The above lived in Plotzk for 45 years. He came there when he was appointed as a teacher of Jewish religion in the Russian governmental secondary school. Being a Russophile, he advocated adherence of the Jews to Russian culture and dissociation from Polish cultural influences, and soon became Inspector on behalf of the Russian educational authorities for all the Jewish religious schools (known by the name of "Heder") and advised the authorities on the possibilities of modernizing these institutions.
He made a name for himself as a literary critic and his essays on Hebrew literature exerted considerable influence on his contemporaries. In his essays he fought for the raising of cultural standards and against the ornate and unnatural pseudo-Biblical style employed by most of the "Haskala" Hebrew writers. He also wrote books on modern methods for teaching Hebrew and Russian.
Thanks to his activities he enjoyed great popularity in Plotzk and although the extreme religious circles regarded him with suspicion, his personality was respected by the general Jewish public and his home served as an important cultural center.
The Jewish population of Plotzk celebrated his 70th birthday in 1910.
Avraham Yaacov Papierna is considered the most illustrious of the three great Jewish literary critics of his time in Poland, who guided Hebrew literature onto new ways.
AHARON BEN MOSHE KAHANSTAM (KONSTAM)
By Eliyahu Eisenberg
This article is a tribute to the memory of Aharon ben Moshe Kahanstam (1860-1920), a Plotzk-born outstanding Hebrew pedagogue who devoted his life to the spreading of Hebrew education in several places in Poland and Russia. He was a pioneer of modern Hebrew and established courses for Hebrew teachers who later contributed a great deal to Zionism and Hebrew education.
As a young man he began to practice Law but soon decided to devote his life to education. Upon leaving his job as an assistant in an advocate's firm in Plotzk, he studied to become a teacher. When offered the directorship of a Lodz Jewish religious school, he accepted this challenge enthusiastically and wrote in his diary: "a new epoch begins in my life".
Kahanstam was soon regarded as a central figure of Hebrew education. He showed a lively interest in his pupils' social background and was very active in social work.
From Lodz he moved to Petersburg, where he spent nine years in the Jewish educational sphere. During all those years he was constantly in conflict with sponsors, administrators and other officials who had no understanding of sound educational principles. In 1907 he moved to Grodno where he founded and directed the "Pedagogical Courses of Grodno", whose influence on Hebrew education was outstanding.
Students and teachers who were privileged to study under Aharon ben Moshe Kahanstam admired his fine personality and a number of them published in Tel-Aviv in 1936 a book called: "Rishonim" (The First), dedicated to their unforgettable teacher and leader. These memories contain details about his devotion to the cause of Hebrew education, his influence on all those who came into contact with him, his struggles and zeal for progressive teaching methods, and the appreciation of the assistance he gave Jewish girls who aspired to the teaching profession from which they were barred in those years.
His last stage was the Ukrainian city of Kharkov, where he became the guardian of Hebrew education till the last minute of his life. He succeeded in ignoring the existence of the Bolsheviks who tried and finally succeeded to liquidate all national and Hebrew schools in Russia.
When he died in 1920, one of the mourners, although an opponent, stated: "With the death of Aharon ben Moshe Kahanstam the conscience of the Hebrew teacher has passed away".
"Although the venues of his influential and blessed activities were outside Plotzk", says the author of this article, "we can't publish the Plotzk Memorial Book without paying tribute to a great son of our town".
LIVES OF FAMOUS PLOTZK RABBIS
by Shlomo Greenspan
RABBI YEHUDA LEIB MARGOLIES - A PIONEER OF SCIENCE AND FIGHTER FOR JUSTICE It is to the credit of the community of Plotzk, that its rabbinical seat was occupied during the eighties of the 18th century by an outstanding personality, who did much to tear down the spiritual walls of the ghetto, with which the Jews of that period were still surrounded. This man was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Margolies, also known as Rabbi Yehuda Perle (1747-1811 or 1818).
New winds of freedom and equality, finally culminating in the French Revolution, began to blow even in the hermetically closed world of Polish and Russian Jewry, which frowned on any secular education whatsoever. The Talmud was the sole source of knowledge, when Rabbi Y. L. Margolies took upon himself to spread the knowledge of Nature amongst the Jews, for which he was not even attacked by the most orthodox, due to the great authority which he enjoyed. Margolies was labeled by Aharon Zeitlin as an "anti-Mendelsonian enlightener", i.e. a "Maskil" who remained within the religious camp. Dr. J. Zinberg describes him in his "Literary History of the Jews" as a fighter for the ideals of enlightenment and against the forces of darkness. Dr. Joseph Klausner, as well as Ben Zion Katz in his "History of the Enlightenment of the Jews in Russia" quotes him as advocating the coexistence of secular knowledge and science with piety and the fear of God.
Rabbi Y. L. Margolies was the author of nine books, mostly dealing with Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Grammar and others. His foremost work, "Or Olam", first appeared in 1777 and saw several editions. In this book he showed himself to be a follower of the Aristotelian school of philosophy, which in his opinion is not in conflict with the Law of Moses. In his book "Tal Orot" (Pressburg, 1843), he comes out in favor of a more tolerant and liberal attitude towards the Christian nations, amongst which the Jews dwelled, and preaches higher moral and ethical standards in the relationship between the well-to-do and the poorer segments of the Jewish communities. His fearless stand in the forefront of humanitarian and social reform made him widely known, far beyond the confines of Plotzk, so that he was well remembered as a spiritual leader in Poland for many decades after his death in Frankfurt on the Oder in 1811 (or 1818).
RABBI ZYSZA PLOTZKER A Monograph of an outstanding rabbi, who lived in Plotzk in the 19th century. Since 1830 the above served as rabbi of Plotzk where he was very active in establishing peaceful relations between various groups who fought for influence in the community. His house became a Torah-center, frequented by many Chassidim eager to hear his discourses on the Sacred Books.
He collected pious sayings of the Hassidic Rabbi of Przysucha, whom he revered, in a book which was published after his death. Several other books of his were published by his grandson several years before the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1940, when the Nazis were about to convert the old Jewish cemetery of Plotzk into a garden and use the tombstones for street paving, some of his adherers went to the cemetery (103 years after his death) and transferred his remains to another place. The author adds that in spite of the long time which had elapsed since the burial of Zysza Plotzker, his bones had remained intact...
RABBI SHMUEL BEN AZRIEL In the second half of the 18th century there served a rabbi in the community of Plotzk, whose spiritual home was the school of German rabbis. His father, Rabbi Azriel, had been rabbi of Landsberg and he himself had studied in his youth at the Yeshivoth of Amsterdam. Having lived some years in Poznan he was appointed rabbi of Kutno and later on of Plotzk, where he died in 1772.
Rabbi Shmuel published two books : "The pillars of the World" (Amude Olam), Berlin 1741, and "Samuel's Belt" (Hagurath Shmuel), Frankfurt on the Oder.
His book "Amude Olam" contains several interesting biographical notes, amongst which we find the description of a ritual-murder accusation leveled against the Jews of Poznan as a result of which two-third of the Jewish community, together with Rabbi Shmuel, had to flee from this city.
After lengthy negotiations the matter was finally brought to an end when the Chancellor of Poland forced six witnesses from the Polish aristocracy to testify to the innocence of the accused Jews of Poznan.
RABBI ARYE LEIB ZUNZ (REB LEIBEL CHARIF) The Rabbinical chair of Plotzk was occupied during the first quarter of the 19th century by a great and well-known sage, Rabbi Arye Leib Zunz, who was appointed at the age of thirty to the seat of Rabbi Y.L. Margolies. He had already been famous in the Rabbinical world since his eighteenth year of life, when he compiled a book by the name of "Yaelat Hen".
Having served in Plotzk for a period of ten years, he remained ever after faithful to the town by giving the title "Rabbi of Plotzk" in all the 25 books written by him. He was known among the Jews as the "Plotzker Rav".
After leaving Plotzk he served the community of Praga, near Warsaw, after which time he retired in order to devote his latter years solely to the writing of books. Most of them were actually published only after he passed away in 1833, a number of them reaching several editions. Some of the greatest Polish Rabbis were pupils of Rabbi Zunz; most famous amongst them - the founder of the Chassidic Dynasty of "Ger", Rabbi Itche Meir Alter, the "Baal Hidushey Harim".
Many stories about Reb Leibele Charif made the round amongst the common people and it was widely believed that all his blessings and wishes would come true. One of these tales concerns Rabbi Avramele of Ciechanow.
RABBI ABRAHAM OF CIECHANOW, THE PLOTZKER "ILUI" Rabbi Abraham the Zaddik of Ciechanow, one of the famous Chassidic saintly men who influenced the Jewish community of Plotzk during the first half of the 18th century, was descended from simple folk. His father, Reb Rafael Dobrzinski had sent him as a youth to study Torah in Plotzk where he very soon made a name for himself by his steady learning and thorough knowledge of the Holy Books. One of the richest men of the community, Reb Dan Landau, gave him his daughter for a wife. He remained in the house of his father-in-law, even adopted his family name until he was called to serve as Rabbi of Ciechanow, where he came under the influence of the Chassidic sect. Although he was not at all eager to act as a Rebbe, the Chassidim of his town and the surrounding area elected him as their Zaddik. Numerous tales are told of his wisdom and erudition. (See Yitzhak Rafael - "History of Chassidism", Tel-Aviv 1946).
After his death in 1875 several of his books such as "Abraham's Virtues" were printed. The popular image of the Rabbi motivated his great-grandson Zysche Landau, a poet who was born in Plotzk, to dedicate one of his poems to the memory of that great man, 40 years after he had passed away.
RABBI YISSACHAR DOV GRAUBART - N. SOKOLOV'S RABBI Rabbi Y. D. Graubart was born in 1842, at Shrensk, where he studied at the local Yeshivah and from where he was called to serve as Rabbi of Plotzk. He married the daughter of a local Dayan, Rabbi Ascher. Among his pupils we know Rabbi Yona Zlotnik of Plotzk and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Zlotnik, who became a well known Rabbi in Canada and carried out a great deal of research in the sphere of Jewish Folklore. Best known among his pupils was Nachum Sokolov, later the President of the World Zionist Organization.
Exceptional wisdom and knowledge, simplicity and humility were the outstanding characteristics of Rabbi Graubart. Great love for and understanding of the average simple Jew motivated him in all his Halakhic decisions. He gave the Hovevei Zion unofficial support. One year before his death in 1912 he also participated in the Founding Conference of the Agudath Israel movement which took place in Kattovitz. Rabbi Graubart passed away in 1913 at Bendin, where his son Rabbi Yekutiel succeeded him until his immigration to the U.S., where he served as rabbi in Brooklyn, Chicago and Canada. A daughter of Rabbi Graubart, Rosa Jacobovitz, was well known in Poland after the first World War as a Yiddish poetess. One of her poems is dedicated to "My Father".
RABBI ELEAZAR COHEN When Rabbi Eleazar Cohen was appointed to the Rabbinate of Plotzk, he was already at the age of 65, but his bonds with the town go back to his early youth. Born in 1791 in Warsaw, he was sent by his wealthy father at the age of 9 to study at the Plotzk Yeshiva. In Warsaw he continued his studies under Rabbi Arie Leib Zunz, who had also served, at a different period, as Rabbi of Plotzk. Many years passed, when Rabbi Eleazar, serving at that time the community of Makov, received a call to become Rav of Plotzk. However, he was very hesitant to accept this call, since he was well aware of the fact that various factions, not all of them strictly orthodox, existed within the community. He consulted, one after the other, Rabbi Abraham of Ciechanow, the Zaddik of Kotzk and Rabbi Itche Meir, the Zaddik of Ger. Their consensus of opinion was that he should not be deterred by any hindrances and proceed immediately for Plotzk. Finally, he consented to serve there on condition that a unanimous letter of appointment be sent to him over the signatures of all Plotzk community leaders. The full text of the letter of appointment is quoted in the Hebrew section.
The community received him with great joy, but became divided in their loyalty to him, as soon as he had preached his first Sabbath sermon in which he demanded the strictest possible observance of the day of rest. The more enlightened opposed him vehemently, whilst the faithful were very happy to have him as spiritual guide. During his 6 years of tenure of office in Plotzk (1856-1862), Rabbi Eleazar was constantly embroiled in various frictions with the Gabayim of the community; so that he had no interest in renewing his contract and went on to serve in Pultusk and Sochaczew. His life-work "Hidushey H'Redak" was published after his death (1913) by his son Yehoshua. One of Rabbi Elazar's young pupils was a student from Wyshogrod, Nahum Sokolov, who describes in his memories the movement of the "Enlightenment", which had penetrated the community and changed its old-worldly atmosphere, a fact which made Rabbi Elazar's position there so complicated.
RABBI AZRIEL ARYE LEIB RAKOWSKY - THE FIGHTING "MITNAGED" The rift which developed within the Jewries of Poland and Lithuania in the 19th century, when the ideas of progress and enlightenment, originating in Prussia and Eastern Germany, collided with the Hassidic way of life, did not bypass Plotzk. The sect of the Chassidim became so strongly rooted there during the second half of that century, that their opponents, who were in charge of community affairs, decided to invite as their Rabbi a personality, who was known as an uncompromising opponent of Chassidim. Their choice fell on Rabbi A. A. L. Rakowsky.
When he arrived in town the Chassidim immediately fought him vigorously, so that he was forced to leave Plotzk for Lomza. An epidemic, which broke out soon thereafter was regarded as a punishment of Heaven and a delegation of notables was sent to Lomza to persuade the Rabbi to return to his flock. From then on his position in the community was considerably strengthened, although the Chassidim never adopted a friendly attitude towards him. He persisted in introducing modern teaching methods and other progressive innovations in the local Talmud-Torah. The Chassidim retaliated by denouncing him to the Russian authorities, which almost led to his arrest.
The establishment of a Jewish hospital in town and various improvements in the situation of the poor are to his credit. He served the community for 17 years until he could not bear the communal friction anymore and accepted in 1880 a call for Mariampol, where he passed away in 1893.
JEWISH LIFE IN PLOTZK IN THE LIGHT OF HEBREW PERIODICALS OF THE SECOND HALF OF THE 19th CENTURY
By Shlomo Greenspan
"HAMELITZ" ON THE BEGINNINGS OF ZIONISM IN PLOTZK At the beginning of this article the author stresses the fact that the Zionist idea had adherents in Plotzk, long before the Zionist organization was founded. Yitzhak Lederberg (great-grandfather of the Nobel-prize winner Dr. Yehoshua Lederberg) went to Eretz Israel in 1830 and a few decades later the Zionist activities of Plotzk-born people were already widely-known.
In 1891, with the foundation of a branch of the "Hovevei Zion" movement in Plotzk, formal Zionist activities began.
The author quotes excerpts from the then famous Hebrew periodical "Hamelitz", reporting on Zionist conventions and daily Zionist activities, including money-raising campaigns which took place in Plotzk.
ITZHAK GRINBAUM AND AHARON BECKER - PILLARS OF ZIONISM IN PLOTZK In his essay "The Jews in Plotzk", I. Grinbaum, formerly a leader of Polish Jewry and first Minister of the Interior of Israel, describes how a Zionist youth-group was founded in Plotzk at the end of the 19th century. That group was named "Mazkeret Shmuel", in honor of Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, a famous leader of the religious wing of the Zionist movement.
I. Grinbaum, and A. Becker (from Lithuania) who had settled in Plotzk, were the founders and initiators of that group. The latter became soon leader of the younger generation, on which he exerted great influence.
The above-mentioned "Hamelitz" dedicates a special review to that event and mentions the obligation undertaken by members of the group to pay between 10 and 25 "kopeikas" (Russian coin) every month.
The same periodical published an article at the beginning of this century from which we learn that the local Zionists earnestly endeavored to assume responsibility for the affairs of the Jewish community (Kehila) in accordance with the Zionist aim and slogan of "Kibbush Hakehilot" (Conquest of the Communities).
THE PRE-ZIONIST EPOCH OF NAHUM SOKOLOV The great Zionist leader and famous Hebrew journalist and writer Nahum Sokolov was brought up in Plotzk. Before he joined Zionist groups formally, and took part in manifold Zionist campaigns, there had been times when he dissociated himself from Zionism. This information is contained in an article published in another Hebrew periodical of those times, called "Hamaggid".
EDUCATION AND CULTURAL LIFE Articles written by Nahum Sokolov are a faithful source for the reader who wishes to acquaint himself with the general trend and ideas of the younger Jewish generation of Plotzk, which at the end of the 19th century strove for the introduction of "general" studies side by side with Jewish studies. In his articles Nahum Sokolov describes the miserable conditions under which Jewish youth lived - without proper clothes, half-hungry, arguing with their parents about the necessity of general studies in order to change the depressing living conditions then prevailing in the Jewish communities.
Under the influence of the "Haskala" (Enlightenment) ideas, some families began to send their children to general secondary schools but had to fight for their right to do so with conservative groups who considered general education as the first step towards the repudiation of Judaism. The problem of writing on Sabbath-days hindered many parents, faithful to the Jewish religion, from sending their children to "general" schools.
We also find in these periodicals letters about the financial difficulties encountered by the Jewish community in maintaining its schools and paying the teachers' salaries. In order to overcome those difficulties - we learn from the "Hamelitz" - the communal leaders even agreed... to organize a theatre-show in order to collect some funds.
But in spite of the "Haskala" movement the rabbis were very popular with the general public and leaders of the community showed them great respect.
In the "Hamelitz" of 1890 we read an interesting story about a rabbi who successfully passed an examination in Russian. The periodical adds that the examiners admired his "thorough knowledge of the Russian language".
PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL WORK An 1891 issue of the above periodical describes the growing poverty of the Jewish population and the necessity for overseas emigration. The retail merchants were forced to pay high interest for goods purchased on credit from wholesalers. A proposal was made to establish a wholesale store for the benefit of the retail merchants but for some unknown reasons this plan never materialized.
There existed in Plotzk a society whose members volunteered to visit sick people at the hospital as well as to distribute among them tea and sugar. The society "Bikur Holim" did a fine job in preventing a typhus epidemic in 1867.
Artisans were organized in various professional unions who aimed at rendering social aid to members.
In another issue of "Hamelitz" we read about a legacy of a rich woman (5000 Russian rubles) for building an asylum for old people, unable to earn their living. The establishment of that institution was very important as from other sources we learn that in those days many Jews in Plotzk reached a very high age.
RELATIONS WITH POLISH NEIGHBOURS Although there is no special evidence on anti-Jewish riots, we read about an incident which occurred during a Jewish funeral. Two Polish landowners barred the way of the mourners and did not let them enter the Jewish cemetery. As a result 30 Jews were injured. Fortunately, the district governor, who was friendly towards the Jews, helped them in restoring their rights to the cemetery.
