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[Page 135]

Personalities and Families

 

My Father's House

By Shmuel Berger

Translated by Selwyn Rose

It is now 34 years since I left my father's house and immigrated to Palestine. Until this day etched in my memory are the beautiful days I spent in my father's house, in the bosom of my family, surrounded by a homely atmosphere of warmth and care. Strong feelings of yearning remain within me for that small town of my birth in the county of Kielce, Miechów, in which, today, lives not one single Jew. Of the Jews of Miechów, who represented 40% of the population of the town, most were exterminated during the Second World War and only a very few managed to escape, some before the war and some afterwards. Most of the survivors are today in Israel and a few spread throughout the world, A few isolated Jews from Miechów remained in Poland – one can count them on the fingers of one hand – but in the town itself – not one.

Together with the Jews who perished were my mother, father and only brother.

My father's house was an excellent example of a Zionist home. From my earliest youth I was educated in the spirit of a love for the Homeland. My father, Aharon Berger, was among the first group to purchase the Zionist Shekel and until his last days never ceased to interest himself in the events of the country and the Zionist Party and his utmost ambition was to immigrate to Palestine. What bitter sadness, that on the threshold of achieving his dream he was murdered by Poles, and that only a month or two after the end of World War Two.

Our home was Traditional–Reform. My parents wanted with all their might to provide us with a good education, both a traditional and a general education at one and the same time, as far as was possible in those days and within the town. I always remember a sentence that my father often repeated to me: “We are not especially rich and we cannot leave you a large inheritance. But one thing we are determined to give our children is a good, broadly– based education. These are the foundations of your future and you will draw upon it all your lives.” Today I see how right he was.

My father was very active in various public works in town. His own broad education, honesty and dedication to his fellow–man, paved the way to public activity in all the Jewish institutions in town. He was loved by all and wanted to help everyone to the best of his ability. The first days of the week were dedicated almost entirely to public activities and meetings. According to Polish law, businesses and workshops were closed on Sundays and thus Jewish people were able to devote their time to other activities especially public institutions. My father was a member of the local Zionist Council helping significantly in collecting money for the Foundation Fund of Israel and there was no Zionist institute in which he did not play some part, or motivated others to take part. He fought a stubborn battle against all the anti–Zionists and against any activity that obstructed the re–building of Palestine.

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Aharon Berger

Aharon Berger

To our good fortune, only a handful of residents refused to cooperate with the Zionists while the great majority of the town's Jews were significantly aware of Zionism.

In addition to his blessed work in that field he was active in almost all the social and cultural institutions in town among which one may mention:

  1. A member of the Community Council for a number of years;
  2. A founder–member of the Artisan's Society in town;
  3. Chairman of the Cooperative Bank in town and was counted among the founders and managers throughout the years, from its birth until the destruction of the town. He dedicated much of his time and energies to its development and the prosperity of the bank and was considered its living spirit;
  4. Chairman of the “Sick–visits” committee in town for many years;
  5. Active member of the “Zamir” library and encouraged different cultural activities initiated by “Zamir”.
Apart from his special activities in these institutions he assisted and acted in smaller foundations. With his activities in all these public institutions in town he still gave decisive preference to his involvement with his Zionist activities and on more than one occasion he cancelled meetings with another public or social group if it clashed with a Zionist meeting in which he needed to take part.

In spite of his dedication to public work the first of his concerns was always his family. He was a devoted father to his children and a good husband to his wife. The whole week he worried about providing for his family while Shabbat and the festivals were reserved for the family. On those occasions we would go out of town together for an excursion to the surrounding countryside, where beautiful forests encompassed the town, with small streams and productive farmlands (the soil in our county was among the most fertile in Poland). On these excursions we talked about our studies and education and our father would deepen our knowledge by explaining and completing the information we already had. We would read a popular book on science, converse on what was happening in Palestine and have lively arguments about it all. These excursions were special events for me and they are deeply etched in my memories.

My father was an educated man. He commanded several languages, a rare accomplishment in those days: Polish, Yiddish, Russian, German and a little Hebrew. Before his marriage he taught Russian in the town of Skala, near Miechów. He was very interested in

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general literature and we had a small library in our house that he had acquired with his limited means. In addition to the daily Yiddish newspaper we were also subscribed to various weeklies. After work our father would arrive home and read the papers and books until late at night. He was also competent in mathematics and helped me enormously with my school work. It was due to his persistence and guidance that I was able to gain entrance to the Polish government gymnasium, whose doors were not open to the Jews.

With the completion of my studies at the gymnasium my father came up with the idea of sending me to Palestine to continue studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Even then it was clear that the numerus clausus was in operation in the Polish universities. My father insisted – almost physically – that I leave Poland and travel to Palestine and invested much effort in order to make it possible for me to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In his heart perhaps he sensed the Holocaust that was to befall Poland's Jews and wanted me to be the bridgehead for the rest of my family who perhaps will immigrate after me. To my sadness the Fates decided otherwise.

In 1935 I immigrated to Palestine and became a student at the Hebrew University, and the family thought that in due course I would be followed by my younger brother, Shlomo and afterwards my parents. For four years, until the outbreak of war, I was in close correspondence with my parents and I knew what was going on in town and at home. Heart and soul I was with them and I hoped that in time we would all be together again in Palestine. Before we had time to realize our dream World War Two broke out.

My father escaped from the Miechów ghetto a short time before its liquidation. According to what I was told by survivors and members of the family who survived, he hid for a long time in a bunker in very difficult conditions and constant danger at one of the farms in the surrounding villages. To my joy, he managed to survive the war and with the liberation of Poland and the fall of Hitler in 1945 he returned to Miechów together with a few other Jewish survivors. He lived in a room with the few other members of the family.

A number of letters arrived from him after the war but I don't know if he received my replies. The fact of his survival of the Holocaust I discovered in the press. Others told me that he was planning to leave Poland and join me in Palestine. On one of the Mondays in August 1945 he went to one of the surrounding villages to pick up some money due to him from one of the farmers, dating back to a business transaction from before the war. Towards evening, on his way back to town and just a few kilometers away from home, he was shot dead by a member of the Armia Krajowa, remainders of which were raiding in the area. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery of Miechów that had been totally destroyed and his was the first burial to take place in there after the Holocaust. Who knows if it still exists?

That was the bitter fate of my father, who had survived the “Seven Levels” of the Nazi hell, saw the liberation with his own eyes and was on the brink of immigrating and joining his only surviving son – his dream since childhood – and it was denied him.

May these few lines be taken as a memorial to a life rich in deeds and Zionist and blessed public activities. May his memory be blessed.

In a few words I will memorialize the rest of my family.

My mother, Simcha (Sala), née Wroblewski, was the daughter of an exemplary religious family. She completed elementary school and learned how to sew women's clothes at a vocational school in Warsaw, becoming a very competent seamstress. For many years she contributed significantly to the economic stability of the household through her work. My mother was a significant factor – if not a deciding one – in our education, to which she devoted the best of her efforts. She worked industriously from early morning until evening and all her efforts were directed to the welfare of her husband and children. She was also active in public affairs, Zionism and assisted in a number of enterprises for the redemption of the Homeland.

