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[Page 155]

Yehuda Zelmanowicz (Z”L)

By Ze'ev Dror

Translated by Selwyn Rose

It is difficult to eulogize you because above all things you disliked weeping and lamentation. Even under the most difficult of circumstances you knew how to practice restraint, you knew to smile, to smile even from within pain – and certainly not allow a groan to escape from between your lips, or from others.

You loved people, you loved to be in their company, to live their problems and understand their weaknesses, you were sparing with words but one comment from you was enough to convince to what degree you had penetrated deeply to the heart of the topic, pass over the incidental and expose the good in a man. You knew to be a friend in good times and bad.

You were honest with yourself and in your life. You detested empty talk where there was no substance in practical terms or from personal example. You were responsible at work and progressed by virtue of knowledge and organization. You were polite and courteous, a possessor of deep knowledge that you had acquired through reading, thought and conversation – you had good taste in literature, in theater and music.

In your awareness of your health you restrained yourself from building a home for yourself – although you loved family life. You interested yourself deeply in your friends' family life, in the lives of their children, you hared their joy at their achievements and you were pained with their hurt at their failures!

You were wise, proud and independent, a good friend and a good man – and as such we will always remember you.


[Page 156]

In Memory of Yehuda Zelmanowicz

by Yitzhak Pulaski

Translated by Selwyn Rose

mie156.jpg
Yehuda Zelmanowicz

 

I only know very little of him from his childhood. We were not at “Heder” and neither did we share the same class at school. As we matured I knew him only very superficially. He was a student at the “Mizrahi” school and afterwards at the “Takhmoni” school in Warsaw, while I was a student at the “Aguda[1]” school and afterwards the “Yeshiva[2]”. I knew that he was always among the top excellent students; constantly persevering in his reading, and striving to be inconspicuous. When he was a teacher of history in secondary school we met each other very rarely. Already at these early encounters I was impressed by his manners and courtesy, and especially by his carefully considered speech and its significant content. During the period when I was affiliated to the Betar Movement we occasionally met, although I was unable to determine clearly where he was heading, I knew he was a serious Zionist.

Our relationship as friends became more evident and strengthened with the outbreak of World War Two. We especially became closer when the ghetto was liquidated and we were transferred to labor camps. There I was able to appreciate much more clearly his attributes. I was with him from the start until a very short time before the liberation. During that terrible period when the life of everyone depended on a crust of bread, Yehuda Zelmanowicz (Z”L) proved time and time again how far away he was from any form of egoism and how great were his good deeds,

In September 1942 we were transferred to the labor camp at Prokocim. A group of people stayed behind in Miechów (some with and some without the Germans' knowledge) his concern was for our welfare and our needs and he transferred – in all sorts of ways – quantities of bread to the camp. The people from Miechów in the camp were grouped together and worked in one place. When the first delivery arrived one of them tried to impose himself upon us as a “policeman” showing discrimination in the distribution of the bread; Yehuda Zelmanowicz resisted fiercely to the discrimination and succeeded in preventing it. In the camp's Compound 1, Yehuda Zelmanowicz was nominated as group head. In contrast to others who exploited that position for their own good – even to the detriment of other people, Yehuda (Z”L) was the complete opposite; he exploited the position to ease and improve the condition of each and every one of us. More than once he put himself in grave danger by leaving his place of work, entering into shops close–by to buy something. Had he been caught the outcome would have been quite clear: an arbitrary shooting on the spot. He always asked if someone had special needs and he would bring if, sometimes with his own money. He preached morals when he saw something unfair. He would help and demand that

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everyone helps each other but always in his quiet friendly voice. In the camp he never sought to make things easier for himself or looked for favors while holding his position. At the end of 1943 we were transferred to Skarżysko–Kamienna. The camp was divided into three sections A, B and C. Our group was taken to Section C. It was the worst section of all three. I and my two brothers by good fortune were transferred to Section A which was the best of them. After a few weeks, on a Sunday a group from Section C came to Section A to the shower room; there wasn't one in Section C. A few of the group, among them Yehuda (Z”L), looked for us to pay a visit and found us in our work place. They were completely broken and exhausted, hungry and thirsty; their hands and faces were green; their clothes torn and tattered. They told us of the bitterness of the fate of everyone in the camp. We saw ourselves as kings compared to them.

It happened to be exactly at the time of the mid–day distribution of our food. We worked in the carpentry shop and we were about forty together working there. I and my two brothers asked the rest of our group to donate a small portion of their food which they did without hesitation. When we saw the manner in which they ate the food we all burst out crying. Afterwards I felt that Yehuda (Z”L) left a small portion on his plate. I asked him why and he said: “There is someone else hungry as I was and now I've had enough.” From the remains we refilled their plates and Yehuda (Z”L) took the responsibility of delivering the food to those who had remained in the other camp. The following week the second group appeared and from them we heard from them how Yehuda (Z”L) had distributed the food fairly.

After the war, I met him in Miechów. We were happy to see each other. After a while I told him I was leaving Poland with the intention of going to Israel. He asked me to let him know after I arrived how I was getting on. When I arrived in Germany, I wrote him in full detail about my journey. When he got to Germany we met again frequently. When I arrived in Israel we met in Tel–Aviv. When he worked in Haifa he stayed with me for a while.

I learned of his death from the newspaper the day after his funeral. I was shocked and shaken to have learned about it in such a way. I had thought that in spite of everything he had survived the war as a victor but I was wrong, he was beaten. The sufferings and agonies that were his lot during the war years had destroyed the body of that man of such pure attributes and it could no longer continue. With his passing he left a void in his family and the remainder of the survivors of Germany's destructive mills.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Interwar network of religious schools affiliated to Agudas Yisroel political movement Return
  2. Religious seminary Return


Rabbi Yankele Rottenberg

by Moshe Spiegel

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The Rabbi Yankele Rottenberg (TZ”L), the son of the Adm”or[1] of Czestochowa and the son–in–law of Adm”or from Kielce, arrived in Miechów in his youth with his wife, two sons, Berele and Motele and their only daughter Goldele.

Fate allowed me to find myself in his company for three years and hear Torah from his lips, as one destined to receive ordination to the Rabbinate. The topics of my studies were Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, and Yad Hazaka – the Mishneh of the Rambam, etc.

I remember the argument that broke at home out between my father, Avraham (Z”L) and my mother Sarale (Z”L). All his life my father had been a political activist supporting “Mizrahi” and also orthodox observant customs. My mother was even more so and tended strongly towards “Agudas Yisroel” and “Beit Ya'acov” following in her own father's footsteps, my grandfather, Rabbi Mendel Gutenstein from Wolbrom, one of the Righteous of

[Page 158]

Gur and close to the Court of the Rabbi. The argument broke out when the “Mizrahi” school was established in Miechów, the first schools to include general education in its curriculum. My father played a significant part in the establishment of the school and wanted his children to be among its first pupils. My mother, on the other hand, wanted to give her son a traditional Torah–oriented education, to make of the Torah “an axe to grind” and become attached to the dynasty of respected Rabbis of Israel. My mother was extremely proud of her cousin, the Rabbi of Kurzelów, Rabbi Arieh Leib Frommer who, in time became the Head of Yeshiva “Hochmei Lublin”. The argument continued for a few weeks becoming quite fierce. In the end my mother won and the following was decided: My older brother Elimelech (Z”L), will go to Zawiercie to study Torah from our relative, the distinguished Rabbi from Kurzelów, and they would send me to learn Torah from Rabbi Yankele the Adm”or of Miechów, and my younger brother Yona (Z”L) will remain with Rabbi Yisroel–Eli Krymalowski, until he became a little older and increased his knowledge a little.

