by A. Y. Walbromski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Dedicated to my father and mother:
Ahron and Tsirl;
Sisters: Shifra Leah, Tsorka and
|There in Bełżec, far from Ksiaz,
Perished with the entire shtetl [town];
With graves spread through the fields
And I cannot find your grave.
From sadness and the cry of pain
I have written these words for you.
Father, mother, three sisters
Of all I remain alone.
There is no trace of your bones,
My tears pour out on your grave.
May this poem be a matzeyvah stone
To the memory of ash-burned limbs.
And I also will say Kaddish [memorial prayer] for you,
My head bent in sadness.
My heart will always mourn,
I will not rest, nor be silent.
by A. Y. Walbromski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Reb Dovid Walbromski, of blessed memory tall, broad shouldered, sturdily built, with a snowwhite beard that enveloped his entire face, with his thick eyebrows, with his sharp glance was well known in the shtetl [town] as a communal worker and gabbai [manager of synagogue affairs] of the house of prayer. We called him Dovid shnayder [tailor]; during the last years before the war, he sewed a cloth robe for a businessman and, very rarely, a Shabbos [Sabbath] coat or a kaftan for a welltodo member of the petty bourgeoisie. But all of this was not enough for an income. Thanks to his sons, who left for America after the First World War and sent him dollars, Reb Dovid could be the gabbai for the house of prayer and the KhevraKadisha [burial society] and do other communal and charitable tasks. Every Monday and Thursday Reb Dovid shnayder and his constant partner, Reb Shlomo Glezer, went through the shtetl and collected money and other things such as Passover flour, heating material in the wintertime and would distribute them to those people who were in need of them. It was known that if Reb Dovid collected donations it was needed and they gave generously. There was no funeral or celebration in which Reb Dovid did not take part. He lived more for others than for himself. Thus he lived his years as a true, devoted communal worker. He was the gabbai at the house of prayer for as long as I knew him. He was the first one there in the morning and the last one at night. He made sure that there was light for the young men who sat at the long tables studying until late at night.
I often saw how he would prepare the lamps himself and simultaneously clean the small glasses, despite the fact that this was the work of the shamas [synagogue caretaker]. He made sure that the ceramic oven would be heated on winter nights and that there was water for washing the hands in the ritual washstand.
As Reb Dovid, his wife, Faygl, of blessed memory, also helped her husband and was the gabbita [wife of the gabbai] for the women and helped every one in need with what they needed.
Reb Dovid Leads the Creation of a Sefer
I remember how Reb Dovid went through the shtetl to collect money for the writing of a SeferTorah [Torah scroll]. Every week a list was hung in the house of prayer with how much everyone had donated. When Reb Dovid saw that this would take a long time, because large sums of money were not flowing in, he himself gave a larger sum of money and thus he made it possible to finish the scroll quickly. Who does not remember the joy in our shtetl when the SeferTorah was taken to the house of prayer? The entire shtetl was gathered at the synagogue square: men, women and children. There was joy in Reb Dovid's house. Every respected Jew wrote a letter and this was done with awe and love.
|The family of Reb Dovid Walbromski.
His wife Faygl, daughter Bluma, [her] husband Dovid Waczrinski and children
It should be understood that at such a celebration they drank whiskey, ate honey cake as a celebration of the completion of the new Torah scroll, they did a Hasidic dance in which everyone was intertwined. When they were to take the scroll into the house of prayer, Yehiel Lezarek, disguised on a horse, went into Reb Dovid's house and with a cheerful song from the entire group and the accompaniment of music, the scroll was taken in under a canopy, placed in the Torah ark of the house of prayer of which Reb Dovid the shnayder was the gabbai.
Reb Dovid the Leader of the Hakhnoses Orkhim
As was the custom in all Jewish shtetlekh [towns], it was the same in Ksiaz The orkhim [guests] found their first stop in the house of prayer and particularly the guests who remained for Shabbos [Sabbath]. Reb Dovid made sure that they would be taken care of with a festive meal as well as a place to sleep. No Shabbos passed on which there was not a guest at Reb Dovid's table. In addition to food, there also was a bed for several guests. His wife, Faygl, was particularly involved with this mitzvah [commandment; popularly translated as good deed]; she made sure that there would be a wellmade bed on the straw mattresses as well as a warm meal with tea for the guests. She often lamented that a certain guest had taken an object of hers from the house, but this did not affect her in a bad way. On the contrary, she again continued with the mitzvah of Linas haTzedak and the Hakhnoses Orkhim.
