THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY presents

 The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

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Copyright © by the United Zembrover Society, Inc. of New York, NY, USA.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.


First Edition

 




Other Books by Jacob Solomon Berger
 

The Zelva Memorial Book
The Book of Remembrances
The Dereczin Memorial Book
The Volkovysk Memorial Book: A Trilogy
The Zamość Memorial Book
The Szczebrzeszyn Memorial Book
The Cieszanow Memorial Book
The Tomaszow-Lubelski Memorial Book
The Belica Memorial Book
The Baranovich Memorial Book: A Trilogy



The frontispiece is the Emblem of the Town of Zambrów: Head of an Ox, with the Insignia in Latin:
SIGILLIUM CIVITATIS ZAMBROVIENSIS (Seal of the Zambrów Town Hall).
 

Published in the United States by the United Zembrover Society, Inc., New York, NY USA.

Printed in the United States of America.

 

 

 

Director's Statement

 



The Zambrów Rynek (Town Square)


The United Zembrover Society (UZS) welcomes you to its English translation of the Zambrów Yizkor Book, or Book of Remembrance.
 

The UZS is one of a dwindling number of still-active landsmanshaftn (mutual aid societies), and is more than one hundred members strong. Most all of our current members are proud descendants of Zembrovers. We are each part of this society because we have a need to stay connected to our heritage, and because of this meet yearly in order to share our common bond by "breaking bread" together and talk about the Jewish Zambrów that once existed, to do whatever we can to preserve the memory of our beloved "ancestral town." Our society is still going strong, more than one hundred years after it was first established.


The Zambrów Yizkor Book was first published in 1963 by the combined societies of those who were descended from the Jewish community of Zambrów, Poland. 
 

Zambrów was a once-vibrant community which, like so many Jewish communities that once existed in Europe, was wiped out by those who once sought our complete annihilation. These descendants of Zembrovers -- both those who were born and at one time lived in Zambrów, as well as those who were their progeny -- at the time of publication lived in various parts of the world such as the United States, Israel and Argentina.

This Yizkor Book does an excellent job in preserving the memory of the past history of Zambrów town, from its origin and the first sign of Jews in the community (at least in the early seventeenth century), to the presentation of a plethora of accounts of various aspects of Jewish life there, as well as colorful descriptions of many personages of Jewish faith who once populated Zambrów.

 

The original version of the Zambrów Yizkor Book was written in two languages. Most of the stories told within this tome have been written in both Yiddish and Hebrew. If one were to read both versions, one would find very much the same version, though there may be some minor differences. One might find some small additions and subtractions in text, as well as some corrections noted by the Yizkor Book's dedicated editor, Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky, a fellow Zembrover. When there is a significant difference in the Yiddish and Hebrew versions, it is noted and explained within the footnotes that are provided.
 
In my capacity as Founder and Director of the Museum of Family History, I would also like to urge each of you to visit the Museum of Family History's World Jewish Communities Zambrów exhibition when you have the time. Here you will find much more material about our beloved town.
 

Once again, the Board members of the United Zembrover Society welcomes you and wish that you enjoy reading about the town of our beloved ancestors.
 

Best wishes for a long and happy life.

Steven Lasky
Founder and Director
Museum of Family History
wjc@museumoffamilyhistory.com

First Vice-President and Cemetery Liaison
United Zembrover Society

Table of Contents    
     
Editor’s Foreword                                                    xiv
A Word from the Zembrover Organization in Israel              xvii
The Origins of Zambrów    
The Historical Pages……….By Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky    3
A. When Did Zambrów Become a City?                                          3
B. The Privileges of the City                                                   3
C. The First Sign of Jews                                                     4
D. The Name of the City                                                      4
E. The Political Situation                                                      5
F. Geography and Topography                                                 5
G. Jews Build the City                                                        6
H. From When On, Were There Jews in Zambrów?                                 7
I. Tykocin Protects the Zambrów Jews                                           8
J. The Jews of Zambrów in the Year                                         9
K. Zambrów Has No Control over Cieciorki                                      9
L. To Whom Does Sedziwuje Belong?                                          19
M. The Founding of the Chevra Kadisha in the Year                           11
N. By 1767 There Still Is No [Jewish] Community                                12
O. The First Cemetery – In the Year                                        13
P. The Synagogue and Houses of Study                                         14
Q. The Bath House and the Mikva                                             16
R. The Poswiatne                                                           16
S. The Military District                                                      17
T. The Post Office                                                          18
U. The First Great Fire                                                      18
V. The Zambrów ‘Gangsters’                                                 19
W. The Second Great Fire                                                    21
From Bygone Zambrów……….By Mendl Zibelman    22
Introduction                                                               22
A. Moshe Shammes and My Father, Israel-David                                22
B. Zambrów in the First Half of the Century                                  23
C. The Zambrów Barracks                                                    25
D. Good Times Arrive                                                     26
E. My Father Rides a Horse, and Cholera is Driven from the Town                   27
F. The Maggid Eliakim Getzel Forced to Leave Zambrów (1895)                     27
G. The First Great Fire   28
H. Zambrów Also Crowns Nicholas II (1896)                                    30
I. A Jew is Murdered in Zambrów (1905)                                        31
J. The Revolutionary Parties in Zambrów                                        31
K. A Mutiny in the Zambrów Barracks                                          32
Letter II                                                                  61
Letter III                                                                  61
The Beginning of the End……….By Yitzhak Stupnik    62
When the Russians Occupied Zambrów                                      63
Blood, Fire, and Columns of Smoke……….By Yitzhak Golombek    64
I. Zambrów – My Birthplace                                            64
II. The War Between Poland and Russia                                    65
III. The Expulsion of the Jews of Ostrów Mazowiecki Begins                   65
IV. The Russian War in 1941                                             66
V. The Sorrowful Tuesday                                              67
VI. Dealings with the Germans about a Ghetto                               68
VII. The New Aktion                                                    68
VIII. The Preparations to Occupy the Ghetto                                  69
IX. Life in the Ghetto                                                  69
X. A Typhus Epidemic in the Ghetto                                      70
XI. Jewish Valuables are Turned Over to be Hidden in Gentile Hands            71
XII. Glicksman and His Truth                                            72
XIII. Zambrów Jews in the Forest                                          72
XIV. We Leave Our Mother in the Forest                                    73
XV. My Third Day in the Forest                                           74
XVI. The March to the Barracks                                           75
XVII. Entry into the New Hell                                              75
XVIII. Getting Out – And Returning                                         76
XIX. The Bread of Hunger                                                78
XX. The Lomza Refugees Plan to Escape                                    78
XXI. The News                                                         79
XXII. Glicksman Feigns ‘Making an Effort’                                   80
XXIII. The Preparations for the Trip                                          80
XXIV. On the Train Station at Tshizeva                                       81
XXV. Not to Treblinka!                                                   81
XXVI. The March to the Birkenau Camp                                      83
XXVII. Into the Bath!                                                      83
XXVIII. Block Number 21                                                  84
XXIX. We Travel to Buna                                                  85
XXX. The Typhus in Buna                                                 86
XXXI. In the Hospital                                                     87
XXXII. The Murder Combination Auschwitz-Birkenau                           88
Black Tuesday……….By Yitzhak Golda    90
The Eyewitness Account of a Christian                                        95
A Smoking Ember Rescued from the Fire……….By Moshe Levinsky    97
Moshe, Son of Berl Levinsky Tells Us                                        97
A Letter from the Other World                                            99
And Here is the Letter                                                     100
The Death Rattle……….By B. Tz. Gavurin    104
We Organize a Partisan Group……….By Yitzhak Stupnik    105
Death Sentence                                                           106
A Scion of Zambrów – Leader of the Minsk Ghetto Fighters         108
The Third Fire……….By Isaac Malinowicz    109
The Four Graves……….By Joseph Savetsky    111
The Survivors, After the Holocaust                                      113
The Heart-rending Results                                                   113
Those Who Vanished in the Fire                                              113
Two Central Addresses: Jerusalem - New York                                  114
Moshe Eitzer and Joseph Savetsky                                            115
From ‘A Bintl Briv’                                                        115
A Letter from Fyvel Slowik                                                 116
From a Letter, Written to Joseph Savetsky                                      116
Chaim Kaufman to J. Savetsky                                              117
Chaya Kaufman writes                                                    119
The Two Kalesznik Sisters                                                  110
The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee                                           120
Herschel Smoliar Proposes the Publication of a Zambrów Yizkor Book               120
Souls that Were Saved                                                    127
Beinusz Sarny                                                            127
Chana Kopperman                                                         128
The City After the Destruction……….By Herschel S.    131
On the Ruins……….By Chaycheh Zukrowicz-Netzer    131
I Write a Letter……….By Moshe Wilimowsky    132
The Houses of Study, Rabbis & Other Clergy    
Houses of Worship and Public Institutions Years Ago……….By Yom-Tov Levinsky    135
The White Bet HaMedrash                                                  135
The Red Bet HaMedrash                                                   140
The Shas Study Group                                                    144
The Hasidim Shtibl                                                        146
The Rabbi’s Handwriting                                                 147
The Rabbis    
The First Rabbi of Zambrów (?)                                         147
R’ Israel Salanter – In Zambrów……….By Sholom-Abner Bernstein    148
The Holy Rabbi R’ Dov Menachem Regensberg הי"ד                  149
A Small City with a Great Rabbi                                             150
His Grandchildren Tell                                                     152
David Writes                                                            152
The End of the Past Century                                                 153
In His Later Years                                                         153
His Scholarship                                                           154
His Activities                                                             154
His Relationship to the Land of Israel                                          155
The Second Grandson Tells, Heschel                                         155
The Rabbi’s House                                                        157
From the Spark, Emerged a Flame……….By Israel Levinsky    158
At the Rabbi’s Table                                                      160
His Energy                                                               161
The Rabbi’s Prophecy                                                      162
And the Rabbi of Zambrów Spoke……….By Chaim Grade    162
At the Rabbinical Assembly in Vilna                                          163
Rabbi Aharon Yaakov Klepfish ז״ל……….By Y. Meshuli    164
The Dayans                                                                166
R’ Zalman Kaplan                                                         166
The Dayan, Shabtai (Shepsl) Kramarsky                                       167
R’ Yudl Shokhet, הי"ד                                                      168
R’ Berl Nigubcer זצ"ל                                                     170
Rabbi Leib Rosing                                                         171
Cantors                                                                     171
Preachers                                                                  172
R’ Eliakim-Getzel Levitan                                                  173
R’ Akiva Rabinovich (Poltaver)                                              174
R’ Alter Maggid (R’ Moshe Zalman Urwicz)                                    174
Shammai Lejzor                                                           175
Chaim Velvel Pav                                                         176
Women of Scholarly Repute                                              177
Chashkeh the Lady Carpenter                                             177
Fat Baylah                                                            178
Henny Itkeh                                                           179
Bluma the Blind Lady                                                   179
Pesha Golombek                                                       179
My Grandmother, Rivka Gittl                                             180
Chaya Zukrowicz                                                       181
Women Who Received a Pension                                          181
Malka Cymbel                                                         182
Shayna Mindl                                                          182
Scribes……….By Eliezer Pav    183
Education & Culture    
Yeshiva                                                                     185
Cheders                                                                      186
Fishl the Melamed                                                         187
R’ Yehoshua (Yeshea) Gorzholczany                                          188
Struck by a Thunder Bolt……….By Israel Levinsky    188
R’ Meir Fyvel Melamed……….By Chaim Bendor    189
R’ Israel Levinsky                                                         190
From My Diary……….By R’ Israel Levinsky    191
The Cheder Metukan of Fyvel Zukrowicz                                 192
A Teacher and Educator……….By Yaakov Tobiasz    194
From the Words of Students                                             197
Naomi Blumrosen                                                         197
Aryeh Kossowsky                                                         197
The Russian Public School                                               198
The Yiddish Public School                                                199
The Volksschule Named for Borukhov in Zambrów             200
The Yiddish-Polish Volksschule                                          201
Before the Holocaust                                                       201
The Spinoza of Zambrów                                                 202
The Polish Gymnasium in Zambrów……….By Zvi Zamir (Herschel Slowik)    202
Alter Rothberg                                                             203
The Library                                                                204
Drama Circles                                                             206
Maccabi                                                                    206
A. Shmuel Gutman/ Maccabi                                                208
From My Childhood World……….By Yom-Tov Levinsky    210
A. Words, Songs and Folk Expressions                                        210
B. The Jewish Agricultural Calendar in Zambrów                                242
C. Purim in the Shtetl                                                      247
D. The Fifth Year (1905)                                                    249
E. The Dance of the Angry                                                  252
F. The Exceptional and Challenged                                             253
The City’s Daughter-in-Law……….By Meir Zukrowicz    258
A Story About a Convert ……….By Israel Levinsky    259
The Political Parties                                                      263
A. Before the First World War                                               264
B. Zionist Endeavor Renews Itself                                            265
Youth Parties……….By Shmuel Gutman    266
A. Poalei Tzion                                                           266
B. ‘Tze‘irei Tzion’                                                         267
C. The Bund                                                              267
D. Communism                                                           267
The ‘Bund’ Labor Party                                                   269
The Rejuvenated Bund                                                   271
The Labor Movement                                                     272
The Poalei-Tzion Movement……….By Pinchas Broder    272
An Addendum……….By Sh. Gutman    273
The Zionist Youth Movement……….By Zvi Zamir (Slowik)    273
A. Pirkhei Tzion                                                          273
B. Herzteliya                                                             274
C. The Tz. S. Youth Organization                                             276
D. HeHalutz                                                              277
E. Training                                                               278
F. Implementation                                                         278
The Founding of the First HaShomer HaTza‘ir……….By Chaim Ben-David    279
Seven Wise Men……….By Ben-Zion Sendak    279
Productive Work                                                          280
The Events of  5689 (1929)……….By Aryeh Kossowsky    280
The ‘HaShomer Hatza‘ir’ Chapter……….By Yehuda Srebrowicz-Kaspi    281
Torah v’Avodah……….By Zvi Khanit    282
Zionists……….By Yaakov Garbass    283
The Tree Cut Down in its Prime                                         284
Levi Poziner……….By Aryeh Kossowsky    285
Abraham Herschel Kagan, ז״ל……….By M. Bursztein    285
Mikhl Jabkowsky……….By Tz. Z.    286
Noah Zukrowicz ז״ל                                                        287
Yekhezkiel Zamir (Son of Aryeh Slowik)                                288
Noah Zamir                                                                288
The Ratuszewicz Brothers                                                289
Pessia Furmanowicz……….By Tz. Z.    290
Mash’keh of Korytk & Son, Benjamin Tenenbaum……….By Israel Levinsky    292
A Chronicle of Three Families……….By Berl Mark    293
A. Between Radzilowo and Zambrów                                         293
B. My Grandfather Abraham Moshe Blumrosen & My Grandmother Brein’cheh        294
C. A Visit to Zambrów                                                     295
D. My Mother, Rachel-Leah                                                 296
E. Great-Aunt Sarah’keh and Uncle Aharon-Leib                                297
F. My Uncle Yitzhak Blumrosen                                              299
G. My Uncle Alter Mark                                                    299
H. Khezki Mark                                                           300
I. Khezki Is Sent to the Far East                                              303
J. On Khezki’s Trail                                                       304
Good Jewish People of the Field, & Farmers……….By Yehoshua Golombek    307
The Golombek Family                                                     309
My Father’s House……….By Zvi Zamir    312
R’ Yaakov (Zvi) Zukrowicz זצ"ל……….By Joseph Srebowicz    313
R’ Yankl Zukrowicz                                                        314
The Family of Gershon Srebrowicz                                      314
R’ Shmuel’keh Wilimowsky                                               315
The Home of the Koszarers (Levinsky)                                 317
The Yerusalimsky Family (Yerushalmi)                                 317
R’ Abraham Shlomo Dzenchill (Pracht)……….By Israel Levinsky    318
The Pride of the City……….By Yom Tov Levinsky    320
Bibliography of the Writings of A. A. Rakowsky                                 329
My Parents, the Martyrs of Hebron……….By Shmuel Gutman    330
From Home……….By Ahuva Greenberg    331
The Aliyah of R’ Yehoshua Benjamin Baumkuler                      335
Benjamin Kagan                                                          336
Yaakov Shyeh Cohen                                                      336
The Tzinowicz Family……….By Rachel Salutsky-Rosenblum    337
Lipman Slowik……….By Kh. B.    337
Baruch Surowicz                                                          338
Abraham Rosen                                                           338
Elyeh Rudniker-Goren                                                    338
Lighting Candles of the Spirit……….By Chaya Kossowsky    340
Work & Industry    
The Three Flour Mills                                                     345
A. Meir Zelig Grajewski                                                345
B. Ze’ev Goldin                                                           346
C. Pfeiffer’s Mill                                                          346
D. The Windmills (Wietraken)                                               347
Craftsmen                                                                  347
The Jewish Proletariat in Zambrów……….By Lejzor Pav    348
R’ Tuvia Skocandek (the Candle Maker)                               349
Elinka                                                                       350
My Father R’ Moshe Aharon the Builder………..By Chaim Bendor    351
His Conduct Toward His Sons                                               356
My Father, Itcheh Mulyar……….By R’ Israel Levinsky ז"ל, as told by his son, Sender    359
R’ Nachman Yaakov (Rothberg)–Wagon Driver……….By Israel Levinsky    362
Goldwasser, the Shoemaker from Gać                                365
Kukawka the Shoemaker                                                366
Binyomkeh Schuster the Shoemaker                                  367
Moshe Joseph the Street Paver……….By Sender Seczkowsky    367
Nosskeh (Nathan) the Painter                                           368
Israel’keh Poyker (the Drummer)……….By Yaakov Garbass    369
‘Oneg Shabbes’                                                            370
Baylah the Dairy Lady……….By Aryeh Kossowsky    370
Shlomkeh-Zerakh and Zundl                                             370
And These, I Recall……….By Zvi Khanit    371
My Zambrów People……….By Mendl Zibelman    373
Yudl Cossack                                                          373
Herman Yagoda                                                        373
Senior Justice Markowitz                                                 374
Bezalel                                                               374
Community Social Assistance……….By Yom Tov L.    375
Hakhnasat Orkhim                                                         375
Medical Help                                                             377
Feldschers                                                               377
Doctors                                                                 379
The ‘Hekdesh’                                                            380
The Society of Brotherly Love……….By Israel Levinsky    380
Help for the Homeless                                                    381
‘Linat Tzedek’                                                              382
Shlomo’keh Dzenchill                                                     382
The Ladies Auxiliary Society                                             383
Excerpts of Correspondence                                                 383
A Support Fund at the Handworkers’ Union                                     385
The Support Fund at the Handworkers’ Union in the name of the Chicago Landslayt     385
Dark Waves Pursue Us Relentlessly                                           385
Who Knows What Will Become of Us                                       386
Centos                                                                      386
Resentful Tongues                                                       388
The Gemilut Hesed Fund                                                 389
My Father and the ‘Gemilut Hasadim’ Society……….By Chaim Ben-David    389
The Pinkas of the Society                                                   389
The Sabbath of the Society                                                  391
My Mother, Alta Sokolikheh                                              393
Moshe Klepfish ז״ל                                                        394
Chava Sokol-Almog……….By Z. Zamir    395
Golda Zarembsky Rutkewicz                                             395
The Smoking Embers, Rescued from the Fire                         396
Zambrów Landslayt Around the World    
Our Brethren in the US, the Zambrów Br. No. 149, in the ‘Arbeter Ring’                                    402
Mendl Zibelman Tells                                                   402
The Zambrów Help Committee in Chicago                             403
The Zambrów Society in the U. S………..By Yitzhak (Itcheh) Rosen    404
Paging Through the Book of Minutes……….By L. Yom Tov    406
A. Community Functions                                                   406
B. Chevra Kadisha                                                        407
C. Caring for the Sick                                                      407
D. Fraternity                                                              408
E. The Preparations After the War                                            408
F. Relationships                                                           409
G. The Annual Purim Package Event                                          409
H. The Active Workers                                                     409
J. List of the Brothers in Leadership for the 8 years 1943-1950 Acc. to the Book of Minutes                  410
The United Zambrów Relief Committee……….By Moshe Eitzer    411
Remarks……….By L. Yom-Tov    412
People of Zambrów in Mexico……….By Yitzhak Rothberg    413
Zambrów Members in the Landslayt Union……….By Boaz Chmiel    414
Chaim-Joseph Rudnik ז״ל                                                 417
The Émigrés from Zambrów in Israel……….By Zvi Zamir    418
Yitgadal veYitkadash Shmey Rabah                                   420
Significant Dates to Remember in the City’s History                  421
Necrology                                              422
Index of Illustrations                                                  431
List of Names                                                            436

Editor’s Foreword


After years of strenuous effort, we finally realized the publication of this memorial book, which commemorates the cherished name of our hometown of Zambrów, the place of our birth, that was and is no more.

 

Many ties have bound me all of my life to this place, where I first saw the light of day. I left it as an eleven-year-old boy. I have wandered a great deal since that time, and I have absorbed both familiar and unfamiliar cultures. However, I have never become estranged from the culture of my home town and my mother's tongue. And when Zambrów was so tragically wiped off the Jewish horizon, she rose spiritually anew before my eyes, and an innermost impulse began to drive me on with an impelling force: to arise and erect a spiritual memorial to Jewish Zambrów -- to give an account of its history, those who were well-to-do (its balebatim2), those Jews who toiled in her midst, her clerical and secular elements, its learned men and the plain pious folks, her synagogues and houses of study, its fraternities and institutions. And if it would not be done at the present time, by the last generation of Zembrovites, it would be unlikely that it would ever come to pass. And so I took it upon myself, with a feeling of deep nostalgia, to bring to realization this high purpose, this labor of love.
 

The memorial now has been erected. The book has been published. But to my utmost regret, the enterprise has not succeeded to its fullest desirable extent.

