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Tarnow Rabbis Who Perished oyf Kiddush haShem[a][1]

by Menashe Unger

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

The Grodzisker Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Horowicz

The Grodzisker Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Horowicz, who lived in Tarnow, was one of the first rabbis in the city who perished oyf Kiddush haShem. His cry of Shema Yisroel [Hear, o Israel – the central prayer of Jewish worship] before the Germans shot him made the entire Jewish area tremble.

The Grodzisker Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Horowicz, was a son of Rebbe, Reb Avraham-Chaim Horowicz from Plontsch [Polaniec], who lived in Radomyshl (western Galicia) and in Rzeszow after the First World War.

Reb Eliezer was born in 5461 (1881). He was the son-in-law of Rebbe, Reb Meir Yehuda Szpira of Bukowsko.

The Plontscher Rebbe, Reb Avraham-Chaim, was a son of the Rozwadówer Rebbe, Reb Moshe Horowicz, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed. He was born in 5610 (1850). He knew his paternal grandfather, the Rebbe, Reb Naftali Zwi Horowicz, but he did not know his maternal grandfather, the Sigheter Rebbe, Reb, Yekutial-Yehuda Teitlbaum of Sighet, the author of Yetev Lev [Hasidic Torah commentary], although he spoke of him.

The Plontscher Rebbe, Reb Avraham-Chaim, was a son-in-law of Reb Betsalel Pilzner, a rich Jew. He got married at age 13. He hot gegesn kest [his father-in-law provided financial support] in Rozwadów as long as his father-in-law, the Rozwadówer Rebbe, Reb Moshe, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, was alive. The Rozwadówer Rebbe, Reb Moshe, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, died on the of Sivan 5654 (1894) and Reb Avraham-Chaim became Rabbi and Rebbe in Plontsch, Congress Poland. He then moved to Radomyshl. He had a great knowledge of Jewish law and he studied a Talmudic lesson with his brother-in-law, the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid Unger, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, when he hot gegesn kest with the Rozwadówer Rebbe.

The Plontscher Rebbe was an honest man and full-hearted. He

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had a mellifluous voice and on Friday nights he would he would sing Shabbos [Sabbath] songs at the table.

His singing of Ma Yedidut [How Beloved is Your Rest] and Me'ein Olam Haba [A Taste of the World to Come] would evoke a great moral resurgence among the Hasidim.

Friday night, at the table, before sharing learning, he would quietly hum a melody. His face would light up and when he began to share his learning, he would stumble over his words, so that it was difficult to understand his teaching. A devoted Hasid of his, Reb Chaim Fefer, could grasp the sounds and the half words of the Plontscher Rebbe and he then repeated the teaching to the Hasidim.

During the First World War the Plontscher Rebbe fled with his household to Budapest, Hungary and after the war, he settled in Rzeszow and established his rabbinical court there.

The Plontscher Rebbe died on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Cheshvan 5679 [24th of September, 1919].

The Plontscher Rebbe had three sons: Reb Dovid, Pshezlaver, who was then the Rebbe in Rzeszow (he perished oyf Kiddush haShem), Reb Shlomo, who was a son-in-law of the Rebbe Yehiel, the Pakshivnitzer Rebbe (he died when he was young) and Reb Eliezer, who was the rabbi in Grodzisk and after the First World War lived in Tarnow and had three daughters. One son-in-law was the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoelish Teitelbaum (his wife and children perished at the hands of the Germans).

The Grodzisker Rebbe, Reb Eliezer married when he was 16-years-old. He hot gegesn kest [his father-in-law provided financial support] with his father-in-law, the Bukowsker Rebbe.

In 5669 (1909), when the Bukowsker Rebbe died, Reb Eliezer became the rabbi in Grodzisk, a shtetl [town] in western Galicia, near Tarnow.

The Grodzisker Rebbe, Reb Eliezer lived in Tarnow in the Grabówka district [on Lwowska Street], a distance from the center of the city and there he carried out the position of Hasidic rebbe.

In addition to three daughters, the Grodzisker Rebbe had two sons: Reb Moshe, who was a son-in-law of Reb Yosef Horowicz from Kras (he died as a young man), and Reb Dovid, who was a son-in-law of Reb Mordekhai-Zev Halbershtam, Rabbi in Gribow. His daughter, Hene, married Reb Moshe Teitelbaum of Krakow; his daughter, Alte-Chaya was the rebbitzen (wife) of the Rozwadówer Rabbi, Reb Moshele Horowicz (they and their household perished oyf

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Kiddush haShem); and his daughter Rywka, was the wife of the Rabbi, Reb Dovid-Ber Fersztman, the editor of Dos Yidishe Wort [The Daily Word] in Zamość-Warsaw.

* * *

When the Germans entered Tarnow, they issued edicts against the Jews, one more severe than the next, to imbitter the life of the Jews.

At that terrible time, the Germans looked to destroy the spiritual leaders of the Jews – the rebbes; then it would be easier for them [the Germans] to send all of the Jews from Tarnow to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

The rebbes searched for a place to hide.

The Grodzisker Rebbe lay hidden in a bunker at Lwowska Street number 10, where his cousin, the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Unger, may God avenge his blood, lived.

“The Germans burst into the courtyard and discovered the bunker. They threw a gas bomb into the bunker and the Grodzisker Rebbe had to come out of the bunker.” – says a letter from Mordekhai Ebersztark, one of the survivors from Tarnow, who lives in Antwerp, Belgium. According to this letter, this occurred on Rosh Hashanah; he makes an error in the date, because this was the 7th of Kislev 5703 (1943).
Mordekhai Ebersztark writes further in this letter:
“The Grodzisker Rebbe came out of the bunker. He still had his beard and peyes, although the Germans had issued an order that all Jews had to cut off their beards and peyes [uncut sideburns worn by religious men].

“The Germans placed the Grodzisker Rebbe against the wall and told him that he would be shot in 10 minutes; if he had a wish, he should say so.

“The Grodzisker Rebbe asked them to bring the robe that he had inherited from his father, the Plontscher Rebbe and his talis [prayer shawl]. The Grodzisker Rebbe put on his father's robe and the talis and when he saw the Germans aiming their revolvers at him, he shouted Shema Yisroel, which echoed in all of the surrounding houses and in all of the bunkers in which Jews were hiding.

“That day the Germans shot 3,500 Jews in their houses, in the courtyards and on the staircases.

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“When taking the corpses to the cemetery, one Hasid took the holy body of the martyr, the Grodzisker Rebbe, and gave him a Jewish burial.

“At that moment, with the passionate shout, Shema Yisroel, the Grodzisker Rebbe perished oyf Kiddush haShem, may God avenge his blood.”

 

The Dzikówer Rebbe, Reb Alterl Horowicz

Perished oyf Kiddush haShem

The Rebbe, Reb Alterl Horowicz of Dzików was the last rabbi of the Dzikówer-Ropshitzer dynasty.

The Dzikówer Rebbe lived in Tarnow after the First World War, but he was still called the Dzikówer Rebbe. The Dzikówer Rebbe perished oyf Kiddush haShem at the hands of the Germans in Krakow.

Dzików (Tarnobrzeg, also called Dzików) was a shtetl [town] in western Galicia that lay at the border with Congress Poland on the right side of the Vistula [River].

The Jewish community in Dzików was over 500 years old. Dzików was known in the Hasidic world. After the Ropshitzer Rebbe, Reb Naftali Hersh Horowicz, died (11th of Iyar 5587 – [8th of May] 1827), his son Reb Eliezer became the rebbe in Dzików. From then on Dzików became the continuation of Ropshitzer Hasidic dynasty and four generations were rabbis there until the coming of the savage blow of the German murderers, cut the Ropshitzer-Dzikówer tree – and the Dzikówer rabbinical dynasty disappeared.

The Rebbe, Reb Eliezerl did not want a large group of Hasidim. He distanced himself from the Hasidim and did not permit stories to be told about his miracles.

