destruction was inevitable.

On April 12, 1942, the second day after Pesach, when the Jews lined up one afternoon, as usual, in the market square, in front of the commandant's building, they were suddenly surrounded by Gestapo men. They were soon taken away to an urban sports field. They never returned to their homes.

In the morning, the city was surrounded by a group of SS men from Łódź. The eviction began. In groups of about 20–25 men, the Jews were driven and crammed into hermetically sealed cars, which drove them quickly to the Chelmno death camp.

At the same time, the final liquidation of all the surrounding towns took place.


The Death of the Jews of Łęczyca

Testimony of Mosze SZERPINSKI, recorded and delivered by David VACHTEL z”l, Paris

When the Nazi hordes occupied Poland, one of the first cities they bombed was our city. After occupying the Łęczyca, they drove the Jewish population to the city school. Great was the panic, despair and fear of the women and children. As in many other cities and towns, they listed ten men as “hostages” (eruvniks):

Yaakov Chaim Lesman, Yaakov Spiegel (Teve Baharier died of fright on the spot), Szpringer, Reuwen Kolski, Ben–Zion (hung by his own son, later the son

 


Eve of the deportation

[Page 441]

was hung), Jakob Wyszegródski (my brother), Israel Szajbe, Abraham Eliyahu Szajbe, Mordechai Sztar.

 

Jakob Wiszegrodzki, one of the hanged “eruvniks”. The rope snapped when they first hanged him. The German acted in disregard of international laws and hanged him anyway

 

The name of tenth one is unknown to me, as he was a makeshift, not from Łęczyca.

I would like to point out that while hanging Jakob Wyszegródski, it happened that the rope broke. He turned to the elder of the SS and said that “according to international law, I should not be hanged anymore.” The killer replied: “You must be hanged”!

A second case also occurred with James Spiegel, that while he was being led with the other nine men to the gallows, he fell into weakness. The law says that to hang a man, he must be conscious. He was taken out of line and given injections. And when he felt better, he was hanged.

Such were the Nazi bestial laws!

The gallows were erected in the middle of the market, and the whole town of people had to stand and look directly at the gallows, as well as the women, children and family – how their loved ones were hanged.

Later, the young people were rounded up and sent to work, partly in the concentration camps and partly in the gas chambers, mainly in Chelmno, the first gas chambers to be created in Poland.

With various cruel deaths, the young lives of our closest relatives were cut off: fathers, mothers, wives, children, sisters, brothers, who shared the tragic fate of the six million.

With great reverence, we remember our saints. A constant nightmare stands before our eyes. Until our tomb – we will never forget them!

 


Forced labor in ghetto

 


[Page 443]

Leczycers in France

by Dawid WACHTEL, Paris

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

With reverence and a shiver in heart I am setting of to write about my snowy hometown Leczyca, which I had left in 1927 emigrating to France. And how can one forget you, city of childhood and youth, with your great Jewish organisations, institutions, parties and societies? What is preserved best in my memory is the drama group (in which I had also acted).

As a novice I had a hard time on Paris soil. Already before the war serious attempts were made in the capital city of France to establish a land-network (“Society”) for our townsmen. The outbreak of war has brought all these attempts and plans to nothing and has totally destroyed all these endeavours and plans.

My experiences in the occupied France are a chapter of their own. Thanks to the kindness of several Frenchmen I have managed to survive through the war.

After the liberation, the efforts of the survivors of Leczyca to create a society was even greater. The first memorial service in the LANKRI hall attracted a huge audience. But we were too few in Paris to maintain such an organisation solely by our own means. Therefore it was natural to get in touch with the Kutno network, under whose hospitable roof, and in collaboration with people from several neighbouring towns, we find ourselves nowadays and will continue with our collaborative activities.