The first time I entered the Rabbi's room I was most impressed with his noble countenance, his modesty and his soft caressing voice. His personality captivated me on first sight, every word that came out of his mouth was imbued with the fear of G–d and immeasurable warmth. And so my first lesson was as if entering a grove[2]. And indeed I entered the grove and the Temple of the Torah, pure and refined – to glimpse and not to be stricken; but my poor strength wasn't great enough to resist – I entered, glimpsed and was stricken…

We were three pupils with Rabbi Yankele: Berele – the eldest boy, Motele – the second boy and the writer of these few lines. We were three pupils and each one had a different personality, attention–span and behavior. Obviously their ability to succeed in their studies was also different.

Berele was a quiet boy, disciplined and with a great determination to learn Torah but his comprehension was slow. Motele was an imp, insolent with his head full of escapades and practical jokes and several times his father was obliged to lecture him about concentrating his attention on learning Torah. I, in comparison, absorbed the teachings of the Rabbi quickly to the extent that I was used as the Urim and Thummim to my two friends from the rabbinical dynasty.

Because I became so at home in the Rabbi's house I was treated very much like one of their own children and they made efforts to draw me close to them. The Rabbi's wife related towards me as if to one of her own and took pleasure in the success of my studies. The daughter, Goldele made a great impression on me from the first meeting and was, in my eyes the very symbol of purity. She had golden hair, and a fair skin like the face of an angel. I sensed she was following me with her eyes, listening to the sound of my footsteps in the room, always listening to my chanting. I too longed to meet her and all the time I sat with the Rabbi I struggled between the craving to see her and be with her and the reality that there could not be a closer relationship between us because of her status as the Rabbi's daughter. In the end the struggle resolved itself because quite suddenly I decided to leave my studies and travel to Warsaw to work more productively in the spirit of a Zionist education.

From the moment that I began to study as an adult with Rabbi Yankele – my eyes were opened; my faith and adherence to the faith of Israel weakened from day–to–day. I began to read secular books, books by Avraham Mapu, Samuel David Luzatto, Shlomo Yehuda Rapoport, Leon Pinsker and others. That – and more: The Zionist Torah that I absorbed from the dawn of my childhood cut me off from the Study–House of my mother and tied me in with the movement that had engraved on its standard the emblem of the national and socialist liberation of our people.

The house of Rabbi Yankele Rottenberg and his household shone a great light among those who gathered in his shadow and illuminated dark, forsaken corners of our world. Today, 40 years on, I still see images of him as if alive, before me.

I do not know the fate of Rabbi Yankele and his family when the Holocaust struck the Jews of Poland.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. An acronym for “Our Master, our Teacher and our Rabbi” Return
  2. A reference to the Kabbala from the Hebrew letters PRDS – Paradise. Return


[Page 159]

In Memory of My Parents

by Yehuda Burstein

Translated by Selwyn Rose

My Father (Z”L)

The commandment to honor one's father and mother is one of the things for which there is no measure and hence I am not sure that I have fulfilled it as required and if not I have besmirched their honor, especially when speaking of parents whose whole lives were holy and good in the eyes of G–d and man.

Here I will try in awe and reverence to raise up from the depths of oblivion a few of the memories of their activities and by doing so honor and esteem them.

My father (Z”L), Yisroel David Burstein, ritual slaughter and inspector in our town functioned all his days in that holy work. A modest man, good–hearted like no one else, most of his time he dedicated to the Torah and his work.

To the work of slaughtering and inspection, every detail of which is precise and which is performed according to canon, allowing for no deviation, right or left, he demonstrated a nobility of soul and kind–heartedness.

When, as happened from time to time, a question of “kosher or treiff” rose up concerning a beast or a fowl, my father toiled, greatly worried and agonized, sought and probed, running around hither and thither, disappearing for hours from home, alerting the Rabbi and an authorized arbiter until late at night, all to save the money of some poor Jew and deem fit to eat the animal that he had bought at great expense.

Courteous and pleasant to everyone throughout the year but as the Days of Awe approached and while standing before his Maker, in the central synagogue pouring out his prayers as a delegate of the congregation, his face shone and his whole being soft and gentle. His deep and pleasant voice and pure prayers softened the hardest of hearts.

He was a “Lover of Zion”. I will not exaggerate if I say the first to awaken to a yearning for the redemption and the Zionist idea was my father (Z”L), who, in his own way, planted in my heart these feelings.

I remember when we sat together over a page of the Gemara on long winter nights, when we got to a place that spoke in praise of the Promised Land, he stopped teaching, sighed aloud and the strong longings that seized him were evident. A thick cloud of smoke came out of the cigarette he held in his mouth and covered his face as if he wanted to lessen the sorrow of sitting in exile.

A never–to–be–forgotten experience was when a delegate from Palestine came to visit, a friend of my father these many years, Rabbi Itcha Bonem. He explained the wonders of our land, its citrus groves, and avenues, towns and settlements, Rabbis and people. We sat and listened as in a dream.

My father ached to come but tragically his dream didn't materialize.

From the mouths of survivors who were with him up until his last moment, we heard that during the Nazi conquest he was a teacher and a comforter for the Jews of our town, gathering them, teaching them and breathing into them the spirit of hope and comfort. And thus in sanctification and purity his spirit rose upwards.

May his memory be blessed!

[Page 160]

My Mother (Z”L)

My mother (Z”L), Haya Leah Burstein née Elbaum, was one of the righteous women, who tried to know and understand the needs of the town and the town's “needy ones”. In spite of her daily concerns in her holy work of raising her many children and their education, she didn't forget for one instant her fellowman, her generous support and anonymous donations to the needy. I remember on more than one occasion being sent on errands of good deeds – taking food–parcels etc., the homes of the poor at my mother's behest.

Her great knowledge of religious law and judgments handed down throughout the generations, astounded even my father (Z”L); that she had acquired by hearing and absorbing what she had heard of the Torah and studies in her father's house, the ritual slaughterer and inspector, Rabbi Shalom Elbaum (Z”L). Hence she would say: “A woman's honor should be guarded internally as befits a king's daughter”[1].

After a long illness, she passed away in her prime in 1931. May her memory be blessed.


Translator's Footnote

  1. A somewhat curled reference to Psalm 45; 14 Return


Avraham Yama and His Son Shlomo

by Haim Ze'ev Yama

Translated by Selwyn Rose

“Jews bring money! Charity saves from death!” – With these and similar words the little Jew, Rabbi Avraham Yama (Z”L), always spurred on the Jewish community of Miechów. He was among the important house–holders in town. A man with a gentle and pure soul, good–hearted, he was always the first to donate to charities. At all the festivities in town, circumcisions, weddings and – G–d forbid – funerals, his noble image was prominent. Rabbi Avraham Yama was especially present at any festival or mourning of the poorer members of Miechów's Jewish community and was always ready to congratulate the bride and groom or comfort the mourner. He returned his pure soul to his Maker on a Sabbath morning.