A certain Niemski used in his book, while describing the beauty of the town, offending expressions with regard to the Jews of Plotzk and their way of life, calling them "a caravan of Gipsy-Jews" etc.
EMIGRATION From many Polish towns a mass-emigration started at the end of the 19th century. Plotzk's part in that emigration (especially to the U. S. A.) was not considerable, because its Jewish inhabitants did not suffer in those days as much from anti-Semitic riots as Jewish communities in the Ukraine and Bessarabia.
Not far from Plotzk two important industrial centers, Warsaw and Lodz, attracted many jobless Jewish young people who tried to find employment as factory workers in those towns. This was not too easy because even Jewish industrialists were not always willing to employ them out of fear of negative reactions from Christian workers.
The Jewish emigrants had to sell all their belongings in order to be able to buy boat-tickets to the U. S. A. or to cover at least their travel-expenses to Berlin. Their sufferings on the way to America, not having any hope to earn their living where they were born - are described in the periodicals of that time.
* A perusal of the Hebrew press at the outset of the 20th century convinces us that the members of the Jewish community of Plotzk were among the first who adjusted themselves to the new era of Jewish national renaissance.
NAHUM SOKOLOV'S YOUTH
By Florian Sokolov
The author, who is the son of the famous late Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov, describes his prominent father's youth in Plotzk.
It appears that young Sokolov was greatly influenced in his time by the Jewish atmosphere of the community, its youth, Jewish national movements, rabbis and centers of religious and secular education. Nahum Sokolov, throughout his life, even while a resident of great European capitals, remembered his childhood in Plotzk. In one of his letters to his daughter he reveals in nostalgic expressions his great affection for "his beloved Plotzk".
BEGINNINGS OF ZIONISM IN PLOTZK
By Itzhak Grinbaum
The author, who was a leader of Polish Jewry before World War II and the first Minister of the Interior of the State of Israel, describes the period between the first and second Zionist Congresses, when the first Zionist group was organized in Plotzk. The author describes in this connection the various cultural activities as well as the disputes prevailing between Zionists and their opponents in the community. He mentions the names of local Zionist leaders and of personalities of the different groups ("Bund", Polish Socialist Party and others) with whom he maintained contacts during his political career. He portrays, among others, the life of Esther Golde, a woman fighting for socialism, who played an important role in the general Polish Socialist Movement and did not display any interest in Jewish problems. Grinbaum visited Plotzk after the war but found no Jews there.
The classical assumption that the disappearance of the Jews from the economic, cultural and social life of the town would create a vacuum did not come true.
Itzhak Grinbaum was the Guest Speaker at a Memorial meeting of the Plotzk Association, which was held in 1951 in Tel Aviv. On this occasion he delivered a thoughtful speech, containing many reminiscences of the town in which he spend nine years of study at the local gymnasium.
Mentioning the various cultural and educational institutions, he drew loving portraits of the teachers Shmuel Penson and A. Y. Papierna, the revolutionary leader Josef Kwiatek and others, who left their imprint on the minds of the young generation, and thanks to whom the Jewish Youth in Plotzk became spiritually elevated and intellectually more broad-minded.
INAUGURATION OF THE JEWISH GYMNASIUM
By M. Zlotnik
Excerpts from a booklet, published in 1917, which includes the speech delivered by the then rabbi of Plotzk, R' Yona Mordechai Zlotnik at the inauguration of the first Jewish secondary school in Plotzk.
The attitude shown by the above to general and secular Jewish education was at that time quite different from that of other rabbis. He understood the modern spirit of the Jewish youth well and knew that their assimilatory trends would not be checked by "Chadarim" and "Yeshivot" alone. For that reason Rabbi Zlotnik saw in the establishment of Jewish secondary schools a stronghold of Judaism. He demanded from his teachers' devotion to their extraordinary responsibilities. "We are now on the eve" said the rabbi, "of the establishment of Jewish secondary schools and you, the teachers, have to be pioneers in this field, and in the future you will be recognized for your work".
His speech contains a few sentiments directed to the Christian population. He explains that for the good of both Jews and Christians primary education should be separate because just as it is impossible to give Christian children a good Christian education in Jewish schools - Jewish religious education is possible only in schools established exclusively for Jewish children.
The late Rabbi Zlotnik expressed his hope that one day a Jewish central institute for higher education - a university - would be established. The rabbi expressed already then, in 1917, his longings for a Hebrew University to rise in Jerusalem.
He concluded his words to his pupils by expressing his hope that they would adapt themselves through the influence of the new school to the aim of returning to their homeland Eretz Israel.
MEMORIES OF THE PAST
By Shlomo Rozen
The author pays tribute to some personalities who lived in Plotzk at the beginning of the century, especially of the Chassidic circles. He describes their orthodox way of life, adherence to different Chassidic rabbis and their influence on that part of the younger generation which devoted itself to the study of Torah and its commentaries. He also mentions a famous cantor whose prayers, together with a choir, afforded the listeners great spiritual enjoyment.
The second chapter describes the various groups of Jewish orthodox youth who gathered in the local Beit Hamidrash. Some of those young people later became famous in Jewish life in Poland and elsewhere, among them Rabbi Zlotnik-Avida and others.
The third chapter is dedicated to the new ideas of progress, within both secular and religious Zionism, which shaped the ideologies of those young people. The author mentions the activities of Itzhak Grinbaum, Rabbi Lifshitz and others.
The second part of this article deals with the assimilationist groups of the Plotzk Jewish community (the Kempner family and others) and with the people who lived in the vicinity of the "Iron Gate" - a market place where simple folk (tailors, butchers, fishmongers) lived and worked. The author nostalgically describes these types of Jews, who added a special flavor to the multifaced Jewish population of Plotzk.
JEWISH PLOTZK DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
By Itzhak Tynski
The author gives a survey of the pattern of life in Plotzk at the outbreak of the first World War. He describes in detail how the local Jewish population tried to maintain good relations with both fighting parties, the Russians and the Germans, in order to survive, but did not always succeed, since each party suspected the Jews of being on their enemy's side.
Another chapter deals with the life of the Jews under German occupation. The Germans permitted the Jews (in 1915) to restore commerce and industry which were ruined in the first year of war. Even cultural activities were permitted by the German authorities and the Jewish youth organized that year a special sports tournament. The generation of that period could not possibly foresee how the next meeting with the Germans (after 25 years) would look like...
The survey's third chapter describes conditions under the Polish regime which was hostile to the Jews and used every possible opportunity to act against them. The author mentions, inter alia, the tragic case of Rabbi Shapiro, who was sentenced to death and executed "for spying in favor of the Bolsheviks". This and other cases did a great deal to convince the Jewish population that they were living among hostile elements and that they would have to leave their "homeland" as soon as they could. Unfortunately, the Jews of Plotzk became fully convinced of that truth only too late...
THE PLOTZK JEWISH COMMUNITY BETWEEN THE TWO WORLD – WARS
1 9 1 8 - 1 9 39 COMMUNITY INSTITUTIONS, SOCIAL WORK, ECONOMIC LIFE, NEIGHBOURHOOD RELATIONS
THE JEWISH KEHILA (COMMUNITY) OF PLOTZK
By Itzhak Ben-Shai (Fuchs)
This article carries the sub-title, "Memories of a Secretary", since its author served for two years as secretary of the Plotzk Kehila. As in other Polish towns, the Kehila was the representative Jewish body serving the religious, social and cultural needs of the Jewish inhabitants.
The Secretariat of the Kehila housed many records, among them documents of great historical value, since the Plotzk Jewish community had been in existence for no less than 700 years.
When entering office as secretary of the Kehila, the author discovered many of these documents and after perusing them he realized that the Plotzk Jewish community was one of the oldest in Poland. At that time - before the Second World War - he could not possibly imagine that in a few years time this ancient community would cease to exist. Referring to these documents, he describes the Jewish autonomous life before the First World War, during the German occupation - (1915-1918), and after the establishment of the independent Polish state.
Mentioning some names of personalities who played an important role in the community's life during the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century (like Salomon Bromberger, Moshe Lidzbarski, and Benyamin Golde); the author describes the first democratic elections to the Kehila in free Poland. Three blocks took part in those elections Zionists (with "Mizrahi"), the Orthodox groups ("Agudat Yisrael") and the Independents. Two other groups (Zionists-Socialists and "Bund") did not put up lists. The elections-campaign was very stormy. Both the Zionists and the Orthodox devoted all their resources and energies to secure a majority of seats, but neither succeeded. Both attained an equal number of seats and the third group (Independents) turned out to be the strongest by getting more votes than each of the two other groups. The Kehila Committee was, therefore, composed of a coalition between the Zionists and the Independents. Two prominent Zionists were put in charge of important Kehila departments.
The author reports on the development of the Kehila, its social, religious and cultural activities, not ignoring the conflicts between several groups inside and outside that institution, which at times almost paralyzed the activities of the Jewish autonomous body. The election of a town rabbi always created differences of opinion. The Zionist block was constantly faced by Agudat Yisrael efforts to oust them and the fight for rule of the Kehila took very often unbecoming forms. A campaign was at one time led by the extreme Orthodox against a Zionist candidate. They informed the government that the candidate was anti-religious and caused "profanation" of religious feelings. Such means of political strife and stride undermined the prestige of the Jewish community and caused anguish to all concerned.
The anti-Zionist workers' party "Bund" denounced Zionism and gained influence among members of the Jewish working class. At that time the Zionist workers' groups had little influence in town.
The author pays special attention to the struggle between several groups and parties for influence in the Jewish community of Plotzk. In many instances the authorities, by law, served as mediators. The Zionists regarded governmental intervention as degrading, in view of the anti-Jewish feelings of many government officials. In the thirties the author went to Eretz Israel but did not severe his contacts with his native town. He reports on the last elections to the Kehila, held in 1939, about half a year before the outbreak of war.
A new consolidated group took then part in the elections-campaign: the "Poalei Zion" (the counterpart of "Mapai" in Poland of that period) and its local leader, the beloved Fishl Fliderblum, was elected the last chairman of the Jewish community.
The author emphasizes that all former members of the Kehila, who were forced during the Nazi regime to cooperate with the invaders had always done their best to help their brethren as much as they could.
In the first part of the article the author mentions his grandfather Reb Tuvia Plotzker, who is considered the first immigrant from Plotzk to the Holy Land. He came to Palestine in 1875, died in Jerusalem and was buried on the Mount of Olives. His grandson visited his grave in the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, when access to that cemetery was still possible.
THE JEWISH HOSPITAL
By Abraham Shmueli (Plutzer)
The Jewish Hospital was founded in the seventies of the 19th century with a donation by the Fogel family. It was confiscated by the Germans during the first World War, but later on - in 1926 - reopened by the Jews of Plotzk.
The Hospital contained 35 beds, a surgery, an out-patients' clinic, etc, and was held in high esteem by both the Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants of Plotzk.
The hospital's food was strictly Kosher, and it therefore enjoyed great popularity among the orthodox Jewish population. The hospital contributed a great deal to the state of health in town and even Christian patients did their utmost to be hospitalized there in case of need.
The Nazis liquidated the hospital's Jewish staff and converted it into a station for infectious diseases. Jewish doctors and nurses continued to help patients and even hid some leaders of the community, who were sought by the. Nazis, within the hospital confines.
The building was finally closed in 1940 and its patients transferred to the Old People Asylum at Dobrzynska Street.
"Ezrat Holim" (help for the sick) - was a voluntary philanthropic organization, whose members were a group of socially-minded Jews who regarded it as their religious duty to extend assistance to sick people in their homes, as well as in hospital.
They regularly visited the sick, helped them financially, encouraged and treated them. Shows and other festivities were organized in order to collect a budget for their activities. "Their attention did sometimes more to heal the sick than the medical care of the physicians" - wrote one of the then famous journalists about the members (of "Ezrat Holim" who came from all parts of the community: Orthodox, European-clad, rich and poor Jews. The idea which united them was to help their sick fellow-Jews.
THE JEWISH ORPHANAGE ("OCHRONKA")
By Gustav Puk
The author, who was a pupil of the above institute, describes its activities since the first years after World War I. He mentions with great appreciation and affection several ladies who headed the orphanage, which housed 32-36 children and was financed by "Joint", and "Toz". In spite of its limited resources, the children were always kept clean and enjoyed summer vacations. After they completed their elementary studies there, everything was done to enable them to study in vocational and high schools.
The author specially mentions Mrs. Paulina Altberg, who devoted her life to the well-being of the children and symbolized by her activities and devotion the real Jewish mother.
Only five ex-pupils of the orphanage survived, three of them live in Israel, one in Poland and one in Russia.
The author of this article, was an officer of the Polish army, was one of the liberators of Plotzk.
COOPERATIVE BANKS AND TRADE UNIONS
By I. G. Chanachowicz (Kent)
Three cooperative banks existed in Plotzk until the outbreak of the war in 1939: a general bank, a commercial bank and a credit bank.
The first one was established after World War I when the economic position of many citizens became very difficult. The bank assisted small merchants and artisans with long-term loans to reestablish themselves after the war years. Its activities expanded owing to the financial help of the "Joint" organization, which invested considerable funds in the bank.
The Commercial Bank was established in 1927 and enjoyed the confidence of both Jews and non-Jews in Plotzk and surroundings. Its saving plans became popular and many Jews deposited their savings "for a rainy day" in it. Unfortunately that day came sooner than they imagined. The Nazis invaded Plotzk and confiscated the bank's funds and property.
The Credit Bank - was active among orthodox Jews. It is worth mentioning that all its officials wore orthodox garments. This bank cooperated with the Commercial Bank.
Several smaller financial institutions also existed in Plotzk, one of them was the "Rogozik Bank", founded by Rogozik, who was called the "Plotzk Rothschild". A "Gmilut Hessed" fund (an institution granting interest free loans) helped merchants and artisans to overcome many crises. This institution was managed for many years by Abraham Levin.
Most of Plotzk's Jewish workers were organized in trade unions, such as the Tailors, Transport workers (coachmen and porters), Clerks, Shop attendants and other unions.
They persuaded the employers to agree to an 8 hour working-day and other social demands. Special Jewish trade unions were a necessity under the circumstances, as the Polish unions were notoriously reluctant to accept Jewish members.
Several strikes were proclaimed by the unions in the years preceding the Second World War, as a result of which the working class established itself as a factor in the town's economic life.
The Jewish trade unions also contributed a lot to the cultural life of Jewish workers, who were deprived of education because of poverty, through evening-courses, etc. They comprised workers of all parties, of whom "Bund" was the strongest one. Later on, the "Poalei Zion" faction organized the coachmen, and gained considerable influence.
Home THE SMALL TRADERS ORGANIZATION
By Joseph Malonek
An organization of Jewish small traders was founded in Plotzk in 1935. Till then they belonged to the general merchants organization, but the anti-Semitic character of some Polish groups which called on the population to boycott Jewish shops, compelled them to form their own Jewish organization.
Its members were granted loans on easy terms from a special fund for that purpose, called "Gmilut Hassadim".
The organization carried out its functions in times of widespread poverty, when many shops were closed by their owners. The last session of its committee took place three days after the Nazi invasion, when the remaining cash was divided among the community's poor shopkeepers.
Home THE "GILDENE" STREET
By B. Gincberg
A poetical essay on the above street in Plotzk, which was inhabited mainly by Jews, published in the one-time Poalei Zion Yiddish periodical "Plotzker Wort" in January 1936.
It contains a description of this narrow and dark street, its inhabitants who were doomed to live "between the ghetto-walls", the synagogues, small retail shops, and longings of the youth for a better life, for freedom, escape from the ghetto and for a Jewish State.
By Itzhak Tynski
The "Ort" society, which established vocational schools for the training of Jewish youth in the arts and crafts, founded its Plotzk branch in 1938. The founding meeting elected an executive committee with Dr. Nichtberger as chairman.
Twelve sewing machines were acquired and an instructor was hired. Courses for tailoring, stitching and weaving were opened, and the small traders who participated in them were turned into artisans.
After the Nazi invasion all the machinery of the "Ort" schools was confiscated and handed over to a cooperative of Polish tailors.
ANTISEMITISM IN PLOTZK BETWEEN THE TWO WORLD-WARS
By E. E.
In spite of the fact that Jews lived in Plotzk for over 700 years, they were always considered as aliens and were persecuted by the Gentiles. An anti-Semitic campaign was initiated by the troops of Gen. Haller in the first years of the independent Polish state. Jews were often branded as supporters of communism and as a result many anti-Jewish measures were enacted both during the war years and afterwards. The execution of Rabbi Shapiro of Plotzk on a false charge of espionage and 34 "Zeirei Zion" members in Pinsk, on similar charges, aroused great anger everywhere.
Anti-Jewish measures did not always succeed in Plotzk. The Polish "Intelligentsia", although by nature anti-Semitic, never participated in riots and could not be influenced by the slogans of "boycott", since they appreciated the Jewish merchants' ability to supply all kinds of goods at cheaper prices that the new Polish merchants, who were specially brought from other parts of the country with the purpose of competing with and ruining Jewish trade.
The authorities protected Jews against anti-Semitic riots, yet supported economic pressures against them, with the aim of eventually taking over their shops and enterprises.
A certain Gustaw Novak from Plotzk wrote a pamphlet "How to clear Poland from Jews" and brought in the thirties Polish merchants from Poznan district to Plotzk, who attempted to take over the Jewish trade. Novak later collaborated with the Nazis and after being used by them, was eventually shot.
The Polish daily "Glos Mazowiecki" which appeared in Plotzk, used every opportunity to accuse Jews of disloyalty to the State and of extending loans at exorbitant rates of interest, etc.
Even on the eve of the Nazi invasion certain Polish circles continued with their anti-Semitic campaigns, ignoring the German threat to the existence of the Polish state. These anti-Semites were so filled with hatred towards Jews, that they did not see where the real danger lay. Many of them later collaborated with the Nazi invaders against Jews in particular and the Polish case in general.
THE MARIAVITS CONVENT AND THE JEWS
by Israel Gershon Chanochowicz (Kent)
This article contains several parts. The first part gives a historical survey of this unique convent in Plotzk, its relations with the Roman Catholic Church in the 19th century and the sympathetic attitude of its residents towards Jews in peace-time.
The second part deals with the cordial relations between the Germans and members of the Convent and the special status they enjoyed during the German occupation.
Finally, facts are mentioned concerning the monks indifference to Jewish suffering, who did not help a single Jew in spite of the fact that they would have been able to do so. Jewish property was left in their hands by many Jews who trusted them, but consequently perished.