Once the Rebbe, Reb Eliezerl, in his teaching, translated: Zakeinu l'Kabel Shabatot [And may we merit to receive Shabbos]… Mitokh miut avanut – miut avanut [and in the midst of a few sins – few sins] to mean one should have few Hasidim because the Hasidim delude themselves that they are full of sin – if one has few Hasidim, one has fewer sins…

The Rebbe, Reb Eliezerl did not want his teachings to be published

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in a book.[2] Rzeszow, Reb Eliezer, gave a reason in a jest:

“I do not want a Jew to eat his fill Friday night at the feast and convince himself that he was a Hasid and then he would take my book to bed before sleeping, look at it. I do not want to sleep with such a Jew in his bed…”
And although the Rebbe, Reb Eliezer did not believe in miracles and said that since the death of the khozeh [seer] of Lublin, the appearance of miracles and prophetic inspiration had declined, his Hasidim told a story that was a kind of prophetic inspiration.

The Rebbe, Reb Eliezer had a custom that on Rosh Hashanah, when he was called to the Torah, he would recite the Mi Shebeyrekh [the one who is blessed – prayer said for a person or group] for all of the Hasidic rebbes. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, he would write a list on a piece of paper of the rebbes and he would always place the Rzeszower Rebbe first on the list. The shamas [synagogue beadle] would always call out the names when the Dzikówer Rebbe was called up to the Torah.

In 5611 (1850), the Dzikówer Rebbe asked that the name of the Sanzer Rebbe, Reb Chaim ben [son of] Miriam be placed at the beginning of the list and that the name Reb Yisroel ben Chana, the name of the Rzeszower Rebbe, not be place at the beginning of the list.

And on Rosh Hashanah, at being called to the Torah, he did not ask for the saying of the Mi Shebeyrekh for the Rzeszower Rebbe. The Hasidim did not understand the reason and the same year, on the 3rd of Cheshvan [9th of October 1850], the Rzeszower Rebbe died.

The Hasidim said that the Rebbe, Reb Eliezer had recognized the spirit of inspiration that the Rzeszower Rebbe would not live to the end of the next year.

The story of the Rebbe, Reb Eliezer, about when he swore in 5620 (1860) in the sukkah [temporary structure in which one has meals and may sleep during the holiday of Sukkous – Feast of Tabernacles] that Moshiekh [messiah] would not come that year, also was well known.

There was faith among Jews that Moshiekh would come in 5620. Allusion to this had been found in the Zohar. The Rebbe, Reb Eliezer, on a Sukkos night at the table during a teaching, said with great ardor: “Rabbeinu shel olam [God the Creator], we ask You: You, Merciful Creator, favor us to be worthy of sitting in the skin of the Leviathan

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and then I swear that Moshiekh [redeemer] will not come this year!'

After Sukkous, the Rebbe, Reb Eliezer, questioned his son as to why he [Eliezer] had sworn that Moshiekh [redeemer] would not come in that year:

“I am afraid that the faith that Moshiekh will come this year has spread so strongly among the multitudes that if, God forbid, he does not come, atheism will be strengthened. I have sworn that Moshiekh will not come. If he does not come, they will know about my oath; if he does actually come this year, so, let him come and, if need be, I will remain a liar…”
The Rebbe, Reb Eliezer died on the 3rd of Cheshvan 5621 ([19th October 1860[b]] 1861). However, he left four sons, two of whom founded their own dynasties that had thousands of Hasidim. They were: the Rebbe, Reb Meirl, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, the first-born son, who became the rebbe in Dzików, and his second son, the Rebbe, Reb Moshe Horowicz, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, of Rozwadów, died the 10th of Sivan 5654 ([14th of June] 1894).[3]

The Rebbe, Reb Meirl Dzikówer followed in the path of his father and grandfather. He combined piety and brilliance. His book of responsa, Imrei Noam [Words of Pleasantness] was known in the scholarly world.[4]

Reb Meirl also published the book Imrei Noam on the teachings. The teachings are full of gematria, according to the path of the covenant of priesthood.

Whereas, the Rebbe, Reb Meirl did permit his works to be printed, he diverged from the custom of his father and grandfather who said that their interpretations should not be printed.

The author of Imre Noam had a custom that every night of Chanukah he would play with the dreidel [top] with his children and in the year in which he died – the Hasidim say – the Rebbe, Reb Meirl also played with the dreidel with his children, but during the game, the dreidel constantly fell on the [Hebrew letter] nun. The Rebbe, Reb Meirl spun the dreidel three times and it fell on the nun all three times. The author of Imre Noam sadly immediately stopped

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playing. The Hasidim did not know the reason. During the same year, on the 5th of Tammuz 5638 (1878), the Rebbe, Reb Meirl, died in Carlsbad (the nun was supposed to be an allusion to nifter [the Yiddish word to die]).

The author of Imre Noam was brought to Dzików from Carlsbad and he was buried in the Ohel [structure over a grave] of his father, the Rebbe, Reb Eliezer.

* * *

After the death of Imre Noam [Reb Meirl was known by the name of his book], his son, Reb Yehoshale became his successor.

The Rebbe, Reb Yehoshale, was widely known in the world for his brilliance and insight. He also was known by the name of his book, Ateret Yehoshua [The Crown of Yehoshua]. He also was the author of the book, Emek Halakha [Talmudic responsa] and other books.

The author of Ateret Yehoshua did not think highly of the Austrian state that was pieced together from various nations: from the Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Bosnians and other nations. He compared the Austrian-Hungarian state to Reb Zaynvl Ropshitzer's tefillin [phylacteries] bag.

Reb Zaynvl Ropshitzer was the spokesperson in the Ropshitzer Rebbe's court. Once Reb Zaynvl lost his talis and tefillin bag.

The Ropshitzer Rebbe said to him: “Zaynvl, why are you so troubled? You have not lost more than the tefillin bag, while you will yourself admit that the talis was a Turkish one; the tefillin were only one pair – Rashi's tefillin and the second pair, Rebbenu Tam's tefillin; the tefillin bag was your own…”[5]

The Austrian-Hungarian state is also the same, the Dzikówer Rebbe concluded, of the entire state, not more will be left than the tefillin bag – Vienna and the small Austrian provinces.

Thus, before the First World War, the Dzikówer Rebbe foresaw that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire would fall like a house of cards and only Vienna and its Austrian provinces would remain of the large state.

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The Dzikówer Rebbe, Reb. Yehoshale, the author of Ateret Yehoshua [The Crown of Yehoshua], died on the 11th of Tevet 5672 (1912) and after his death, his son, Reb Alterl, became rebbe.

* * *

The Rebbe, Reb Alterl was born in 5639 (1879). He was an only son and weak, with many illnesses, but over time he overcame his illnesses.

The Dzikówer Rebbe, Reb Alterl, when young married the daughter of his uncle, the Rebbe, Reb Yizroeltshe Hager from Wisznice, who had the reputation of a lover of the Jewish people.

Reb Alterl hot gegesn kest [his father-in-law provided financial support] in Wisznice and then he returned to Dzików and was hired as the yunger rov [young rabbi].

The Rebbe, Reb Alterl Dzikówer was very much beloved by the Hasidim because by nature he was a kind-hearted person. He hot gefirt dem tish [hosted his Hasidim at the Shabbos meal] on Friday nights, according to the way of the Dzikówer-Ropshitzer, they stayed until morning and although he himself was not a talented singer, there always were a group of Hasidic musicians who sang Ropshitzer- Dzikówer Hasidic melodies.

After the First World War, the Ropshitzer Rebbe lived in Tarnow at Holtz Platz [Wood Square]. Hundreds and hundreds of Hasidim from Galicia and rich Hasidic men from Antwerp and London would come for Rosh Hashanah.

When the German hordes entered Galicia, the Dzikówer Rebbe escaped to Krakow. He said that he could hide there. He was in the ghetto there until the German murderers caught him. The Dzikówer Rebbe perished oyf Kiddush haShem at the hands of the Germans on the 5th of Adar 5703 ([12th of March] 1943), with his rebbitzen [wife], the Wisznicer Rebbe's daughter.

His son, Reb Mendele, who was the rabbi in Dzików, also was in a concentration camp in Plaszow near Krakow, for a time. He then was taken to a second camp at Mauthausen and he died there on Simchas Torah [holiday commemorating the completion of the yearly reading of the Torah and the start of the reading for the new year] 5704 ([the 10th of October] 1944).

His wife, the young rebbitzen, was taken to Danzig and she was drowned in a river by the Germans along with hundreds of other women. The Dzikówer Rebbe's two other sons, Reb Meirl and Yekele, were murdered by the Germans.

