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Chapter Three – The Past Days

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Portraits from the Past

by Shlomo Zeira

Translated by Hadas Eyal

It is through a heavy fog that I now see my early childhood years in Radomsk. I left the town when I was young and the image of the people who surrounded me in those years has blurred. I confess without shame that during my adolescence as a Chalutz in Erez-Israel I tried to forget those good people, their environment, their conversations, their positive and negative attributes.

Today, when my thoughts turn to “there” and “then”, a unique light sometimes penetrates the heavy fog. The light of the twilight generation of my childhood between the end of “ancient” Diaspora Jew that prayed for a Messiah on a donkey and the beginning of the New auto-emancipated Jew.

It is difficult to put on paper the memory of all who are worthy to be remembered. I will try to portray some of the people whose memory is etched deep in my heart.

The first musical notes of “HaTikva”

If I remember correctly, my parents' first apartment was in the house of Adolf Levkovitz on Broznytska street that crossed the railroad tracks. Adolf Levkovitz had a trumpet similar to those used by the town's fire department. On summer evenings Mr. Adolf played a new tune on his trumpet, one that was neither a synagogue melody (I doubt he even went to synagogue) nor a Jewish folk song. It was something new. It was only after some time that I learned what it was and where it came from. From then on I admired him.

This is how it unfolded.

In 1906 a state of emergency was declared in town. I was four years old. A curfew was enforced after 8 PM and anyone caught in the street after that risked being arrested by the Cossack guards and beaten. One evening after a visit to my grandfather Yehezkel z”l, our next door neighbor Mr. Felman escorted me back before curfew. We were already close to home when we heard horse hoofs and an order “Stop!”. We ran to Felman's house and bolted the gate. The Cossack who arrived a second later banged on the gate with his rifle yelling: “open or I'll shoot!”. Frightened and shivering we stood without uttering a word. After the Cossack left, I walked quietly home, my heart pounding. In the yard I met Levkovitz who was surprised to see me entering past curfew.

I told Levkovitz what happened and sighed “oy!”. He approached and whispered in my ear: “you are still young; you may have the luck to live in Erez-Israel. With the innocence of a child I asked: “will the Messiah come?” He answered: “of course”. To which I said: “so why do we not hear his shofar? To this Levkovitz ended the conversation with the words: “do you hear my trumpet? It is his shofar”. I thought he was mocking me. A few years later I was told the tune Levkovitz played on his trumpet was “HaTikva”.

Blue-beard workers

Maurice Maeterlinck [Belgian Nobel Prize winning poet and playwright] wrote “The Blue Bird” and other poets write of “blue blood” but I saw with my very eyes blue-bearded Jewish workers when I visited my grandfather as a little boy. In my grandfather's back yard was a small factory that manufactured ultramarine blue sticks for laundry. During the process of kneading the blue dough and cutting it, the blue powder stuck to the beards resulting in the interesting faces.

My grandfather later told me that Friedrich Bayer, the renowned founder of the dye and pharmaceutical Bayer Group came to Radomsk and offered the family a partnership in building an ultramarine dye factory. Bayer's economic incentive for manufacturing in Russian-ruled Radomsk was to cut the cost of the high taxes the Russians levied on German merchandise. The family refused the offer and the factory was built in a small town near Riga instead.

The diligent

When the Germans took over the town in WWI, the values of Radomsk youth began to change. Many young men who up till then suckled from tradition and the Talmud publically and with loud fanfare turned to secular knowledge Haskala books. Hot temperaments were pulled to issues of the time, some to Zionism and the Bond, some to secular studies towards a graduation certification. They were hindered by their traditional education, fragmented schooling and their age; only a few made it thanks to their diligence and endurance.

One of those students was my friend Jacob Aronowich, later a medical physician in Radomsk. Even though he was a few years older, he would talk with me about his studies and all kinds of issues. For him, studying was not a forced burden to be tested and done with as it was for most students. To him they were a delightful spiritual and intellectual experience. He loved discovery, insight, revelation.

We left Radomsk on the same train abroad on student permits. When an old army officer questioned us on why we want to study abroad I gave a short answer and Jacob gave a long lecture. Jacob was overjoyed on the train, thrilled to start his studies in Switzerland. He was so busy chatting with other passengers that he neglected his luggage. When we got to Posen he was told it didn't arrive. I waited with him 24 hours hoping we can continue together but his luggage did not get there and we parted ways. That was our last conversation. My diligent friend was eventually certified as a medical doctor.

The studious

Mendel Finezilber was a humble, modest, unpretentious Radomski Jew. He was a learned scholar of our ancient and contemporary literature and knew Hebrew well. His income was from a small store but his main passion was bible, literature and philosophy research.

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We first met soon after the Austrians took over the town and I was preparing to travel to the city of Piotrkow. He was perplexed by a biblical quandary that kept him up at night and he believed there was a person in Piotrkow that can clarify it for him (I think his name was Pinchas Baron, he later made Aliya). He asked that I deliver a letter and return the answer, which I did. When Mendel received the response he closed the shop to ponder over the explanation.