 

Zambrów was a small town. There is practically nothing written about her in both Jewish and non-Jewish literary writings. Also, our ‘old home town’ is mentioned very infrequently in the daily press. The city archives no longer exist, and the part that did survive is not accessible to us. The old-timers, as a live source of information, have passed on a long time ago. Therefore, the one and only thing that remained for us to do was to bend our head over whatever documents were available to us, and from the casual remarks or allusions, out of brief statements, try to restore sketchily the history of the town. And who is to know how many facts disappeared from our view, and how many personalities were forgotten by us? We could not resolve this issue. Despite this, we established this initiative and the book was published, in which the entire town passes before us as if in a play. So, here and there, personalities and facts are perhaps missing.

 

We turned to our countrymen, both the young and the elderly, who retained things in their memory and are wont to wield a pen. Very few responded to our proposal, apparently because they did not believe that we would be able to accomplish our task. Nevertheless, here is the book before you, the book that describes the pathetic story of our Jewish Zambrów -- from her very beginnings, up to her downfall.
 

What remained was for us to fashion something about the history of the town from remnants and old documents and from glimpses and minor observations, going from point to point, item to item, to create an organized list of the history of the town and its Jewish settlement. Despite this, we put together a book about our Jewish Zambrów, from its inception to its destruction.
 

We have written this book in both languages, as our traditional literature had been written at one time: ‘The Holy Tongue’ (Hebrew) and ‘Ivri-Teitch’ (Yiddish) together, side by side. The reader will have to make an effort to find the translation on the second side – but in this way we have done justice to our two languages: the mother-language (Yiddish) and the father-language (Hebrew). We are providing a short overview in English – let the grandchildren of those from Zambrów come to know something about the way of life of their grandfathers and grandmothers. In a few places, we shortened the text in one of the languages, or made use of only one of the two languages. We took care to preserve the Zambrów Yiddish idiom3 as it was spoken in Zambrów.

 

We have been able to provide the utmost possible number of photographs that we had in our possession, if only the were in a fairly good condition, as quite a great number of them were regretfully in such a faded state that they would be unfit to print. We have incorporated into the book more that two thousand images of the Jewish Zambrów children, pupils of cheders and folkshuls, with their rabbis and teachers. We incorporated several hundred young people – pictures of members of societies and political parties, to the extent that we had them, not differentiating between one party and the other. We have also given a series of portraits of singular personalities, portraits that are in most cases the one and only thing that remained to remember them by. We have included things about the ambience of the town – this freshens our memory and links us all the more to the cradle of our childhood.
 

Regarding the eve of the destruction of Zambrów and the Holocaust itself, we exclusively relied on primary sources: from letters and eyewitness accounts. Regardless, if certain details are not consistent, e.g. dates, etc., we have included everything, just the way it was recalled.


The subject matter of the book can, in part, serve as an historical source of Jewish life in Poland during the last century in general, and of the last several decades in particular. To this end, we have included Zambrów into the golden chain of Polish Jewry that was exterminated by the German Amalek4 and its accomplices.
 

It is my responsibility here, to bring to mind with gratitude and respect, those numbered few who helped me with my work: My friend, Mendl Zibelman (son of R’ Israel-David, Miami, Florida), adorned this book with his inspiring memories. Professor Ber’l Mark (Warsaw). Chaim ben David (Moshe-Aharon, the painter’s son, Detroit – Israel). Zvi Zamir, Sender Seczkowsky (Itcheh the Painter’s son, Tel Aviv), Joseph Srebrowicz (Tel Aviv), Joseph Jerusalimsky (Ashkelon), The three Yitzhaks: Golda, Golombek and Stupnik, and Moshe Levinsky – smoking embers snatched from fire and sword. And last, but not least: my beloved father and teacher, Israel Levinsky ז"ל, who did not write just a little for the book, but was not privileged to see it come to fruition. Chaim Zur (son of Fyvel Zukrovich, Ramat HaKovesh) designed the cover of the book and sketched a map of the town from memory.


Three Zambrów landslayt organizations contributed generously to the material expenses for the book: The United Zembrover Society, Inc. in New York, with its brother societies headed by our American ‘ambassador’ Joseph Savetsky, Isaac Rosen, Isaac Malinovich (who gathered untold tens upon tens of pictures for the book), Eliezer Pav and many others. With their broadness of heart and full and open hands, the book became a reality.


Our countrymen in Argentina, led by the recently deceased Ch. Y. Rudnik ז"ל, and to be mentioned for long life: Boaz Chmiel, Joseph Krulewiecki, Jacob Stupnik, Crystal and many others – also contributed to the book, and from time to time offered us encouragement.
 

"The Society of Zambrów in Israel" is headed by the comrades: Zvi Zamir (Hershl Slowik), chairman; Zvi ben Joseph (Hershl Konopiateh), secretary; Pinchas Kaplan, the sisters Malka and Liebehcheh Greenberg, Leib Golombek, et al. They have all done their beneficial share for the book.
 

At the end, our small Zambrów families: In Mexico City, our friends Chaim Gorodzinsky, Isaac Rothberg and others; and in France – Esther Smolar-Shleven.
 

All those whom I have mentioned here, and to those whom I have perhaps forgotten – may they be designated for good, and may they all bless themselves with this book, which they cooperated in producing.


Yom-Tov Levinsky, Tel Aviv
 


 

A Word from the Zembrover Organization in Israel


 

The Pinkas5 of Zambrów is edited and partly written by our landsman Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky.
 

A full eight years have gone by since we decided to publish a Yizkor Book about our Zambrów. In that time we made strenuous efforts – but I am not exaggerating when I say that were it not for the editor, Mr. Levinsky, the book would not have appeared. His phenomenal memory made it possible to dig up from the past, and from forgotten memories men and facts, incidents, ways of life, histories of families and other interesting things that ran their course in Zambrów years ago. He searched, rummaging relentlessly day and night and uncovered sources relating to the history of the town, especially in the Hebrew newspapers of the times. He looked after giving a voice to the landslayt in Israel and the world at large, especially those not inclined to take pen in hand, encouraging and directing many in their writing. And now, when the book lays before my eyes, a book of some seven hundred pages – beautiful Zambrów passes before my eyes like a panorama: The streets and byways of the town, the Pasek6 and the marketplace, its synagogue and houses of study, its clergy, the rabbis, dayanim7 and shamashim,8 and community political organizations; their leaders and hordes of members; HeHalutz; prominent families who were so extensively branched out; porters, wagon drivers, storekeepers and bakers, the erudite bookseller Abba Rakowsky and other prominent townsfolk, the young schoolchildren and the elderly – hundreds of pictures that preserve every aspect of the town of those days up to the Holocaust. Many pictures that were donated were obtained only with great difficulty in Israel and the United States. It seems to me that the whole town, as it [once] existed, appears in this book. Not a one has been overlooked.

 

The special chapter about the destruction of Zambrów during the Holocaust is written by Yitzhak Golombek, one of the living eyewitnesses and a survivor of Auschwitz, and with him Yitzhak Golda and others. Read it with an ache in your heart, but with respect and recognition for our heroic martyrs, parents, brothers and sisters – from the beginning of the predation, the concentration in the ghetto to the extermination – you hear the reverberation of the cries of those who were taken to slaughter, and you breathe in their final minutes.

 

The folklore pages of the book have special meaning. The editor has incorporated words and expressions from Zambrów, which in part we still use to this day in our daily affairs. Special chapters are dedicated to education, political movements and social assistance. In addition there are descriptions of various type of Zambrów folks, writings about the way of life, etc. Using this, he truly takes us into the ‘old home (alte haym)’... he deals here with the young people in the synagogue, societies, work and industry, mutual aid, etc. The Zambrów societies of all countries are described, their activities on behalf of the local countrymen (landslayt), and for their brethren in all corners of the world. I will not be exaggerating when I say that our Yizkor Book will be one of the best of those that have already appeared up till now, and we may take pride in it.

 

Our ‘old home,’ Zambrów, is no more. The sacred bones and remains of our townsfolk have not been given a proper Jewish burial. Their remains lie in the great mass graves in the forests of Szumowo and [Rutki]-Kosaki, and in the ash heaps at Oświęcim. In the town only Christian peasants go about, who have seized Jewish assets, and no one remains to take it back from their hands. Only a few faded headstones remain in the cemetery among the overgrowth and thorns, which indicate that at one time there was Jewish life and a sizeable Jewish city.

 

This book is, and will remain for generations to come, the truest memorial of Jewish Zambrów. In it we have preserved the memory of the lives and the echo of the suffering of the Jews who no longer exist. It is here that we have put a ‘place and a name9’ to their light and their memory.

 

We therefore wish to thank our brother organizations in the United States, with our comrade Joseph Savetsky at its head, and in Argentina, and so forth – for their material help and great interest in the book. We thank those who took part in the book by sharing their memories. We thank all of our landslayt in Israel and outside the Land, and especially our friend Zvi ben Joseph in Israel, who gave so much of his energy and attention to the book. All of those who participated encountered difficulties with all of the obstacles that laid in our way, and despite this we produced a book that is both pleasing and substantive. At a suitable time, let our townsfolk consult it, and let us leave thereby a legacy to those children who will follow us, about the eternal way of life of our people who lived it in our town of Zambrów הי"ד.

 

All, all of you, consider yourselves saluted and blessed.
 


In the name of the Zembrover Landslayt-Organization in Israel
Zvi Zamir (Slowik), Chairman

 

 



 


 

The Historical Pages
 
By Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky

 

 

 

Dr. Yom-Tov Levinsky


 


 

A. When Did Zambrów Become a City?

 

A city does not simply spring into being all at once. First, a small settlement appears, then a village, and later when the village spreads out it becomes a town. This certainly must have been the case with Zambrów. It was a small village for many years, and after that a village. It was first, only in the second half of the fifteenth century, that it grew large and the residents demanded from the authorities the Mazovian Principality that they grant it the status of a city. Their request was accepted, after it was certified that Zombrowo satisfied all the criteria to be considered a city.


In the year 1479, 5239 after creation, the ruler of Mazovia, who ruled over the Płock Region, the Prince, Janusz II, was persuaded to grant the Zambrów settlement the right to call itself a city (Zombrow/Zomrow), and from that time on to enjoy all the privileges of a city. Several years later, the residents of the city again petitioned, on the basis that they did not have any regularly scheduled fairs and the merchants of the surrounding towns avoided coming to Zambrów, and therefore compelled the residents to travel to buy goods at the market fairs of neighboring cities. Then, Prince Janusz II officially designated this privilege upon Zambrów, even nominating it to be a powiat (a central city). At this time, it was already being called Zombrowo (Zambrówa)..

 

B. The Privileges of the City

 

The ruler granted the right to the city to conduct two fairs a year. One on June 24 (Czerwiec), on the day of St. John (Swiaty Jan) and the second – on September 21 (Wrzesien), meaning: one fair before the harvest, and the second after the harvest. The populace needed to wait three-quarters of a year until the new fair. First, forty-four years later, when the city had developed further and a number of villages became affiliated with it, in the year 1523, the government of the Kingdom of Poland, to which Mazovia de facto already belonged at that time, decided to designate four additional fairs for the year – a total of six fairs. This was a symptom of a progressing city. With ceremony, it was, once again, designated as a powiat. In 1527, when Mazovia officially became part of Poland, the privileges of Zombrowo were again certified.

 

In the year 1538, Zambrów was destroyed by fire and sword. The war between Poland and Prussia, by happenstance, took place in Zombrowo. The Prussian military fortified itself in this place, afterwards called Pruszki. The Poles – were on the other side. The city, which was in the middle, was meanwhile burned down and the residents all fled. In the year 1575 – Zambrów belonged to Ciechanow, where the castle of the ruling noble was located.
 

The new Polish King, Zygmunt I, son of Casimir IV, heartily received a delegation of balebatim from Zambrów, listened to their complaints, and took a hand in their plight, promising to alleviate it. There were no Jews among them. He lowered the taxes of the city, annulled all of their debts, and renewed the privileges of the city, that had been lost when the original copy of their official charter was burned. The members of the delegation certified the details of the burned declarations by oath.


 

C. The First Sign of Jews

 

Were there Jews already [present] in Zombrowo? It was not made clear to us whether there was already an established Jewish community in the city, but what is known to us [is that] the city government turned to the King, Zygmunt I, 10 to have him allow the movement of the market day from Wednesday to Thursday, so that the Jews would be able to purchase their requirements for Shabbat, the Jews being present in the area in not insignificant numbers. However, a number of incidents took place in the city that caused its decline. It is possible to see this from the revenues [sic: of the market days] that in the year 1620 the revenues from meat, honey, liquor and grains were close to five hundred and eight florins (approximately like gulden), and those [same revenues] in the year 1673 had fallen to an income of thirty-five gulden. The area of the city and its environs reached fifty-two voloki (the volok was twenty marg11), and only nine of them constituted land that was being worked, with forty-nine voloki remaining fallow.
 

 

D. The Name of the City

 

We have already documented the fact that the name was first written as ‘Zambrów 'o,’ and later as ‘Zombrow.’12 Stanislaw August II who ruled from 1764-1795, called it ‘Zembrow’ (according to ‘Starozhitnya Polska’ 530-523). In the nineteenth century, it was already being called ‘Zembrow,’ and in Russian, ‘Zambrów.’ The Jews always called it ‘Zembrow’ (according to Pinkas Tykocin13), and in the last century – ‘Zembrowo.’ In the list of the Jewish census in Warsaw, from the year 1781, there are listed, among others Jews that lived in Warsaw, but that came from ‘Zembrowo.’ One individual registered himself as follows: ‘I come from Zembrowo,’ and another, ‘from Zambrów...’
 

The name Zamrow-Zambrów appears to be derived from the small river, Zambrzyce which is beside the town, or perhaps the other way around – does the river take its name from the town? One is led to believe that in the thirteenth or fourteenth century, there was a Prussian colony of the Teutonic Knights (who were crusaders). Here, a summer vacation spot was located for the German rulers, because the location was encircled by forests. It was called the Sommerhof – which [it is believed] that the Poles later modified to Zomrow and according to the linguistic rules, either a ‘b' or a ‘p’ gets inserted between the ‘m’ and the ‘r,’ for example, Klumar – Klumfurst, Kammer – Chamber, Numer – Number, etc. [In this way] Sommerhof became Zombrow – Zambrów.
 

 

E. The Political Situation

 

Zambrów is administratively divided into two parts: the city proper (called the osada in Polish) and the gmina (the greater vicinity, or community). The city itself was small, encompassing one market square (Rynek), from which small streets emanated in all directions. The horse market bounded the town on the west, and the ‘Poświątne’ on the east.

 

The gmina, however, had under its jurisdiction, twenty villages and hamlets. By 1880, the gmina had forty-four villages under its jurisdiction and numbered 12,154 souls. Jews also lived in those villages, some as tenant farmers (pokczary, but the majority, up to about ten or more, were: Gardlin (Galyn, the Bialystoker Road, where Shlomleh Blumrosen’s brick works was located), Grabowka, Gorki, Grzymaly, Długobórz, Wadolki, Wiśniewo, Wola [Zambrówska], Wiebrzbowo, Tabedz, Cieciorki, Laskowiec, Nagórki [-Jablon], Sędziwuje, Poryte [-Jablon], Pruszki, Konopki, Koretki, Klimasze, etc.

 

Zambrów belongs to Mazovia, an independent but poor land that is rich in water, arable land, forests, cattle and fish – but is little-developed and stands at a low cultural level. After the Crusades in Germany, from the year 1096 onwards, the local Jews began to immigrate to Poland. In the twelfth century – thousands streamed here – thousands of German Jews. Thousands also took up residence in Mazovia, [and] in the older cities such as Płock, Czersk, Sochaczew, Wyszogrod, Płońsk, Ciechanow.

 

With their full ardor, the Jews began to occupy Mazovia and industrialize it. The lived here in tranquility and were not subject to predation. Only when Mazovia first began to draw close to Poland [proper] – did limitations begin to be imposed on Jewish citizenship rights. Nevertheless, Jews enjoyed the privileges through a special law for Jews, ‘Jus Judaicum’ (Privilegium Judaeorum). The Jews integrated themselves well into the local life and the Mazovian laws, even calling it ‘our law’ (Jus Nostrum). In the year 1526, Mazovia was integrated into Poland, and they became one country. The Mazovian Jews now fall under the laws and limitations that apply to Polish Jews.
 

 

F. Geography and Topography

 

From time immemorial, Zambrów belonged to the Łomża Guberniya (province) and is counted as its second largest city according to its population. At the end of the fifteenth century – Zambrów was officially a powiat (center). In the year 1721, the Polish Sejm divided the Łomża Guberniya into two municipal districts: Zambrów and Kolno. The chief city elder (starosta), resided in Zambrów.

 

Zambrów lies within the Cieciorki and Wandolki forests, among others, not far from the famous forest area of Czerwony Bór (about thirteen versts from Zambrów). And between the cities: On the east is Czyżew, which has an important train station to Warsaw and Bialystok; Wysoka and Jablonka to the west; the train station Czerwony Bór and Łomża, the provincial capitol of north Bialystok and south Ostrów Mazowiecka.

 

Three small rivers ring the town: A. The Jablon – whose headwaters are in the town of Jablonka, courses through Zambrów, flowing for a distance of about twenty versts to Gać. B. The Prątnik, which emanates from the town of Prątnik near Sędziwuje, and C. The Zamrzyce, which emanates from Wiebrzbowo and flows into the Jablon. Jablon (or Jablonka) is the principal river of the area.

 

Following a regulation promulgated by the Zambrów community at the behest of the Rabbi, all of the little rivers were officially referred to as the Jablon, in order to facilitate the preparation of ritual divorce documents (e.g. a get) in Zambrów: this is because the town river has to be documented in the get. The provincial leadership accepted this proposal.

 

About one verst from the town to the east, the ‘Uczastek’ of the military region is located. There were [more than a few] Jews who lived here, who made a living from the military. They had their own Bet HaMedrash there, two bridges – one made of wood and was [located] on the ulica14 Ostrowska; and a concrete one on the ulica Czyżewska, which connected the town to the surrounding settlements. 
 

 

G. Jews Build the City

 

The Jews built out the market square (Rynek), and one after another they erected houses around the marketplace, opening stores, and in this way worked over the center of the town and took commerce and industry into their hands. The gentiles concentrated themselves around the horse market and the Poświątne and engaged in agriculture.

 

Zambrów had good drinking water from its streams. The principal stream was behind the Red Bet HaMedrash, which provided for more than half of the town. A second stream was on the Rynek itself, and the water was obtained by a pump. Water-carriers would also draw water from the river.

 

There were two (Jewish-operated) steam-driven mills -- one was a water-mill, and four to five Jewish manufacturing facilities. On the ulica Ostrowska, near the water, there was a large Jewish dye plant. On the other side of the city – a large Jewish brick works (Gardlin). Jews participated in small industry/business: they distilled whiskey, made wine, brewed beer and made kvass and soda-water. According to the census of 1578, there were six distilleries and eight shoemakers, which also employed workers, five butchers and eight bakeries. Having about itself the rich Jalowcowa forests, much beer was brewed, which was given the name ‘Jawlocowca Beer.’ In the referenced year, in accordance with the tax rolls, it was established that two hundred and forty-one barrels of beer were brewed in Zambrów.

 

The city was consistently ruined by fires, plagues, peasant uprisings, invasions by the Tatars, Swedes and Prussians, such that, in the year 5560 (1800) it only had eighty-one houses in it and a population of five hundred and sixty-four residents. Part of the population lived in barracks, and they cooked and baked under the open sky. In the year 1827, there were ninety-one houses already (ten new houses in twenty-seven years!) And the population numbered eight hundred and eighty-six15 people. And it was at this time that the Jewish initiative and spirit of commitment to develop the city got started. In the passage of four to five years the entire Rynek was built up, with thirty new houses of Jews. In each house there was one or two stores. The city established a cemetery, retained a rabbi, built a synagogue, two houses of study, a bathhouse with a mikvah, established a building for a religious court, founded a yeshiva and – Zambrów was a Jewish city.

 

In the year 1868, there are 1,397 Jews in Zambrów, approximately sixty percent of the general population. In the year 1894 – there were already 1,652 Jews in Zambrów. In the year 1895, at the time of the First Great Fire – according to the newspapers – more than four hundred Jewish homes were consumed, among them about a hundred Jewish stores and eating places, and about two thousand Jewish residents were left without a roof over their heads. The numbers speak for themselves.

 

The Jews of Zambrów had an interest in making the city attractive to Christian worshipers, the lesser nobility (szliachta), peasants and dyers, who, in going to church, would along the way buy all their necessities. So, outside the city, there stood a half-built church dating back to 1283. It became ruined and had been burned several times. At the end of the eighteenth century, the Canon of Płock, Martin Krajewski, became the senior cleric of the Zambrów parish, and in memory of his parents he reconstructed a wooden church, with a bell and a mortuary. The Christians in the villages would go to worship in Szumowo, Jablonka, Sędziwuje, etc., so that in Zambrów, a larger central church could be built, which could accommodate hundreds of worshipers every Sunday. The old church stood at the west of the city, beside the horse market, to serve the worshipers there. The new church stood to the east and attracted scores of peasants from all of the villages, filling it on Sunday, along with the city streets and stores.

 

Two years after the fire the number of Jews rose substantially, as seen in the census of 1897, where in the Zambrów gmina (including the surrounding villages), there were 10,902 residents, among them 3,463 Jews, nearly thirty-two of the general population.
 

 

H. From When On, Were There Jews in Zambrów?

 


 

The Market Place (Zambrów Rynek)
 

 

It is difficult to answer this question. Jews were already in Mazovia, the part of Poland where Zambrów is located, since the beginning of the fourteenth century. However, impoverished Mazovia did not have much attractive power, and consequently few Jews settled here. Apart from this, the political situation was not conducive; there were continuous invasions by the Prussians and others that destroyed the land. It was first at the beginning of the fifteenth century that the circumstances began to improve, with the Lithuanian princes16 Janusz I in Warsaw and Ziemowit IV in Płock, who strove for peace under the aegis of Poland. Consequently, economic conditions also improved. Fields and woods bloomed anew, fish and wildlife, leather and hides, flax and wool, honey and oil, all developed, and the Jews found an attractive location here. Cities were established here, and therefore for the first time, in the year 1471, we hear about Jews in Łomża for the first time; the diocese of Płock spread its ecumenical purview also to cover the Łomża district, and accused the Scholastic, Stanislaw Modzielow of Łomża, in an assault on Jewish merchants of Łomża and has him arrested.