During the Time of War
During the time of the war, when the Germans were stationed in the shtetl and always grabbed people for forced labor, there was a fear of praying collectively in
the house of prayer or in the synagogue; therefore, they adapted to praying with Reb Dovid in his house. Worshippers wearing talisim [prayer shawls] also were taken out from there and forced to work on Shabbos. Once, on a Shabbos winter afternoon, when the group was gathered at the house of Reb Dovid shnayder preparing for Minkhah [afternoon prayer] and for the third Shabbos meal, a German foreman, who was at that time leading the work on the highway on the KrakowWarsaw line, suddenly entered and removed several Jews to work and as a punishment for so many Jews gathering in a house, raised his cane to Reb Dovid, beat him savagely and beat out one of his eyes. He [Reb Dovid] was half blind from then on.
Reb Dovid and his wife, Faygl, and all of the Ksiaz Jews were deported during the deportation from the shtetl. In Slomnik I happened to stand in the same row of 10 people wide with him and my entire family. He and all of the thousand Jews from the area perished in Belzec. May God avenge their blood!
|Walbromski Family, my God avenge their blood|
by A. Y. Walbromski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
In every kehile [organized Jewish community] where there was a rabbi, there also was a shamas [synagogue attendant sexton]. There was a shamas in our shtetl Ksiaz named Yosl Szlamowicz. Yosl was left an orphan with his sick mother, Fraydl, who lived in a dark room in the courtyard of the good-hearted Christian, Alkusznial, who it is more than certain never asked her for rent money because she did not have any livelihood with which to raise her children, Yosl and his sisters Hinda and Rywka.
The kehile took pity and decided to make her son, Yosl, the town shamas, thus giving them the means to exist. He had his good qualities, which made him beloved at the kehile as well as with the city's shop owners; his honesty and naivety and his willingness to work gave him the ability to carry on a family life with a wife and three sons. His work as shamas consisted of bringing water for the house of prayer, heating the oven during the winter, sweeping the floor of the synagogue and house of prayer, going on assignments for the rabbi during a [session of the] religious court, reminding everyone of the time to light the candles on erev Shabbos [the eve of the Sabbath] as well as during the time of the High Holidays during the month of Elul [corresponding to September and October], being in attendance at the cemetery, waking [people] in the morning for the penitential prayers [shlikhos] with three knocks on the door, so that people almost jumped out of their skin in fear, shouting in his stuttering voice: Jews, wake up for shlikhos, Jews wake up for shloysh esre mides [13 rules for interpreting the laws of Moses].
In Ksiaz one was not allowed to carry things on Shabbos because there was no eruv [an area enclosed by a ritual wire, which permits the carrying of certain items on the Sabbath]. One could only carry things in the Shul Gas [Synagogue Street] up to the mikvah [ritual bathhouse], and when orkhim [guests or poor people] would arrive in the shtetl who would be invited to Shabbos meals, they would go through the shtetl and ask for food, not knowing that one must not carry things on Shabbos. Yosl the Shamas, seeing that they were committing such a great sin, would run after them and strongly reprimand then. He himself, reaching the tkhum-Shabbos, took off his chain and watch and lay it on Reb Shimkha Avramchik's threshold and ran after the orkhim who already were on the next street, protecting them from sin.
Returning, he did not find his watch. He uttered a cry of lament, humming in an undertone: No father, no mother, no watch.
His Shabbos was disturbed, and the jokesters at Minkhah [afternoon prayers] at the synagogue made jokes on his account. In addition to his income as shamas, he also was the haircutter for the Hasidic group, which did not want to come into contact with Kapecz, the anti-Semitic haircutter. Yosl the Shamas would come to every home and cut the hair of the group. He was a bookseller. During the war, Yosl the Shamas walked around the street, with a rope on his shoulders, a little like a Warsaw porter and was not afraid of the Germans who,
in truth, did not bother him. Every day he would go to work for anyone who would pay him.
