by Shoshana Laufert
Translated by Bill Leibner
The economic crisis in Poland during the Grabski administration affected Zloczew because it did not have a strong economic base. A large percentage of the Jewish population were small merchants or artisans namely: tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, dyers etc
The local tailors and shoemakers not only worked in the city, but also visited fairs and peddled their trades in the nearby villages. There were also Jews that had no trades and they tended to go to villages and buy products that were then taken to the big city markets of Lodz to be resold. Some Jews also leased the fruit orchards from Gentile owners. The Jewish family would spend the entire summer guarding the orchard and then harvest the fruit at the end of the summer. The fruit was then placed in attics between layers of straw until they ripened. With the arrival of winter, the price of the fruit would usually rise and enable these families to cover their expenses for the year. Needless to say, the slightest economic crisis immediately affected the economic well being of the Jewish community of Zloczew.
The Joint Organization introduced a variety of economic activities to widen the economic base of the Jewish community. One of these activities consisted in creating local savings and loan associations that would grant cheap loans in times of need. Various groups with the help of the Joint also established a co-operative bank in Zloczew in 1926.
The People's Bank as the branch in Zloczew was called, was a member of the Jewish banking co-operative organization in Poland. There were 350 members in the Zloczew branch that represented all social strata of the Jewish community regardless of political adherence or trade. Each merchant or head of family could apply for membership. The admission committee received the application and the applicant was notified of the result. If he was admitted, he had to pay a small, one-time membership fee and signed a membership card. A member could always apply for a loan.
The administration of the bank consisted of representatives of all political and social groups in the city. They were familiar with the Jewish population and knew the capabilities of each loan applicant and this knowledge helped them to determine the size of the loan and his ability to repay the loan. These steps had to be taken to protect the interests of the bank.
The capital of the bank consisted of loans that the Joint or the central co-operative bank granted and the repayment was deposited with the bank to serve as a revolving fund. Membership fees, contributions and deposits made by private individuals were also a source of money for the local bank. Frequently, special funds were created to enable some people to obtain larger loans at cheaper rates of interest.
The bank also performed various banking operations in the city, namely discounting or cashing checks. All of these operations enabled the bank to grant loans to many families that gave them the chance to continue with their economic activities.
We must stress that the various political and social representatives of the various city groups at the bank management level devoted a great deal of time to the running of the bank and to economic needs of the Jewish population. The executive and management committee members were: Awraham Hershlikowicz, Nahum Sandowski, Chaim Levy, Wowa Faiwlowicz, Michael Bielawski, Zelig Koniarski, Binem Lewkowicz, Dawid Bended, Grabiner, Yaakow Lipman, Poznansky, Getzel Dawidowicz and others that will replace eventually these members at the general annual membership meetings.
The staff consisted of Yerachmiel Shtchukowski - head accountant and personnel, Mania Kempinsky - treasurer, Alkna Mayerowicz clerk, and Ruje Salomanowicz that started as a novice in the bookkeeping department. In 1934, she was sent to Warsaw to attend a course for head bookkeepers. The course was sponsored by the central Jewish banking co-operative organization in Poland.
In 1934, Yerachmiel Shtchukowski left Poland for Palestine with a group of pioneers. Ruje Salomanowicz assumed his post. The bank then hired Kaile Shtchukowski to assume the previous post of Ruje Salomanowicz. She left for Palestine in 1936 and Kaile Shtchukowski assumed her position.
There was another bank in Zloczew called the co-operative bank that was connected to the central bank in Lemberg. This bank had many members, primarily merchants and small traders. The staff of the bank consisted of Itche Markowicz, Abraham Dawidowicz and Ruje Katz. The objectives of this bank were similar to the previously mentioned bank, but on a much smaller scale.
These banks continued to serve the Jewish public until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
by Levy Laufert
Translated by Bill Leibner
At a very young age, we already felt the anti-Semitic discrimination in the lowest grades of the Polish school in our city. As we grew older, we felt more and more the harshness of these policies. The children witnessed the first sign of this policy when they were forced to attend Catholic religious instruction performed by the city priest. Of course, the intention of the policy was obvious; to try to develop a love for Catholicism and a dislike for the Jewish religion. At first, we attended the lessons, but then it was pointed out to us where these lessons led to and we began to excuse ourselves. We wandered aimlessly about during these lessons until it became clear to the authorities to institute Jewish religious instruction for the Jewish students. The instructors, Awigdor Tzelnik and Yehiel Friedman, were specially brought to the school to provide Jewish religious instruction.