I. Tykocin Protects the Zambrów Jews

 

Since the year 1549, the Jews of Mazovia paid their national head taxes through the ‘Va’ad Arba Aratzot,’ the Jewish Sejm, which was required to present the kingdom with a specific sum of taxes on an annual basis, which was collected in accordance with a set formula from all cities and towns. Zambrów does not appear in this list, because a Jewish community did not exist there yet. Tykocin, which was one of the three central cities of Podlisze and collected the Jewish head tax from the residents of Łomża, Grodno and other centers, imposed a levy on the surrounding small settlements where there was no community, and strictly demanded taxes and regulated issues between Jews and gentiles, and took care to assure that one party would not unjustly take away the livelihood of the other, in land leasing and in liquor distilling, fields and gardens, milk and cattle, mills and the like. If there was a larger settlement – then Tykocin would impose the mission on the community or on the religious court of the town, to the point that if a city in the area was mentioned in referenced acts, for example, even one that was as large as Bialystok, it was added to be ‘in the vicinity' of Tykocin, because Tykocin was the capitol city of the district up to 1764, until the Polish regime dissolved the Jewish Sejm – the Va’ad Arba Aratzot, which was a government within a government, and adopted other and better means to collect more head taxes from the Jewish populace. Also, afterwards, Tykocin continued to be the chief city of the district. Regarding Tykocin, we know that in the year 1676 (5436) the community adopted a resolution “under penalty of excommunication consisting of seven decrees, and extinguishing black candles, with trumpets and blowing of the shofar: that no one has the right to raise either hand or foot to deal in strong drink, not as a business or for sustenance, whether by license under the government, as a tenant, under beverage-making duty, or beverage-selling duty, etc., without the cognizance and express permission of the community. Everything must first be presented to the community and its leadership, who must thoroughly and completely examine it without the presence of the petitioner. Whatever they decide is to be recorded in the Pinkas of the community (all this according to the Pinkas of the Va’ad Arba Aratzot, p. 148, sign שנ"ב). The Pinkas of the Tykocin community no longer exists, as was the fate of many of the Pinkasim of other cities. However, during the First World War, when the Jews of Tykocin were compelled to abandon their city – the Pinkas was placed in the hands of the Rabbi of Bialystok, Rabbi Chaim Hertz. His grandson, who is today a professor of Jewish history at the University of Jerusalem, Dr. Israel Heilperin, secretly made a copy of the protocols of the ancient Tykocin Pinkas and in this way, managed to preserve them for posterity. Among the protocols (which are still in manuscript form) we find the name of Zambrów mentioned in isolated places, and we have made note of them.
 

 

J. The Jews of Zambrów in the Year 1716

 

 

 

ulica Kościuszki (Koshare Road)

 

We now turn back to Zambrów, as it was in those times. There is a theory that in this location there already was a small Jewish settlement in the sixteenth century, but that it was disbanded in response to the residents, who had the had the discretion not to tolerate having Jews in their city (de non tolerandis Juudaeis), as was also the case in Łomża and other tens of cities and towns in Poland. We do not possess any documents with which this can be established. Zambrów was also not an important point and did not have any substantial undertakings that would merit mention in government regulations.

 

We are able to extract from the Tykocin Pinkas that in the year 5476 (1716) there still was no Jewish community, despite the fact that Jews lived here and ran substantial businesses. On page 164, volume 748 of the Pinkas, it says: “income-producing business and the house where R’ Shmerl ben Yitzhak lived, passed into the hands of the brothers Yehuda and Shmuel, the son of the previously mentioned Shmerl, and they are entitled to right of enjoying its benefits in perpetuity. This remains the case even if there is a change in city Elder, or the Elder’s death, or if a gentile will have possession of the business for a number of years, and if someone wants to repurchase the business from gentile hands – he has no right to do so, because it belongs only to Shmerl’s children. This was approximately in the year 1716.

 

On page 271,volume 796 of the year 5476 (1716) it is again told that Yitzhak son of R’ Yaakov of Jablonka bought the franchise (the right of Furmanka – use of a wagon) to collect ‘franchise taxes’ from the Zembrowski Powiat in the Łomża Guberniya. All the franchise promissory notes from the previously mentioned powiat, are his prerogative in perpetuity, even in the event that he should no longer reside in the powiat.
 

 

K. Zambrów Has No Control over Cieciorki

 

In the same Pinkas, page 797, of the year 5476 (1716) there is a reference to a ‘sharp discussion’ that took place between Tykocin and the Jews of Zambrów, with regard to the control of the liquor franchises in Cieciorka. The noble of that region had constructed a distillery on his estate and leased it to the Jews. As was the custom, a Jew could not independently come to lease such a facility – only with the facilitation of the Tykocin community could that be accomplished. And here, the community permitted the lease to go to one, R’ Jekuthiel. The Jews of Zambrów argued that they had a prior right to the lease, based on proximity.

 

In the same year, and on the same page, it is recorded that the lease to the distillery of Cieciorki, which is near Zambrów, was sold by the dozors of the community to Mr. Jekuthiel son of R’ Mordechai, and 'no Jew may approach there (to infringe on his territory) because it belongs to him, in perpetuity' – after it was certified that ‘Cieciorki is further from the boundary of Zambrów, and that is why it was sold in perpetuity to R’ Jekuthiel.’ This means: the Zambrów community has no say in whether the distillery is leased to a Jew from Zambrów, or a Jew from Jablonka, because Cieciorki is far from the Zambrów border and therefore does not belong to it.
 

 

L. To Whom Does Sędziwuje Belong?

 

It appears that the previously mentioned R’ Shmerl was a businessman on a large scale and had leases on businesses, not only in the city of Zambrów, but also in the gmina, meaning the larger district encompassing Zambrów and its surrounding villages (Wola Zambrówska), Nagórki, Klimasze, which according to all our information were attached to Zambrów, and whoever had a franchise for a certain way to make a living in Zambrów – that privilege extended to the villages. Sędziwuje was exempted because allegations were made that it was far from the Zambrów city limits, and is therefore not included, and as a result a local resident has the right to take the franchise for this village.

 

In protocol number 784 of the same Tykocin Pinkas, we read: ‘The decision of the chief rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda, son of the [former] chief rabbi Shmeri’ Zembrover, that all the villages in the ambit of the city of Zambrów are under his jurisdiction, and no man has the right to infringe upon that right, as if it were in the city of Zambrów itself and within its borders. And these are the villages whose status was clarified as being within this ambit: Sędziwuje, Wola, Nagórki, Klimasze. However, a protest went out regarding Sędziwuje, which is further from the borders [of Zambrów], and an outcry was made to settle the matter by measurement by someone trusted by us, and for as long as the matter is not clarified the village will remain under the jurisdiction of the [Zambrów] community.

 

Tuesday, 14 Iyyar 5476 (1716)

 

This means: The previously mentioned Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl, one of the two brothers who inherited the franchise for the spirits business in the city of Zambrów from their father, and no one is permitted to infringe on their franchise in the city – registered a complaint in the religious court in Tykocin, that other Jews were grabbing pieces of his income, and violate his right. because they have income from the nobles, part of whose assets is from Zambrów. The defendants defended themselves with the excuse that they transact business only in those villages that are not under the control of Zambrów. A special session was called to clarify this matter. All the previously mentioned villages were measured, to determine if they were close to Zambrów, from the border to the city. They discovered that the villages of Sędziwuje, Wola, Nagórki and Klimasze were close to Zambrów, and therefore are included in its ambit. For this reason, no one may infringe on the franchise of R’ Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl. The protest of the accused is just, in that Sędziwuje is more distant from the Zambrów border. However, their complaint was not yet researched enough, and ‘calls to attain the truth’ by means of measurement. Because of this, Sędziwuje was declared to be a ‘free-city;’ it did not belong to Zambrów, but was not considered out of Zambrów’s ambit. In the interim, the Tykocin community will manage the village, and will designate who may practice the businesses and estates of the nobles of Sędziwuje. The judgment was carried out on 27 Iyyar of the year 5476 (1716).

 

A short time after this, we read, in volume 785 of the Tykocin Pinkas (page 269) that the religious court determined that the village of Sędziwuje is at a further distance from the border of the city of Zambrów, but not more than one quarter of a verst. This became clear through the testimony given by someone who had personally measured the distance. The judgment was carried out on Monday, 2 Elul, of the year 5476 (1716) and the protocol was signed by: Abraham Auerbach, Yitzhak son of R’ Abraham, and Gedaliah son of Menachem the Kohen.

 

The previously mentioned R’ Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl appears not to have remained silent, and complained that one quarter of a verst was hardly a distance that was significant, and that he alone, had the right to [the business of] Sędziwuje, and that right was his as a citizen of Zambrów, and did not belong to anyone else. This matter dragged on from the month of Elul 1716 [5476] to Iyyar 1717 [5477]. And finally, in the end, a judgment was promulgated on the basis of research and investigation, and credible witnesses that Sędziwuje is ‘far’ from Zambrów and does not belong to it, therefore it is under the aegis of the Tykocin community, and that the owner of the Zambrów franchise has no longer any basis for dispute and complaint against the village, [written] Wednesday, 16 Iyyar 5477 (Lag B'omer eve, 1717). Signed by Yitzhak ben R’ M”Y.

 

We did not find anything else in the Tykocin Pinkas about Zambrów. We can, however, infer with great confidence that if there had been a community in Zambrów with its own religious court building, that Tykocin would not have involved itself in the issues of the city. Zambrów would have independently defended its own interests, even if it would have had to secure the concurrence of Tykocin.

 

M. The Founding of the Chevra Kadisha in the Year 1741


The cemetery at Jablonka served Zambrów also, as well as other towns in the area including the villages of Nagórki, Pruszki, etc. At the beginning the bodies of the deceased were brought to Jablonka by wagon, as they were. The Chevra Kadisha of that town then dealt with the bodies – subjecting them to ritual purification, dressing them in burial shrouds and interring them. However, this was not out of respect for the deceased – having to leave them for a period of time without undergoing purification, but this was the custom in the smaller settlements. When the settlement at Zamborow grew more populous, it was decided to establish a Chevra Kadisha there, which was to deal with the deceased in that location, and to bring [the body] already purified to Jablonka to its final resting place. As is recorded in the Pinkas HaYashan [The Old Folio] (according to the eye witness R’ Yehoshua Gorzelczany) – the Chevra was established on 17 Kislev 5501 [Tuesday, November 25, 1740].17 It seems that the founding was accompanied by a festive banquet, because the above date is the day of the Chevra banquet in several [sic: neighboring] communities. Because the simple goal of the Chevra, the “dirty” work, was the digging of the grave and performing the burial – that was done by the men of Jablonka. The men of the Zamborow Chevra permitted them to add a condition in the Pinkas: whoever is not knowledgeable in the study of a chapter of the Mishna, cannot be a member of the Chevra Kadisha.18 In a similar fashion, the honorific ‘Morenu’ [Our Teacher] that is added to one called for a Torah aliyah, was given to a man only by the Chevra. The heads of the Chevra were learned men, and it was possible to establish who was a scholar and rightly could be called: “Let Our Teacher R’ So-and-So the son of So-and-So...,” and from whom to take away the title of ‘Morenu’ if it was improperly bestowed. From this point in the Pinkas, it is possible to easily infer that these were learned Jews. The Chevra Kadisha was a catalyst to the formalization of a community, with all of the requisite appointments, and that did not tarry in coming.


 

N. By 1767 There Still Is No [Jewish] Community

 

On March 21, 1767 (20 Adar 5527) the government commission of the royal treasury (Kommisja Rzeczypospolitej Skarbu Koronnego) designated those communities that now belong to the Tykocin region, with regard to the level of taxes and the collection from both. Nineteen towns are enumerated there: Augustow (Yagustowa), Bocki, Bialystok, Goworowo and its surroundings, Goniądz, Wizna and its surroundings, Zawady and its surroundings, Jesionowka, Jedwabne, Loszyc, Niemirow, Sokoly, Sarnak, Konstantynow, Rutki and its surroundings, Rostki and its surroundings, and Rajgrod.

 

Zambrów, which is not far from Jablonka, and Rutki are not in the list! And yet, we know from the dispute between Yehuda son of R’ Shmerl and other lessees, in connection with the rights over the Zambrów [liquor] franchise, Tykocin got involved and decided who was right. [We deduce that] Zambrów was, indeed, under Tykocin tax control. This means: Jews were living here, but not organized into any sort of a community, without a rabbi, without a mikvah, and without a cemetery.

 

It is only first, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, that the history of the [Jewish] community in Zambrów begins. The original settlement was in the villages of Pruszki and Nagórki. The distance between these two villages was not great, and it was there that a Bet HaMedrash was built, which also served as a cheder for the children. Older children were sent for education to the surrounding towns: Jablonka and Śniadowo. Śniadowo has a reputation as a large Jewish community, and its rabbi even had aegis over Łomża, which at that time still did not have its own rabbi, and not even a bathhouse. (According to Polish municipal regulation, it was necessary to have a special concession for a bathhouse). The Jews of Łomża, from one side, and the Jews of Zambrów from the other, would travel or walk on Friday, so... as to go to Śniadowo to bathe, and wash themselves, get their hair cut, and sometimes be cupped or have blood let – all in honor of the Sabbath.


 

O. The First Cemetery – In the Year 1828

 

 


 

ulica Wodna (Wodna Street)

 

The number of Jews who took up residence in Zambrów proper grew larger and larger. They observed that it did not make sense to leave Zambrów to go pray at the Bet HaMedrash in Pruszki, so they formed their own prayer quorum in Zambrów and two Torah scrolls were brought in from Tykocin, borrowed for a short period of time. The Jews of Zambrów set about having Torah scrolls written for themselves. The settlement in Pruszki supported its existence and remained connected with the Zambrów Jews, as if they were one town. An incident occurred where a Jew in Zambrów died, and it was necessary to have him taken for burial to Jablonka, by way of ulica Sędziwuje. The weather was bad – with heavy rain, and the road was covered in mud, rivulets of water and potholes, because no paved road existed there yet at that time. Therefore, it was necessary to defer the funeral to the following day, and to the day after, and this was considered to be a great offense to the deceased. So on Saturday night the Jews of Zambrów and Pruszki came together in an assembly and decided to create their own cemetery, on the way that was, indeed, between Zambrów and Pruszki. R’ Leibeleh Khoyner, the ancestor of the Golombeks, then donated a parcel of land, and with ceremony, it was decided to step up to the preparations: obtaining permission from the authorities and indeed, also the concurrence of the Chevra Kadisha in Jablonka, which each year demanded a certain stipend from the Zambrów Jews towards the upkeep of their cemetery and the expenses of the Chevra [Kadisha]. A liberal wind was blowing through Poland at the time under Russian rule. This was evident in the relationship of the Poles to the Jews in Łomża, the provincial capitol, from which the permission was supposed to come. When the permission arrived, they began to cordon off the field and build a small structure for purification of the deceased bodies. In the year 1828 (5588) the first cemetery was dedicated.

 

The community in Łomża was established anew in the year 1812, under the influence of the spirit of Napoleon, who created the slogan among the Poles with regard to the Jews: Kochajmy się, meaning, ‘Let us love one another! In 1815 Poland came under Russian rule. The Russian authorities wanting to disrupt the unity among the Polish population, removed many of the Polish limitations placed on Jews. Despite this, the ‘Polish Kingdom’ under the Russians resisted this, and in the effort of a delegation sent before the regime in Warsaw, in the year 1822, they succeeded to create anew, a ghetto for the Jews and limit their rights in Łomża. This was also the case in Ostrołęka and other places. It was first, in the years 1827 and 1828, that Poland secretly began to prepare for its first uprising (powstanie) against Russian rule (1831). It was necessary to co-opt the Jews, and because of this, liberal winds began to blow in Poland. It was therefore not difficult to establish a Jewish community council in Zambrów. The Jews of Zambrów, at that time, actually favored Poland, and were patriots on its behalf, even in the uprising of 1863.

 

The Chevra Kadisha grew and reorganized itself. A Pinkas was initiated. The first gabbai was the father of R’ Chaim-Pinchas Sheinker. Later gabbaim were: Monusz Golombek, Shmueleh Wilimowsky, Binyomleh Golombek, Abraham Moshe Blumrosen, Abraham-Yossl Wilimowsky, and Yankl Zuckerowicz. Zuckerowicz was the last gabbai. The Nazis drove him to Germany and tortured him. When he returned exhausted, at the end of 1939, under the rule of Russians, he collapsed and died.

 

Of the martyrs, the names of the following are recalled: Abraham-Moshe and Wolf-Hirsch Kuczapa, his son, El’yeh, Israel-David Zibelman, Motl Melsheinker, and Yitzhak the Dyer.

 

Approximately in the year 1890, the cemetery was filled to capacity. The community then purchased a new location for a new cemetery, which bordered on the old cemetery and appeared like an extension to it. It has been said that a question arose among the gabbaim at that time, about what is to be done with the ‘ohel’ (the small building for purification of the dead): should the old one remain in place, which will now be at the [extreme] end of the new cemetery, and the deceased will have to be carried through the cemetery to be purified over all of the graves that will in time appear – or build a new ‘ohel,’ at the entrance of the new cemetery. R’ Shmueleh Wilimowsky said that the ohel should remain in its old location, and all that is needed is to rebuild it and enlarge it. Monusz Golombek argued that it makes better sense to have it at the entrance, so that it will not be needed to carry the deceased for a long distance, if it should be on a rainy day or during a snowstorm. To this end, he proposed with humor: we are not going to live here forever. In a hundred years, we are going to be buried somewhere here, in a respectful place, at the front – as gabbaim, and in the coming generation when the cemetery will be full of graves, and the members of the Chevra Kadisha will exhaust themselves by carrying the deceased for such a long distance – they will point to other graves on their way through, saying: Here lie the elder sages of the community, who lacked the common sense to build the ohel at the entrance, and put it so far away... [at that time] will it be pleasant for us to hear such talk? When no good will be said about us at the entrance, at least we will not be in a position to hear this embarrassment... At this, Shmueleh Wilimowsky laughed heartily, and agreed to what R’ Monusz proposed.

 

In the government regulation about having their own cemetery, they already had incorporated the right to create a Jewish ‘community’ in Zambrów. And this did not take very long. The communal statute was declared in the same year.
 

 

P. The Synagogue and Houses of Study

 

 

 

The Synagogue

 

 

The Entrance of the Synagogue



At first, prayer was conducted in small quorums. In general, the town consisted of small, wooden buildings, with straw roofs, and without making any comparison, even the church was made of wood, just outside the town, not far from the horse market.

 

One of the wealthy balebatim, R’ Leibeh, the son-in-law of El’yeh Katzin, built the first building on the marketplace and opened a very large tavern there. He was schooled in Kabbalah, and a very decent Jewish man. R’ Leibeh died suddenly – while still young. His young widow, ‘Rosa the Tavern Keeper’ or ‘Rosa of the Building’ gave over part of her house to be used as a Bet HaMedrash, and this was the first house of study in the town.

 

They were not, however, content with this: the town needed a synagogue. Accordingly, a collective action was taken. Balebatim bought ‘places’ even before the synagogue was built, and up front they paid a larger amount of money – for the good of the building. R’ Monusz Golombek donated the parcel that stretched past his yard in the direction of ulica Łomżyńska, for the synagogue. The provincial engineer permitted a street to be cut between his house and the synagogue.

 

The synagogue was constructed of stone and mortar, made of strong bricks and stone walls. At the beginning of the construction, the history of the synagogue building was written down on parchment, who donated the parcel, and who made contributions to the building fund, and it was sealed well in an earthenware po and embedded in the foundation19. When the foundation was torn apart in later years, at the time the new synagogue was built, it was found – it was reread, and once again imbedded in the foundation.

 

After the construction of the barracks, when the town had grown by several hundred new worshipers and the synagogue became crowded – it was decided to build a large Bet HaMedrash. A ‘dispute’ arose in the shtetl: The grumblers complained: it is necessary to build a stone Bet HaMedrash, on the other side of town, on the way to Cieciorki, so that it would be nearby for those that lived far off. The ‘Golombeks’ argued: we don’t have to be pretentious, and if the synagogue is made of stone – the Bet HaMedrash should be made of wood, since this is the way things are done by Jews.

 

Until the time Monusz Golombek turned over his parcel, which bordered on the synagogue, and wood was procured, and boards were carpentered, and the wooden study house started to go up slowly, beside the synagogue... at which time Shlomleh Blumrosen and his partners donated ten thousand bricks from his brick works, Herszak Bursztein donated a place, and a stone Bet HaMedrash was erected. It was at that time that they began to call [them] the ‘Wooden’ Bet HaMedrash and the ‘Stone’ Bet HaMedrash, or the ‘New’ Bet HaMedrash. During the time of the First Great Fire of 1895, the wooden Bet HaMedrash was consumed along with the synagogue. The stone Bet HaMedrash remained intact. In place of the wooden synagogue, a stone synagogue was erected already in about three years time, made of red brick, in accordance with the initiative of the ‘forthcoming Golombeks’ – Leibl and Binyomleh. It was therefore called the Red Bet HaMedrash, and the ‘New-Old’ Bet HaMedrash, which was colored white, was called the White Bet HaMedrash, until the town was destroyed. The synagogue remained in burned ruins for nearly thirteen years. At first, when the Red Bet HaMedrash was not yet available, they would worship in the burned out synagogue, between the walls, covered with a sort of tarpaulin.

