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[Page 5]


by The Editing Committee

Eight years have gone by since we first began preparations for this book on the Jewish community of Rozhan, until at long last it can be published now. It was a great effort made by a number of people devoted to the weighty and difficult task to erect a fitting memorial to our community. It is what other communities of Israel have done and no doubt it is the right thing to do for the people of the book.

Rozhan was no different from other Jewish townships in Poland that are no more, but to us, who were born and grew up there, she has something unique.

It is not only the landscape, the topographic situation on the high bank of the River Narew. It was also the Jews, who had been living at the place for generations, rebuilding it stubbornly and assiduously many times. In fact after each of the many wars that swept over the region, that lies on the road from Russia to Warsaw.

Those were homely Jews of all social strata, orthodox and freethinkers, Zionists and anti-Zionists. Above all we have at heart the Jewish youth of Rozhan that took upon itself the task to redeem the world and the nation - and only few of them have reached the final haven of rest here in Israel, while others, of the few who did survive, have found shelter in the West and built their homes there.

It is the intention of this book to keep our past alive and to preserve the shining memory of those who lived and were active there, to show that they were not anonymous and to describe their striving and struggling to maintain a definitely Jewish, religious, social and political existence. This book wants to tell future generations how the Jews of Rozhan created Jewish life in the midst of a hostile environment, how they built for themselves the framework of a society and filled it with deep-rooted national values, how they created their own institutions, that were able impose their authority - after democratically arrived at decisions with no governmental powers behind them. The book also wants to keep alive the old Jewish spirit maintained by our people everywhere, the rule "Jews stand by each other" that found its expression in individual help as well as in organized assistance such as various mutual funds.

The book is also meant as a memorial to the tragedy of our people. Jews of Rozhan had to run for their lives during the very first days of the war, and one after the other they fell as victims on the bloodstained roads of Poland. Some survived after having passed through the hell of exile in the vastness of Russia and Siberia and back; only a few were lucky enough to reach Israel and to build new homes here.

The book contains about 600 pages and it reflects a collective effort. It was not easy to obtain the material, as there are next to no writers among our people. So we had to apply to as many of our townsfolk as possible in order to make them talk or write - those who did write were a minority and most contributions were given orally and had to be taken down. We endeavoured to get in touch with as many as possible and to give a rounded out picture of the town, its history, people and folklore, but we feel that in spite of all our efforts we could not note everything worth remembering. All we can say is that we have done our best to present a many-sided picture of everything that was human and Jewish and good.

Financing, too, was not an easy task. It was, in fact, more difficult than we had originally assumed it would be. We had no millionaires to draw upon, neither here nor in the U.S., who could or would have donated the necessary sums. It was therefore the right thing to start work with the means at hand, trusting that our brethren in the U.S. and elsewhere would come in as soon as would have something to show them. And thus it was done. We collected some funds here and set to work. In 1970 our friend Efraim Ben-Dor visited the U.S. and. in a number of meetings with our townsfolk there, managed to open the doors. They promised to contribute written material and began to transmit funds. Thus encouraged we stepped up activities. Next faced the difficulties of editing - and there is no need to go into details - the facts are well known. It was a bold, but necessary decision to change the editor. The task was taken over by the writer Benjamin Halevy, a new impetus was given and in spite of temporary delays we can now lay the book before you in its present form.

One of the difficulties we had to face lay in checking and verifying the material. We tried to interrogate different people, wherever facts were open to doubt. In spite of this it is possible that here and there errors have crept in or that the list of the victims contains misspellings - for which we must beg the forgiveness of our readers. It is next to impossible to bring out a book like this absolutely free from errors.

Certain events come back in several accounts. This was unavoidable, as everybody had to be given the opportunity to present matters as he had seen and experienced them and in his own words. That's also why the material is not of uniform quality. We omitted very little, only in cases where, in our opinion and that of the editor, Benjamin Halevy, matters were redundant or not fit to print.

Putting in the pictures presented a peculiar problem. The principle we adopted was to given an objective presentation of our town's realities. We, therefore, preferred pictures of organized groups (movements or parties) or other bodies bearing a well-defined character, to pictures of chance gatherings. We gave, however, our people a practically unlimited opportunity to preserve the memory of their families in pictures or in writing. We regret that many did not make use of this opportunity in spite of our repeated requests.

The book appears in Hebrew and Yiddish and parts of it in English, too, for those who live in distant parts. Apart from the historical sketch a number of contributions were chosen for English translation to cover a variety of aspects according to the judgement of the editor. A number of texts of general interest he selected and translated from Hebrew to Yiddish or vice versa. The greatest part of the book is naturally in Hebrew, as it is meant for the generations to come in Israel, the only place where the memory of our people can be kept alive, the only place on earth where our national existence has a future.

