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Memories From Strzyzow

 

In The Days Past
(When Grandfather Married Grandmother)

by Professor Dr. Ch. Lehrman, Strzyzow–Berlin

Half a century represents almost a whole human lifetime. Sometimes it represents even more that the time of man's existence on earth. It represents many years in the history of mankind, in general and less if we look at the same number of years within the boundaries of the twentieth century, taking under consideration the intermittent uproars and world events that have occurred. This is true especially in reference to the history of the Jewish people, whose destiny is eternally connected in a special dramatic form to the occurrence of world events.

A Jewish family that incidentally happened to be drawn into the whirlpool of world history represents a special mirror of the basic changes that occur in the passing times and in the lives of the countries. A Jewish family whose name is not known in the circles of art, science, politics and finance, but is considered a simple family such as we find among the prolific families of Eastern Europe, is considered typical for the whole nation with all recognizable signs of its special destiny, its wanderings and changes. In each such family lives a whole people as in every prominent tree there is included an entire forest.

The term “forest” is abstract when it concerns a great number of trees, which grow and develop in similar conditions. Sometimes a bolt of lightning would strike one of the trees and, half the forest would be destroyed. Yet, the individual tree always represents the reality. The forest is only the concept of individuality of such living reality. The trunk, its roots, and its branches are the product of the earth, the water, and air, wherever they prosper, and they are proof to those who, like them, are fed and were created under the same skies and upon the same earth. Every tree becomes green, deepens its roots, its branches spreading throughout, and its tree–top rises high. The trees represent the whole forest, as every patriarchal Jewish family with its children represents the entire nation. Their multiple destinies, on a smaller scale, reflect the destiny of the Jewish history and symbolize the tragic connection with the great events in the world.

This is the only justification or the attempt made here in the description of the events in the life of such a family who were involved and connected with the stormy days and the climate that brewed in these periods. Alas, the leaves were spread by the wind. Nevertheless, a few branches sunk new roots under new skies and into new ground. They the survivors proved that in spite of everything, they possess a special trait derived from common genes. The offspring speak all the languages of the masters of different lands and, at times, they do not understand

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each other directly and have to find a common tongue for mutual understanding. Even though they live under different living conditions, their way of life is similar, as a spiritual heritage of the family.

To execute the writing of these memories was a difficult task for many reasons. For many years the author hesitated to do it, but it always sprang forth in his mind as a moral obligation which should no longer be postponed. The people always came to my mind and I could not forget them, even though they passed on a long time ago. Surely, these people who came to my mind strongly urged me to describe the loveliness of their past. They demanded the perpetuation of their existence and to give a meaning to people that passed, but with humility and obscurity, without any glow or glory.

Therefore, there will not appear in these lines any heroes adorned with victory, nor personality dressed in silk or velvet who passed with great noise and tumult.

I did not come in touch with generals or diplomats. If I accidentally passed one of them, he did not divulge to me his plans or governmental secrets, but spoke to me only about simple, actual problems of the time.

And so, these lines will remain a simple description of simple events of small people, their struggle with their troubles and daily harsh problems, their unsuccessful experiences trying to get involved in the disputes of the strong and the mighty.

These memories will not lead us upon shiny hills, trees and forests do not grow on knolls either, only on green valleys and hillocks. A man's life, his rich feelings and cravings are not discovered in high class saloons but in the lower class of society, in places where simple people still belong.

Whoever was born before the First World War knows about the atmosphere of the days without worry, which was referred to as “The Pleasant Period.” At that time Europe was in the height of glory and might. For many decades there was no war, only “there, in the back of Turkey.” In the Balkans skirmishes and small wars were taking place. But on the shores of the Seine, Rhine and Danube, life was prosperous. Paris was singing the hovering melodies of Offenbach, and Vienna was dancing to the tunes of Straus and Lehar waltzes which penetrated into the farthest corners of the imperial monarchy. These tunes even reached the other side of the Carpathian Mountains, the last outpost of the monarchy, the land of the Galician crown, with her rich natural resources and her poor Jewish population, whose sole richness was not submerged in the ground, but in the Kingdom above and her messengers of Torah and Talmud on the ground.

There was no bigger contrast in the world than those bearded Jews with fur hats that outwardly resembled Russian peasants but inwardly lived in a religious fantasy world, and had no territorial bounds, but still, in their hearts and with their honesty were faithful to the “Kaiser Franz Joseph,” whom they endearingly called “Ephraim Yosl.” They loved the Kaiser, their defender, who, in his old age, after the tragedies that had occurred in his household, became a legendary figure.

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His portrait looked down from the walls of public buildings with an expression of satisfaction on his face.

In truth, the mighty empire's ceiling was cracking. Centrifugal forces were waiting for the occasion to be liberated from custodianship of Vienna, and to attain national political autonomy. Except Hungary, the narrow–mindedness and the limitations of the ruling bands prevented them from becoming a modern United States, to solve political tensions, to deepen and draw nearer the existing cultural and human relations. Politically and economically such a federation in the territory near and around the Danube would have been a blessing.

The non–political area, as it was said, all the nationalities represented an illogical but practical unity. The Jewish segment was honored with spreading the spiritual light of Vienna. One of the most shining representatives from the metropolis, Stefan Zweig, remarks in his review, “The world of Yesterday,” that the Jewish establishment in Austria in the twentieth century was most decisive. He testified that most names in the field of art and science who made Vienna world famous were Jewish names or of Jewish origin.

Even though it was a strange phenomenon, Jews who lived in other areas outside the Austrian borders also had spiritual bonds with that metropolis because of the Kaiser's facial features, his whiskers, and his formal dress, which was not warrior–like, in contrast to the face of the neighboring Russian Czar, which reflected the rage of the pogroms and anti–Semitic decrees. There was plenty of anti–Semitism among the Polish population also. Even in Vienna itself, there were periodic signs of that dreadful mentality of the fickle Austrians, which produced creatures like Hitler and Eichmann. However, in order to spread this poison, proper climatic conditions were needed, as existed during the crumbling of the proud empire on the Danube, which occurred quietly without fanfare. Until that time, an atmosphere of agreeable tranquility existed because of a fundamental level of political standards. And therefore, the pious black–frocked Jews also enjoyed religious–cultural autonomy, as in the historical days of that nation of thousands of years ago. In many little towns, the Jewish population was a recognizable part of the population. They openly fulfilled their religious life, unhindered in any shape or form. When a wealthy religious citizen donated a Torah scroll to his synagogue, all the worshippers carried the scroll with dance and music throughout the city streets, under the gaze of the local gentile population who did not even turn their heads, unlike the Jews when a Catholic procession passed by. These Jews did not consider assimilation as in Western or Central Europe. There was no higher culture in the area which could attract assimilation and was worthwhile. A few high class respected families sent their children to gymnasiums where they wore fancy uniforms, but the community looked upon them as partial traitors, and avoided any contact with them. Still, when one of those educated appeared later as a doctor or a lawyer, the Jews preferred him to the “Goy” doctor or lawyer, because it was possible to reveal their aches and suffering of their brethren to him in a more effective way, and to more fully confide in him. These

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professionals also spoke the German–Yiddish dialect, popular even in the Slavic countries, which in the meantime had become a nation.

Dialects have their own destiny. Sometimes they influence the national bonds more than political borders. The German–Swiss dialect which is still spoken but not written created a stronger border with the northern neighbors than the Rhine River, and it conserved the alliance as all the areas on the German border did. These German speaking people strove to go “Home into their land,” during the Nazi regime. This also determined the fate of three hundred thousand Luxembourgians who held onto the Mosel–Franco dialect even though their newspapers were printed in French and German. In this case they were helped by geographical proximity. The Yiddish–German dialect, after being completely detached from the place of origin, served as a special expression of isolation from the area. Jewish refugees from Bavaria and from Frankonia who were tired of the periodic expulsions and pogroms brought with them the dialect to Poland during the reign of King Kazimir, and held on to it as a family treasure. From this dialect alone a literary language developed which became a fine gentle tool for thoughts and feelings. When on the one hand it was used to explain the complicated thoughts and concepts of the Babylonian Talmud, on the other hand, the Jews who settled in Poland and South Russia found it to be a forceful, suggestive, extraordinary way of expressing their sufferings and yearnings. To the narrow–minded and primitive National socialistic forces who mocked the language, to them it sounded like an eastern Jewish Jargon. They did not realize that this language was inherited from poets and men of thought. They turned it into a caricature, into a defiled language for giving orders by judges and hangmen. In Imperial Vienna, they knew very well the meaning of the German language islands which were like pioneers of colonization in the midst of the Slavs under their rule.