He was accompanied on his last journey by all the residents of the town, Jew and Gentile alike. All business–houses and workshops were closed on the day of his funeral and the entire town bitterly lamented the great loss of his passing. His first–born, Rabbi Shlomo Yama, inherited his father's high attributes. In his love of his fellow man, fear of heaven and the excellence of his knowledge of the Talmud and the rest of the Holy works, he became an example to all the residents of Miechów. He was the first, perhaps only of Miechów's orthodox residents to embrace the ideology of the “Lovers of Zion”, and that stirred many people to oppose him in town and even within the bosom of his own family; he preached the doctrine “The Land of Israel, the People of Israel and the religion of Israel are one and the same.” On that principle he educated his children and prepared them for immigration to Palestine.

He taught his children handicrafts. All his days he dreamed of settling in Palestine with his family. In 1925 he acquired together with a group of Jews from Miechów, a plot of land in Afula, in the Jezreel Valley. To his great sorrow he didn't realize his dreams.

At the beginning of the thirties, when Rabbi Yama with unbounded excitement accompanied his three daughters on their way to Palestine, people whispered on the state of his mind and his lack of love and consideration and love towards his daughters: time proved the correctness of his decision.

Rabbi Shlomo Yama was in the concentration camp of Prokocim–Płaszów together with the rest of the Jewish community of Miechów. No survivor of that camp will ever forget the manner in which that dear Jew prepared the Sabbath eve under indescribable circumstances.

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On Friday evenings virtually the entire population of the camp gathered in the bunk–house of Rabbi Shlomo next to two small Shabbat candles in order to draw spiritual encouragement for the following week. With tears in his eyes, he sang the Sabbath evening prayer : “Lecha dodi, likrat calah” and Rabbi Shlomo reminded the Jews – the forced labor workers of the concentration camp – in their imagination to the world of yesterday.

During working days he tried as far as was possible to help others who were suffering more than he. Through his deeds he became one of “The Hidden Ones” or “one of the 36 righteous ones” as they nicknamed him in the camp.

He perished together with his martyred brethren in the extermination camp of Auschwitz.

“It is a tragic loss when a great person dies and there is no one to replace him.”[1]


Translator's Footnote

  1. The Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin, page 111a. Return


Personalities from among “The Hidden Ones”

by Y. Pulaski, Y. Grynwald, Y. Goldberg

Translated by Selwyn Rose

There were a number of people in town who made a deep impression although they made every attempt to remain obscure and inconspicuous. Among them were the rich, the middle–class and the poor, the educated, the partially educated and some who couldn't read or write. In spite of these differences there was a general feeling that all of us together constituted one large family. The unity, the dedication, the concern and mutual assistance were felt all the time in every place.

The slow solid gait, the noble features and courteous speech of Rabbi Moshe Sukenik (Z”L); the silver–knobbed walking stick of the shrewd Abramowitz (Z”L); the small beard on the elegant–faced Rabbi Hanich Cesar (Z”L); the hat and walking–stick of Aharon Leib Adler (Z”L); the bright intelligent eyes of Yermiyahu Blum (Z”L); the tall, erect regal elegance of Shmuel Fogel (Z”L); the yellow beard and curly hair of Avraham Goldberg (Z”L); the Kaiser–like expressions of Avraham Friedrich (Z”L); the soaring voice of the ritual slaughterer and inspector, Rabbi Yisroel David Burstein (Z”L); the dignified appearance of the secular Avraham Sercaz (Z”L); the reverberating laugh of Ovshe Zelkowicz (Z”L) – and many others.

And others, whose outward impression wasn't significant, they too belong to the group no less than the above. Such as Abele Melamed: He is short and under his rod passed rabbis, scholars, academics and successful Jews, Zionists and Mitnagdim, religious and secular. All of them, without exception passed like sheep under his hand. He would sit at the head of the table, with his long beard, his long tangled bushy eyebrows and a snuff–box alongside his hand. From time–to–time he would fill his nostrils with the snuff. With every sneeze we would all bless him in chorus with a loud “Gezundt!”, and he would answer with pleasure “Scheine Dank!” There were three long tables in the room arranged in the shape of an open–ended rectangle. One table was for the children aged three who were learning the “Aleph–Bet”, the second for the children who could already read and the third for the older children who would soon leave him and he is preparing them for higher learning with a festive meal. It was very exciting when the announcement was made in the “Heder”. The Rabbi led the procession followed by his son Reuven (spared for a long good life). At home everyone was waiting. A short prayer, congratulations of “Mazal Tov!” and everyone got a little bag containing a variety of candies. Back in the “Heder” noise and confusion reign; everyone opened the bag and tried to prove that theirs had got more than anyone else. Outside it was already dark and on the way home we used a flash–light or a candle in a tin.

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Abele Melamed (Z”L), loved to be joyful; at every party, festival or just Kiddush on Erev Shabbat he was among the guests in our house. There was a special incident etched in my memory. At the festival of Simchat Torah; my father was keen to buy the honor of Hatan–Torah together with Kiddush. All those who came to the “Steibl” came to our house including Abele Melamed. After a few drinks of cognac he climbed up onto the table in his boots and began to dance and sing a festival song waving the bottle in his hand. He stopped for a moment and asked for a pinch of snuff. All those present proffered a box and he, with everyone laughing took out his own and began to refill it from all those offered him.

He passed away at a good old age. May he be remembered for a blessing.

One of the respected families in town, well–known and with many relatives was the Zukerman family. The head of the family, Abele Zukerman the son–in–law of Shimon Spiegel, owner of an elegant small beard, loved by the residents of town because of his good heartedness, and great honesty. He was from the orthodox Righteous of Gur sect and was especially loved by all those who came to pray in the “Steibl” when Abele prayed before the Ark on Sabbath and the Days of Awe. His immaculate, pure prayers captivated everyone's heart, while himself seemed on fire, as it is written: “…and all my bones shall say…”[1]. His sons and daughter managed his grocery shop and small hosiery workshop and for all that he was hard–pressed to make a livelihood. His health was fragile and he suffered much but his sufferings he accepted with love and never complained.

May his memory be for a blessing!

Mendel Goldberg (Z”L), the son–in–law of Haim Poslushny was publicly active in the Burial Society in town and also in the Ramban Fund as well as being among the first donors and fundraisers for many charities.

He was one of the important members of the Righteous of Gur sect and every annual commemoration dinner for the passing of “S'fat Emet[2] was held in his house, a sign of his enduring respect and admiration of that righteous one. He had two sons and a daughter – the flower of the family – each one active in a different field of public activity: the eldest, Leah – founded “Beit Ya'acov” in our town, where many girls were educated in traditional Judaism. Yehoshua – one of the activators of the young “Agudas Yisroel”, he persevered in the organizing of the young orthodox boys into the ranks of the youngsters. The mother, Miriam – a righteous woman, whose whole life was devoted to organizing charities for the children of poor families and for a Torah education her children and the children of the poor of no means. May their memories be for a blessing.