The death of Arieh Buchner of blessed memory was a loss to all of us and a heavy blow to those engaged in having the book published, in which he took such a prominent part. However the work went on until the editor and the editing committee has now been able to complete it.

We would like to thank all those, here and abroad who assisted in its preparation and final publication; to those who wrote down their accounts or gave them orally or gave us documentary evidence, to the people of Rozhan, who donated the necessary funds, to the editor Benjamin Halevy, who gave the book its shape and invested great efforts and knowledge, to the proprietors of the "Ofer" Printing Press who performed their difficult task with an open heart and mind, far beyond any obligation. Our heartiest thanks to all -and blessings! In the month of March 1977, Adar 5737. The Organization of Jewish People from Rozhan.

The Editing Committee.

[Page 6]

With this Book

by Bejamin Halevy

Another book is being added to the long list of memorials to Jewish communities exterminated In Europe - it is devoted to the memory of the community of Rozhan. To many not connected with this town it will be no more than just another book, but to those born at the place on the river Narew it will mean much more; it is the fulfillment of a pledge to the sacred memory of their dearest, cruelly destroyed in a way unparalleled ever in our history. It is also a testimony for our generation to remember and for generations to come and learn the glories of our Jewish past that is no more.

To the people of Rozhan such a book is invaluable. They are unable to visit the graves of their dears as is the custom with Jews and Gentiles alike, there to cherish the memories of parents, brothers and sisters and to keep Jahrzeit for those whose tragic fate is ever present in the mind and burns the soul. People of Rozhan will read this book or merely skim through it and images of their past, of a happy childhood and the tempests of youth, above all the images of close friends and relations will rise before their eyes, of a past that was both rich and glorious and somber, a shining island of Jewish life within a sea of Gentile hatred. How sad that all this was wiped out and nothing is left but memories stained with blood, that are now bound up in this volume.

Yet the book concerns not only the people from Rozhan. The history of a nation and its image are made up from thousands of single bricks and this is just such a one. Historians and other writers will find here, as in similar books, a wealth of material and information about the spiritual and moral attitudes of polish Jewry.

The book contains sparks of human greatness and of Jewish heroism and we hope that somebody will use them on a wider Jewish scope.

I am neither a native of this township nor of Poland and originally undertook the editing as a professional writer, but very soon the contents took hold of me. One cannot do the editing without being deeply moved even to real admiration. Inevitably the heart becomes involved if one is Jewish and if your home and most of your relations, too, were lost in the Holocaust. More than once, when working on one of the contributions, most of all, when it was of a survivor who had been through the horrors, tears choked me and the pictures haunted me for days. Now that the important and painful task is fulfilled, I am thankful for the opportunity to join the handful of devotees owing to whom we can now say, "Our work is done". They have completed a very difficult and time-consuming task which, sometimes, was also frustrating and I wish to express my thanks to them, also to tell the readers how much they should appreciate their achievement.

I still had the opportunity to meet your distinguished member, Arieh Buchner and to talk with him about the book and the editing. I owe still more to those who are still with us - and may they enjoy long years, - Mordechai Armoni, Pessah Malinek and Nathan Wigoda who took a great share in the book. Above all, it was your friend Efraim Ben-Dor who took upon himself the care of both essentials and details and showed great devotion and also ability as a publisher.

I wish to thank you, people of Rozhan for the privilege you gave me to help in erecting this memorial to your community, that was deeply rooted in Jewishness, active, and well deserves to be remembered forever.

Benjamin HaLevy

[Page 7]

This was Our Little Town

by Aryeh Buchner

Who are those who are left? - A mere handful of people in Israel and fewer still abroad, scattered all over the world. The Jewish community of Rozhan, some 3000 souls, has been exterminated. It was a poor small place but had its peculiar charm. It was very much alive and struggling for its existence.

And what, in fact, couldn't you find there? Mitnagdim and Hassidim of different Rabbis, traders and craftsmen (a gamut of all parties), youth movements, libraries and drama circles, celebrations and performances, sports and excursions.

Every event in town was everybody's concern. Who wouldn't remember the weddings? Everybody hurried out for the Chuppah, as if it were his own or one of his close relations. On such occasions you could meet all the young people of the town.

And the performances. They used to begin at 10 or even 11 at night, when elsewhere they usually end. They took nearly twice as long as necessary and the audience could hear the text twice - first from the prompter and only afterwards from the actors - nobody complained that the actors didn't know their parts by heart. Performances would last till dawn and by then it was no longer worthwhile to go home to sleep. Therefore one used to chat or stroll along the road to Pultusk till sunrise. That's what our township was like.

And, yes, we also had thieves - of a special brand: they used to purloin books from the libraries. These were cultured thefts, such as our neighbouring towns couldn't boast of.