The ancient Frankonian dialect became for the Jews a beloved and faithful habit, more so for those who lived among the Slavs. The Polish, Yugoslav, and Hungarian languages were used only in dealings with the non–Jewish world. But on Saturdays these “weekly languages” were banished as were the weekday thoughts and occupations. Then life turned into an imaginary world which was timeless and had grown organically for thousands of years, since Abraham our Patriarch from Ur Kasdim, serving as an inner shield of national independence, protecting those who went into dispersion from their homes and the birthplace of the Holy Scriptures. The process of growth in the Diaspora when the Jews acquired a great deal of culture from the outside, did not change them, Yiddish became a cultural possession of their own. The Slavs influenced Jewish life in the form of their clothing, eating habits, and songs. Also, sometimes the Jews behaved hot tempered like Slavs, or even like Mongolians. But all those characteristics merged and were absorbed in fundamental severity, folksiness, and independent behavior. Still, every man can sense the process of ferment in his heart and arteries, and without knowing it, tensions and contrasts are periodically created in his character. These characters are sometimes a creative force and sometimes simple tensions and contrasting illusions in the inner person

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and the Jew from Eastern Europe, born in the process of the merger of opposing inherent factors.

The young couple who entered into a nuptial covenant to last a lifetime at the beginning of this century were entirely different in their outwardly appearance and character. Both were approximately two years old. It was customary to marry very young when they were still uncorrupted, unexploited, and innocent. They marriage was a bond between two families of the same nature and their goal was only to have and rear as many children as possible. Professional matchmakers and people with good intentions used to unite matching families from different places. The heads of the families came to an agreement concerning certain conditions and they surprised their children with the announcement of their engagement. Wealthy families placed their emphasis on mergers with families of scholars, and obtaining a groom well–versed in Talmud. Such a match was considered a great honor which justified the effort. My father's family was considered a family of scholars. My father Chaim came from Przeworsk. Although my mother, Bluma Krantzler from Strzyzow was also a product of a respected dynasty, born to pious people and well–versed in holy books, in my father's family, the knowledge of the Talmud was tied to the art of scribing Torah scrolls, a holy occupation which passed on from generation to generation with the exception of one. The one man who desecrated the dynasty's tradition was my grandfather, Leib, who became the head of a Yeshiva of only a few especially talented pupils. To belong to this group, special strict qualifications were required. Three of my grandfather's sons studied in his Yeshiva. Joseph, who proficiency and acuteness were known wherever he came and who was an authority in all the Rabbinical teachings, won the respect of many Torah scholars. David, the second son, was no less an excellent student. In addition, he had outstanding good looks, a characteristic of which he himself was not aware, and, until his distinguished age, had attracted and influenced young and old. He was the only one among all his brothers and sisters who died a merciful death. As it is said, “One who prayed for his brethren is answered first.”

The youngest of all, Chaim, had no desire to overtake his brothers. He was satisfied with the fact that he qualified to study in his father's Yeshiva, even though he was a fast learner and he understood and remembered whatever he studied. But he was more interested in what was happening in the outside world, and used every excuse, legitimate or illegitimate, to sneak off from the Yeshiva, volunteering for all kinds of missions, and performing chores around the house, which in his opinion were preferable to studying in the Yeshiva.

In the street he never stepped aside to avoid the provocations of Polish boys, as his comrades used to do, but he stood up even to the strongest opponent, like David against Goliath and what he lacked in physical strength he accomplished with a surprise maneuver. When a peasant lad once put is two milk cans on the ground to punish the Jew, the Christ killer, Chaim did not go into a wrestling match. He pushed him into a can which overturned, spilling the milk, and the guy fell into his own milk puddle. His wailing for the damage aroused a pity,

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and the worry for the second can made him forget the Jewish boy.

As in the above incident, my father during his entire lifetime was in control of every situation. He had the ability to quickly appraise a situation, and react swiftly. In addition, he was excitable and vigorous but he was flexible in regard to mistakes. The sentiment for justice in him did not allow him to act otherwise. He was capable of judging the qualities of a person with just one look, and he took pleasure in imitating the way a person talked. He was na├»ve and of easy persuasion because he himself could not lie, but still, in important situations he easily recognized the truth, and he was capable in a stunning manner to judge correctly in matters which did not belong in his daily routine. He also possessed good judgment in political matters, and was able properly to assess the situation and to prepare himself accordingly. He foresaw Hitler's intentions and analyzed them when times were still normal, in the years 1935–36, when the world tried to anaesthetize him with the flourishing economy in Germany and when even the Jews who lived in Germany participated without hesitation in the beguiling blossoming of the economy. My father was shocked and angered by the common blindness and when we told him to leave politics alone, that it did not affect him directly, he shouted: “It does affect me! This criminal affects us all!” Regrettably, he was right. At a time that no professional politician believed the general cynicism of the Nazi rule which a few years later exposed its repulsive face, to my father it became his most personal destiny, as he clearly foresaw it in the beginning with helplessness.

But this happened much later, a whole generation later. It was told here only to point out the essential characteristic outlines of my father, the clarity with which he diagnosed people in different matters, his independence in thought and deed, in matters small and large which came to him in his youth and followed him into his old age. Young Chaim's quick and decisive power of thinking and acting often caused him difficulties and friction in the Jewish community in which, after all, there existed certain inherited religious etiquette demanding unconditional obedience to patriarchal customs. This also included matters of arranged marriages which were not a matter of individual choice but rather a matter of the judgment of parents, and their religious–national outlooks. It demanded graceful surrender to the parent's choice having complete confidence that the selected mate would be for life. That is how Abraham our father behaved when he sent his servant Eliezer to select a bride for his son Isaac and it became a patriarchal tradition to those people that these stories were not legends from a distant world wrapped in the spirit of Hassidism but role models that we had to follow. In most cases, these marriages were successful and worked out nicely. Love did not die between them of natural causes as a cynical Frenchman once remarked, but it was a different kind of marriage which was not the norm write about in Western literature. Of course, there were silent tragedies like the one told in the Bible between Jacob and Leah. She was brought to Jacob instead of Rachel whom he really loved. But these tragedies were within the risk of society, and communal way of life, in which the individual was supposed to surrender to the religious national ideal of a careful

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selection in order to preserve the growth of “a kingdom of priests and a holy people.”

In some way or form, ideas in regards to an individual right to select a mate penetrated into the city of Przeworsk, even though it was only the nineteenth century. The young Chaim who already in his early age became influenced, G–d knows by whom, by new winds that blew all over the world, probably thought of these ideas when his older brothers were married to mates brought to them by others. Maybe he found in the character of our father Jacob, as it is told in the Bible, the determination of a man who was not only “a man who sat in the tents and studied,” and he compared himself to him. Anyway, one morning he disappeared from his father's house. He found some transportation which traveled from place to place, and arrived in the regional city of Rzeszow, and from there by train he found himself in Strzyzow.

From the railroad station which actually was only a small barrack it was quite a distance to the town, but suddenly he was standing in the center of town, a huge marketplace, from which narrow streets and alleys branched out in different directions. Everything that happened in this town occurred in the marketplace. There one could hear the news from around the world. One of the side streets led to the house of Moshe Krantzler, a huge estate, surrounded by a garden, bordering on the railroad tracks. On the other side of the tracks an extensive green meadow was spread out on which in the summertime, cows that provided Kantzler family with all their dairy needs, grazed. During the winter the meadow was covered with snow. In March the waters of the Viskoka River overflowed its banks after the ice was broken, and flooded the fields and plains. An unpleasant sea of water extended for several kilometers, spread all around and often interrupted the train movement for several days. Then a small locomotive was sent out on the tracks to survey for any damage. That event marked the beginning of spring. Chaim asked about that particular house. Names of streets or house numbers were not in existence. He went into the house and came into a dark corridor where he saw a big barrel filled with water which Yankl the water carrier brought daily from the well for which he was paid a few red copper coins. Chaim wanted to announce his arrival, so he drew a cup of water from the barrel and recited loudly the blessing over the water. Then he modestly approached the door leading into the apartment. In the first room there was a big round oven, and it seemed that here was spent the ordinary daily life. From the other room a chandelier for the Sabbath candles hung from the ceiling where apparently the Sabbath and holiday meals were eaten. There were beds in both rooms. To be exact, they were sleeping places used as such at night and as benches in the daytime. Around the oven there was a bench which served as a welcome shelter for wayfarers who could not find a place in the barn. There was always a place for those who sought lodging. No one was ever turned away for lack of space. The Krantzlers behaved the same way later when they lived in Germany and France. They gave shelter to outsiders in the hours of the night if they could not find a roof over their heads. They also practiced this tradition later in Eretz Israel. When European

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refugees arrived, they provided them with places to live. Only now in the modern Israel things have changed, when the offspring of the refugees obtained elegant four–room apartments, there is only room for “Sabbath night parties.”