David Isser Eisenberg (Z”L) was a very unique character with not many equals. Seemingly a very simple Jew, but on lifting the edge of the veil one gets a glimpse of his many virtues and pleasant attributes. A measure of his modesty and activities in charities, open and hidden, became common knowledge only after his death (before the Holocaust), when the story of his deeds was told by those whom he helped almost every single day. More than that – his children behaved in the same fashion and their behavior adds to his honor. The son, Haim, was active in the “Revisionist Movement” and the “Zamir” library, intellectual and few resembled him; Shmaryahu and his brother Lazer–Yosef – persevered with their studies in the “Yeshiva” on the Mishneh and learned decisions at every opportunity and at the same time never neglected the delicatessen store – the family's main source of sustenance. The righteous and modest daughters sat at home and cared for the domestic scene following the death of the mother at an early age. Indeed an exemplary home, wide open to all who hungered and needed a favor. We cry over her loss.

David Unger – the son–in–law of Shmuel the Cantor, a modest Jew loved by all. He was never heard to raise his voice and his gait was light as if walking on tip–toe. He had five sons and one daughter – all of them tall and straight like a cedar tree and a magnificent example of the Jewish youth of that time. On them fell the fire and the fury and the flames consumed them.

May their souls rest in Paradise.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Psalm 35:10 Return
  2. Rabbi Yehuda Arieh Leib Alter Return


[Page 163]

The Mlinarski Family

by Dov Mlinarski

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Until I left Poland in 1937 I believed that the Mlinarski family was “immortal”: I didn't recall a single incident of death in our many–branched family until that day.

At prayer times in the synagogue it was a rare vision to see how the whole Mlinarski “tribe” left their seats during the Yizkor memorial prayer and fill the corridor while waiting for the prayer to come to an end. Inside there remained only the “tribal chief” – Menahem (Mania) Mlinarski.

Until this day I have been unable to come to terms with the fact none of them exist anymore.

My father was the second son of my grandfather Menahem and after he married he left Miechów and went to live in Jędrzejów, about 40 Km away, the home of my mother's parents, Josef and Malka Piatek

My family arrived in Miechów in 1924.

I stayed there about six years.

 

My Grandparents' Home

It was the house most distant from the center of town, at the end of Ratzlewiczke Street – next to the “Military Garden” and opposite the local hospital. It was the last Jewish house on the street, single storied; The central block that was brick–built faced the street and was leased to the bank manager; in another wing lived my grandparents, Menahem and Kyla; the third wing was the horses' stable which at a time of celebrations was, (after the “permanent residents” had been re–housed and appropriate cleaning and preparations had taken place), turned into a temporary hotel, for the guests and their children congregating from the surrounding towns, in order to take part in the festivities, like weddings, circumcisions and so on.

A broad yard spread between the three wings. On market days, which took place every Tuesday, it was the only private yard in Miechów that absorbed the tens of carts and wagons, with hitched horses (and sometimes bulls).

Grandfather's house was the first on the way into town of the visiting farmer who came to sell his produce in town. The villagers from the area called the whole family Mlinarski, “Barki”. “Barak” was the name of grandfather's first–born, who between 1917 and 1925 managed a large business with local nobles, estate owners and others. Apart from him, my grandfather had another four sons: Feytl, Zalman, Baruch and Ya'acov Pinchas. Grandfather's pride was his two daughters Etil and Bluma, and indeed he married them to two scholars.

One immigrated to Palestine with her husband Eliezer Lavie and her family in 1933 and the second lives in Brazil with her husband, Mendel Sherman.

Eliezer Lavie – Jaskrowicz, was active in many fields in his public life and a brilliant orator. He was the secretary of three communities at one and the same time – Miechów, Slomniki and Charsznica. He was extremely talented with outstanding capabilities in organization and in community activities. In the beginning in Miechów, he taught Talmud in the “Agudas Yisroel” school. Later he transferred to the “Mizrahi” school and was conspicuous in his spiritual management of the “Mizrahi” movement.

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In addition to these activities he was also a teacher of Jewish religion in the Polish national school system and gained the respect of his Polish colleagues even the anti–Semitic ones among them. In 1933 he immigrated to Palestine with all his family.

In Palestine also he quickly climbed the ladder of seniority and introduced order into religious council in Tel–Aviv especially in the department of slaughtering which was virtually a no–man's land of “Might is Right”.

With the establishment of the State of Israel he was installed as Comptroller of the Ministry of Religion and published several books, “A Treasury of Quotations” and his pen is still active.

Today he is the President of the Organization of Miechów Immigrants.

Mendel Sherman was grandfather's second son–in–law a scholar and bibliophile, intelligent, a violinist and political activist in the Miechów “Agudas Yisroel”. He was an “Aguda–ist” in the style of members of the “Agudas Yisroel” in England.

From Friday afternoon until the late hours after the end of Shabbat grandfather's house resembled a bee–hive, the sons and grandchildren came in by turns for snacks of brown fava beans and before Shabbat and “Kabbalat Malkat Shabbat” – and yellow lentils, tea cake and candies, Saturday afternoon. The refreshments continued on through “the third meal” and “accompanying the Queen”.

With my grandmother there was the tradition of a full–arranged table especially on Shabbat with a snow–white table cloth, two silver candle–sticks, grandfather's large “all–in” prayer–book with its Psalm pages yellowed from his snuff (before he proceeds to the portion for the week he reads the Book of Psalms from beginning to end), all of which gives a festive aura of sanctity and holiness and feeling of sanctification of the Sabbath.

Not all of grandmother's sons were lucky; especially not her son Feytl, a Righteous of Kromołów adherent, who travelled among the farmers and villages of Poland, buying anything that came to hand. He rarely made any profit, most of the time he sold at a loss.

Feytl and his family were grandmother's major concern. She often “smelled” his situation before he opened his mouth. She packed food parcels for him to take home and filled his pockets even in the most difficult times. On more than one occasion she sold items from the house and passed the proceeds to her son.

When the Jackboots of Hitler (Y.S.), trod on Polish soil, grandmother escaped to her future world from a natural death and laid to rest. Grandfather was murdered by the Nazis.

Remembered for eternity.

 

My Father's House

Yitzhak and Hendl–Leah Mlinarski (HY”D)

When I was seven years old, my father, together with a few friends from Jędrzejów, began making plans to immigrate to Palestine. Many articles from the home were sold in order to finance the journey and our first steps in Palestine.

One evening a wagon stopped outside our house at 23 Pinczhowski Street (my mother's parents lived in the same house – Piatek) and with many blessings mixed with tears, my father climbed aboard where two other immigrants were already sitting with their small belongings, all on their way to the railroad station in Jędrzejów, whence the train took them to Warsaw. On the way to the station the fourth immigrant joined us. My father's plan was to settle in Palestine and afterwards send the necessary documents for all the family and to bring them over. Fate intervened and disappointed the group and another group that arrived in Vienna from Warsaw. They were told that immigration to Palestine had been halted by the British Mandatory – because of all the disturbances that arose following the Tel–Hai attack in 1920.