The stubborn

Nachman Zvi Gold-Paz z”l was a unique one-of-a-kind stubborn person. His stubbornness knew no boundaries. It wasn't capricious. Rather, it was a rigid will to overcome human evil, difficulty at work or school, and even forces of nature. I ran into him on a scorching hot day drinking from a pitcher of water to prove to the weather that he is stronger than it is…

In all the years I knew him it seemed his aim in life was to fight and win. He was the bravest man I knew. Once he found a worthy cause he fought for it, no battle was too difficult, he accepted the torments of war until victorious. I will give two examples. One that he told me of and the other I heard about from someone else.

When the Austrian army took over Radomsk in 1915 people were kidnapped to build fortifications. Those who were caught considered it a legal order and surrendered – but not the hero Nachman Zvi. He pondered and decided that by virtue of justice and honesty a conquering army is not permitted to force anyone to labor. When he himself was kidnapped, he freed himself from the military policeman and ran. The policeman was just as stubborn and the whole thing turned into a dramatic chase: from the street to the yard, to the house, to the roof, to the neighbor's roof, until Nachman Zvi was caught and led to work. That wasn't the end of story. When he didn't show up the next day, the military policeman came looking for him and a second chase began through the streets, allies, buildings and roofs. The policeman eventually caught Nachman Zvi. After beating him to a pulp the policeman spit and said: “May the devil take you damn Jew! Go to hell! I don't want to see you anymore”.

In 1920 Nachman made Aliya to Erez-Israel. That group of Chalutsim settlers included Y. Marminsky, Leibel Goldschmidt and others. In Vienna, the first stop on the way, they received messages about the outbreak of Malaria and the severe shortage of quinine to treat it. With the help of friends, a $3000 loan was secured with which they bought quinine. However, exporting quinine out of Vienna was illegal at the time and the Austrian police raided Nachman's room demanding he hand it over. When he denied knowing anything about quinine they began punching him to which he responded by yelling in Hebrew: D-I-S-P-E-R-S-E! D-I-S-P-E-R-S-E! for his friends to flee. After a two-hour beating, the police let go of him and the shipment arrived in Israel only to find that the small bags contained sand, not quinine…

Nachman embodied the Midrash idiom “when the clay was lifted, the gem was discovered”. Beneath the rough exterior was a soft sensitive heart towards every needy and oppressed person. Scores of people owe him gratitude for his faithful material and moral assistance. He was a good friend, a fun guy, down to earth, solid. Although he had a sharp tongue and sometimes lacked manners and finesse, those were as marginal as small nicks on a rock of marble or basalt.

A friend of mine who know Nachman well told me recently: “If we had 50 people like Nachman-Zvi Gold in Israel, we may not be in the social crisis we are in today” …

Water Sport

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An interview with the Oldest Landsleit in America

by Morris Schwartz

An Interview with the
Oldest Landsleit in America
Abraham Leizer Gliksman

(my maternal grandfather)

On a cold an day, in December, I knocked on the door of our landsman. Unfortunately, I found him sick in bed, very weak.

– Sholem Aleichem, Moishele! He called out.

– Reb Abraham Leizer! - I said - Aren't you ashamed, you the bal-koiek (man of strength) are making yourself foolish and lying in bed.

– You are right, my child.

– Reb Abraham-Leizer! I have come to you; first, to obtain a greeting from you to our native-city, because we are publishing a book, in which each countryman can write their life history [and] send a greeting to Radomsk. Secondly, [I want you to] tell me stories about the past, about the old times and I will put them in our book.

His eyes lit up, red color appeared on his cheeks. “I remember a lot of things, but what comes of it - I haven't any strength,” and with a weak voice started to relate:

“90 years ago, Radomsk was not a city. It was called a 'treife-moekm' (unclean place). Jewish Radomsk was in Bugaj. A 'Mura-Tzadek' (a righteous man). The mikvah was there. The leaders then were: Yosel Tsaduk, and Sore-Dwojre, Yosel Hampel's wife. The rich men lived in Plawno (Reichman, Richterman, Banker, Besterman, Hasenberg). After the coronation, in 1863, when Aleksander II ascended the throne, Radomsk became a Jewish city. By day Jews traded in the city and at night they went home to Bugaj. Or traveled to Plawno, because they were not permitted to live in the city or stay the night.

From Radomsk, whiskey and meat were smuggled into Bugaj. At that time there were Moishe the watchman and Ahron 'Farenkishke,' also a watchman. Later the czar permitted Jews to live in the city, but they were not permitted to buy houses in their own name. They bought houses using goyishe names. Not until Alexander II ascended the throne were Jews permitted to buy houses.

The community leaders at that time were: Leizer Ricterman, Izrael Zilberszac, and his wife Hodel (she was a saintly woman; [she] always had 8 guests at her table), also Berish Feszter and old Abraham Bem.