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Shlomo (Zelek) Berger (Z”L)
 
Simcha (Sala) Berger (Z”L)

 

She had exquisitely good taste for beauty and made sure she gave her children a good social education so that when the time came they would be prepared to integrate with the world and its mores. She especially made sure to instill in us the foundations of good behaviour in public, courtesy and the love of one's neighbor.

The fate of our mother was as with the fate of the other Jews of the town. With the liquidation of the ghetto she was sent to an extermination camp and there she returned her soul to her Maker.

May her memory be blessed.

My young brother Shlomo (Zelek), was younger than I by six years, handsome and excellent in his studies at school both primary and elementary. He completed gymnasium in Miechów two months before the outbreak of war, in June 1939. At that time I commenced the procedure to bring him to Palestine as a student at the Hebrew University. The riots at the time obstructed my plans. He was liked by his friends and loved life and was aware of events around him. He had great energy and was quick to make decisions. He was interested in the Jewish youth movements in town even though he was not a subscribed member to any one of them officially because the constitution of the school forbad its pupils to belong to any youth organization not approved of by the school. At the time of the war, he fled the ghetto and joined the Polish partisans. Since he knew Polish very well he integrated well in the group and was involved with his friends from school, he had no difficulty in being accepted by them. Thus he wanted to avenge his mother's blood and that of all the other Jews who had been sent to the extermination camps. In one of his operations he was injured and he found his way to our father in his bunker. Our father in great danger managed to get some medicine for him from Krakow that saved him and removed him from danger. But he couldn't stay with our father in the hideout. His strong desire to punish the Nazi enemy forced him back to the partisans and the forest.

Again he was injured in one of the operations and returned to the hideout. But this time our father was unable to help him. My father was unable to do anything and he died in my father's arms. He buried him with his own hands at midnight. His last words were: “Father, save me; I want to live!” I can imagine my father's feelings at that time, as his son breathed his last in front of him and he could do nothing to save him. His burial place is not known. May his memory be for a blessing.

That was the tragic fate of my dear family. May G–d avenge their blood.


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From the “Visionary of Lublin” to the “Grandfather” of Miechów
(The family tree of Mr. Ya'acov–Yitzhak Blatt (Z”L)

by Dov Yerushalmi

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Rabbi Avraham Eliezer Ha–Levi Horowitz (ZT'L)[1] sired the Holy Rabbi Ya'acov Yitzhak the “Visionary of Lublin” (ZT'L) and a daughter, Mrs. Esther, who married Rabbi Berekhya Blatt.

  1. Rabbi Berekhya Blatt sired Elimelech–Shmuel and settled in Izbica. Berekhya Blatt died and his wife, the widow Esther, sent her son, Eliezer–Shmuel to her brother, the Holy Rabbi Ya'acov Yitzhak (ZT'L) and he was educated there,
  2. Elimelech–Shmuel married Yokhed née Richter, the daughter of Berish Harif of Zarnovitza. The Rabbi Reuven from Zarnovitza, the author of “ Duda'im B'Sadeh” on the Torah was the uncle of Yokhed.

    Elimelech–Shmuel and his wife, Yokhed Richter in Zarnovitza had the following children: Berish, Avraham–Eliezer, Esther, Rivka, Perl, Hava, Berekhya and the youngest, Rabbi Ya'acov–Yitzhak.

  3. Ya'acov–Yitzhak married Krayndle the daughter of Yona and Golda Porecki. Yona was the son of Rabbi Yitzhak and his wife Freydl. Rabbi Ya'acov Yitzhak and his wife Krayndle had the following children: 1. Avraham–Moshe, 2. Berekhya, 3. Esther–Hanna, 4. Freydl, 5. Yona, 6. Yosef–David.
  1. Avraham–Moshe married Zlota–Perl the daughter of Rabbi Berol Yurister(?) of Zarnovitza, and settled in Działoszyce and later in Łódź. They had: A. Rivka. B. Yokhed, C. Aharon, D. Zainvel, E. Yona, F. Elimelech, G. Yosef, H. Golda, I. Baruch, J. Meir, K. Eliezer. With the outbreak of war they moved to Slomniki. Perl became ill and died on the journey in 1940; Avraham–Moshe was evacuated from the town on 9th June 1942 to Chodów, between Miechów and Charsznica, where he was shot and died a martyr's death.
  1. Rivka married Fajwel Rozenek the son of Rabbi Avraham. Their children were: Elimelech, Yisroel, Hinda, Micha'el, Yona, Krayndle and Miriam. Krayndle and Miriam perished in the Holocaust it is not known where; their son, Yisroel immigrated to Palestine in1940; from Łódź their daughter Hinda immigrated to Argentina during the 30's and married Teitelboim; their children, Micha'el and Yona remained alive and immigrated to Argentina.
  2. Yokhed married Meir the son of Rabbi Shimon Kaufman from Chielmnik. They had: Hinda, Yosef, Bella, Krayndle (Kielce). Yokhed died suddenly; Meir perished in the Holocaust, it is not known where; their son Yosef drowned in Warsaw when he was 20; their daughter, Hinda married Simcha Heller. They survived and moved to California with their son Yosef; the daughters, Bella and Krayndle also survived and live in Warsaw.
  3. Aharon married Doba the daughter of Haim–Yosef Zeitzbend(?); they perished in the Holocaust and no one knows where.
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  1. Zainvel married Faygle née Schmidt in Krakow. They had a daughter and they lived in Krakow. On 9>sup>th June 1942 they were transported to Chodów where they perished.
  2. Yona married Esther the daughter of Yisroel–Moshe from Biała Woda, Slomniki. They had the following children: Avigdor, Berish, Krayndle, (Slomniki). Yona perished in Chodów on 18th December 1942; Avigdor (HY”D)[2] died in an unknown location and Krayndle perished in Warsaw. Esther and her son Berish survived and live in Tel–Aviv.
  3. Elimelech married Rachel the daughter of Yosef Pinczowski from Chielmnik. They had a daughter Yokhed (Chielmnik). They immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and lived in Kiryat Motzkin. Rachel (Z”L) was killed in a road accident in 1956 and Elimelech (Z”L) died 9th September 1965.
  4. Yosef married Tova the daughter of Rabbi Yeshaye Greitzer of Charsznica. They had children: Shalom–Yonatan and Dov. They immigrated to Palestine and lived in Afula. Yosef and his son Shalom died in Afula. Dov was born in Palestine in 1926 and lives today in Neve–Oz, near Petah Tikvah.
  5. Golda married Avraham Shalom the son of Rabbi Shlomo Ha–Cohen, of Biała Bołądź. They had two daughters. Golda and the two girls perished in Chodów 9th September 1942. Rabbi Avraham–Shalom perished on an unknown date and in an unknown place.
  6. Baruch married Hanna Gottesgenaden from Łódź. They both survived and live in Palestine.
  7. Meir and his wife, Sala, née Goldkorn, lived in Łódź, their residence up until the Holocaust; they perished in Chodów 9th June 1942
  1. Berekhya married Sarah the daughter of Tsvi Hirsch Ha–Cohen Zylbermann of Zvierzyniec. Their children were A. Sheyndil, B. Yona, C. Elimelech–Shmuel, D. Haim, E. Dina, F. Dov, G. Golda, H. Yokhed. They immigrated to Palestine in 1936 with their children, except Elimelech who is in France and Golda who perished in Poland. They both died in Haifa.
  1. Elimelech–Shmuel married {blank in original text – Trans.} (Lille, France).
  2. Haim married Sarah and they had a son, Elisha (Palestine).
  3. Dina married Avraham Kupermintz, and they live in Haifa.
  4. Dov married Reyle née Schwarzbaum and they had a son, Tsvi–Yehuda (Haifa).
  5. Yokhed married Shimon Grynberg and was widowed. She lives in Haifa.
  1. Esther–Hanna married Rabbi Mordecai, the son of Rabbi Alter–Yechiel Friedman. Their children were: A. Rivka–Rachel, B. Yona, C. Freydl–Etke, D. Yosef, E. Yisroel, F. Perl, G. Kalman. They lived in Krakow and perished in Chodów on 9th June 1942.
  1. Rivka–Rachel married Yehezkiel the son of Rabbi Yosef–Baruch Ha–Cohen Kahan. They lived in Krakow. Their children were: Alter–Yechiel, Avraham. They all perished in the Holocaust.
  2. Yona married Faygle née Walter in Warsaw and their children were: Ruth and Aharon–Yechiel (Warsaw). They all perished in the Holocaust.
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  1. Freydl–Etke married Yehoshua Dresner and they lived in Krakow. They had two children, Mala and Yosef. They all perished in the Holocaust.
  2. Yosef
  3. and Yisroel survived and live in the United States.
  4. Perl perished in the Holocaust.
  5. Kalman was saved and lives in Israel.
  1. Freydl married Rabbi Leibush Bachmeir. Their children were A, Berish, B. Shmuel, C. Malka,
  1. Golda. She later married again to Rabbi Mendel Bornstein and they had two daughters: Tamril and Krayndle.
  1. Berish Bachmeir and his wife, Leah, the daughter of Mendel Feigenblatt in Miechów, they had Zelda. All perished in the Holocaust.
  2. Shmuel and his wife, Hava, the daughter of Yosef Rosenberg of Sosnowica, they had David, Krayndle and Raizel. All were lost in the Holocaust.
  3. Malka married Eliezer Mintz from Szymkowicz and they lived in Sosnowica. They had two children Shlomo and Krayndle. All perished in the Holocaust.
  1. Yona and his wife Dwashe the daughter of Avraham Rozenek from Działoszyce, lived in Krakow. They had the following children: Golda, Moshe, Micha'el and Miriam. Dwashe died towards the end of the 20's in Krakow. Yona immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and died in 1965. Miriam married Tsvi Horowitz and lives in Tel–Aviv.
  2. Yosef–David and his wife Brayndl, the daughter of Yisroel–David Spiegel and Tamril, who is the daughter of Yona Poretski. Their children were: Golda, Yokhed, Yona, Benyamin and Elimelech–Shmuel. Of those only Yokhed remained alive; she married Avraham Rosenblatt and lives in Haifa.
* * *