And in cases of bereavement the news spread from house to house and charitable women would get busy. Help was needed and it had to be given quickly, and therefore must be collected fast; and then you could see these women go from house to house begging - not for themselves - to extend hidden assistance and to "rescue a soul in Israel".

When holidays approached, the town was decorated, children ran about freshly washed and combed in holiday clothes near the synagogues and prayer meeting rooms; a festive atmosphere filled the town.

That's what our town was like - but it is no longer there and we shall see it no more; it is lost and gone and will never return.

[Page 8]

Rozhan: An Historical Sketch

by Aryeh Buchner

The Sources

We quote here information about the history of Rozhan and its Jews from six sources: these are nearly all the records extant. Unfortunately nearly all the information stems from Christian sources and even those who did not purposely belittle the impact of Jews on the town, did not give them full consideration.

We proceed by chronological order and begin with the Encyclopaedia Povschechna. Under the entry "Rozhan" very little is said about Jews, although (or maybe because) the writer was a Jew. Next comes the "Slovnik Geographiczny" complied and edited by the Catholic Church. This source has more to tell about Jews than the former. They are named Israelites and not "Zhid'

- to stress the editor's impartiality; however, he too doesn't attach much importance to the Jews of Rozhan and gives hints rather than details.

Only from two Jewish sources: Evreiskaya Encyclopaedia (1908-1913) and from the "Book of the Council of the Countries" from the years 1533-1760 do we learn of the existence of a Jewish community in R. in the 16th century. This means that Jews were not just living there in the past (in the Middle Ages) but they were organized in a way parallel to that of the state in which they lived, regarding jurisdiction, administration and legislation.

The Ev. Enc., which was financed by Jewish philanthropists, the baron Ginsburg and others, has a meager text but its data are reliable. Unfortunately they were gathered from official Russian records for the years 1847-1897 and nothing is said of earlier periods. The aim was not to compile an encyclopaedia, as the name would indicate, and many items relevant to the subject are omitted. There are no details of occupations, ethnography, jurisdiction, social affairs etc. Even on demography there are only figures and percentages and nothing more.

"The Book of the 4 Councils" fills in the gap to some extent and from it we learn that Rozhan had an organized community as early as the beginning of the 16th century and was one of a small number of communities in Poland to contribute to the budget of the country-wide organization.

Thus we were compelled to glean details about the Jewish population of Rozhan from the Jewish historians such as S. Dubnov, J. Shipper and A. Levinson.

There are a great number of relevant passages scattered over their writings, mostly dealing with the Jews of Mazovia and R. among them.

The "Book of Rozhan" describes the period before the destruction. It is to us a last document of a community that was exterminated and has ceased to exist. We know how careful the committee was in compiling and collecting all facts and details as adduced by the various participants. We can, therefore, regard it as a popular historic source for our times and we can safely draw upon it for details to characterize Rozhan that was and is no more.

Old Jewish Rozhan

Of the history of Jewish settlement in Poland - and especially so in Mazovia - very little is known to us because of the lack of documentation. There are two reasons for this.

a)        For hundreds of years the local princes, peculiarly those of Mazovia, enjoyed constitutional freedom and were practically independent from the central government and its legislation. Therefore we find next to no documents relating to their existence in the Polish royal judiciary archives.

b) Jewish communities enjoyed full internal autonomy, according to the Jewish Constitution (Constue Judo) the "Bill of Rights" given by Boleslav of Kalisz, the "Laws of Magdeburg"; proceedings were registered only in the books of the communities and by the rabbinical courts. All these records have ''vanished" accidentally or on purpose and no official administrative or judicial sources are left to supply us with information on our subject.

In this R. is no exception. All we shall be able to say about the history of Jews in Rozhan is therefore largely conjectures drawn from what we know about Mazovia. (However, history has never refused to draw conclusions from conjectures among the rest.)

It is well known that Jews settled in Mazovia, as elsewhere in Poland, near fortified places and administrative centers and we may assume the same for Rozhan, where circumstances must have been similar.

According to Dubnov, Jews began to settle in Mazovia at the end of the 9th century, when a mission of Jews from Germany visited Leszek, duke of Poland, asking permission to settle in this country - and permission was granted. "In those days (1173-1209) Jews settled in Greater Poland, Mazovia and Kuyavia." According to Shipper (p. 50) "Jews arrived in Mazovia also from the Khazar Kingdom after its fall in 969. Jewish settlements spread over Mazovia and Poland and onto Bohemia. From the chronicles of other towns we learn that Jews settled mostly in fortified places, that served their rulers as military strongholds from which to impose their authority on rebellious subjects. Such rulers would invite Jews in order to help them to introduce industries and to develop trade and handicrafts in the districts under their domination. In return the rulers would grant the Jews military and judiciary protection, freedom of movement and autonomy to administrate the internal affairs of their communities. There is a famous letter by King Casimir the Great, dated 1364, saying: "The King has granted the prayer of the Jews who live in all the towns of the Kingdom of Poland. As he wishes to profit his treasury he grants them the right to establish themselves and to travel, freedom of trade and of importing and exporting goods, also to lend money for interest, on securities and mortgage."