Later new rich men arrived: Dawid Bugajski built the new shul; Banker and Ferszter laid the first foundation; Izrael Ricterman renovated the old Beis-Midrash (prayer and study house). Bernard Feszter was the most respected Jew in the city. He would daven next to the rabbi, and was the gabbai (trustee) of the burial society. On Shimkas Torahi, it was a tradition to dance on a board, to make a procession and carry the Torah around the shul. Feszter once said to Berl the shamas (rabbi's assistant): 'Let the or people carry the Torah' - but he never said to given them beer…

Abraham-Leizer told me more wonderful stories: about Rabbi Reb Ber of Radoszyce, about Josef, Gabrial, Izrael Zilberszac, about Khesed (benevolent) Abraham, of blessed memory, about Tifires Solomon of blessed memory and about others.”

I bid farewell to my Hometown

by Sarah Hamer-Jakhlin

Often when I am alone by myself and think of my childhood and of my hometown, a long forgotten curtain lifts up for me. It takes the shape of the dear, loved Jews, everyone, children, family, uncles and aunts.

There once lived a shtetl that breathed with Yiddish life, possessing a thriving youth. Now, it is judenrein (free of Jews)…

My dream was that I would at some time travel home and see my family and friends, go to my mother's grave, and again walk the land on which once stood my cradle. But this dream was wiped away and extinguished.

But my memory of my hometown will never be erased as I still remember it from my early childhood.

I see for the hundredth time that frightening Friday night when my young mother was so suddenly ripped away from the world. Shortly after that the Novo-Radomsker Reb Ezekiel died. His son, Solomon Henik Rabinowitz, took over the Kise-Hakoved (God's throne) and a quiet and yearlong partnership with my father's stocking factory was interrupted.

The business began failing and my father believed, with complete faith, that with the death of my mother and the departure of the Rabbi, Solomon Henik, that for him prosperity was at an end. He constantly went around pensive, speaking very little, and kept on calculating.

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Once he came home from minchah (the afternoon prayers) and said four words which changed our whole life. He quietly, but firmly said: “We're going to America.”

Although I was only 11 years old, I clearly understood that this meant a separation from family, from friends and from the hometown that at that time was so beloved and dear to me. We quietly began getting ready to get underway. We went down to Przedbórz, in order to say goodbye to my Aunt Dwoyrele and Uncle Zindl Tenenboim who at that time were marrying off their oldest son Wigdor to the daughter of a rabbi, and from there continued the journey to America.

A day before I left Nowo-Radomsk, I woke up very early. I went out alone about the city, in order to take a quiet leave of the streets and little alleys, of the shops, of the trees and greenery, and of the people.

I went on Shul Street and, first of all, made for Aunt Chaia's and Uncle Yitzhak Aeizin's business, which was something of a mixed up store. On one side shelves were covered with cut-goods; on the other side lay food, sacks with beans, rice, sack flour, soap, kerosene and other foods. When I went into the shop that early morning, the store looked to me like the most glorious business in the whole world!

My aunt and my uncle lived with their thirteen children at Hanania Lewkowitz's, where the choir was also located. But the [place] most loved to me was the long courtyard, which we children used for all kinds of games. We would dig out little holes, pour water into the sand and from that 'bake' different baked goods…

We would also plays with beans in the holes. Sukkous and Simchas Torah we played with nuts there. But the yard was the best for us for playing tag, for hiding, for jumping over wooden spools. The wooden spools were marked with white chalk on the black earth. We would spring over this on one foot and then we would have to say something.

Next door the majestic brick apartment house stood tall. In the evening the windows were lit and lighted the way for us. But this time when I came to say goodbye to the courtyard and to the apartment building, it looked through my child's eyes like a sort of enchanted castle that I thought I would never see again…

From there I followed the Shul Street to the mark (market). I went by the pump and spotted Welwele the water-carrier. The children would called him by his nickname, teasing and shouting, “Welwe, you are a girl and not boy!” And he would [give an enraged] answer:

– I am a boy and not a girl…I am going to marry Tobele Mashkes and I will buy her a house with a seat… And we would all answer in a chorus:

– Go, go, you won't get married because you are a girl, a girl and not a boy.

But this time when I felt as if I would be seeing Welwel for the last time, suddenly he became beloved and dear to me. Instead of me teasing him, I nostalgically said:

– Do you know Wawe, I'm going away?

I put my hand in my pocket and wanted to give him a candy. He got frightened, thought I wanted to throw something at him, and he screamed:

Fur in der erd arein. (Go in the devil.)

– I'm going to America, I said seriously, and gave him a caramel. He put down the water can, took the candy, studied me for a long time and said:

Nu, go in good health and bring me the Meshiekh; I need him very badly…

(Translator's note: There seems to be a discrepancy in the identification of the water-carrier. Here he is referred to as Welwele; in the section entitled “Three Generations of Water-Carriers,” his name is given as Leibele.)

I saw from afar Beilke the meshugena. She kept wrapping a pack of rags to [make them] look like a doll. She said that this was her child. Women would say that Beile became crazy because she did not have any children. Usually, I would run after her together with a band of children, to tease her, pull her by the dress [and] call her 'Meshugane.' The louder she screamed, the more we would misbehave and tease the unfortunate one. But this time, the day before my departure for America, I suddenly felt great pity for her. I gave her a caramel. She was afraid to take it.