The Holy Rabbi Ya'acov–Yitzhak (ZT”L), the “Visionary of Lublin” sired Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Hirsch; Rabbi Yosef sired Rabbi Eliezer,

Rabbi Eliezer married Rachel the daughter of Rabbi Yosef–Baruch Ha–Levi nicknamed “The Good Jew of Nowe–Miasto”, the son the Rabbi Kalonymus the author of “Or ve–Semesh” – also his nickname – on the Torah. Their children were: the Holy Rabbi Haim–Shmuel and Rabbi of Khentshin (ZT”L).

Rabbi Haim–Shmuel had two sons: the Holy Rabbi Herschel and Rabbi Eliezer.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. “May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing” Return
  2. Hashem Yinkom Damo = “G–d will avenge his blood” Return


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The Wealthy of the Town

by Hannia Feigenbaum–Zyngerman

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The Feigenbaum Family History

There is a house on Charsznica Street with many apartments but part of it is separated from the main block. It has a large glass sliding door. There is nothing special about it apart from its sparkling cleanliness. It is the Hotel–Restaurant of my grandfather David (Z”L).

The pedestrian, the wagon–master, the peddler, the businessman – all who pass by are attracted to it.

From the point of view of Jewish settlement my town is considered “young” – about a hundred years. I know from rumors that my great–grandfather, Bunim Feigenbaum was the richest man in town. Where did he come from? Who was he? So very little is known about him. I never thought the day would come when I should want to know so much about him. All that I know about him is that he completed the ten men necessary for the first prayer quorum in town and because of that they nicknamed him “Lord of the Quorum”. He had five sons and four daughters, seven of them – David, Shlomo, Ya'acov, Haim–Leib, Miriam, Rivka and Hanna – lived in Miechów until the outbreak of World War Two and until the Holocaust came upon them.

His first–born, David, had four sons and one daughter. That hotel and restaurant was the commercial life of the town. The wagon–masters, businessmen, marriage–brokers, traders from the weekly market – all gathered there as if it was their own home. One of my father's (Z”L) occupations for a time was as a wagon–master and my uncle Ovshei, was the town's marriage broker – a sort of Hershel the clown of Ostropole because of the many stories told about his practical jokes and pranks that he delighted in staging.

My grandfather David was very precise and particular about “the small print” and something of an entertainer. While he was a soldier during the “Phoney War” of 1905 with Japan, he played in the military band. On the festival of Purim he would read the Scroll of Esther and many would come to hear him.

The meals and their popular dishes were famous. The celebrations that took place to honor the Rabbi of the Hassidim attracted the entire town; Yudele Koval, David Herschel. Shia, the whole family Weill – everyone who was anyone; they all came.

The noble–faced grandmother Sarah'leh used to sit reading the newspaper “Heint” or “Moment” and when someone dared – Heaven forbid – raise his voice, Moshe–Leib the “keeper of the peace” would fix his stare on him and the man's voice would die in the throat of the offender. There were those who would say: “We know he has great affection for her”; there were others who would say: “Grandma's fattened goose.”

In 1920 Shmuel Fogel, Avrahamele Goldberg, Haim Feureisen, Yankl Zalcberg and Gitler and saved for a long life, the people from “Mizrahi”, met there and there it was decided to buy some dunams[1] of land in the “Holy Land”. In 1925 Grandfather and family immigrated to Palestine.

Grandfather's first–born, Moshe – my father (Z”L) – married Miriam Sosnowski from Kielce, and her brothers Moshe and Leibe Sosnowski, lived in our house. Our close family members were so many that we, the youngsters, found it hard to determine who was who and from which family.

Our mother's house (our father was almost never at home) was a sort of “underground” for the younger members of “Young Zionists”. Here Meir G. Tova Z. clandestinely brought their belongings before going off to training camp for leaders of the “Young Zionists”. Here they brought their torn trousers for repairs after an excursion of the movement, in order to be able to return home as if nothing had happened. My mother always helped with a secret smile to herself.