Chaim went in with extra humility but with determination. When he saw four women he remained standing embarrassed. The woman in the center had blue eyes and wore a wig as it was proper in those times. Apparently the other three were her daughters. One had black hair, the second was blond, and the third one had brown hair. They looked at the young man whose face was covered with a small black beard, with extra curiosity. They thought he might turn around and withdraw, but he did no such thing. He introduced himself with humility, and asked Bluma, his bride–to–be, her name. They all gazed at the blond girl who blushed and did not utter a word. She was average height with bright blond hair and blue eyes like her mother's. However, her body was more firm, and she had a high round forehead with wide jaws. If someone would have encountered her in the streets of Krakow or Lwow, they would have said, without hesitation, that she was a Polish girl, of pure Slavic race, except for her sharp penetrating look which gave her blue eyes an entirely different expression different from the pale blue pupil of the eyes of real Slavic girls. These pale blue eyes blend into the scenery of their native land where Polish and Russian boys and girls dream, play, and dance carefree. Jewish blue eyes, even though their origin might be Slavic, still their penetration is much deeper. They are deep and unsearchable as the depth of the sea, and they tell about experience of life and sufferings.

While the black haired Sheindl, and Yente the brunette, were smiling looking at Bluma, the blond mother, Molly, solved the general confusion when she said: “Here they come. The men are back from the morning services.” The whole street all the way to the marketplace, could be seen through the window, and the women often stared out worryingly observing how the master of the house walked, trying to determine whether he was angry or in a good mood. Today he – and his son Yerachmiel walked with easy, carrying their velvet talit bags under their arms. Both were of middle height, which Chaim immediately noticed because he was tall. One of the men had a short unkempt white beard, and the second man had a fluffy reddish–blond beard which adorned his chin, and of which he was very proud, not allowing them to grow wild. Unlike other pious, devoted illiterates who possessed very little, if any, Torah knowledge at all. Yerachmiel opened the big Talmudical tractate and hummed with his sweet voice the treatise about civil or criminal law, his father's strict facial lines softened, and the eyes of the tiny mother, Molly, sparkled proudly. Even the three sisters conversed in a whisper.

Now father and son entered the house cheerfully, as it was proper and seemly after completion of the morning services. When they saw the strange young man, they reached out their hands with the customary

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“Shalom Aleichem” greeting. They looked around them with surprise, and they immediately understood the whole situation. The face of the master turned gloomy as usual which always aroused the family's anxiety. He furrowed his thick brows and did not know how to approach the unheard of behavior of this future son–in–law, and how to react. Before the master of the house had a chance to become angry, his wife quickly softened his angered mood by reciting a few verses about similar situations in the Bible. She had read these verses in the Yiddish Pentateuch, translated especially for women. Ultimately, he decided that a guest is a guest and, as such, the proper thing to do was to ask him to wash his hands and come to the table. Our Patriarch Abraham did the same, as it is written in the Torah: “And comfort ye your heart, after that ye may pass on.” That is the way a Jew, a Hassid, who follows the Torah with its strictures, is supposed to act; otherwise he is not a descendent of Abraham our Father.

Consequently, the three men sat down to the table, and the women served rye bread, butter and strong coffee. Bluma served an extra large cup for the guest. During the meal, the men spoke about various subjects, and Chaim often glanced at Bluma and was in attentive to the conversation at the table. Instead of listening to the conversation, he tried to overhear what the girls were talking about. Finally, because it was not a Sabbath or holiday, and duty required going out to trudge in the villages in search of a livelihood, the host asked Chaim to recite grace after the meal. Still, everyone felt that this breakfast was a festive event and they separated with the blessing “Be well, and go in peace.” Later that evening, Chaim returned home to Przeworsk, and announced, “I am satisfied with my bride,” and he went to sleep.

Bluma, Chaim's bride, was the oldest and most active among her brothers and sisters. Her iron will and her talents she inherited from her father. Her blond hair and blue eyes came from her mother who was still called “the beautiful Molly,” and whose beauty in her older years was expressed by her good–heartedness and love for her fellow man. She quietly influenced her husband upon whom the heavy load of providing for the family rested, and she shared his many worries. He therefore was very strict and ruled his family to the point of instilling fear with his sparkling eyes that seemed to be always angry. He was a land and cattle broker. He had acquired a good deal of property and he lived in his house surrounded by a garden and fields. He possessed very little knowledge outside of what he needed to conduct his business. To read and write in German he did not know. He knew only Hebrew. However, his children were all educated and wrote in a precise calligraphic handwriting, except Bluma. Being the oldest, she had no time to study. She wrote down on paper what was needed, fast, phonetically, and with clarity, without paying attention to neatness or spelling. Arithmetic she did by heart, she had no need for pen and paper. If Bluma possessed her father's commercial instincts and the capability of judging a person's character, she also possessed the fierce strong will and iron consistency, expressed by her absolute, uncompromising religious belief, and she was truthful in any situation without hesitancy. The kind of belief that moves mountains is a most valuable thing in life when it is

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found in a goodhearted person who has abundant, endless mercy toward the poor and afflicted, as practiced by her mother, discreetly. Of course, Bluma's father also fulfilled the religious obligations of good deeds and charity, as it is required of a religious man. He often did more than was normally required of him. His barn was open for lodging for many wayfarers who in the morning were served breakfast and some money for their pockets. These things were done with true piety and this was the result of religious upbringing in which Father Abraham was a role model, since he championed hospitality and feeding the poor. Molly's abundance of love for her fellow man turned the precept of charity into a personal matter, and influenced the character of her children, especially the daughters, Bluma and Yente (Janet). Humane and religious foundations grew in her body and integrated into one block which could not be dislodged by any kind of influence or prompting.

After the wedding of Chaim and Bluma, the young man realized that in the poor social conditions of his native land, his profession as a scribe would hardly provide an existence and everything on the other side of the German border looked better and easier. They heard that the people who immigrated there had succeeded enough to bring over their families. But was this land where Torah observant Jews could live and remain devoted to their beliefs? People often came back for a visit, people who left before, and they returned with smooth, clear–shaven faces, without side–locks, and they looked entirely like authentic Germans. Germans in everything. They wore suits with short jackets in contrast to their relatives, who still wore long coats. Even if there were a few who wore some trace of a beard to show that they were still pious, what would become of the children, who would learn in the German schools and in the streets the German language, and therefore would become estranged from their parents who spoke Yiddish and their Jewish traditions? Would they ask their mother with the same reverence: “Mutter, gib mir coffee,” in German as: “Mame gib mir kaveh.” In Yiddish? Who knows where this would lead? Would keeping tradition cease together with the change of language? Nonetheless, they tried to solve it by reaching an agreement with Bluma's parents and the Krantzler family that they will try to make an effort and do everything possible that some of the children that would be born would be reared in the grandparents' home. Meanwhile the young couple would establish their Jewish home amidst the dangerous environment. With a distressed soul, Bluma went to Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro (although he was not the official Rabbi, he did serve as adviser and spiritual consultant to a select circle of the pious, the “Hassidim”), to ask him if she would be able to use the ritually slaughtered meat there expressing apprehension that the kashrut was not as strict as it was at “home.” Not because she was a meat lover. She could as well exist for weeks on fruits and vegetables, but during her pregnancy she was supposed to maintain a proper diet. What should she do? The wise Rabbi responded, endearingly pronouncing her name: “Blumahl'e Blumahl'e! What kind of a response did you expect to hear? Is it not enough that I do not forbid you to go? You want me to preach you morals? Feed yourself according to the existing conditions there,

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but follow your husband and remain a kosher Jewish daughter!” Bluma's heart accepted the faith that the friendly Rabbi with his sly eyes implanted in her. And she never ate bread which was not cut with her own knife, and no butter was used which she did not make herself from milk that she bought directly from the cowshed. In the later years she sent her offspring to fetch her own can of milk from the farmer's house after they observed the milking. These offspring when they grew up were not exemplary children. They often burdened the life of their religious parents but, in principle, they adhered to religious faithfulness, and all things concerning religion.

The small dowry that was promised by the father–in–law was not fully paid. But did Laban the Syrian behaved differently toward Jacob? The anger of a cheated son–in–law was justifiable, but the father–in–law did come up with some mitigating excuses. What was left of the dowry was used for the trip to Germany, and for the food during the first few weeks until they entered Stuttgart, and they were able to find a source for their livelihood.

Stuttgart and many Jewish communities in Swabia, Germany, did not have an outstanding scribe. Therefore, Chaim thought that his livelihood would be easy, as the saying goes: “A profession stands on a golden foundation.” And the subject here is a profession for which brains and heart were needed, not only the art of calligraphy like that of a copier in the Middle Ages, who copied all types of ancient texts for which there was no need to be pious and knowledgeable in Torah. An average man, even though he knows his trade, is not allowed to write the holy letter on parchment. A scribe must approach this holy task with sanctity especially before writing G–d's name; he is required to immerse himself in the mikva in order to be clean, body and soul. Therefore, only a few could be found who possessed all the required characteristics, such as artfulness, knowledge and being a Hassid. Stuttgart was lacking such a scribe who could periodically check the Torah scroll for a worn out letter or a blurred word because in such a case, the Torah is unfit to use. The infinite, conscientious attitude toward every serif written in the Torah scroll was being guarded during hundreds, actually, thousands of years, to prevent the tiniest error. And that is how the purity and devotion to each letter was preserved; as it is written in the Torah “Ye shall not add to it and not decrease from it.” It was forbidden to correct words that “were not clear,” in the Torah, not as the copiers of the Middle Ages did with ancient manuscripts, changing versions of ancient poems, and the present researchers racking their brains to understand them. The revered awe of the Jewish scribes towards Torah scrolls prevented forgery and distortions, even those made with good intentions.