The article expresses deep disappointment over the fact that the members of that Convent, who maintained good relations with Jews before the War, were deaf to their anguished cries for help in the hour of distress.
EDUCATION, RELIGIOUS LIFE, CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS, PERSONALITIES THE JEWISH GYMNASIUM
The "Jewish Gymnasium" (an all-Jewish secondary school) played a very important part in the cultural life of Plotzk. It was founded in 1915 by a group of nationally minded people, who understood that suitable secular education for Jewish youth could be provided only by an all-Jewish secondary school. General subjects were taught in Polish, while special attention was paid to Jewish subjects (Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history etc.).
The Gymnasium was very soon incorporated in the organization of Jewish schools in Poland, whose chairman was Mordechai Braude, and which maintained and supervised many similar national Jewish schools.
Among the Hebrew teachers of the "Jewish Gymnasium" were Hayim Fridman (Avshalom), Yakir Warshavsky, Pua Rakowska, David Eisenberg, Skarlat, Choronsky and Flam.
Their educational influence on the Jewish youth in Plotzk and neighborhood was noteworthy. The school was recognized by the Ministry of Education as equivalent to Government-Schools, which enabled graduates to continue their studies in universities. Many Jewish parents preferred therefore to enable their children to get there a Jewish as well as a secular education.
The Jewish public at large assisted the school financially and its founders and directors were devoted to its cause, yet their efforts were not always crowned with success. It existed only till 1936. The number of pupils constantly decreased in the thirties until the school was forced to close its gates.
JEWISH PRIMARY EDUCATION
By Itzhak Ben-Shai (Fuchs)
Before compulsory education was enforced by law, the Jews of Plotzk maintained a primary-school network. The oldest institutions were the "Chadarim", religious day-schools directed by "Rebbes" who taught their pupils Torah, Hebrew reading, Mishna and Talmud, etc. Never having obtained teaching licenses, these "rebbes" had to bribe the authorities in order to engage in their profession.
There also existed a "Cheder Metukan", a reformed elementary school, which taught modern Hebrew and prepared its pupils for higher secular studies.
A Hebrew kindergarten was established in Plotzk during the First World War, where Hebrew was taught as a living language.
Other schools were added to the network of private schools during the twenties: a religious "Mizrachi" school, a school where Yiddish was the language of instruction, the "Yesodei Hatorah" school founded by the Aguda and various others.
By Benjamin Grey (Graubart)
A biography of the above teacher, educator and youth-leader, who had great influence on the younger generation of Plotzk. He arrived in Plotzk from Lithuania, married there and became an influential figure in the community.
Thanks to his pedagogical qualifications, his lessons were favored by his many pupils who adored him and owed him their knowledge in Judaism, Jewish history and Hebrew.
The author, one of his pupils, describes the death of Penson in 1939 and the funeral which took place already under Nazi rule and adds: "We were all satisfied that our beloved teacher Penson died of natural causes before the Nazis succeeded to turn Jewish life into hell. His memory lives in the minds of his pupils, wherever they are, in Israel as well as in other countries of the world".
MY FATHER, REB SHMUEL PENSON
By Abraham Penson
The author gives some biographical data on his father, a writer and journalist, who published translations of works by Heinrich Heine and other poets in "Hatsefira" and other Hebrew periodicals. He devoted his life and energies to the establishment of Hebrew schools and other cultural activities. He died in September 1939, a week or two after the Nazi invasion.
JEWISH EDUCATION IN PLOTZK
By Prof. David Eisenberg
This article appeared in a provincial newspaper at Wloclawek in 1927 and deals with the necessity to expand the Jewish school system by establishing secondary schools for the education of children of the poorer classes. The importance of adding extra hours for the teaching of Jewish subjects, in order to promote Jewish national consciousness among the younger generation, is stressed.
The author urges the members of the Jewish middle class to contribute substantial sums in order to enable children of poverty-stricken families to benefit from secondary education.
MEMORIES OF YEHIEL MEIR KRAVIETZ
By A. Sh.
Yehiel Meir Kravietz, a melamed by profession, was of phenomenal intelligence. Although a religious man, he was conversant with secular topics such as Darwinism, Socialism, etc. He used to quote passages from a great variety of books which he read in the public library, and was popular with the "Mariavits" sect, whose members he was often invited to address on religious and other subjects.
Kravietz was very poor but never cared about that. When he once received a rare manuscript as a present, he would not even think of selling it and thereby improving his deplorable economic situation. Years later, when Jewish community representatives were invited to a reception held by a Catholic bishop and wanted to present him with a suitable gift; Yehiel Meir did not hesitate to offer his precious manuscript to the community for this purpose.
He was killed, as many others, during the Nazi massacre.
THE POPULAR FUNCTIONS OF THE JEWISH LIBRARY "HAZAMIR"
By David Eisenberg
This article was written in 1926, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Jewish Public Library "Hazamir", founded in Plotzk in 1896.
The author shows that the "Hazamir" library served as a useful instrument in spreading general education and culture among the poorer segments of the Jewish population. The library, a non-party institution, succeeded in being of service to all classes of the population, and especially to the younger generation.
LOCAL THEATER GROUPS
By M. Magnes
The author describes in detail the first beginnings of theater. performances in Plotzk, which started in 1906. Several Trade Unions organized drama groups in the town. Every performance became an important event in the cultural life of the town's Youth. Despite political differences, the activities of the theater groups encouraged all the various sections of Youth to cooperate in this cultural sphere. The actors were all non-professionals, and the revenue from shows was always used for cultural and social-aid purposes.
By Michael Zylberberg
The author describes the house of his grandfather Rabbi Shimon, who was a member of the Plotzk Rabbinical Court, and one of the leading Gerer Chassidim, where Chassidim used to meet and tell many Chassidic tales. Grandfather Shimon was always very moderate when passing verdicts at the Rabbinical court. In his childhood he had studied together with the famous Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov.
he author further describes the "melamdim" of Plotzk who gave their pupils an elementary Jewish education. They were mostly very poor but devoted to their holy task. One of them was the unforgettable Fishel Posner, a very strict and demanding person, whose "Heder" was situated in "Altman's courtyard".
The "Little Beit Hamidrash" was an institute of higher Jewish learning whose graduates possessed a solid knowledge of the Talmud and other religious books. But many of its students began to show an interest in secular education, obtained textbooks for the study of Polish, German and other subjects. Some of them became later on active in various political movements.
THE STRUGGLE FOR RESTORING THE GOOD NAME OF RABBI H. SHAPIRO
By A. Hartglas
The author, a pre-war member of the Polish Parliament and former Director General of the Israel Ministry of the Interior, describes the various efforts made by him in the early twenties for a legal posthumous restoration of the executed Rabbi's good name.
Rabbi Shapiro had been falsely accused of spying for the Bolsheviks, and was put to death in 1920 by a Polish Military court.
NAHUM SOKOLOV AND PLOTZK
By Yakir Warshawski
(Excerpt from an article in "Hajnt", a Warsaw Yiddish daily,
thirty days after Sokolov's death)
Nahum Sokolov loved Plotzk, that romantic Polish town on the Vistula, where he spent some years of his boyhood. He used to say "Although I was born in Wyszogrod, I consider myself a son of Plotzk, because I studied there. My sentiments are based on the Talmudic saying : Whoever teaches the son of his friend Torah, may be considered as his father".
Nahum Sokolov was regarded a genius and at the age of 15 already had a good knowledge of five languages : Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German and French. He played a role in public life and at a young age already became a friend of the Russian Governor, who took a great liking to him.
The visit of Nahum Sokolov, the prominent Zionist leader, was a holiday for the Jews of Plotzk, who were proud of him as of one who had grown up in their own midst.
NAHUM SOKOLOV'S VISIT TO PLOTZK AND WYSZOGROD
By Mark Turkov
A newspaper report on a visit by Nahum Sokolov to Plotzk in the twenties. The author describes the enthusiastic reception accorded the Zionist leader by the Plotzk Jewish population which proudly recalled the fact that Nahum Sokolov had spend some of his boyhood years in this town.
SHALOM ASH AND PLOTZK
By Michael Zylberberg
The famous Jewish writer Shalom Ash had connections with Plotzk. He wrote his novel "The Shtetl" in one of the town's suburbs. Being fond of its surroundings, he and his wife spent a certain period of their life there.
The author met Shalom Ash in London in 1953. When he told him what had happened to him during the holocaust period, Shalom Ash listened with great interest for many hours. He called Plotzk "our Plotzk", and related how it inspired him to write novels about Polish Jewry and how much he had liked his stay there.
Shalom Ash is quoted as having said in that conversation "The beauty of Plotzk in indescribable. Everything there was so lovely and Yiddish. The town and the countryside inspired me to write..."
MY UNCLE, RABBI Y. L. AVIDA ("EL. ZET." – YEHUDA LAJB ZLOTNIK)
By Ruhama Shnir (Zlotnik)
The article was published in "Davar" 12.11.1962
The writer, a niece of Rabbi Avida, who was brought up in her late father's house, regards him as a great personality. His life was dedicated to Jewish education and Zionism. He was a well known public speaker whose speeches always made a lasting impression on his audiences. After the First World War he settled in Canada, and later on went to South Africa, where he founded Hebrew schools and a Hebrew Teachers Seminary.
Mrs. Snir met her uncle again after 23 years, when he visited Eretz Israel in the forties. It was then that he decided to come to Israel, but his plans were realized only after the establishment of the State, when he moved to Jerusalem. He was happy to spend the last years of his life in the eternal city.
Rabbi Avida translated "Ecclesiastes" into Yiddish. He was an outstanding intellectual, whose achievements in the sphere of Zionism and Jewish education in many countries were of great importance.
RABBI YEHUDA LEIB AVIDA (ZLOTNIK)
By Dr. Nechemia Aloni
Article published in "Haaretz" 23.10.1962
Rabbi Y. L. Avida's life-work spread over many countries: Poland, Canada, South Africa and Israel; and many spheres: Zionist education, the Keren Kayemet, Jewish folklore research and journalism. He wrote three books on legal Talmudic subjects and many articles on Jewish folklore. While in Canada and South Africa he acquired an excellent knowledge of English and French and published several poems in English. He was devoted to Yiddish and a Soviet scholar called him "a rabbi, who is also a Yiddish language scholar".
Rabbi Avida spent his last years in Jerusalem. He was beloved by all who knew him in the Diaspora and in Israel.
ALFRED BLEI, THE LAST CHAIRMAN
By Meir (Michael) Koenigsberg
A tribute to the personality of Alfred Blei, who in the pre-war years was for a long time active in the Jewish Community. Being one of the few survivors of the holocaust, he returned home after the liberation and in spite of his age (he was 70 at the time) dedicated himself to reconstruction work. He headed a small group of survivors who cooperated with him until his death in 1958.
In the pre-war years he used to divide his time between his business activities and social obligations to which he devoted most of his energy. At the age of 60, Alfred Blei divided his property between his employees, retaining for himself only a modest income. Integrity, modesty, devotion to public causes, constant readiness to help the needy and to intervene whenever and wherever it was needed, tolerance and nobility, these were the outstanding characteristics of the unforgettable Alfred Blei, who was, unfortunately, destined to serve as the last Chairman of the Jewish Committee in Plotzk.
In the post-war years he made great efforts to locate Plotzk-born survivors and served, as the author puts it, as the "Post Office Box" of Plotzk-born Jews.
The Polish Government nominated him as a member of a Special Court for the Warsaw region which tried cases of Nazi murderers.
This article contains many biographical data on Alfred Blei, his communal activities, business relations and personality.
By Melech Rawicz
Zysze Landau was born in 1889 and emigrated to the U. S. A. in 1906 where he made a name for himself as a Yiddish poet, and where he published an anthology on "Yiddish Poetry in America till 1919". First he earned his living as a home painter, but when he became sick and unfit for physical work he switched to an advertising job.
Landau opposed the trend of Yiddish poetry at that time, which was influenced by political motivations, advocating instead pure-art poetry. He was very devoted to his fellow-poets and assisted them as much as he could in publishing their works.
He died of a heart-attack at the early age of 48.
MEMORIES OF MY FATHER'S HOME
By Eliyahu Eisenberg
The author, who is the son of David Eisenberg, the popular Hebrew teacher and scholar of Plotzk, describes in his memoirs the Jewish life of Plotzk during a period of 20 years (1920-1940), as seen through the eyes of a young boy and member of a Zionist youth-movement.
The late Prof. Eisenberg devoted his energies to the spreading of Hebrew and Jewish knowledge among the Jewish youth of the town and their education in the spirit of Zionism. As a Hebrew teacher in the Jewish Secondary School of Plotzk he fought the prevailing tendencies to minimize the teaching of these subjects, but did not always succeed. After a valiant struggle for his ideas which were opposed by factors which did not appreciate sufficiently the importance of the teaching of Jewish subjects, he had to resign his post and moved to another locality, where he continued his pedagogical activities.
The author describes the foundation and closing of the "Gymnasium" (the local Jewish secondary school) and pays tribute to this institution which had an outstanding influence on the spiritual life of the town's younger pro-Zionist generation.
The first group of scouts, "Hashomer Hatzair", originated in that school. Mr. Eisenberg devotes part of his article to the developments which took place in the above youth-movement until it became a left-wing radical movement. After leaving the movement, under the influence of his father, he found his way to a then newly established Zionist youth organization, "Akiba", which adhered to the traditional way of life and endeavored to disseminate Hebrew language and culture.
The memories describe the author's early boyhood-years in his grandfather's house near Plotzk. His grandfather was a "Feldscher" (medical practitioner without diploma). The way he entered his profession throws light on the pattern of life in Jewish towns in Poland in the second half of the 19th century.
The way of life of the author's family at the outskirts of Plotzk where "Jewish islands" existed in a purely Christian neighborhood - is lovingly described.
Although Jewish children suffered sometimes from the Christian boys of their age, the general relations between Jews and Gentiles were quite satisfactory. The landscape and childhood experiences in the gardens and on the lawns of those non-Jewish suburbs of the town, including the Convent of the Mariavits, also find mention.
The author remembers several friends of his father who were active in the sphere of Hebrew teaching, and describes their influence.
The last part of this article deals with the panic and helplessness of all Polish citizens and especially of the Jews during the first stages of the war (September 1939). The author and his parents fled from town in order to escape the invading Nazi armies, but had to return later on to Nazi-occupied Plotzk.
POLITICAL PARTIES, YOUTH MOVEMENTS, ZIONIST FUNDS FOUR FRIENDS AND THEIR SPIRITUAL WORLD By Moshe Rubin
The author of this article, chairman of the "Plotzker Association of Israel" pays tribute to four young people, aged 17, (Itzhak Rubin, A. L. Perlmuter, Z. Baran, Z. H. Krook) who published, in the years of the First World War, a Yiddish periodical "Di Shvere Zeit" (Hard Times), which included articles, poetry, drawings, etc.
Mr. Rubin tells us details of the biographies of those four friends who were, about 50 years ago, "carriers of the banner of culture and art" in Plotzk. He quotes a fragment of a Yiddish poem, published in that periodical, dealing with the tragedy of Jews who fight and die for the countries of their residence, yet their sacrifice is not appreciated.
Zionism in Plotzk was always influenced by the great Zionist leader Yitzhak Grinbaum, one of the founders of the local "Hazamir" library, where cultural and Zionist work was carried out in the years preceding the First World War. The Zionists in Plotzk named their organization "Agudat-Zion" (Zion Association). It raised money for the Zionist funds, arranged national celebrations, propaganda tours and election campaigns to the Jewish communal organs.
Other activities included yearly "bazaars", whose proceeds were handed over to the Keren Kayemet.
In 1934, when the General Zionist Organization was split into two groups (General Zionists "A" and "B") the Plotzk branch remained faithful to its beloved and popular leader, Yitzhak Grinbaum. As a result of that split, the "Hanoar Hazioni A" and "Akiba" youth-organizations were set up.
"Agudat Zion was often visited by representatives of the National Executive of the Zionist Organization in Warsaw. It took part in all national gatherings, conferences and campaigns of the Z. O.
"KEREN KAYEMET" ACTIVITIES
The Plotzk "Keren Kayemet" Committee was composed of representatives of all Zionist factions, under the presidency of Dr. Itzhak Feinberg and Azriel Kowalski as representatives of the Central Committee. The year 1931 was proclaimed as an anniversary year (50 years since the "Hibbat Zion" movement and 30 years since the Keren Kayemet were founded). The town was divided into zones and the local youth in the form of a "Gdud Keren Kayemet" went from door to door to collect money for the National Fund.
Its most popular source of income was the "Blue Box". Youth movement members installed these boxes in almost every Jewish house where it symbolized the link between the Jewish family and the upbuilding of the National Home in Eretz Israel.
The 1931 anniversary year was outstanding as regards the sums collected and the positive response of Plotzk Jewry.
Keren Kayemet continued its fundraising until the outbreak of World War II. Its last successful drive took place in May 1939, when Wizo ran a K. K. L. bazaar. Nobody knew then that this would be the last K. K. L. function in Plotzk.
"ZEIREI ZION" IN PŁOCK
By Itzhak Tynski
This faction, affiliated to the Zionist Workers movement, was established in Plotzk just after the First World War. Its members were active for Zionism by raising money for the Keren Kayemet (in which it distinguished itself), organizing festivals and helping those immigrating to Eretz Israel.
Fishl Fliderblum, one of the leaders of this movement, served as the last Jewish Community chairman and was elected a delegate to the last pre-war Zionist congress, which took place in Switzerland.
Zeirei Zion eventually united with "Right Poalei Zion" and other smaller groups and together formed the "United Party", (equivalent to Mapai of Israel).
THE AGRICULTURAL FARM OF MOSHE KRAKOWSKI
By E. E.
An agricultural farm owned by Moshe Krakowski existed in Plotzk for 20 years prior to World War II. - Krakowski was born in a village near Izbica and at the age of 36, in 1918, acquired a farm in Milodroz, about 12 kms from Plotzk. He, his wife and children devoted all their energy to restoring the farm and within a few years, the Krakowski farm became an example. The Polish peasants had always regarded Jews as traders in flour or agricultural produce, but had never known Jewish farmers, who own and cultivate their land. Hence Krakowski was at first looked upon as someone unusual, but later the gentiles got used to the fact and held the new cultivation methods of this Jewish farming family in high esteem.
Krakowski's place was used as a "Hachshara" (Training Farm) for Jewish youth preparing for Aliya to Eretz Israel. Many pioneers of various youth-organizations worked on that farm. The Jews of Plotzk were proud of its existence, which was proof that Jews were able to do agricultural work, and do it well.