At that time, they had to present themselves for work every day at the Judenrat [Jewish council], which had to provide 30-40 workers a day for the German Wehrmacht [armed forces].
And whoever did not want to go to work could hire a worker and pay the daily price of 12-15 zlotes. Thus, Yosl the Shamas went to work every day in order to earn a piece of bread for his family.
At the deportations, he and his family along with the people of the entire shtetl were sent by transport to Bełżec and perished there.
May the Lord avenge their blood.
by Yitzhak Meir Wyerza
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Many years have passed since the tragic annihilation of my shtetl [town] birthplace.
I am tormented by my feelings and I cannot free myself from what was deeply etched in my memory during the years of my childhood: the shtetele [small town] with its residents in general and my dear family in particular. Individuals from a number of families survived after the destruction, as it is written: [I shall take you, even] one from a city and two from a family, [and I shall bring you to Zion. Jeremiah 3:14] Therefore, I feel a duty to contribute to the Yizkor Book within the framework of my abilities and describe the death of my family.
My grandparents, Yosef and Rayzl Lefkowicz, whom I remember, lived in Kzias for their entire lives, had a small food shop on Kozlower Road and lived and led a middleclass life, married off their sons, Henokh, Shimeon, Avraham and my mother, Rayzl, who lived through the seven levels of hell in the camps and perished there.
My father, Yosef Wyerza, born in Kzias, a tailor by trade, was occupied with communal problems in addition to his daily work. He was a dozor [member of the synagogue council], a councilman at the community council and helped to create the guild, the union in Kzias and was the secretary there for many years. This was the only organized worker union that bore no political character. He went through all of the deportationd during the war with all of the Kzias residents, was in various camps, such as Plaszow, Mauthausen, Melk and Ebensee, from which he was liberated by the Americans.
Broken, sick, without the courage to live I found my father in such a state after the liberation. I, myself, also was in the camps and
could not help him very much at that time. We decided to join our family, which had been living in America since before the war.
But my father has suffered too much in the camps; he could not build a new life. My father died after a few years in America.
Thus did my family perish; I will never forget them.
by Mordekhai Herszkowicz and Ahron Matuszinski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
On the 24th of February 1938 I was in the Polish Army in Krakow. I served in the artillery. When the war broke out I fell into German captivity. I returned home to Ksiaz in1940, when the Germans were already torturing the Jews and were forcing them to work. They took my father, Wolf Herszkowicz, of blessed memory, from the house with his hands raised and he had to march through the streets and shout that the Jews themselves were responsible for the war.
At that time I was the only money earner in my family, so I risked my life and went to the surrounding villages to gather a little food.
In 1942, when the Germans began to send the Jews to labor camps near Płaszów, I did not appear. The Germans with the help of the Polish police took me to the middle of the market, severely beat me and
placed me in the Ksiaz jail. Thus they forced me to work. I jumped out of the vehicle in the middle of the road on the way to work, escaped and hid in the villages.
My father left during the deportation of all of the middle class from the city. On the contrary, my mother, Hinda, of blessed memory, my brothers, Yitzhak and Ahron Noakh, of blessed memory, my sister, Dwoyra Brayndl, of blessed memory, and Gutsha and my brother-in-law, Ahron Matuszinski and I left for the nearest village, Gebeltow, and hid in the ice house at the estate of the noble Drzanat. My father had been a pachciarz [tenant] of the noble for many years. At night we would sneak out and look for something to eat. We lived there for eight months, lived a bestial life, nourished with raw beets and whatever appeared.
Others were hidden by the Christian, Yozef Konieczny's family in a bunker under the stall. Hidden there were: Meir Matuszinski, of blessed memory, and his wife, Rywka, of blessed memory, Yisroel Leizarek's daughter and their four children, Chanala, of blessed memory, Yosela, of blessed memory, Malkala, of blessed memory, and Wolf, of blessed memory, and [Meir's] brother, Yekl Matuszinski. Yehiel Leizarek, of blessed memory, Henokh Leizarek and their youngest sister, Toyba, of blessed memory, also were [hidden] there. And it happened that when Yekl and Henokh went to look for food they came to us in the bunker. It was a miracle from heaven.