 

Under the photo in Hebrew and Yiddish: Remembrance day by the gravestone in Leczyca

[On the gravestone on the photo (in Polish):] “On the 4th anniversary of the mourning for our Parents, Brothers and Sisters murdered by the Nazi barbarians. Leczyca 10.05.1946”

 

A man from Leczyca in France
The surroundings: Leczyca, Kursznicvic , Dabrowic

by Shlomo ROGOZYNSKI (ROGERS), Melbourne

Translated from the Yiddish by Carole Turkeltaub Borowitz and David Shirman

The horrible news that had come soon after the war about the annihilation of the Eastern European Jewry and of our town of Leczyca prompted us to create an administrative body in Melbourne that would carry out supportive action for the surviving Jews of Leczyca. Around that time a Land-network of Leczyca survivors was created in Melbourne. The first committee was composed of the following members: Zwi Rizman, Z.Bolnsztajn, S.Lisner, David and Efraim Rogozinski. It was, as a matter of fact, a rescue committee.

We contacted the city council of Leczyca in order to find out how many and who of the Jews were alive. We learned that Dr. Holcer and his wife and several more people came back to Leczyca. Everyone was concentrated around their house. We managed to establish contact with them. We immediately conducted a money raising campaign. The first aid that we gave - we sent a package with food. Our committee has developed ties with the General Jewish Aid Committee in Australia.

It was permitted for the Jewish representatives to work with the government, which will allow some of the surviving Jews to be brought into the country. For the sake of this purpose the Jewish Land-crew undertook an initiative so that all who wished to come to Australia could receive an entry permit through us.

Along with all that a lot of money for the ship tickets was needed. We have turned to our country men in America, but we have not received any material help from there.

The first people of Leczyca who came to Australia were Smit from Grabow with his wife (the daughter of Harniak). This was still before the First World War. The Jewish immigration from Leczyca to Australia started with them. Soon also the brother of Harniak with his wife (maiden name Rizman) came. In the beginning of the 1920s also Sajmon Joskowicz came with his family. Later, when the Jews of Poland could no longer survive because of harsh taxes, also Rizman, Shapiro and Czernikowski with his family arrived. There also came: H. Harinik, Jente Rizman, S. Piotrkowski and David Rogozynski.

At the end of the 1920's, during the economic crisis in Australia, the immigration had ceased. In the year 1936 the gates were opened again, but only for the close family members. And again the people of Leczyca started to come: Lea Czeriakowska, the Szfarcfeld sisters, Zalman Bornsztajn and his wife, Josef Hirszt Lesner from Paris with his family, Kolski Frajman with his family, Aharon Lusner with his family, Szlomo and Efraim Rogozynski, Gerszon Szfarcfeld, Eliezer, Szkolnik, Sz. Lisner and G.Klugerman (the last three had lost their wives and children in Poland).

In September 1939 when the Second World War had broken out, we were again cut off from our old home. It was only at the end of 1945 that the committee of the Land-crew of Leczyca had obtained a full list of the Jews of Leczyca who remained alive. The first who came to Melbourne were: Dr.Holcer, and Jehoszua-Hirsz Jachimowicz with his family. After him there came Abraham Wiszogrodzki with his wife, Akiva Harinik, Abraham Benedig, Szkolnik, the Szlamowicz brothers, the Jachimowicz brothers with their wives, Lida Rogozynska, Kuba Rogozynski, the son of the engineer Jechiel Majer, Jankel Brzezinski, with his sister Rojze, Landau with her husband, Berisz with his wife Etka, Benkel from Grabow, Sztelski and his wife, Eliahu Srebnas's daughter and husband. After them Szajbe the lawyer came from Paris.

Not all of those who received the entry-permissions forms are now in Australia; some went to Canada, America and Israel.

In the last years we have brought several families of Leczyca here, those coming back from Russia to Poland. These were the following families: Sztar, Erike Goldman, Wajselner, the Engelman brothers with their families, the family of Simon Halinik. All of them have settled down.