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My father held every position. He was also “in training”: when someone was immigrating to Palestine my father would return from the railway station depressed and irritated murmuring sadly: “All of them, all of them – only me not! only me, not!”…In all his jobs it was “only temporary”, until we, too, immigrate, therefore – “Much toil and only a little blessing.”

In 1913 on the eve of the war, he was working as an iron–welder in Skala and constructing balconies in iron. Once he returned home for a weekly visit and never went back to work there because in the meantime war broke out and his salary and work tools remained there in Skala. The “Mond Rice” were produce dealers introduced him to that field. He visited the various farms and villages, buying and selling geese, field crops and whatever came to and in exchange for his success we ate and sustained ourselves.

When our grandfather emigrated from Poland we lost his help – and hardship descended upon our house. The torments and sufferings of finding a living were hard. In 1929 anti–Semitism began to grow, the farmers attempted to avoid payment of their debts and once, in the village of Komarów my father was almost murdered, and only his physical condition and resourcefulness saw him through.

Again unemployed, he wandered the streets, standing near “The Statue”, idle conversations, jokes and a new job – “Transportation Company”, but in that enterprise fortune again failed to smile on him. The partners, Tchaikovsky, Lansberg, Pinczowski and my father managed to get out from the business with great difficulty. Following that things began to improve with father “holding the whip” with horses and a wagon hauling flour to Silesia. They would go in convoy because of the danger on the roads from the villagers of Działoszyce, Slomniki, Wolbrom and others. The house was again noisy with joyfulness and a little ease. The new way of life was created that of a wagon–driver, I heard my father making jokes about how intelligent his horses were: “They eat newspapers.” The “wagon–master” also turned out to be just another “in the meantime”.

My father never got to immigrate to Palestine; only I did, followed by my brother.

Regarding my brother's fate, between 1933 and 1939 some messages of “regards” arrived, reports from friends who immigrated, but the information was always mixed with bitterness and sadness about the fate of a youth and his sufferings, about journeys down endless roads, in the cold, rain and snow, a youth losing his youth.

In 1939, he joined the Polish army and was sent to the front. When the army retreated to Romania he was the driver for an army Major. In Sulina, a small port in Romania was the “Skaria” a “Beitar” organized ship and the last immigrant ship to leave Romania and my brother's soul yearned to sail with her but she was well–overloaded. My brother managed to steal aboard as stowaway along with 2,500 other people. Nevertheless, the “illegal” among the “Illegals” was discovered. But the ship had already set sail. She was caught eventually by the British blockade and here passengers transferred to Atlit.

After about six months my brother was released so he could enlist in the British army. He fought in Africa, Tripoli, and Italy – five and a half years he was in the war. In 1946 the end of hostilities saw the end of his wanderings and he settled in Palestine.


Translator's Footnote

  1. One dunam = 1000 Sq. Meters Return


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A Tombstone for my Family – Like a Thousand Others

by Meir Goldberg

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Somewhere or another there must be some remnant of clothing after that horrifying storm, some isolated twigs and branches from a tree of such magnificence.

And in the isolation of that loneliness it shouts. The taste for living has gone: but in the sad loneliness of an orphan there is yet a desire for some sort of day–to–day life and the worrying concern of future life, perhaps the hope for the future, a vision of the family that was, so multi–branched. It proffers a taste for life and overcomes sleepless nights, drenched in perspiration of fright and panic. Nights in which one cries…

We “belonged” to the point of blurred borders between “uniqueness” and privacy. We were so many and to each one a name and family tradition. Perhaps the “uniqueness” found expression in the internal life of each of us, in the weaving of future dreams. But in tradition, family respect and glory, we were an example of a multi–faceted unit.

There were families woven into the mosaic fabric of our town with their sons spread over the country and beyond. But the root, the source, the belonging was in the town itself. Few were the number of “small” or “tragic” families, such as Unger (Z”L) that slowly became reduced in number until no one was left. There was the Kornfeld family upon whose last remaining member the horror of the Holocaust fell with the oppressor's (Y.S.[1]) axe and left behind small orphaned families, like spread fingers stretched towards heaven, terrible and like us, orphans.

I am trying to erect a tombstone to one name to one family among thousands like it – the Fogel family. I was connected to it in a close–distant way, distant and close.

There was only one brother in the family, Shmuel and seven daughters. The daughters married “other” names. But the “Fogel” prevailed. You could say: “Goldberg of the Fogels.”…

Every one of the sisters, on marrying, called the first–born son by the father's name; there were: Meir Schwitzer, Meir Nirberg, Meir Lescha, Meir Fogel and Meir Goldberg. Two of the daughters were sterile and one gave birth only to daughters.

Miriam married Ya'acov Lescha and gave birth to sons: Hershel and Meir and a daughter Hinda; Leah married Fayvl Chenczinski and had two daughters, Rivka and Bluma had no sons. Perl, the wife of Nahum from Olkusz, was sterile. Baltshe married the owner of an estate in the vicinity of Działoszyce; she too had no children. Rivka, the wife of Yitzhak Schwitzer from Będzin, had Meir, a son and Sarah, a daughter. My mother married Avraham Goldberg of Będzin. They had Haya Baltshe, Malka and me and my little sister Sarah'leh. The brother Shmuel was the first–born. Everyone esteemed him. Shmuel stood head and shoulders above us all and was among the first of the “Lovers of Zion” in our town and the activists in “Mizrahi”. It was natural that the delegates from the “Foundation Fund for Israel” would stay in our house. It seems that it was their influence that drew my father to join the ranks of the “Mizrahi”. When I bring to mind the extermination of uncle Shmuel in the time of the Nazis (Y.D.), I cannot imagine him among those who “went as lambs to the slaughter” and I want to see him with an aura of heroism surrounding him. They said of him that on the days of one of the pogroms, he blocked the door of the house and stopped the mob from getting in.

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Shmuel married Rachel and they had two sons: Meir and Moshe. The “Sejm” a gathering of the womenfolk of the family, met every evening in Miriam's spotless and shining house. The husbands were accustomed to it and surrendered to the wishes of “togetherness” of the sisters. There were pivotal evenings when family decisions were made; there were meetings for festivals full of warmth and open–heartedness. In those meetings many topics were discussed like, help for the needy, discussions on politics and so on. They also discussed the luminaries of the Talmud. I especially remember the “warnings” that were issued to everyone whenever the aunts Baltshe or Perl were expected in town; I remember the discussions between the sisters: “When an aunt comes to visit, aunt Sheyndil will take the baggage to her house and the others take the guests.”…

My father came from Będzin to Miechów as a young “green” Yeshiva student; a few ups and downs ensued but eventually his funds increased. It appears that together with Mordecai Reuven he bought part of Kornfeld's house where he opened a wine business together with uncle Shmuel and they were partners in the trust run by Maltinski of Charsznica, for cognac and other distilled liquors. He slowly became involved in the life of the town, he was the sexton of the main synagogue and a member of the Burial Society, a member of the board of “Charity for the Needy” and active in “Mizrahi”, he was a regular in the synagogue Friday evenings and known for his modern rendering of “Lecha Dodi”. His education was in German and Polish and it made a name for him but it didn't prevent him from making connections with the municipal heads in town – in the police, city hall or provincial government. If a Jewish resident required a favour from the authorities, my father was the “address” to go to. My mother Hanna came from the Russian school. We loved to hear her declaim from Pushkin even though we understood almost nothing. She was a housewife to her very soul. We loved to see her face light up when she welcomed guests. It seemed to us that there was no sorrow or worry that her light would fail to lessen the sadness of. My sister, Chaitshe stayed home; Baltshe was always with her friends; Malka studied in Będzin. I was in the youth movements and always up to some kind of mischief; a member of a group of “reptiles” and our nickname was “Antak”. My sister Sarah'leh was little when I left home. And what remains from all the family? A child could count them on the fingers of one hand.