Until then, no one knew about the others; when they saw in what conditions we were living, they took us with them to their bunker at the Christian, Yozef Konieczny's [stall].
We experienced a difficult life there, but we were all together and lived on whatever was available.
There was even more fear and the situation grew worse from day to day. The Germans, using every means possible, began to search for all of the Jews who were hidden in the villages and in the fields. There was no lack of helpers.
In 1943 the situation became unbearable. We could not remain in one place. My brother-in-law, Ahron, and his wife, Gutsha, decided to move to Wladek Kukuryk, one of their Christian family acquaintances in the village of Szwienczica and they were there until the liberation on the 15th of January 1945.
We helped the Kukuryk family in their work in any way we could. They did not ask for any money. Every morning when the wife brought food for the cows, she simultaneously took care of Them.
There with the Christian family of pious and good gentile people, we
lived through the difficult war years. We feel as a debt to mention the Kukuryk family for their humane attitude.
I and the rest of my family who remained with the Konieczny family went through difficult times. Meir Matuszinski, who had left money and things of value with the Christian, Marjan Zeliczkewicz, before the deportation, risked his life and came to Ksiaz and asked him for food as well a part of the money, which he needed very badly. The Christian drove him off and told him that he should not dare come to him anymore. If he tried, he would turn him over to the Germans. This time he would allow him to live.
He returned to the bunker broken, without courage, full of fear and again suffered with his family but believed that maybe they would live through the war.
But fate wanted something else On the 5th of May 1944 the A.K. [Armia Krajowa - Home Army - main Polish resistance group] group arrived at the village of Gelbultub and the [house of the] Konieczny family. It appears that they had received information from the collaborators that Jews were being hidden. The Polish partisans, who actually did fight against the Germans, also [fought] against the Jews. And as they could not fight enough of a war with the Germans, they let out all of their hatred and anger on the remaining Jewish survivors.
A division of 50 men and horses and machine guns arrived, surrounded the Konieczny's house and demanded that we leave and join the partisan group and take all of our things with us.
They took additional horses for this purpose. We sat on the wagons and traveled far from the village. A terrible scene took place there.
They asked us to get out of the wagons in the Adama Forest, tormented us to reveal other hidden Jews whom we knew. It should be understood that, God forbid, we did not reveal anything; we understood our situation, that they were going to shoot us all and, at the field near the Adama, the Polish partisan A.K. shot the Meir Matuszinksi family, his wife, Rywka, and their four children, the Herszkowicz family, Hinda, the two sons Yitzhak and Ahron-Noakh and the daughter Dwoyra-Brayndil [previously spelled Brayndl], Toyba, the youngest daughter in the Leizarek family. This took place on the 5th of May 1944, in the month of Iyar 5704.
At that moment, Yisroel Leizarek's daughter, Toyba, begged that she be the first one to be shot. We made use of that moment and began to escape. Yankl Matuszinski, of blessed memory, Yitzhak Herszkowicz, of blessed memory, Yehiel Leizarek, of blessed memory, Henokh Leizarak and I, Mordekhai Herszkowicz, each ran without a purpose. We just wanted to save our lives. I found a pit and I entered it. The A.K. members riding on horses chased me and did not notice me.
Henokh Leizarek met a peasant plowing his field; he joined him and going along with the plow, he saved himself. The peasant then took him in and kept him for several days. He survived.
Yehiel Leizarek, of blessed memory, escaped to the village of Krzesiwka. He had many acquaintances there and believed that he would succeed in saving himself, but it was different. His acquaintances, the gentiles, turned him over to the Germans and some say that they themselves [the acquaintances] killed him. My brother, Yitzhak Herszkowicz, of blessed memory, was a stout man and it was difficult for him to run; he removed his boots and thought it would be easier to run, but the A.K. caught and shot him.