 

Rosa’s building, where the first Bet HaMedrash in Zambrów was housed, went into the hands of R’ Hirsch Michal Cohen. When the synagogue was built, the Bet HaMedrash was liquidated. This then became the location for R’ Chaim Nahum’s dry goods store. The house was rented to the municipal chancellery, and in place of the old Bet HaMedrash...the municipal jail was put in place [die Kozeh]. The building was last bought by Yisroeleh Shia-[Be]zalel’s.20


 

Q. The Bathhouse and the Mikvah

 

There is no city that does not have a bathhouse and a mikvah. There had been a mikvah in Zambrów for many long years. Without one, a Jewish settlement cannot exist; however, a bathhouse requires special permission from the authorities. It was difficult going with the bathhouse: the authorities were not easily persuaded to permit a bathhouse to be built – that is to say, a place to bathe in honor of the Sabbath. From the perspective of the authorities, it had not yet been demonstrated that this was necessary for the populace... the Poles actually did not bathe. Up to the nineteenth century, only special towns had concessions for a bathhouse. It was the gabbai Shmueleh Wilimowsky, who built the bathhouse in Zambrów. The Jewish community invested about fifteen hundred rubles in the building. It was built on community land near the Hekdesh. The bathhouse had its own special brook, a cold and warm mikvah, a sauna to steam oneself, and a cold room, after being switched with branches. The bathhouse was leased for either a year or three years, and the community had a significant income from it. It was lit and heated on Thursdays for the womenfolk, and on Fridays for the menfolk. Occasionally, the baths would be kindled in the middle of the week, and it was shouted out in the streets: ‘the bath is being heated!’ Friday, at midday, when the bath was thought to be sufficiently heated (only men used the steam room) the stones in the oven would glow, and Józef the Shabbos-Goy had provided for enough switching branches, and the shammes would go out into the street intersections and announce: ‘To the baths!’ The military represented a large clientele for the baths. Soldiers, officers would fill up the baths, sometimes causing a scandal.. accordingly, for a while the bathing season was regulated: after candles were lit – the soldiers can come and a gentile keeps watch and collects the entrance fees.

 

They did not always succeed in having a good bathhouse manager. The last of these was R’ Alter Dworzec (Koltun), and it appears that the whole history of the baths came to an end with him.


 

R. The Poświątne

 

Together, with the growth of the [number of] Jews in the city, the Christian population also grew. They began to settle in the northeast side of the outskirts of the town. Here also is where the post office was set up, the court, and the religious Catholic institutions. And this is the history of the gentile section at the outskirts.

 

Behind the Rynek, on the way to Czyżew there was a large stretch of government land, that was called Poświątne. Shmueleh the Butcher bought this land from the government for a song. Shmueleh the Butcher had an ‘in’ with the government and was the contractor who supplied meat to the military. Accordingly, he got this parcel for a cheap price. A short time afterwards, the Zambrów parish decided to build a large, stone Roman Catholic church in place of the older wooden building that stood at the entrance to the town, not far from the Jewish cemetery. Since Shmueleh the Butcher sold off a parcel at a cheap price for the construction of a church, Jews also bought parcels and built new little houses along the church street, ulica Kościelna, because this location had developed into a source of livelihood: every Sunday, when the gentiles would gather from the surrounding villages, to perform their religious rites, they provide a great deal of earnings. The Jewish settlement grew and branched out further in this manner.
 

 

S. The Military District

 

In the year 1882, Zambrów became a military [focal] point. The Russian authorities decided to garrison two full infantry divisions and an artillery brigade there. Smaller detachments of soldiers had been in Zambrów for a while, previously. Immediately after the Polish uprising (powstanie) of 1863, soldiers were stationed in Zambrów. Seeing as there were no barracks yet, they were dispersed throughout the town. At the location where later there was a place for receiving guests, and the old home of the Rabbi, and his small court house – was the post, and at the place of the Red Bet HaMedrash – a mustering place for the soldiers. The Jewish populace suffered some bit of morale problems because of the soldiers. They would constantly come around begging for food, especially on the Sabbath – a piece of fish and a piece of challah. Jewish daughters would be fearful of answering the door at night. Jewish children learned the profanities used by the soldiers. On the other side, they brought in income to the town. Jewish tailors and shoemakers, bakers and storekeepers who sold clothing, made a good living, and the population of Jews in the town increased. It was only after deciding to station two divisions of soldiers, that consideration was given to constructing barracks. To this end, Captain Radkiewicz was sent to Zambrów from the Warsaw Military District. He then purchased a large parcel of land from Shmueleh the Butcher, on the road to Czyżew, on which to erect the military compound: tens of barracks, places for drilling and mustering, a Russian Orthodox chapel, housing for the officers, warehouses and stables, an arsenal for ammunition, clothing, etc. The contract to put up the entire military compound was taken by a Jew from Łomża, named Manes Becker. He was an orphaned and solitary young boy who studied at the Talmud Torah in Łomża. Later on he apprenticed with a mason and worked his way up a little at a time, until he became a contractor for sizeable structures. Together with his son-in-law Abramowicz (the son of the coppersmith of Lochow), he built the first of the military barracks on ulica Kościelna, and the street then took the name Koszaren21. Many Jews, tradespeople, merchants, contractors, all made a good living at the Koszaren. Those Jews who were engaged in the construction, were called' koszarers’: Avreml Koszarer, Herschel Koszarer, etc.

 

Zambrów became a large Jewish town that provided sustenance to hundreds of families, and people came to engage in employment from all directions.

 

T. The Post Office

 

With the growth of the town in line with the needs of the Jewish populace, which made meaningful use of the post and telegraph services, the small post office on ulica Wola near the nobleman Sokoliewski, moved over into the large premises in Bollender’s house on the ‘Uchastek.’ The post office was in Jewish hands and was closed on the Sabbath. Letters and other posted articles were conveyed by Jewish wagon drivers to the train station, and from the train station in accordance with an annual agreement with the postal authorities. The first mailman was Jewish, ‘Alter the Mailman.’ His mother was a midwife and had relationships with the wives of the nobility and the wives of appointed and employed people. It was because of her connections that he became the mailman. The post office served the entire Zambrów gmina. However, it would not distribute to local addresses in the villages. They would have to come to get their mail.

 

No small number of Poles fled the country after the Polish uprising. Accordingly, their parents and relatives would come every Sunday to Alter the Mailman, to inquire whether or not a letter had arrived. Often he would set out a small table on Sunday, not far from the church, and respond to the interested parties. He was well compensated for letters with produce from the villages and money. So Alter became rich. His two-story wooden house on ulica Ostrowska was one of the nicest in the town.

 

In time, the post office bought its own horse and wagon and transported the postal items to the train, as well as passengers. The post office could no longer remain closed on the Sabbath because of the Jewish mailman.

 

The post office became secularized, and the meaning of ‘Jewish mail’ was again applied to letters that were not delivered in a timely fashion, but languished somewhere in a pocket. Alter’s position was taken over by a gentile from Goworowo.
 

 

U. The First Great Fire

 

As previously mentioned, Zambrów survived a number of fires concurrently. However, of special note was a ‘Jewish fire’ that broke out in the month of Tammuz (July) of 1895, which burned down the entire Jewish settlement, the synagogue and the Bet HaMedrash. From that time, Jewish Zambrów began to reckon time with reference to this fire: [to wit]: ‘I was born a year after the fire.’ ‘Such-and-such was before the fire,’ etc.

 

The first great Zambrów fire – made [quite] an impression and was written up in HaMelitz and HaTzefira – the two Hebrew daily newspapers of Russia-Poland. No Yiddish newspaper existed yet.21

 

Mr. Benjamin Cogan writes in HaTzefira, Friday, the Parsha of Balak, 5655 (1895), that a large fire broke out. Approximately four hundred houses were consumed, [as well as] one hundred stores, food shops and storage facilities, two houses of study, and the synagogue. Only twenty houses remained, and about two thousand people were left without a roof over their heads. When the news reached Łomża, R’ Nachman Drozowsky organized an aid initiative. The rabbi, R’ Malkhiel, went from house to house with balebatim on the Sabbath to collect food, clothing and money.

 

In HaTzefira of 15 Av 5655 (1895) number 167, the committee thanks Mr. Eliyahu Frumkin of Wysokie, on behalf of the victims of the fire, for the bread and one hundred rubles that he came up with. The committee approaches the public with a request for assistance to the unfortunate of the town after the fire. When Czyżew, Sędziwuje, and Rutki had burned down – Zambrów did not rest, and it collected a lot of money and clothing. Accordingly, it was now time to return that help.

 

In HaMelitz of November 19,1895 in 29/11. The rabbi, R’ Dov Regensberg, thanks his friend the editor for the aid initiative that he published in his newspaper, which on one occasion brought in one hundred and fifty rubles and another time fifty rubles.

 

In HaTzefira, number 55 of 3 Nissan 5556 (1896), the correspondent complains that since the Kozioner Rabbiner22 R’ Moshe David Gold moved to Nowogród, municipal affairs have been neglected. The Chevra Kadisha requires one thousand rubles a year for its needs, and no fence has been put around the cemetery. Today, one finds bones there...the money that was sent for those who were burned out has been distributed without an accounting, and those who stood closest to the trough were the first to benefit from it...

 

In HaTzefira Number 36, from the year 1897, Y. Gurfinkel writes that the economic situation in the town has already improved, the kosher canteen for the observant soldiers who do not wish to eat non-kosher food from the [regular] canteen has reopened after two years of dispute. Before this, a midday meal would cost a soldier ten kopecks, and as a result there were few patrons. Now a midday meal is much cheaper because the contributions from the supporters have increased.
 

 

V. The Zambrów ‘Gangsters’

 

Every town had its own pejorative nickname. For example there were the Wise Men of Chelm, and Warsaw Thieves. In the Zambrów area there were: the Gartl-Wearers of Czyżew, the Bullies of Ostrów, the Kolno package [carriers], the Jablonka Goats, the ‘Guys’ from Łomża, the Jedwabne Crawlers, the Cymbal Players from Staewka, etc. Every town knew how to describe its pedigree and the story of its nickname.

 

Zambrów also had such a nickname: the Zambrów Gangsters, meaning, bands of thieves. This name was notorious in Poland. In a book, ‘By Us Jews’, which appeared in Warsaw in the year 1923, Mr. Lehman tells in his article ‘Thieves and Robberies’ (page 56) why people from Zambrów are called ‘gangsters:’ ‘In the sixty to seventy years (it really should be seventy to eighty) of the previous century, there were gangs of horse thieves in Zambrów. It has been told that the horses were stolen from deep inside Russia, and at night they were brought to Zambrów, and they were quartered in the stables of the large Zambrów taverns. A couple of nights later the horses were taken out of their clandestine stalls and taken off to the Prussian border. The investigating judge, Tuminsky, undertook to excise these gangs, and he succeeded. That is what is written there in the book.

 

Correspondence concerning the trial of the gangsters was printed in the two Hebrew daily newspapers at the end of the prior century – [in] HaMelitz in Odessa, and HaTzefira in Warsaw, and we will introduce them here, in abbreviated form: A certain A. Z. Golomb wrote the following in HaMelitz Number 123, on June 4, 1887: Approximately ninety men joined together, from the entire area, even as far as Grodno, and carried out large scale thievery and murders, assaults with intent to rob, and so forth. However, they were especially notorious for the stealing of horses. The Chief of the Secret Police in Łomża harassed these thieves, so they stole his horse as well. When he became very upset and ashamed, the thieves told him: he was to put two hundred rubles in a certain place, and they will then return his horse to him. He placed the money in that spot – and they took the two hundred rubles and didn’t return the horse as well. At that time, he did a very daring thing: he traveled to Petersburg, and went through a course on how to apprehend thieves. Upon his return to Łomża, he had acquired the [added] title of  'Court Investigator’ and obtained all the rights to arrest the gangsters. His attack against the gangs lasted for three years, until he captured and arrested them all in Łomża. The trial took place in May 1887 in the Łomża district court. Among the accused and held in irons were thirty-three Jews from Zambrów. The sentence was announced on May 28: Of the men, twenty-three were found guilty, and ten – innocent. One of them, Moshe, was accused of informing on a gentile. Joseph L. and Joseph Sh. robbed and raped a noblewoman. A boy, Mikhl L,. stole a goose and a few days later attacked the owner and beat him, because the goose was so scrawny. Among those arrested were a number of prominent and respected balebatim from Zambrów, owners of taverns, who were sentenced to several years of imprisonment. Two prominent horse dealers from Zambrów, Y. and N., were sent to Siberia with their wives and children.

 

In the June 28, 1887 edition of HaTzefira, Abcheh24 Rokowsky (see a separate chapter about him later on) offered a rebuttal to the article by Mr. Golomb, indicating that he was guilty of a sacrilege, because the Russian and Polish dailies seized on it and reprinted it. Mr. Rokowsky argued that the court had added a variety of criminals to the trial of the gangsters, because the police, in this manner, wanted to raise its prestige. [He complained that] prominent balebatim from Zambrów were arrested, not because they were partners in the gangs, but because they were considered disloyal citizens: they had not told the authorities that the gangsters were stopping off in Zambrów on their way to the Prussian border. Abba Rokowsky writes that Mr. Golomb created a tempest in a teapot [literally: a storm in a glass of water] and had insulted the Zambrów Jews.

 

This matter was discussed for many years in the shtetl. It was later shown that a political issue was involved here: Germany was interested in buying Russian dragoon horses. A gang of non-Jews, Poles, carried this out. They would bribe soldiers who stood watch, officers, etc., and they opened the military stables. Some of them would then mount some of the horses, tie a row of other horses to them, and go off in the dark of night to the border. Zambrów was a strategic point for them. It was possible to reach the border in one night. Here there were large stables that belonged to the three brothers B. who owned taverns. From time to time, the gangsters would lodge there, posing as horse merchants. The local Polish community put pressure on the Zambrów Jews, the owners of the taverns, to maintain silence. Also the gabbaim of the community, who were responsible for the deeds of their brethren, had to keep quiet. For this reason they to, were arrested, but later on they were released.

 

However, for purposes of enhancing their prestige, the criminal police added charges of ordinary theft and murder to the charges against the gangsters, which had been ‘discovered’ and were incidentally recorded in reporting to the authorities. It was said that horses had been stolen from a nobleman near Zambrów, night after night, the Chief of Police said to the nobleman: leave two good-looking horses in the stable tonight, and I will hide in the haystack and will harass the thieves. So that night, they not only stole these horses, they also stole the jacket and sword of the secret agent.

 

For many years, the family of horse traders that was sent to Siberia were called the 'Siberians,’ when they came back from Siberia. In town, the truth was known, and the dignity of those who were mixed up in this trial was not impaired.

 

So this is the story of the Zambrów Gangsters, who marked our town with a less than stellar reputation in the larger world.


 

W. The Second Great Fire

 

After the [First Great] Fire, the town got itself back up on its feet. The marketplace and the surrounding side streets were quickly rebuilt. Instead of single small houses, two-story houses were built. Several tens of additional Jewish homes were added on ulica Ostrowska, on ulica Bialostocka and ulica Cieciorka. Commerce flourished, and the houses of study were full of worshipers. Zambrów became the principal city of all the surrounding settlements. Zambrów looked after the Jewish settlement in Brzeznica, in Szumowo, etc.

 

Approximately four hundred Jewish recruits were installed in Zambrów, and the town had to provide for their kosher food., for their Sabbath, and Festival holidays, and other matters pertaining to their Jewish faith. In general, it was the military that contributed most of the income to the town. During the summer, the Jewish small businessmen and tradespeople would be drawn to the ‘summer residence’ in Goszerowo, where the Zambrów soldiers would spend the summer in camp. Maneuvers would frequently be conducted – and at that time, the town was packed with soldiers and the stored were full of them. The town considered itself to be entirely Jewish and was enclosed in an eruv,23 thereby permitting the town Jews to carry a handkerchief, or a prayer book on the Sabbath, or to carry a cholent, etc., until the Second Great Fire arrived, which broke out on Saturday night, May 1, 1909.

 

About five hundred Jewish houses were burned down. The misfortune was laid at the foot of the Zambrów Christian Fire Fighters Command, which was anti-Semitic in its sentiments. Once again, the town got back on its feet quickly and became much more beautiful and prosperous than before. Ulica Kościelna, with its sidewalks and pretty businesses, became equivalent to what one would see in a large city.
 

 

 

 

From Bygone Zambrów

By Mendl Zibelman
(Miami, FL, USA)

 


 


Mendl Zibelman

 



Introduction

 

 

How old was Zambrów of yore? Who were its first Jews? How did they make their living?

 

The Pinkas of the Zambrów community was in our yard, from the first day of its existence in 1828 until 1914, as well as the census books of the same period that were also in our possession, and therefore I can remember things that I would see from time to time in the Pinkas. I also remember what it was that I heard from the elderly Jews of that time, and that which I am capable of remembering on my own.


My name is Mendl, a son of Israel-David the Shammes, of the former Red Bet HaMedrash in the Zambrów that used to be. My father was a son-in-law to Moshe Shammes ז"ל. These two people, my father and his father-in-law, were the administrators of bygone Zambrów for approximately one hundred years.

 

A. Moshe Shammes, and My Father, Israel - David

 

 

 

 

Monument-Pillar in the Center of the Market Place
 


Moshe Shammes was the one who started the Pinkas and began to document the out of the ordinary Jewish incidents that would take place in the shtetl from time to time. He was also in charge of the graves, because in that time, when an incident of death occurred in Zambrów, the deceased would be taken to Jablonka for their final resting place, and this is the way it is described in the Pinkas.
 

Moshe Shammes also managed all the books where all births, deaths and weddings were recorded. The census books were kept in the Polish language. From 1863 onwards, the census books, as well as all meeting minutes, had to be kept in the Russian language. As can be seen from the books themselves, Moshe Shammes had a good command of both languages. Apart from this, he was a substantial scholar because many books remained behind him in our house, about which he wrote commentaries which took up tens of sides, and he added them separately to each book. He was also schooled in secular subjects. This could be seen from the correspondence that he carried on with world-famous people of that time. One such person was the world-famous mathematician and astronomer, the editor of ‘HaTzefira,’ R’ Chaim Zelig Slonimsky. As a fact about Moshe’s knowledge of astronomy, he composed a one hundred year calendar and displayed it to be engraved on a tobacco snuff box. It was engraved beautifully and artistically. That snuff box was in our home for decades after he passed away. His penmanship in the languages that he knew was clear and understandable, as if it were printed. It appears that he engraved his own headstone thirty-seven years before he died, and the headstone was put in a place that he had selected for his burial spot, and on that spot he planted the sapling of a sweet cherry tree. This was the only fruit tree in the Zambrów cemetery.
 

My father would recall that in the summertime, when it got hot, Moshe Shammes would go to the cemetery and lay down on his future grave, and he would often sleep this way for several hours. He did this for many years. I can still recall a part of what was written on his headstone: 'His soul is still within him, he returns easily to the ground of his creator...’ Moshe Shammes died at a very advanced age. His son-in-law, my father Israel-David ז"ל , took over all of his responsibilities.
 

My father also possessed all of the knowledge required to manage the census books, the Pinkas, as well as all the functions that Moshe carried out, and he did this without an interruption in service until 1914, when he was already at a very advanced age, over eighty years of age. Being alone (my mother ע"ה died in 1912), his six sons in America brought him to Philadelphia. He died here in the year 1918, leaving eight sons. Two continue to live here in America, my brother Caleb, and myself, Mendl. Two remained in Europe: The youngest, Baruch, was in Knyszyn until the Nazi bandits invaded there, and one older than I, Naphtali, who lived in the Caucasus since 1905, in the city of Baku. Naphtali survived the First World War, serving in the Russian Army, and later on during the entire time of the Revolution. He came back sick and was given a post by the Soviet regime, until after the Second World War. He died in Baku in 1946.


 

B. Zambrów in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century

 

 

 

The Market Place on Saturday Afternoon
 

Jewish life in Zambrów officially starts from the years when the Pinkas was opened and the cemetery was begun, along with other Jewish institutions. All these events begin with the year 1828. However, there is no question that Jews were already in Zambrów for many years before this. In order to understand what sort of place Zambrów was at that time, it is necessary to grasp what sort of Poland existed at that time.

 

In Poland, there was still a feudal system in place. Ninety-five percent of the Polish population worked on large landed estates in the employ of the wealthy nobility, and they lived from whatever the earth gave forth to satisfy their daily needs. They received no money for their labor. Not only had no industry developed, but also manual trades stood at a low level.

 

With what [then] did the Jews of that time engage, in order to make a living? Most of them had gardens, orchards, fields and parcels of forest. Ninety-five percent of the Jews already lived a little better than the ninety-five percent of the Poles, but not very much better, because they were living in a static, unmoving world that bore no resemblance to the world in which we find ourselves today.

 

It was first later, after the Napoleonic Wars, when the Czarist Russian regime began to arm itself against further incursions across its borders and decided to build paved roads to its towns and villages that were not far from the German borders — and Zambrów was one such town – the economic condition in Poland first began to improve, and it got better from year to year. In that time, without machinery, every undertaking took tens of years. There were no locomotives or automobiles. Accordingly, it took years, to bring in all of the materials on peasant wagons required for the construction of the roads. Accordingly, quite a number of years went by before the roads were completed.

 

Zambrów was ringed by a network of roads from all sides, cutting through the town, both in length and breadth. This provided an opportunity for hundreds of peasants from the surrounding villages to come to Zambrów with their accumulated rural produce. The Jews purchased this produce, and for the first time the Poles obtained money for their produce. Jews opened small stores, taverns; Jewish craftsmen started to get organized; Poles, in growing numbers, began coming to Zambrów with their rural produce, and it was decided to renew the old weekly market day. Every Thursday became the weekly market day, in order that the Jews should be able to purchase items in anticipation of the Sabbath. The gentiles, indeed, immediately spent their earnings in Jewish businesses. And this is the way it went on for a stretch of years. Zambrów garnered a reputation in the area as a small town where money could be made. Many of the Jews from the surrounding villages sought to move into Zambrów and open stores. The peasants would come and visit Zambrów with increasing frequency, bringing their produce. With time, a large Roman Catholic church was built there for the mass of Poles who would come to Zambrów on a weekly basis. Sunday also became a day in which Jews could earn a living, and it was in this manner, a little at a time, that the number of Jews in Zambrów grew, as well as their wealth. In those years, there were no large cities in Poland, in general. Bialystok was also not more than a small town, no larger than Tykocin, and Zambrów – smaller than Jablonka. It is possible to imagine what Zambrów looked like in those years: small, muddy, no paved streets, small wooden houses, many of them with thatched straw roofs. Decades went by this way, until something like progress began to develop, and was brought to a war or a rebellion somewhere.