Well, there was no such good professional scribe around and, to Chaim's sorrow, there was also a lack of pious devoted, good Jews in the Wurtemberg area. Not at all as he had imagined. The affluent, liberally–religious communities in the progressive lands of Wurtemberg and Baden, did not pay attention to the condition of their Torah scrolls. Therefore, when a scribe appeared to offer his services, they reluctantly let him check one or two scrolls without being too sympathetic to that

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profession, and they paid a meager fee. Chaim traveled from community to community, stayed away from home a day or two and sometimes even three or four days, ate only what he brought with him. Because he saw the disrespect for the art of a scribe, he doubted if they kept kosher. There was also a deep disregard among the German Jews for the Jews from the east who had just recently immigrated into their midst. This was also a factor in the meager pay for such an important art. They proudly considered themselves to have the upper hand in knowledge in the Holy Scriptures which no one dared to challenge.

Chaim refused to be “inert,” to be a scribe without being erudite in world events. He also refused to accept benevolent bread from his German coreligionists. After a few months of unstable life as a scribe, he realized that, even though he could have existed in this profession, it had no “foundation of gold” and he would be forced to live in continuous poverty. Therefore, he searched for a permanent occupation, and he determined that at a time of a flourishing economy in that country which never stopped preparing for the next war, there were possibilities of being prosperous in a field that the locals neglected. These were materials that could be used as raw material for the military industry. Items like: Scrap iron, rags, etc. which in time might bring in huge profits. The junk business had especially prospered in Germany where the people considered the war imminent, unlike other countries, such as France, Austria, and Italy, where it was thought that peace would not be disturbed. At least, it seemed to them that way. T here was a short–lived crisis in that sort of business after the First World War, but it soon recovered when the Germans began to prepare for another war. The pockets of little people always depend on world events.

At first Chaim went into this business on a small scale, without any ambitions to subdue the potential economy of the land. This was the only possibility for a young immigrant to attain a relatively moderate existence and to be independent. He refused to depend on his coreligionists who paid so little, and explained their attitude by saying that fixing scrolls was a rewarding deed in itself, and he should expect to be rewarded by G–d. Chaim thought to himself that he does not want to enslave his piety to make a living, but to preserve it as a way of life in his daily adventures.

As time went by, he became a supplier of raw materials for the Germans, and his knowledge in the business broadened. He felt secure enough to bring over his brother and wife, and he took them into the business as partners. The two brothers were inseparable all their lives, until the language of the nations became mixed up as it was during the time of the tower of Babylon, during the period of National Socialism, which drove one brother to emigration, and to a new life, and the second to expulsion to the town of his birth. On the initiative of the two brothers all the Eastern European Jews who lived in Stuttgart joined and became a congregation. Such a congregation of the Eastern European Jews which gathered indiscriminately all the immigrants from all professions existed for some years. But, could they have worshipped with people who did not observe Sabbath and did not keep kosher? In the congregation “Shomrei Shabos” was accepted only those who were truly G–d fearing

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There was no shortage of people to perform the religious rituals for free. Therefore, no funds were needed. They were self sufficient.

David, Chaim's younger brother, served as cantor. He was less intelligent than his older brother. He had a slower grasp and less initiative. On the other hand, he had a wonderful voice which brightened the prayer house with godly brightness, so that in the heart of the worshippers there was more light than in all the marble temples in the world. David possessed a shiny appearance, was taller than is brother, faultless, spiritually tranquil, noting artificial, and he did not pay attention to the impression he was bound to make. He won hearts with his childlike sharpness. He did not realize that he personified a figure from the Holy Scripture. He never looked in a mirror, an instrument that causes the sin of self–esteem. While studying the daily portion of the Talmud before the services he was a very passive, even though in religious diligence he was remarkably active. As soon as he approached the pulpit with his head covered with the talit and began to chant, angels began to sing and pray with him.

No wonder then that his fame spread throughout the region, and many communities tried to hire G–d's beloved singer, promising to pay him well. However, David rejected such offers and refused to negotiate, even at times when he needed the money. He adhered to what our sages said in the Book of Ethics: “Do not turn your religious knowledge into a livelihood.” Such talents should not chase after fortunes, they should be used only for G–d. The small congregation that the two brothers organized kept growing, thanks to its cantor and his brother, Chaim, the founder whose knowledge of the Five Books of Moses had qualified him to be the Torah reader. In time, their third brother, Joseph, arrived after escaping from the Czarist Cossacks and, since he was a Talmudic scholar, he granted to this little religious community of Eastern European Jews Rabbinic glory and respectful reverence in the eyes of the old established liberal Jewish community.

The three brothers, Joseph, Chaim and David, became the leaders of the Orthodox community without even striving for it. They became the authoritative center for uncompromising Jewish religious life in Stuttgart and its vicinity. These people, even though small in number, adhered to all ritual strictures and Rabbinical laws without fear of appearing absurd. On the contrary, as a result of their inner confidence, they gained unlimited reverence. The three brothers had no intention of ruling others. In their outward appearance they looked alike; they were tall, all taller than their wives. Joseph was blond, his eyes blue like steel. David had dark brown hair and Chaim was black–haired. All the colors of the Jewish race were represented in the three brothers and their wives.

And meanwhile, children, boys and girls, were born at intervals of a year or two. Every child bore a different complexion and different characteristics. In these characteristics the offsprings' outer appearance reflected the inner contrasts that exited in their parents' contrasts between religious tradition and the strange, suspicious environment, and the daily difficulties that derived from it, and also the strong decisiveness to withstand all challenges, impulses and tasks, broadmindedly, with moderate temper and with loyal simplicity.


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Contrasting Worlds
Vienna–Budapest, August 19, 1966
“Turn My Boat While Sailing Upon the Waves of the Danube”

by Professor Dr. Ch. Lehrman

This small endearing song instilled in me dreadful fright since the fifth year of my life. My little sister brought it from Germany, the distant wonderland, when she came with mother to Strzyzow to take us, the two oldest, “home,” after we were left with the grandparents as “collateral.” They came to take us to our parents who in our eyes were complete strangers, as were our brothers and sisters who meanwhile had grown and blossomed in Stuttgart. They talked to each other in Swabian, and sang Swabian songs. They also responded in that German Provincial language when our parents spoke to them in ancient upper German, which in the Slavic countries was called “Yiddish.”

The little brothers and sisters looked upon us, the brothers from the east, who were dressed in long frocks and adorned with oversized sidelocks, with strangeness and bewilderment, and kept a well–mannered distance from us. They treated us exactly like the Western European Jews treated their coreligionists from the east. It was not because “children” say out loud, what adults whisper, “but rather because it is human nature to consider oneself better that those who just came from far away and such a phenomenon appears at an early age and within the same family.”

We the children from cheder looked with amazement at our little brothers and sisters, who were so nicely dressed, spoke so differently from us. They said “Mutter” and “Danke shoen,” and had sayings for all occasions like: “Children should not dare to touch forks, knives, scissors or fire.”

Everything seemed derived from an orderly world which, until the mass destruction, did not deviate a speck from order and punctuality. We were also attracted to that little song which told us about the Danube and the turning of the little boat. I learned the song easily because of the pleasant tune, but later I always searched for the meaning of the turning boat. And for many years it remained an unsolved puzzle. Finally, I sailed upon the waves of the Danube. After I crossed many lakes and oceans cruised many rivers up and downstream, I realized the farfetched dream which I had longed for all my life. No sailing compared to the sailing upon the waves of the Danube. Here I returned to the scene of my childhood, to that period of brightness which preceded the sobering reality of the present day Eastern Europe. The waters of the Danube are still crossing and flowing through the same countries which had belonged to one mighty but powerless kingdom before. Still, she was a kingdom of glory, the double Austrian–Hungarian monarchy whose emblem was a double–headed eagle, and whose languages were as many as the ethnic

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nationalities that lived there. Galicia, which was almost on the outskirts of the empire and was closer to the banks of the Vistula River, still belonged to the cultural circles of the monarchy on the banks of the Danube. This monarchy disintegrated and turned into anarchy on the banks of the Danube, which lasted until the Red Army arrived in its march of steel, and offered her protection. This protection was accepted with little enthusiasm, and it created the social political unity that exists now.