Very similar is the statute of Kalisz, copied exactly from the Austrian statutes. There it says: It is forbidden to violate Jewish cemeteries or synagogues. Litigation between Jews may be brought before their own courts." (Dubnow).

It may be assumed that the Jews of R. too came to settle at such a district seat, recognized as such in the Statute of 1401. The town privileges granted the same year were due to Jewish contributions. As elsewhere in Poland the Jews were the main factor in urban development of the otherwise entirely agricultural countryside. We are unable to establish the date of the earliest Jewish settlement in Rozhan whether it was 969 or 1173. There is however no doubt about the existence of a community by the beginning of the 16th century. There is proof of it in the entry in the "Book of the 4 Countries' Council". We quote below in extenso. Now, if this was already an well-organized community, which did its share in the countrywide organization of Polish Jews, we may safely assume that Jews arrived on the spot much earlier. On the Council old-established communities with traditions of administration and religious jurisprudence were represented. We may thus say that Jews lived in R. for no less than 500 years and maybe near to one thousand. Therefore one of the oldest of Jewish settlements in Poland was destroyed here -a very heavy guilt.

Economic and Social Life

We cannot say much about the early occupational and economic setup of the Jews in R. But again, assuming that the situation was akin to that of other Mazovian towns, they must have been mainly artisans, and in addition, traders and service workers. In his detailed work on the "History of the Jews of Warsaw" A. Levinson states that it is not easy to arrive at the facts regarding the occupations of Mazovian Jews about the time this province became part of Poland and for many centuries after this event. By conjecture it may, however, be said:

a) That not many of them were moneylenders. This was mainly the business of Christians, including parish priests and other clergy.

b) The Jews of Mazovia, as those of other parts of Poland, were largely artisans and craftsmen and as additional proof A. Levinson quotes J. Shipper, who tells of a pamphlet in Latin called: "The Jews' reply regarding commerce" published in 1539. The anonymous author states that there are next to no Christian artisans in Poland - the number of Jews in the crafts exceeding that of the Christian at a ratio of 3 to 1.

So, Rozhan was a township with 6 craft guilds (Enc. Puv.) a tannery and a growing amber industry. If, in 1401, Rozhan was granted town status, after having been a district center for a long time, this was largely due to its Jewish inhabitants who developed it in this direction: markets and courts, a custom house, control of weights and measures, a public bath etc.

On the religious and social setup of Rozhan we have only two pieces of evidence: one outspokenly saying that "in the 18th century it was a sub-community, belonging to the community of Makov" (Evr. Enc.) and another, earlier, less clear, saying that during the period of the "Council of the 4 Countries" (1530-1766) Rozhan had an independent community, directly represented on the Council and fulfilling the duties imposed on it as such. There is no earlier evidence of a community at R. except for a general remark by J. Shipper regarding the 12th century: "In contrast to the poor condition of the comm. in Russia, the Jewish comm. of Mazovia and Silesia were prospering and new comm. were coming into existence from time to time."

Figures, ups and downs

Statistical and demographic data about the Jews of R. go back only to the early 18th century. Till than we have few figures about Poles and others, let alone Jews, who had every reason not to stress their numerical strength in the places where they came to settle in the Diaspora. From the little we know, we gather a picture of continuous and considerable growth up to the period dealt with in the Book of Rozhan. In the Evr. Enc. we find the following:
173 Jews in Rozhan in 1765, 773 in 1856 and 1698 in 1897. The figure given in the Slovnik Geogr. for 1828: 304 fits nicely into this picture, showing that each generation doubled the Jewish population. The growth of the total population on the other hand was rather erratic, so that the percentage of Jews in the total fluctuated widely: 30% in 1828, 58% in 1856, 47% in 1897.

In Conclusion

We have devoted much more time and efforts to this research than might seem warranted by the results: we felt it was our bounden duty to preserve as best we could the memory of the lost communities, and where full sources were lacking to make shirt with scraps of information in order to reconstruct the picture and tell the world that:

a) Our communities were concentrations of hard-working and peaceful people, who far away from the ancient homeland enriched the host countries and created for themselves sources of livelihood - and this not at the expense of others.

b) Throughout the centuries Jews dreamt of Jerusalem and, whenever there seemed to be a chance to return to Zion, they seized it, left their host countries, willingly and gratefully.

c) Jewish diligence roused envy and in the end anti-Semitic outbreaks.

d) At no time and under no regime was Jewish diligence appreciated by those who benefited by it and this is a lesson to be drawn from history over the ages and from all the countries of the Diaspora.