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The Dzikówer Rebbe's daughter, Dwoyrale Abramovicz-Arnun[6] and the Dzikówer Rebbe's son, Reb Yehudale, who lives in Jerusalem, survived. He could have continued the Dzikówer rabbinical dynasty. However, he does not want to be a rebbe.

 

The Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Unger

Perished oyf Kiddush haShem [for sanctification of God's Name]

The Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Unger, was a son of Rebbe Sholem-Dovid Unger, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed.

The Żabner rabbinical dynasty extends to Rebbe, Reb Mordekhai-Dovid Unger, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, of Dąbrowa (western Galicia), who was a student of the Rebbe, Reb Yakov Yitzhak Horowitz, called the khozeh [seer] of Lublin.

The Żabner rabbinical line had many founders of Hasidus in its branches in Poland and Galicia. The Żabner Rebbe was a descendent of the Rebbe, Reb Elimelekh of Lizhensk, from Rebbe, Reb Yisroel – the Kaczenicer Magid [preacher], of the Ropshitzer [Ropczyce] Rebbe, Reb Naftali Zvi Horowicz and the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Yakov Yitzhak, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, and was the son-in-law of Rebbe, Reb Meirl Horowicz of Dzików [Tarnobrzeg], who was one of the great Jewish personalities.

The Dzikówer Rebbe, Reb Meirl, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, authored the books, Imrei Noam [Words of Pleasantness] on the Torah and responsa.

The Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, lived in Tarnow before the First World War. His son, the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Unger, who perished oyf Kiddush haShem, also lived there.

* * *

As soon as the Germans took power in Tarnow, they began to liquidate the Jews from the surrounding shtetlekh [towns]. They deported the Jews from Dąbrowa, Stutszyn, Żabno, Brigel and other shtetlekh; the Germans murdered a large number of Jews on the spot and pushed the others into the ghetto that the Germans created in Tarnow.

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And the aktions in Tarnow itself began immediately.

On the 9th of September 1939, the Germans, in honor of the memorial day of the Putsch they had carried out, celebrated their black holiday by burning all of the synagogues, houses of prayer and small synagogues in Tarnow.

On this day, the Germans burned the “Old Synagogue,” which had been built in 1581,[7] the house of prayer near the synagogue, the Tempel Synagogue, Devora Menkes' Synagogue, the synagogue at Strusine Street, the large chapel, the various Hasidic prayer houses, the synagogue at Lwowska Street, the Porter's Synagogue in the Grabowka district and all of the synagogues in the Jewish neighborhoods as well as the Torah scrolls and thousands and thousands of religious books.

When the Germans issued an order that the Jews had to leave their residences and enter the ghetto, the rabbinate in Tarnow issued a proclamation that every Jew should fast and those who could not fast, should donate atonement money to support the poor Jews.

The first frightening, savage act of the Germans, which made all of the Jews in the city tremble, was taking out 10,000 Jews and placing them at the marketplace. They all had to kneel and then they were shot. Blood ran in the gutters. The German murderer, the leader of the mass-slaughter, took out his two children to see how Jews were being shot…

At night, as the 10,000 martyrs lay shot, the German commander asked for a cup of water and clean towel. He washed his hands of Juden blut [Jewish blood] and drove away with his children to a concert…

At that terrible time, the rebbes searched for a place to hide. The rebbes knew that their names were the first on the Gestapo's list of those to be annihilated. Hasidim went to the Żabner Rebbe and asked him to leave Tarnow. He should go to Żabno, where a secure bunker had been prepared. It had been prepared

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so that he and his entire family could live there until the fury passed… But the Żabner Rebbe did not want to leave his community of Jews in Tarnow.

And every day new edicts were issued against the Jews. The Germans constantly gave new orders to the Jews, everything in order to belittle them and to denigrate them so that it would then be easier to send them to the death camps.

Thus an order was issued that Jews must wear arm bands; another time, that Jews must cut their beards and peyes [side curls].

Until then, the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer still had a beard and peyes. He often walked in the street with his face wrapped, so it would be thought that he had a toothache. However, when an order was issued by the Germans that the beard and peyes had to be cut off, the Hasidim went to the Rebbe and asked him to spare his life and to let his beard and peyes be cut off.

The Żabner Rebbe had a devoted Hasid, Reb Shimeon-Yakov Fridman, in Tarnow. The Rebbe asked Reb Shimeon-Yakov to cut of his [the Rebbe's] beard and peyes, but the Hasid could not do it.

The Żabner Rebbe asked his gabbai [sexton], Itshe Einhorn, to cut off his beard and peyes

The gabbai, Reb Itshe, had been the gabbai for the previous Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid Unger, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed. He came from Rozwadów and his father, Reb Yosef was one of the gabbaim for the old Rozwadówer Rebbe, Reb Moshe Horowitz, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed.

When the Rozwadówer Rebbe's son-in-law, Reb Sholem-Dovid, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, hot gegesn kest [his father-in-law provided financial support] at his father-in-law's, the Rozwadówer Rebbe asked the young man, Itshe, to be his son-in-law's sexton.

After finishing receiving support from his father-in-law in Rozwadów, the Żabner Rebbe already had two children, his first-born son, Reb Eliezer, and his daughter Perl,[8] The Żabner Rebbe moved to Żabno and became the rabbi and rebbe there in place of his father, Reb Yakov-Yitzhak Unger, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed. And his father-in-law, the Rozwadówer Rebbe, gave him the shamas [synagogue beadle], Reb Itshe as his gabbai.

Reb Itshe got married in Żabno and became the personal assistant at the Żabner [rabbinical] court. He was the chief gabbai for the Żabner Rebber for all his years.

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At the beginning of the First World War, when the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid, and his entire household escaped from the Russians to Vienna, where he had many Hasidim and his own small synagogue, he took Reb Itshe gabbai with him.

Reb Itshe gabbai was thus bound to the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid.

After the First World War, the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, settled in Tarnow.

* * *

The Żabner Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, was famous as a brilliant man. At age 35, he wrote commentaries anonymously on his grandfather's book of responsa, Imrei Noam [Words of Pleasantness], part 1 by the Rebbe, Reb Meirl Horowicz, may the memory of the blessed man be blessed, of Dzhikov.

In 1911, the Żabner Rebbe also published his book of responsa, Yad Shalom [Hand of Peace] without his name.[9]

The old Żabner Rebbe, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, died in Vienna on the 2nd of Elul 5683 ([14 August] 1923). The coffin was brought to Żabno on a special train and he was placed in the Ohel of his father.

The Hasidim crowned his oldest son, Reb Eliezer as rebbe[10] and the gabbai, Reb Itshe remained the gabbai with Reb Eliezer in Tarnow.

* * *

The old Reb Itshe gabbai needed to cut the beard and peyes of the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer, when the Germans issued the order that all Jews must cut their beards and peyes.

The gabbai, Reb Itshe, closed himself and the Rebbe in a separate room and the gabbai began to cut the Żabner Rebbe's beard and peyes. While cutting, the gabbai fainted and the Hasidim had to revive him.

At first, the Żabner Rebbe hosted his Hasidim at the Shabbos meal every Shabbos in secret.

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* * *

When the Nazis began the war against the Soviet Union, their fury against the Jews no longer had any limit. Every day they caught Jews for work and they strongly beat them at work, so that many of the Jews never returned…

And once, German soldiers entered the Żabner Rebbe's house and grabbed the rebbe to accompany them to go to work.

In the house was Reb Itshe gabbai, who was then an old Jew. He did not want the rebbe to go alone; he wanted to go with the rebbe to ease the work for the rebbe.

Reb Itshe gabbai ran to the German soldiers and requested:

“Take me, too!”
The German soldiers did not understand his intention and looked at each other in astonishment;
“The first time that a dirty Jew is asking that we take him to work… You must be his father, therefore you will definitely not go with him – they laughed out loud – du wirst krepier [you will die] on the spot and not at work!” – No, I am only the gabbai! – he fell to the feet of the rebbe and cried out loudly – A gabbai cannot live without a rebbe. I want to go with the rebbe!
And the German murderers had “pity” for Reb Itshe gabbai and also took him to work…

The German killers murderously battered the Rebbe and the old Reb Itshe gabbai as they worked, so both became very sick from the blows.