So was my life, turning on a pivot. I returned to the departure point, to the source, to understand the turning. But it always seemed to me that I was turning on my own pivot. In all stages of my multi–colored, dizzying existence, this was a repetitious return to the source. In all stages of my life, Germany, Switzerland, France, Anglo–Saxon countries, and Luxemburg, where I lived different lives, I always adapted and fit myself into the lifestyle of the area, because I rapidly understood it, often more effectively than the local people who knew their language as they knew their bread and beer. The local people took their life for granted, and their devotion and their trustworthiness was less than that of the newcomer who came from far away and breathed in his temporary surroundings. However, there was always a last opposing force which interfered in the complete integration apparently an external influence, or a spiteful craze, professional or official, which at the decisive moment represented an internal opposition. Out of the consciousness of my soul and the Jewish format which was forged in Eastern Europe, I defended myself from diving unconditionally into other forms of existence, which I could very well and joyfully accept, observe and absorb without failing to copy them, with one–sided thoughtlessness. I guarded my Jewishness and my religion. Such a thing is very inconvenient in a world which does not tolerate any human society with distinguished merits, in which feelings and thoughts rule equally. An individual who guards his individuality becomes only an onlooker at best. The existence of such limitations is always arousing the suspicion of the masses, and it is more dreadful when a whole society is classified as such, it becomes isolated and self–conscious. It becomes intolerable. This is the source of dislike of strangers of all kind, beginning with anti–Semitism and ending with xenophobia, which are found in the Jewish communities, toward their coreligionists who are different in character.

As a guest and one who has been on both sides of the ocean, I was able to see and prove such phenomenon from experience. The strong rejection that kept increasing and bordered almost on hostility, shown by the German citizens of Jewish faith towards Eastern European Jews, had made an about face, from a historical point of view, when the Eastern European Jews immigrated to the United states and became wealthy. In time they began to treat the recent German–Jewish immigrants the same way. The Carpatho–Ruthenian Jews were treated even in a more severe form by their Hungarian brethren in whom the Magyar national spirit deeply embedded.

The Swiss Jews, even though they are small in number, their economic position is solid and secure. They see themselves as the chosen, because of the fact that over a hundred years they lived in a country which came

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out unscathed from both World Wars. The long–existing superior feeling toward their coreligionists was expressed with that certain Swiss emphasis. Their relations with the few thousand wretched refugees from the Third Reich became tense. They expressed the Swiss way of thought, that the refugees did not fight the Nazi military, and called the Jewish refugees “Swabians” or “Poles.” They related to these refugees who had to run for their lives like aristocrats. But to fulfill their religious custom of helping those who came from outside and were in need, they treated them in the same way as the Roman patricians, the semi–barbarians, treated the Greek slaves who were of higher cultural standing, and whose culture and knowledge of the hirelings for very low pay, all “In the name of G–d.” A scholar, if he were hired, forfeited not only his copyright, but also the right for personal respect.

I was the only outsider who succeeded in entering the Swiss University during those days of hostility and estrangement; that is to say, to be properly nominated as a lecturer and obtain he right to teach. The reason was that the higher learning institutions were the last liberal outpost of Swiss liberalism and free democracy and I was cognizant and grateful to the teachers of the philosophical faculty in the University of Lucerne. Of course, I would also like to express my thanks to the few Jewish families who did receive the refugees with a refreshing and enlivened breath, in contrast to the frozen faces of the Jewish leaders. After being accepted as a lecturer, I published my letters and, with modest pride, I put after my name the letters P.D. which is the abbreviation of private docent, to at least note my regained sense of self–esteem. The heir to a local Jewish family conceitedly remarked: “P.D. means Poor Devil.” In a sense it was true. The description fitted me. Because at that time, I had no account in a Swiss bank. It would have been satisfactory for me to have an account in any bank that did not have the sign “Jews Forbidden.” The letters P.D. represented a personal value for me but had no meaning in the eyes of the community leader. To him a refugee was a “poor devil” and should be treated as such. Other values did not exist.

Indeed, they were aristocratic of long ago, those Jewish Helvetian citizens, a selected tribe from among the children of Israel who were at that time pursued and oppressed in the worst manner in Europe. They considered themselves the beloved of the Master of Universe, and a few of them even thought that not only the few thousand Swabs and Poles whom they rescued but rather all of Switzerland, owed them gratitude for their piety and, because of their merits, the land was miraculously saved from war and devastation and that G–d bestows favors to his chosen while they sleep, and when they were awakened from the noise of the tumbling of the “Thousand Year Reich,” they realized that their esteem had grown in leaps and bounds without moving a finger, and their wealth had multiplied was it not a sign from G–d who rules from above that he loves them?

There was a slight difference in relations of the Luxemburgian Jewry towards the refugees. They too considered themselves G–d's favored sons. There were about a thousand of them who lived there since the time of

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Napoleon. The war did not stop at their gates, and everybody who felt threatened was forced to flee. More so, the number of Jews increased because Luxemburg had a more humane policy towards strangers and permitted a few thousand Jews from Austria and Germany to enter and wait for United States immigration visas. The number of Jewish refugees was larger than that of the local Jews who had begun as cattle merchants and ultimately established well–based businesses, and saw themselves as outstanding aristocrats in every venue on relations to the recent arrivals who did not speak their language. The sudden influx should have been foreseen by the great rulers of the world, the sober politicians, from Daladier, Stalin, and Chamberlain. Everything happened suddenly, and they did not make it possible for the Jews to leave on time and reach safe shores. The Jews were forced by the occupying authorities to leave immediately and to wander off wherever the wind might carry them, so that the authorities could notify Berlin that Luxemburg had become “the first country in Europe without Jews.”

According to the known pitiful policy that ruled in those days, the United States and other democracies had very little interest from a humane point of view to help the pursued Jews, and therefore, they did not reach generous decisions. For the Jews who were born in Luxemburg it was easier to receive immigration visas. In contrast, the refugees for whom Luxemburg was the first stop were compelled to conduct time–consuming negotiations in the American consulate Office until they were unable to emigrate and ended up being deported by the Germans.

After the war, the Luxemburgian Jews, the so–called new Americans, returned to their homes and to their properties and, during the post–war prosperity, they became wealthy. To be saved because they were citizens of Luxemburg seemed to them a special miracle from Heaven. They thought that G–d worried about their well–being, and their reaction to this miracle was not expressed by praising G–d and by pious thankfulness, but by conceit. They considered themselves a beloved, singled–out community of a thousand people. They considered themselves wrongfully, proud Luxemburgians, declaring: “We will remain what we are,” a slogan with which the country successfully defended itself for centuries against their imperialistic neighbors. The words of that slogan echoed from the mouths of the returning Jews like a declaration of superiority. The Rabbis and teachers who were in their service but were not natives, had to accustom themselves to that atmosphere and lifestyle, if not they were chastised and chased out.

There were among the strangers some who persistently tried to accustom themselves and to agree with the heroic thousand Jews from that great principality, with their world outlook, living standard, and their relation to the Torah of Moses. These people refused to accept any burden of outside culture. They too remained what they were, and had no need even for Moses or for the true and just Prophets. However, there were a few genuinely pious Jews. One was a great princess whose husband descended from the ruling family of Austria, and she was benevolently inclined towards the ex–citizens of the Kaiser and his empire.

Until I attained this experience and this information, my boat was

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turning around periodically. It turned on the waters of the Rhine, Limat, Moselle, Hudson, and Jordan, often sailed against the current, against the wind, but it did not display its flag accordingly. The boat was in danger of being capsized and broken up. She sighed, she groaned in her conversation with the mighty steamboats which proudly and reposed sailed against the currents, but she always changed her curse anew and stubbornly continued in her special path against the winds and the waves. Now the boat is again turning on the Danube, without deviation from all the revolutions that have taken place on its banks, and she makes her way, telling herself tales.

* * *

Now back to my parents. My father, Chaim, and my mother, Bluma, built themselves in Stuttgart the foundation of a modest existence, but in their hearts they remained “at home” in Galicia, which was filled with the contents of Jewish life that developed unchanged for hundreds of years. There the contents of life were religion, and the purpose of life was fulfillment of the commandments of the Torah. Life's happiness was expressed by celebrating the religious holidays with all their folkloric supplements. The livelihood in the eastern countries remained poor and insecure, and they lived from Sabbath to Sabbath. The paupers could afford a decent meal only with the help of the wealthy. Every house or shed had to have meat and fish for the Sabbath. Otherwise it was considered a desecration of the holy day, a crime for which the haves would be held responsible. Therefore, there prevailed a particular alertness on Friday mornings, and charity was given to all the needy. No humiliation or disrespect was involved by receiving or giving charity. Because without the poor there would not be a chance to fulfill the command “contribution of a tenth to the poor,” which ought to be fulfilled in the religious circles. This is a commandment written in the Torah, and which was established by our Father Jacob long before the giving of the Torah. When Jacob was forced to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, after h had fraudulently deprived him of his first born rights, and Isaac's blessing, he made a vow that after his rescue from danger, “And of all that thou will give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” Therefore, giving to the needy was a duty to fulfill, a commandment from the torah, and was liable to bring shame to the whole community if someone had difficulties enjoying the Sabbath even in the most humble way. In contrast, the government was seen as an abstract monster. Paying taxes t the state was not done as conscientiously as was the giving of charity. The Jews often visualized the government as a dragon with many arms against which you must defend yourself by all means. It was not considered wrongdoing if one act with cunning against the government that kept changing her laws intermittently. However, the precept of charity, the ancient human law, had to be fully implemented, and could not be violated. And in the Jewish world of Eastern Europe, any deviation from that precept was seen as an attack on the law of nature.