 

In the second half of the nineteenth century, something happened that shook up Poland – this was the uprising of Poland against the Czarist regime in the year 1863. Russia immediately sent in a large force of Cossacks, and they quickly put down the rebellion. However, Russia no longer withdrew the army from Poland. Russia began to construct barracks for an entirely new army, named ‘Warszawski Voyenyi Okrug.’ – The Warsaw Military District – with a Governor-General in Warsaw. He had control over all the military contingents in all of Poland, as well as ten civilian governors of the ten Polish provinces. In general, Russia entered Poland, as it were, with both feet. Poland, having lost in the rebellion, now had also lost many liberties that it had enjoyed up to that point, and it became fully controlled and ruled from Russia. However, Russia invested hundreds of millions of new rubles into the economy of the country. Poland began to come to life, and the Jews of the country took a substantive participation in the economy. Poland, however, accused its Jews of informing the Cossack commanders of where the cohorts of the Polish patriots could be found. Accordingly, the Jew was made to be a scapegoat, which was directly responsible for the failure of the ‘Majtez’ (The Polish Rebellion). As detailed in the Zambrów Pinkas, tens of Jews were seized in the surrounding villages, and their tongues were cut out. The Jews who were killed, were brought to their final resting place in the Zambrów cemetery.
 

 

C. The Zambrów Barracks

 

 

 

The Solemn Reception for the President of the Polish Republic, Mr. Wojciechowski
(The Representative of the Jewish Community, left, beside the lamppost).

 

When Russia decided that the army it had sent in to Poland to suppress the rebellion and quiet the uprising would remain there, it began to build barracks for a quarter of a million soldiers in a variety of cities and towns in Poland, including Zambrów as a strategic point. However, it took approximately ten years for the engineers to get the plans finished. In the eighties, contracts were signed with hundreds of contractors who had to provide a variety of building materials for the barracks, and they began to assemble the various craftsmen from the building industry. The contractors and craftsmen were mainly Jewish. However, there were not enough qualified workers because in the cities around Zambrów, such as Ostrowa26, Łomża, etc., barracks were also being built at the same time. It was therefore necessary to import five hundred skilled craftsmen from deep inside Russia. This meant a great deal to Zambrów because, along with the local workers, this provided a great deal of income to the Zambrów economy. And this meant a great deal, giving a living to Zambrów store keepers and people in the manual trades, and the Jewish population in Zambrów grew in number from week to week. The original Zambrów Jews, whose business consisted of gardens, orchards, fields and parcels of forest, now also ran taverns, stores, and became contractors for specific materials for the barracks. It was in this way that the resident Blumrosens provided millions of bricks from their own brick works that they had erected for this purpose in Gardlyn, on the ulica Bialostocka. Also, two Jews constructed two steam-driven mills on ulica Ostrowska, one on the right side by Mr. Grayewsky, and the second on the left side of the road by Mr. Goldin of Tykocin. Years later, Grayewsky’s mill was burned down, and it was never rebuilt. Goldin’s mill was later sold to three partners and it was still in existence in 1910 when I left Zambrów.


 

D. Good Times Arrive...

 

 

 

The Market Place in the Days of the Czars.
First on the Right, Sholom Rotbard, the Fruit Dealer.

 

 

From all appearances, the oldest families in Zambrów were the Bursteins, Golombeks, the Kuszarers, or Lewinskys. In former times they engaged, as was previously said, in forest products, orchards, gardens and fields. However, with the passage of time they also had taverns and other undertakings. The barracks were finished. In the first years of the nineties approximately nine thousand soldiers arrived, and it just so happened that when the soldiers arrived in Zambrów, the officers barracks were not yet completed. So, temporarily the officers were billeted in private homes, naturally, mostly in the homes of Jewish balebatim. Among the officers there also was found a Jew, I think the only such Jewish officer in the Russian army. He was Baron Ginzburg from Petersburg24. He was quartered with Shlomleh Wilimowsky, who was one of the most prominent of the balebatim, a gabbai of the Chevra Kadisha and the Bet HaMedrash. With the opening of the barracks, and the arrival of so many soldiers in such a small town like Zambrów, a new, good era was launched for Jewish Zambrów, with good hopes that the town would grow larger, as well as the number of Jews and their wealth. The contractors who provided all of the provisions for both of the divisions and also for the artillery brigade were the Jews Chomsky, Bollender, and Binyomleh Golombek – all residents of Zambrów. Also, the other things that soldiers needed were provided by Jews. Also, the officers and their families would buy everything from Jews. The officers’ tailors, shoemakers, and hat makers were all Jews. The Jews also set up the stores for soldiers and officers, everything, even the wood to heat the barracks was provided by the Blumrosens, kerosene for lamps by Abcheh Rokowsky. The barracks provided several million rubles of income to Zambrów’s Jews. The Jewish population more than doubled, because the contractors and most of the Jewish craftsmen who worked for the barracks remained already as permanent Zambrów residents. So the town built another Bet HaMedrash – the previous ones had become crowded for the large number of worshipers. It was called the ‘White’ or ‘New’ Bet HaMedrash, because its exterior walls were colored white.

 

From the past there already were a large stone-built synagogue and a wooden Bet HaMedrash. There was also a Shas study group and a variety of Hasidic shtiblakh, and a variety of assistance groups such as: ‘Hakhnasat Kallah, Gemilut Hasadim, and certainly the Chevra Kadisha and a variety of others. By that time, Zambrów also had the well-known maggid, R’ Eliakim Getzl, a formidable exponent of Musar, and a very animated individual. Later on, a controversy erupted because of him, and he was compelled to leave Zambrów (see Section F). Also, another shokhet was retained. With the arrival of the soldiers, every year it was necessary to swear in several hundred new Jewish recruits. Because the Rabbi of Zambrów ז"ל did not know any Russian, it was necessary to procure a Kozioner Rabbiner, [who was] recognized by the Russian regime. And so, this is how Zambrów grew from year to year. In the last ten years of the nineteenth century, several significant events took place in Zambrów, which I will describe in the following text: the great epidemic of cholera, the controversy over the maggid, and the First Great Fire.


 

E. My Father Rides a Horse, and Cholera is Driven from the Town

 

When the barracks were nearing completion, a terrifying epidemic broke out, cholera, and it kept on spreading in Zambrów and its environs. Medical science, at that time, was on a very low level and the epidemic took away tens of lives each week. When all of the superstitious treatments and remedies proved to be of no avail, the central authorities from Warsaw brought in a doctor by the name of Delaney, a specialist in these sorts of things. He began to create discipline in order to arrest the epidemic.

 

First, he prohibited consumption of water from the river or from brooks that had not been previously boiled. Large containers of water were put up beside the various houses of study, which were boiled day and night, to be used as drinking water for the town. Also, in the community houses, he set up first-aid stations. If someone came down with an attack of cholera, he was immediately isolated from the healthy and brought to a first-aid station, where first-aid was immediately administered. With time, the doctor managed to control the epidemic. However, the religious Jews organized a procession to the cemetery, in order to make certain that the cholera not ever return. To this end, the discards of old sacred texts in the attics of the Bet HaMedrash (called shamos) were collected and packaged. The Jews gathered near the synagogue, surrounded with lit wooden torches, to light the way to the cemetery, because the procession took place in the evening. I was, at that time, still a little boy, but I have a strong memory of the incident, because my father was a marshal and commandant of the procession. When the Jews arrived with the shamos from the synagogue, they were placed on the same bier on which the dead were placed on their way to burial. My father rode on a horse; this was the first and last time that I saw my father riding on a horse. He gave the signal, and the procession began on its way to the cemetery. Coming to the ‘field,’ prayers were recited, and the shamos received a suitable burial. From that time on, cholera did not return to Zambrów.


F. The Maggid Eliakim Getzl Forced to Leave Zambrów (1895)

 

 

 

Herschel Kuszarer, building contractor of the army barracks and his wife, Esther-Mattl.
 

 

At the time that Zambrów retained an additional shokhet because of the increase in population, both rabbis needed to certify his capacity to perform slaughter in accordance with ritual. The Kozioner Rabbiner immediately offered his concurrence. However, the old rabbi Regensberg זצ"ל was opposed. Meanwhile, the shokhet performed slaughter, and Jews ate from his produce. The town maggid, as usual, sided with the old rabbi. In town, two sides were formed immediately. The majority sided with the Kozioner Rabbiner. The maggid, who was a great exponent of Musar, in his usual Sabbath sermon exhorted and indicated to the Jews who ate from the new shokhet’s produce that they were eating trayf25, and they will suffer for it in this world and the world to come. He also called out balebatim by name, whom he knew to be eating from this shokhet’s produce. A dispute broke out immediately between the two factions of Jews in the town. It was taken to Łomża to the provincial committee, where it was averred that there was such-and-such who was a trouble-maker. An investigation committee then arrived, and it decided that the prominent people of the town would decide by a blackball vote: each person would receive two balls, a white one and a red one. If he throws in the white ball – he favors the maggid, a red one – opposed. The side that held in favor of the Kozioner Rabbiner was in the majority. So, the maggid lost his position and was compelled to leave Zambrów within two weeks' time. He went off to Bialystok and was a maggid there for a couple of years. After that he became the maggid for the city of Brisk. In his final parting sermon that he held in Zambrów before he went away, he said that the sin committed by Zambrów will not be silenced, and the entire town will suffer for it. He even went so far as to say that the very stones in the streets will burn... When he went away, two weeks later, Zambrów burned down, and the entire town went down in a terrifying blaze. The Jews, who held with the maggid, interpreted this as ‘God’s Finger,’ while other said that the maggid had cursed Zambrów. In the history of Zambrów, this is called ‘The First Great Fire.’


G. The First Great Fire

 

The Great Fire took place in July 1895. It was a hot summer day, and sometime during the day the fire started on ulica Ostrowska, near the river in a smithy. It was a hot summer day and a warm breeze was blowing towards the town, where all the houses were made of wood. Most of these with straw roofs, [which were] dried out from the intense heat. It was sufficient for a single spark to ignite such a straw roof, and for the breeze to blow such burning straw fragments toward tens of other such houses, and in this way ignite entire streets in a hellish fire. And, indeed, this is exactly what happened. The entire town burned all at once. There was not yet any organized fire fighting command. [To boot], it was Friday, and most of the Jewish men were in the bathhouse, on the first bench, shouting 'let’s have steam!’, and they were sweating themselves, and being switched in honor of the coming Sabbath. Women were occupied with their tsimmes26, with cooking gefilte fish, with getting the cholent ready to be placed in the oven27, and they also wanted to keep an eye on the children, so they would not go run to the fire. The town was burning. The stores in the marketplace had small casks of kerosene, which immediately went up in flames. A detachment of soldiers came from the barracks to see if they could be of any help. But once they saw how the taverns were burning, and how the stores with all their goods were going up in flames – they first helped themselves... the children were rescued, and people went off into the forests and fields around Zambrów, and that is where we remained already for the Sabbath. On the field and in the forest, it was possible to see Sabbath candles being lit and hear blessings being made over wine, as well as the sound of songs being sung... and so they remained this way in the fields and woods until Sunday, while quite simply: their meager houses were left open to entry by anyone. The fire consumed property from the houses of Avreml Kuszarer, which stood beside the bridge on the Kuszaren, to ulica Łomżyńska and the synagogue street, up to the bathhouse, including the synagogue [itself] and the wooden Bet HaMedrash, and from the river on ulica Ostrowska – where the fire started – enveloping the marketplace from all sides, and penetrated deeply into ulica Bialostocka, where Khachnik’s orchard was located, and where the ‘Wieznie31 stood, where transient prisoners were brought from the prison in Łomża and needed to be sent to other prisons, or be sent to hard labor or off to Siberia. Beyond the previously mentioned places, there were not yet any houses. It was first, on Sunday, that the children were gathered up, and using the wagons of peasants rode off to the surrounding villages, or the nearby towns – to wait while Zambrów would be rebuilt. On that first Sunday, help arrived in the form of bread from all of the cities and towns around Zambrów. Wagons full of foodstuffs arrived from as far away as Bialystok. The burned-out store keepers began to set up temporary stores, nailed together from charred boards on the Pasek that stretched from the middle of the marketplace from ulica Ostrowska to ulica Bialostocka. Such booths were put up on both sides. And the store keepers brought their small amount of merchandise to be kept there, in order to serve the residents who had been burned out – until such time that a new Zambrów would be built, and it didn’t take very long. Before the year was out, a new, modern shtetl was erected, and the ‘town’ of Zambrów became the 'city’ of Zambrów, and the small, wooden houses -- many of which had straw roofs -- were replaced with two-story houses with balconies. Instead of straw roofs, all the stone buildings were required to have tin roofs. And all the houses, stretching form ulica Łomżyńska, on all four sides of the marketplace, and also all of the houses on ulica Kościelna, were required to be made of stone, and not wood. This was a new requirement of the province, and when the city had more-or-less rebuilt itself, all those who had taken up residence in the villages and towns around Zambrów began to return to the new houses, and the store keepers began to be drawn to the just rebuilt stores, configured in the latest style, with all manner of merchandise and goods, as is appropriate to an urban Zambrów. Zambrów acquired a more modern appearance, and people began to dress better, because it is not proper for a newly ‘developed’ city to have its citizens walk around bedraggled. Accordingly, the people did not want to detract from the new houses, and they began to primp, and one thing leads to another, and Zambrów became the second city as the most beautiful and also [the most] aristocratic in the entire province of Łomża.

 

Regarding what I write here, that one thing leads to another, reminds me about a Zambrów Jew, I believe his name was Yitzhak Velvel Golombek, a son of Monusz. He had a building for Kuszaren, opposite Abcheh Frumkin’s building. He dressed modestly. He was, however, quite a clever Jewish man, and he was once asked how is it that he is never seen with his boots shined. He then did a calculation: were I to shine my boots, I would then have to buy new socks. And if one had shined boots and new socks, new trousers would be needed with a new jacket. For a new jacket, one then needs an armoire where it can be hung, and to accommodate this the house needs to be expanded. So he computed that to shine his boots, it would cost him twelve hundred rubles, and it is therefore better and cheaper not to shine the boots, and to wear torn trousers The wags in Zambrów good-humoredly nicknamed him ‘the man without pants’ for his cleverness.
 

 

H. Zambrów Also Crowns Nicholas II (1896)

 

Zambrów also had to participate in the celebration when Nicholas II ascended the throne, just as all other cities and towns of the Russian Empire. Naturally, most of the ceremonies took place in the barracks, but also in the city -- it was a week full of celebrations. First, all the houses in the city had to hang out new Russian flags. Beside the white Bet HaMedrash, a gate was erected, fashioned from colored flowers, and at night they were illuminated by colored lanterns of red, blue and white – the colors of the Russian national flag. The same was done on the balconies of the new Jewish houses on the marketplace. Poles got drunk, soldiers drank, and the Jews offered ‘Mi SheBerakh’ blessings in the various houses of study and sang [the national anthem] ‘God Protect the Czar,’ the new king, Nicholas II. And Nicholas immediately repaid them by taking away the taverns from the Jews and replacing them with [state-run] monopolies. Perhaps it was necessary to stop drunkards from drinking, but many Jews lost their livelihood. Nothing else newsworthy happened in Zambrów in those years. Poland was already on the way to becoming industrialized. This had the greatest effect on the large, landed estates of the nobility, and this brought tens of thousands of the rural element into the cities to compete with the urban people. And this, in turn, drove thousands of people out of the cities, mostly Jews, causing them to immigrate to other countries, to America. Zambrów was no exception. One would travel to earn and save a few hundred dollars, and then come back. People would even return to serve in the military, because no one wanted to be cut off from their birthplace. In the later years, when the anti-Semitism had worked its way into the fabric of the economy of the land, immigration to America became permanent – never again to look upon Russia.

 

The beginning of the twentieth century heralded the coming of great change, because the masses of two of the largest countries on two continents had harbored revolutionary ideas for years: to topple their monarchial governments and to establish a constitutional government. These were Russia and China. The opportunity to do so came quickly when the Czarist government sought to weaken the Revolution by dragging Russia into a war with Japan. This had exactly the opposite effect – because the Russian masses did not want war, and this led to sever defeats on the battlefields of Manchuria and forced the Czar to issue a Manifesto, introducing a constitutional monarchy in the Duma.

 

The economic plight of the Jews in Poland grew worse and worse. The Czarist regime curtailed political rights. This caused a great immigration of Jews from all cities and towns to America – and Zambrów was among them.
 

 

I. A Jew is Murdered in Zambrów (1905)

 

During the war with Japan, from time to time, five or six hundred soldiers would be selected from the Zambrów garrison and sent to the Japanese front. Older soldiers, from provinces deep inside Russia, would be brought to replace them. These were middle-aged men, bearded nomads. On one morning, an officer, riding on his horse in the woods not far from the barracks, on the road to Czyżew spied a horse and wagon standing in the woods, and he didn’t see anyone near the wagon. This struck him as suspicious. He rode over to the wagon and saw a couple lying near the wagon, killed. He immediately began to search and look for clues about the murderers and discovered them immediately. Not far from the wagon, he discovered a heavy piece of wood covered in blood, and also a letter written by one of the nomadic soldiers from the Tambov Province, and seeing that the letter contained the name of the soldier as well as the name of the division and the number of his unit, he was immediately arrested and he was asked why he did this. He said that at first he robbed them, but was unable to find more than a ruble and fifty kopecks, and this enraged him so that he killed them. The most severe sentence in those years was twelve years at hard labor for a murder, and that is what he got.

 

Who were the two people? This was a Jewish couple from a village not far from Zambrów. They were traveling from Łomża, from a visit to their son who was studying at the Łomża Yeshiva. The two murdered people were brought to burial in the Zambrów cemetery. Their son from the Yeshiva came to mourn them, standing between the two graves, bending over to the father’s grave, and took his leave of him with a heart-rending cry, and afterwards, the same with his mother. And anyone who was at the cemetery at that time, wept along with him. It rained, and it looked like the heavens themselves were weeping along with us... a headstone was set at the one-year anniversary, which was made by Broder the gravestone maker, beginning with the words: 'Lovers During Life, and not Parted in Death...'
 

 

J. The Revolutionary Parties in Zambrów

 

In that period, there were a variety of revolutionary parties in Zambrów. For the most part, it was the craftsmen of the shtetl who belonged to these parties. The leaders, however, were the children of the balebatim, or the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ of the shtetl. A few of the parties had a Jewish following in it, such as the Bund, or the S. S. (Zionist-Socialist) parties. There were other, simply international [parties], such as the Social-Revolutionary and Social-Democratic parties. The Communist Party did not yet exist then. However, there was an anarchist group whose program was communist. The Jewish revolutionists from Zambrów could not play a significant role in the Revolution because, as was the case with all small towns, they were only small-town workers, not industrial workers, and they were rarely visible in times of revolutionary upheaval. The parties belonged to a regional committee that was found in Bialystok. From time to time a speaker would come down from Bialystok or Warsaw. Occasionally, [a speaker would come] from more distant cities, from Russia. A gathering was then called, somewhere in the woods outside of the city, where the young people would get together and the speaker would give a report on what the party was doing, and also determine what the smaller towns can and must do. From time to time demands were presented to the balebatim to improve the conditions of their workers, and those who did not want to cooperate were written up with communication to other cities where the balebatim travel to either buy or sell goods, and they would be met there. Upon returning to Zambrów, they would treat their workers better. The work of the parties, however, had to be carried out in a strictly conspiratorial manner, so that the gendarmes and the police should not be able to discover who was a party member, because the smallest infraction in those days carried with it the possibility of years in Siberia and sometimes also the death penalty. One individual was sentenced to a lifetime of hard labor, and this was because he accosted two gendarmes with a revolver in his hand. He was a tailor, and had to be grateful for his life to Abcheh Rokowsky, because he [Abcheh] gathered signatures from the resident townsfolk; and Abcheh wrote a petition to the Czarina, and she set aside the hard labor in favor of a twenty-year sentence of ordinary prison. Later on, this was further reduced to nine years. Today this person is located in New York, and his name is Yankl Grzewieniorz.


K. A Mutiny in the Zambrów Barracks

 

The defeat of the Czarist régime in the war with Japan profoundly demoralized the Russian armies, and the revolutionary spirit also took hold among the garrisons of the army. In many places there were open manifestations of armed forces, and they refused to suppress the strikes of students and workers. In the Zambrów garrison, there also was an uprising. It first started in the 15th Rota of the Lodozhsk Division. The soldiers presented a set of demands to the Rota commander. This, of course, was contrary to military discipline. When the commander demanded that they discipline the revolutionary committee, the entire battalion went over to the side of the revolutionary soldiers. In a short time the entire Lodozhsk Division and the entire artillery was on strike, and it instilled a fear among the officers. Most of them fled to the villages and cities around Zambrów, taking their families. The second division, Schlüsselburg, had a very good and wise commanding officer, and he immediately mustered his division, which was already getting ready to support the mutiny, and he won them over with gentle persuasion, saying that everything that the striking soldiers want to win, they will also get, but if they lose, they most certainly will be punished. ‘But they will not be able to do anything to you, because you did not take part in this.’ Accordingly, his division did not stand with the mutiny. Because of this, he was later made a Brigade Commander and was promoted to the rank of General. He was the Brigade Commander of the Zambrów garrison for many years – this was General Salanin, who was also favorably disposed towards Jews, and he did favors for the Jews. The rebellion was suppressed within a day because several divisions of soldiers arrived from other garrisons, composed of infantry, dragoons, Cossacks, and artillery as well. The mutinous soldiers were surrounded, and they were disarmed, and many were sent to the stockade in Łomża where a military tribunal sentenced them to a variety of terms in discipline-battalions. One was sentenced to death by firing squad because he slapped his commanding officer. He was shot in the woods beside the Zambrów barracks.
 