The Krakowski family's desire was to establish a new agricultural settlement in Israel, which would absorb immigrants from Plotzk. Only one of the families - Tuvia - managed to go to Israel and he is now a member of Kibbutz Merhavya in the Yizrael Valley.
"HACHSHARA" KIBBUTZ ON THE NAME OF "BOROCHOW"
By Fishl Fliderblum
A translation of an article, published in January 1936, in a Yiddish periodical called "Dos Plotzker Wort". The author gives a short history of the kibbutz which served as a training center for Jewish boys and girls prior to their Alyia (immigration to Eretz Israel) to Eretz Israel. At "Hachshara" they were trained to accustom themselves to physical work and to Kibbutz life.
They were trained in various branches of manual labor (at a saw-mill, oil factory, tannery, etc.) and in spite of the fact that most of them came from well-to-do families, they were always happy and satisfied with their way of life. They were idealistic and saw themselves as pioneers of great Jewish masses who would follow them to Israel where they would turn into workers and farmers.
The author describes the daily way of life of these youngsters. Their hard work and the nature of their leisure hours: reading and exchanging views on their future life as pioneers in Israel.
He concludes by demanding that the Jewish public of Plotzk help the "Hachshara" center, since it contributed so much both to Zionism and to the preparation of pioneering immigrants to the Land of Israel.
HEHALUTZ, HEHALUTZ HATZAIR AND HAPOEL
By Y. Rosenblum
The first group of "Hehalutz" began its activities in our town in 1923. The organizers made it clear that the real aim of this new organization was the "Alyia" (immigration to Eretz Israel) of its members and manual labor in Eretz Israel. In spite of the fact that the orthodox circles in town opposed this newly-established group, the number of the "Halutzim" (pioneers) grew from year to year and the local branch of "Hehalutz" became a center of various Zionist activities.
While the "Hehalutz" organization consisted of young people over the age of 18, who were preparing to go to Eretz Israel, its sister-organization "Hehalutz Hatzair" (The Young Pioneer) had as members younger boys and girls. This last-mentioned organization prepared the youth for their future life as pioneers and concentrated on cultural activities (teaching of Hebrew, history of Zionism and the Jewish Workers' movement, etc.).
In 1931 a "kibbutz" was established in Plotzk by two young boys (Benzion Altman and Aron Bricker) who were delegated for that purpose by the Central Committee of the organization. A year earlier two young men from Eretz Israel came to town and exerted a great influence on the younger generation there.
In the thirties many young boys and girls left town for Eretz Israel where most of them lived as pioneers, either in kibbutzim or in other forms of settlement. The number of "Alyia" candidates constantly increased until the outbreak of the Second World War.
The young pioneers of Plotzk who did not succeed in reaching Israel (then under British Mandatory Government) were murdered, like so many others, by the Nazis during the Second World War.
Among other sports organizations there existed in the thirties a local branch of "Hapoel", affiliated to the central organization of this name. All sorts of sport activities were carried out by "Hapoel" football, ping-pong (table-tennis), athletics, physical exercises, gymnastics and bicycle-riding.
This organization was established in 1931. Its members distinguished themselves especially in football and some of them were members of the regional team.
Thanks to the devotion of some of the founders and sponsors of this and other sports organizations (like "Maccabi", "Stern" and "Morgenstern"), various spheres of sport became popular among Jewish boys and girls in town. Their activities made the Jewish public proud of their younger generation.
Like others, most of these Jewish young sportsmen and sportswomen perished in the years 1939-1945.
A branch of the Zionist-religious movement "Mizrahi, was founded in Plotzk after the first world war. It distinguished itself primarily in its devoted work for the National Fund and in popularizing Zionist ideas among the religious segment of the community, in synagogues, etc. The first Hebrew kindergarten in Plotzk was founded through the initiative and with the help of that movement.
"Mizrahi" members cooperated with other Zionist groups and had considerable influence in town. In 1937 two of their representatives were elected to the Kehila Council.
The author regrets that lack of material on this subject does not enable him to publish a more detailed report on that movement. Very few "Mizrahi" members succeeded to come to Israel in time and even fewer survived the Holocaust.
Among its founders: Jakob Aszkenazi, Szlomo Wilenski, Abraham Flaks. Jeszayahu Muszkat, Reuwen Kanarek, Herszel Majranc, Efraim Dawid Elberg, Jechiel Wosulk, Szlomo Rozen.
By Moshe Rubin
The author was one of the founders of the youth organization "Herzlia". In 1918 several members of "Hashomer Hatzair" left that movement, because it had turned, in their opinion, into a political party, and consequently founded "Herzlia".
"Herzlia" developed educational activities in Plotzk, organized Hebrew courses and trained its members to become devoted Zionists and go on Alyia.
The development period of the organization continued till 1922, when most of its leaders left Plotzk. Despite its relatively short existence, "Herzlia" played an important role in the Zionist education of the young Jewish generation in that period.
"POALEI ZION" (LEFT)
By Beza1el Okolica
A branch of the "Poalei Zion" movement was founded in Plotzk in 1904. After the Russian revolution of 1905 its activities were outlawed by the Czarist police, and "Poalei Zion" members went underground. Only after the First World War and the establishment of the Polish State, did the movement succeed in founding branches in almost every town and township, as also in Plotzk.
"Poalei Zion" took an active part in the elections of the Jewish community, the municipality and the Parliament. They also established evening courses for workers and organized them in trade unions, which were responsible for strikes in several workshops, as a result of which the employers had to pay higher wages.
A dramatic circle and a sports club named "Stern" (Star) were established in 1925.
"Poalei Zion" members distinguished themselves in their bitter fight against anti-Semitism in the pre-war years and as anti-Nazi fighters during the war. Some of them survived and live today in Israel, but the majority perished with the whole community during the holocaust.
Members mentioned: Chaim Makowski, Olesznik, Lamaniec, Zilberstein, Czok, Ostrower, Kowal, Cukier, Josef Malanek, Sendzen Wint, Magner, Okalica.
THE "FREIHEIT" MOVEMENT
By Dov Shahari
Two small groups of young Zionists-Socialists, one from Wloclawek and the second from Plotzk met in May 1926 and founded jointly the youth movement called - "Freiheit" (Freedom), which comprised mainly Yiddish speaking Jewish youth of the working classes.
The author describes how study-groups and summer-camps were organized, the first of which took place in a village near Plotzk in 1929. That camp was attended by Zeev Sherf as a representative of the Central Committee in Warsaw.
Several young boys distinguished themselves in leading the movement, especially Fishl Fliderblum, who helped those youth groups in many ways. He was elected member of the Plotzk Municipal Committee and served as the last Chairman of the Jewish Kehila before the holocaust.
Some members of the "Freiheit, organization immigrated to Israel both legally with immigration certificates and illegally on "Maapilim" ships. The last of its members arrived in Haifa in September 1939.
"AGUDAT ISRAEL" IN PLOCK AND THE REGION
By Leib Geliebter
"Agudat Israel" was established in Plotzk in 1919, about seven years after the world conference at Katowice, where the world organization of orthodox Jews was founded.
The speakers at the first meeting emphasized that the Jewish Kehila (community) was run by assimilationists who constituted a minority in town, and that the time was ripe for giving orthodox Jews their rightful place in the Kehila.
In the following years the Aguda established several Jewish religious schools in town. The movement secured a prominent place in the Kehila for itself, and its representative was elected its Chairman. It took part in the municipal elections and its representative who became councilor, obtained the agreement of the municipal authorities to employ religious Jews in their service without their having to desecrate the Shabbat.
The economic activity of the Aguda included the establishment of a prosperous bank, which extended loans on easy terms to small merchants and artisans.
When the Nazis invaded Plotzk they confiscated the property of the bank, arrested the author of this article who was tortured and wounded, but survived thanks to the medical treatment of the unforgettable Dr. Feinberg.
Members mentioned: R' Iczel Burstyn, R' Jakob Jaszjewicz, R' Jeszayahu Spierstein, R' Kalman Lajbisz Kilbert, R' Fiszel Benet, R' Icchak Meir Zilberberg, R' Dawid Warszawiak, R' Mosze Mordechai Geliebter, R' Jakob Nagel' R' Arie Kosowocki, R' Sinai Wolf Rozen.
THE ACTIVITIES OF THE "BUND"
By J. M. Oliver (Ilover)
Like other leftist movements, the "Bund" party's primary aim was the organization of trade unions among Jewish workers. Only after the First World War were they free to engage legally in their work.
The "Bund" movement was very popular in Plotzk and most Jewish workers voted for its list at election time. In 1920 it had two seats on the municipal council.
The local Bund branch organized the Jewish working youth in a special group, called "Skif". A Bund representative, Israel Gershon Burshtyn, was Lavnik (senior municipal councilor) of Plotzk and was very popular with all Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. He particularly distinguished himself in frequently preventing the eviction of poor tenants from their homes for non-payment of rents.
In the last years preceding the war the Bund tried to combat anti-Semitism in joint action with the Polish Socialist Party (P. P. S.).
I. G. Burshtyn survived the holocaust and spent the last years of his life in America where he felt lonely, without contact with the Jewish working masses to whom he had devoted his whole life. He wrote his memories on the destruction of Jewish Plotzk, and bequeathed his legacy to the Plotzker Association in Israel, who established a Loan Fund for new Olim (immigrants to Israel) from these funds.
By E. E
This youth movement, which combined Zionist aspirations with "self realization" (i. e. going to Eretz Israel and becoming a worker and pioneer) found its first adherents in Plotzk after the end of the First World War. The history of "Hashomer Hatzair" in our town may be divided into two parts:
a) From 1921 to 1927, when this youth organization was linked to the local ''Jewish Gymnasium''
b) From 1927 to 1939, as an independent unit.
In its first period its pattern was that of a purely scouting organization, on the lines of the "Blau Weiss" Zionist youth movement in Germany and the "Wandervogel" groups there. Two local teachers, Baruch (Bernard) Silber and David Eisenberg had then a great deal of influence on the local branch of that organization. Especially the latter made great efforts to acquaint the young boys and girls with Judaism, teaching them Hebrew, Jewish history, etc.
During the second period (1927-1939) the local branch became more dependent on other factors in the community and distinguished itself by its activities. It exerted great influence on the younger generation and many of its members played an important part in re-settling Israel, among whom there were some of the founders of the famous Kibbutz Negba in the Negev. Although "Hashomer Hatzair" later turned to the left and became very radical, it still exerted great influence.
Two young girls of the Plotzk branch of "Hashomer Hatzair" (Tova Beatus and Rozka Korezak) belonged to the anti-German Partisan units, who fought in the ghetto of Wilna against the Nazis. The first one perished on one of her missions and the other lives now in a Kibbutz in Israel.
REVISIONISTS AND "BEITAR"
As in other towns and townships in Poland there existed also in Plotzk a branch of the Revisionist party and Beitar, its youth organization. In spite of the tension, which prevailed in those years (prior to 1939) between this movement and other Zionist groups, no clashes occurred in Plotzk.
The Beitar youth movement had a number of adherents in Plotzk and like other youth-groups organized summer-camps and pre-military training. It called upon its members to immigrate to Eretz Israel and take part in its struggle for independence.
Due to the lack of documents the editor is unable to quote figures and mention names connected with Beitar. None of its members survived after the war, and no photos are left.
The editor concludes by paying tribute to this extreme Zionist group which played its part in the sphere of Zionist education in Plotzk.
GENERAL ZIONIST YOUTH MOVEMENT
("HASHOMER HALEUMI" – "HANOAR HAZIONI" – "AKIBA")
By Benyamin Galewski
This movement comprised two groups: "Hashomer-Haleumi", later known as "Hanoar Hazioni" and "Akiba". The first group was founded in Plotzk in 1929 after a lecture held there by its leader Dr. R. Feldshuh (Ben-Shem). It had a considerable influence on the Jewish youth in town and distinguished itself in educational and other activities. "Summer colonies" (camps), where intensive Zionist work was done, were organized every summer. In 1930 the movement split into two groups. One of it joined the Progressive General Zionist faction, led by I. Grinbaum. The second movement, called "Akiba" was founded in Plotzk in 1931, and comprised mainly students. This movement adhered to Jewish tradition, although it was not orthodox in character. A summer-camp held in 1933, in which a youth group from Plotzk took part, had a considerable influence on the future of "Akiba" in town. The author quotes, in this connection, some excerpts from periodicals which praise the important work done by "Akiba" in Plotzk.
Three members (Meir Pagorek, Benyamin Galewski and Eliyahu Eisenberg) were elected members of the Central Committee of the movement. The activities of "Akiba", continued until the outbreak of war in September 1939.
THE LOCAL COMMUNIST PARTY
By Sh. P.
The Communist party in Plotzk, as in all other towns of Poland in that period, was illegal. Its aims were of a general political nature, but a considerable number of its members were Jews. Its main spheres of influence were the trade unions, a library and a sports circle called "Wicher" (Storm).
When the frontier between Nazi-occupied Poland and Russia was opened for refugees, many young Jews took advantage of the opportunity and escaped to Russia, thereby saving their lives. Being later on confronted with the realities of the Soviet regime, they left the U. S. S. R. and emigrated to Western countries and to Israel after the war.
THE HISTORY OF "MACCABI" IN PLOCK
By Moshe Rubin
The author of this article was one of the top leaders of the "Maccabi" organization in Plotzk, who served many years as its Honorary Secretary and Vice-Chairman.
First steps to organize Jewish youth in a sports-organization were taken during the First World War (in 1915). A group of Jewish boys used to gather on a free plot near the "New Market" and do exercises under most primitive conditions. They were assisted by ex-students of the Russian Secondary School. When the town was under German rule, a special Jewish committee of sports-minded citizens was constituted and attempted to obtain the necessary license from the German authorities in order to organize the until then sporadic sports activities.
That year a special sports-gathering took place in the local theatre which marked the beginning of Jewish sports activities in town.
"Maccabi" organized a great festival in 1916, in which hundreds of its members from Plotzk and neighboring localities took part. When the town came under Polish rule, the authorities did not view Jewish sports activities with favor and tried on many occasions to limit them, but in spite of it, "Maccabi" grew in members and opened various branches of sports activities. Its members also took part in many general Jewish and Zionist campaigns. The outbreak of the Polish-Soviet war 1920 restricted the "Maccabi" activities, but later on, when Poland was re-established and battles ceased, many instructors and leaders of "Maccabi" left for Warsaw to study. A newly-elected committee redecorated the sports-hall, bought equipment and organized new groups. The years 1923-1934 marked a steady development of "Maccabi", which became a part of Jewish life in Plotzk and played an important role in the physical training of Jewish youth. New sections were organized: for light athletics, boxing, bicycle-riding, ski, etc. Members of "Maccabi" were in that period engaged in general cultural and Zionist affairs, besides their sports activities.
The author recalls one of the most significant events in the community's life: The arrival of Jewish sportsmen from Eretz Israel. It was a motorcycle group which toured many countries of Europe in 1930 and while in Poland, visited Plotzk. That event - says the author - was unforgettable and all those who witnessed it, will forever remember it.
The dedication of the "Maccabi" flag became a Jewish national festival. An article published in the Warsaw Yiddish daily "Haynt" (The Day) gave a detailed report of that important event and its influence on Plotzk's nationally minded Jewish youth.
At the end of 1934 the author left for Eretz Israel. He was confident that his followers and the younger generation in Plotzk would continue his work for "Maccabi" which was inspired by the slogan "mens sana in corpore sano".
THE LAST TWO YEARS OF "MACCABI"
By Adam Najman (Nowicki)
The "Maccabi" sports-organization played an important role in the sport-life of the Jewish youth in Plotzk. It contained all possible sections: football, gymnastics, light athletics, basket-ball, hockey, boxing, table-tennis, etc. The local Jewish youth of the town, being prevented from joining gentile sports organizations due to the prevailing anti-Semitic trends, flocked into the Jewish sports-organizations, and especially to "Maccabi".
The author describes various sports activities which were the pride of the Jewish public and mentions the last football-match which took place in the summer of 1939 between the local "Maccabi" team and the Wloclawek "Maccabi" team. He also recollects one of the cases which proved that the "Maccabi" members did not confine themselves to sports activities only, and were always prepared to protect Jews and Jewish honor: a group of Jewish boys and girls was sitting on benches in a local public garden, when they were attacked by hooligans who wanted to expel them from the park. "Maccabi" members rushed to the help of the attacked youngsters and beat the attackers up.
The author mentions with appreciation the activities of the following: Felix Margulis, and Henryk Shenvits, the last two chairmen of "Maccabi"; Vice-chairman Artek Galevski and General Secretary Abraham Altman. They contributed a lot to the prosperity and success of local "Maccabi".
Sportsmen mentioned (partial list): Artek Galewski, Leon Szczyg, Israel Lisser, Israel Goldman and his brother Romek, Leon Strach, Szlomo Szczyg, Szymon Prusak, Menczyk, Lubranicki, Dawid Krajcer, Dr. Matias Marknstras, Henryk Szenwic, Malgot, Gad Tynski, Eliyahu Baran, Pawel Gombinski, Rudek Lubranicki, Jarzyk Goldberg, Gutek Flajszer, Hela Goldman, Sala Plocer, Sala Kot, Mitek Wasserman, Salek Zilberstein, Alek Rusak, Altrowicz, Gold, Salek Lichtenstein, Adam Najman, Zosia Goldberg, Fela Koza, Teresa Strach, Sabinka Eisenberg, Heniek Najman, Adam Goldberg.
PLOTZK-BORN JEWISH PAINTERS
Nathan Korzen, who perished in the bloom of his life in the Wilna ghetto, was a member of a young group of Polish painters, and was considered one of the important Jewish artists in Poland. The members of his family in Plotzk were engaged in various arts and crafts, and little Nathan loved to observe the handwork of his uncles, who were goldsmiths and silversmiths. His grandfather and father owned a workshop for the manufacture of copper goods, among them Jewish ritual objects.
Eager to take up formal art studies, Nathan left his home and went to Warsaw. Professor Tadeusz Pruszkowsky of the Art Academy there recognized right away his outstanding talents and enabled him to enroll at the Academy. While still a student, Korzen already exhibited his work at a Jewish Gallery in Warsaw. Having finished his studies successfully, he soon became known as one of the finest painters of portraits in Poland. Leading personalities commissioned him to do their portraits and he was never short of work.
He also painted from nature, and whenever he visited Plotzk, which is set in beautiful surroundings, he went out of town to paint the countryside. He spent many days at the picturesque village of Kazimierz, which attracted many painters because of its lovely setting.
As the art critic Yehiel Aronson states in his appreciation of Korzen, he was not affected by the surrealistic school of Post-Impressionism, since he was gifted with the ability to express his longings realistically on canvas.