Encyclopedia Povachechna
Editor: Shemuel Orgeband
Published in 1866

... A city in the county of Plock in the district of Pultusk on the Narew River. In medieval Poland it was the capital of an independent estate. It had a fortress and a district court.

... In 1424, Jan, the Prince of Mazovia granted it the status of a city and allowed it to annex nearby villages and numerous cultivated fields. Among its privileges was a license to maintain a bathhouse, a barbers' establishment and a weight-control station, and it was authorized to levy road tolls and other taxes.

After the decline of the principality of Mazovia, Rozhan was annexed by the crown and made a county seat.

Queen Bona built one of her palaces here and occupied it periodically.

... Records from 1564 show that there were 320 households in the city.

... In 1581 a central storehouse for salt was established here. The salt suppliers were required to provide the storehouse with 1000 barrels of salt from Woliczka and 500 from Buchnia, together with the right to sell the salt on its own (for its own benefit) at the end of two weeks' time.

... During the reign of August II the city was destroyed in the Swedish War, and all its antiquities vanished. The only building to survive was the walled Catholic Church. Recently the church has been restored, but the unique porticoes were so gravely damaged that their restoration was impossible.

The magnificent palace and the three other churches were utterly demolished.

... There were six craft guilds in the city, for spinners, knitters, weavers, furriers, tailors and shoemakers. There was also an association, "The Brotherhood of Plowmen."

... In 1813 the council hall and its tower destroyed. On the stones with which the city streets were paved, one can still (in 1866) make out certain inscriptions, which mark those stones as having been taken from the council building.

... Today the city was 151 households. It maintains tanneries and a council hall. It is authorized by law to hold six fairs a year.


Slovnik Geographiczni
Editor: Brunislav Chalibovski Layout and sources:
Vladislav Velebski
1888 edition

Rozhan... An urban settlement on the Narew River, where it is joined by its tributary, the Rozanitza. Part of the Sielun district. 88 versts from Warsaw, to which it is connected by the Warsaw-Kovno highway; 34 versts from Pultusk; 28 from Ostrolenka; 62 from Lomzha.

... It has a walled Catholic Church, a synagogue, a town-council hall, a brewery and a distillery for the production of honey wine.

172 households, 2414 inhabitants (the number of Jews not stated).

In 1828 it had only 114 households and 1021 inhabitants, of which 304 were Jews. In 1860 it had 151 households and 1810 inhabitants (again the number of Jews not stated). Archaeological findings in the place include graves and trenches indicating the site of prehistoric settlements. It was this ancient settlement which undoubtedly became a judicial and commercial center for the region.

... A settlement was concentrated next to the fortress, which occupies the entire hill by the Narew River; at the beginning of the 15th century it was awarded the status of a city. In 1411, Jan, the Prince of Mazovia, granted cultivated fields to a person by the name of Pokszywka, so that he could annex them to Rozhan.

A 1403 document of this prince, which was certified in Czechanow, confirms and augments the privileges of the urbanization of Rozhan, and grants to Rozhan additional privileges including a bathhouse, a barbers' establishment, a weight-control station, exemption from customs, duty and others.

... When Mazovia was annexed by the Polish crown, Rozhan became a county seat in every respect, both district and local courts being held there. Sabincziczki refers to it as "a city full of motion and vitality."

... Tradition has it that Queen Bona built the palace and came to stay there from time to time.

... According to the records from 1564, there were 320 households which paid no customs or excise duties.

In 1581, a central storehouse for salt was established here. The supervisor of the salt industry promised a yearly supply to this storehouse of 1000 barrels of salt from the Woliczka mines, and another 500 barrels from Buchnia. During the first two weeks, the salt was sold in accordance with the directives of the city government; after these two weeks it had the right to sell the salt as it saw fit.

... Revenue from passage on the Narew River accrued to the city.

... In 1526, Anna Princess of Mazovia, reaffirmed Rozhan's rights to the bridge (tolls), and these were reaffirmed in 1566 by Zigmunt.

... In 1549, Queen Buna permitted the city residents to cut down the forests about Rozhan.

... The area of its lands was then 1943 morags.

... In 1664, Rozhan County included the villages of Perzizanov, Los, Zaluxha, Razanof, Gerbovka and Zolotovka.

In the 17th century Rozhan was destroyed by frequent wars (the Swedish invasions) and by the Dzoma epidemic, but at the century's end it began to rise again.

Of its antiquities only the Church of St. Anna remains, having been restored in 1841. The work of restoration completely obscured its unique architectural style, which had flourished since the beginning of the 16th century and was marked by its pointed arches.

Of the palace and the three other churches not a trace remains.

The ancient council hall with its famous tower was destroyed in 1813.

... From the city of Rozhan came Maczi of Rozhan, who from 1430 on served as the scribe of the principality; it was he who translated the Mazovian constitution (from Latin to Polish).