* * *

There was an old man in Tarnow – Reb Yehiel-Meirl, who prayed with Rebbe, Reb Yisroel-Yosele Unger, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed. He also took upon himself the religious obligation to bury the dead. A murderous typhus epidemic raged in the city; many Jews died. The Gestapo also shot Jews in the courtyards in which they lived and they would call out members of the Chevra Kadisha [burial society] to bury the dead. The members of the Chevra Kadisha were afraid to come into the courtyard. However, the old man, Reb Yehiel-Mierl, was no longer afraid of anything. When the Gestapo murderers, Rommelman, Pan [Mr.] Molutki and Grunow

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came into the ghetto for fresh victims, the old man, Yehiel-Meirl was not afraid to run to the kitchen for the poor, to bring home a spoon of cooked food for his sick neighbor…

Several days later, after the gabbai, Reb Itshe, voluntarily went to work with his rebbe, he died and the old man, Reb Yehiel-Meirl, carried out the burial rite.

* * *

A Tarnow Jew, M. Ebersztark, who survived in Antwerp, Belgium, describes the death of the Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer, may God avenge his blood, oyf Kiddush haShem.

M. Ebersztark's father was a Żabner Hasid. He writes: “In November 1939, the Germans caught your brother, the Żabner Rebbe, for work. They took him through Krakowska Street. They made a Purim-shpeil [a Purim play] out of him and murderously beat him. I also remember how one brother, Reb Eliezer, went on foot to the train station with 10,000 more Jews to be deported. The Germans pushed the Jews into the goods wagons [boxcar], 160 people in one goods wagon. On the way, the Żabner Rebbe's hat fell off. He wanted to pick it up, but the Germans beastly beat him and did not let him pick up his hat.

The Żabner Rebbe walked with both hands covering his head. He did not want to go bare-headed and blood ran from his head and face…

The Germans filled the goods wagons with 40 centimeters of lime; thus, when the train with the goods wagons arrived in Bochnia, everyone had already breathed out their holy souls. Only three small children remained alive…”

The Żabner Rebbe, Reb Eliezer Unger, may God avenge his blood, perished oyf Kiddush haShem, in such a cruel manner, with his rebbitzen Adele, who was the daughter of the Krasner Rebbe, Reb Ahrele Twerski, and their daughter Leah'tshe and his 11-year-old son, Motele (Mordekhai-Dovid), may God avenge their blood.

Only his daughter, Gitel, who was saved from the death camp at Auschwitz, and his oldest daughter, Malka'le (from his first wife), who left for Eretz-Yisroel after the Second World War, survived.


Original Footnotes:

  1. Reprinted from the author's Sefer Kdoyshim [Book of Martyrs] – Rebbes who died as martyrs – which was published in New York, 1967, by Schulsinger Brothers Publishers. Return
  2. The Ropshitzer [Ropczyce] Rebbe did not allow his [work] to be published. After the death of the Ropshitzer Rebbe, his student, the Sanzer Rebbe, the brilliant man, Reb Chaim Halberstam, decided that they should print the book, Sera Kodesh [Sacred Seed], of the Ropshitzer Rebbe. Return
  3. The other two were the Rebbe, Reb Ruvin of Dembic and Reb Yisroel of Baranow. Return
  4. My father, the Żabner, Rebbe, Reb Sholem-Dovid, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, a grandson of Reb Meirl and son-in-law of Rebbe, Reb Moshe of Rozwadów, published annotations on the first part of the responsa, Imre Noam, at the age of 30-plus years and my uncle, the Tokolower Rebbe, Reb Yehuda, may the memory of the righteous be blessed, published the second part of Imre Noam with his annotations. Return
  5. Hasidim carried talisim [prayer shawls] made in Turkey and they were called “Turkish talisim.” Return
  6. In a series of articles in the newspaper, Tog [Day], New York, she described in detail how she saved herself and her child. Return
  7. During my visit to Tarnow in 1960, I found only the Bima [synagogue lectern] from the “Old Synagogue” that was made of twisted iron, as a monument, surrounded by a small garden that the city managing committee in Tarnow had erected. Return
  8. She was the rebbitzen of the present Bloczewer Rebbe, Reb Yisroeltshe Szpira of Brooklyn, New York. She perished oyf Kiddish haShem in the gas chamber of Belzec on the 7th of Cheshvan [5703] [the 18th of October] 1942. Return
  9. Printed in Tolczva, Hungary, 5671 (1911). Yad is much the same as Dovid, so that the name of the book is his name. The book, Yad Shalom, is now published in New York. Return
  10. The Żabner Rebbe's second son, Reb Yisroelke, may the memory of the righteous man be blessed, was rabbi and rebbe in Żabno. He died in New York on Rosh Chodesh [the new month] Kislev, 1936. His rebbitzen, Chaya'tshe, the daughter of the Sanzer Rabbi, Reb Arya-Leib Halbersztam, perished with the members of his household at the hands of the Germans. Return

 


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. for sanctification of God's name Return
  2. there is an error in the text in converting the Hebrew year to the Gregorian year Return

 


[Page 233, Volume 2]

The ADMOR [Hasidic rabbi] of Grudzisk

Translated by Daniel Kochavi

 

tar2_233.jpg
This is the image of your teacher: A picture of the wise and holy Rabbi our teacher Eliezer Horowitz Admor from Grudzisk,The Admor from Klantesh:
He was born in the year 5636 (1875) passed away in purity on 6 Kislev 5703 in Tarnow – may his memory protect us and God avenge his blood.

 

When the ADMOR from Grudzisk and thousands of Jews, men, women and children were taken to the gas chambers in the German death camps, the Rabbi asked permission to say a few words to the assembled Jews. The Rabbi spoke as follows: Brothers and Sisters! A Talmud Sage said “yeti vlo achminia” (Aramaic) meaning the Messiah will come but I will not see it. This wise man did not want to see the great future suffering of the Israelites before the coming of the Messiah. Only he could make that request because, in his time, salvation (i.e. the coming of the Messiah) was far away in time. Today however when we are standing at the threshold of salvation, at this hour when we are bleeding and purifying with our blood the way for our savior, at this hour when our ashes, like the ashes of the Red Heifer, purify the people of Israel so that they will be ready to greet our holy Messiah – we must not say the opposite. On the contrary we must be grateful that it falls on us to pave the way for the coming of our redeemer and accept with love our sacrifice and our martyrdom to the faith (Kiddush Hashem). So, Jews join together and declare with joy “Shema Israel, come let us sing Ani Maamin” ... and this is what happened. All sang “Ani Maamin” with holy enthusiasm and singing they approached and entered the gas chamber......

(told by rabbi A.I. Halevi Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel after visiting camps of the survivors in Italy, published in” Olam”). (from “The Shoah and the Rebellion” - Anthology on the destruction of the European Jewry from 5700-5705 (1940-1945) published by the office of Education and Culture)


[Pages 234]

About the Heroic Role
of the Jewish Children During Nazi Rule

by Ahron Szporn (Montreal)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The savage persecutions of the Jews began during the first months after the triumphant entry of the German troops into Poland. The capture of adult women and men for forced labor was a dark, nightmarish plague. The adults were locked in their homes and did not appear in the streets because of the persecutions. The burden of providing income, functioning as providers of food for the family was taken on by the youngest children who were not obligated to wear the sign of disgrace, the [yellow Mogen Dovid – known as the Star of David] armband, and they were not threatened with the danger of being captured for forced labor.

The intrepid Jewish children filled an original, rebellious, function with a rare heroism that was expressed in several forms, such as:

  1. home providers
  2. street bargaining and smuggling
  3. begging
Home providers

It was necessary to stand the entire night in lines in order to receive the distribution of a small portion of bread… and when the sun began to rise, the danger of being captured for forced labor arose… It happened often that they stood in the line the entire night and at the end left with nothing because there was a sudden search and then there was no bread. Therefore, the youngest children were sent to the rows… and meanwhile they [the adults] lived in fear… when would the child return with the small amount of bread?

 

Street bargaining

After the war I met in Tarnow a young girl named Winer, who had lived in the Tarnow ghetto and survived through a miracle.