Korzen lived in Wilna at the outbreak of the war, as he thought that from there it would be easier to escape to the West. His hopes did not materialize, and he stayed on in the Ghetto, where he took part in the cultural life of the oppressed Jews.
Murderous hands put an end to his creative life. His brother Harry, who resides in Toronto, published there a book in his memory in 1948.
Regrettably only very few of his pictures were saved from destruction and some of them are to be found in the collection of Dr. Simchowicz of Tel Aviv.
FISHL ZYLBERBERG (ZBER)
"Poems are talking pictures and pictures – are silent poems"... Melech Rawicz
A series of articles in memory of the above named outstanding Plotzk-born painter.
The first article is written by Harry Koren (Korzen) who was a friend of the artist. After describing the surroundings and countryside of Plotzk which inspired talented young Jewish boys, he portrays the artistic personality of F. Zylberberg. "He was endowed with the gift of a real master and thoroughly analyzed his ideas. He handled the strokes of his brush with great self-assurance and vigor", says the author.
He also recalls their meetings before the war, the exhibition of Zylberberg's graphic works at the "Hotel Poznanski" and describes him as an enthusiastic hard-working painter who had nothing in common with the frustrated "cafe-type artists".
Zylberberg exhibited his works at the "Warsaw Salon of Fine Arts" and was praised by art critics of that time.
He lived during the first war-years in Paris, but was deported to Auschwitz where he was murdered by the Nazis.
Born in 1909, he was seen painting since early boyhood. Thanks to his teacher, Ms. Gutkind, a painter herself, he continues his studies in Warsaw and very soon distinguishes himself at several exhibitions as a talented artist.
In spite of being a Jew he is being chosen, due to his talent, to represent Polish graphic art in Paris and his works are being exhibited in 1937 at the Polish Pavilion of the International Exhibition in Paris. He studies in that city, takes an active part in its artistic life and is known there by the name "Zber".
In 1941 the Nazis arrested him and sent him to a concentration camp. On 26th October, 1942, he perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, only 33 years old.
Another article concerning the above is written by Itzchak Furmansky, Chairman of the Jewish Deportees in France. He describes mainly his behavior in the Bon-La-Roland camp, his modesty and devotion to art in spite of the inhuman conditions of life there. Zber was recognized by a Pole, who intervened in his favor, and thanks to whom he enjoyed better conditions for a short time.
In his last days in spite of his illness, the optimistic Zber was sure that he would not be sent to death.
A few lines are dedicated to Zber's wife, Stenia, who took part in anti-Nazi activities in Paris and murdered in a Nazi-camp in 1944. She was deported under the name "Guta Rozenstein". She managed to hide some of her husband's works.
JECHIEL-MEIR (MAKS) ELJOWICZ - PORTRAIT-PAINTER
By Moshe Rubin
The above was born in Raciąż but moved with his parents at a young age to Plotzk. He specialized in painting the portraits of persons from the well-to-do classes, (writers, famous physicians etc.).
During the years before the war, Eljowicz worked as an internal decorator and in 1937 was awarded the First Prize for the nicest show-window by the Warsaw municipality. That year he was sent by the Polish Government to arrange the Polish Pavilion at the Levant Fair in Tel-Aviv.
After the Nazi invasion, Eljowicz stayed in the Warsaw ghetto where he, and others artists, were engaged in decorating the Kehila meeting-hall. One day he was sent by the Jewish committee to decorate the walls of a deportees' transit-station. He and his Colleagues painted a most impressive picture of a Jewish smith at work. This picture later irritated an S/S officer so greatly that he ordered to destroy it.
Maks Eljowicz, who contributed a lot to the artistic education of the Jewish public, perished at the extermination camp of Treblinka.
DAVID TUSHINSKY - MASTER OF MINIATURES
By E. E.
David Tushinsky, the miniaturist, is faithful to the tradition of Jewish religious ornamental art. His grandfather was engaged in writing the letters of Torah Scrolls. David was influenced in his art by three factors the loss of his family and his desire to perpetuate their sufferings, his inability to strike roots in Israel's art world, his desire to become a member of the Jewish-French artistic school.
When only one year old, his parents moved from Brzezany (near Lodz) to Plotzk, where he lived for 20 years, until the outbreak of war. The romantic scenes of the town inspired him just as they influenced other Plotzk artists, such as Korzen, Zylberberg and Eljowicz.
He studied in Lodz, was recruited into the Polish army and soon after the defeat of 1939 moved eastwards. Eventually he got to Israel, but here he felt that his special brand of art would not be appreciated. For several years he worked for a living, unable to further his art-work.
Then he moved to Paris, where, due to his natural ability to make friends and his desire to make his work known, he has succeeded in his career.
Two exhibitions of his work took place in Paris in 1948 and he was awarded an international art prize.
He maintains his relations with Israel and comes here from time to time, both to exhibit his. work (Haifa, Eilat, Petah Tiqva and other places) and to find new subjects for his art.
His drawings are greatly influenced by three factors: The Holocaust, Jewish national rebirth and Europe's culture. One of his critics said that Tushinsky's art is "a mirror of his epoch".
SHMUEL HAR-SHALOM (FRIDENBERG)
By Moshe Rubin
The painter Har-Shalom was born in Lodz, and grew up after the First World War in Plotzk, where he was drawn to the world of painting from early youth on. He was inspired by the teacher Strzalka and the painters Korzen and Eljowicz, but was unable to take up formal art-studies for lack of financial means and the need to support his parents.
Only later in life, once he was already settled in Kiryat-Haim, Israel, he returned to his first love - art. After his daily chores at the local glass factory, he devoted all his free time to the creation of copper etchings. After a period of study in Paris, he showed his work at two exhibitions, (1961 and 1963) in Haifa. His work was very favorably reviewed by Israeli art-critics, and he continues to create scenes taken from the landscape and the day-to-day life of the workers and ordinary folk of Israel.
THE HOLOCAUST PERIOD 1939-1945 THE JEWS OF PLOTZK UNDER THE NAZI REGIME
By Dr. Joseph Kermish
Director of Yad Vashem Archive, Jerusalem
UNTIL THE DEPORTATION
The first bombs fell in Plotzk on September 1st, 1939, at 6 AM. People first thought that these were air force exercises but very soon realized that the war had begun. Shops were closed down and peasants who had come to the market, rushed home.
On the second and third days several wealthy Jewish inhabitants fled town and escaped to Warsaw. On the fourth day began the evacuation by order of the authorities. People fled in three directions to Warsaw (by motor-boats), to Gombin and Gostynin.
Plotzk was captured by the German army on September 8th, 1939. During the initial 2-3 weeks the town was under military rule and no anti-Jewish measures were taken by the military forces. German soldiers even did their shopping in Jewish stores. In some cases, German soldiers warned Jews against danger from the Gestapo. Plotzk refugees, who had gone to nearby Gombin, being under the impression that the Germans meant no harm, even returned to town.
In the last days of September it seemed that life in town became normal. But on October 7th, 1939, when according to Hitler's decree, Plotzk was annexed to West Prussia (Gau West-Preussen), and the rule over those territories was handed over to Nazi party-organs (especially the Gestapo), the persecution began: confiscations of Jewish shops, kidnappings of Jews for forced labor, sadistic treatment of religious Jews, etc.
On October 15th, 1939, 10 Jewish notables were summoned to the Judendrat, and notified that a collective fine of 1 million zlotys had been imposed on the Jewish population as a penalty for its disloyalty towards the German authorities. They were ordered to collect this amount within a few hours, while three of them were retained in custody as hostages, where they were maltreated and beaten. After negotiations the Germans agreed to accept half a million only and the hostages were released.
At that time Jews began to leave the mixed residential quarters. Individual Germans started to loot Jewish homes, taking away pieces of furniture, house utensils, etc. Jews were forced to greet uniformed Germans by taking off their hats and forbidden to use the side-walks. Many Jews disappeared after having been arrested at night. The constant looting by Gestapo-men made daily life unbearable.
The Rabbi of town was forced to leave Plotzk, after having been taken several times to do forced labor and having suffered greatly. The Great Synagogue was converted into a garage, the Little Synagogue was demolished, and the Beit Hamidrash at Szeroka Street was turned into a concentration place for workers and a guard-room of the "Jewish police". Many German offices used Scrolls of the Law for stair coverings. Kidnapping of Jews and forced shaving of beards and side-locks became a daily occurrence. Religious Jews in prayer-shawls and Tefillin were forced to dance in the streets to the amusement of Germans who took snapshots of these scenes.
In the last days of October 1939 all industrial and commercial undertakings were officially closed and confiscated. Yellow notices were affixed to them: "Jewish-Closed". The Mayor published a decree forbidding Jews to engage in commerce and industry as of October 31st, and specifying in 7 paragraphs the ways and means by which Jewish enterprises were to be taken over by Germans. All Jewish property was thus confiscated "according to Law". The Germans set fire to the Jewish mill and accused its owners of having caused the conflagration themselves.
At the end of November 1939 the Jews were forced to wear yellow "Magen David" badges, and to sign their identity cards with their finger-prints. Many Jews escaped from town to Warsaw and other places.
At the end of 1939, after liquidating the Kehila Committee, the German authorities nominated a "Judenrat" consisting of a few known personalities, and of some new people, who until then had not taken any active part in public affairs. One of the first steps of the "Judenrat" was to set up the "Jewish Police". The "Judenrat" became responsible for carrying out German orders, supplying manpower for the German military and other authorities and regulating the life of the Jewish population.
The "Judenrat" managed to keep some shops open for the Jewish population, which was deprived the right to buy from non-Jewish shops-owners.
A Jewish pharmacy, clinic and post office branch were also opened. The Jewish Ghetto was established by order of the Nazis in September 1940, and enclosed Synagogalna, Szeroka, and part of Bielska Street. Jews were forbidden to leave this area without special permits (Strassenschein), all contacts with the outside world were cut off, daily routine centering around the "Judenrat", which opened a bakery and some shops for food and fuel distribution.
7600 Plotzk Jews and 3000 refugees from Dobrzyn, Rypin, Sierpc, Raciaz etc. lived in the ghetto in December 1940. The terrible congestion, hunger, epidemic diseases, lack of medicines, made life unbearable. Ghetto residents used doors and window-frames as fuel to heat their homes.
At that period the Nazis began to persecute the Polish intelligentsia. Some of the Polish lawyers, doctors and teachers were being sent to concentration camps or killed, and the churches were closed.
Inside the Ghetto the "Judenrat" tried with all means at its disposal to prevent the deportation Jews from Plotzk by bribing the Germans with money, drinks and presents. Nevertheless the "Judenrat slowly turned into an instrument of the Germans by which their discrimination orders were carried out. The poorer segments of the Jewish population suffered more than the people who had some means left.
The ghetto was shocked one Saturday in September 1940 when the Germans brutally expelled all the inmates of the Home of Aged, which had existed for many decades, and killed all of them in nearby Działdowo, but for 12 who managed to escape. Later the "Judenrat" was ordered to compile a list of incurables, sick and crippled people. All of them disappeared. A fortnight later the "Judenrat" was told to draw up a list of Zionist leaders. Instead a list of dead personalities and of those who escaped to Russia was handed in. The authorities then arrested five Jews, who were picked up at random on the street and sent them to a camp.
The day of general deportation from the ghetto approached. A few days before February 20, 1941, 25 men were arrested and killed. This was the first mass-murder of Jews in Plotzk. The verdict said that the executed had planned an attempt on the Gestapo. The "Judenrat" members had to be present during the execution as hostages "in order to prevent re-occurrence of such acts". The names of the victims were identified according to the documents found in their mass grave after the war. The last victim, Samek Szatan escaped but perished later. The victims of that execution were: Grynszpan Mosze age 38, Sadzowka Mosze age 55, Bogacz Reuwen age 25, Płocker Hersz age 38, Przachedzki Dawid and his son Abraham 17 years old, FlaksAbraham age 55 and his son Pinchas age 23, Rotblat Simcha Lajb age 32, Szwarc Moniek age 30, Porzka Jakob age 38, Bursztyn Abram age 32, Bursztyn Israel age 25, Kredit Mark age 27, Zilberberg Hersz Reuwen, Fajka Efraim, Papierczyk Fiszel, Korstein Mosze, Szmit Aharon Lajzer, Goldberg, Graubard Efraim, Rifenholc Icchak, Kamzel, Herszkowicz Cadok, Zgal Alter. (Source note 43 in the Hebrew version, page 459).
After that the general feeling of Plotzk Jews was that the day of calamity was approaching. People slept at nights with their packed bags, and were ready for everything. In order not to be taken away by surprise they organized a guards system every night from 7 PM. onward.
On February 20, 1941 the news about the impending general deportation of the Jews from the ghetto was spread. On that day the "Jewish Policemen" were summoned to Gestapo Headquarters, where they were beaten with whips which the "Judenrat" was commanded to supply earlier. In the evening rumors were circulated in the ghetto that the deportation had been postponed and that money had been raised to bribe Commissar Burg. But on the morrow the deportation began. At 4 o'clock in the morning the patients of the Jewish hospital were taken out, and about half of them were beaten to death on the spot. At that time, S.S. men in four lorries arrived at the corner of Szeroka and Bielska Streets, shouting "Juden heraus!".
All the Jews were driven from their homes and concentrated on Szeroka Street. There they remained from early in the morning until noon. Packages, handbags, etc. were taken away. They were told to enter trucks, while those who were unable to do so, such as elderly and sick people, were shot. About 200 people were loaded on each truck. 4000 Jews were expelled to Działdowo camp during this 21st of February 1941. The remaining Jews, including "Judenrat" members who were held responsible for the presence of the deportees at the concentration point, were ordered to return home.
The second and last deportation took place on March 1st, 1941. A day before, all the "Judenrat" members were arrested. The second deportation followed the pattern of the first one. The expelled reached Działdowo in 4 hours time, making their way through villages and townships, where gentiles threw bread and sausages into their trucks.
About 7000 Jews arrived at Działdowo, where they were accommodated in dirty huts, which had been emptied of their former prisoners. The Germans continued looting clothes, shoes and personal belongings. Every day a transport of 1,000 people was sent from the camp, arriving at the railway station barefoot and half-naked.
Plotzk became "Judenrein".
The author quotes the Historian Dr. Ringelblum, who had written in connection with the deportation of Jews from ancient communities like Kalish and Plotzk:
"There was no period in their 800-year history, when Jews were not living there".
Jews mentioned in this chapter (partial list, translated from the Hebrew part):
Karasz First victim. (page 449)
Killed in Gombin during the attack of 39: Tilman family, Gombinski family, Warszawiak family, Bursztyn family, Goldberg family, Manczyk family, Toibenfligel family, Ben-Cjon Parwa, Marisia Sziber. (page 449)
10 hostages among the notables of Płock: Alfred Blei, Natan Graubart, Lewek Kilbert, Chanoch Szilit, Mosze Sochacower, Adv. Flag, Klinkubstein, Globus, Flaks. (page 450)
Among the first Victim: the baker Rozenstein. (page 450)
Elderly Jews tortured: Sender Chmiel, Meir Kohen. (page 451
Abused by the Nazis: the son of Yosef Finkelstein. (page 451)
Cohen from Tomska Street – his property confiscated. (page 451)
Płockers refugees in Warsaw: Kiper the watchman, the dentist Kanarek, Mosze Bodnik, Mosze Sochacower, Izak Hazenszprung who was active in the Judenrat of Ghetto Warsaw and helped his brethren, Eng. Szajnwicz, Eng. Cybolski, Koenigsberg, Jagoda and others. (page 452)
Refugees fled to Russia via Bialystok: Simcha Minc and his wife, Pianknagura, Becalel Okolica and others. (page 452)
Refugees arrived to Wilna: Pianknagura, Majranc, young Krutenberg, Wajngram and others. (page 452)
Members of the first Judenrat in Płock: Chairman Dr. Bromberger, Samek Szatan, Szperling, Y. Zeligman, Szachtman, Szajnwicz Guzik and more. (page 452)
Kidnapped to work for the Gestapo on May 1st, 1940 and badly abused: L. Geleibter and the brother of Pinchas Buchman, Muszkat, Segal, Kredit, Berman and others. (page 453)
Dr. Bresler and Mrs. Firstenberg tried to keep sanitary conditions in the ghetto. (page 454)
Szatan, chairman of the Judenrat (page 454)
Szymon Kriszek, a popular activist in the Płock Ghetto. (page 454)
Jehoszua Hoichman, a Gestapo attack on his house led to expelling all its tenants to prison and execution later. (page 454).
Document: letter of the Red Cross to Chaim Ber Rubin from Mojzesz Leib Rubin in Palestina. Returned with German stamp: "no more in Płock 20.2.41." (page 456)
Mother of B. Okolica bitten to death during the first deportation 20.2.41. (page 456)
Hersz Natan Asz arrived dead to Działdowo in the second and last deportation. (page 457)
Among the deportees: the blind man Grabowski, the father of Mordechai Florek. (page 458)
Among the refugees who escaped to Russia were also: Gitl Grossman, Dawid Gold, Plocer and others. (page 458)
Mosze Tinski tried to assist the old people from the old men hospital but was kidnapped as well. (page 459).
Testimony by the deportee Abraham Mosze. (page 458)
PLOTZK REFUGEES IN EXILE
The majority of the expelled Plotzk Jews was sent to Bodzentyn, in the Kielce region. Another transport arrived on March 11th at Tomaszow Mazowiecki wherefrom the refugees were sent to nearby townships; a third transport was directed to Kielce and from there to three other localities.
About 1500 Plotzk Jews, mostly of the poorer classes were concentrated at Bodzentyn, where they arrived without clothes, shoes or money. The local Kehila organized a kitchen for them which prepared every day about 1500 meals and distributed bread rations of 150-200 gram per person, free of charge.
A committee of Plotzk refugees was organized in Bodzentyn and an appeal was sent to Warsaw, asking for help. A letter of May 5th describes the position of the refugees. Epidemic diseases had caused many deaths. "We had to bury 100 of our brethren" communicated another letter. Mortality was high. People wore rags, were hungry and were covered with wounds. About 800 refugees arrived by train at Chmielnik. The Jews of that township, who were still unmolested, could not believe the horror stories they heard from the refugees. Some of them found hard work there as wood-cutters. Their committee received small sums of money from Plotzk refugees in Warsaw and used them for constructive help. In April 1941 a ghetto was instituted in Chmielnik, from which the people were later on, in October 1942, sent to Treblinka.
Another group numbering 700, was sent to Suchedniow, where they remained under similar conditions until September 22, 1942, when they were deported to Treblinka.