The history of Rozhan, with the document from 1403 appended, was outlined by W.R. Geberczki in his book Memoirs of Plock in 1830.

... In 1877 amber was discovered in the forests of Rozhan.


Evreiskaya Encyclopedia
Editor: Dr. L. Katznelson
Published in 1908

In the Rzeczpospolita period, Rozhan was a principal city (the seat of the regional council) in the county of Mazovieck.

In the 18th century Rozhan was subdivision under the control of the community of Makow.

In 1765 it numbered 173 Jews.

Today Rozhan is part of the district of Lomza and the county of Makow (formerly the county of Plock).

Rozhan is one of the Jewish cities in which the Jews were not subject to the restrictions of the Pale of Settlement and others.

According to an 1856 census Rozhan had a population of 553 Christians and 773 Jews.

According to an 1897 census it had 3721 inhabitants, of whom 1698 were Jews.


Records of the Council of Four Lands
Israel Halperin

... In an announcement issued by the dissolution committee on April 22, 1766 (13th of Iyar, 5526) it was established that the Jews were to pay a poll tax of three gold pieces in order to discharge the council's debts; also established were the dates of payment, listed by amounts and communities. The principal creditors were the "forts" of Cracow, Lvov, Kalisz; various institutions in Russia and Major Poland etc.; and private individuals. (Among the cities whose Jewish inhabitants were required to meet this payment was Rozhan, and the list is not a long one).

Transcriber's note:

The matter under discussion concerns a "vehement protest" brought by the "Marshals, the Heads of State and the Honorable Rabbis and the rest of Israel's Chiefs" to the Queen, in which the former demanded "justice and mercy from her, her ministers and the councilors of the diet," requesting "a fair anal" regarding the many debts, of which "certain amounts had incurred" on their journey to the diet in the city of Warsaw.

We may learn something of the nature of the marshals' protest and proposed solution from the diet's decision, as quoted in the aforementioned document:

"Now by Royal Grace and the Authority of the Diet their protest has been heard and orders have been issued to the satisfaction of all, to the effect that I poll tax of there be levied on the populace of Israel, a Polish gold piece for every head, so that all debts and claims of the aforementioned chief marshals may be discharged."

Editor's note

1. 1766 was the year of the council's dissolution, and the marshals and chiefs etc., who had burnt the communal registers so that they should not fall into alien hands, hastened to present their "accounts" of the debts due them; the government imposed a poll tax on the Jews which was to pay the personal debts of the rabbis.

2. The higher tax, which was ten or twenty times greater than the regular tax, was imposed only on the older cities, which had participated in the Council of Four Lands since its origin and had enjoyed its services for many years. Hence Rozhan must have had an active congregation as far back as 1533 or 1560, the year in which the Council was founded.


Wietta Encyclopedia Povshechna;
Warsaw, 1967

Rozhan, a town in the district of Makow, Woiewudstva Warsaw, on the Narew River.

In 1965, 1400 inhabitants, a crossroads, center of public services, an ancient fortress consisting of four strongholds (1885). City charter from 1373. Since 15th century seat of "land" (regional farming council) and district. After annexation of Mazovsha by crown (1562), urban starostvo .

In 16th century, a center of farm industry.

Salt stores date from 1581.

Destroyed in latter half of 17th century.

Destroyed and gravely damaged in World War II.

[Page 14]

On the History of the Town


by Aryeh Buchner

Rozhan, town in the district of Makov, near the place where the Rozhanitza joins the river Narew, 20 km. east of Makov Mazovietzk, on the crossroads between Warsaw-Ostrolenka and Czarnow-Ostrov-Mazovietzk.

Rozhan, formerly included in the territory of Zakroczima, received in 1378 local privileges. These were confirmed and enlarged in 1403 by Janosh the First, prince of Mazovia. He invested the town with the "Laws of Chelmino" and recognized its rights to the revenue from the public bath and from the town weights. Beginning from the 15th century Rozhan became the capital of the district of Rozhan or Makov, the seat of a district court and of a governor (starostva). There were 330 houses in Rozhan in 1564 - a total of about 2000 inhabitants. In 1581 a salt depot was erected to serve Northern Mazovia. At the time there were five craft guilds in town: weavers, millers, tailors, hatters and shoemakers. Peasants' association too was set up which is proof of the importance of agriculture for the town. Traders dealt in grains and forest products such as wood, pitch as well as wax and honey. There was also a trade in hides.

The town flourished to the middle of the 17th century. Later the number of inhabitants dropped to 250 and in 1777 there were only 65 houses.

In the 19th century some progress was felt. Six fairs a year used to be held. There was a tannery, a brewery and a mead factory. The population increased from 582 in 1810 to 1810 in 1860 but this was not Enough to keep its rights as a municipality, that were taken away from it in 1869. However, the population grew steadily, reaching 4435 in 1910 and municipal rights were restored in 1959.

