Translated by Atalya Buskila Levy
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
Maczki, or Macza, was the original name of the settlement located within Olkusz county, about 18 KM south-east of Będzin. Upon completion of the Warsaw-Vienna railway line, a train station with a customs point was established in Maczki and the name of the place was changed to Granica [border], due to its location on the border between Austrian Galicia and Russia's congress Poland. Since then, Granica's population reached up to 5000 people, including many railway workers and clerks. The river Biała (White) Przemsza has acted there as a border between the two monarchies. A special quarter named Palestine was located within the settlement. After the first station, a second one was erected for the Dęblin-Sosnowica railway, and both stations became occupied by a growing traffic of passengers and merchandise. The name Granica is memorable for a battle occurring there on Jan 4th, 1863 between a regiment of Polish rebels under the command of Chishkowsky and a Russian border-guard battalion. From time to time, notable people of various origins were seen in the Granica train station, on their way to or from Russia, Germany, Austria and other European countries. Upon the expansion of the local Jewish population one could also encounter within the stations leaders of Zionism and sympathizers, as well as notable activists and rabbis.
The beginning of the Jewish settlement in Granica is dated circa 1850. One of the first local Jews was Dawid Beril of Olkusz, who leased grounds off Polish landowners and built residential shacks within them, adjacent to the train station. The first three families there were: Bunim Mintz of Wodzisław (great-grandson of rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa), who arrived there as a bachelor and married a Będzin widow named Beila Herman, who bought land from Beril and erected a building on it; her daughter from her previous marriage (of the families Herman and Gutman) arrived with her as well, was an educated woman and died at 70 years old at the end of the last century; her daughter Genendel arrived there with her husband Hersz-Leib Friedman of Działoszyce (grandson to the ADMOR rabbi Yossale Friedman of Działoszyce), Chasid of the Chesed LeAbraham of Radomsko, served as cantor several times during the High Holy Days at the rabbi's in Radomsko, and distributed money to CHASSIDs in need following a list he received from the rabbi; a member of the Mizrachi, he would study Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) commentaries such as the Malbim's etc. Handel Glieczer moved here from łazy and opened a department store and established a family. His children: Mosze, Chanan, Jicchak, Szlomo, Efraim, Baszka (now in France) and daughter Szifra who married a Kielce man. Zanwel Miodownik arrived from Żarnowiec and established a household here. His children: Abraham, Elazar, Rachel, Dubah, Mirjam, and another daughter. Abraham Wajsler of Będzin, upon release from the Russian army (after 25 years of service) settled down in Granica, married a woman named Gitle of Dąbrowa, and established a bakery on Friedman's land. His children: Dwora, who married Jakob Leibisz Steinfeld – ritual slaughterer and cantor in the city of Mikołów in upper-Silesia who moved from there to the big city of Nuremberg (Nürnberg); Nathan, studied in a few Yeshivas, well-learned and a Talmid-Chacham, who married Poriyah daughter of R'Israel Dayan (Zusman) of Zawiercie and took up his father's bakery; Eli Nissan, one of the most highly regarded of students in Zagłębie, a student of the Avney Nezer of Sochatchov, studied with the Gaon rabbi Josef Engel of Będzin, married Chaja daughter of reb Szlomo SHUV (ritual slaughterer and examiner) (Bercowicz) of Kamyk-Częstochowa and stayed in Granica, was a rabbinical judge in Dąbrowian Radan during the Russian era, an excellent cantor in the Radomsko Shtiebel in Granica; amongst the choir that helped the cantor were his son Mosze-Josel, his brother Nathan (perished in the Holocaust), Josef zl and Naftali, may he live long, Beitner. After the Holocaust he immigrated to Israel and passed away in the year 5726 (1966) in Bnei-Brak.
With time more people arrived to Granica: R'Mordechai Ze'ev Beitner of
Dąbrowa, of the family of rabbis Nachman Beitner who sent his sons to
study in Będzin out of concern for their education. He was a student of
the rabbi of łuków, was a diligent student and worker, and only
years later opened up his own shop. The Beitner family were avid Zionists and
by 1906 the first of the family immigrated to Palestine, settled in Hebron and
published a book about Mikvah's.
In 1923 his son Handel, owner of the Firm Eshkol Anavim (translator: literally meaning grape cluster) immigrated as well. M. Z. Beitner first immigrated in 1921, but due to the riots occurring at the time he was refused entrance to the land and was sent back. In 1924 he tried to immigrate again as a tourist and was sent to Vienna, eventually completing his immigration in 1925.