I heard from the Red Cross that my father died from illness in 1941, in the ghetto; my mother, a real “Yiddishe Momma”, and her two daughters, little Sarah and Baltshe, who married Zukerman from Sosnowica and gave birth to a daughter, perished in Chodów, as did most of the Jews of the town. Shmuel Fogel and his wife Rachel, a wonderful woman – a little strange to us because of her beauty and habits, the habits of an urbanite – and their son Moshe, perished, apparently, together with my mother and my sisters and only the lawyer, Meir remained. All the rest of the family were cut down and left no trace behind them.

I have tried to create here, a tombstone for one name, one family I am certain that many of my town's residents or from other towns will bow their heads in silence and will say to themselves: “Was it not thus also with me? With my family?”

Yes! We remained extensions and shreds of cloth after that terrible storm, solitary and sad branches and in our hearts the echo of memories of a many–branched and glorious tree.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Yimakh Shemo = “May his name and memory be obliterated” Return


[Page 146]

The writer Israel Zarchi
(1909–1947)

by S. D. Yerushalmi

Translated by Selwyn Rose

mie146.jpg
Israel Zarchi

Israel Zerach Gertler (Z”L), known by his pen–name, “Israel Zarchi”, who in his short life managed to enrich the new Hebrew literature with 13 of his original books and two exemplary books from world literature that he translated into Hebrew, was born in Jędrzejów to one of the respected families.

He was born on 6th October 1909 at the end of the festival of Succoth to his father, Rabbi Shimon Gertler and his wife, Hinda the daughter of Rabbi Zalman Sternfeld, the owner of the Skroniów estate, near Jędrzejów. His mother died a short time after his birth and the orphans – his sisters, Shprintzer(?) and Rosa and he – the youngest – were brought up by their paternal grandmother, Esther Gertler of Miechów–Charsznica. From there he went for training to Grochów, a suburb of Warsaw and from there immigrated to Palestine. In his letter, that he sent to his friend Haim Toren on 7th May 1946, (about a year before his death), in reply to one sent to him concerning Volume three of “Our Beautiful Literature from Bialik Until Today”, are found some interesting insights into his life. This is what he wrote:

“I received a free and liberal education in Polish (until I learned Yiddish from my friends, I was already a young man). At first I studied at a Polish National school and afterwards at the Jewish Gymnasium in Kielce where the teaching language was Polish. In that Gymnasium there was also the possibility of studying in Hebrew but – because I had excellent grades in all my subjects (except Hebrew) – I was exempted from taking part in lessons on Judaism and for many years I knew nothing of our language. When I was 15 or 16, I spent some time in northern Italy (in the Tyrol), in the home of an Ashkenazi family from Vienna, and while there I learned German. I returned from the Tyrol to Poland and there I became awakened to the study of Hebrew, I even went to a village of pioneers – Grochów – near Warsaw that was a Palestinian kibbutz in all essentials, and stayed there for more than a year.

In 1929 I immigrated to Palestine as a pioneer: in the beginning I lived in the huts of the pioneers in Petah Tikvah on public land and worked making the new road from Petah Tikva to Kfar Saba. For personal reasons, I transferred to Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha and stayed there for more than

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a year working mainly in the citrus groves and the cow–sheds and prepared ground for planting citrus saplings for the artist Reuven and his brother. One day I was told that we would have a special planting ceremony in the grove – and the first sapling would be planted by Bialik. I wasn't present at the beginning of the planting – who was I – a young pioneer walking after the cows. Only the following day when I came to work did I find out and I was filled with anger.

When I left Givat Hashlosha I was a “day–worker” in the citrus groves of Kfar Saba; but because at that time the trees didn't bear fruit, in the winter I moved between Petah Tikvah in winter picking oranges and thus I was, for a couple of years a seasonal worker in the citrus groves: in summer in Kfar Saba working in the citrus groves and in the summer picking oranges in Petah Tikva.

At the end of that period I wrote my first story “Youth” and the manuscript wandered around together with me from place to place. Then I moved to Tel–Aviv working on a building in Yehuda Halevi Street and all the horrors that I endured still make my heart flutter to this day. In 1932 I entered – on the recommendation of Bialik – the Hebrew University and my time there is certainly well–known to you. I completed my studies there with my degree in the Humanities in 1938, although it had never been my intention from the start to study just to obtain a certificate, but as my studies progressed there awoke within me the urge to compete and I passed the entrance exams; from that came the impulse to acquire Hebrew.

In 1934 I went to Iraq, losing my way in the desert and forsaken places several times in the near east and as a result of that I wrote “The Oil Flows to the Mediterranean Sea”. In 1938, with the completion of my studies at the University, I was in Europe – Italy, France and Belgium but mostly in England. I studied at London University at a special course for foreign academics. Of those travels I wrote “Traveling Light”. The list of my journeys would be incomplete without mentioning what may appear to be a minor point but its influence on me was no less than that of my larger ones. In the summer of 1941 I wanted to stay a couple of weeks in the Old City. I moved to an apartment under some pressure to get closer to my Jewish roots and the Land of Israel (during the days of great despair when the hand of the Nazis threatened also Palestine) influenced me significantly, and here is not the place to dwell on its nature. After my stay within the Old City walls I wrote “Adornments of Jerusalem. I think that these are the visible impressions; the hidden ones – this is not the place.

My first work, a little worthy of the name is my book “Youth” published by “Mitzpeh” Tel–Aviv 1933. Here I must mention Ya'acov Fichman, who was its first reader and he it was who recommended it in writing to the publishers. The second is Asher Barash. I took part in the editing “A Jerusalem anthology of Literature”, (published by Achiasaf in Jerusalem 1942, edited by Israel Zarchi, Ezra Menahem and Haim Toren).

My book “The Oil Flows to the Mediterranean Sea” we will translate into Polish and my book “Micha'eli's Big Day” to Yiddish and Polish (two separate translations); sections of the book “Adornments of Jerusalem” to English; “Shimson the Perfume Marketer” – to Hebrew; more I don't know. I translated Heinrich von Kleists “Michael Kohlhaas” (from the German) and the stories of Josef Konrad and W. Somerset–Maugham from the English.”

Thus far his epistle.