In a conversation with her, she told me: Everyone was involved with trade, so I also became involved… Did I have a choice?… We did not have

[Page 235]

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Jewish children in the Tarnow ghetto

 

anything to eat and I had to be the provider… I would walk with my friend around and bargain… She was then 13 and I was 11…

 

Smuggling

Life became unbearable after the publication of the ordinances according to which there was the threat of death for leaving the ghetto. It was now almost impossible to smuggle food items into the ghetto and hunger threatened to entirely depress those Jews already physically and spiritually weakened. With such a hopelessness situation, Jewish children began to smuggle food from the Aryan side into the imprisoned ghetto. What moral exaltation… What courage and boldness these children, the only providers of food for their homes, possessed … Unafraid, they

[Page 236]

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On the way to the ghetto with food items

 

risked their lives and many of these young heroes perished here.

This self–sacrifice by the Jewish children and their role as providers of nourishment for their parents, for their brothers and sisters was confirmed by Jonas Turkow,[1] who underlined that the youngest children, who would sneak out to the Aryan side and from there smuggle bread, flour and potatoes into ghetto, particularly excelled in smuggling food items into the ghetto.

It is easy to say… leave the ghetto for the Aryan side… Yet the walls around the ghettos were guarded from the inside by the Jewish militia and from the outside by the Polish and German police. Often such a

[Page 237]

Jewish child had to wait for many hours until they could go unnoticed through to the Aryan side past three such guards. Hundreds of Jewish children fell during this work from the bullets of the guards.

Dr. Hilel Zajdman[2] writes about the heroic role of the Jewish children as providers of food and nutrition for Jewish homes in the ghetto, commenting that the most interesting and equally the saddest chapter of the Jewish children's martyrdom was the smuggling that was carried out by the children, small children from five to eight years old, with small emaciated little bodies who would push themselves through narrow openings in the ghetto walls, through holes for the drainage of water, and go to the Aryan side. There they bought a little food for tens of zlotes, mostly potatoes and bread and then with these “goods” underneath their clothing they would wait in a crouch near one of the ghetto gates until it was possible to sneak into the ghetto. Woe to the child when they with their “goods” fell into German or Polish hands.

These small children, merchants, smugglers, writes Dr. Hilel Zajdman,[3] “were very clever… They were raised in difficult and the most dangerous work; they sharpened their minds with complicated transactions of the ghetto businesses. Many fell during this difficult struggle, fell as heroes, in devotion to their closest ones and in love of the family and many helped other Jews with a piece of bread…”

 

Beggars

Begging was not a successful occupation. Thus were educated a new level of “takers” who would above all take food and immediately eat it on the spot. In the Warsaw ghetto, taking was a daily phenomenon. The ghetto police carried on an unsuccessful, embittered struggle against these takers. Instead of giving the hungry children something to eat and fight the taking in an educational manner, the ghetto police applied a system of beatings with rubber sticks… However, this did not satisfy the hunger of the child takers. The beatings had the opposite effect. The takers became accustomed to the lashes and blows as the price for quieting their hunger for several hours.

[Page 238]

Bernard Goldsztajn[4] describes the following as an eyewitness: “A stampede, voices, shouting: ‘Catch him!’ a barefoot boy in rags, his pitch–black dirty feet trudge in mud, get entangled in a laying corpse, falls down, holding a loaf of bread in his hand and he gnaws it with his last strength…

The owner of the loaf of bread struggles with him, wants to get the bread which was so difficult for him to obtain and which is now gnawed, dirty with spit from the “taker,” perhaps it is infected with typhus…

“'Takers” were a special category,” writes Bernard Goldsztajn. “Those, who in their desperation and anxiety about hunger still possessed a little strength and boldness to break the sacred law for property rights for a piece of bread. They would be beaten murderously, by both the ones who had been robbed and the police… However, it was impossible to eradicate the ‘takers,’ just as it was to eradicate the hunger…”

 

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Memorial tablet in the Buczyna Forest near Tarnow in memory of the 800 children murdered in 1942

[Page 239]

The Tragedy of the Children During the Deportations

Consistent with their systematic savagery, during the first half of 1942 the German hangmen began to speed up the murder aktsias [actions – usually, deportations], the so–called “deportation actions,” and the rope tightened around the necks of the exhausted Jewish population sentenced to death in the Polish cities and shtetlekh [towns].

The first victims during these murder aktsias were the Jewish children. The Germans murderers slaughtered hundreds of them on the spot during a deportation and still more were sent to the concentration and death camps.

Rywka Kwiatkowska[5]. provides such a sad and horribly cruel picture of the tragic fate of the Jewish children during one of the deportations to the Lodz ghetto, a picture that was repeated in all of the ghettos in Poland during the entire era of extermination:

“[They stood] near their parents, lost and afraid, the confused hidden children saved by a miracle; quiet and afraid, they followed their parents, in dirty suits of clothes, washed, with hair combed, with small wooden shoes on their small feet, small tags with addresses and family names hung attached on the shuddering, depressed–by–fear childish chests.”

From these heroic Jewish children, only individuals survived. Here and there, individual Jewish children hid on the Aryan side and survived all seven levels of hell in their Aryan hiding places.


Footnotes:

  1. Jonas Turkow – Azoy is Es Geveyn [This is How it Was]… p. 127. Return
  2. Dr. Hilel Zajdman – Togbukh fun Warszawer Gheto [Diary from the Warsaw Ghetto] – pp. 157–158 Return
  3. See above Return
  4. Bernard Goldsztajn – 5 Yor in Warszawer Gheto [Five Years in the Warsaw Ghetto], pp. 253–254. Return
  5. Rywka Kwiatkowska – Fun Lager in Lager [From Camp to Camp]. Return


[Pages 240]

Children Accuse

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

A book was published in 1947 in Poland under this name, edited by Maria Hochberg-Marianska and Noakh Grim, about the martyrdom of children during the Hitlerist occupation. The testimony of the child, Josek Mansdorf[1] (born on the 21st of December 1931 in Tarnow), submitted by the Historical Commission in Tarnow, also is published in this collection. The testimony (no. 14) is found on pages 100-108 and carries the title, “Tarnow – the defeat of the family. Trading through the fence. In the village. The farmers, bad and good people.”

(Translated from Polish)

Once, when the Germans were in Tarnow, a car stopped in front of our house on Widok Street. Three S.S. men got out of it and came into our residence with a question – who lives here? When my father said that Jews live here, they beat him and ordered everyone to go out of the apartment to the courtyard. They took away all of the best things from the room.

Another time, when we already were wearing armbands, I walked on Lemberger (Lwowska) Street carrying several boxes of candy to sell in a shop. A German policeman grabbed me by my armband and wanted to take the candies. Because I was crying hard, he led me to the starostwe [district office] and, there, after they asked where I had gotten [the candies] and where I was taking them, they permitted me to go home. I then was afraid and no long carried any candies.

Four days before the first deportation, I heard the neighbors talking about a resettlement. My oldest brother was in Wola Lubecka near Jaslo. My mother and father told me to travel to my brother to tell him to come to Tarnow. There were various disturbances and we could not return immediately. Therefore, we sent a Pole to Tarnow

[Page 241]

to learn what was happening in the city. He brought us a note saying we should not come home. There was a deportation. He went again and learned and brought the news that my mother, brother and my six-year old sister had been taken for deportation. My oldest sister, 19-years old, had been shot in her bed where she lay sick. My brother had been standing near her: “We do not need any Yidishkes [Jewish women]” – and there was laughter and a shot echoed. My brother was taken to the marketplace where he stood an entire day. He later received a stamp and he was permitted to go home. I was told that my brother traveled to me and my father had escaped to a village during the deportation.

I returned to Tarnow and my two brothers both arrived, but my father did not return to Tarnow. He remained in the village. Later the labor office sent one brother to the airplane factory in Mielec as a metal worker. My other brother was shot by Rommelmann, a member of the Gestapo. My brother was 20 years old. I remained alone. I still had one sister; but I did not know what had happened to her during the deportation because she then was supposed to go to Krakow. I reported to the labor office, received a work card and I was ordered to report twice a week.