David Beril had no children. Bunim Mintz had children from two wives: Genendel, married to Hersz Leib Friedman, Etla, married to Efraim Szarf of Modrzejów (Efraim immigrated to Israel following the Holocaust and died in Jerusalem); Rachel, married to Szlomo Szac of Radomsko, Hadasah, married to Abraham-Mosze Fiszel of Radomsko. From his second wife Reisel Bendet of Kromołów he had two sons: Herszl and Kalman (the latter resides in Canada). Zanwel Miodownik married off his daughter to R'Chaim Leib Ehrlich of Ksaver, tried to enter commerce business but was unsuccessful, studied to become a ritual slaughterer and cantor and was appointed as one in Mysłowice, and even conducted memorials in nearby Modrzejów.
Wolf Wolczowski of Pilmicziec near Częstochowa settled in Granica in 1900 and worked as a tailor for the railroad clerks. He married a woman of the Szwycer family of Będzin, was honored as a Mitzvah-following, honest, God-fearing man and cantor, the head of a big family. He lived in Granica until the Holocaust. One of his sons immigrated to Israel.
Jakob-Leib Steinfeld of Będzin, son-in-law of Wajsler, studied to become a slaughterer and cantor and was appointed slaughterer in Mikołów, Silesia. In his old-age he was accepted as a cantor in Nuremberg. He was a Talmid-Chacham and a Radomsko Chassid and passed away prior to the Holocaust. Granica had produced several accomplished cantors, occupying important positions in various cities. Other than already mentioned Ehrlich and Steinfeld was also Abraham-Mosze Fiszel, son-in-law of Mintz, who was a cantor in the Częstochowa Synagogue (replacing the renowned cantor Abraham-Baer Birenbaum who relocated to Lodz) and a music teacher in the Częstochowa High-School. He studied ritual-slaughtering, circumcision and cantorship with Birenbaum in Częstochowa, and was appointed Mohel (translator: circumciser) and cantor in Radomsko. His only daughter to survive the Holocaust is a teacher in Jaffa.
Chaim Leib Friedman established the first Shtiebel in his home, including approximately two Minyan's (translator: quorum of ten men required for public prayer service). Due to a disagreement among the worshipers Gliecer arranged a second Minyan. Following a resolution between the parties Gliecer's Shtiebel was dissolved and the first Shtiebel was re-commenced and worshipped in, up until the Holocaust. Activists and treasurers were: Friedman and Gliecer. In the second Shtiebel were more than a Minyan of worshipers.
Granica was previously belonging to the Będzin community, and only following Poland's independence in 1918 it was annexed to nearby Strzemieszyce. There was no Mikvah in Granica and in order to bathe in one a trip to Strzemieszyce or Szczakowa was required. In 1935 15 Jewish families inhabited the place – around 50 people. 90 percent of the veteran Granica residents were erudite Torah scholars, and the word of Torah resounded almost in every house. Teachers were brought to Granica to teach the children, but some sent their offspring to study in Będzin and other places. Most inhabitants were Chassids travelling to the courts of the rabbis in Chęciny, Sokołów, Radomsko (Knesset Yechezkel), and when the great rabbis visited in Granica they would stay in the Gliecer and Bunim Mintz houses.
Grainca's landscape was beautiful. The place was surrounded by a thick forest. The barracks of the Guard was located by the Przemsza River acting as a border, and bathing in it was not allowed out of fear of smuggling. There were no political parties in the place. But on 20th of Tammuz 1922 the two Beitner brothers (of the Mizrachi Youth) organized a memorial for Dr. Herzl in a big hall owned by R'Simcha Bunim, attended by many of the vicinity (Christians included), during which they sang and played Hebrew songs. The party was successful. The JNF charity boxes were found in every house.
With the establishment of independent Poland and the opening of the borders and after the children grew up the residents dispersed a bit. The youth looked for jobs in the cities, or went to agricultural training (Hachshara) in preparation to immigration to Palestine. Only the veterans remained in place, the two sons of the grandfather, Avrema'le and Aharon Friedman, and Abraham Miodownik, and not even a Minyan could be assembled.
Granicans in Israel are: Josef zl and Naftali Beitner, (their mother and father died in Israel), Wajsler with his family, Wolczowski, Zanwel Miodownik (first grandson), Cheruti (immigrated with Anders's Polish army). Regina daughter of Efraim Szarf, immigrated to Israel with her husband Szlomo Klein prior to the Holocaust and passed away in Tiv'on.
In independent Poland the place was again called Maczki, with no mention of
Granica. After the Holocaust there was nothing left of the Jewish community of
Granica, and its remnants can be encountered in the Yizkor-meetings of
Zagłębie-born community, assembling every 9th of Av in the cemetery
in Nachalat-Yitzchak in order to commemorate the Zagłębie martyrs.
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