 

L. An Officers’ Revolutionary Organization is Uncovered – Because of a Zambrów Merchant

 

By coincidence, a revolutionary group among the officers in Zambrów came to light in the following manner: In Zambrów, there was a Jew by the name of Prawda, who would often come to the officer’s club, where he would sell cigars and cigarettes. He would do this in the garrisons of Ostrów, Ganszerowa, and the officers knew him quite well. So an incident occurred as such: when he came to the officers' club in Zambrów, with is cigars and cigarettes, an officer came up to him and asked him if he was planning to be in the Ostrów club any time soon, and could he take along a letter to a friend of his, [also] an officer, whom he will find in the Ostrów officer’s club. He immediately composed the letter and gave it to Prawda. When Prawda arrived at the Ostrów club and asked for the addressee by name, they pointed out the officer and he gave him the letter. Prawda did not know that there were two officers in the same club with the same name. And indeed, he switched the two identities... this officer, upon reading the letter, and seeing that it dealt with a revolutionary officers' group, immediately turned it over to higher ranking authorities. The officer, along with Prawda and his two sons, were immediately arrested. And immediately, an investigation ensued. In the meantime, Prawda and his two sons were sent to the Warsaw Citadel, and they were held until the trial. The investigation uncovered a rather completely networked revolutionary officers group involving many garrisons in the Warsaw military war zone. Thirty-eight of these officers were arrested from a variety of garrisons. Five of them were from Zambrów. They were sentenced to five and six years of hard labor, and service in disciplinary battalions. Prawda, along with his sons, were released. At the same time, it was uncovered that the writers in the Zambrów military headquarters were printing up revolutionary proclamations and distributing them among a variety of garrisons. This revolutionary group was also arrested.


 

M. The Zambrów Military is Robbed, and a Jew Finds the Thief in Prussia

 

The custom of the time was that each division maintained its own treasury, and this money was kept in a closed and locked wagon. The wagon could be found outside, near the window of the headquarters. A soldier with a gun was stationed beside the treasury [wagons]. Every hour or two the corporal would come and change the guard, replacing the first soldier with a fresh one. And so it occurred, that once when they came to change the guard, they found no one there, and the treasury had been emptied. Naturally, the entire division was sent out to look for the soldier and the money on all roads, fields and woods, but without success. It was a cold and dark night, and the thief understood that an intensive search for him would be launched, so he scaled a tree and observed how he was being sought so intensely in the area. And since nobody noticed him, and it was cold, the soldiers of the division decided to turn back and return to the barracks, and as soon as he saw that they were falling back, that is how quickly he came down the tree, looking about thoroughly. Not seeing anyone in this part of the forest, he sorted out all of the money. He immediately buried the coupons under the tree that he had been sitting in and set off with his packet of money to the first village. Along the way it appears he was able to procure civilian clothes, and when he arrived in Rutki he went into a saloon and hired a wagon driver who took him to Bialystok, and there, for money, he found people who took him over the border into Germany. He was a ‘Latisch’ and spoke German well, so he felt very much at home in Germany.

 

In Zambrów, the higher officers of his division were very depressed by this whole incident and didn’t know what else to do. So they decided to consult with the Brigade Commander – Salanin. When the entire officer ranks of the brigade assembled to deal with this question of where to find the soldier and the money, having no trace of him the general’s batman named Shapiro, a familiar educated Jew from among the Zambrów intelligentsia, asked the general if his idea for finding the thief would be acceptable. The soldier had, most certainly, already crossed the border, Shapiro said, and before the thief is able to travel further Shapiro wants to be given papers to cross the border, and also identification papers for the Prussian police. He took on the task, meaning locating the soldier, to bring him back to Zambrów. None of the officers had any better approach, and so Shapiro was given all of the necessary papers and went off to Germany to look for the soldier. As soon as he crossed the border, he immediately presented himself to the Bureau of the Gendarmerie, showed his papers, and told the reason for his arrival. He said that he wants to have two German gendarmes accompany him to the immigrant-control station. He does not know the thief, and he is certain that he is using another name [than his own], and if someone calls out his real name – he will certainly look around, and he will then go over to him and speak to him in Russian, and at the same time the gendarmes should also come nearby and take part in the investigation. And this is the way it was done. When Shapiro approached, the soldier denied nothing. The soldier was immediately arrested. He argued, however, that he was a political refugee, and Germany has no right to return him to Russia. Shapiro, however, wanted him to show where he had buried the coupons. The Germans agreed to this, and on a Saturday during the day, Shapiro, the soldier and two German gendarmes arrived in Zambrów. It was not permitted to turn over the soldier to the military, but he was held in Plotnikawa in the Hotel – he showed them where the coupons were buried, and he was taken back to Germany.
 

 

N. Józef Pilsudski Robs the Government Treasury in Wysokie Mazowieckie and Stops at the Zambrów Market

 

 

 

The Marketplace (Rynek) on a Market Day
 

 

This matter took place in Wysokie Mazowieckie, but a vary large part of it has to do with Zambrów, and it took place at the same time, and it also has to do with the soldiers of the Zambrów garrison.

 

In the years after the war with Japan, many revolutionary parties organized assaults against government banks, in order to obtain enough money to carry out their revolutionary work. The Polish P. P. S.28 carried out such an assault in Wysokie Mazowieckie, and as usual, such an assault was planned and executed with great care. First an investigatory commission came to see how the bank was guarded, the entrances, and escape routes. The bank in Wysokie was guarded by a unit of soldiers from the Zambrów divisions. On the last day of the month, the unit of soldiers returns to Zambrów, and a day later, another unit comes to take its place. On that day, a well-organized group can assault the bank, because all that remains in the city are a few policemen who can be quickly disarmed, and the entire town during the time of the assault can come under control of the [attacking] group.

 

On the last day of the month, approximately forty members of the Warsaw P. P. S. arrived and carried out the assault on the Wysokie government bank. For a little under an hour, the entire town was under the control of the group. The police were disarmed. The telegraph and telephone lines were cut, and the guard at the bank was absolutely powerless to resist, and he had to open the bank to them. Several horse-drawn cabs rode up, and the group loaded the money from the safe onto these vehicles and set off in a variety of directions to different towns. When they left Wysokie, one of the group made a speech to the frightened populace, and said for what purpose the money is being taken, and that no one should make a move to pursue them, including the police. The residents released the confined police and told them which roads were taken by the robbers of the money. The police then too set out in pursuit along these roads. One of these cabs with money, and two of the robbers stopped at the Zambrów marketplace, at Mordechai Aharon’s tea house. Meanwhile, two Wysokie policemen arrived in a carriage. Recognizing the carriage that stood near the tea house, they immediately began to whistle, calling the Zambrów police to help them. The robbers heard the whistling and immediately ran out, shot to death the two Wysokie policemen, got onto the carriage with the money and quickly set out on the Łomża Road. Having thus traveled several viorst from the city, they stopped and took the paper money with them, which were in sacks, leaving the small change behind, which remained spilled out inside the carriage. In this way, they took off for the first village and asked one of the Poles if he will take them to Łomża in his wagon. The Pole went to hitch up the horses, and meanwhile they went into his house to get something to eat. Meanwhile, the carriage with the spilled coins stood on the road, and the Zambrów police took Sadawki’s (the Zambrów warrior) carriage and went to find the robbers. Arriving at the place where the carriage with the spilled coins was standing, the police first helped themselves to some of the coins, filling their boots with as much as could be put in, and they then rode to the nearest village where the robbers were and immediately entered the peasant’s house. Before they even had a chance to ask anything, the two guests took out revolvers and shot them. They came out of the peasant’s house got into the cab with which the police had come and fled the village. The peasant took the two dead policemen and put them into the wagon that he had hitched up for the robbers, and set out to ride to the magistrate in Zambrów. It was here that it became evident that their boots were full of coins, which they had poured in there. The names of the two policemen were Kocko and Efrimov. The magistrate went to the military garrison for help in apprehending the robbers. Hundreds of soldiers on horseback were sent to pursue and find the robbers, but without success. Police in other cities, who gave pursuit, had the same (sic: unsuccessful) outcome. All in all, about ten policemen were killed, and not one of the robbers was apprehended alive or dead. When all of the forty men who carried out this act for their party came back alive to their central committee, alive, with money, they sent a letter to the head of the Wysokie bank, that they had confiscated the money. The head of the robbers signed the letter – Józef Pilsudski.29
 

 

O. Zambrów in the Year 1905

 

A general strike broke out in all of Russia in October 1905. After three weeks, the government was compelled to concede to many of the demands, and the Czar Nicholas II proclaimed a manifest that he will introduce a constitutional government like the one in England. In all cities and towns the people came out en masse with their standards, to celebrate the victory of obtaining a constitution. They marched and nobody stopped them. The gendarmes, police and also the military, did not interfere with the joyful movement of the civilian populace, and that day was also a festive day in Zambrów. It was Sunday, the portion of Noah. Jewish revolutionary groups came together after the midday on the Ostrów highway. Bercheh the Melamed released his cheder class and sent the older children to go from cheder to cheder, to let the melamdim know that they have to let the cheder class go on a day such as this. It is a holiday for everyone. The Rothberg brothers, Malka-Cymal’s children, Elyeh and Itzl, raised a red flag, and they were followed by a group of young people singing revolutionary Jewish songs. The Chief Guard Bamishov, a stout and short man, arrived holding his hand on his sword, but not knowing what to do: to disperse the crowd or not? – This is something of a constitution, new times in Russia, and specific orders from the province were not yet here. In the meantime, a claque of white-comrades ran up to him, grabbed him and lifted him into the air, and shouted: “The Cow’s Ass, Hurrah!” – “The Cow’s Ass” which was the secret name given to him by the revolutionary Jewish youth in Zambrów. The Chief Guard let himself down, and embarrassed and confused he didn’t know how to react.

 

In the evening, however, the general festivities of the revolutionary populace took place on the Kuszarer Gasse, Gentiles and Jews. The young people, and especially those who belonged to the conspiratorial revolutionary parties, came together on Kuszarer [Gasse], many of them in their uniforms, in red or blue shirts. And as if it had sprung from the earth, there sprouted a red flag. Several Polish nationalists put on their Polish national hats, with four corners (konfederatkehs), which until that time, were forbidden to be worn. The Chief Guard Bamishov again stood and looked on, asking only that they not create any disorder. The provisioner from Skarzinsky’s pharmacy, a person of short height but a great Polish patriot, came outside with his Polish hat with the four corners and joined in standing with the Polish and Jewish revolutionaries. His name was Strupczeski. In former times, his father was also a pharmacist, until the First Great Fire. He went into the pharmacy and brought out fireworks, which was then lit, and it then burned and spread various colors about, and this illuminated the entire Kuszarer Gasse. Bamishov and the gendarmes stood by and kept an eye on order, but they did not interfere, nor did they stop anything. Six of the young people again went over to the Chief Guard Bamishov and picked him up in the air again, shouting: “Hurrah! Hurrah!,” and the gendarmes laughed. However, they interfered with nothing.

 

The reactionary elements in the government, though at that time they seemed to be in the minority – they were a strong minority. This was because on their side stood the Czarist family, the strongly reactionary Russian Orthodox Church, and the reactionary elements of the Army and the conservative right-wing press. All these united in one union and began a strong movement against the constitution. The reactionary element became terribly frightened when they saw how the people accepted the news of the last few days, and the newspapers began to write and demand even more freedom. The reaction became confused, and Czar Nicholas II began to insist that if the people will be unable to control themselves under a limited constitutional monarchy, he will be compelled to revoke various liberties that he had proclaimed in his manifesto in the month of October. The reactionary newspapers began to accuse the Jews for all the troubles that befell Russia and called upon the darker elements of the land to launch pogroms against the Jews. Day in and day out, the newspapers brought more and more accusations against the Jews, and the darker elements permitted themselves to be incited, and in tens of cities and towns pogroms were carried out against the Jews. Hundreds of Jews lost their lives and their possessions. Millions of rubles were wiped out in fire and plunder. The pogroms went on for several days. When the government finally put a stop to the pogroms, it immediately enacted many of the liberties that were promised in the manifesto to all nationalities that occupied the Russian Empire. However, the right to elect a parliament (the Duma) was not enacted.

 

The people got ready for the first Duma elections, and all nationalities and all parties had the same, equal rights to vote and be elected; accordingly they all began to prepare for the elections. After the elections, it became apparent that the first Duma was the most Left constitutional parliament in the world, because the reactionary elements were in the minority. The majority consisted of various types of socialist parties from all nationalities of the Russian Empire.
 

 

P. I Am Arrested

 

I was arrested in March 1907, and it seemed like I was going to get long, hard years in prison. I was working for Berl-Leibl Finkelstein on Kuszarer [Gasse]. Across the street from Skarzinsky’s pharmacy, he had a leather business, and also a boot manufacturing operation. In the small towns, the workers and employees would work from quite early in the morning until late at night. The salary was also small; the first and second years were worked entirely without any pay, and so it was decided to shorten the long hours and also to demand a little better pay. The demands were presented by the professional union to the balebatim of Zambrów. Many of them immediately agreed.


Berel-Leibl was, however, an angry and stubborn Jew, and did not want to agree. The professional unions, however, had means that they would utilize from time to time – to compel those employers who had refused to comply. Each union had a committee that had the Russian name, ‘Воевй-Отряд’30, which would carry out a variety of actions against the employers who would not comply. The committee took down the signs from Berl-Leibl’s business. They also broke all the window panes in the windows of his business and his house. It did no good. He then went to the police. but since no one had seen who did all of this, the police were unable to hold anyone responsible. At that time, I was already working at a different leather concern. The professional union also did not remain silent and adopted more severe measures against Berl-Leibl. The work of the Воевй-Отряд was very conspiratorial, and nobody knew what or when something was going to be done, because if they were caught it carried the implication of many years in prison, or Siberia. So they wrote to the union in Czyżew, and they waited for Berl-Leibl [who was] coming into the train station, and they gave him a warning -- he said that they beat him, but it didn’t help. He remained even more resolute in not conceding. Once again, he went to the police who could do nothing. Several weeks later, the regional committee of the union, which was to be found in Bialystok, wrote a warning letter to Berl-Leibl, and they referenced my name in the letter, and since the letter bore the stamp of the union and the party, both of whom were underground organizations, and to be a member carried with it the possibility of jail, Berl-Leibl immediately turned over the letter to the chief of police, and told him what the letter contained, and he connected this to the threats that he had previously received. The chief of police gave the letter to Szczynka the Teacher, from the public school, to translate, because it was written in Yiddish. The chief of police prepared two charges. One, that I belong to an underground revolutionary party; and the second that, in the name of the party, I participated in criminal acts against Berl-Leibl. He sent a gendarme to bring me to the chief of police and asked me three times whether I understood well the seriousness of the two charges. When I answered him in the affirmative, he ordered me to go home, but that I should not travel away from Zambrów. My mother pleaded with me to temporarily travel off to somewhere, to another city, because I will certainly be arrested. However, I did not want to be a fugitive. On the same day, in the evening, the same gendarme returned, [accompanied by] a policeman and a patrol of soldiers, and did a search of the house, and found nothing, because as it appears the police chief gave me plenty of time to clean the place out, so that they would not find anything. However, I was immediately arrested and taken to the Zambrów jail. The police chief immediately placed soldiers with guns to guard me. For a whole three days, the shtetl youth as well as the curious older people, stood and looked at the bars of the jail, wanting to know who it was that the soldiers were guarding so carefully. On the fourth day, I was handcuffed and put up into a wagon with two gendarmes and also two policemen, and the soldiers were put into two other wagons, one in front, and one behind my wagon. The chief of police, with the charges, sat in a carriage, and he traveled off to Łomża immediately. A little later, our wagons, also, went off to Łomża. This was three weeks before Passover.

 

When the chief of police went off, a gendarme boarded the chief’s carriage and traveled with him, and two soldiers were boarded onto my wagon. I knew the soldiers from before because they secretly belonged to a revolutionary group, and every first Sunday of the month I would meet them at a specific place where I would turn over hundreds of pamphlets that had been printed in Bialystok, especially for soldiers in the entire region. I thought that these two soldiers also had something to do with my arrest, and so a thought occurred to me to ask one of them if he could take off the handcuffs and descend from the wagon with me for a couple of minutes, and we will follow the wagon because I am very cold. I wanted to find out if they had any part in my arrest, because they would be the best witnesses against me. In several minutes, I concluded that not only did they say nothing, they even told me what the chief of police had said, and this was very necessary for me to know.

 

We arrived in Łomża, to the district commander’s office on the Langer Gasse, near the new marketplace. The police chief was there already, and they began to question me and sought to entrap me in a variety of pitfalls. Seeing that they are unable to do anything with me, they said that an examining magistrate will come to see me at the magistrate building at the old marketplace. Two weeks later, an examining magistrate came and posed the same questions to me, and I gave him the same answers, because they could not connect anything to Berl-Leibl’s complaint. Regarding the letter, I said to him that, since the letter was not written by me, I cannot be responsible for it, and as far as I know – the letter could have been written by a provocateur. He began to shout that he was going to send me to jail that very day, and an examining magistrate from a higher court will come there because the complaint is tied up with underground parties from other provinces.

 

It was the eve of Passover, and an hour later five soldiers arrived and led me to the old marketplace into the great prison near the public hall. On my way to the prison, I was met by Berl, the son of Nachman-Yankl the Wagon Driver, quickly hurrying to get to Zambrów for the seder. In prison, I was given a solitary cell, and a Jew brought in matzoh and told me to see that there was no leavened produce in the cell, and that there would be a seder that evening, where all the arrested Jewish inmates will be together. Seven weeks later, an examining magistrate from a higher court arrived, because on the door of the room where he interrogated me was written: Следователь поВажнйшйам Делам (an investigator of the most important issues). He began to question me, and the court secretary began to write. He was, however, a very intelligent and liberal man because when the secretary left the room for several minutes, he said to me that this is the result of when a party writes a letter, and no name is to be mentioned, because those mentioned are placed in danger of being sent away. He immediately had me freed on bail. However, I was never called up on a complaint. I think he was a bigger revolutionary than I was. Two years later, I was taken in as a soldier, and in the papers there was no mention that I had ever been arrested.
 

 

Q. The Fear of a Pogrom in Zambrów

 

In the year 1909, I was taken to be a soldier in the Russian army and was sent to serve in the Amur area. And since soldiers were sent in freight wagons, the ride took more than forty days, traveling through all of Siberia in colds of minus forty and fifty degrees. We arrived in the city of Khabarovsk, after which papers arrived from Łomża that I had a ‘legota’ (a privilege that freed me from military service), and a high number, so I had to be let go. On the eve of Passover I arrived [back] in Zambrów, learning that Zambrów had just lived through a week of terror, because there was imminent threat of a pogrom that certain anti-Semitic elements, with the help of the Polish press in Warsaw attempted to incite [as follows]: Jews from Zambrów on a certain night had allegedly gone to the Polish cemetery and desecrated graves and broken headstones. The Polish newspapers from Warsaw even provided names of specific Jews who had been seen on that night when they went out to the cemetery. In the newspapers, the Polish populace was called upon not to ignore this, and to settle accounts with the Jews because of this. Gentiles began to prepare themselves for a pogrom, during the Holy Week of Easter, when they would be coming to the Roman Catholic Church. Jewish contractors, with Binyomkeh Golombek at their head, went off to the brigade commander and he posted heavy patrols near the Roman Catholic Church, as well as along all the roads that led into the city, and all the suspicious characters were not permitted entry into the city. Afterwards, the culprit was found. [He was] a Polish baker who worked in the German bakery Piper-Kasper. He got his punishment. Passover for the Jews was not disrupted.
 

 

R. The Second Great Fire

 

A few weeks after Passover, on May 1, 1910, a terrifying fire broke out in Zambrów yet again. It was given the name “The Second Great Fire.’ And for the second time, Zambrów was burned to the ground. The fire started on a Saturday night in the stable of Elkanah the Wagon Driver, and in Avreml Kuszarer’s houses on ulica Kościelna, not far from the bridge. And since a small breeze was blowing into the city, it quickly ignited many houses simultaneously, and now a larger and more prosperous Zambrów was on fire, and the damages were greater than in the case of the First Great Fire. However, there were more houses that were insured, and so the losses actually didn’t come out so large, and it was possible to rebuild more quickly. By the time of this fire, there was already an organized fire brigade, but almost all of them were Poles, and instead of putting the fires out they aggravated the burning by pouring kerosene on the Jewish houses. Meanwhile, the city went under from the fire. A short time after this, I left for America.


 

 

   Zambrów in the Suwalki-Łomża Kollel in Jerusalem   

 

In 1949, there existed in Jerusalem a unified appropriations committee that allocated the support funds that came from outside the Holy Land to the ‘Kollel of Pharisees,’ meaning the Mitnagdim and the ‘Kollel of Hasidim.’

 

However, when the olim from Germany and Holland established that most of the monies came from their countries, and that the allocation process was short-changing the Germans – they decided to separate, and to form a united kollel for the Jews of Germany and Holland called Kollel Ho”D (Holland and Deutschland).

 

However, even here the unity did not continue for any length of time. The people of Lithuania and Poland established a kollel of their own. In the year 1850, the scions of Poland separated from Lithuania, and established ‘Kollel Warsaw’ – which received funds from the Jews of Poland and distributed it to the émigrés from Poland in Jerusalem. A hundred years ago, approximately in 1863, the émigrés from Łomża and Suwalki who were consolidated from an administrative point of view with the rest of Poland, found they were being short-changed in the allocations, because in those cities and their surroundings, people tended to give more generously to the Land of Israel, for their kinfolk who went ‘either to live or die,’ but here, no one was taking this into account. Accordingly, a ‘Kollel for Suwalki-Łomża’ was established for the purpose of allocating those funds raised from the environs of these cities. The kollel of Suwalki-Łomża was one of the most active among the kollels of Europe.

 

The first president of Kollel Suwalki-Łomża was the Rabbi of Zambrów, R’ Lipa Chaim HaKohen35. We have no insight into why they chose the Rabbi of Zambrów in particular, and not the Rabbi from Suwalki, Łomża or Szczuczyn36, as it were. Apparently he was very well-respected, trustworthy and someone you could depend on. All the monies collected for the Land of Israel in all of the cities and settlements that were in Suwalki and Łomża came into the hands of Rabbi R’ Lipa Chaim. After the dignitaries in Zambrów assisted him in the counting of the total, the funds were transferred to the treasurer in Szczuczyn, and from there to the Land of Israel. The emissaries, who were designated to empty the charity boxes of R’ Meir Baal HaNess, had to receive permission to do so from R’ Lipa Chaim. In 1876, Tuvia Fenster, a scion of Szumowo tells from his memory, that when his father wanted to tour the Land of Israel, many tried to persuade him against it because all the ways of travel were dangerous, etc. His father, Yaakov Moshe, decided to travel to Zambrów to the president of the Kollel, R’ Lipa Chaim, to seek his advice, and he would do what he said. And as it turned out, R’ Lipa-Chaim encouraged him, and even wrote letters on his behalf to his acquaintances in Jerusalem, to R’ Meir Auerbach who had been the Rabbi of Kalisz and to R’ Eliyahu Sarasohn, who received R’ Fenster with respect.