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Already in his younger years Israel Zarchi suffered with serious problems from his lungs and was sent to Miran. His health improved and they hoped that he was out of a danger that had caused concern for his life. He married and had two daughters: Nurit and Michal, and he devoted himself completely with all his being to his blessed talent for writing. These are the books that were published: 1. “Youth”, a novel, published by “Mitzpeh, Tel–Aviv 1933; 2. “Barefoot Days”, a novel, published by “Mitzpeh” 1935; 3. “The Oil Flows to the Mediterranean Sea”, published by “Palestine Book Publishers”, Jerusalem, 1937, second edition, above, 1939; 4. “Journey without Baggage”, (pages from a travelogue), published by “Palestine Book Publishers” , Jerusalem, 1939; 5. “Mount Scopus”, four years from the life of Daniel Geffen, a novel, published by “Achiasaf”, Jerusalem, 1940; 6. “Grandmother's Destroyed House”, a story, published at first by “Achiasaf”, Jerusalem, 1941, (later by “Omer” – the evening newspaper of “Davar”); 7. “Adornments of Jerusalem”, paths in the Old City, , published by “Adi”, Tel–Aviv, 1933; 8. “Blazing Archive”, a cycle of stories, published by “Achiasaf”, Jerusalem, 1933 (these stories were first published in different literary collections); 9. “The Evil Days”, two stories (A. Death of the Doctor; B. The Preacher), published by “Ofer”, Jerusalem, 1948; 10. “An Unsown Land”, a novel, published by “Am Oved”, (“Lador” library) Tel–Aviv, 1946; 11. “The Fathers' Inheritance”, a story, published by Reuven Maas, Jerusalem, 1946; 12. “For What”, a story, published by “Sifriat Hashaot”, Tel–Aviv, 1946; 13. “Kfar Shiloah”, a novel, published by “Am Oved”, (“Lador” library), Tel–Aviv, 1948. Translations: “The Hour of Strength”[1], W. Somerset–Maugham, 1945 (from the English) and “Stories From the Grapevine”, Joseph Konrad, 1945.

In addition to stories and monographs not included in anthologies of his works, manuscripts, “Records of Meetings and Conversations” which are of the nature of a literary journal, “Machanim” an historical story the first chapter of which was published in “Kama” – the annual of the Foundation Fund of Israel for the year 1948 edited by Natan Bistritzky, and “Michael Kohlhaas” by Heinrich von Kleist, that was translated from the German.

While he was at the peak of success with his literary career, he fell ill with a malignant disease that put an end to his fruitful life. In his monograph, “A Character Portrayal” the literary critic and his best friend Haim Toren, wrote:

“…and fate decided that his life and productivity, which was running parallel to his constant difficult and bitter struggles should end just when all the winds of the world were blowing in his favor and his ship of life plowed towards its target with strength and security. How proud our hearts were when we saw him, four months before his death, crowned with the “Jerusalem Prize” named for David Yellin – we were partners in his joy, his achievements and victories but who could think or expect that such an achievement would be the last station in the chapter of his life? Who could imagine that his beautiful words, heartfelt and considered, coming from his heart – of a man that he gave voice to, and gave witness to his maturity of thought and understanding, were his last utterances, coming from the heart of a man fatally ill and in his last days?

About one hundred and twenty days he struggled with a bitter death. On the morning of Friday 8th of July, 1947 he was released from his agony and taken from us before telling us all that was in his heart…and while his heart was overflowing with sweet dreams of life and his creativity, his pen slipped from his hand in the prime of his success, his flowering, his striving onwards and upwards, cut down one of the pleasant, refreshing stately oaks in the in our literary grove…”

With the end of the thirty–days mourning period, a memorial service was held under the auspices of the Hebrew Writers Society in Jerusalem at which his teacher and mentor Professor Joseph Klausner (Z”L), gave the principle address in memory of the departed. Among other things he said:

[Page 149]

“Israel Zarchi was plucked from our midst at the pinnacle of his flowering, at the moment that his talents gave the final touch to his maturity. During nearly fifteen years (1933 – 1947), he managed to have published in his life, ten major books, apart from many short stories, and apart from a large number that we will publish posthumously. Each book was a rung in the ladder of development, that the book which followed was one step higher on the ladder than its predecessor in its perfection and outlook, speculation and design.

He was my student, a talented and dear student and they are very few who will mourn his untimely passing more than I.

He was one of the first graduates of the University. His thesis was, if I am not mistaken, on “The Hebrew novel during the period of the “Haskala'”; the work made an impression on me and I recommended that it was worthy of publication. It is most certainly to be found as manuscript among Zarchi's papers or the University archives and it is seemly to find it and publish it”

He concluded by saying:

His creations signify new avenues of writing our native Hebrew. Let us collect all his writings in two or three volumes and put them into the hands of our sons and daughters. Thus the soul of our dear Israel Zarchi – as a writer and as a man – will be woven together with his eternal people in its eternal language.”

In 1949 – about two years after the passing of Zarchi, “A Literary Anthology in Memory of Israel Zarchi” published as “Decorations”, edited by his friend Haim Toren, in which acknowledged writers and poets took part, dedicating a work in his memory, appeared. Also published in that volume were a few chapters from Zarchi's diary, a biography of his life, a bibliography of his books and editorial comments published about them and some of his letters.


Translator's Footnote

  1. No direct reference was found for this title, nor any title that could be a reasonable English rendering or paraphrase; possibly one of an anthology by W. Somerset–Maugham – Trans. Return


Shmuel Nahum Chanowsky

by Moshe Spiegel

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Few among us can remember the unique character in our town, of the teacher of religion in the elementary school and later the “Mizrahi” school, Shmuel Nahum Chanowsky.

When he arrived in Miechów he was already old. According to him he was a friend of Nahum Sokolow, the Mendel publishers, Frishman, Krinski, Linzki and others. Because he was single, there was a certain strangeness about his habits and many thought he might be a little unstable. I had the great privilege of being counted among his students and it is my wish to write a sketch of his character of my teacher and mentor.

We were four students who learnt privately with him in my parents' home, and they were Ya'acov and Elimelech Friedrich, my brother Yona Spiegel, and I. We learned Torah, especially the book of Daniel and Aramaic grammar. Hebrew we learned through reading books that he had written: Hebrew reader, Treasury of the Hebrew Language. A special book

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of his was – examples of special expressions that had great significance as quotations from the Torah and the Talmud. Chanowsky had an incredible memory. He knew by heart every chapter and page in the Bible and Talmud and in spite of his great age never made a mistake. There were very few people who learned Torah from him but the teachers in town knew of him and his extensive, many–branched knowledge and from time to time would come to him to hear his opinion on different matters.

For two years he provided us with knowledge of the language and its treasures, and we praise him here as an outstanding pedagogue and an example to his pupils.

Chanowsky belonged to the school of “Maskilim” from the seventies of the previous century and it was a wonder to us that instead of seeking a post in one of the great cultural Jewish centers of Poland he came at the end of his days to our little town.