Charity was not always given generously, and neither did people always come forward to help willingly. But still, charity was a natural

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function like walking and breathing. The life of the poor segment of the population was very hard, and their livelihood came only from dealing with each other. Only a few were able to dig themselves out from collective poverty. Through commerce and brokerage they won a respectful place in those Easter European countries where these were the only business open to them. Through persistence, these people achieved a certain position of affluence.

My grandfather, Moshe Krantzler, the father of Bluma, my mother, belonged to that stratum. He was a land broker, and he built himself a homestead in which he had a cowshed with several milking cows. The money he saved he made work for him. He lent it to the poor peasants to be repaid after the harvest. His daughters, Sheindl, Bluma and Yente, helped him in the business. What else could they have done until marriage when studying Torah was not required? But the sons, Chaim and Yerachmiel were required to study Talmud and the scriptures to their hearts desire, and to become scholars, and G–d fearing sons, and to be the hoped–for glory of the parents' lives. Not only that, but studying was looked upon as an investment of the family's wealth. Indeed, they would also become desirable grooms for affluent families. Moshe Krantzler was a pious man and an ignoramus. Therefore, he prided himself in his sons the scholars. But, from his successful practical life as a merchant, he also recognized that worldly knowledge was no less important and, therefore, he desired that his sons should also know how to write from left to right and mathematics. The sons used to boast about their calligraphic handwriting which was in style during that period. The youngest daughter, Yente, stealthily learned from her brothers the art of writing and, with the agility; she overtook all of them, even though this knowledge was of no use to a girl. All three of them had a calligraphic handwriting and one could not distinguish between the boys' and the girls' handwriting. Only later did the oldest son adapt a few American letters when through his knowledge of reading and writing, a big wide world came to his attention. He saved money for the passage and went to the new world, and to symbolize his new life he changed his name to “Henry.” To his parents, he became some kind of a lost son who shaved like an atheist. To his brothers and sisters, he became a hidden ideal of courage and independence. And for Yerachmiel, his brother, who was pampered and well–guarded in the learning institutions as the only son. Henry became a patron, who ultimately saved his life when he created the possibility to bring him over with his big family to America, at a time when his sisters waited in vain for a helping hand to be rescued from the Nazi flood. And so it happened that while the European Jewry was exterminated a new branch of the Krantzler tribe blossomed across the ocean as in the ancient times through Joseph, the seventy people from the house of Jacob found refuge in the land of Goshen, and there they became a mighty nation.

However, the lost sons did not follow the path which had been paved by Joseph the dreamer, has caused great pain to their parents. Such parents often reach their end in darkness and gloom. The childish stubbornness and the paternal bitterness caused the cutting off of natural bonds. However, it very often happens that these lost sons turned later into

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saviors and supporters of their parents. How else could any spiritual progress have occurred without these lost sons who deviated from habits that had been sacred, and who had plowed a new furrow for themselves?

And so, what had happened to Henry Krantzler with his discovery of America was not such a unique occurrence. In 1900, there were many like him who had abandoned the poverty of the Eastern European ghettos, the majority of whom sailed to the land of opportunity, America. Others wandered off to Belgium, France, England or, like Chaim and Bluma, my parents, to Germany.

The millions of Jews who lived between the Danube, Vistula and the Volga, led steady lives for hundreds of years without deviation, within invisible walls in which they locked themselves in. Reading and writing in the Latin alphabet awoke a persistent distrust within Hassidic circles because it was here where the dropout of many began. As soon as the children began to attend secular schools, immediately they missed many hours of religious school, the cheder. After finishing elementary schooling, some were sent to high schools and gymnasiums for another four to six years because, in the Austrian part of Poland, there were no restrictions against Jewish students. In the higher learning institutions, the Jewish children were required to attend on the Sabbath and holidays. They carried their satchels in the street and openly desecrated the Sabbath. They even wrote on Sabbath. In the Orthodox homes, these students were seen as blemished, and as future traitors, and the Orthodox Jews avoided any contact with them. They even avoided obligatory elementary schools whenever they could.

In contrast to the above, every ten–year–old Jewish boy knew how to write the mother language a German–Yiddish in the Hebrew letters, and was well–versed reading the Bible. At the age of three, his hair was shorn, except, of course, the sidelocks which could not be touched, and he began to learn how to read. At five, the boy learned to translate into Yiddish the chapter of the week, and the more capable were taught the Rashi commentary. At six, the boys began to learn the civil law in the Talmud and, a few years later, the marriage relationship according to the Talmud. All that was necessary to learn about life, were learned from the Talmud. Weren't all the problems discussed in the Talmud? Before they were to see things by themselves, they saw everything from the perspective of the Mishna and Gemara. These provided the outlook on all of life's problems for the Eastern European Jews. Since the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, the time and place are the forms of outlooks according to which the spirit of man grasps things, and puts them in certain order. The spirit of the East–European Jew observed the world from the perspective of the time and place when the Mishna and the Gemara were created.

In their world outlook, my parents, Chaim and Bluma, even though they emigrated to Stuttgart, nonetheless, their world outlook remained linked to their parents' home in Strzyzow – to the father's knowledge of Talmud, the mothers firm, unbreakable piety, which constantly demanded sacrifices in every step she took, denying herself pleasure all her life. She became stronger in her belief and did not leave room for any compromise. The question was, would the children who were born in a

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different environment withstand all the provocations of the secular world around them? Would they also remain solid believing Jews?

Chaim and Bluma decided to leave their two older sons for a few years at the grandparents' house in Strzyzow. They wanted them to absorb the Jewish atmosphere before they started their secular schooling. Therefore, Bluma went to Strzyzow to give birth to her older son Isaac and this was very satisfactory to Grandpa Moshe and Grandma Molly Krantzler, because at that time, their house began to empty of children, and now the house began to fill up again. A short time later, two more sons appeared – Chanan and Naphtali. Bluma was most appreciated for being so active, awarding three sons in a row. Isaac and Naphtali resembled their mother, blond as flax, and with bluish eyes. The middle one resembled his father. He was black–haired, and his eyes were a mixture of bright brown and green. Elchanan came into this world full–haired, to the great joy of his aunts, mainly aunt Yente, who linked that trait to his Hebrew name “Elchanan” which means a godly gift, and was a good omen for a life of happiness according to her outlook.

Now that the desire to have male heirs was abundantly fulfilled, the birth of a daughter was expected. A short while later a baby girl was born, Roselain, who became the center of attention. She had black hair as h r father desired, and he became instantly attached to her, because the three sons resembled the Krantzler family. Roselain was born in Stuttgart because traveling to Strzyzow for each birth was not easy anymore. And concerning the sons' upbringing, a compromise was reached. The older son Isaac and the second son Chanan would remain in Strzyzow until their Bar Mitzvas, and the other children, starting from Naphtali be raised at mom and dad's house in Stuttgart.

This division which was made with the best educational intentions, and out of thoughtful religious responsibility, more likely caused the estrangement between the two older sons and their parents, and also between the rest of the brothers and sisters, an estrangement which was never remedied. Therefore, when the house in Stuttgart was humming with children, Isaac and Chanan remained outsiders, almost strangers, and their relationship with their parents was strained and tense. In this family as in other families, there existed different layers of assimilation into the German way of life and German habits of thought. The road from the Danube to the Rhine River passes through hundreds of years of Jewish and European history. The road continues from the Middle Ages, with the force of firm belief, but with merciless surrender and the adaptation of the individual to a closed world outlook and until the twentieth century, with its explosive force, which cannot be described, neither favorably or unfavorably.

Isaac and Chanan had filled a vacuum that was created by Bluma, who was merry and full of life when she had left the Krantzler house.

Grandpa Moses looked upon the two tots as the interest on is capital which he lent to my father Chaim. My grandfather, the forceful man who was easily provoked to anger, and was not easy to negotiate with, was stern toward his wife and children, but when he saw his grandchildren, he became radiant and bright. Nevertheless, a certain reservation

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existed in their relationship toward grandfather whom they called “Zaide.” They often witnessed his outbursts and became frightened when they saw the man who always related to them with extra love, so forceful towards others. The children also noticed his generosity when giving charity and donations to religious institutions within the community. They did not realize then that the inclination to become angry was already implanted in their hearts and bodies. These senseless, furious outbursts were liable to destroy in one second all the human love which had accumulated during the whole day. From where was such a destructive forcefulness derived? It surely was not derived from being educated in the Holy Scripture which peach love for our fellow man and upon which social life in a small Jewish town was based.