During the Second World War, R. was destroyed twice, first in 1939 and again in 1944-45. In addition the Jewish population was expelled by the Nazi conquerors.* 95% of the buildings were in ruins and of 6000 inhabitants in 1919 only 730 were left in 1945 (Non-Jews, of course) .**

In 1961 the number of inhabitants reached 1363, most of them employed in agriculture; there are 28 artisans' workshops, a fur-animal farm and a flourmill. There is a primary school and a lyceum (secondary). The municipal area is 12.77 sq. km. Town planning and building activities center around the market square district church in the Gothic style, apparently erected in the first half of the 16th century and enlarged in the 19th and 20th.

* All the facts and figures about this township never mention the name of "Jew" or hint at it. The source is an official Polish publication. (Miasia Polskie w Tyaiacleciu, Part II Warsaw 1967.

** In the "Slovar" Encyclopaedia of Brockhaus of 1899, R. is mentioned as a town in the district of Makov. Province of Lomzha on the river Narew. Number of inhabitants: 2352; church, synagogue.

[Page 16]

Rozhan, Landscape and Dream

by Shalom Perl

There was a little window in the attic of our house, just a quadrangular hole, and to this day I don't know why it was put there: if for light - it didn't let in much, and if for breeding pigeons - many of the neighbours did so, but not we. To me, for one, it served as a vantagepoint, from which I could observe part of our town like in a panorama. When my mother wasn't looking, I used to climb stealthily up the wooden ladder and once near the window I could take in a marvelous view: green fields stretching far, the road to Makow and the lush trees around the Jewish cemetery; on the left the road to Pultusk and "Telegraph Hill". Nearer at hand the cross at the crossroads where the road to Ostrow, to the "Forts" branched off and bordered the town to the west. My heart went out to those unknown faraway places, that were beyond my range of vision.

In summer clouds came from the West bringing with them heavy rains and sometimes thunderstorms. In autumn the sky to the west would become red at sunset. The children at the "Heder" of Rabbi P. whispered between them in awe, that this red colour must be the fires of Hell where the evildoers were being roasted in boiling pitch. At the sight of this mystery I would be stricken with fear.

Not so to the East, where the lovely sun would rise over the river Narew, over the meadows and the surrounding woods. I came to know these places when going to the "Heder" of Shimele near Levandacha's orchard. The rabbi's house was the last and before it there were a number of ramshackle houses, where poor Jews lived, who toiled hard all day to eke out a meager living. Here was the house of the hatter who was bent over his sewing machine till late in the night, and here was his neighbour, who had lost his eyesight in an accident. He was a gifted man with golden hands. And here again a house of a peddler who stuttered to the delight of the jesters.

Our teacher, Rabbi Shimele, was a good man. We didn't mind if he pinched us - his intentions were probably good. He would hold his fingers "at the ready" for a pinch, a severe or a light one, according to whether your mistake was a serious or a slight one, when it came to the exam in the weekly portion. His troubles were many: a small income, marriageable daughters, a white goat that caused havoc and above all: a son whom he could ever scold enough. All the Bible stories came alive here. We needed no maps or pictures of the places we were learning about. Here we learned how Abraham bought Mahpela Cave and in my imagination I saw it on the hillside, where the two poplar trees stood. For this our father Abraham paid 400 shekel of silver, true weight. Here we found a big bone, we used for our "Meta" game, but by couldn't it have been the one with which Samson broke the heads of the Philistines?

"And while I was coming from Padan Aram I lost Rachel" in the traditional singsong we repeat the sentence, that tells of the calamity that befell our father Jacob. There on the road from Zbendek, along the ridge that leads to Rozhan, his caravan was wending its way and in the old cemetery, on that beautiful hill, Rachel lies buried under the tree.

In summer all is marvelously quiet there, and only when a light breeze moves the high pine tree, you can hear a soft murmur from their tops. Not far from that spot a clear spring comes out of the earth with cool refreshing water. Yes, this was the spring where the Hebrews fought their enemies. Every battle had its place. "Sun stop at Giv'on and Moon in the Valley of Ayalon." Giv'on was, of course, the "Maria Gora" where a statue of the virgin Mary stood holding two candles, and the Valley of Ayalon was where my grandfather Abraham Yeshaia lived and where we used to burn our Hametz (bread) before Passover. People from all over the town would come, each with his Hametz, and N. would be in charge. Straw from old mattresses was brought at his command, pieces of wood and the straw burned with it the bedbugs that had not managed to escape meanwhile, and thick smoke would rise to the sky. Sometimes gentile children would try to interfere and throw stones but N. would fight back vigorously. No one else was so adept slinging stones and he frightened our enemies away. It was not only the place where we found food for our imagination, but also the ideal spot for fights between the various "Heder" schools, and for any other kind of mischief. Our parents told us that, in their day, it had been just the same.