Eventually he fell ill, took to his bed and struggled with the Angel of Death but in vain. Lonely he walked among us and loneliness filled his soul. We, his pupils, sat at his bedside until his soul left him…

After his death the whole town – man, woman and child, Jew and Gentile, accompanied him to his last resting place; it was clear to everyone that one of our great scholars and rare scientists had left us and few like him were among us.

It was a great privilege that he came to us; in the local cemetery was the grave of a dear man whose name will never be erased from our memory.


Berish Frankel (Z”L)

by Tsvi Frankel

Translated by Selwyn Rose

“Berishel Glazer” they called him, my father (Z”L), his affectionate nickname; and not for nothing did they nickname him thus, for he loved everyone and everyone loved him and with everyone he found a common language; with scholars – and he was one of them, with young students from the “Steibl[1] because he amused them and with simple artisans because he was a glazier. He prayed every Sabbath in the synagogue of the Righteous of Gur community although his place in the “Steibl” was among the moderate orthodox. Nevertheless, he made sure that he gave a Torah–based education to his children, especially to his youngest. All week he was concerned with the sustenance of his family, he would circulate among the villages in the area fitting or replacing windows. For all that he allotted times for the Torah and I can still hear the musical sound of his voice ringing in my ears each morning when I awoke in our small house, blessed with many children. Shabbat was devoted in its entirety to study with his sons, in order to comply with the commandment: “…and thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children…” He would fulfill the Talmudic teaching: “He who cares about the eve of the Sabbath will eat well on the Sabbath day.” Therefore on Sabbath eve he involved himself with various activities and prepared for the Sabbath meal meticulously. When we returned from the “Steibl” and Friday eve prayers, the Sabbath candles were lit and the table arranged for us and we, the children and our mother (Z”L), sat around it. Father would commence with “Woman of value who will find…” and he didn't cease chanting between courses, when we all sang in chorus with him. Great joy ruled the atmosphere among us and we felt as if an additional soul had permeated the room. This aura persisted until the end of the Sabbath.

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Sabbath began with a walk to the ritual bath – in winter and summer – and afterwards Torah study eight o'clock in the Study Hall and a walk in company with the other Hassidim to the home of Rabbi Herschel in Wolbrom Street; there we drank coffee from the stove's hot–plate and tasted the tcholent also prepared the previous day and allowed to stew overnight because then it really had the taste and smell of tcholent…then again to the “Steibl” for prayers and the meal served with good dishes and seasoned with Torah and hymns as required.

After a light sleep my father would take me to the Study Hall. In winter, when the stove is hot and it's cold outside and there's snow and frost, a group of youngsters – us – sat and my father would prepare a number of questions from the weekly portion – question and answer. Between two questions he would say something humorous and using the joke would teach me something from the “Gemara”, until the elders came for the recital of Psalms. They would crowd round him and insist: “Berishel – tell us something about the deeds of the great “righteous ones”. My father was an excellent raconteur and his stories came easily and swiftly.

In education my father was notable for being somewhat heavy–handed, believing in the dictum: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” He always said: “I will not allow you to grow up ignorant and boorish.” He exploited every spare moment to teach Torah. I remember an interesting event one winter evening when we were all sitting in our warm room, my mother was knitting and my father was teaching me from the Talmud's sixth “order” on the topic of “divorce” – “He who brings a ‘get’ from abroad…”. My sister was also sitting and sewing and listening to the discussion while working. Suddenly she broke in, unable to contain herself: “Look! He hasn't yet married and already you are teaching him how to arrange a divorce!”

As a natural tendency my father tended towards socialism, perhaps from the fact that he wasn't wealthy and had many boys and girls…I was witness to many arguments he had with the young men of the town who tended towards communism. The “idea” was good he would say to them if it was accompanied with a little religion according to the spirit of our prophets it would be even better.

Once, in the “Steibl”, my father was sitting with Rabbi Yehoshua Koplewicz (Z”L) and they were chatting on this and that. Rabbi Yehoshua was complaining that he was getting fat and must go to Karlsbad for a cure but this year was impossible for him. My father listened to him and said: “Yehoshua – I have some good advice for you – take over my job for a month, come to sleep in place of me on my straw mattress, we'll put two of my boys to sleep beside you, during the day eat a little “yushka” and watery coffee and in addition carry a few panes of glass on your back to the village and I promise you that if you do this you'll be healthy very quickly and you won't need to go to go to any expense and journeys.

He was also accepted by the Christians and when he arrived among them to do some work he would debate with them on religion. I recall that he always had arguments with Pan Kozlowski, the coffin maker at his shop on Krakowa Street. Kozlowski hated the Jews and accused them of crucifying Jesus. My father occasionally tried to reason with him and prove to him he was in error and show him that our religion was a forgiving one and had broader horizons. When Kozlowski saw he couldn't win with my father he said: “I have decided to send my son to the Seminary to become a priest; when he comes to visit our town – he will have the strength to argue with you.” And indeed, after some time the priest came home and my father invited him to debate; without fear my father defended his stand and outlook. For that the Christians showed him much respect.

As a “Lover of Zion” and esteem for our ancient language my father sent me to study Hebrew, and always enjoyed hearing me when I spoke Hebrew. After my brother Arieh's marriage he received a certificate for him and he immigrated to Palestine with his wife.

My father also tried to help my other brother, Yehezkiel and our sister to immigrate although that didn't succeed: with the destruction of the Jews of Poland our town was also destroyed and together with it all the Jews and my father's family.


Translator's Footnote

  1. The “court” of a renowned rabbi and his disciples Return


[Page 152]

Esther Etil Burnstein – the wife of Rabbi Natan Ha–Levi Burnstein

by M. Sukenik

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Grandmother Esther was from the Lachs family, among the first settlers in Miechów. She received a Torah education at home just the same as the male members of the family. She knew the Torah and kept the laws of Kashrut as only the most punctilious know them.

There were two charcoal–burning stoves at home: a large one for meat preparations and a smaller one (that stood in another corner of the kitchen), for milk preparations. Also in matters of general cleanliness she was most careful. On occasion she would pour water on the hands of the kitchen maid to ensure she didn't contaminate the food.

For every question that arose, large or small, they would send me to the Rabbi; when Passover arrived they would purify the house thoroughly as commanded. The cupboard that was used for bread throughout the year they would scrub and scour well and take it outside the house with its doors towards the wall. The preparations for Passover were extensive and exhausting.

Grandmother had the habit of saying “without vows and promises” and took care never to promise something that she couldn't deliver on. She never let an oath pass her lips. I remember a typical event: she needed to attend court to give evidence. I accompanied her to the court and of course the judge asked her to give evidence under oath. But she apologized to the Judge that she had never sworn an oath in her life and therefore had

 

mie152.jpg
Rabbi Natan Ha–Levi Burnstein (Z”L)

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no intention of doing so now. The Judge spoke to her seriously and explained that it was merely a formality that she needed to comply with because otherwise her evidence could not be accepted and the man being judged may be falsely convicted of an offence because of her refusal. His pleadings were in vain and she remained adamant. The Judge gave up and the accused man walked free. On her holiness and purity an event after her passing will bear witness. Grandmother Esther passed away in Krakow during her last visit to our house. Her only son, Yekutiel Burnstein was immediately called from Katowice. He decided that the funeral should take place in Miechów; the authorities objected but eventually agreed to transfer the body to Miechów but only in a tin coffin and without permitting the ritual cleaning and preparation of the body before the interment. The vehicle with the body inside arrived directly at the cemetery accompanied by a policeman who was there to assure that the coffin wasn't opened before burial. The whole town turned out to accompany the holy lady. A miracle occurred! The policeman had a heart attack and died on the spot. Until a replacement arrived, there was time to open the coffin, purify and prepare the body and replace the body in the coffin.