The smallest child in a family is always the most pampered. Chanan the toddler soon realized this and took it to heart. Isaac was two years older than he. Now everyone was busy with little Chanan. In this house he remained the little one for many years. He was the master over the grandparents, uncle Yerachmiel, and aunt Yente. Later, in his parents' house, everything suddenly changed. There were other reasons for the pampering: His delicate looks which resembled the face of a girl and also his being a sickly child. Such a sickly condition would not have been improved with mere old fashioned feeding. If not for beloved grandmother Molly, who did not know tiredness and for whom no sacrifice was too big, Chanan would have died at a young age. I remember since I was two years old, that every time my grandmother became frightened for any reason at all, she wrapped him in a woolen shawl and ran to Doctor Taub, while the child in protest kicked and bounced t he body of that weak woman.

This Doctor Taub was not a member of the religious committee in town. He was dressed like a “German,” his beard was trimmed and well groomed, not according to the religious etiquette. Also, even though it is not forbidden for a doctor to ride in a carriage to visit the sick on the Sabbath, his calls were not always life–threatening. Therefore, the shadow of a sinner hovered over him, as it hovered over all those elite circles that sent their children to school on the Sabbath instead to shul. And who knew what other forbidden acts they committed from which a pious man shrinks? However, as a doctor, Doctor Taub earned a certain respect in the while community, despite his dubious piety. Eastern European Jewry respected first of all Talmudic scholars. However, they did not deprive reverence to practical people who possessed worldly knowledge.

Little Chanan often visited Doctor Taub, and later he visited other doctors in the area. He even reached Krakow. Apparently, the tendencies of doctors have not changed. They diagnosed him as having an inclination to infirmness, without finding a cure for it. This alone as enough reason for those who were near the child to worry and to take extra care about him. Chanan exploited the situation to his advantage and knew how to benefit from it. He behaved with despotism and without mercy toward the family members who were apprehensive about his sickness and always noticed a change in his face when they treated him gently, and felt happy about it. The child's illness used to disappear overnight.

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The child had a special love affair with his grandmother and, under her protection, he felt infinitely secure and deep down inside, he felt that, because of his childish existence, he could do anything he wanted and would be forgiven. He thought that his impolite cunning was like by his grandmother and other adults. What had seemed strange to Chanan about his grandmother was her wrinkled face which was not as smooth as the faces of the mothers of his playmates. Chanan once asked her meticulously about the difference. The fact that his “mother's” face was also smooth had no meaning for him because she was far away, somewhere in Germany and she only came to visit from time to time. Each time she came, she brought another child with her. Once she brought a blond child with blue eyes whose name was Naphtali. Another time she came with a lovely girl whose eyes expressed amazement at the odd people that she encountered in that small Galician town and at the fact that two brothers who were born here belong to her family. These glorious eyes that belonged to the girl, combed and dressed with much splendor, were willed with confusion and contempt, and always avoided people's eyes.

In time, the children became used to each other and played together, but not without friction. It was harder for the children to relate to the two strange adults who were introduced as mom and dad, although they did look a bit like people from Strzyzow. This father with the black beard looked like somebody from a strange land. We related to him as someone who invaded our domain. Seldom and with hesitation did Isaac and Chanan enter into the back room whose windows faced the fields, and was used by our parents during their visits. Once Isaac left their room and inadvertently slammed the door and provoked father to chase after him into is secret hiding place to demonstrate his fatherly authority. That act proved to the child that indeed that man had invaded the domain which was not his. For many weeks, actually years even, mother could not create the family bond with these two natives of Strzyzow.

Only once before mother's leaving was I struck with a sudden sadness. I snuck off alone into my room and hid my face in the pillow. Mother was forced to leave the carriage, and she came into that room where she awarded me with a long blazing kiss on my forehead, and put a five gulden coin in my hand and disappeared. For a long time afterwards, I felt her blazing kiss, and I was emotional and exited in a most strange way. I wondered about the wonderful feeling which I could not explain to myself. Only after many years, after I grew up and matured the same wonderment returned to me, the same incessant spring of worry and devotion of the parents. By then it was too late. The children became letters, the parent became foster children. If only people would continue to talk to each other, not about others, but about themselves, in order to get closer and to understand each other. Such mutual conversation is not silver but gold, and silence is not even silver but a brooding station for estrangement, for keeping away, for creating mutual animosity and all the ills that occur upon the earth.

Once the whole family arrived from Stuttgart to Strzyzow for a longer stay. Apparently, the log separation from some of the children became unbearable to my parents. And possibly there may have been other

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Problems, like the fight for existence which became harder because of the uncompromising observance of religious traditions. My father rented a small store in the marketplace, and the adjacent small apartment might have been sufficient if the two of us would have remained with our grandparents. We still went often to visit them, but only upon their request. When I encountered my father in the street, we looked at each other with great interest, but we did not know what to say to each other. Without uttering a word from our mouths, we passed each other and continued on our way. I have been him sometimes sitting on the steps of his store, waiting for customers, mostly in vain. This showmanship of waiting for customers was not befitting such an energetic and active man. He probably surrendered to his wife's request and tried to return and adjust himself to the Galician household.

Customers seldom came and the ones that came, bought very little. In contrast, a customer appeared one day of whom everyone was afraid. This was Jasiek the “thief in broad daylight.” He used to appear every once in a while in this or that store, and he was given whatever he demanded so that he would leave peacefully. Most of the time he was drunk and he waved and played with his knife, so that many closed their shops when they saw him nearby. There was no possible escape from him because the only local policeman always appeared afterwards, making compromises with Jasiek just as everybody else who did not want to bump into him. Alas, he continued the robbing activity with despotism to the distress of the Jewish shopkeepers.

And it happened that he came into the small, modest, new store and demanded money or merchandise from my surprised father. He was accustomed to receive the handouts without explanation from the softhearted Jews who were afraid of his knife. This time Jasiek's time had come to leave with a great surprise, because my father, without hesitation, slapped his face, pushed the astonished man out into the street in not a very gentle way, and locked the door from the inside. The residents of the town assembled in groups and all the neighbors stared and looked in bewilderment at how the terrible Jasiek was thrown out by the quiet, tranquil Jew, who never bothered a fly on the wall, and how the culprit's nose was bleeding. At the sight of the gathered crowd, this bogyman who until now had imposed fear on everyone, decided that it was time to depart. However, he did not depart without an avalanche of dreadful curses in the best choice of words of the Polish language, and threats against my father. The story about this event was told all over town, and there was no mincing words to describe the daring of my father whose life was now in danger. However, none was ready to bet even the smallest sum that, in the future Jasiek would come out ahead. Afterward fear dominated my mother's whole body, fearing for her husband's life. Therefore, she was searching for a way how to avoid a tragedy. Shortly, when Jasiek appeared again, she simply approached him with a question, would he like to have a drink of vodka? She invited him to her apartment near the store, poured several drinks for him and filled his pockets with cakes and cookies. Jasiek could not figure out what was happening to him, and he never showed his face in this area again.

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After this incident my father's stature went up tremendously in the eyes of those who constantly feared that scoundrel. The appearance of my mother, that tiny woman, often saved my father's life from all kinds of characters of Jasiek's type. The business was bad. The only good thing that my father derived from that situation was that he had spare time to devote to studying the Talmud, to which he dedicated a lot of time anyway. The daily income was barely enough for the daily needs. However, the Sabbath was always celebrated festively with fish and meat, plaited challa, deserts and hot cholent. That festive meal lasted a long time, and it included heart rendering songs, in Hebrew and Aramaic, songs in which we thanked G–d for favors he awarded us, body and soul. And, if a poor wanderer appeared in the synagogue as a guest, he was called to the Torah, and then, he was invited home for the Sabbath meal. Sometimes the guest introduced a new tune to an old song. This was so rewarding that it seemed that complete happiness reigned in our house. However, the peak of satisfaction was seen during the Sabbath morning services in the kloiz of the Rabbi from Sassov. The official Rabbi worshipped in Beit Hamidrash. However, the center of study of the aristocratic Jews who stood out with their Hassidic way of life was in kloiz. There they gathered around their Rabbi, an offspring of the Shapiro Dynasty, a delicate man adorned with a white beard and sparkling eyes which expressed love and possessed a warm, enticing voice. The Rabbi often chanted the Sabbath morning prayers. He did not chant with a voice trained according to musical rules. However, his strong voice and the expression of his soul were thrilling, heart rendering and musical by themselves, according to all the principles of traditional form, so that the worshipers, whether they were veterans who knew his chanting, or newcomers, they all were deeply impressed in an extraordinary way by his variations which burst out of his throat and ascended into the heavens. His chanting and his charming personality inspired spiritual life in the Orthodoxy who were around him and increased the number of his followers to the great dissatisfaction of the official elected Rabbi, despite the charm, piety, and scholarly skill that the latter possessed.