The establishment of Jewish religious instruction and the existence of Catholic instruction did not diminish the anti-Semitic discrimination at school. The Polish teachers urged the Jewish students to attend school on Saturday and Jewish Holidays. The Jewish pupils refused to co-operate. I remember well the moments of anxiety and the running about to obtain the work that was covered on Saturday. Many of the teachers intentionally covered new materials when the Jewish students were absent from school. Many Polish students refused to share the work with the Jewish students and it was quite difficult to obtain the material that was presented on Saturday and Holidays. Very frequently, we heard from the students that the teachers and students used derogatory terms in describing Jewish students in their absence. The more prominent hate-filled teachers were: Smagatch, Kaminski, Winrobska, and others.
|Elementary school, 7th grade|
My class guidance counselor was the wife of the principal of the school and she was an excellent teacher. She was imbued with Polish nationalism. She was well read and very intelligent, yet never missed an opportunity to display her anti-Semitic feelings. I will list two incidents that occurred amongst the many incidents. A student returned a book to her that was slightly torn. The teacher told her that she could bind the book with a piece of cloth from her skirt. The skirt that the girl wore was the uniform of the Shomer Hatzair Zionist youth movement. Another incident comes to mind when the teacher asked a student in a shop class for her scissors. She tried to cut something, but the scissors were dull. She told the student that she could use the scissors to cut her father's beard. Thus, the Jewish students were humiliated, especially the youth of Hashomer Hatzair.
These youngsters appeared with their uniforms to the great displeasure of the principal and the Polish staff. They wore their uniforms with pride and did not bow to the obvious anti-Semitic feelings of the staff. We never felt downtrodden in spite of all the innuendos and humiliations that the principal and his staff aimed at us. The teachers tried every trick in the book to demoralize us, but they failed. They took their revenge when they expelled me from school for attending a memorial lecture dedicated to the memory of Dr. Hertzl. All the protests and interventions failed to reinstate me at the school. Even the intervention of the famous Zionist Polish Jewish leader, Itzhak Grinbaum, member of the Polish parliament, was turned down. Deprived of the opportunity to continue my schooling, I devoted all my energies to the Zionist youth movement of Hashomer Hatzair where I underwent agricultural training in preparation for Palestine.
by Israel Katz (New York)
Translated by Pamela Russ
Donated by Hyman Katz (son of Israel Katz zl)
( ) writer's comment
[ ] translator's inserts, remarks
Our neighbor's son, Leizer Boimgarten, the future activist in the party of the leftwing Poalei Tziyon, and also the leader of the opposition in this party as a young boy, at the end of the second seder night [of Passover], at the conclusion of the actual seder, would slam the Haggadah [book recited and followed at the seder] onto the table and cry out the revolution's slogan: Down with the monarchy!
|After the pogrom|
This was typical for the Jewish youth in Poland between the two World Wars. They were very politically knowledgeable, organized in all different parties, dreamed of a better and more beautiful world, and discussed and debated how to achieve this.
The Polish youth, on the other hand, were hardly interested in politics at all. They were happy with the present and did not have to escape in dreams to a better future. They primarily belonged to sports groups, were proud as true Poles, but first and foremost they were antiSemites…
So, when a pogrom broke out in town, the youth itself was more upset than anyone else. They were confused as if awoken from a dream and could not understand how, in today's modern times they could use medieval barbaric methods and murder innocent people …
A Small Spark Is Enough
Green Thursday, that is sadly known in the history of Polish Jewry as a holiday, was often used as an opportunity for a pogrom of the Jews and also evoked terror for us Jews in town. On that day, every Jew would sit in his home or in an enclosed yard and no one went into the streets until after the parade that would stretch until late in the afternoon. But no matter how careful we were, it still did not help because in an ocean of hatred even one spark could create a raging fire.
One such small spark happened in the year 1932: As a result of an innocent oversight of a Jewish woman, a tragedy almost befell all the Jews of the town.
The woman, who did not want to sit with idle hands in a closedup yard during the time of the parade, took to washing her laundry. When she had to change the water, she poured the dirty water into the canal. Since there was no drainage system in our town, the water would run in narrow canals (rinshtoks) on the side of each street. The water that the woman had poured out ran down the rinshtok right when the parade was going by…
Those who went along the side of the parade noticed this and very quickly murder was ignited in them, directed at the Jewish chutzpa.