Smaller transports of Jews from Plotzk arrived at Wierzbnik (about 300 refugees), at Starachowice, Daleszyce, Zarki, Drzewica and other places. Everywhere conditions were unbearable. Lack of food, lack of sanitation, hopelessness. Many died of epidemic diseases since it was impossible to obtain medical aid. Initially efforts were made to organize some food supplies or to raise funds but later on all efforts proved futile as the majority of Plotzk refugees were sent from all these places to Treblinka and the rest of them to other death camps. A few escaped during deportation but were killed later on. At the final conclusion of the war only a handful survived.
Jews mentioned in this chapter (partial list, translated from the Hebrew part):
Josef Diamant – in charge of mutual aid activities in Radom, sent the messenger Y. Winer to check the situation of Płock refugees in the Tomaszow Mazowiecki region. (page 460, 461)
Committee of Płock Jews in Bodzentyn: Dr. Jakob Blumen Chairman, Hersz Cytrin secretary. (page 461)
The new Committee in Bodzentyn was: H. Cytrin, A. Groyer, Horowicz, Eng. Rubin, Y. Ajzik and L. Granat. (page 466)
Families who died in Bodzentyn due hunger, typhus and unbearable conditions: Szperling family, Alberg family and others. (page 461)
Among the refugees to Chmielnik were: Goldkind family, Zeligman family, the dentists Fuks, Brigrad, old Rotman with his daughter Marila Kolska, the brothers Najman, Mosze Florek and his family, the Cytrinblum family, the Bomzon family, the Barkenfeld family and others. (page 466)
The Committee in Chmielnik consisted of: Jakob Zeligman chairman, Zelda Parwa, Azriel Najdzwidz, Nachman Szyk, Jechiel Fliderblum, Abraham Cytrynblumand Icchak Kronenberg.
Murdered during the deportation to Treblinka from Chmielnik on October 5th, 1942, the old man Globus, Dr. Ugenfisz killed himself. (page 462)
Escaped from deportation to Treblinka from Chmielnik: Gerszon Mendelson and Motek Glowinski. (page 462)
In Czestochowa the refugee, Szperling, a Zionist activist died only after one week since he lamented a Płocker friend in his funeral. (page 463)
Dawid Mendelson tried to escape the Aktion in Czestochowa (22 September – 5 October 1942) but was shot. (page 463).
Refugees who remained in Czestochowa after the akcja: Rywka Glanc, the brothers Lichtman and others. (page 463)
Temporary Committee of the Płocker refugees in Wierzbnik consisted of: Jakob Lewin, Mordechai Glowinski, Nisan Wajnstok, Gerszon Bergson and Dawid Buch. (page 463)
Among the refugees in Starachowice: Icchak Asz, Kurstein and Firstenberg. They were killed and buried in the local Jewish cemetery. (page 463)
During the deportation from Starachowice, Nunik Kurstein hid in a bunker but was found and he and his friends were all killed by the Germans. (page 464)
Refugees Committee in Zarki consisted of: H. Stern, D. Rubinstein, Y. Strach. (page 464)
In Drzewica the Płocker Committee consisted of Burstein and Szibek. (page 464).
In Bialaczow Szlomo Puterman served as the leader of the Płocker refugees.
In Gelniow managed the public kitchen Dr. Widawski. (page 465)
The Kalman family arrived to Skarzysko. The parents and the young sister were deported to death. Regina Kalman survived. (page 465, 466)
In Skarzysko worked Tynski, Najdorf, Muksel, Szapira, Fajka, Adolf Kohen, the sisters Fierstein, Berman, two boys 14 years old: the son of Kohen who repaired sewing machines and the grandson of Chaim Gutman. (page 466)
In Hassag Forced labor camp in Czestochowa worked Tynski, Kleinman, Szapira, Jagoda the milkman, Jagoda the municipality clerk, Lichtenstein, Zilberberg. (page 466)
Among the elders survived only Dr. Bresler. (page 466)
In Majdanek death camp were Y. Tinski, Motel Grobman, Dawid Szlomo Zajdman, Winogron, the optometrist Szajnwicz, the agronomist Minc, Kriszek, Gunszar. (page 466)
In Buchenwald were the 4 brothers Lichtman, among them Reuwen, the general secretary of "Poalei Zion" in Płock. One brother died of hunger. (page 466)
In a camp near Landsberg, among some Płockers was Mana who perished. (page 466)
In Bergen-Belsen was Chanka Grosman.
Rachel Tiber survived a few Nazi camps and drowned later while trying to reach the shores of Eretz Israel illegally after the war.
Szmuel Hering, Chaim Milchman and Mosze Mordechai Laks gave testimonies about the horrible condition in ghetto Suchedniow. (page 466)
Abraham Ibiczki testified about ghetto Czestochowa (page 466)
ACTS OF RESISTANCE
In spite of the unbearable conditions under which the Plotzk Jews were forced to live, they never lost their hopes of survival. In the early stages they tried to take advantage of commercial connections with Christian neighbors in order to obtain foodstuffs. There are some sources indicating that a group of Jewish women used to smuggle food into the hands of those doomed to be deported to death. The Committee of Plotzk Jews in Warsaw succeeded a number of times to send money and food to their native town. Even cultural and education activities were still carried out in town until the deportation.
After the German authorities closed the synagogues, Jews continued to organize illegal services in private homes. Some orthodox people who were about to be deported, sewed their prayer shawls into their coats, as they wanted "to die as Jews", and refused to eat non-kosher food. One man took a scroll of the Law with him and paid with his life for refusing to be separated from it. At a public execution of 25 Jews at Imielnica one of those about to die called on the survivors to take revenge. But above all Jews from Plotzk took a very active part in the heroic Treblinka uprising.
A Plotzk Jew called Adolf, who worked before the war as Inspector of the bus route Warsaw - Plotzk, one day threw a hand-grenade on the Ukrainians who brought a transport of Jews from Warsaw and killed many of them. He found his death in the shooting which followed. A porter, called Kozibrodski, whom the Germans at Treblinka employed at collecting jewels from the doomed to death, was instrumental in providing means for obtaining clandestine arms. Some Plotzk Jews helped Captain Galewski, who was in charge of the prisoners, in the organization of the uprising, which took place on August 2nd, 1943. Several of the Jewish prisoners from Plotzk joined the heroes who overpowered the Ukrainian guards. One of them, Rudek Lubraniecki, caused a number of casualties among them and blew up a petrol station. Another group entered the arms-depot, took out rifles and distributed them among 200 people. Others attacked the Germans with axes, hoes, etc. Gas chambers were set on fire. A few escaped but many were killed by German reinforcements, who were rushed to the camp to crush the revolt.
The last part of this chapter enumerates some deeds of individual heroism, shown by Plotzk Jews wherever they were, as for example, Moshe Bahir (Szklarek), who participated in the heroic uprising in the Sobibor death-camp.
PLOTZK AFTER THE HOLOCAUST The destruction of the ancient Jewish community of Plotzk was complete. Only a negligible number of Jews survived, those who had managed to get "Aryan" papers or had found shelter in forests or in hiding places. These survivors came back to their former hometown in May-June 1945 and were joined later by those who had escaped to Russia at the beginning of the war. Altogether 300 people (out of 9000 before the Nazi invasion) returned. The whole Jewish quarter was demolished, while the rest of town remained intact. The Germans destroyed the interior of the Great Synagogue and looted all its ornaments. The tombstones of the Jewish cemetery were removed and the cemetery was converted into a pasture. Only the quotation from the prophet Ezekiel "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways for why will ye die, o House of Israel" remained inscribed on the gatepost.
The survivors organized a committee, which tried with all its means to restore Jewish life to town. The first task was to find work for the survivors. The Central Jewish Committee in Warsaw allocated some sums from which more than 20 workshops (tailors, furriers, glaziers etc.) were set up. The new Polish authorities showed the survivors sympathy and readiness to help. In 1946-1947 the Committee established an orphanage, a club, a library, a dramatic circle etc. A monument, planned by the architect Perlmuter, was erected in honor of the Plotzk Jewish War Victims.
But in spite of all these efforts, and especially those of A. Blei, who was most active in restoring Jewish life, the few survivors did not find it possible to remain in their native town. Some cases of renewed anti-Semitism, even of blood libel occurred. Townspeople spread rumors that the Jews had killed a Christian boy for ritual purposes. The notorious Kielce pogrom occurred in that period. And though the authorities protected the Jews in general against onslaughts, a feeling prevailed among the Plotzk Jewish survivors that there was no place for them even in the new Poland. The "exodus" began in 1947. Some immigrated to Western countries, but the majority joined their brethren in Israel.
Only 98 Jews lived in Plotzk in October 1947. In 1959 their number had decreased to 3.
The old Chairman of the Committee who had devoted his last years to the restoration of Jewish life in Plotzk, died there without attaining this goal. Even the monument to the dead - according to witnesses - is in a stage of disintegration, as there is nobody to take care of it...
THE JEWS OF PLOTZK IN EXILE
Several letters of Plotzk-born Jewish refugees, written in 1941, are published under this heading. These letters, whose originals in Polish and Yiddish are part of the "Ringelblum Archives", were written by exiled Jewish inhabitants who had been driven out by the Nazis from Plotzk in February-March 1941 and were temporarily "settled" in some small hamlets where they suffered from hunger and diseases. The victims of that deportation did not know at that time, what their final destiny would be, and they write to friends asking for help.
The common denominator of all those letters is the hope that the days of hunger and suffering and epidemic diseases will one day become a matter of the past. We further learn from them that the Plotzk Jews were discontent with the attitude shown to them by the Jews of Bodzentyn who in their opinion, did not offer them assistance. In fact all of them eventually shared the same fate, prior to their final annihilation.
Among these letters there is also one written by Hayim Flachs, a popular Yiddish writer, who published several novels and stories.
This bundle of letters ends with a detailed report compiled by prominent leaders of Plotzk refugees who lived in 1941 in Warsaw, concerning the position of the refugees in 8 different localities. This document, which is of great historical value, describes the tragic conditions of life of a few thousand hungry, sick and helpless Jews, who waited in vain for salvation, not knowing what awaited them.
JEWS OF PLOTZK UNDER THE NAZI TERROR
By D. Dąbrowska
A historical survey based on authentic information gathered by the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland. The survey includes descriptions of all the events, starting on September 8th, 1939 (when Plotzk was invaded by the Germans) through the establishment of the ghetto, the various deportations, until its final liquidation on March 1st, 1941, when the "Jewish Committee" was ordered by the Nazis to bury the dead and join the last group of the deported Jews.
Dina Inowroclawska (Zylberman) Testimonies of Mrs. Lea Moszkowicz, the daughter of the melamed (Hebrew teacher) Benyamin Kopyto and of Mrs. Dina Inowroclawska, (ne'e Zylberman)
The former describes the death of her father, who was kidnapped and killed by the Nazis, and the latter depicts her life, from her eleventh year onwards, in various camps in which she spent the war years.
Regina Kalman Was expelled from Plotzk in 1941, together with 10,000 Jews of the ghetto. She was sent to work under the worst possible conditions in ammunition factories. Starved, beaten by Storm-Troopers and without proper clothes, she survived only by mere chance. She was released by the Soviet army in Leipzig.
Felicja (Fela) Ravitzka Escaped death by acquiring Aryan papers and disguising herself as a 30 year old widow. With these papers she found employment as a cashier in a big Warsaw suburban store. Her employer never knew her real identity. At the end of the war she left for England.
Unnamed Person The testimony of the above was obtained from the files of the "YIVO" Institute, New York. He describes the situation of the Jews in the Ghetto before February 20th, 1941, the day of its liquidation. On that date - according to his testimony - the first 3000 Jews of Plotzk were driven from their homes and transported in an unknown direction.
Dr. H. Russak The above and his wife, both Plotzk-born, studied medicine in Paris at the beginning of the war. In May 1941 he was arrested and sent to a Nazi camp. His wife remained in Paris and maintained contact with his parents who had been deported to concentration camps in Poland. The description of the conditions in his camp, as well as his wife's correspondence with him and his relatives, convey an authentic and true picture of the terrible conditions in those camps and of their inmates' daily endeavors to survive.
Dr. H. Russak's testimony ends with the approach of the Allied forces and the prisoners' last struggle with the typhus epidemic which broke out after the liberation.
R Lichtman A letter written in Germany in 1946. R. Lichtman survived the Holocaust since he was capable of doing hard work. On his release from the Buchenwald concentration camp, his weight was only 37 kilos. He waited for the moment to leave Germany, whose soil is soaked with Jewish blood.
Simcha Mintz A letter describing the conditions of work in a saw-mill at a little township in West Ukraine, where he lived as a refugee. He escaped there from Plotzk at the outbreak of the war and did not know at that time the fate which had met his brethren in his native town.
A REMINDER ("REGARDS")
By Haya Elboim-Dorembus
The author recalls various events since the beginning of 1940. She had lived in Warsaw at that time and managed to escape to Plotzk in order to try and save her family there. She crossed the frozen Vistula river together with a group of Poles. In her birthplace she found only destruction and death. She describes her last meeting with a friend who was tortured by the Germans.
By Haya Elboim - Dorembus
From the book in Yiddish: "Oyf der aryszer zeit" , written by the author and published in Tel Aviv 1957.
This paragraph was published in the Yizkor book of Plock, "Plock, a History of an ancient Jewish Community in Poland, editor Eliyahu Eisenberg, Tel Aviv , 1967, pages 565-566, and translated from Hebrew by Mrs. Bianca Shlesinger March 1999
...Here is Plock. My Plock. It is barely one year since I left and the town is not the same anymore. Rows of deserted houses on which red flags fluttered bearing large swastikas. Streets empty of people. Everything is full of the life that isn't anymore. At every corner - shadows of the past. The awakened shadows are kind of accompanying me, whispering with sad voices remembrances from the past. The eyes take in, with love and sadness, all that once was so near, so familiar. All the windows are hidden by curtains, most of the shops are closed. Silence everywhere, as in a cemetery. Here is Somkat street and there, by the corner, what was once my house. The shop, the window.
The gate. Should I go in? Go on, go on. My steps resound with a faint and frightful sound. There, the coffee house of Gozakwitz. The door is closed, bolted. Does Rozke sill leave in her previous room? I wish she would be home. Three more houses, and two more.
Suddenly steps. What do I hear, the Hatikva song here? I stand as petrified by the gate and am unable to move. A large group of Jews, with working tools on their shoulders, is nearing. They march in lines of four. A black square under the guard of two Germans.
"Sing, Sing! Loudly! - Shouts one of them, rising the bat of his rifle.
The loud song of Hatikva fills the empty street and rises above the roofs of the houses. The first Jew in the row is drenched in blood. Did they beat him in the eyes? His face is familiar to me, who is he? Yes, yes, it is Weinberg. His shirt and jacket are drenched in blood. He cannot see me. With his lonely eye he looks head, far away, his mouth open, full of blood, mumbling the words of "Hatikva". The German is not aware what kind of song this is.....
"Louder, louder !"
* * * *
Kolgialna 11. Breathless I go up the steps and reach the door of Rozke's flat. I stop for a moment and then, gathering strength, I knock. I hear Rozke's voice. A boundless weariness overcomes me. The room spins around, together with me. Rozke holds me in her arms and cries, cries bitterly.
That same evening I went to see Weinberg, in his flat on Seroka Street. In the small room, in the corner by the sink, flickered the feeble light of a candle. His wife went about the room , silently, like a silent shadow. Weinberg lay on the bed, fully clothed. A wet cloth covered his mouth. Suddenly he jumped up and the cloth fell off, discovering a mashed face.
"You are here in Plock? How did you dare to put yourself in danger and come into this hell?"
Broken words were exchanged, words of suffering and answers. I tell him the reason for my coming. Two burning hands press into mines:
- "How I wish you to succeed to reach your home in safety. All my life I have dreamed of the Land of Israel, of a plot of land; of green pastures, of cows and sheep. I wanted to be a shepherd, a Jewish farmer in a Jewish village and eat form my own bread"....
He was completely detached from the reality of his present life and hovered about on the wings of his vision. He looked at me with his one good eye as from the depth of an abyss and whispered to me his dreams. The yellow light of the candle added to the horror of his wounded eye. The eyelashes trembled and twisted. Suddenly, In the heavy silence, a bitter crying erupted. His head fell on the pillow. His wife came forward and put a fresh wet cloth on the would. Under the cloth red tears were flowing.
- "Mr. Weinberg - I muttered - maybe you have a parents or a friend in Israel to whom you wish to send regards? If I will reach it , maybe I will reach it"......
Weinberg sat up brusquely.
- A friend? A parent? All the Jews are my friends and parents; regards? I send them as regards our today's "Hatikva", that is our "hope". Take with you the song to your new life. The day will come and the promise will be realized : "And there they will dwell until they will be commanded, God's words. And I will rise you and return you to this place". -
He fell silent. The tremulous, quivering light wandered around the room as if seeking refuge.
Outside reigned the night, silver-green, and a sense of doom prevailed in the empty streets and in the silent houses, on which hovered the red flags with the big swastikas . A pale, sickly moon crawled toward the sky, with a wounded eye and a mouth twisted by pain.
BETWEEN WARSAW AND PLOTZK
By Michael Zylberberg
These notes were written down on the "Aryan side" of Warsaw in May 1943. They comprise memories from the period beginning October 1939. The author, who lived at the outbreak of World War II in Warsaw, decided to visit his birth-place Plotzk. He made this journey by boat on the Vistula river, being disguised as a Polish gentile. On the way he and other travelers interrupted their trip at a little Port (Wyszogrod), where they had lunch at a Jewish restaurant. That small and remote township and its tranquil atmosphere, at a time when the discrimination against Jews and the preparations for their annihilation were already in full swing all over Poland - are the main subject of this article.
The author visits Plotzk, whose name was changed by a German decree to Schroetterburg, but decides soon to leave the place. In spite of the danger involved in using the same boat on the return journey, Mr. Zylberberg succeeds, thanks to his "Aryan" physiognomy, in returning safely to Warsaw, where he continued to live in the non-Jewish part of the city.
I LEFT THE GHETTO
By Helena Mairanc – Meiri
The author of these memories was one of the many people who escaped from Plotzk to Warsaw hoping that a place where there was a greater concentration of people, would spell greater chances for survival.
She and her husband lived in a Polish quarter until the ghetto was closed. After the July-"action" of 1942 many people, especially those with "Aryan" faces, tried to escape.
Mrs. Mairanc-Meiri made contact with non-Jewish friends outside the ghetto and with the help of a Gentile who used to enter the ghetto, succeeded to leave it in his company at the beginning of 1943. Until that time she was employed as a "useful Jewess" in a factory which produced ammunition and spare parts for the German war effort.