When the ghetto was created, the tinsmith Wajzer and his family of six people lived with us. I asked him to try to have the labor office allocate me to him for work. We left to see the director of the labor office, Miller, and asked him about this. He refused. I was too young. Wajzer told me to go to work without the allocation. I did this for three months. He told me to remove my armband and to buy butter, eggs and lard outside the ghetto and I returned to the ghetto in the evening with everything. When the workers would return to the ghetto I would put on the armband and come in with them. This lasted three months. Then I reported personally to the work office twice a week. Once I was taken away to work for a week in the mieszczanke [village]. Meanwhile, Wajzer looked for another boy for work. Unexpectedly, my sister returned to the ghetto. During the entire time she

[Page 242]

had been sick. She had never reported. Thus we lived until the second deportation.

With Wajzer we prepared a hiding place under the room. The entrance was through the balcony. One part was open; we sat in the second part. During the second deportation the Gestapo men ripped up the boards of the first part of the hiding place where a great deal of wood was piled. They moved several beams, but did not see anyone because the hiding place was dark. Then one of them did see me. He then stuck his head and his hand, holding a revolver, into the hiding place and then removed his head and said to the other one: “There is a great deal of wood, but there is no one there.”

We left the hiding place two days after the deportation. Our residence had been completely looted. There was nothing on which to live. I thought about what to do. I borrowed 500 zlotys from an acquaintance, left for the Polish area, bought cigarettes and sold them at night in the ghetto. I dealt with cigarettes until the third deportation. A Polish police secret agent once noticed me when I was standing with the cigarettes. I escaped. I scattered the cigarettes. He shot after me three times but I entered another house where there was an exit to another street. Then I came home without cigarettes and very frightened. I stopped dealing with cigarettes.

I was 12-years old. I went to the ghetto fence. There I became acquainted with Poles who began to bring me butter and eggs. I bought underwear and goods in the ghetto and I exchanged the things with [the Polish acquaintances]. Thus it was until the third deportation. We again hid in the same hiding place, but there was no deportation. We waited [in the hiding place] for a whole week. Sunday I heated the oven, began to cook coffee, while my sister had to wash clothes and clean the floor. A minute later a neighbor came running [with the news] that the deportation was occurring and they already were in the third room. My sister woke up quickly and we barely succeeded in hiding ourselves. We barely had been able to arrange the wood in the hiding place and they were in our residence. We had not taken anything to eat. We sat hidden for five days and had nothing to eat. We came out after five days. The Wajzers had been taken because they had not succeeded

[Page 243]

in hiding. I went out to the street and saw no one. I went into our residence, took bread and butter and returned to the hiding place. We were there for many more days until we went back into our room.

My sister wanted me to leave for the Polish area without an armband and to travel to Jaslo to learn if our father was alive. When I went out I met an acquaintance from that area. I learned from him that our father was alive. I returned to the ghetto and told my sister everything.

She told me to go again in order to find someone who would take us to our father for a good reward. I did not meet anyone and I returned. My sister left for the Polish quarter, but she did not return because there was a guard at the wall. I contemplated everything over two days; how to leave the ghetto. I finally decided that when the workers went to work I would put on torn village clothing and go with the group. I changed my clothes, placed my hand in a hand towel, ostensibly as if it were hurting me, so that it would be easier for me to take off the armband. The Poles as well as Polish and German police were standing on the sidewalk when we arrived at the factory. I took off the armband and hid it in my fist. In one step I moved out of the ranks [of workers], turned and then with my face to the group, loudly asked if anyone had anything to sell. The Jews entered the factory and I left with a small package in my hand. Poles ran up to me and asked if I had something to sell. I said no.

I left for Jaslo through nearby villages and arrived [in Jaslo] and went to Polish acquaintances and asked them about my father and sister. They answered that they did not know about anyone and let me stay overnight. In the morning I left for Wola Lubecka. I went to a peasant and suddenly saw through the window… my sister was walking. I went out to her and we walked together. We did not know where we were going. Night fell. I told my sister that I would go to Tarnow, buy various trifles there, such as needles, thread, combs and stay with another Pole. She agreed and was supposed to wait for me in the woods.

I left, bought everything and returned to her.

[Page 244]

This lasted for four days. I went without interruption, without rest, day and night. When I returned I said that I would go to the Poles and if I found a good person I would confess who I was and ask if he would let me stay with him for a good reward. I could not find such a person. One asked if I knew something about a servant. I answered that I knew about a resettled woman who was working for a person, but she was not being paid. Her clothes were becoming torn and she could not buy any other [clothing]. She would want to be a servant in order to buy something. He ordered me to bring her and promised to give me 100 zlotys. I went to my sister and we went to the peasant. She pleased him and remained there. I went further in the direction of the city of Jaslo. There I met a very good peasant. I confessed to him who I was. He said he would take me. I was with him for a month. I told him about my sister, that she had various valuable objects and asked him if he would take her in. This was not true, but I wanted to go to Tarnow in order to buy something and therefore I told him this. He agreed because he was cunning and wanted me to give him something. I told my sister everything and she praised me for finding such a peasant, because she could no longer remain [where she was]… They had discovered that she was a Jew.

By night I was in Tarnow, crawled through the fence in the ghetto and bought goods for all the money I had. Acquaintances gave me things and money to help us. The same night I left the ghetto and went to my sister and we went to the peasant together. I hid a few things in the stable, I left a little and we gave the remainder to the peasant with the pretext that every week or two I would bring him something. He agreed and we remained. Two weeks passed and I said that I was going to bring something. I went to the stable at night, took out a few things. Every two weeks I gave him something and thus we were hidden for a year. I had nothing left but 50 zlotys. I asked the peasant to lend me 250 zlotys so I could go to Tarnow and during that time he would keep my sister until I returned and I would bring him many things. In Tarnow I bought

[Page 245]

a small box of blotting paper, went through the villages with it, sold each paper individually and earned twice what I had paid. Then I bought butter and eggs and returned with them to the ghetto. I sold everything in the ghetto and I earned 500 zlotys. With the money I bought underwear, left for another village and sold everything. I bought butter and lard; again, I brought it into the ghetto through a fence, sold it and again bought underwear for 1,800 zlotys. And again I went to the village, sold it and again bought food. This was repeated eight times. After two months I had 5,000 zlotes. A blanket then cost 100-120 zlotes. I went to my sister to find what the situation was. My sister said that she wanted to leave the village because people knew [that she was a Jew]. Without the peasant's knowledge she left for another village. I searched for a spot with another peasant, again bargained and I paid for her. I took lard, but no longer into the ghetto, but to a tailoring factory where Jews were working. There I again sold food and bought various things.

Meanwhile, I met a Jew with whom I went to the woods where we built a bunker. During the day I went to the city, at night I went to the woods. It already was autumn. Thus passed three months. I only thought about how to provide myself with papers so that I could go to work in an unfamiliar village. I had an acquaintance, a 15-year old Polish boy. I went to him. I asked him what his name was, when he was born, what were the names of his family. He told me everything. The next day I went to the priest, told him the name of the boy and asked him to give me a metryka [birth record] because I wanted to receive a kenkarte [identity card issued in areas occupied by Germany]. He gave me the document. I paid five zlotes. The next day I went to the community of Ryglice, gave them the metryka. They asked me to have a photograph taken and gave me a kenkarte. When I returned, I learned that one peasant was looking for a boy to help with his work. I reported and he took me in. He asked for my papers. I showed them to him. He left with me for the slotis [village magistrate], registered me as his farm hand. I was with him for a year and tended the cows. I got up early, cleaned up. The peasant was very satisfied with me. My father once came to see me in the stall unexpectedly when I was asleep. I did not know anything about [where] my father [was], but he learned about me from people. We talked the entire night. At around

[Page 246]

three [in the morning] I asked him to leave so that the peasant would not see him. He left, but my boss saw and recognized him. He guessed who I was, but said nothing. Then the entire village learned about me. But the peasant did not drive me away and people did not denounce me [to the Germans]. In the month of July when the Germans withdrew, the Gestapo moved into the convent in the village. They were quartered there. One of the members of the Gestapo once was walking by and saw a person in the distance who did not stop at his demand and he [the Gestapo member] shot three times. The “someone” escaped. The member of the Gestapo did not notice in the dark that this was a girl who entered our house and asked about a 12-year old boy. I was then in the attic and heard everything. In the evening I made a hole and hid myself. I fell asleep and slept until morning. When I went down, my boss asked me to finish eating and to leave because the Gestapo was looking for me. I went to my sister. The military also was housed there and she worked in the military kitchen. A boy was needed to carry water for the kitchen. I worked in this German kitchen for two weeks. Then the Germans left. I returned to the peasant for whom I had worked. There they already knew that it was not me who they [the Gestapo] had meant [were searching for] and although I was afraid, they asked me to remain. I again tended the cows. On Sunday I would tend the cows and go to church. I was there until September 1944. Then when they began to deport the Poles in the village of Czarna, [the Poles] came to our village. Whoever had room took them in. There was no room with us because there were many people and the peasant did not take anyone in. The deported Poles learned that he was housing a Jew; they came to him and argued that so many people were without a roof over their heads and he was housing a Jew instead of someone else. He insisted to them that this was not true and took no one in and continued to house me.