Going slowly along the lines of the procession, it began to be passed from mouth to mouth that the Jews had poured out something and soon the bilbul [libel] began that the Jews had poured vitriol [sulfuric acid] onto the priest who was walking under a canopy, and as evidence of this you were even able to see the stains on the canopy…
As quick fire, the voice of a pogrom awoke, and grew and became stronger with every minute. Just as the procession ended, the antiSemitic sports organization Sokul sent its agitators on bicycles into the neighboring villages in order to bring young hooligans from there into town to take revenge on the zhides [Jews].
A Jewish delegation went over to the priest begging him to appease the hotheaded hooligans. One word from him would end the entire tragic incident but the priest, as the majority of priests in Poland, did not sin with too much friendship to the Jews. He spoke diplomatically to the Jewish representatives; saying that he could do nothing about this because he himself was so occupied with his prayers and did not see any Jews pour anything on him… But still, there were stains on the canopy over his head…
The delegates tried to say that the stains were from age and they reminded him of many years of being neighbors, meaning that he was very familiar with the Jews' love of peace, and they were appealing to his wisdom all of this was for nothing. With false good words, he sent the delegation away, declining any sort of help.
In the evening, the village shkotzim [pl. of sheygetz, scoundrels] gathered together, and with the city rascals they spread into the streets in search of a Jew whom they could torment. But the Jews remained silently in their homes. The hooligans were restless, and when they could not find a Jew, one of the boys threw a rock into the window of one of the houses, and that was a signal! Soon, the breaking of many window panes began, and very quickly there did not remain even one untouched window in any of the Jewish homes. The pogrom inciters roamed the streets, and among them there were also the teachers of the public school, heating them up even more and not allowing them to cool down in their fiery, murderous mood against the zhides. And meanwhile, the upset hooligans' wild behaviors became more agitated and the situation became more and more terrible by the minute.
But just as with any other such Jewish incidents, this time as well there was a miracle.
In the neighboring town of Wielun, which was on the German border, the day before this there was unrest. Farmers, who used to cross the
border into Germany for work, revolted when they were not given the appropriate papers. For many of them, this was their only way to earn some money, so they murderously destroyed everything they found in the border office and whatever else was en route to the office.
The semidictatorial government that ruled in Poland, did not tolerate any opposition and they went to the place of unrest in Wielun very quickly. The police disbanded the farmers and arrested some of them. Other than that, the government also took other steps. At night, they ordered under the cover of darkness military troops from other places to go to Wielun in order to be ready for any eventuality. Buses with the military soon passed our town and it could be that because of an error, or a different reason, that the unrest in our town was in some way connected to that of Wielun, so that when they saw the wild boys running in the streets, they [the military] took hold of them, and soon there was no trace of those heroes.
But the terror among the Jews was still strong, and it took a long time until someone dared to go walking in the streets outside the town as they used to do before this.
When the turmoil began that evening, my sister stood at the window and asked herself repeatedly: How is this possible? This is not the Middle Ages, so how can this happen?
The Jewish youth who were dreaming of Acharis Hayamim [Days of Redemption; beautiful future], about which Isaiah the Prophet stated that in those times a wolf would lay down with a lamb, could not understand that the lamb is always ready to live in peace with anyone, but it is difficult to convince the wolf that he should do the same…
Because of Signs from the Speaker
Another version of the reason for this pogrom that the antiSemites prepared for the Zloczew Jews is brought by Aryeh Krzepicki (today lives in Tel Aviv), supported by that which was known in the circles of his family who had a certain connection to these events.
According to his witness, it was the following: On the day of the festivities, early on, a truckload of material arrived for the store of Yakov Krzepicki, and there they began to unload. There were wagons to do this, and unloading and reloading took several hours.
Meanwhile, in one wagon (it seems, a very old one), a wheel was heavily oiled, and wherever that wagon went it left oil stains. You could even see marks of the wagon on the road according to the oil stains, and some of it also carried onto the sidewalk near the house of Krzepicki.
When the procession passed by there, immediately, the members of that family, and some neighbors who were standing at their windows, watched the ceremony [procession]. This served to agitate the antiSemitic circles against the Jews and they said that the Jews were pouring chemicals on the canopy [over the priest's head] and the sign for that was that there were even stains on the roads…
This very libel was given over from mouth to mouth, and the antiSemitic hooligans drank this up with great thirst and immediately took to creating a pogrom.
The Jewish youth in town were always ready and prepared for these types of incidents, and when they heard the rumble of the brewing crowd, they prepared the appropriate means to defend themselves.
At the same time, they went to the wellknown Zionist leader Yitzkhok Grinboim, and let him know that the situation was very serious and, Heaven forbid, there could be victims. With his intervention, the national council met and a military band was sent over to rein in the hooligans. That is how the pogrom was prevented.
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