 

Emissaries would come out of Zambrów to distribute and set up charity boxes of R’ Meir Baal HaNess, and also to empty them for the entire area, and they would say: ‘Put some money in the box, or it will be an embarrassment when the Emissary from Zambrów arrives, who will be coming shortly to empty the charity box.

 

From the accounting records of the Kollel, “The Sun of Justice” signed by Rabbi R’ Lipa, on this side, and the heads of the Kollel in Jerusalem as well – it is difficult to find support for Jews from Zambrów among the hundreds of recipients of the allocated funds, because all of them signed themselves ‘from Łomża’ – the provincial capitol, and not their native towns. Occasionally, some name from Zambrów shows up, but without any family identification, such as: R’ Israel Shammes from Zambrów, etc.

 

When R’ Lipa Chaim passed away, his son-in-law, R’ Yehoshua Heschel Shapiro, was appointed president of the Kollel, the Rabbi of Szczuczyn, and after him, the grandson of R’ Lipa Chaim – R’ Joseph HaKohen. The last president of the Kollel was the son-in-law of R’ Lipa Chaim, the Rabbi Dov Menachem Regensberg. The treasury was in Szczuczyn.

 

If anyone from the Łomża-Suwalki area made aliyah, he was entitled to receive financial aid from Jerusalem from the allocated funds, but he did not receive this without the consent of the Rabbi of Zambrów. The last appointed head of the Kollel in Jerusalem was the Rabbi R’ Moshe Kharlap ז"ל, who worked faithfully and knew all the émigrés from Łomża-Suwalki up to the year 1952.

 

The first emissary who was sent by the Kollel of Suwalki-Łomża to America in the year 1892, to arouse the hearts and to donate to causes pertaining to the Land of Israel on behalf of the Kollel, was R’ Abner, a scion of Zambrów.

 


 

 

A Blood Libel

By Tuvia Fenster


 

 

Tuvia Fenster

 


 

This took place in the 1870's in our town of Szumowo, between Purim and Passover. I remember it as if it were today, and the newspapers also reported it.

 

The peasant Maczei was a forest worker for Graf Zamoyski. In his old age he purchased a small parcel of land between Szumowo and Srebrna. His wife had already died, leaving him with three children – two girls aged five and seven, and a young lad of thirteen. One day, when Maczei returned from church on a Sunday, he found all three of his children murdered. This had a terrifying impact on everyone. Maczei sat and mourned, and his loyal neighbor, Bartek comforted him. Everyone wondered: three souls slaughtered, and no blood was found beside them. What a wonder – Bartek argues: ‘It’s Jews, Passover!’ – That means: ‘Jews murdered them in honor of their Passover, and [they] have used all of their blood...

 

A rumor then spread, that the Jews of Zambrów, the closest town, came to slaughter them and use their blood to prepare matzohs...
 

In Szumowo, a police detail had been stationed there since the last Polish rebellion, and it consisted of three policemen and a senior over them, Semyon Gavrilicz (Shimon ben Gavriel), a grandson of a Cantonist32 (who had been snatched as a Jewish child and was turned over to serve as a soldier, and needed to adopt the Russian Orthodox faith). Semyon Gavrilicz was quick-minded and smart – he had a Jewish head. He was the first to arrive and ask the old man a variety of questions. From this he learned that one hundred and fifty rubles were also taken by the murderer, and nobody apart from the neighbor, Bartek, knew about it.

 

Semyon immediately cast suspicion on this so-called loyal neighbor and ordered his policemen to investigate what Bartek was doing. He personally investigated and poked around and came to the conclusion that it was only Bartek who was the murderer. But there was no trace, no evidence!

 

In the meantime, rumors circulated about how the Jews had sucked out the blood from the children. Also, the anti-Semitic Polish press from Warsaw portrayed all of these rumors and incited the masses. Accordingly, all of the Jews from the villages fled to Zambrów. Also, in Zambrów, the priest in church spoke about this and said that suspicion had fallen on the Jews. A special meeting was called at the home of R’ Shmuel Wilimowsky, the head of the Zambrów community, and it decided to immediately travel to the Governor in Łomża. The Governor heard everyone out and promised that he would not permit anything unlawful and without legal permission, and he will personally come down to investigate the matter. Semyon Gavrilicz, however, did not rest. As the suspicion against Bartek acquired more of a basis, he decided on a bold move: In the middle of the night, he took his three assistants and suddenly woke Bartek out of his sleep with the shout: ‘Thief, where did you hide Maczei’s one hundred and fifty rubles?’ Bartek became confused... The police began to conduct an intensive search, and in poking around they found the money. Bartek was immediately put in chains and taken off to Szumowo.

 

As it happened, that morning the Governor arrived from Łomża. He ordered Bartek released and brought to him. The Governor called him to the table, put a glass of whiskey in front of him with great ceremony, and asked him amicably:

 

'Listen, Bartek, we are after all nothing but people. Every one of us can fall into the clutches of Satan, and you too fell, and you transgressed. Confess and you will not be punished. But first eat something and tell me everything afterward.'

 

Bartek took note of the great respect that was being shown to him by the Governor, and so he crossed himself, emptied the glass, and followed it with a slice of white bread and related the following: 'I have to buy a horse for my work, because what good is a peasant without a horse? And for what purpose does Old Maczei need money? So I quickly disposed of the children while everyone was in church, but I had to struggle with the boy, he was strong...' The details he provided were terrifying. The Governor heard it all, and his face flamed, but he kept control of himself.

 

– 'But tell me, Bartek,' the Governor says, 'why is it that not a single drop of blood was found in the house? All are wondering about this.' 'It is quite simple,' Bartek says, 'I called my dog, and Maczei’s big dog, and they licked and licked...'

 

With this, the Governor could no longer contain himself and began to bang on the table: 'Keep still you dog, it was not enough that you murdered three children, you wanted to throw the responsibility onto the Jews! You filthy vermin!' – 'Semyon Gavrilicz,' he shouted to the police senior,' take this criminal away from me and shackle him in irons, hand and foot, and bring him immediately to Łomża, to the prison...'

 

Bartek was sentenced to life at hard labor, in Siberia. Semyon Gavrilicz received a commendation with a “Похволнй Лист” (a letter of commendation) and he became renown. Part of the Jews from Szumowo and Srebrna chose to remain in Zambrów.
 

 

 


Pages

By Aryeh Golombek


 

 


 

Executive Committee of the Young Zionists

 

Standing (R to L): David Rosenthal, Abraham Krupinsky, Yekhiel Don;
Sitting ( R to L): Mayer Rutkevitz, Sarah Rebecca Slovic,
Leib Golombek. Herzkeh Skozendanek, Sarah Rosen.


A. I Am the Zambrów Commissar

 

In the summer of 1920 we prepared ourselves, myself and my friend Yitzhak Gorodzinsky, Chava’s son, to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. It was wartime between Poland and Russia. We waited for passports and visas. In the meantime I came back to Zambró, because it was harvest season, and I needed to help. In this time, the Bolshevik invasion occurred. A militia of firefighters was formed in the city. The commandant of the firefighters left the area and wanted to take along the Jewish firefighter Shlomo Yaakov Kukawka, whom he valued highly. But he [Kukawka] said: I want to remain among my brethren. So the first militia commandant was the Polish harness-maker, Manyk Wysotski, a member of the P. P. S. and a vice-commandant of the firefighters. He was not satisfactory to the Russians. So everybody proposed me to be the commandant of the militia. I did not want to do this, because I was not close to the communists, and after all I was imminently going to make aliyah to the Land of Israel. So pleading began to come from all sides, that in my position I would be able to do favors, and rescue many, even from death. So I accepted the post and became the chief of police of Zambrów, and they brought to me a Jew from Wysokie, Srebrowicz, who dealt in foreign exchange, a serious offense. I made an extensive ‘investigation’ and then released him. Simcha Stern set up a bottle of vodka for a Jewish soldier of the Red Army – and he was under the threat of a death penalty, so I ‘investigated’, shouted at him, and set him free. Abraham Shlomo Dzenchill (Pracht) committed a severe crime, and a Polish militiaman brought him in chains: he illegally sold a can of kerosene...

 

So I sent him home, etc. When the Russians retreated, I wanted to flee with them, fearing that the Poles would take vengeance on me. But the Poles asked me to stay...so I showed myself running with the Russians on the outskirts of the city, and I secretly got down and returned home. Afterwards I came to Warsaw, and from there I traveled to the Land of Israel. Six years later, I came back as a visitor. I was then informed on, that I was a communist commissar. However, respected Poles gave testimony that I was OK, and I was not detained.
 

 

B. Two Tables

 

The firefighters used to have an annual dinner. At one time there were only two Jewish firefighters: Gordon the photographer, and Yossl Mozzik (Modrikman). Since the Second Great Fire, there were many Jews. So food was prepared for two banquets – one was trayf, with swine flesh, for the gentiles, and one was kosher, under the supervision of Yaakov Shlomo Kukawka, for the Jews. During the feasting, two delegations would come out: A Jewish delegation that would go to offer their greetings to the gentile table, and a gentile delegation, with the pharmacist Skarzynski at its head, to wish the Jews good luck.
 

 

C. My Father’s Initiative & Influence

 

My father, may he rest in peace, Binyomkeh Golombek, was the gabbai of the Red Synagogue and of the Chevra Kadisha. As a contractor who supplied provisions to the two military divisions stationed in Zambrów, my father knew the garrison general quite well. One time, when the threat of a pogrom hovered over Zambrów because the gentiles had accused the Jews in desecrating the Polish cemetery – my father went to the general. My father told him of the situation and asked for his help. The general immediately ordered that a military guard be deployed in the city, conducted inspections of the peasant wagons, confiscating any suspicious arms that they found.


D. Jewish Soldiers Furloughed for Festivals

 

Hundreds of Jewish soldiers served in Zambrów. For every Festival Holiday, the rabbi would travel to the division commander, accompanied by a number of other balebatim, mostly with Abcheh Rokowsky, and request to have the Jewish conscripts furloughed for the holidays. A kosher kitchen was set up for them in the city, and even a special minyan in which they could pray, in the ‘Wood House’ of the White Bet HaMedrash. The Jewish conscripts had their own individual to lead services, and their own Torah scroll. Once on Rosh Hashanah, at the beginning of the service, the rabbi approached my father and whispered a secret in his ear: ‘The soldiers have not been given a furlough this year...’ My father immediately set aside his prayer shawl and immediately ran to the general’s quarters. - What happened?, the General asked him, Is not today a very important holiday for you? – But my brothers, the soldiers, today they do not have a holiday, they were not given a furlough... the order was immediately given, and an hour later the Bet HaMedrash became full of Jewish conscripts.
 

 

E. A Soldier Defends Jewish Honor

 

 

 

Binyomkeh Golombek and Family

 

 

 

Young Girl Schoolchildren
 

 

There was an out-of-town soldier who was serving in Zambrów by the name of Zerakh Kagan. He was zealously observant. Accordingly, every day before going to military exercises, he would arise to pray and put on his tefillin. Gentile soldiers would gather around him to look at his phylacteries, which they had never seen before, and offer him respect. Except one time, when an anti-Semite paused to mock the Jew. Kagan took no note of him and continued praying. So he went up to him to tear off his tefillin, and Kagan gave him a stout kick with his foot – and he fell down and ailed for two to three days, after which he died. There ensued a tumult during which Kagan was arrested, for which he was under the threat of a very serious punishment. My father involved himself, and with considerable effort caused the military doctors to establish that the soldier died from a heart attack, and not the blow from Kagan. Kagan was then released. When Kagan completed his military service, he was not permitted to travel home. A Jew like this needed to remain in Zambrów. He was found a match with the daughter of Miriam the Wigmaker, and Meiram Burstein. He became a teacher in a reformed cheder, and educated hundreds of students in Torah and to do good deeds.

 


 

How A Pogrom Was Avoided in Zambrów
 

By Sender Seczkowsky
(As recorded by R’ Israel Levinsky ז"ל)


 

 

 

 

At a reunion of Zembrowites in Tel Aviv to commemorate the devastation of the native town.
Mr. Sender Seczkowsky and his wife are in the front row, third and fourth from the right.

 

 

 

The Young Girls of the School
 

 

On a fine morning, the fear of death fell upon the Jews of Zambrów: unknown persons desecrated the Polish cemetery, breaking crucifixes and headstones. The suspicion fell on the Jews. Gentiles immediately came forward who saw Jews milling about ulica Ostrówa, near the cemetery.


The young priests in the church incited the faithful by saying that all troubles emanate from the Jews, leading to the creation of a mood for a pogrom in the city. The gentiles in the surrounding villages designated a specific Sunday to assault the Jews and to rob their businesses. There were only five policemen in Zambrów, [each of whom] were Polish, and it was not possible to rely on them. So a delegation went off to Łomża to the Governor. Representatives of the Łomża Jews went with them. The Governor, who was from Courland, was a philo-Semite, and immediately ordered a hundred-man Cossack contingent sent to Zambrów to maintain order. Also, Binyomkeh Golombek, the contractor, arranged with the garrison general to have soldiers sent to maintain order. The appointed Sunday arrived, and young and old, man and woman, came out of the church into the cit, to rob the Jewish places of business, and they had prepared in advance by having axes, staves etc. stored in their wagons. I hauled myself up to the roof of our house and looked through a crack: the mob streamed out of the church to ulica Kościelna. A chain of Cossacks, however, came across them on horses and dispersed the hooligans with their nagaikas33, removed the axes from the wagons and the other instruments of violence. The Secretary of the gmina stood near the Cossacks, and for each peasant, he told the Cossack officer from what town he is – and the Secretary showed them the way to travel home. If someone resisted – he got a couple of whacks with the nagaikas. This immediately softened him up, and he retreated. The Poles did not anticipate such a calamitous denouement. So they got themselves ready for another attempt.

 

That occurred three months later. A fire broke out on a Saturday night on Kuszarer, and the firefighters – all gentiles, apart from the two brothers Yaakov Shlomo and Herschel Kukawka, instead of putting the fire out, threw kerosene-soaked rags and caused the fire to spread, and so the entire shtetl was burned down for the second time. The gentiles took their vengeance for the cemetery... Several weeks later, the following was clarified with regard to the incident at the cemetery: In a gentile bakery, in the house of Mendl Rubin the Hatmaker, one youthful baker stabbed and killed another one. Before he died, he saw fit to tell the boss that he wanted to tell the truth, that he had broken the headstones and crucifixes in the cemetery, the other party had harassed him, and that is why he stabbed him..


The murderer was arrested and confessed everything. The Jews of Zambrów breathed a little easier...
 

 

 


 

During Wartime

By Sender Seczkowsky

(As recorded by R’ Israel Levinsky ז"ל)

 


 

A. The City Is Saved from Destruction

 

In the year 1915, during the First World War, the city was full of the homeless. Tens of families arrived who were refugees from Jedwabne, Grajewo, Szczuczyn, Nowogród, Ostrołęka, and so forth. They were quartered in the Batei Medrashim, in the synagogue, in private houses, to the extent that we could.

 

Zambrów was a tranquil town, far from a strategic point, and that is why many refugees fled here in order to save themselves. But a little at a time the battlefields crept near, and the front already stood near Zambrów. A division of Cossacks arrived in the city, and it felt as if the days of the Russians were numbered – because the Cossacks were the last to leave a city before it falls to the enemy. They received an order not to leave any town, any city, any repository of grain for the enemy – but to burn everything. Every night the sky was reddened: all around the villages the stacks of grain burned. When the Cossacks began to behave violently – beating Jews, raping women, robbing, burning – everyone hid out in cellars and were afraid to stick their heads outside. I sat in a cellar with the family of Yankl Prawda.

 

At one time, in 1905, Prawda was a fiery revolutionary. He had a warm heart and was always ready to take a stand for a Jew. And so it disturbed him: which means that they were beating the Jews, they are plundering – so something has to be done. That the Cossacks should not set the city aflame in their retreat, and here rumors were going about that the Russians had already mined the bridge and plan to put the city to the torch. Prawda wanted to get out and do something, and his wife, Bat-Sheva, Shammai-Lejzor’s daughter, didn’t let him and burst out weeping: is it worth your life, and you are the father of children, and therefore he is not allowed to go into the city. Nevertheless, somehow he tore himself away and use the back ways and fences to reach the municipal secretary Komarowski, who was friendly to the Jews, and together with him they went through all of the cellars collecting money to buy off the Russians so that they not destroy the city.

 

They got together a sum of money in a short time, and it was set up so that the greater assignation should be from above, and under a danger to their lives went off to the commandant at the bridge. The commandant was not there. His substitute was an officer who indicated that nothing was going to help – the order was to set fire to the city. When Yankl Prawda waved the money about, he softened up and sent to have the commandant summoned. The commandant said to his aide: ‘Берий Денгий и Положий Выещик Козначайство’ – Take the money and put it in the safe. And to Yankl Prawda he said: Do you have wine or whiskey? (Because the Russians had confiscated all strong drink in the area of the front, and had forbidden it to be sold). Komarowski recalled that in some stable of the municipal chancellery a case of vodka can be found that had once been confiscated from a storekeeper, and he ran to bring it to the commandant. They stuffed themselves, and half drunk left the city, not bringing any destruction on it.

 

We began to kiss Yankl Prawda when he returned. His wife now took great pride in her accomplished husband.
 

 

B. When Poland Was an Independent Nation

 

On a fine morning, when the Germans still held control over the city, a bunch of gentile thugs showed up with Jozhombek the shoemaker’s son at their head, and with revolvers in their hands, they surrounded the barracks and ordered the Germans to get their hands up and surrender. The mighty Germans did not seem to twirl their moustaches and surrender. The Poles disarmed them and took away their arms. In a couple of hours later, the Germans took up a position, half civilian and half military with small valises in hand, and took off on their way to the Prussian border. The Poles escorted them with mockery, and we Jews did not know how to behave because we felt that in the hands of the Poles it would be worse for us.

 

And in reality, the Poles looked at us askance and did not include us in their victory. It is true that in matters of money, such as taxes, allocation of materiel, clothing, etc., the Jews were extensively included. The best of the youth went off to serve in the Polish military and were sent to the front. That is, those born from 1896 to 1900.

 

The Bolshevist invasion drew closer.

 

The Russians, though, waged war against the Poles, and for this reason they always trusted the Jews: Jewish employees, those in the police, in food jobs, requisitioning, etc. Part of them cooperated in good faith, and part of them did so reluctantly and under duress. The Poles however, blacklisted them all. When the Russians drew back, all those who cooperated with them ran off with them. The Polish authorities, however, pursued their parents. Jeremiah Syeta (Yash) was severely beaten because of the misdeeds of his son. Israel Prawda was hunted and his wife was tortured, who jumped off the balcony.

 

The Polish pharmacist Skarzynski, was sentenced to death by a Bolshevist tribunal. So, temporarily he left the area and hid in a booth belonging to Shimeleh Warszafczyk, near the river. He hid himself there for a week’s time, and the Jews took care of him until the first Polish patrol returned to the city. At that time, Skarzynski came back to the balcony, and he waved the Polish flag. He was nominated as the chief of the civilian populace. When he was asked about the conduct of the Jews during the Bolshevist invasion, he stammered, but upon seeing those Jewish eyes that had rescued him, he expressed himself that the Jewish ‘ne’er-do-wells’ had fled with the Russians, but that the decent citizens had remained here. In this manner he defused the possibility of a bloody pogrom in the shtetl, even if a number of Jews did get a beating and their possessions robbed. One woman was even murdered.


 

C. The Murder of Szklovin the Pharmacist

 

Szklovin the Pharmacist was a discreet person with leftist tendencies. Despite this he was involved in community work, and even worshiped for a time with a Shas study group, and during the Bolshevist occupation he was neutral toward them. It is possible that as a pharmacist he had to adopt this posture. The Poles looked for him and wanted to arrest him. So he hid himself. His wife went to Skarzynski, the Polish pharmacist and beseeched him to save her husband. The pharmacist requested that he come to him, and nothing will happen. Szklovin came to Skarzynski in his holiday finest. Polish young people came running and demanded that Szklovin be turned over to them. Skarzynski didn’t think very long about it and turned Szklovin over, whom they then stripped naked, and together with a young man from Warsaw was severely beaten and forced to pull a wagon full of manure all over the city. They were tortured for so long that they died. The ‘good’ commandant later ordered that their bodies be turned over to the Jewish community, in order that they could be buried.
 


 

   Three Who Made Aliyah to The Land of Israel  


 

A. The Old Shammes Kuczopa and His Wife

 

Once on a Saturday night, in the year 1903, a tumult occurred on the street of the synagogue in Zambrów. The old shammes, Fortunowicz, who was called Kuczopa (nobody remembers his name anymore) created a scandal in the city and the Bet HaMedrash: ‘I have been a shammes in the city for over sixty years, serving the community day and night. I was the one who did the burying, was the community porter, the Bet-Din shammes – and now in old age, when I am close to eighty years old, I want to travel and die in the Land of Israel. So I have no money to cover expenses...I would therefore like the community to help me. I have earned this, and the community is not poor, so the money can be procured’...

 

The Shammes lived opposite the synagogue, where later on Shama-Lejzor the Maggid would live. And so people stood under his window and eavesdropped on how the old shammes was shouting, cursing and having a fit...also the wife of the old shammes was weeping and wailing about her misfortune. She was a pious and naive Jewish woman, coming before dawn with her husband to prayers in the Women’s Synagogue, and would beseech The Master of the Universe: ‘Good morning dear God, I your servant, Kuczopikha, have come to you to recite the morning service, please accept my prayer!’...

 

Accordingly, the public took an interest in this demanding request from their little old shammes, and decided to provide part of the allocation funds that had been collected (after all, the Rabbi of Zambrów was the gabbai of the Allocations Committee of the Łomża-Suwalki Kollel). The Rabbi assured him that he would be accepted in Jerusalem and placed on the allocation list, and there he will receive his weekly stipend.