My father told me how the boys from Rabbi Pinhas Eli's "Heder" had solved to build a dam and to block the ditch that served as an outlet for dirty water of the Mikveh (ritual bath). Because of its "chemical composition" this water would never entirely freeze even on very cold days, and, it got a crust of ice, it was yellow and soft and our sleds would leave ruts it, when we tied them after the peasant carts on their way to the village of Palinovo. This dirty water somehow did not please the boys and they worked hard to "harness" it. They carried heavy stones, poured sand, collected all kinds of broken objects and pieces of wood and when they had done, they waited impatiently for the result - but no: the man in charge of the bathhouse opened a sluice and their handiwork was swept away like nothing.

Our desire for mischief making was entirely natural. After sitting still in the Heder for hours on end, we'd storm out and vent our pent-up energies in wild games. We played at thieves and police, at firemen, or soldiers and robbers. We were as if drunk and our shouting could be heard from afar.

It also happened that solemnity and fear cast a shadow over our childhood. At dusk, between the Minha (afternoon) and Ma'ariv (evening) prayers, our Rabbi would go to the synagogue. In the "Heder" It was nearly dark and we were sitting huddled together and telling tales of horror, of evil spirits and devils, of dead people and ghosts, whose place was in the Beth Midrash and under the "Older-Brickle", stories upon stories, hair-raising and causing you to shiver all over from fear.

It happened that one Jew was on his way back on the road from Ostrolenka and when, at midnight, he came to the "Older-Brickle", his horse stopped and couldn't move the cart. The Jew looked back and saw a calf with bound legs lying in his cart. He understood at once that here was devil's work and he began to pray Shema Israel, and as he did so he could hear a heavy thud on the road, the calf vanished and the horse galloped off, until it reached town safely.

And another Jew, who fell asleep at the Beth Hamidrash and suddenly, in the middle of the night he heard himself called to the "Tora". He opened his eyes and saw an assembly of dead people standing around, reading the Tora. The Jew fainted, and that's how the janitor found him next morning when he opened the door.

But here the rabbi is back and he lights the kerosene lamp with its sooty and cracked glass cylinder. A piece of paper holds the pieces together and it sheds a feeble, reddish light. The flame is dancing and shadows move on the walls. You can follow the boys who recite their lesson "Arba'a Avot Nezikin". The rabbi strokes his broad beard and combs it with his fingers. The hair that falls out he puts in between the pages of the Gemara. Outside the moon travels over the sky and the town is all shrouded in white. During the long summer days, too, we felt chained in our seats. You were sweating and bored, A barter trade in odds and ends went on behind the rabbi's back. Here someone lets go a fly tied to a bit of straw. Some play at cards under the desk and everybody waits for the setting sun to peep in from the Shul-lane. As soon as it would reach a certain point on the tree we would rush out, free from bondage for the day.

A summer evening gently descends over the town. From the meadows you can hear the frogs croaking and the breeze wafts in the inebriating smell of fields and hay. The "Heder" and peculiarly so "My Heder" with the stench of urine in the corner never could deaden the longing for the world of beauty - only a few hundred steps away.

The young began to rebel and to shake off the chains, to search for ways and means to build themselves a more beautiful and more secure future. The rabbi would be angry with us, when we came back panting from having run through the streets to attend a meeting of "Hashomer Hatzair." Youngsters in Grey shirts marching and singing "We are going to Eretz-Israel." "You went to see those people who were singing 'He Oole Artza'," the rabbi scolded. And many days later, when we came to the verse "A, those, who stay up late - the wine fires them", he would say, "Those are your Shomrim."

It was of no avail that I tried to defend them and explained that the Shomrim never drank wine and that the prophet's words did not apply to them. Only, because of my taking this side, I was shunned by the orthodox children. Our older brothers and sisters realized that the skies were darkening. They saw the axe of anti-Semitism that was raised against the Jews, and they went to find their redemption, and looked for it in various shapes and debated over it endlessly and everywhere: at home, at street corners, at le entrance to the synagogue and behind the "Belemer" while the Tora as being read on the Sabbath. When the debates grew hot and stormy, our old and honoured rabbi would get angry and he would scold "Shkocim (hooligans) go to sleep! The sleep of the wicked, may it does well to you and to the world.

But the just of the world and their good works did not avert the disaster. Millions of honest people, whose only fault was that they were Jews, were exterminated. My hometown, where, for generations, my forefathers had lived, was wiped out and with it my parents, brothers and sisters, friends and relations. Our lot was bitter. We were born in a beautiful country but it wasn't ours. We were driven out, destroyed; those who got away are scattered all over the world. But each and everyone will carry with him, to his dying lay, the memory of his dearest, of his childhood and of our town. A dream that will never come back.

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