May her memory be for a blessing for ever.


Haim Tennenwurcel

by Raphael Mlinarski

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Haim Tennenwurcel, the son of Itcha (Yitzhak) and grandson of Yermiyahu Blum, was born in 1919. He completed commercial school in Krakow and was the only Jewish representative on the board of the “Society of Artisans”. He was a respected Jew in our town, educated and genteel and knew the most excellent Hebrew.

In 1940 Haim Tennenwurcel began to organize our youth. Belonging to the organization were Abba Vanchadlovski, Shlomo Stein, Yitzhak Lieber, Natan Kleiner, Laybl Woznica (Z”L), while saved for a long life were: Abba Firer, Shlomo Plotnik, Brantshe Frucht, Raphael Mlinarski, Manya Zayid, Olshewski, Leyzerek Greitzer, Salzburg (Z”L). In great secrecy we met in the cellar of one of the members (Shlomo Stein, the son of Ya'acov Shia), who had used it earlier as a factory for making candles. He led debates and conversations with us on pioneering and gave us information on what was happening in the world.

The conqueror demanded that everyone should be engaged in productive labor. Most of our younger people were put to road–work and some of them in garages. Edelist Berl, Abram'tchyk Ephraim, Elimelech Fajgenbaum and I were sent to work with the German police, cleaning rooms, repairing boots, clothes, etc. Once, one of the German policemen sent me to repair his radio. With the help of Haim Pinczhowski, a graduate of the Miechów Gymnasium, whose hobby was amateur radio, we received broadcasts from abroad, and I managed to hear the radio station in England broadcasting in Polish. I met Haim T. and told him what I had heard, and he passed it on to others.

So things continued on until1941. That year the Germans began to send the Jews to labor camps. That's when the fates took Haim T. together with 50 or 60 youngsters. They were sent to Bonarka, near Krakow to work in a brick–making factory. Haim T. and Meir Grunewald were responsible for the work. Everyone loved him; he always came to help others, interested himself in everyone; he kept dreaming of how to escape to the underground.

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In 1943 he escaped to Sosnowiec and made contact with the Jewish underground. He operated with friends from the “Young Zionists”: Yushek Kozuk, Buluk Kozuk, whom he had known from before the war. Concerning him, Fredka Mazie wrote in her book “Evil in the Storm”:

“…Winter 1943. One evening we met at Lulke and Szymek's, we were surprised at the sight of two fellows sitting there that we didn't know. They were Haim Tennenwurcel and Lulak Rozencweig who had come from Krakow; they had been in Krakow for the last two months. Neither of them were residents of Krakow. Haim's home town was Miechów. Lulak was from Częstochowa. He met Haim who was then one of the responsible Jews in Bonarka (a suburb of Krakow). They both integrated in the Jewish underground operations that were active there.

Stunned, we listened to their stories. They told us about the fighting organization that two leaders of “Akiva”, Szymek Draenger and Dolek Liebeskind created, about the newspaper “The Fighting Pioneer” of the attacks against the Germans, acquisition of small–arms, the attack on the coffee–house “Cyganeria”. Without any help from outside, without the support of Poles, by their own resolve and sacrifice these few fought not only for their lives but “For three lines in history.” Haim told us about the tortures, about the harsh conditions during their arrest in the large Montelupich prison house. Haim's stories encourage us and added to our courage and energy. We felt we were not alone.

They brought with them a Yiddish song that excited all of us, a song by Mordecai Gebirtig “Es Brent” – “It's burning”. Haim and Lulak settled among us and integrated with us, partners in all we did. We provided them with all their needs and learned from their experiences. Our family grew with two more good devoted friends. (Page 118).

Also mentioned in her book:

“…––– the bunker. Haim T. was the “owner” of the bunker. He came to us last winter from Krakow and in a very short time became one of us, as if he had always been with us. Because he was “illegally” in the ghetto and didn't work for the Germans, and also had no family or home of his own, he devoted all his energies and strength to the structure. He never left the bunker from dawn until dusk.” (Page 144).

“…––– It was decided to send Haim T. to a village in the Carpathians and discover what the possibilities of hiding out there were. Haim accepted the mission, was given some food for the journey and a gift parcel of excellent woven wool; it was a very valuable weave and almost impossible to acquire. The present was intended for the village head who agreed to give Haim a genuine Christian birth certificate registered in the village's archives. Haim returned to us with the document and told us he had managed to make contact with smugglers to Slovakia. They smuggle vodka and tobacco but after a little negotiating they agreed to smuggle people as well.” (Page146).

“…––– again they succeeded in making contact with the smugglers willing to get people across the border into Slovakia and from there to Hungary and thence to Palestine. Again the two wandered from place to place, Haim and Kowa. They managed to get them accepted and organized among some farmers. They kitted them out as best as they could, with documentation, money and clothes but what happened across the border is a puzzle and unknown. Concerning Haim and Olek Guttman (now a Lieutenant–General in the Israel Defense Forces), they were required to cross over among the first group and carry explicit information.

[Page 155]

After a short while, Haim returned in a happy mood and told us he had been welcomed pleasantly by the Slovakian Jews. He told us about their constant resistance to his return and the struggle with Olek who also wanted to return. In the extensive argument that followed who will return and who remain, each came with their reasons for claiming precedence. Olek said that he was younger and relied on that and Haim T. indicated that it was precisely his greater age and experience that gave him the right. They finally decided to allow blind fate to decide and cast lots to decide who between them would return. Haim won. In spite of the warnings and pleadings from the local people Haim returned to Zwardoń and from there to Sosnowiec.

Haim was now free, he could move around without fear, he returned from a sense of responsibility for the fate of friends who wouldn't allow him to remain there. After Bolek Koz'uk's imprisonment we decided that Haim must return again to Slovakia and coordinate the whole group. He agreed and he had to go together with Ruth, her family, and with Lucia. At the Katowice the police came up to us. I showed them my documents and they were satisfied with them. Everyone else was held. Haim tried to escape but they chased after him. He pulled out his pistol but with bad luck it mis–fired and he was taken. I kept a distance and followed after to see what was happening. They took him to the Gestapo and I followed at a distance. Near the “Astoria” café I met two German policemen; they knew me and tried to arrest me again but I ran for it. Under the bridge I shot at them – I had better luck and my gun worked correctly. Haim and Bulok were imprisoned together until about 10th November, the eve of Polish Independence Day, when they were both hanged as Polish Partisans in the village of Jabłonka, in order that ‘they will hear and see’” (Page 266).

 

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