In the autumn we had to go to dig trenches. The boys in the village told the German that I knew German. He was looking for such a person and summoned me and asked how I knew German. I answered

[Page 247]

that I had learned from a dictionary while I was tending the cows. He designated me as his translator. I was with him constantly and things were good for me. Someone told him that I was a Jew. One boy warned me that I should no longer go to dig because the German knew that I was a Jew. I thanked him and did not go anymore. The peasant asked me why I was no longer going; I answered him that a translator was no longer needed. I continued to live and to work there. I put on different clothes so that I would not be recognized because they were searching for me. One day one of those who were searching for me came and asked for such a boy. The peasant said that there had been such a boy but he was no longer here.

I began to be afraid and asked that he [the peasant] keep me in hiding for a certain time. I gave him an overcoat [in exchange]. I asked him to take in a deported peasant, one more-or-less like me so that in case he was asked he would have someone to show. He took in a deported family and hid me in a hiding place and no one knew what had happened to me. People asked about me, but he said that he did not know. I sat in a cellar. The cellar was fenced off with a board. There were potatoes on one side; I sat on the other side. Thus I sat until the arrival of the Russians. Then he [the peasant] told me to leave. I went out and left for Tarnow.


Footnote:

  1. Today in Israel (Ramat-Gan). Return


[Page 248]

A Collection of Memories of the Hitlerist Hell

by Ruchl Goldberg-Klimek

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

 

tar2_248.jpg
Ruchl Goldberg-Klimek

 

In moments when I strive to extract myself from the abyss of forgetting my experiences – memories of the most difficult and darkest era in my life – I feel with astonishment and even with an easy embarrassment that it is difficult for me, very difficult, to wrote this down on paper.

Before I begin to tell about myself, I hold it as my duty to honor the holy memory of my dear father, Shlomo (Salomon) Goldberg, the dear man who dedicated his entire life to community activities, often neglecting his private interests and occupation. Much has already been written in the first volume of our yizkor book, Tarne [Tarnow], about the Zionist and general activities of my father. Here, I will only add a little explanation of the pain and hardships that my father had to endure from the Hitlerist murderers until he breathed out his soul in the Gestapo prison.

After the outbreak of the war, when the divisions of the Sonderkommandos [Jewish prisoners forced to work in Nazi annihilation camps] and the German barbarians began to destroy and burn synagogues and other institutions and Jews were ruled by panic and fear, my father, with his poise, calm and courage, set an example for all those who had fallen in spirit.

At that time, in the difficult conditions of the brutal occupation, he helped organize Jewish life in Tarnow, served everyone with advice and deeds. When the Germans applied repression and force and demanded active help and cooperation from the Jewish communal workers, my father energetically resisted. The results of this came quickly. One evening armed Gestapo members burst into the house at

[Page 249]

tar2_249.jpg
Ruchl Goldberg-Klimek

The first on the right: Dr. Shlomo Goldberg, may his memory be blessed (Ruchl's father)
The second: Yosef Goldberg and the third: M. Safir

 

Walowa 18, where we had lived for many years and with the butts of the rifles knocked out the heavy gate and took our father with them, after carrying out a precise search and stealing things of value.

They accused my father, among other things, of writing anti-German articles in Tygodnik Zydowski [Yidishe VokhnshriftJewish Weekly], whose editor he was for a time. My mother, Elza, may she rest in peace, made superhuman efforts to free my father – and she succeeded in this. Good friends advised him to escape from Tarnow and hide among the Poles, but my father was not prepared to do this, and remained in the city.

However, he did not remain free for long because several months later, the Gestapo again knocked at our residence. When I answered the door, a dread befell me because, among the hangmen, I recognized two well-known murderers of Tarnow Jews: the degenerate [Paul] Von Malotky and the volks-Deitch [ethnic German] Novak from Silesia – both well-known sadists.

I invited them into the room and went to call my father. When I told him who was waiting for him, he calmly finished a small glass of whiskey

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and, erect with pride, he went into the hangmen. I quickly prepared a blanket, food, cigarettes. When they left with my father, I was shaken with an inhuman lament, because I had calculated that I would never see his dear face, I would never feel his goodness, his closeness, his wisdom.

The Gestapo rampaged in the city every day. They arrested several people from the Tarnow spiritual elite – Poles and Jews, among them also Dr. Schenkel, Dr. Wider and others.

From a prison cell, my father was brought to the Gestapo for a hearing. He had to run after the bicycle of the member of the Gestapo who took him. He was tortured, wooden needles were stuck under his nails, [he was] beaten over the course of several hours. Thanks to her contact with Polish prison guards who knew my father as a lawyer from before the war, my mother succeeded, for a large payment it should be understood, to send him a little food and cigarettes. As the guards had great fear of the Germans, they took even less food for my father. Thanks to them, we also knew about my father's health, his attitude and mood.

He lay in the prison hospital for two months, healing from his wounds and pains as a result of the interrogation by the Gestapo. Despite his superhuman suffering and the hopeless condition in which my father found himself, he remained an optimist and let us know that he believed that we would again be together.

After being in the Tarnow prison for a year, he was sent to Auschwitz with other arrestees. Alas, I cannot provide the exact dates because, escaping from the ghetto, I destroyed all documents and papers. My father was taken to Auschwitz before they had created the enclosed ghetto in Tarnow and before instituting the repressions and physical murder of the Jewish population. My mother was brought to the Gestapo several months later and told that her husband had died in the camp, but for technical reasons, the camp regime was not able to [give her] the urn with his ashes. (A year after the end of the war, I heard from a former Auschwitz internee that my father was still alive for another year after his ostensible death, but this is uncorroborated information and I want to believe that he was not tortured for that long.)

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* * *

The outbreak of the war found me in Tarnow during the summer vacation from the Warsaw University, where I was studying English literature and language. Although a great deal had been written in the press about the forthcoming war and the explosion at the Tarnow train station took place before the war's operations – the majority of the population was not mentally prepared and for them even the events of the 1st of September came unexpectedly.

The German occupiers carried out their previously developed plan from the first moment, which had as its purpose to break us first morally and then physically annihilate us. It started with small harassments, with stepping on human honor – to even more severe sanctions, setting fires, blowing up synagogues, putting on the yellow patch, not permitting movement. Later, they created the ghetto and drove all of the Jews there from other streets and neighborhoods. The individual acts of murder in time were transformed into the more massive extermination.

During the first period of the occupation, I belonged to a group of young people who had decided to fight the despair and apathy with our means. Belonging to this group were: Lusha Maszler, Sonja Roskes, Erik and Fritz Szpiler, Maks Szpindler, as well as several girls and boys from Bielsk, among them – my future husband.

We decided to carry on a more normal life, as if there was no war and no Hitleristic occupation. Mostly, we came together at the Szpiler's [house], listened to music from records, arranged gatherings in the evenings, danced; in addition to this, we cleaned a piece of land and organized a place to play volleyball. Despite the hopelessness of our situation, we tried to live normally as young people. Not having the ability to study, we learned languages: English and French.

However, we were not permitted to act this way for very long. We were taken for forced labor for the German war industries. Because of increasing terror, we lost a great deal of our ardor and optimism. Particularly after our removal from our own residences and being squeezed into the crowded ghetto.

The persecutions became stronger; they began to shoot Jews in the street; there even were cases of murdered female peasants who had brought

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tar2_252.jpg
After an Execution

 

products to sell in the Jewish quarter. Despair, helplessness, loneliness reigned in the Jewish neighborhood. On a certain day, the Germans gathered all of the old people and shot them at the cemetery. That is how my grandmother perished.