Nu, take it, I begged her and at that I took off my kerchief and gave it to her.

She grabbed the kerchief wildly, wrapped her 'child' in it, looked at me with wild eyes, grabbed the caramel from my outstretched hand and ran away. At that she babbled something that I didn't understand.

I was left standing near Moshke's inn and with much nostalgia looked at the wooden building where the travelers and Hasidim, too, who would come to the Rabbi for Shabbos and yom-tovim, would stay. I noticed Tobele and we were very delighted with each other.

Women with fresh baked goods rushed home to their husbands and children. Jews with velvet tefilin bags went to daven. I looked after them for a long time, drawing each image into myself. Maybe, unknowingly, this was so that I would be able to write about it in my later years.

I had already in one way withdrawn from the Rabbi's court. In my ears I carried the Malamedishe murmurings of the teacher. A deep longing took hold of me and I wanted to cry.

From the Rabbi's court I contrived to let myself go to the 'new road' – later the promenade for Radomsk youth.

Suddenly I heard someone ask:

– Why is such a little girl so [deep in thought]?

I looked around and saw my father's friend, Michal Waksman. A little ashamed of my pensiveness, I quietly answered:

– We are going to America. It is a very far and long trip. I'm leaving everyone here. I won't see anyone again. I don't want to go. And I started crying.

Nu, don't cry, Surale. He patted my back. America is a better country than Poland for Jews.

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I looked at him and didn't absorb his words. We took leave of each other and I went further.

I came to the edge of the river, looked at the water where we went erev Rosh Hashanah for tashlich. How pretty the river is, so peaceful and calm! Does a prettier river flow anywhere in the world? The shul was located not far [from there]. I stood and looked in and again admired the blue sky painted on the ceiling, with the stars, the small clouds and the flying angels. For the last time, I looked in at the women's shul and I let myself go to the 'new way,' Reymonta Way, where journeymen, dressmakers and bag makers would walk around after the Shabbos cholent and make romantic connections. The sun shone and warmed with its handfuls of golden rays.

That early morning was quiet and calm. The chestnut trees rustled. From somewhere a bird sang; a dog barked. I was back in the city. The city clock chimed eleven.

In the middle of the mark stood an organ grinder and around him stood a crowd of children. On his shoulders sat a monkey. He turned the wheel and the organ played a monotonous melody:

Red little cherries tear me [away],
And green let me stay.
Pretty girls take me,
And ugly ones let me go.
Oey! Woe is me!
And to my long life
We both trifled with love
A full three-quarters of a year.

Then he asked us to throw a groshen in the cup. And the monkey would pull out a little [piece of paper] on which our future would be told.

I threw in a groshen; the monkey gave me a rosy piece of paper and I read it:

– You will live long. You will receive a letter and you are going away on a long trip.

Very early in the morning, we climbed into a covered wagon that stood next to Moshke's inn. After that, as the wagon was already packed with passengers, the driver [put the whip to] the horses and said, 'Giddy-up, little horses, giddy-up.' They ran with a strong gallop along Shul Street to the Przedbórz Road. When we had already gone a considerable distance, Aunt Haia's [daughter] Eigl ran after us. She screamed and cried with such a lament, that the astonished driver stopped the covered wagon and asked her what she wanted.

– I want to say good-bye to the children; she pointed to me and to my sister. She had just learned at the last minute about our departure, so she came to say good-bye. She kissed us and then cried bitterly. As if she knew that she would never see us again…

Who at that time could know that this wonderful girl would die in a savage way in the Czentochowa ghetto together with her husband and seven sons, and never even be buried in a Jewish cemetery…

Avoiding a pogrom

(A chapter [of] memories of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Radomsk)

by Zundl Grinspan

At the time of Shavous [in] 1906, on Shabbos before grinem Donershtik (Pentecost, which comes fifty days after Easter), a group of friends walked around in the middle of the day on Neier Weg. Among us were: the two sons of Zemmah the shoemaker [who were] Bundists (a Jewish Socialist organization in Poland), Tzivia, the pitsele's (small one), Feiwl, the leader of Po'alei Zion, Wilhelm, a member of the Zionist-Socialist Worker's Party, the tailor's son Jakob, [a member of] Po'alei Zionist, Feldman and others. As usual in those days, we were absorbed in a discussion about Zionism, [the] Bund and the like. Suddenly we noticed a group of about fifty Russians, who, it seems, came in on the train. This was suspicious to us and we sent Moshe Judke the peddler, a Bundist, to find out what the comrades were doing in Radomsk.

Moshe Judke was a tall young man and looked like a Russian. He went over to the comrades, greeted them with a cheery, Zdravstvuvyte in Russian and immediately became their friend. They chatted with each other and started to ask him how many Jews are there in the city. 'A lot' – Moshe Judke answered – And what do you intend to do here? – He asked them. After a short conversation they revealed [their] secret to him, that they simply wanted to slaughter the Jews.