After leaving the ghetto she destroyed her "Ausweis" (work-card) and prepared herself for a new life, disguised as an Aryan Polish woman.
I WAS A "SUBMARINE" IN A NAZI-CAMP
By Judge Michael Koenigsberg
"Submarine" was the name given by the compensation committees, established after the war, to victims of the Nazi slave labor camps, who lived and survived with false papers.
The author of this testimony was such a "submarine". In the possession of Aryan papers, he was sent by the German Labor Office ("Arbeitsamt") to Vienna at the beginning of the war. Throughout the war he worked there under horrible conditions, underfed and poorly clothed, disguising himself as a Catholic Pole.
He tells an interesting episode - a short time before the liberation he met in the camp a Czech who, in a friendly conversation mentioned a certain book written by the Jewish author Shalom Ash. Mr. Koenigsberg pretended that he had never heard this name. He regrets that he never had a chance to meet Schalom Asch after the war in order to tell him of his popularity as a writer among non-Jews.
A REVOLT IN HELL
This article is based on the testimony of Marian Platkiewicz, a Plotzk Jew, one of the few survivors of the Treblinka death camp. He lived until July 1942 in the Warsaw ghetto, when he was suddenly taken to Treblinka in one of the Nazi "Actions" (mass deportations
There he was assigned to a working squad who collected the clothes of the camp victims, once they had been annihilated. He thus became an eyewitness to the process of killing people in the gas chambers. According to the quantity of clothes and the heaps of personal belongings (gold, watches, etc.) he could tell the number of Jews arriving in the camp daily (about 15,000 people).
The members of the squad to which he belonged were of course doomed to death, once they would have completed their work. The death camp was for many months disguised as a "transfer-camp", from where people were supposedly sent to "work" somewhere in the East. The signposts (like "waiting rooms", "buffet", "hospital") were fictitious, and were planned to deceive the new arrivals who would not believe until their last breath that they were led to their death.
Only those camp workers engaged, as Platkiewicz, in collecting the victims' personal belongings and other tasks, such as burning the bodies, knew the real nature of this disguised camp, which was in operation from August 1942 until August 2nd, 1943, when an uprising broke out.
The preparations for the uprising began at the beginning of that year. The first task was to accumulate the necessary amount of arms and ammunition and this could be done only by careful and extraordinary planning, which took into account the special conditions of the camp, where the various groups of prisoners were completely isolated from one another.
The initiator, planner and commander of this revolt was the unforgettable Captain Galewski, an engineer by profession. He planned, and with the help of others carried out an onslaught on a German depot of arms from which rifles and hand-grenades were taken and well hidden.
The second task was to organize groups which were to assume separate and special tasks in the general uprising. In accordance with the plan, the first act would be a hand-grenade attack on the German officers' club.
The plan worked out well and on the appointed day, late in the afternoon, the workers passed by the club and after having seen the boy taking off his hat (a sign that the Nazi officers were all inside their club) they attacked the premises with hand-grenades, which immediately started to burn.
This served as a signal for several other groups of fighters who attacked the Ukrainian sentries and then destroyed the gas-chambers. Unfortunately, the attackers did not succeed in cutting off the high tension electricity line and many of the inmates who tried to escape, according to the plan, were electrified to death by touching the barbed wire. The commander of the revolt then gave an order to open fire on the wired fence and thereby enabled the people to make a break-through.
The surprised Germans had no idea that a revolt had broken out inside the camp and thought that they were attacked by partisan fighters from the outside. Many of them were killed by the Jewish fighters who, after completing their task, escaped together with the rest of the camp inmates.
Unfortunately, they had no place to hide. They took temporary refuge in a nearby small forest where they could stay only overnight. During the night the Germans encircled the forest with troops and the majority of the fighters were killed by the Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators in the morning.
Platkiewicz, and a few of his friends, dared and succeeded to break through the German lines before dawn and later hid in a nearby village. They lived for several months in a hideout behind the barn of a friendly peasant and later joined the partisan groups which attacked German arms and supply trains and carried out many other acts of sabotage, which all contributed towards the final victory of the allies over the Nazis.
Platkiewicz survived and lives now in Israel. In 1964 he gave evidence before a Dusseldorf court in the criminal case against Kurt Franz, one of the Nazi commanders of the Treblinka camp.
Unlike the revolt in the Warsaw ghetto which is widely known in the world, the uprising in the Treblinka death camp has not yet come to the attention of the public at large.
These two historical events (as many others) refute the widely held belief that Jews were led to the slaughter like lambs, without offering resistance to their cruel oppressors.
The extraordinarily daring and heroic Jewish uprising in Treblinka, under indescribable difficulties, proves that the contrary was true.
POST-WAR EFFORTS OF REBUILDING JEWISH PLOTZK CAN NOT BE REBUILT
By Israel Gershon Bursztyn
The author, who was one of the small number of Plotzk-born Jews who returned after the war to their native town, describes the hopelessness and apathy of this tiny group which found Plotzk "Judenrein". Even after five years of suffering the Polish population of the town and its neighborhood showed its negative attitude to the returning Jews. In 1945 there occurred cases of murder in Poland and Jews were not safe in their homes, on buses or in trains. Even blood libel accusations similar to those known in the Middle Ages, were spread. The authorities, although willing to eradicate anti-Semitism, proved helpless against the bandits of the anti-Government groups, who were influenced by five years of Nazi indoctrination.
The late Mr. Bursztyn, who died several years ago in the U.S.A., was a leader of the Jewish Workers' Party in Plotzk, the "Bund", and as such all the pre-war Jewish places of Plotzk were dear to him. He describes with great nostalgia the town as it was, as well as the subsequent destruction.
We learn from this article that there were people in the town who did not surrender to the Nazis and once they realized that the destination of the deportees was extermination, they fought and encouraged their brethren to do likewise. He recalls the case of a young man who delivered an ardent speech against the Nazis and prayed that God would take revenge on them, right in the truck which took him and many others to their death.
He also describes the social activity of a man who took care of the Home for the Aged and stayed with the old people until the last moment. (A case similar to that of the Warsaw teacher Janusz Korczak, who proudly marched together with his pupils to the death-camp).
After returning to Plotzk, Mr. Bursztyn and his friends arrived very soon at the conclusion that they would have to leave this "valley of death", and find another place of residence. All their efforts to renew Jewish life in Plotzk were in vain. "The plant did not take roots again" - concludes the author.
I RETURNED HOME
By Israel Gershon Chanachowicz (Kent)
The author, a Plotzk-born refugee, left his native town a fortnight before the Second World War broke out in September 1939. He returned home after spending several years in Soviet Russia, where he worked under deplorable conditions in labor camps, longing for his birth-place without knowing what had happened there during his absence.
He describes the long train-journey from Siberia to Plotzk as a repatriate who still cherished some hope to find somebody of his family there. On returning home in 1946 he found his town empty of Jews. A Polish family lived in the house where he had spent his boyhood. After some hesitation, he entered his former home and asked its new inhabitants whether some pictures of his family were perhaps left there. In reply, the door was closed in his face with, a bang by a hostile woman.
After wandering a few days through town and meeting a handful of Jewish survivors he came to the conclusion that there was no purpose in his staying there.
The author tries to reconstruct his. memories of Jewish Plotzk's glorious past, its institutions, synagogues, organizations and cannot comprehend that this epoch is all a matter of the past. Even the cemetery had been destroyed. The Germans had taken the tombstones to Germany and now no evidence was any longer available concerning the previous existence of a great Jewish community in Plotzk.
A MEMORIAL MEETING IN LIBERATED PLOTZK On March 3rd, 1946 a meeting took place in Plotzk of' the handful of survivors, who had returned to town from the death camps, from Russia, from hideouts or places where had they lived disguised as Aryans. The chairman, Alfred Blei, paid tribute to' the memory of the nearly 9.000 Jews who were annihilated.
Messrs David Lichtenstein, Koenigsberg, Zielonka, Eisenberg, Platkiewicz and Margolin described the sufferings of the Plotzk Jews in the war years at all the stations of their torturous road td death.
One of the participants of the Treblinka uprising dedicated his" speech to the Plotzk Jews and other inmates of this death camp who had planned and carried out an attack on their Nazi oppressors, killed many of them and freed hundreds of Jews from that camp. Unfortunately they were eventually overpowered by the Germans and their Ukrainian helpers, and many of' them were killed. But with their death they proved that the Jews, whenever possible, made valiant attempts to fight their oppressors.
The chairman A. Blei encouraged the remnants of the old Plotzk community, among them a number of people from nearby Sierpc, to carry on Jewish life.
RE-BURIAL CEREMONY OF NAZI VICTIMS On October 21st, 1946 a re-burial ceremony of 25 Plotzk Jews who were killed by the Nazis near Imielnica village, was held. All the survivors who had returned to Plotzk as well as Government officials attended the ceremony. The dead were commemorated in speeches held by the Committee Chairman Alfred Blei and others.
Judge Koenigsberg gave a historical survey of Jewish life in Plotzk. Representatives of nearby localities were also present.
SUMMARY OF THE ACTIVITIES BY THE COMMITTEE OF PLOTZK SURVIVORS This is an excerpt of an article published in "Dos Naye Lebn" (New Life) Warsaw, No.20 of 1948, by M. Tirman, after his visit to Plotzk.
He describes the life of the survivors who tried to resettle after the war in Plotzk. Those who returned were assisted by central Jewish institutions in Poland and abroad. Great efforts were made to establish social and cultural institutions and to rebuild Jewish life. Alfred Blei and Mr. and Mrs. Koenigsberg distinguished themselves in this task and helped all those Jews who returned to town. 50 Jewish children were born in Plotzk after, the war and a lot was done to make conditions easier for their young mothers. A drama circle was established in order to restore cultural life, as it had been before the war.
The author also mentions the preparations made by the Architect Benjamin Arye Leib Perlmuter and the heads of the community towards the erection of a monument in memory of the martyrs.
UNVEILING OF THE MONUMENT A few hundred survivors of the Plotzk Jewish community assembled on October 23rd, 1949 and unveiled a monument in everlasting remembrance of the town's community. Representatives of nearby Jewish communities as well as of the authorities, were present. The Mayor of Plotzk, who was honored by unveiling the monument, noted that Jews had lived in Plotzk since 1237 and had always been loyal to the town.
The white stone monument was erected according to designs drawn by the Plotzk Jewish Architect Benjamin Arye Leib Perlmuter, in the shape of a tent. Its inscription reads "For these things I weep" (Lamentations, 1, 16) and a list of names of the 25 victims, whose bodies were exhumed there from their temporary graves, is added.
Representatives of the Polish army, the Central Committee of the Jewish survivors in Poland and of the Jewish combat organization delivered eulogies in memory of the victims.
ASSOCIATIONS OF PLOTZK JEW ALL OVER THE WORLD
PLOTZK JEWS IN ISRAEL
We have no details regarding the first immigrants who left Plotzk for Eretz Israel in the years before the Zionist movement was founded. Only one of them is known: Rabbi Tuvia Rubinstein came to Eretz Israel in 1875, and was known in Jerusalem by the name "Tuvia the Plotzker".
Julian Golde came to Eretz Israel in 1909, and joined the Kinneret group.
In 1925 there were already about 30 former Plotzk people in the country and in that year they held their first rally in Tel-Aviv. Although they did not establish a permanent organization, they used to meet, arrange parties and visit each other from time to time. Most of them lived in Tel Aviv, where the Shoshani home served as their centre.
Organizational activity started only in 1945, when survivors of the war began to arrive in the country. A Committee with members from Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem was elected that year. Its primary function was helping newly arrived Olim (immigrants to Eretz Israel) and sending money and clothing to the survivors in Plotzk, France, Holland etc.
The organization came into contact with former Plotzk people in the U. S. A., Argentine and elsewhere, asking them to render assistance to the survivors.
Once the relief work came to an end, the organization suffered a setback. Only after 1949 a group of members: Itzhak Ben-Shai, Eliyahu Eisenberg and others constituted themselves as an executive committee. Their main task was to help Olim to settle in the new State by granting loans, finding suitable employment and housing for them.
The 28th of Adar - on which the Jews of Plotzk were driven from their town by the Nazis - was proclaimed as a Memorial Day. On that day all Plotzker Landsleit in Israel convene every year in Tel Aviv with their families and after a memorial ceremony and the "El Male Rachamim" prayer, the committee reports on its activities in the past year and a new committee is elected. The 1951 convention was attended by Itzhak Grinbaum, and the establishment of "Irgun Yotzei Plotzk" (the Organization of Jews from Płock) was then formally announced.
When after 1957 scores of Plotzk-born families arrived in the country, the association increased its activities and the newly established Loan Fund (based on the legacy of the late I. G. Burshtyn) made it possible to grant interest-free loans to all the needy arrivals.
The committee passed a resolution to publish a Memorial Book of Plotzk. Although two such books in Yiddish already appeared, one in the Argentine and the second by the late Shlomo Greenspan in New York, it was felt that a book in Hebrew was needed, since Hebrew is the language of all Plotzk people and their children in Israel.
Eliyahu Eisenberg, the Vice-Chairman of Irgun Yotzei Plotzk, was appointed as Editor and he worked together with an editorial board, consisting of Messrs Moshe Rubin (Chairman' of the organization), Itzhak Ben-Shai, Itzhak Tinski, Benyamin Galewski and the late Shlomo Greenspan.
The Committee found several other suitable ways to commemorate the Plotzk Jewish Community. - A forest of 2.000 trees was planted in the "Martyrs Forest" of the Jewish National Fund near Jerusalem. The funds for the planting of these trees were collected from landsleit in Israel and in U.S.A. A memorial plaque was put up in the Martyrs Chamber on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
ITZHAK BARAK (ZELIGMAN) Born 1893, a founder-member of "Maccabi" in Plotzk and gymnastics teacher at the Jewish Gymnasium. From 1923 on one of the leaders of "Hehalutz" in town, he went with wife and daughter to Eretz Israel in 1925. Continued in his profession and became active in the Hagana, where he was put in charge of the underground arms production. He foiled many attempts by the British to discover arms and ammunition, and was very popular with members of the Hagana. Was given the rank of Lt. Col. in the Israel army, and went on several missions to various countries, in order to purchase arms, although his health, and that of his wife Clara, had suffered during the time of the underground. Was active in the Plotzk Association and always tried to help those in need. Passed away in 1954.
MORDECHAI LICHT Born in Plotzk, educated at the Jewish Gymnasium, where he interrupted his studies to go on Hachshara. At the age of 18 he went to Eretz Israel, worked first in Rishon Lezion and joined afterwards, with his wife and their two sons, the Moshav of Ein Vered. He devoted all his strength to the development of his farm under most difficult circumstances. During the disturbances of 1937 he was ambushed and murdered together with three friends by Arabs on their way home from the fields.
JOSEF ROSENFELD Born 1926 in Plotzk, was brought to Eretz Israel by his parents at the age of eight. Worked as a mechanic in British army camps and joined the Hagana in 1943, where he carried out several important tasks with great devotion. Was sent together with another 14 people to destroy a road bridge in Western Galilee – "Gesher Haziv" - where the whole group found their heroic death. He will always be remembered as one of the freedom fighters of Israel.
ELIAIIU KRUVI (KAPUSTA) A member of Hehalutz in Plotzk went on Alyia in 1938. Worked at carpentry in Rishon Lezion, where he was socially active on behalf of his fellow-workers. Was killed in the bombing of Rishon Lezion during the War of Liberation (1948).
ITZHAK ROSENFELD Came to Eretz Israel from Plotzk in 1925. Worked at a metal plant in Haifa. Was killed in the air-raid of the Tel Aviv Central Bus station in 1948.
URI KINAMON Son of Frida, ne'e Makower, and Josef. Born 1935 at Kfar Hess, he received in his parents' home an education which led him to a life of pioneer ideals and agricultural work. Serving in the Israeli Defense Army he was among the members of a new border settlement, Amatzia. He lost his life on duty in 1956 in the Negev.
HERSH COHEN A wealthy merchant in Plotzk, which he left in 1921 together with his family to settle in Eretz Israel. He experienced great difficulties of adjustment, but stayed on in spite of many crises. A horse, gone wild in the streets of Tel-Aviv, caused his death.
YECHIEL AVIVI (FLIDERBLUM) Born in Plotzk, educated at the local high school, joined "Hehalutz" and immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1926. A founder-member of Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha, afterwards worked in the building trade and with the Railways, where he was elected to the Workers Committee. Later on took a job in Haifa port. After the establishment of the State of Israel he founded a Histadrut company for the handling of imported goods which he headed till 1953, when he established the "Maritime Company" for Customs Brokerage. For many years chairman of the Customs Brokers Organization in Haifa and active in communal work. A serious illness brought his life to an all too early end.
YAAKOV FISHMAN A leader of Hashomer Hatzair in Plotzk. Studied at Warsaw University and was a teacher at the Prilutzky Hebrew Gymnasium there. Went to Eretz Israel at the end of the thirties, worked hard in building and porterage, but eventually returned to teaching. For many years Director of the Elementary School - in Bet Chanan, he educated the local youth with great love and devotion. A serious illness caused his death in 1966.
HISTORY OF THE PLOTZKER YOUNG MENS' ASSOCIATION IN NEW YORK
By Harry Lipner – Secretary
In the last few years of the 19th century many Plotzk Jews left Poland and emigrated to the United States of America. Because of economic necessity, and a desire to keep their social contacts with their fellow landsleit, they organized themselves into a society, under the above name, in the year 1893. The early leaders of this. group were A. Sanitsky, L. Langman, S. Kaufman, M. Heyman, I. Raphael and J. Safian.
The primary functions of the Society were to provide financial assistance when necessary, Sick and Sheva benefits, funeral allowances to the families, and Death Benefits to the widows of deceased members. In later years the Society took a great interest in general and national Jewish organizations, and is making annual contributions to the United Jewish Appeal, Histadrut, Hias, Ort, and Federation of Jewish Charities of Greater New York. Throughout its history our Society has been one of the most active and respected branches of the Federation of Polish Jews in America.
During the depression years of 1929-1930 many of our members were out of work and in great financial need. Through the generous contributions of some of our members a Loan Fund was quickly established. This fund took care of all our members in distress, and has been functioning satisfactorily ever since.
After the First World War our Society, together with a group of Plotzker landsleit, raised a fund of several thousand dollars to help our brethren in our home town. We also sent a sum of money to the Jewish Hospital in Plotzk, to establish a. ward in our honor.
After the Second World War we, together with our Ladies Auxiliary, again raised a fund of over $ 9000.00 which we distributed in cash, clothing, food packages, or machinery, to our surviving landsleit in Plotzk, DP Camps in Germany, Sweden, Canada, United States and Israel. This timely aid helped many individuals and families to start their lives anew, and to tide them over the initial difficulties of readjustment to post-war conditions.