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They were informed by the Jewish immigration organization that there was no possibility of immigrating and that they would have to wait for a few weeks and even perhaps a few months. The single men who were in the group stayed in Vienna. Husbands who had left wives and families in Poland returned disappointed. Father returned after having burnt all his bridges behind him in Jędrzejów. The situation at home was difficult. Yisroel Rosenberg, a rich forestry trader, came to our assistance. He was the owner of a large forest area of Pysznica near the River San between Rózwadów and Nisko. From the saw–mills there, the timber was sent to all corners of the state and the countries of Western Europe. Rosenberg offered father a job transporting the timber. In the beginning father was not all that enchanted by the work because of the great distance involved (about 300 kms) from home and also because of the minimal salary, but accepted for lack of options. After about a year the family moved to Pysznica.

With time my father became a specialist in forestry and its different off–shoots. However, at the end of three years the hewing of trees and their exportation ceased and he was again without the means of sustenance.

Eventually he found a position as an inspector of forestry – a forest scribe – with Itzkowitz and Friedrich, who had bought plots in Czapla 15 kms from Miechów. More than once when a forestry engineer came on an inspection, he was stunned by my father's knowledge of forestry. Even before the inspector had prepared his calculations of the cubic meters of a pile of logs and firewood, that a tree would produce, my father had measured it with his eyes and in a few moments gave an estimate which proved to be the same as the inspector's more sophisticated calculation.

We moved to Miechów. My father managed the hewing and selling of the trees and on Fridays arrived home for Shabbat.

In his leisure hours my father busied himself with book–binding, wood–carving of all sorts of items and miniature furniture decorated with carved bouquets and small Hebrew letters that merged harmoniously with the flowers and decorations in the bouquets. He used the most primitive of tools like a pocket–knife or small chisel and a small saw. He never at any time carved the figure of a man or living creature in compliance with the commandment “Thou shalt not make any image of any living thing…” Since even his present salary was not enough to sustain us, this work also contributed a little extra to the home.

He once built a six–sided Succah from the branches of a young fir tree that was in the shape of the Star of David on the inside. It was possible to erect and dismantle the Succah with ease, when needed – a Succah forever. Outside there was a bouquet in stylish letters and above it was written “For seven days thou shalt sit in booths”. It was a real artistic creation made with much toil and care and good taste. It was bought by one of the rich men in town.

My father was an accepted “reader” when the weekly portion was read in the synagogue. He rose early on Saturday morning to prepare himself going over the portion from beginning to end to make quite sure he knew the incantation correctly and indeed he knew it all perfectly.

The main worry for our parents was the fees for the education of their children. Those payments preceded even the running of the house – food and clothing.

In spite of the economic situation at home, that was far from satisfactory, my father managed to secure an overdraft that enabled him to start trading in farm produce when the tree–felling operations with Itzkowitz and Friedrich ceased, leaving him without a job.

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The trade in farm produce demands large investments in cash. It is necessary to finance the farmers on “futures” – before harvesting – when the produce is still in the ground. In the last years before the outbreak of war, when anti–Semitism was on the rise in Poland, several of the farmers refused in a preconceived act to pay their debts as a result of the propaganda being put out by the Andek party and the anti–Semitic youth movement and became serious enough to prevent the traders venturing into the surrounding area in search of their money.

In 1931 my father became ill with appendicitis. After the operation in the St Lazarus hospital in Krakow, a complication arose and the healing of the operation dragged on for a year. The doctors in the hospital were fearful for his life. My father, throughout the crisis, was fully conscious and felt everything and insisted with our mother to take him out of the hospital because he wanted to die at home on his own bed. We rented an autobus because it was impossible to put him in a taxi – and we took him home. When the dressers in the hospital brought his stretcher out I heard one of them clearly say: “This patient will die before he gets to Slomniki.” (25 km from Krakow). To the intense surprise of the doctors and professors in the hospital my father made a complete recovery. He was invited a couple of times to lectures during his recovery where he was presented before doctors from the Jagiellonian University as an interesting case history the first case of “Zatoka” – that the patient recovered and returned to us.

My father was murdered in Warsaw by the Germans thirteen years later – in 1944 – close to the liberation of the town by the Russians, when someone from Miechów who knew him exposed him to the Germans.

My older brother, now living in Poland finished a course in agriculture while a member of “Poalei–Zion” in Krakow. He left the training group with about half of the rest of the group after the Mandatory Authority closed the gates to immigration in 1930 and began the system of “scheduled immigration” that was far from solving the problem of pioneering immigration after tens of thousands had completed their group training.

The communist activity was illegal and the activists were persecuted and ostracised; the Jewish Communists were particularly hated. Nevertheless they found for themselves many different avenues for activity that disguised their actions, one way or another. They read and argued over the works of Marx and Engels during meetings in private homes, while spread on the table was the black and white chess–board or dominos as camouflage; they distributed illegal propaganda pamphlets on the approaches to town there were red flags with short slogans on them like – “Out with the Government Dictators”, “Long live the revolution of the working classes!” They also scrawled slogans on the walls. The police immediately destroyed the flags and slogans and from time–to–time make searches in the homes of suspects to the disappointment of all the parents. A search of our house caused deep sorrow to my mother and father and concern for the fate of their eldest son, Zalman. It especially hurt my mother whose face paled like white–wash. Even after the police left she was unable to calm down for some hours.

One day in 1931 my brother Zalman Wolf Lansberg, Heskel Rosen – the son of the newspaper seller, Fromet Gludna(?) – the daughter of Leibele Poy and Dinah Kaminski – the daughter of the shoe–maker Wolf Kaminski, were all arrested.

The group was put on trial in Kielce. The parents paid a lot of money and secured an attorney for them – the daughter of Hershel Buchner. A sentence of two years imprisonment was imposed on all of them.

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During the time my brother was behind bars, my mother visited him a few times in Kielce. Every one of those visits caused my mother unimaginable suffering our father had not yet fully recovered his health and our financial resources were virtually non–existent. While there, she prepared soup, grits and other cereal dishes, the meat and three times a week (the times she was allowed to bring food in) she walked several kilometres on foot to the prison with the prepared food.

After the incarceration of the five Jewish communists the Andeks increased their anti–Semitic propaganda in town and from time–to–time attacked Jewish passers–by. We lived on Ratzlewiczke Street – on the ground floor – in the area of the gymnasium. All the windows faced the street. When the pupils left the gymnasium in a bunch catcalls occasionally followed them like: “Beat the Jew–Communists!” and smashed the windows of the house.

The parents refrained from lodging a complaint with the school manager, Tadeusz Lech who was the local leader of the Andek Party in the county and the delegate to the Polish Sejm. We preferred to notify the police of the incident. The police treated the complaint with disdain and failed to act.

The anti–Semitic incitement ceased for about two years and then flared up again with renewed cruelty when the Nazi monster began to run wild in Germany. When the Spanish civil war broke out in 1936, a wild anti–Semitic movement called Falanga – after Franco's Spanish Fascists – was established, and at their head were the photographer Spiechowicz and the young Nyschidlowski(?) (Incidentally – we lived in the same house as his mother).

From then until the outbreak of World War Two, we stationed “pickets” next to Jewish shops and we didn't let Christians enter.