Yankl Matuszinski, of blessed memory, survived the war and when he went to the village of Maciejow to demand his money from the Christian, Kania Jendryk, he [Jendryk] did not only not want to give him his money, but murdered him on the spot with his own hands.
The A.K. shot the rest of the family; their grave is located in the Adama Forest.
All of the Christians who hid Jews were almost all murdered by members of the A.K. The Konieczny family, which hid the Ksiaz families, had a bitter end.
The house of the Christian Konieczny was set on fire. His wife and daughter were shot by the A.K. members. The father and the son, on the other hand, were in the field then. Hearing what was taking place, they never returned to the village, but wandered homeless, without a home, in the field, and without food for keeping alive.
by Ruchl Wilczkowski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
I am Alta Ruchl, the oldest daughter of Sheva and Shmuel Zaynwl Wilczkowski, I am also the oldest grandchild of Perl and Shlomo Nalefka. My mother's parents had a bakery in Ksiaz. There were three brothers and a small sister in our house one sister died when she was eight years old. She was a year younger than I was. She was named Rywka Rayzl.
I was 12 years old when the [Second World] war broke out; I had not yet graduated from the folks-shul [public school] because they no longer permitted Jews to attend. My parents sent me to private teachers and thus I studied a little bit. But this did not last long; they
constantly tortured us in Ksiaz. The Germans had taken my father to be shot several times because they had found several white breads in our bakery. A short time later they took the bakery away from us. Everything we loved was taken from us. In the end we were still all together, but this did not last long.
It was the month of September 1942 when the first deportation took place in Ksiaz. On a Friday afternoon we were informed that we were surrounded by the Germans and Polish police. We were told to stay in our houses and to appear on Shabbos [the Sabbath] morning for the transport. We heard heavy gunfire the entire night and we lived through a bitter night. When dawn arrived my entire family went down and hid in the cellar of a Christian neighbor, Baczek, and we were very quiet there so no one would hear us. My father wrapped himself in his talis [prayer shawl] and silently asked God for our escape from the Germans. We heard almost everything that was happening outside. At first there was noise and tumult in the street; then suddenly it became quiet.
Mrs. Baczek went down to the cellar for potatoes at night and almost fainted when she saw us. But the good woman did not say anything; she sent down her son, Zigmunt, and he helped us go to a room in which we hid for several weeks. Then we returned home to our apartment and remained there for approximately two months until the second deportation. This was on a Sunday, the 8th of November 1942. At night we again heard that we were surrounded. My father took the money and divided it among us: we gave the jewelry to our Grandmother Perl and we decided to hide.
I still remember as if it was today how my father took his Khumish [Five Books of the Torah] and cried so terribly. We felt as if this was the end
We planned to go to Głogowiany. My parents had a Christian acquaintance there, but as the road was heavily guarded, my father and I went earlier to find a road. And my mother and grandmother and the children remained and waited. It lasted a half hour in total until we returned my family was no longer there. I sobbed. We began to look for them in every corner, but alas, they had already been taken to the transport. My father believed that they might succeed in turning around or bribing the Germans with the money that my grandmother had with her. There being no other choice, we lay near a mountain and were there the whole night. And in the morning my father and I left for Głogowiany and sent the Christian to learn something about our mother and grandmother and their fate. However, she brought back bad news for us she
saw my entire family and the remaining Jews loaded into train wagons and they were taken away under heavy guard.
My father and I still hoped; we thought that perhaps they would be taken to the Krakow ghetto and that they might succeed in smuggling themselves out of there. Alas, we do not even know where and when they perished.
We hid there for a week and then the Christian became afraid because of the threat of the death penalty for hiding Jews. The gentile took us through the forests at night to Wodzislaw. It was a little quieter there. A number of Jews had returned to the shtetl after the first deportation. In addition, the people were good to us; everyone wanted us to hide with them.
When the deportation took place in Wodzislaw, my parents in Ksiaz had taken into our house as many people as they could, in the attic, and everyone was well hidden. My father went to the Rabbi, Reb Yankele from Czenstochow, who was the rabbi in Wodzislaw, and I was with the Dembski family.