The appreciation of the two spiritual leaders in Strzyzow, Rabbi Alter Zev Horowitz and Rabbi Moshe Leib Shapiro, found its expression in the “Mishloach Manot” that were dispatched to them on Purim on silver or glass platters. My brother Isaac and I noticed the difference because we were the messengers of our grandfather. (Aside from this, we also served discreetly as the messengers of the grandmother, who set all kinds of food articles to old women to whom we could not disclose the name of the sender. Their pleasant surprise caused gladness to my soul so that right there I decided to do it again in the future.) On Rabbi Shapiro's plate, a sparkling five gulden coin shone from amidst the sweets, the equivalent of ten crowns, a nice gift considering how little my grandfather's daily expenses were, approximately a penny a day. In contrast, the appreciation of Rabbi Horowitz was expressed with a three gulden coin, just because he was the official Rabbi, and for the sake of peace. In distinction, he had heartfelt bonds with the Hassidic circle

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of Rabbi Shapiro. I too was satisfied with such evaluation of the Rabbis because the black–bearded Rabbi of short stature was the Rabbi to whom we owed official allegiance, but was less admired that the Rabbi with the snow–white beard who was full of life ad youthful feelings, and whose piety was not so gloomy but cheerful and filled with love toward people. He also loved children. Therefore, we, the two Hassidic students, sneaked into his house when our father was invited together with a few other guests after services, and while the Rabbi's wife treated the guests with honey cake and preserves, we suddenly appeared to our father's embarrassment, who felt guilty because of the Talmudic saying, “One guest does not invite another guest.” Nevertheless, we felt safe from father's slight anger because of the look and wink of the eyes of this holy and cheerful man who was our stronghold and shelter.

My father often visited the Rabbi's house on Friday nights after the Sabbath meal to mingle with the Hassidim, listen to the Rabbi's torah discourses, and to enjoy the pleasure of the Sabbath by singing songs. My big brother Isaac, who was about seven or eight–year–old, was the firstborn, and, according to the religious rule, he had certain responsibilities, and he was supposed to guide me when I, at grandmother's urging, went to visit my mother and my little brothers and sisters. After I overcame my first apprehension, I developed a good relationship with them, especially with Naphtali, with whom I walked around the room while he sat in a walking chair on wheels. Suddenly, he stood up on his two little feet in the chair and burst out with a joyful laughter for his just–finished journey around the room. I derived great satisfaction from my usefulness in my parents' house, and I wanted to add joy and to entertain my little brother even more. And, as I began my sudden galloping and sudden stopping, I also wanted to surprise little Naphtali with these sudden intermittent movements. The physical law of perseverance was unknown to me then, so I began to gallop with the wheeled chair on which the tot was standing, hoping to hear gladdening laughter. Instead he fell, hurt his forehead on the cement floor, and began spasmodically to cry, which brought my mother running to the scene, terribly frightened. I stood stunned and frightened, thinking that I killed my brother, and I did not know how to escape from that shameful situation, even though it later appeared that it was nothing serious. Then, my mother inadvertently gave me such a furious look, even though she surely did not suspect that I did it intentionally. This fact, together with the lovingness with which she kissed her little one, convince me that in this house, I was a stranger and will remain so in the future.

Embarrassed for such little understanding of the law of physics and life, I was saddened from the loss of affection, and sneaked away from there and ran “home” to grandmother. Without uttering a word, I went to bed. I felt that I had left with my parents a reason for unfavorable judgment of noble mind, just because I was helpless and confused at a time when I was completely innocent. I also felt that there was no chance for me to be accepted by them unconditionally, and that they would not understand my moods the same way my uncle Yerachmiel and aunt

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Yente understood them in my grandparents' house. Therefore, I solemnly decided to remain forever in Strzyzow and to keep a certain distance in relationship with my parents and brothers and sisters.

As a result, I felt no obligation to share anything with Naphtali, who spoke German, the way I shared with Isaac. It was an expression of some inner resistance more or less. One day I had to go on an errand to the suburb of the town. I was accompanied by my little brother Naphtali and, as a reward; I received a great juicy pear. With such a mouthwatering item in my pocket, I began my journey. All kinds of thoughts kept popping up in my mind, how to devour the pear without sharing it with my brother. Although his company leased and entertained me, a pear is a pear. In addition, he was a brother who spoke a different language which meant that he was not such a close relative, contrary to reality. I debated with myself, whether a definite enjoyment of eating the whole pear is better than the doubtful enjoyment of eating only half of it. I kept wondering, “How could I turn my head sideways for every bite of the pear, and how could I take it out and return it to my pocket without being detected?” But before I made my decision, I knew it would not work and I would not be able to escape sharing the pear. “What should I do?” I thought to myself. The saliva filled the cavity of my mouth and demanded to be used in the most proper and useful way. And then, the most rational idea came to my mind. “You know, Naphtali,” I said, “Until now we walked side by side for a long time. It was boring. Now, let us walk one behind the other. Something different. We will still be able to converse with each other. And, since I am a little taller than you, I could look forward over your head. Therefore, it is better for you to walk first, and I will follow you. But you should not look back because you are liable to trip and fall. Keep looking forward.”

It was not easy to convince Naphtali, but he had no logical reason to refuse my suggestion and he surrendered. We walked, one behind the other and, slowly I ate the fruit. I was careful not to smack my lips. At least, I believed that I was successful not to make any sound. I managed somehow to keep in line walking in a goose step or, maybe, he had his own reasons for doing so, until I made a good–hearted gesture and said to him that from now on we could walk the rest of the way side by side as before.

However, he fiercely refused: “No Chanan, now I want to walk behind you and you should walk ahead of me.” A menacing suspicion came to my mind. I became angry at such deceitfulness, and I tried to sway him away from it. But he insisted on changing positions. As far as I was concerned, I had no logical reason to oppose. The fact that I was a head taller than he did not bother him and he just demanded equal rights. This convincing, logical consciousness of just and unjust is our strength and our weakness all our lives. I marched forward and, in my imagination, it seemed to me that I heard the sound of biting into an apple. I had the urge to turn around and to expose his deceit. But he fiercely protested when he saw my slightest movement, insisting on the strict execution of my own cunning maneuver. Resigned, sad and silent, I continued on my way, while Naphtali smacked his lips behind me. The pear

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which was eaten a while ago and was resting in my tummy brought up a bitter aftertaste in light of my fantasizing about the taste of an apple in the present. I felt trapped in my own web, cheated, and, in addition, I did not feel like a straight forward, innocent person. I felt conquered with my own weapon, despite of the higher value of the fruit that I consumed. Somewhere in my heart, I recalled a verse which I apathetically memorized in cheder, that G–d pays the wicked according to his wickedness and traps him in the same trap that he set up for others. My real feelings at that time was, it seemed to me, filled with rage which was directed toward my little, deceitful brother. However, I restrained myself after I thought about the egotism and lack of integrity in my own person. I began to grasp all these traits in my character. What I have memorized and learned in the damp moldy cheder, about the righteous and the wicked which is connected to personal experiences and rises and appears from far distances, even though, much time passes until we comprehend that the practical implementation of principle is in itself an exalted function which a person can hardly manage to execute during his lifetime. To mature means to arrive to that fitting position of correlating the theory with deeds. If we do not reach maturity, barbarism rules, despite of the accumulated knowledge of piles and piles of books.

In light of the above, it is possible to have an explanation for what happened in the land where art was cherished so much, where science developed immensely, in the land which spreads between the Danube and Rhine, where my lifeboat was supposed to have turned around? What is unimaginable is not the fact that the military was trained and specialized to murder women, children, and elderly people. This thing could have been done in any other place after systematic preparation and certain influence. In these conditions murder units could have been established everywhere. What was missing was the brakes against degeneration of the political rulers, the opposition of the men of spirit and all those guardians of science who apparently lacked maturity, and did not make the connection between theory and practice, between knowledge and action.

The value of science exist only when it creates morality. Otherwise it is only a heap of information which could be used for any dangerous purpose. Educational institutions in many countries lack this logical point, possibly because of the disease inherited from the Greeks which the clever idolaters smuggled into the western evangelical countries in a superficial form. A child who grew up in the bosom of Judaism is required, when he intermingles with the western world which is called with a Christian name, to know the gentile contrast, the deep contrast, not only from the aspect of the different superficial science and methods of learning, but also about the basic goal in the face of qualitative life. The sailing on the Danube through Central Europe ought to be, for a conscientious Jewish child, a considerably difficult role which could not be described by the commonly used word, “assimilation.” It was a compromise between two worlds which came into existence not by philosophical articles but by groping and searching for the values of life of the

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Jewish youth who were often helpless. The individual activity and the penetrated opposing values and opposed world outlooks concerning basic matters already existed as a result of Jewish children attending secular elementary schools. That is how the silent compromise started in the Austrian area where Polish was spoken, and it continued into Swabian surroundings, where the source of Danube, the majestic river is, which streams undisturbed between blue banks, through various countries uninfluenced by any political changes, singing its eternal song.

 

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