The incitement directly affected our father's business which was connected with the farmers in trading their produce.

An unforgettable sight that caused deep emotion was when our mother, with tear–filled eyes said to our father: “The time has come to bless the children.” It was the evening of the Day of Atonement after the second meal when the house was scrubbed clean, the candlesticks and the prayer–books laid on the gleaming white table–cloth and a sense of holiness pervaded the atmosphere. Our mother with her white scarf over her head lighted the candles and buried her face in her hands and poured out her prayers before the Creator of the world.

In spite of fact that blessing the children is a regular procedure, our father waited to get “permission” from her to continue. He was wrapped in his white caftan with a black girdle.

We, the children crowded together under the open prayer book that our father held while he blessed us with the special melody that “G–d will make thee as Ephraim and Manasseh.” At the same time tears streamed down our mother's face. The big prayer book covered all four of our heads and it seemed to me that the Angel Michael spreads his wings above us. When the blessing finished we blessed our parents for a good year with warm kisses and an internal promise to be faithful children. Afterwards our mother stood and opened her own prayer book, covered her face again and prayed that the year ending will see the end of all evil illness and disturbances and that we should all be blessed with a healthy year, and that redemption of Israel will come speedily in our days – Amen.

Much has been said and written about the Jewish mother. In my opinion nothing has been written of the creativity that expresses her heroism, her sacrifices and her glorious soul.

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Kalman Mlinarski (HY”D)

The youngest son, the third in our family, was born in 1915. In his childhood he was dreamy and sensitive. He would sometimes disappear from his lessons in the “Mizrahi” school and when he was eleven our parents began to think about his future and sought a trade or profession that might suit him but without much success.

He liked to play around with screws, old clocks, and different wheels. He built small machines that made ear–piercing squeaking noises. Our mother especially suffered horribly from the noise of these “musical instruments”. Suffered, but said nothing.

When the wagon–drivers of Miechów became bus–drivers and the first garage for repairs was opened facing Itzik the baker's shop, his whole world opened up. On the way home from school for lunch he began to stop by the garage or on the way back to school after lunch.

In the beginning he would just stand outside and watch but very slowly he began to approach closer and enter inside. He would get grease on his hands, face and clothes helping to lift heavy pieces of machinery or cleaning them.

For our parents it was disgusting: first of all, it was not a profession for a Jewish boy – a “garage worker” in their eyes was a forbidden act, another reason in their consideration was that the work of a motor mechanic was physically hard and not suitable for a young lad whose health was in any case somewhat fragile – he would occasionally faint and suffer severe headaches. But his stubbornness overcame all obstacles. At work the Christians bothered the Jewish youngster in different ways and couldn't accept that a Jewish boy wanted to be an auto–mechanic (in spite of the fact that their employers were Jewish) and at home he had to fight an unending war. Kalman refused to give up his intention of being a motor–mechanic, he refused to bow to “common sense” and after a long struggle he won and was accepted for work in the garage as an energetic and talented worker.

Kalman didn't read many books but every publication that came out in Polish on the subject of auto–mechanics, books in German on the subject he also bought and dug into them in his spare time.

Within a few months he made rapid advances; his arms became muscular and his whole body developed athletically. In the garage the kicks and punches he received stopped because he began to pay back double or more what he received, he settled the account on the spot and even gave “advance payments”.

In short, Kalman achieved a high professional standing in auto–engineering – people in Miechów told me that his proficiency was so great that seeing a vehicle from a distance of ten meters he knew exactly which “screw was missing” by the movement and sound of the car. Another story among the residents of Miechów who served with him in the Polish army was that in one of the Polish army camps, he created a “graveyard” of old military vehicles, where they were left as wrecks. After visiting the “graveyard” he presented the command structure with a program for repairing the vehicles. Within a short time he had those vehicles on the road running like clockwork, to the astonishment of the Polish army engineers.

Hand–in–hand with his growth as an auto–mechanic was his physical development. The attacks on Jews in the town angered him and he found no rest until he paid the aggressors out in full. He only needed to hear a rumor that somewhere in town anti–Semitic hooligans were beating up Jews and he left work and ran there. The thugs would see him and immediately disperse taking with them bruises and broken ribs. Kalman instilled within them such fear that they refused to come face–to–face with him.

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When he was younger he belonged to the “Beitar” movement and after finishing his Polish army service his influence on it was significant and he was inducted into the “Jewish Legion” as an “Exemplary soldier”. Physically very strong he knew no fear and demonstrated the finest qualities of a proud Jew of great uninhibited courage, drive and diligence, friendly to those around him and ready to assist those in need.

Hitler's Jackboots strode onto Polish soil. Kalman, who before the war was employed in a transport company – saw a vista of terror, killing and destruction in towns and villages. Kalman decided to help his brethren, the Jews, to save what was possible in a strange and unconventional way.

As a first step he left the town and made his way to Krakow and was accepted – as a Christian – into the Polish Underground, the “Armia Krajowa”. Because that Underground was infected with anti–Semitism under the influence of the Andek Party and the NARA, it was essential that he monitor their actions on the Jewish people in the area. He grew a mustache and made sure that his exterior appearance did nothing to suggest he was a Jew and indeed he looked as Christian as any other Christian.

After a short while “his” Underground decided to “plant” Karol – Kalman's new name – as a Volksdeutsche, because he understood and spoke a little German. In time Kalman received a gun from the Germans and was seen in the streets of Krakow carrying a pistol in its holster on his belt.

Who knows if his activities of saving Jews would ever be discovered in time, that he was a planted spy of the “Armia Krajowa”, in the “Germans' service”. The little that was told me about him when I visited Poland in 1949 – four years after the liberation of Poland – only nurtures the stories of his deeds.

Even the Jewish survivors from around Krakow, Miechów and Slomniki don't know that it was Kalman who informed them anonymously by devious means that the Germans were about to execute an “Aktsia” and that they should leave their hiding places.

Kalman succeeded in getting his parents and our sister Hanna–Rachel out of Miechów and took them to a safe place in Warsaw. He guarded them for about two years until a Christian from Miechów who recognized him in Warsaw followed him and reported him to the Germans. My parents and Hanna–Rachel were murdered by the Germans about two months before the Russians entered the capital of Poland.

As a Volksdeutsche, who “cooperated with the Germans” Kalman was equipped with documents that allowed him free passage all over Poland and the owner of a free pass for unrestricted rail travel. He exploited it all for many important operations, among them transferring information between Warsaw and Krakow to Jews who were hiding outside the ghetto.

The following incident was described to me when I visited Poland (in 1949): when they were taking the Jews of the ghetto in Krakow from the camp at Płaszów, that had originally been a Jewish cemetery, to work at night or bringing them back from work in the evening, under armed German guards, Kalman would appear and begin to curse the “Leprous Jews” and throw stones at them. Those stones were, in fact loaves of bread or potatoes or other essential nutritious items and the marchers caught them blessed the “good Christian”.

Because of an informer who hunted Jewish Poles in hiding, who knew Kalman, he was arrested by the Germans and taken to Miechów for execution together with about ten other Jews who were the remnants of those who remained there.