He went with them up until Bugaj, where they held a consultation and worked out the plan for the pogrom. They asked Judke to send the anti-Semitic young men to help Judke immediately explained the whole situation to Eliezer Tanski (Bund), Dawid Kruze, Wolf Pitsele and Fiszlowicz (Po'alei Zion) and immediately called together a meeting on the Neier Weg in front of the train. The three parties – Po'alei Zion, Bund and Zionist-Socialist Worker's Party. – immediately joined together and distributed arms among their friends. Each party had made a [constant] effort to provide arms – submachine guns, hunting rifles, daggers, etc. With the help of Social Democrats, the arms were smuggled from Germany in hay wagons through Mislowice, Sosnowice and Niwke.

That same Shabbos, at night, when the workers went home from the new furniture factory, 'Mazowie' the situation was explained to the pepesowtses (members of the Polish Socialist Party).

Polish [graduate students] marching with the rowdies was already observed between Minchah and Maariv (the afternoon and evening prayer services). We organized ourselves in a group together with the members of the Polish Socialist Party on Station Street, went out to the market and on Krakow Street, marching back up to the corner of Stzalkowske, and marched that way until it got dark.

The [graduate students] came from the market and into Stzalkowske Street. We came from opposite them from Krakow Street, into the market and invaded their group. A fight broke out immediately. They ran in the direction of Sthalkowske, but the members of the Polish Socialist Party stopped them near the hospital. There the real struggle first started. We broke the four night-lamps that lit the city and beat the rowdies in the dark corner [that was provided for us by the broken lamps]. They began screaming for help and later even used a bugle. After a short time fifty Cossacks came riding in from gendarmerie and then the members of the Polish Socialist Party disappeared with us.

The same week we knew that the rowdies planned to organize a pogrom after the ceremony for Pentecost. We informed the members of Polish Socialist Party from the Rakower factory in Czenstochow about that and asked them to come to help us. In fact, they came with weapons. We also got ourselves ready to ward off the attack and defend ourselves against the pogromists. In many houses we prepared vitriol (sulfuric acid) to pour over the rowdies.

We deployed groups in the flowing places:

  1. in Shul Street, by Mordechai Zelig Rozenblat near the church;
  2. in the market near Kleinerman's porcelain business, near the gate of the first house;
  3. intersection of the market and Czenstochow;
  4. intersection of the market and Krakow Street;
  5. intersection of the market and Stzalkowske.
The market was full of peasants who had traveled for Pentecost and we waited until the end of the ceremony.

After the ceremony we noticed that Cossacks had come with the chief of the city hall, Jashchetmski. The chief was a member of the Polish Socialist Party and helped the socialists a great deal. It turns out that he learned about the plans for the pogrom and the preparations of the self-defense organization and undertook appropriate measures in order disperse the peasant mob and avoid a blood bath.

That is how a pogrom was avoided in our city, thanks to the alertness of the self-defense organization.

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Sholem Alecheim visits the city

by Leah Koniestpoler

My summer visits to Radomsk belong to my best childhood memories. As one [who was a] resident of the nearby 'larger' city [of] Czentochowa, with its grey houses and walls, I was drawn to neighboring Radomsk, with its prettier neighborhoods. That is where my Uncle Solomon Konietspoler lived and I would spend almost every summer there.

I still remember the empty fields of Zakszow and the Plawno pine forests. The taste of the milk remains with me still. And the bread [spread with] rosy preserves and butter, with which we would treat ourselves at Maier Gabriel's farm… Foremost are my memories of Radomsk's young people, as [being] heimishe, familiar and affectionate.

The great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem's trip through Radomsk and our encounter with him takes an honored place among my memories of that time.

This was at the beginning of 1914. We knew that at 6:30 p.m., Sholem Alecheim would travel through the Radomsk train station on the Warsaw-Vienna express train. Reb Judea had made a strong impression on we young people [that] something [important was going to happen], an opportunity to see the great beloved Yiddish writer and perhaps even have time to speak to him!

At the hour we, a group of young people, gathered at the train station. We were all dressed up in our best clothes and awaited with impatience the arrival of the express train.

Suddenly a heavy rain began and the arriving train was visible in the distance. We sought protection under the small roof in order to stay out of the rain. But the roof was barely sufficient [as a cover] for all of us.

Then the rain became heavier and with it the train rolled in. [Someone] in one of the first wagons pointed out to us the wagon in which the writer [could be found]. Which rain? What rain? We ran to the designated wagon. The train had already started to go and in one of the wagon's window's [could be seen] the writer and his wife. He was wearing a white Russian rubashken (coarse shirt). He wore a pair of large glasses and, on his head, a wide Panama hat. Seeing us standing in the heavy rain and waving to him with our pocket handkerchiefs, he started smiling.

Taking off his wide hat, he began waving with it for as long as he could still see us.

Our good luck was indescribable. Water ran off of us. Our best clothes were soaked, but it was worth it to me – we had the privilege of seeing Sholem Aleichem and to be saluted by him.