Several days later my father's brother from Jędrzejów learned about us; he sent a Christian for us and we traveled to Jędrzejów at night. My Uncle Layzer was one of the 200 Jews whom the Germans left to work.
We were hidden for several days with the Christian, an acquaintance of my uncle. And in the meantime, my uncle was successful in arranging work for us and for several women and girls who were also there.
Every day we thought we would be sent away to a camp; thus we lived in fear until the month of February 1943.
One morning we were surrounded and we were again taken to a transport; not more than 25 percent of us remained because the Germans finished off the rest of the sick immediately on the spot. We were chased into trucks and they drove us for many hours. We thought that this was our end and suddenly we were let down into a camp, HASAG [Hugo Schneider AG a German metal goods manufacturer that ran a forced labor ammunitions factory] in Skarzysko in an ammunition factory. And from then on I no longer saw my father, nor my uncle.
I was allocated to Plant A and heard that my father worked in Plant B and my uncle in Plant C.
It was very bitter at that time. We worked very hard.
They took away the money we had with us. I had succeeded in sewing a few zlotes in my coat and they did not search me because I was a young girl.
Things were bad for me several times at work; I fainted from hunger. Various illnesses rampaged where we were. Typhus literally tore [our bodies] and it was so bad that I thought I would not be able to bear it. At the roll call every morning, I would wait to be chosen to be shot. People convinced me that I had nothing to worry about because I looked like a Christian. They advised me to escape and, perhaps, I would be able to stay alive as a gentile girl. I had childish commonsense and I let myself be convinced. But I wanted to let my father know about this step [posing as a gentile girl]. With great difficulty, I sent a note with a man who had come from Plant B. In the note I wrote that I could no longer endure and I would try to sneak in among the Polish women who worked as supervisors. I also wrote with which Christian I would be in Jędrzejów. I completed my plan in two days.
At five o'clock I was back from work and I prepared myself and appeared for the shift at seven at night. I moved around a little bit until the seven o'clock shift would return again.
It was a week before Passover and between day and night, leaving the camp, I sneaked among the Christians. God protected me. I do not have the ability to describe how great the risk was, but I did not have anything to lose. I no longer had anyone. I went with them until I came among the houses. Then I knocked on a door of a small house and asked that I be allowed to spend the night. They took me in because they thought I was a lace maker. In the morning I paid them and I left for the Skarzysko train station. I sat on the train and traveled to Jędrzejów. When I went to the Christian acquaintance, she was afraid, but then she gave me food and closed me in a small room where no one entered. However, at the same time, she said that she could not hide me. I explained that I had written to my father that I would be with her because when we had been in Jędrzejów a Christian had told us that she had a bunker for several people and on that basis I had come to her now. She gave me a bread and said that I should voluntarily register for Germany because many Poles had done so.
I left again for the train station and bought a ticket back to Skarzysko. I traveled to Skarzysko and I registered there at the labor office for Germany. But as I did not have any documents, I said that my sakiewka (purse) had been stolen with my money and documents, that I had no one my father was in Russia in captivity and my mother had died. They believed me and sent me to Germany. I had
only one prayer that, God forbid, I not speak Yiddish in my sleep so the gentile girls would hear [me].
I arrived in Loewenberg near Pomerania on the 4th of April 1943 and I worked there until the liberation by Russia on the 15th of March 1945.
I heard that my father had escaped from Skarżysko and that he was in Jędrzejów and then had left for Ksiaz. The gentiles in Ksiaz turned him over to the Germans. I heard this after the liberation.
Thus I remain the only survivor in my entire family.
by A. Y. Walbromski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
|A long funeral train of living corpses
With frightened, half-closed eyes;
He was cursed, mocked, belittled,
Languished in the ghettos and camps.
The hundreds of train wagons sent to Bełż;ec,
The pain was unbearable;
The camp fence united us all:
The sun washed the body with sweat,
Jewish blood flowed like water.
Was this the will of God?
Children held by their mothers were shot,
His people were treated with mockery and derision.
And the sun shone no more,
The day was so long
Our will was strong, our spirit weak,
May the words remain in our memory,
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