With the establishment of the State of Israel we raised a substantial sum of money to help our landsleit in Israel establish a Loan and Relief Fund; plant over two thousand trees in the Plotzk section of the Martyrs Forest in the Judean Mountains, and prepare and publish a Memorial History in honor of the Martyred Dead of the Plotzk Jewish Community. During the past ten years the Society purchased over $ 5000.00 worth of Israel Government Bonds.
A few years ago, when the Society purchased new cemetery grounds, an impressive Memorial Gate was erected at its entrance to honor the memory of the Martyred Dead of Plotzk Jewry.
Throughout its long history the Society has been - blessed with able and devoted leadership. Among those who have already passed to the Great Beyond, besides those mentioned above, were the late Ex-presidents H. Domb, J. Wollman, D. Goldberg, L. Davis, I. Wisla, B. Dolman, M. Roberts, A. Rosenthal, S. Iron, and J. Gluckson.
The living Ex-Presidents, who have given much of their time and. efforts for the welfare of the Society, are S. Bornstein, Sol. Hyman, H. Lipner; L. Bomson, S. Sturman, M. Levy, J. Gomberg, S. Steinberg, B. Kosh, and M. Magnes.
At the present time the officers of the Society are"
Pres. - Geo. Seeman
V-Pres. - Dr. K. Bach, and C. Okolica
Treas. - S. Bornstein
Fin. Secy. - H. Lipner
Rec. Secy. - J. Gomberg
Trustees - M. Weitzman; J. Bernstein, N. Fink
Looking back at the record of the Society, extending over a period of seven decades, we see a record of many great accomplishments. We are proud of this record. The only sad note in this story concerns the ever-dwindling numbers in our membership. With the complete annihilation of the Jewish Community in Plotzk, and the complete stoppage of immigration to the United States, the main source of new membership has been destroyed. The younger people born in America consider themselves as American Jews only, prefer to join national Jewish organizations, and do not see any reason for continued existence of a traditional attachment to the memory of a Jewish community that exists no more. The active and older members of the Society can hardly 'find any fault in this attitude when we see a considerable number of refugees, born in Plotzk and now settled in the United States, turning a deaf ear to our appeals to join our Society.
SHLOMO GREENSPAN - IN MEMORIAM
By Bezalel Okolica
Shlomo Greenspan, one of those who helped us in obtaining material for this book, died unexpectedly on November 5th, 1966. He devoted many years of his life to the collecting of everything bearing any connection to Jewish life in Plotzk in the past. He frequently published articles on Plotzk's history in Yiddish journals in the U. S. A. and Canada, as well as a book on this subject.
The Scientific Institute in Plotzk decided after his sudden death, to award him a posthumous medal.
Shlomo Greenspan made arrangements to settle in Israel, but unfortunately he did not live to see the realization of his life-dream.
May his soul rest in life eternal.
PLOTZK JEWS IN THE ARGENTINE
The emigration of Jews from Plotzk to the Argentine started after the First World War and increased especially during the years of the Grabski crisis (1924-25). During those years the Plotzk people in the Argentine did not yet organize themselves, and only with the beginning of the Second World War were permanent activities started.
A temporary Committee was elected at a meeting which took place on November 10, 1939, at the house of Mr. N. Lerman, consisting of Messrs. M. Magnes - Secretary; S. Leibgot – Treasurer; N. Lerman and M. Lutenberg - organizers. The first General Meeting was convened in January 1940 and it elected a Standing Committee under the chairmanship of S. Pencherek. A hall was rented and a loan-fund for needy Plotzk immigrants established.
When the full impact of the Holocaust, which had wiped out the Jewish Community of Plotzk, became known, former Plotzk Jews in the Argentine did their utmost to extend assistance to the survivors. Funds, clothing and medical equipment were sent to the survivors jointly with the Plonsk and Nowy Dwor landsleit. The proceeds of various meetings and shows were also earmarked for this purpose.
Cultural activities were carried out in Buenos Aires, where a library was established, mainly through the efforts of the Hon. President of the Plotzk Association in Argentine, Mr. Israel Schreiber Halevi, who contributed many of his books to it.
A 246-page Plotzk Memorial Book, edited by Mr. Josef Horn in the Yiddish language was published by the Association in 1945.
More than 70 families who hail from Plotzk, mostly employees, artisans and some merchants, live today in the Argentine. Two of these have settled in Israel.
PLOTZK JEWS IN FRANCE
By Hanka Zimmerman
Scores of former Plotzk Jews lived before the second World War in Paris, where they studied and eventually settled down.
At the outbreak of the war some of them joined the anti-Nazi underground movement and found their death in the fight against the oppressors or in the annihilation camps.
The small group of Plotzkers, who survived, established there the "Association of Jews from Plotzk and vicinity", with the purpose of helping survivors financially and morally.
A touching last letter of a Plotzk Jew named Menachem Banach, who, before being put to death in Drancy concentration camp, wrote to his wife and daughter asking them to carry on and wait hopefully for a better life in a new world of peace and happiness, is quoted in the article.
PLOTZK JEWS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES
About 30 families from Plotzk live in Australia, mostly in Melbourne. The activities preceding the publication of this book arose their interest and they raised monies and contributed material. At the head of this undertaking stood the well-known Mr. I. M. Oliver (Ilover), assisted by D. Kowal, R. Strzyg, G. Szwarc, S. Rechtman. Regular correspondence with the Plotzk Association in Israel has been started.
ENGLAND Five families from Plotzk live in London and vicinity. The contact with them is weak and actually only Michael Zylberberg, who occupies an important position in the Jewish cultural live of England, is taking an interest in the commemoration of the Plotzk Jewish Community and has supplied important material for this book. His visits to Israel and various European and American countries have enabled him to meet with many of our landsleit.
USA - WEST COAST Approximately 15 former members of the Plotzk Community live in Los Angeles. They have met several times during the last two years thanks to the initiative of Benjamin Grey (Graubart), who has made great efforts to raise funds and assist us in our endeavors.
CANADA Ten families, who hail from Plotzk, live in Toronto and Montreal. Mr. Harry Koren (Korzen) maintains contact between them and the Plotzk Association in Israel.
IMAGES OF THE PAST ILLUSTRATIONS
I have added all the names of the people in the photographs which appear only in Hebrew or Yiddish captions! I apologize in advance for any spelling error I might have had and will correct if be advised of such error.
I believe that the order of the people is usually from right to left, but in most of the photographs it is unfortunately not mentioned. I also added source of the image when was not available in English and the date it was taken, when available but not mentioned in the English caption. My hope is to scan all the photographs and post in the Internet in the near future. I welcome any volunteers who agree to help me in this important task. "There is a whole world behind each name"... Every martyr had a name and a face and a history... The photograph which captured it commemorated the person for eternity.
Ada Holtzman, April 19th, 2004, Yom Hashoah 5764
Jewish Płock – A map
Poland, – a map
General View of Plotzk in 1627 (source: "Notatki Płockie" 5/39, 1966
Page of the Plotzk communal inventory-book (1616) (Historical Archives Jerusalem)
An appeal by the Jubilee Volume Committee, published on the occasion of the Community's 700th anniversary 1237-1937. Names on the appeal: M. Altberg, I. Sarna, Sz. Nichtberger, A. Plonskierowa, A. Blay
The old market square in 1870
Ahron Kahanstam, the teacher and educator
The Jewish Hospital
Old Age Home, founded by the Flatau family
Danziger Synagogue ("dos kleine beit-nudrashl") - Nahum Sokolov studied here in his youth
Standing (from right to left): Dr. M. Marinstras, Mrs. Ostrower, Byrzunski and more
Passover Seder with Jewish soldiers.
Sitting: Drabynka, Szymanski, Puterman, Zwirek, Turkeltaub, Dr. Bresler, Zwirek
The members of the "Vaad Hakehila" with the Talmud Torah Committee (1936). Sitting: Puterman, Sochaczower, Alberg, Dr. Bromberger, Szymanski, ..., Zylberberg Eliahu (the community secretary), Zylberberg icchak Meir, Lajb Kilbert (chairman of the community), German, Rabbi Ajdelberg, Kanarek, Szperling.
The wall and inscription which remained at the cemetery
The road to the cemetery
Fishl Fliderblum, the last Chairman of the Kehila (1939)
Lejb (Levek) Kilbert - chairman of the community
A. Samson, chief Cantor of the Synagogue
The Jewish Hospital on the name of Icchak Fogel
Physicians and nurses of the Jewish Hospital, 1930
Sitting:Madelion sisters, Rozenfeld, Plocer; doctors: Dr. Kadisz, Dr. Bresler, Dr. Fajnberg, Dr. Frankowski, Benjamin Luszynski, sister Sz. Hazan, "feltcher" Rozenfeld (standing).
The public worker Mrs. Altberg, with her daughter Emma, the Piano player
The regional conference of the Jewish Cooperative Bank Workers in Plotzk, April 1933.
In the middle: the regional inspector: Eng. Szalman.
The management and staff of the Jewish Cooperative Credit Bank
Sitting: Sz. Epstein, Y. Kruk, M.Alberg – the chief director, A. Graubard, N. Graubart
Standing (on top): Szwarc, Nachmanowicz, Kroin, Mendelson, Taub, Karasek
Standing (in the middle): Flaks, Y. Magnes, Grynszpan, Kalman
Management of Merchants Bank and its staff, 1930
Sitting: members of the board: J. Galewski, M. Sochaczower, L. Kilbert, J. Zeligman, K. Kohen
Standing:Alter (Kriszek), J. G. Chanachowicz, Gecel, Jasziewicz, Menchyk, Keselman, Zylberberg (Globus), Medalion
General Offices of the Merchants Bank
The entrance to the Jewish quarter – corner of the Jerozolimska, Grodzka, Stary Rynek
A lane in the old Jewish quarter
A lane in the old Jewish quarter
The Main street of the Jewish quarter
The Prashker House on Szeroka Street
An anti-Semitic leaflet 1938
Corner of the Tumska and Grodzka streets.
Among the standing are: Zylber, Rozenblat, Kurstein, Berland and Szyf
Grade Four of the Jewish Gymnasium (1919/20)
In the middle: the manager Sz. Heling
The students editorial committee of the Jewish Gymnasium, 1920
Standing:Glowinski, Staszyk, Holcman, Beker
Sitting:Kotowicz, Wydawski, Szybek, Stern, Mucny
Class with their teacher, Chava Meisels and Director Hirschberg
A class with their teacher. Miss R. Cohen
A class with Director Hirschberg and teachers D. Eisenberg and H. Zemel
Grade seven of the Jewish Gymnasium with the director and their teacher Mr. Tzofes, 1925
Grade Five of the Jewish Gymnasium with the director and their teacher Mrs. Goldkind, 1925
Grade Five of the Gymnasium (1932)
Sitting in the middle: the director Zylber, the Hebrew teacher Szkarlat
Graduates of the Jewish Elementary school (1928)
In the middle: the director Kagan and the teacher H. Rozental
Sitting:Mosze Sochaczower, Krur, Itzhak Fuchs, Dr. Fajnberg, Yoseg Galewski.
Meeting of Jewish National Fund volunteers, 1924
In the center: Aharon Beker, chairman of "Agudat Zion"; Mordechai Bromberger, the certified representative of KK"L, Chaja Kowadlo, chair person of the Zionist women organization and Rabbi Jakob Aszkenazi.
Invitation to the Opening of the "Akiba" Training Center
Names mentioned: Dr. Jehuda Oharensztejn, Izaak Fajnberg, Rabbi J. Askanas, Prof. D. Ajzenberg, Dr. R. Ber – Kanarkowa, Dr. J. Bresler, J. Farbowa, J. Galewski, Z. Kowalska, H. Rotkop, B. Rotman, W. Szperling
A group of "Akiba" girl members (1937)
At the top: ..., Graubart Zosia, Borenstein Chanka.
In the middle: Parwa Rozka, Altman Fela, Eisenberg Dawid (instructor) Przedcz Chania, Najdorf Franka, Graubart Jadzia.
At the bottom: ..., Przanica Marisia, Biniamin Galewski (instructor), Morstein Rozka, ....
A group "Akiba" scouts (1936)
At the top: Josef Krajcer, A. Szulman, A. Jeszon, ..., ..., M. Klawrajski.
Sitting: H. Rawina, B. Zeligson, Beniamin Galewski (instructor), ..., Jakob Krajcer, Libson.
A group of "Akiba" seniors (1937)
At the top: Eisenberg Eliahu, Goldberg lea, Glogowska Batia, Nasielska, Eiseberg Dawid.
Public Committee for the dedication of the "Maccabi" Flag, 1933
The stage of the City Theatre at the dedication ceremony of the "Maccabi" Flag, 1933
Presidency: Kruk, Szkarlat, Nymczyk (representative of the center), Eng. Szajnwicz, Mrs. Szajnwicz, Eng. Margolis, M. Rubin, Mosze Altberg, Dr. Rotfeld (delgate to the Polish Sajm and representative of the center), Sochaczower, Dr. Marienstras
Standing at the front: Baran Eliahu, Malgot Mosze.
"Maccabi" Committee prior to Aliya of Rubin family (1935)
Farewell banquet in honor of Dina and Moshe Rubin (1935)
The "Maccabi" canoes on the Vistula
Bicycle race of "Maccabi" in 1933 – ceremonyfor the winners
Second from left: Rudek Lubranicki – the hero of the Treblinka revolt.
In the center: Eng. Margulies, M. Rubin, M. Rubin, Dr. M. Marienstras
Programmes of various sports events of "Maccabi"
A group of Maccabi girls with their leader Lichtenstein (1938)
A "Maccabi" group with leaders (1938):
Goldberg, Szenwicz, Lichtenstein, Baran.
Calisthenics at the first public appearance of "Maccabi", 1916
Nathan Korzen: House
Nathan Korzen: Portrait of S. Segalowicz
Nathan Korzen: Portrait of the writer I. M. Weissenberg
Nathan Korzen: Plotzk Landscape
Nathan Korzen: Boy with flowers
Fishl Zylberberg-Zber: The Prisoner
Fishl Zylberberg-Zber: My uncle
Fishl Zylberberg-Zber: Peasant and a cow
Fishl Zylberberg-Zber Among the houses in Jews' Street
Fishl Zylberberg-Zber: View from Szeroka Street
Jechiel Meir (Maximilian) Eljowicz
Max Eljowicz: The Warsaw Dayan, R' Hershl Weiss
Max Eljowicz: Meir Dizengoff in 1936
Max Eljowicz: A Jewish porter
David Tuszynski: Memories of Plotzk
David Tuszynski: Goats Lane
David Tuszynski : Spice box
David Tuszynski: Anna Frank
Shmuel Har-Shalom (Friedenberg)
Shmuel Har-Shalom: The Old Man
Shmuel Har-Shalom: From Bondage to Freedom
Shmuel Har-Shalom: Water Drawers
The Nazi murderers walk on the "Tumy", third from left: the murderer Himler (Photo: "Notatki Płockie" Nr. 17/18, 1960).
The last sign of life - a month before deportation, sent by the Red Cross
Names identified: Herman, Renia, Iciek, Bela, Luba - 28.1.1941.
The only document from German sources attesting to the fact that the Jews of Plotzk were deported on February 20, 1941
Names in the document: Mojzesz Leib Rubin, Tel Aviv, Chaim Ber Rubin, Płock.
February 1941: The last day of the ancient community - deportation!
Gate to the Działdowo concentration camp
A map of exile and extermination places of the Plotzk Jews
Arrival of the Plotzk deportees at the Chmielnik railway station (1941)
Arrival of the Plotzk deportees at the Chmielnik railroad station
A memorial assembly of the Sheerit Hapleita (the survivors) in Germany, 1947
Part of letter by the Committee of the Płocker refugees in Bodzentyn (Ringelblum Archive).
Signed (the Committee): Dr. Bluman J., Ajzyk J., Cytryn H., Ankan J. (?), Horowitz J. Eng. Rubin J.
A letter sent by Icek Szpilman and his mother from Zarki (March, 1941).
A page of a letter written by Chaim Flaks
Reconstruction model of the Treblinka death camp (made by Jakob Wiernik) at Beth Lochamei Hagetaot
Marian Platkiewicz, son of Jakob and mother ne'e Girek.
Rudek Lubraniecki, one of the heroes and victims of the Treblinka revolt
Moshe Bahir (Szklarek)
One of the hells on earth: Sobibor
Wladystaw Broniewski, the Polish poet
Itzhak Bernsztein H"yd – a writer and an activist
"Treblinka", Sculpture in stone by Prof. A. Ber
Y I Z K O R
Memorial Tablet of Plotzk Jewry on Mount Zion
The first Seder night of the Sheerit Hapleita (surviors), 1946
"Oneg Shabbat" of Plotzk returnees, 1946
A group of Germans who were brought to the grave of Jews murdered by the Nazis
Exhumation - Opening of a mass grave, in which 25 Jews murdered by the Nazis had been buried. Their names were: Grynszpan Mosze, Sadzowka Mosze, Bogacz Reuwen, Płocker Hersz, Przachedzki Dawid and his son Abraham, FlaksAbraham and his son Pinchas, Rotblat Simcha Lajb, Szwarc Moniek, Porzka Jakob, Bursztyn Abram, Bursztyn Israel, Kredit Mark, Zilberberg Hersz Reuwen, Fajka Efraim, Papierczyk Fiszel, Korstein Mosze, Szmit Aharon Lajzer, Goldberg, Graubard Efraim, Rifenholc Icchak, Kamzel, Herszkowicz Cadok, Zgal Alter.
Unveiling of the Memorial Monument
The Memorial to the Holocaust victims, erected in 1949 on the grounds of the cemeetry (designed by Architect A. Perlmuter).
The Synagogue in its loneliness and destruction
Israel Gerszon Bursztyn, speaking at a meeting of Plotzk Jews
A memorial assembly of the Sheerit Hapleita (survivors), 1947
Memorial service for the martyrs of Plotzk and vicinity (Płock, Wyszogrod, Gombin, Ciechanow, Mlawa, Bodzentyn).
A kindergarten of the Sheerit Hapleita.
In the middle: Alfred Blaj
Memorial meeting at Landsberg (Germany), 1947
A newspaper published by the Cultural Committee of the Sheerit Hapleita,1946
Those who "came back" in 1946.
In the center: Alfred Blaj
The road to the river – nowadays
Sheerit Hapleita (survivors) Committee.
Sitting: J. G. Chanachowicz, Mrs. Giterman, Mrs. Koenigsberg, Lichtenstein.