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Victims of the First World War

by Dovid Koniecpoler

I write these lines in the land of Israel in the year 1955 after going through the saddest and most tragic chapter for our people. I think, what kind of an impression can several homeless families in 1916 make on me after the Hilterist inferno? But, obviously, we cannot let ourselves forget the time in which Jewish Radomsk and her young people displayed so much humanity and willingness to make sacrifices. These people had hearts that were filled with pride and with a profound sadness for the Jewish, humane, Radomsker beauty that was so ravaged.


At the beginning of November 1914, the Russian military established a fighting position around Radomsk. Several Russian military formations marched through the city. From the start the Jewish population suffered badly. But later the war became routine and one became used to the war's concert of exploding shrapnel and shooting. At that time we did not yet know about any kind of aerial bombs or atom bombs.

There were rumors then about the bad condition of the Russian army which could not take care of all of its soldiers and that on the field of slaughter were many wounded, Jews among them, too.

Immediately, a group was established in Radomsk that became involved in the matter. They turned to the Kehile and to the Rescue Committee, with Mr. Fishel Dunski at its head. And when the Kehile and the Rescue Committee did not exhibit the proper initiative, our group, with H. Glikman, the dentist, at the head proceeded with the rescue work. We talked to Herszke Natan Rozencwajg, the owner of a horse and droshke, and in a few hours we were near the front.

After negotiating with the military organs, we immediately took several wounded Jews with us and drove them away to Mrs. Zaks' wedding hall. The arrival of the wounded excited the Jewish population. Jews brought straw; others brought bread and tea. Preparations were begun to prepare a warm lunch for them.

After providing the wounded with medical assistance, we drove back again to the front to bring more wounded. Austrians were found among the wounded Russian soldiers, and even today I still cannot forget the pleading looks of the poor Austrian wounded, asking that we not leave them on the field. After great effort we were successful and we received permission to take the Austrians with us. It turned out that one of them was a Jewish officer. I do not remember any longer how long our rescue action lasted, but it turned out that we saved a lot of wounded Jewish soldiers.

Combat in the area of Radomsk lasted six weeks. The last day of the retreat of the Russian military, a lot of Russian soldiers sneaked around in the city. The Russian military regime made it known that the death penalty would result for concealing any military personnel. Still, Jewish soldiers found a warm and quiet home with a lot of Jewish families.

From time to time a Jewish soldier from Odessa would come to our house. I remember his last visit with us. It was a Chanukah night. As usual, the soldier was very warmly received. My mother just then, as was the custom, oisgelost {rendered) the Passover schmaltz (fat) and the soldier sat with us and ate grevin (cracklings). The warmth of the room and the threat of danger showed on him; overcome and sitting at the table, tears ran from his eyes. My father comforted him and did not let him leave the house and he stayed with us for the night. Before going to sleep, he asked my father to wake him up early, so that he would be able to go to the Beis-Hamedrish to daven because he had a yahrzeit in the morning.

In the morning the Austrian army marched into the city. Among the captured Russian soldiers we found our Odesser.


In the middle of winter, at the end of 1915 and the beginning of 1916 the Germans brought to Radomsk a part of the evacuated population from White Russia, among which were found a large number of Jewish families. They were provisionally quartered in the empty factory rooms of the “Thonet Brothers.”

We, a group of young people, leaders of Kultura, which was then still named the “Union of Youth,” set off immediately for the factory, in order to see how we could help.

What we found there caused our young hearts to shudder. In the corners of the factory were huddled the homeless families. Their faces expressed fear, despair and helplessness and such sorrow that tears rose in the eyes of some of us.

On the spot we decided that something had to be done here. I remember no meetings or budget discussions. But I remember very well the big round iron pot filled with food. I remember the pot being carried from the city into the factory and held on one side by Dovid Krojze and on the other side by Dovid Koniecpoler, Pinya Kalka and Leizer Beigelman, Abraham Winter and Fishel Paris and other friends (who talked about giving money?). The organization was transformed into a big kitchen, where our gang, with Leitze Wilenska at the head, cooked.

Quieting the hunger of the unfortunate gave them a new feeling. The people began to feel that they are among Jews, and that they would\ not be lost. From the corners was heard the laughter of the young people and the high, joyful voices of children.

The relief activities lasted several weeks and during that time a strong friendship developed between the homeless young people and us and there began to take shape refined threads of affection between some of us and them…

[Page 136]

Community (social life) activities in 1914/15

by Pinye Kalka

Quite a few months had passed since the World War had begun. The Austrians who captured our city were, in all respects, a lot more lenient than the Germans. The population of the city lived together in a totally friendly manner with the new ruler, both with the ordinary soldiers and with the military officers and city-officials. The newspapers which we received would give us reports of the daily news in their usual version with kleine exceptions of 'strategic' train movements. We understood just what the words in the martial-language meant, although all news was under a strict military censorship.

The economy and commercial life in the city more or less stabilized. The few pre-war industries were, of course, completely paralyzed; the big furniture factories and smaller factories were shut down. Then new war [occupations] developed such as [transporting] food or other goods from one city to the other. This was the main source for making a living for the average Jew, if not the Jewish population. Everything was sold and traded. The real name for it was smuggling.