The Germans organized the murder as an exhibition in the “Rink” of Miechów. The “Rink was full of Christians who had come to watch the victims brought to the scaffold. The last of the orphans dressed in prison garb, standing in a row, a few of them murmuring their last prayers. The final moments dragged on, as heavy as lead, for the departure of the pure souls.

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The SS officer stood next to the machine–gun with the platoon of German murderers and showered his victims with abuse. The Christians stood around enjoying the spectacle, drunk with their “victory”; at last “Samson the hero” of the Miechów Jews had been caught, Kalman Mlinarski who they had been unable to defeat will immediately meet his end together with the rest of the town's Jews.

Kalman heard their sneering laughter and looked into the eyes of the blood–thirsty mob. In that hour of darkness and oppressive limbo Kalman gathered together his impregnable strength and tore the nightmare–web entangling him.

Like a flash of lightning he flew across the front of the mob. They couldn't believe their eyes! Kalman broke away from the row of victims, drawing a knife from his boot as he went and stabbing the German officer in the stomach. The Germans hurried to the aid of the officer wallowing in his own blood while Kalman succeeds in withdrawing his knife from the body and cutting down a second German who came to the officer's aid.

A shocked panic broke out. Shouts came from every corner of the square, together with a babble of admiration and esteem. Another moment and bullets from the machine–gun tore through the heart of the only Jew who had the audacity to rise up against his murderers and with him perished the last group of martyrs. Their blood washed the paving stones of the “Rink”.

Thus fell Kalman Mlinarski – “great–grandchild” and “grandchild” of Bar–Kochba and Eliezer Ben Ya'ir – on foreign land, in exile, in Miechów, Poland.

 

My Sister Hanna–Rachel Mlinarski (HY”D)

Hanna–Rachel excelled in artistic handicrafts, embroidery, and knitting. Apparently abilities she inherited from our father while political party activity came from my influence and she belonged, like me, to the “Young Zionists”, the youth section of the General Zionists from the “On Guard” wing of the movement at whose head stood at the time, Yitzhak Gruenbaum. As a dedicated activist of the movement she went on a leadership course and prepared herself for immigration to Palestine via “Aliyah Bet”.

Her immigration date was fixed together with a group of immigrants of young Zionists, for the week of Succoth 1939 – about three weeks after the Nazi boots trod on Polish land. She was not to fulfil her dream; she fell victim about two months before the liberation of Poland.

 

Other Members of the Mlinarski Family in Miechów

Yosef and Etil Mlinarski (HY”D)

Uncle Yossel was a simple Jew; he was as particular about cleanliness, as he was about his daily prayers. He was clean about his clothes, his shining shoes, his neatly trimmed and cared–for beard and his casual strolling gait. Everything about him spoke of wealth and nobility, a man who had no concerns about his sustenance. But the truth of the matter is that he had to work hard and fought hard to manage his finances and he was unable to marry his two daughters because he lacked a dowry for them.

His wife, Etil was a righteous woman and known throughout the town for her observance. Her adherence to Kashrut was as strict as possible. She spent most of her time in prayer and collecting money for the needy who refrained from begging.

Yosef was the brother of grandfather Menahem – from my father's side; his wife, Etil was the sister of the grandfather Yossel Piatek from Jędrzejów – from my mother's side.

The whole Family Mlinarski his house was known as “the house of uncle Yossel”.

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Yossel died from Typhus and his wife with their daughters was murdered by the Germans. There remained – after surviving the “Seven Layers of Hell” – just the two sons Hirsch and Mendele Mlinarski, today living in America.

 

Zalman Mlinarski (HY”D)

(The following lines were sent to me by Raphael Mlinarski, the son of my uncle Zalman).

At the end of August 1942 about 500 Jews from Miechów were taken for extermination to Slomniki – the center for transportation – and among them grandfather Menahem.

Rumors were many, that there was a German – one of the commanders at the above center – who for a sum of money would release Jews from the center.

One of the sons, Ya'acov Pinchas (the youngest) and Raphael, the grandchild, and the son of Zalman – preserved for a long life – travelled to Slomniki to bribe this German and release grandfather. To their great sadness they didn't find this German anywhere.

That same evening Ya'acov Pinchas came back home and Raphael couldn't find his uncle, Ya'acov Pinchas, in order to take him back to Miechów so he stayed there over–night in Slomniki with an acquaintance. The following morning Ya'acov Pinchas and his brother Zalman tried again to find the German and went to Slomniki. But as they entered the town they were accosted by a group of Germans accompanied by some Polish youngsters and they began to beat them up with murderous blows. Ya'acov Pinchas fled covered in blood, Zalman fought back with his fists. The thugs picked up some hoes from some Jews – who were working on the road there under guard of the Germans – and beat him to death. His son Raphael was told of the incident by one of the survivors of the road workers.

Zalman Mlinarski pure soul left him there in September 1942

May he be remembered for ever.

 

Members of the Mlinarski Family in Miechów who were killed:

Grandfather's sons:

Berl, the first–born (murdered by Poles while asking for shelter), his wife Hanna, their children, Laybl, Ziskind, Raizel, Rivka and Sheyndil and their families. Sarah Bezchinsky – living in Sharona, near Yavne'el, with her family; Meir and Yechiel and Moshe David live abroad.

Faytl, his wife Mindl (died before the war), their children: Yechiel, Haim David, Haya and Hannia. This family left no survivors.

Zalman (murdered as described above), his wife Bat–Sheva, and their children: Haim and Rikl. Haim Raphael Mlinarski survived and lives in Tel–Aviv.

Baruch (murdered by Poles while asking for shelter among them), his wife Zisl, their children: Simcha, and a daughter, of unknown name – this family left no survivors.

Ya'acov–Pinchas (murdered by the Poles while seeking refuge among them), his wife, Hanna and their children Bonem, and a daughter of unknown name. This family left no survivors.

 

Grandfather's close relatives:

His brother, Mordecai Mlinarski and his wife Zisl. Their children Mendel, Hannia and Etil. Survivors: Malka (her husband Warshawski) in the USA and Raphael with his daughter in Canada.

Etil and her husband Pinchas Moszkowski and their children Simcha and Leah. A son survived – Haim Moszkowski – in Petah Tikvah.


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The Vanchadlovski Family

by Tsvi Vanchadlovski–Vardi

Translated by Selwyn Rose

On 23rd November 1936 I arrived in Palestine with my family. It was without doubt one of the most important dates in the history of the family. It is thanks to that that we were saved from the extermination and destruction that Hitler brought upon the Jews of all Europe and on Poland in particular.

My family was comprised of six souls: Father – Dov Vanchadlovski (the son of Yehuda)
Mother – Rivka Vanchadlovski (née Berger)
Grandfather – my mother's father, Yechiel Berger
Me – Tsvi Vanchadlovski (now Vardi)
My sister – (Krayndle) Atara Vanchadlovski
My brother – Kalman Vanchadlovski.

Our grandfather joined us after much hesitation. I still remember his prayers before and during the journey and especially the crossing of the sea. He lived for a few years in Palestine and lived to enjoy its luster. He died at a good old age.