During the first aktion [deportation], thousands of people were murdered, their bodies taken away in trucks and buried in mass graves that were dug by our young people. Many recognized the dead bodies of the people closest to them My cousin, Milek Primerman, buried his own father…

A number of our group were taken to the camps during the first and second aktions; others again, straight to the crematoria of Auschwitz. This happened to Erik Szpiler and Lusha Maszler. Others perished in horrible conditions in various camps. Fritz Szpiler lived until the liberation of the camp, then died of malnourishment and hunger in the arms of his father. Sonja Roskes, whose father was abroad on the day of the outbreak of the war and managed to arrange passports and entry visas to

[Page 253]

a South American country, survived the war in a camp for interned foreigners and arrived in Canada with her mother and sister.

I worked for the transport company, Bronikowski, which, during the war years, was transformed into a German construction company.

* * *

Before the second aktion, the Germans stamped the work cards of the employed Jews and only those who worked for the war industries received the stamp. This signified life, because not having the stamp was a death sentence. The firm in which I worked was not recognized by the Gestapo as “dedicated to important war [activity].” Therefore, I was psychologically prepared for death when the murderers began dragging everyone who did not receive the “lucky” stamp, from their houses. When the Germans came to our house, what happened can be recorded as a miracle. After a short conversation with me in the German language, they let me stay in my home. I do not know if they felt ashamed because I was a young woman or the good German that I spoke pleased them – the fact was that I was saved; those closest to me were besides themselves with the luck. However, the joy did not last long.

The Gestapo suspected that simple German soldiers might show pity for the unlucky Jews, so they sent Jewish policemen into the ghetto, who had to drive the entire Jewish population to the autobus square. Although my mother asked the policemen (among whom were, incidentally, good acquaintances from before the war) to leave me, nothing helped. They drove us to the square, where those with the stamps were sorted from those without them. Those without the stamp were ordered to kneel in the middle of the square, near the building that served as the waiting room for the autobuses and during the occupation as the office of the German labor office. As I did not have the stamp, they took my mother, my husband and me and with a blow from a rifle butt forced us to kneel on the stones (ketsishe kep [cat heads], with which the autobus square was paved). I was completely indifferent, felt no fear, no hope, waited resigned and passive for death.

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In the meantime, my husband, risking his life, entered the labor office and began to ask the manager to help me. He knew my husband, who had worked for him in his residence, well and promised to take me out of the transport. The manager came to me and told me to go to the table where the Gestapo was sitting and to say that my husband works at an important undertaking for the Germans and I was asking to stay with him. With our hearts palpitating, my husband and I went to the table that in my eyes looked like a plank bed for a body. My voice shaking, I asked to stay in the ghetto. One member of the Gestapo took my card and after reading it, said: “You have a different name than your husband.” I told him that our wedding had taken place not long ago and I had not had the possibility of changing my family name. Then I took out the marriage certificate. The German said ironically: “The certificate was prepared today.” At this, Folkman, the chairman of the Judenrat [Jewish council], who was standing behind the German said: “I signed this. It is a correct certificate.” Now, a tense stillness reigned – live or not live… Suddenly, one of the Jewish policemen gave me a brotherly tap on my back and said: “I was at your wedding” – and at that moment the member of the Gestapo placed a stamp on my work card… Thus my life was extended, thanks to several words from the policeman, who I did not know, it should be understood, and was not at my wedding, a very sad wedding in war conditions.

When, surprised and confused, I finally found my mother and husband, I was a witness to the events that surpass in every way our concepts about Dante's hell. The Germans ordered everyone who possessed a stamped card to stand in rows of six and march around the square with cards raised high. Then they pulled out of the rows fathers and mothers carrying small children as well as the old and the stout. This selection was completely secondary. The square was surrounded on all sides by gendarmes and S.S. divisions, which held machine guns aimed at the victims.

Despondent parents tried to hide their small children with all of their strength; others tried to get outside through the high fence

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or pushed the children through the openings in the fencing. The murderers immediately opened fire on these Jews and the stones were dyed with their blood. When we were driven back into the ghetto through a small passageway, the desperate fathers or mothers, who had just lost their children banged their heads on a wall, tore the hair from their head, screamed from pain and wildness. Now I began to comprehend what gehinim [hell] means…

That day, we decided to escape from the ghetto with Aryan papers.

* * *

We succeeded in receiving a correct certificate from a Polish woman who was living abroad and created a precise plan for escaping. It was decided that at first, I would leave alone to prepare everything for my husband and my mother. I received a letter of recommendation from a friendly Polish family to Halina Lisowska, a young Polish woman in Warsaw, the daughter of a former Tarnow village elder. Her father was in London then and her mother had been arrested and sent to Auschwitz.

At the end of July, I joined a group that marched out of the ghetto to work. On the way I made use of the inattention of the German gendarme and escaped through a nearby gate, taking off my armband with the Mogen-Dovid [Shield of David, also called the Star of David], threw away my work uniform and went to the office of the Bronikowski firm, where I had previously worked. Kaczik, the chauffeur employed there, an honest and good Christian, offered me his help and together we went to the train station. This was an extremely dangerous undertaking because I was known in Tarnow. Particularly after my aunt, Mrs. Primerman, was shot on the street by a Polish policeman when she wanted to save herself and escape from the ghetto.

However, I succeeded in reaching Warsaw and thanks to Halina Lisowska, who helped me rent a room, I settled there. It should not be forgotten that the most difficult problem of that time in Warsaw was actually the question of a residence because the Poles did not want to take unfamiliar people into their apartments.

I made all of the necessary preparations for my husband and my mother to come to Warsaw. With the help of Mr. Kczak, Szpiler's partner, whose factory of

[Page 256]

valises were located not far from the ghetto; I succeeded in telling my closest ones my Warsaw address. My husband arrived quickly, then we brought my mother. At the beginning, we lived in very difficult conditions, in hunger and cold, during a difficult winter, in a room without windowpanes, which had fallen out during the bombing of Warsaw in 1939. Thanks to advertisements in the newspaper, we found work. My husband worked in the Filipswerke factory on the Wolye, I, in a small, private German firm that was located – the irony of fate – opposite the journalist school in which I so strongly wanted to study before the war, but they did not accept me because of my origins. Now the uniform warehouse of the S.S. was located in the school.

I rented a room for my mother because safety was wished for, and not too many people should live in one room. Sadly, my mother had been kept in the Tarnow ghetto and led the kitchen there and knew how to wrestle with all the difficulties of that time – but now she broke completely because of the frequent blackmail by the Polish scoundrels, the so-called shmaltsownikes [blackmailers who would demand money from the Jews on threat of denouncing them to the Germans], who often dragged her through a gate and threatened her with being turned over to the Germans if she did not “pay a ransom” of money or jewelry to them. They would take her few zlotes and say that she should be happy that they were not turning her in to the Gestapo, which would “transform her into soap.” Because of the constant blackmailing, she often had to change her apartment. Finally, she was lodged with a family of train workers at Muranowska Street, which bordered the ghetto. When the uprising began in the ghetto on the 19th of April, the owners proposed that she watch how “they are murdering the young people…” It was an interesting spectacle for the train workers, and my mother in order not to evoke any suspicion had to watch everything with all her strength hiding the despair that befell her. She had suffered with gall stones for many years, but had been healed of this. Now depressed by the terrible fury and the burning of the ghetto residences, her illness reappeared in a sharp form. She suffered from terrible pains and died in the hospital, on the operating table. She was buried at the Brudner cemetery. In addition to me, Magister [holder of an advanced university degree] Felek Perlberg, who also hid with Aryan papers and tragically perished after the war accompanied her to her eternal rest.

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A year later, the Polish uprising broke out under the leadership of General [Tadeusz] Bór-Komorowski. Over the course of three months, we found ourselves in Żoliborz, bombed by the Germans from the air and from the ground. The Tarnow doctor, Zigmunt Szjanfeld, who now lives in Warsaw, worked as a surgeon in the hospital for those taking part in the uprising in Żoliborz. During the uprising, Yanka and Maks Szpindler perished. After the Germans took Żoliborz, we were transferred to one of the transition camps in Pruszkow, then to the shtetl Konskie, where a half year later we were free, because of the end of the war.

 

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