But at that time in Radomsk, as in most cities in Poland, [there was the beginning of] boiling communal and cultural activity. The young people seemed to awaken from a long lethargic sleep, and with the whole hot Radomsk temperament threw themselves to a fresh source of life, which was named 'Culture.' The poorest classes as well as the rich, the tailors and the shoemakers as well as the intellectuals – all were ruled by the cultural trend.

The poor Jewish worker's street awoke and put on view their spokesman; they were: Dawid Konietspoler, a carpenter, Abraham Lipshitz, Leibl Gelbard, a true proletarian fighter, Leizer Beigelman, Fiszel Gliksman, Brother Kroise, Brother Gold. Feiwl Ickowicz, etc.

The institution around which everyone gathered was the well-known 'Culture' with its library and reading room. Like hungry locusts, the young people invaded the library and the reading room every night and the books were carried out into the street as Radomsk was transformed into a university-city.

Rich cultural evenings with enlightened programs were arranged. Preparations for each cultural evening were made as for an important yom-tov. The leaders of the Warsaw Jewish bourgeoisie and workers' parties often came to agitate for their programs and ideas. The Mizrachi leader Herszl Farbsztein, the Zionist-Socialist Worker's Party leader Dr. Josef Kruk, Pinye Bukshorn, the 'Bund' leader Vladimir Medem, the Po'alei Zionist Zrubol (the prince who stood at the head of the Jews who returned from Babylonia), Dua (D. Bogin) came. Every lecture raised a hot partisan temperature. The masses were drawn into the political debates. It happened that at the lecture by a Zionist speaker about Eretz-Izrael a tailor stood up and asked him, 'is there something new [you can tell us] concerning the Jews in Poland?' During a lecture by the Bund leader Vladimir Medem, a sarcastic Zionist man sprang up and demanded that the speaker not speak only of the bad, but of the good times of Zionism (a nice demand from naïve young man!). Medem answered him without thinking that he was leaving that for him and the proletariat audience from which to draw pleasure.

Under the [guidance] and leadership of the party centers in Warsaw and from the neighboring city of Czentochow, organizations of the Jewish workers parties in Poland were formed in Radomsk. There arose the organization S.S. (Zionist-Socialist Worker's Party), later Fareinikte (United), which had succeeded in Czentochow [and] occupied first place in Radomsk. After [the S.S.] came the 'Bund' and Po'alei Zion. [Together] with the professional unions, which were later created, 'United' and the 'Bund' directed the 'Union' and the 'Bund.' A 'consumers' cooperative' was created which was directed by the 'Union' and Po' Alei Zion. The most modern and prettiest worker's nursery was established on the Jewish street. Understand, that the Moshiach's time when all workers will live together in peace, was still far away and [their was considerable disagreement among the] parties. Meanwhile, the grand new epoch of the Russian Revolution began that revolutionized the working masses [all at once]. With [the revolution], even the occupation forces, even the 'loved' Austrians, couldn't be [considered] prefect.

But the war also endowed Radomsk with other events (which interrupted both the 'cultural idyll' and the struggles of the political parties).

A train arrived in Radomsk with the homeless from the war fronts in White Russia and Lithuania. The homeless, mainly Jews with several of their Christian neighbors, [traveled] by train for several weeks until they arrived in Radomsk. The Radomsk young people (blessed they should be!), interrupted the party struggle for a while, rolled up their sleeves and with customary Radomsk fire and enthusiasm threw themselves into the work of giving the initial assistance to the unfortunate Jewish war victims. Young strong hands carried the old broken bodies of the refugees and dragged the bundles that they were able to rescue with themselves from the devastation of war. A temporary home for them was arranged in Kahn's* factory. Immediately after groups were organized to collect food, to find places to sleep and everything that the homeless needed.

*(In other descriptions of this period, the factory is identified as the Thonet Brothers Factory.)

[Page 137]

This was not a one-time job, but constant day to day devotion [to] care and work that was also bound up with a difficult struggle with the Austrian city officials. While it was possible to obtain warm food and other necessities from the Jewish population, such luxuries as sugar and coal had to be obtained through fighting [with] the Austrian 'rulers.' But separately, this, too, was done, through the brilliant Fiszel Gliksman and Leizer Beigelman. Separately Fiszel Gliksman with his [sympathy for the ordinary people] and humor encouraged and excited the mood of the battered homeless.

The brotherly love and friendliness that Radomsk showed to the homeless [brought out] the warmest feeling for the city and her Jews. Fiszel and Leizer represented [the Radomsk Jews]. A lot of the homeless later left for America and here through their assistance and interest in Radomsk they showed their thankfulness to the old hometown.

Jewish Self-defense (organization) in 1919

by Berl Dudkewitsh

The political situation was not very clear right after Poland's independence. The left was at the center of power, but the executive power in the city square was established on the far right. And all of the Rightist parties took advantage of every opportunity to [instigate] political disturbances. Naturally [they saw disturbances against] the Jews as the best opportunity of all and for all times. And so it was on the 4th of March 1919, a Sunday, that a large number of incited Poles gathered on the Neiem Weg (New Way). And the blind and lame anti-Semite Witalski screamed that the Jews were the only ones to blame because there was no bread. 'If we searched at the Jewish bakers we would quickly find it.' The self-defense [organization of] the Jewish workers' parties, was naturally, quickly informed and was prepared for every contingency.