Before our immigration there was a pioneer in the family and he immigrated in order to continue his education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

When I dive into the days of my childhood I remember our house which was in the center of town on the corner of Krakowske Street. It was large house mostly inhabited by Jews, apart from two Christian families. The cantor and ritual slaughterer and also the town Rabbi lived in the house. Their homes served as places of study and prayer and were the spiritual center for the Jews of the town.

The family of my mother (Z”L) and father was extensive and only part of it lived in the same house. My father's house served as a natural center for the family. During the day my parents' shop was a meeting place for the family most of whom were in business as traders with the local farmers; while during the evening hours and festivals, our large apartment, which was attached to the shop was a meeting place for the family.

Another element in the economic life of the family of the family, was the large flour mill (in Charsznica Street), which burnt down. I still remember how my mother (Z”L) cried that night at a loss that supported so many families.

My parents' livelihood came from their hardware shop where they dealt in iron tools and building materials. But I recall that my father also dealt in the timber trade. Because of that he was known to the land–owners and nobles of the district and he would ride on horse–back armed with a licensed pistol that protected him. That business was dangerous (although I remember lovely days when father organized picnic trips to the forest for the family) and on more than one occasion I caught a snatch of conversation between my parents on that topic. Eventually my father stopped with that trade and concentrated his energies on the shop.

I attended two schools at one and the same time; during the morning the Polish school and in the afternoon the Hebrew school. The Polish school was the first place where I encountered hatred of the Jews because the teachers in the school were not known for their love of the Jewish people. The Hebrew school, by contrast, gave us a feeling of security. Together with the members of my class I joined the Zionist youth movement in town; I was then twelve–years old.

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The activities of the Zionist youth movement, those that took place in the branch office on week days as well as the social activities on Friday evenings – had a common framework. It was the same idea with the trips that we organized out of town to meet with groups from other towns. The youth movement formed us to meet the future.

mie173.jpg
Collecting donations for the Foundation Fund of Israel

 

I remember an original idea that we created in the branch, in order to collect donations from the Jews in town for the “Foundation Fund of Israel”. With that as a target, we organized a number of groups and each group carried wooden–framed cartons that we placed over our heads and covered half our body so that we could move. On the front of the carton were different scenic views of Palestine which were already being worked with Jewish hands, like the Jezreel Valley, the Zebulon Valley and so on. At the head of each group were older boys, dressed–up as old men. Every group was assigned a different section of town. I remember that people contributed generously. In one of the streets we were set upon by a gang of young Christians who hit us and smashed our cartons. It didn't deter us; after we repaired the damage we continued with our task accompanied by a few older boys from the branch. The incident deepened within us the sense that our place was in the Land of Israel and not dispersed among the nations of the world.

The expressions of anti–Semitism became conspicuous when events in town occurred where both Jews and Poles assembled together, such as the town's football matches. There was an organized football team in town – called “The Strength” as far as I can recall, and the team sometimes played against the Polish team from town. We knew from experience that if our side won we would be attacked by the Poles so we would leave a few minutes before the end of the match to avoid the problem. Another example is during the winter when we would go to the public Wojskowy Park to ice–skate and they would throw stones at us or even prevent us from going on the ice if we appeared in a small group. With the rise of Hitler as Chancellor anti–Semitism increased significantly and began to be felt economically.

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Here is an example: there were three shops in town trading in ironware tools, general building materials and hardware, all of them owned by Jews. Suddenly there appeared a Polish Christian, M. Tott who opened a similar shop in the center of town. At first he wasn't particularly successful but when he sensed a new anti–Semitic atmosphere he began a program of incitement, especially on market days that took place once a week on Tuesday. He posted men outside the Jewish shops. As far as I can recall, he had them distribute hand–bills with anti–Semitic slogans.

The Jews began to face up to the problem of anti–Semitism in all its gravity. I remember evenings at home when our father debated the topic over and over again. My father, who had been a farmer before settling in Miechów, began to weave together a plan to leave Poland and immigrate to Palestine. When he first brought up the idea with the family of immigrating there was considerable opposition and doubts but generally the family understood the situation and father's ideas.

In 1935 my father had the opportunity to realize his vision. That same year a delegate arrived from Palestine looking for farmers of modest means who were interested in immigrating as farmers to Palestine. My father travelled to Warsaw and met with Tsvi Lieberman, a representative of Moshav Nahalal, and registered himself as a candidate. To this day I remember the repercussions that arose as a result when he brought to topic up with the family because only a few Jews had immigrated to Palestine from Miechów.

It is worth telling here an event that occurred that almost led to a pogrom here in town: On one of the days of the week I was in the shop with my mother. A Christian woman came in and bought something. Immediately afterwards a young Christian man came in and asked to see a knife. The man began to look at the selection and suddenly opened his shirt and stabbed himself in the chest a number of times and fell down smothered in his own blood. In a very short time a crowd gathered, Jews and Christians. These last began to fabricate all sorts of explanations as to what happened. To our good fortune the Christian woman gave a true account as eye witness. Tempers cooled but for some time there was a feeling of fear and insecurity following the incident.

At that time, together with the rest of my class, I joined the youth movement to go for training. Not a few of my friends were jealous of me knowing I had good chances of immigrating to Palestine. We waited many days for the approval to arrive because we were included among the immigrants and when it was received the joy was immeasurable. Feverishly my parents began to prepare for the journey. Many difficulties piled up during the preparation; starting with the sale of all our property up to obtaining all the necessary documents. The time between receiving the approval and the actual journey was the hardest part for us, we had to leave the home we had lived in and move to a small apartment in a distant neighbourhood, and there we waited doing nothing for the date of our travel. Only thanks to our determination to go and the courage of our parents – we managed to overcome the crisis. The long–awaited day arrived: we gathered together our few parcels and packages and loaded them on the sleigh, it was mid–winter now and in the company of the family and friends we went to the railroad station. After an emotional farewell we got on the train taking us in the direction of our heart's desire.

For the first few days in Palestine, we lodged in Haifa with the Feureisen family. From Haifa we went to Nahalal and there, we lodged with Lieberman who provided us with a chicken–house as living quarters. We stayed in Nahalal only a short time because father had bought a farm in Kfar Baruch. There my parents remained to the end of their days. The first days of our settlement in Palestine were very hard because of the very limited means we had to establish firmly the farm we had bought and the lack of knowledge we had of the agricultural conditions in the country. Here I must mention that a very large part of the progress we made is thanks to the labour and activity my late mother played in the advances we made. She organized the meagre cabin and encouraged all of us to toil hard and long in order to succeed. Only after some years did we manage to turn our plot into a prosperous and productive farm.

[Page 175]

During the war we lost contact with the family and only afterwards did we learn that only a few of them remained alive. One of them, my mother's brother, Aharon Berger, was shot by Polish thugs while on his way to one of the villages.

My parents and their children fulfilled their obligations defending and guarding during difficult days. My parents lived to marry their children to children of the Moshav but a short while after my own marriage my father (Z”L) died in 1950, after a short illness. The yoke of responsibility fell upon my mother's shoulders, which, thanks to her fortitude she managed for another 10 years. But the hard work subdued even her and after a long illness she died in Afula hospital and was brought to her resting place in the cemetery of Kfar Baruch.

 

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