Our fellow Jews materially contributed to the edition of The Book of Leczyca, which was published in Israel and redacted by Rabbi Frenkel. We have planted trees in the Garden of the Righteous with the names of Leczyca community members. At present a committee has also been established, composed of Zalman Bornsztajn, Abraham Wiszegrodzki, Szymszon Lisner and the author of the article.

Our fellow Leczycas get together on various occasions. We have preserved this deeply rooted sentiment for our former town, that had been so tragically destroyed by the bestial, German murderers, may their name be blotted out.

 

A committee of the people of Leczyca in Australia

 

[Page 460]

The Bestial Assassination of the Rabbi of Dąbrowice Ztz”L

by Bernard HOFFMAN

The Dąbrowice community was officially assigned to the neighboring town of Krośniewice. The local rabbi, however, was a cashier and had to deal with all the religious affairs of our town. The Jews of Dąbrowice, however, wanted to have their own rabbi, so they had to provide for him alone.

In my times, it was Rabbi Hanoch Geisler, a son–in–law of a well–known shochet, from Krośniewice. He himself came from Włocławek, from a very affluent family. His brother was a military rabbi.

Rabbi “Giant” was known as a great scholar and a great fanatic.

He often delivered sermons on the heresy of the youth and warned the parents of the danger that, God forbid, lies on the existence of the Jewish faith. There were no great men in the town. They did as they were told, but paying the rabbi a pension became more and more difficult. The economic situation deteriorated day by day. It was impossible to withstand the rabbi. He felt compelled to resign from the rabbinate – and began to trade.

He used to travel to Warsaw every week and bring various goods from there. The rabbi's wife sold the goods. One time, during such a return trip (it was on a Thursday of the month of the Shevat of 1923), he went to the town of Krośniewice. Set off on the road to Dąbrowice.

In the morning, a farmer came to our town and told Aszer Chelminski that he had seen a dead man lying on a highway: by the beard, he recognized him as being a Jew. Several youths immediately went to the scene – and they recognized the person killed as the Dąbrowice rabbi. He was crushed with a piece of iron. His eyes were wide open, barely recognizable.

The terrible news immediately spread throughout the town. All ran to the place of disaster. The suitcase with the goods was taken from him, the fur and the boots were pulled down. The gendarmes arrived and brought the rabbi to a chariot. The whole crowd that accompanied the cart complained and cried in horrible noises. I was sure they were carrying a corpse.

With what miracles the rabbi survived – was not to be understood. He laid in bed for weeks. At his bedside always stood Szlomo Hoffman. He asked

[Page 461]

the rabbi to say something about the murder, but, unfortunately, he could only whine. People soon left for Krośniewice to see a doctor, but it was too late. The rabbi exhaled his soul.

When the Jews of Krośniewice learned of the sad news, they came in the morning to perform the Chevra Kadisha rituals and demanded that they be delivered the dead, because they wanted him to be buried in Krośniewice. They were motivated by the fact that, firstly, the Dąbrowice community belonged to Krośniewice, and secondly, because the rabbi was a son–in–law of the shochet. The Jews of Dąbrowice did not want to accept it and a dispute broke out. Who knows how far it would go if Mr. Szlomo Hoffman did not intervene and agreed that the Dąbrowice rabbi should be buried in the Krośniewice cemetery?

When the rabbi was brought there, the local Jews requested not to bother him (Mr. Hoffman). It did not help, however – and he was beaten. On Sunday, for the funeral, the whole town, young and old, went there. Many rabbis came from near and far. Funeral services were held at the school yard. The Jews of Dąbrowice were particularly affected by this case, as it happened because the community of Dąbrowice was unable to provide a livelihood for the rabbi. It was therefore decided that the rabbi should be asked for forgiveness. People were moved when the dead man was brought into the synagogue and ten Jews, wearing their boots one after the other, asked the rabbi for forgiveness. A mournful weeping broke out over the whole synagogue. On all the surroundings, it made a terrible impression. Late in the evening, by the light of a lantern, the Dąbrowice rabbi, who had been struggling with his livelihood all his life, was tragically killed.

 

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