Abraham Dudkewitsh was lifted up on the shoulders of the comrades and declared with such a sure voice, 'It is not true that the Jews are hiding the flour and bread. The truth is that the [authority in charge of food provisions] does not distribute enough flour, because it is in their interest that there should be disturbances, etc. etc.' Coming to the assistance of comrade Dudkewitsh, the nearby starost [the governor of a Polish province] (by the way, he was called a Volkskommissar at that time) sent out the Pole Skomski. He endorsed the opinion of the Jews. And the P.P.S, a group on the left, immediately took over the masses and in the Jewish bakeries changed the [opinions of the masses and] some [of the] arrested political [prisoners] were released. And then the government official [in charge or] food provisions was removed.

By chance the leaders of the Jewish self-defense [organization], had already carried out an ambush of the former Austrian gendarme with the nickname 'Little Orange' a frightening anti-Semite and blackguard. Taking part then [were] the leaders of the self-defense [organization]: S. Wlashtsowski and the grober (fat) Herszl Surkewits, Rubinshtein, Konietspoler, Kube Wielinski, Henek Kalka, Leibil Goldberg, Srulke Altman, Abraham Shustek, Gotayner, Moshe Pzyrowski, Alek Plawner, Haim Sheitits, Abraham Aeile Dudkewitsh, Motl Goldberg and others.

The telephone was disconnected earlier. Naturally, all of Radomsk's young Jews were ready to stand against every attempt by the rightist elements or pogromists. The reaction, however, did not silence these elements which then still dominated the organs of power. A lot of arrests were carried out and naturally among [those arrested] were some leaders of the self-defense [organization], with A. Dudkewitsh at the head.

An interesting card from 1915

This photograph-card was kept by relatives of the Mishe (Moishe) Winter family, which lived on Kalinske Street, No. 2 (in 1915). The photograph shows a group of Radomsk Jews, who were captured by the Germans for compulsory-labor in Widame. On the other side of the photograph, a son of Mishe (Moishe) Winter writes to his parents:

'… I was spared because I am sick on my feet, but I don't yet know what will be, if I will be freed… I worked very hard on Shabbos… We didn't want to work on Shabbos, [so] we received a beating… Tomorrow I am going to the doctor… No more news… I send only friendly greetings to you and the bride…'

This photograph was apparently [received] by chance. Added to the above fractured information was: 'Please give [this] to Mishe (Moishe) Winter, Kalinske 2.'

[Page 138]

A proclamation from the German army during the First World War

At the time of the First World War a German-Austro-Hungrian army detachment settled in Nowo-Radomsk. At [its entry] into the city, in 1914, a proclamation was issued to the Jewish population, by which [it was hoped sympathy and support would be generated]. The General staff leader Von Hindenberg and General Ludendorf, who after losing the war threw bile and dirt on the Jews and propagandized Hitlerist teaching, tried to give the lie to [the fact], that at the outbreak of the war, he had asked for help from the Polish Jews with servile words. In the archive of [the] Nowo-Radomsker 'Relief' [Committee] in America is found an original of the proclamation, which was at the time distributed in the thousands in the streets of Jewish shtetlech in Poland.

We produce here the original proclamation, with the same words and spelling system, in order to protect this document for coming generations.

Morris Schwartz

The German Army from the great Middle European governments of Germany, Austria and Hungary has come into Poland.

The mighty march of our actions have caused the despotic Russian government to run away; our flags bring you justice and freedom, direct civil rights, freedom of worship, freedom to work without interference in all areas of economic and cultural life in your spirit.

Too long had you permitted yourself to be suppressed under the iron yoke of Moscow. We come to you as friends.

The barbaric foreign government is gone. The direct rights for Jews should be built on firm foundations. Don't let yourself be fooled, as a lot of times before, by flattering promises.

Did not the Tzar in 1905 promise you direct rights for the Jews and he did not give the manifesto of rights?

How were you repaid this debt, which was promised to you before the whole world? Remember the expulsions that daily drove the Jewish masses from their [homes].

Remember the Beilis trial and the work of the barbaric regime to spread the terrible lie of blood use by the Jews. Thus had the Tzar kept his royal word, which he gave [when he was in a vise].

Again he is in a vise! See, this is in the reason for his promises. Your holy debt is now vigorously taken up together in the work of the liberation with all the strength of the people. Your younger generation, your religious community, your friends, must stand as one person to assist the holy thing. We wait as you will demonstrate through facts your judgment. In your devotion turn yourselves with the greater confidence to the commanders of our military. In the lands that are nearest to you all sorts [economic activities] will be immediately and well paid.

Understand the way to completely overwhelm the enemy and to bring the triumph of freedom and justice?

The Over Directory of the united German, Austrian Hungarian Armies

A squad of the German-Austrian Army (during the First World War)
receiving an allotment of food in the Marketplace in Radomsk.

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