 

Apart from this, the following Sabbath, the reading of the Torah was delayed in the Red Bet HaMedrash, where he was the shammes. It was decided to give him half of the travel costs from the community treasury and from the Chevra Kadisha (he traveled with his wife and a grandchild, a daughter’s daughter age thirteen to assist them on their journey to Jerusalem) and the rest that he was missing would be raised by pledges and contributions: all those receiving an aliyah for the entire month ahead, in the Red Bet HaMedrash, will be asked for a Mi Sheberakh contribution for the old shammes, and the contribution will be eighteen groschen (one-time chai) on his behalf.

 

Several weeks later, it was on a Sunday morning, on the morning after Shabbat Nachamu34 that everyone turned out to escort the shammes, his wife and grandchild to begin their long journey. The Rabbi, the most prominent balebatim, craftsmen – all escorted them as far as the cemetery. Many gave him groschen, kopecks, and ‘ditkas, even ten-notes – for him to give as charity in Jerusalem, in their name, because an emissary that performs a mitzvah leads to success. The Shammes then put all these funds in a separate red wallet, bid farewell to the deceased in the cemetery, got up on the wagon, and rode off to Srebrny Borek, and from their, by train, to Odessa. Their daughter and his three sons, Leibl, Elyeh, and Henokh, escorted them to the train...
 

 

B. Mendl the Half-Carpenter

 

Mendl Zusman was a carpenter, and he was called ‘the half-carpenter’ and was never trusted to produce good furniture, as was the case with Berl the Carpenter or Mishl the Carpenter. People would shrug [and say]: a man has to support a wife and children, and he spends half his time on foolishness: set down on white paper with a corner and ruler in hand... if someone wants a bench, a bureau, a table, etc., he first does a drawing, fusses over it for hours and the buyer is waiting for his result... and they were not satisfied with his work, and went to others... and so his wife would argue with him, demanding money for expenses, and there was none.

 

Until one fine day, the news came out: Mendl the half-carpenter left his wife and children and went off to the Land of Israel. So the wife ran to the Rabbi, to have him write to Jerusalem that he should not be given any allocation and to apply pressure to him – that he should return. It didn’t help, and it was said of him that he was ‘caught in the act,’ God forbid, and the Kollel allocation committee and the rabbis had not knowledge of him.

 

Some time later it was found out: Mendl Zusman the half-carpenter found favor with Professor Boris Schatz, the head of the ‘Bezalel’ School of Art in Jerusalem, and engaged him as a teacher of table making. Under his direction, he taught the youth how to do wood turning, and was successful.

 

Mendl subsequently sent for his wife and children, and they settled peacefully in Jerusalem.
 

 

C. Pesach, the Wine Maker’s Son, Travels to Jerusalem

 

 

 

Maccabi Committee
 

 

It was 1908. R’ Elyeh Zalman  Jerusalimsky, the Wine Maker, had a love of the Land of Israel. The family had a tradition of traveling there in old age to die. It was from this that the family name Jerusalimsky was derived.

 

One of his sons, Pesach, a diligent youth, studied in Volozhin and got married there. So he came to Zambrów for purposes of saying goodbye. The shtetl was overwhelmed: what do you mean, a young man discards all manner of making a living, leaves his wife behind with her father, and travels to the Land of Israel to become a colonist, a peasant, to make wine from real fresh grapes, not like his father who makes it from raisins... But it is forbidden to restrain him: he is traveling to the Land of Israel!

 

So the Zionists made a going-away evening in his honor at the home of Benjamin Kagan. Abba Finkelstein brought biscuits, his father had naturally sent wine, and the lady of the house put up the samovar and served tea with jam, egg kichel and fruit. Speeches were given in Hebrew and Yiddish, songs were sung, and a hearty farewell was had.

 

Pesach traveled on a freighter, which was transporting Russian pilgrims. Accordingly, he suffered a great deal along the way. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he wanted to become a teacher, but he was unable to find work. Since he had a talent for drawing and sculpture, he came to the ‘Bezalel’ Art School. He studied there for a while but could not satisfy himself with the work, and in the meantime he used up the little bit of money that he had taken along with him. And his wife wrote him bitter letters – either he is to bring her over to Jerusalem, or he is to come back. So one fine morning, he packed his valise and traveled from Jerusalem to Jaffa and took the first ship back to Poland. He took a vow, however, that at the first opportunity he would return.


 


Jablonka

By Joseph Krolewiecki

 

 

 

Joseph Krolewiecki

 

 

 

 

The Young Girls of the School
 

 

Let my little shtetl of Jablonka, the mother-city of Zambrów, also be recalled in this Pinkas. Jablonka, nine kilometers from Zambrów on the way to Wysokie Mazowieckie, was one of the oldest cities in Mazovia, certainly older than Łomża and Zambrów. At a time when Zambrów did not even have a prayer quorum, Jablonka was already known for its rabbi and congregation. Indeed, in that time, the dead were taken from Zambrów to Jablonka [for burial]. In the year 1863, at the time of the Polish rebellion, Jablonka was the principal headquarters for the revolutionists. Just like at one time it was not known where Bialystok was located, and so it was necessary to add 'Bialystok, which is found near Tykocin,' so it used to be written: Zambrów, which is near Jablonka. It was a poor shtetl, and tragically it was, but is no more!
 

When, in the time of the Czar, it was decided to build barracks near Zambrów, it is said that the engineers wanted to erect barracks near Jablonka. However, they demanded a ‘tax’ from the city in the amount of one hundred rubles – and this money was not available, so the barracks were not built. From that time on, Zambrów began to prosper -- tradespeople, craftsmen, and small businessmen were drawn to Zambrów, and Jablonka, the Lord protect us, became smaller and more shrunken. But no one could take away its pedigree, its ancient pedigree. Its old synagogue bore the stamp of five hundred years of existence. The headstones in both of its cemeteries bore testimony to the many generations of Jews who were brought here to their final rest. The new cemetery alone boasted of headstones that were more than three hundred years old. Not far from the synagogue, there was a live spring of water. It is said that Rabbi Levi-Yitzhak of Berdichev bathed here. When a childhood disease broke out here, may this not even be thought of today, diphtheria, a fast was decreed and prayers were said for ‘Selichot of sick children.’ When this did no good, Rabbi Levi-Yitzhak was brought to town, who would carry on conversations with the Master of the Universe, as a man converses with his neighbor in order that he pray for our children. He saw the poverty of the Jews, with several families living in one room in a crowded condition, and he made use of the phrase from the Haftarah of that week (in Isaiah 28:10): For precept must be upon precept, a precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; and he reasoned from this that it was neither in keeping with modesty and not healthy to live this way. It is further told that: R’ Levi-Yitzhak was brought to exorcize a demon: Who are you? He replies: A musician. R’ Levi-Yitzhak says: I will not set you right, until you sing for me the tune that you sang at a wedding. The demon began to sing, and all the dark names of the dead. So I skipped eating and fasted with the group, because it took the entire day. Accordingly, that evening, I had to remain for the large and prominent feast.

 

Apart from the old synagogue and the Bet HaMedrash, there were also Hasidic shtiblakh. The oldest and biggest could be found with R’ Yosha-Yankl, not far from the church. Not only once did it happen that at the time of shaleshudes40, when the Hasidim went into a state of ecstasy and began to dance – the church bell would start to ring, which would call the faithful to their Saturday evening mass. The Jews always thought that the gentiles did this on purpose. From time to time the rebbes of the various Hasidic sects would come to Jablonka, and they were heartily received. In the year 1936, when I had come to say goodbye to my kin before my voyage to go to Argentina, I found all the houses broken into, and the window panes broken, and I did not see a living thing in the street. Approaching the house of my parents, I heard a choked voice from the cellar: ‘We are hiding ourselves from the ‘Nara41’ people who are carrying out a pogrom against us. This is how the nationalist Poles prepared the ground for Hitler. I reminded myself that seventy-five years ago, in 1863, my grandfather hid himself in the cellar of the Polish leaders of the revolution, among them the nobleman Skarzynski, the father of the Zambrów pharmacist. My grandfather, at that time, risked his life. Today, his grandchildren sit in the same cellar and are hiding themselves from the Poles. I documented this, at the time, for the Jewish press.
 


 

Destruction

חורבן


 

 

In Memory of My Mother
 

By Bezalel (‘Tsalkeh) Yellen

 

No yahrzeit candle, for my mother,
Will I light, no.
For I know not to where she has vanished,
I do not know where her resting place is.

 

I know not where, I know not when,
In the city, the forest, during day, during night,
No one has brought your remains,
To a proper Jewish burial...

 

Perhaps, my mother dear,
To the last breath, like a heroine,
You struggled with the enemy,
And fell to the desolate field?

 

Or did the enemy, in a bunker,
Burn you alive,
When you uttered your prayer
And wrung your hands to God?

 

Perhaps, mother, before death,
You mentioned the names of your children:
‘My children, you must remember,
And avenge your mother!’

 

I have not yet places a yahrzeit candle
For my mother,
I know not where, I know not when,
She left this world.

 

Every day, beloved mother,
Your visage is before me,
So why say Kaddish and
Light a candle for my mother?...

 

 

 

   On the Threshold of Doom   

 


 

Jewish Soldiers Serving in the Polish Army

 

 

 

    A Summer Resort for the Sick Children of the
Poor from Zambrów, under the Auspices of Centos

 

 

 

Centos


The Relief Society, Founded in Bialystok with the Aim of Bringing
Aid and Comfort to Orphans, Children and Youngsters in General


 

The Last Five to Six Years

    
The last five to six years, before doom overtook the Jewish community of Zambrów, were terrifying. The shine disappeared from this previously mentioned town. The pride of the town’s youth vanished. It became a city of the hungry and the suffering, both physically and emotionally.

 

There were no citizen’s rights, and no rights as human beings. The Poland, which had not been liberated such a long time back, had become one hundred times worse that the worst of the Czarist times. A Jew must pay the highest taxes – but he has no right to demand even the most minimal rights as a citizen. If a Jew had a small store, he has to pay all sorts of taxes for it. But the government gives the right to the worst hooligans from the village and the town to stand at the door of the store and forcibly prevent anyone to go into the store and thereby let the Jew earn something... legal, plain acts of a pogrom. If the Jew mixes in – he is beaten, and the police do nothing about it: because the Jew mixed in and violated the law.. it is the alibi of the police, and more – a case is put together that the Jew has insulted the Polish eagle, the Polish government – and deserved three to five years in jail, or to be sent to forced labor (Каторга Работа) in Kartuz-Bereza. The market days are a hell.

 

In the good years, the Zambrów shoemakers would provide about seventy-five of the normal demand for boots by the peasants for the winter, in the surrounding market days, and at cheaper prices during the summer. Both parties were pleased by this: the buyer came home with a pair of new boots that were inexpensive, and the Jew made a living. The same also held true for a pair of trousers, a garment, a Boroshkov hat for the winter, and a Maczewieka for the summer. After the merchandise was robbed from the Jewish storage facility and thee Jew beaten bloody – they stopped coming to the fairs, and instead sat and starved with the wife and children.
 

 

A City Hungers

 

And if a city hungers, everyone goes about in torn clothing, patches on the patches, even on a Sabbath or a Festival holiday, and it is past the point where anyone feels any shame. It is not possible to eat a bit of meat even on the Sabbath, a glass of milk is not available even for the children, a roof is not repaired even if the rain comes in, a broken window pane is boarded up with wood even if it keeps out the light of day, the oven is not kept warm, etc. Small Jewish children complain, scrawny from tuberculosis, and the authorities have no obligation to give help. The Sisters of Mercy with their large crucifixes around their necks, who kneel before God and Jesus ten times a day, and more – cross themselves, when a sick Jewish child is brought to their ‘Holy Ghost’ hospital, and they cry out in mercy: ‘przedziezh to zydek’ – ‘oh, it is, a Jewish child!’ And they shut the door and do not permit admission.

 

 

Who Will Help Me?

 

And so, the Jew of Zambrów raises his head heavenward and cries out: ‘From whence will come my succor?’ – So it is with balebatim of pedigree, and so it is with the craftsman, the manual laborer, and the common laborer – the proletarian.
 

And from the Land of Israel come Job’s messages. There are not a few scions of Zambrów there, some well-situated with work, and in their business undertakings, and there the situation is also critical: unrest, assaults, the gates to the land are locked, the sea is a barrier. The eyes are drawn to Zion, there is a striving to obtain release from the Polish hell – but now that hope is a small one.


However, rays of light became visible from America: Zambrów scions there, are not silent and do not sleep the nights, and collect money for their brothers and sisters in the ‘old country.’
 

 

The Help Committee in Chicago

 

And ambassadors appeared, unappointed ambassadors from amongst the Zambrów scions in America. The Help Committee in Chicago and New York do not abandon their brethren. Every month a packet of dollars arrives to be divided by the hilfskomitet of the community, who helps the poor without discrimination, especially the poor clergy and the scholars, the Linat HaTzedek, the Zambrów Sick Fund, which supplied medicaments, doctors, nurses and sanatoria, maintenance and healing for the sick of the city from all walks of life, and the tireless leader in these bad times, Shlomo Dzenchill, the son of Lejzor the Butcher, who is the president and the father to all of these who are suffering, The Women’s Society, which helps the poor women, women going into confinement, etc., in their time of need. The Manual Trades Society, whose Assistance Fund helps out the craftsmen, enabling them to buy raw unfinished goods on credit, and later to pay this off with income and additional loans for new merchandise, the Savings & Loan Bank, which gave loans to storekeepers to buy merchandise, to balebatim, to repair a house or pay taxes that have been levied against them, and last but not least – the Centos, which provides Jewish children with bread and milk, shoes and fresh air, and saves hundreds of children every year from tuberculosis, and the swollen bellies that come from malnutrition.
 

 

Shlomo Dzenchill and Max Stone

 

The dollars arrive in the name of that decent public servant Shlomo Dzenchill, the man of the people, and he distributes it among the various institutions and sends receipts back to the brethren in America. We do not have the letters that the Help Committee in Chicago sent to all of the Zambrów institutions. All have been lost along with the addresses (?). However, we have read the thank you and request letters from them to the committee in Chicago, which were received thanks to the warm-hearted, loyal and honest secretary, who would answer everyone immediately and quickly sent the needed help – landsman and brother Max Stone, who [in reality] is none other than Mendl Finkelstein, the son of David Breineh-Pearl’s. I remember him quite well, the skinny kid, with the small black and constantly darting little eyes. According to the letters sent to him – he raised himself to the level of a Joseph in Egypt, who sent sustenance to his brothers in the Land of Canaan...
 


 


From a Packet of Letters
38

To flesh out and illustrate our own words, we include here excerpts from letters that Noah Slowik wrote to his brother Herschel in Israel, from the community Hilfskomitet, from Linat HaTzedek, and from Max Stone. Excerpts from other letters are included in the chapter, ‘Social Help.’



Jewish Zambrów Seethes...

 

...It was just a few years back, and the city bubbled. On every street corner there was a ‘Local’ for one or another youth group. Placards hung everywhere, printed and handwritten, done artistically, which informed you: There will be a discussion this evening. Here, a literary-musical evening, there, a presentation, here a concert, there a general assembly, elections, a report from a conference, etc. Today – desolation. Everything has vanished, the youth has fled. Those who remain – have hidden themselves. The Polish authorities do not permit one to raise one’s head. Two sport clubs still exist, on a precarious basis: ‘HaPoel’ and ‘Gwiazda.’ The first belongs to a wing of the Israel Labor movement, and the second, to the left-wing labor movement – who even polonized their name (Der Shtern has become Gwiazda.). They still compete with one another: If one puts on a sports evening in white and blue, the other puts on such an evening in red... From time to time theatre groups still come from Warsaw. The people go to get a bit of life from them... just recently we had the ‘Vilna Troupe,’ ‘The Happy Band’ and lastly, the good orator Rachel Holzer, before she left to go to Australia.


 

Cultural Struggle Infuses Life...

 

 

 

In a Flower Day

 

A breath of life was introduced by cultural competition. Our rabbi had already given up on the Yiddishist schools. No ‘nachas’ is ever going to be gotten from their students. However, from the Hebrew schools there remains a possibility of salvaging something.
 

So the Rabbi placed the Tarbut school with its teachers in excommunication. The excommunication was carried out to the letter of the law, as it was done in the Middle Ages: A set of Jews were called as witnesses in the Bet HaMedrash, black candles were lit, the shofar was blown, and the following was said: May you be cursed by day, may you be cursed by night... The Agudah and the Revisionists were supportive... the Revisionists did this to take political revenge: their school had been liquidated, because the general Zionists and Tze‘irei Tzion did not want to support it. This led to a shouting match, and the Zionists called for a mass meeting, together with the parents of the children and declared war on the rabbi and provided evidence and justification from Poskim, that the Rabbi had acted incorrectly. In the meantime, the rabbi opened an Agudah-School ‘Bet Yaakov,’ where the daughter of his second wife was the teacher. This cause thirty girls from Tarbut to transfer over to ‘Bet Yaakov.’ That night, the Zionist youth knocked out all the window panes in the ‘Bet Yaakov’ school... and this brought a bit of life back into the shtetl, a struggle between progress and fanaticism.
 

 

‘Pickets’

 

Thing are also not tranquil with our neighbors, the gentiles. Here, a pitched battle took place between hooligans – from the villages, who had come to impose that gentiles should not buy from Jews. So long as all they did was visit trouble on the Jews, nobody stopped them. The police made believe nothing was happening, such as ‘picket’ – groups of Poles who stand about and assure that no one enters a Jewish store and buys something. If in this process, a Jew was beaten up, a window pane broken, merchandise stolen – the police ‘didn’t see and didn’t hear.’ However, when these picket-heroes began to push the politics against the régime – the police intervened, and in the middle of the market, a pitched battle took place and a policeman was knocked down, a platoon leader. All the stores were immediately closed and locked, and the police hid themselves... until police arrived from Łomża, under the leadership of a Police Major. Forty police entered the fray with city and village picketers, and mass arrests took place. Full busloads of arrested people were taken off to Łomża. The peasants fled the city, knocking out the window panes on Jewish stores in the process... all of them were released, except for twelve men, who had mounted a bloody resistance to the police, and they were detained. As a result, ‘picketing’ was forbidden. However, several weeks later, a delegation of Polish citizens from Zambrów used its influence with Warsaw to permit the renewal of ‘picketing’ against the Jewish stores, in which the picketers would make certain not to instigate any sort of pogrom.

 

 

The Market

 

 

 

Cooperative Shop Operated by Young Seamstresses

 

What does the market look like now? Of the ninety-five percent of the Jewish stores, barely forty percent remain, and even these are looking for buyers to take them over... almost every day, a Jewish store shuts down, Christian artists, masons, carpenters, tear down the Jewish sign and renovate the store... not only businesses – also houses are going over into gentile hands. Jews are thanking God for being rid of these meager assets...the market that once was full of tables – ‘warehouses’ – that were Jewish: bakers, kerchiefs, soap, goods, shoemakers, tailors, hat makers, pots and pans, furniture, etc. – there is no Jewish footprint remaining...all gentiles...Only two or three tables off to the side, selling vegetables and fruit only to Jews... The objective of the Poles is to forcibly take away work and sustenance [from the Jews, and provide it] for the unemployed Christians. But the reality is – the place of the Jewish stores is taken by the rich gentiles, who sell at much higher prices than the Jews, giving bad merchandise, and the unemployed are afraid to speak up...


January 12, 1933

 

 

 

Letter Facsimile April 4, 1938

 

 

 

Letter Facsimile

 

Hilfskomitet of the Jewish Community in Zambrów
 

 

To: The Zambrów Help Committee in Chicago

 

In the name of the Hilfskomitet of the Jewish Community of Zambrów, we certify that we have received from our Chicago landslayt, through Mr. Max Stone – fifty dollars (and 276.50 zlotys). The money will be distributed along with the seven hundred and fifty dollars from the New York Relief Committee. We will send them the receipts. In the name of our committee, as well as the needy Jewish people of Zambrów, we express our heartiest thanks to you, and our wishes for a Happy Holiday.

 

Signed: Gershon Srebrowicz, President
Y. Dunowicz, Secretary
Committee Members:

Abraham Shmuel Fiontek
Leib Rosing
David Finkelstein



Linat HaTzedek


     To Brother Max Stone, Secretary of the Help Committee of Zambrów Landslayt in Chicago.

 

12/12/ – 19,839


...We have received the fifteen dollars through Mr. Shmuel Finkelstein. We are devastated to hear of the death of R’ Zalman Goldman. We immediately called an assembly of mourning, at which we read your letter. We recognized and knew him, his good heart, and his devotion to his Zambrów brethren. In the name of the Komitet and many poor and sick for whom this money will be used, we express our sorrow and wish to convey words of consolation to the widow and the children: ‘May you be comforted among those who mourn in Zion and Jerusalem.’ May they know of no more ill tidings and bereavements, and may they look forward to a better day, and may we together fulfill the words: ‘From desolation to joy, from a day of mourning to a day of happiness.’ We request that you send us the specific day on which R’ Zalman passed away, and the name of his father ע"ה, because we will inscribe his name in the Pinkas of [the] Linat Tzedek, and on the day of yahrzeit, we will hold a memorial.

 

In the name of the Komitet:

Shlomo Dzhenchill, Chairman
Yaakov Odem, Secretary

 

 

Letter II

 

12/7 – 1939

 

Dear Friend Shlomo Dzenchill,

 

I have sent six hundred zlotys to you for the Zambrów Relief Society, to be divided among the four organizations in Zambrów. The Women’s Society – eighty zlotys, ‘Linat HaTzedek’ – eighty zlotys, The Manual Trades Society – eighty zlotys. To Centos, for the summer colony for the poor children – three hundred and sixty zlotys. I request that each of the organizations send us an acknowledgment that they have received the funds, just like they did last time.

 

Max Stone


Letter III

 

24/7 – 39

 

Filled with pain, I must inform you that we have had a great loss. We brought a committed landsman to his final resting place, who lost his young life, tragically, while at work. His name is Shepsl ben R’ Moshe Kalman Bass. The deceased was active in our organization, and for a time was its treasurer. During his funeral we collected the money that we are now sending to you. We hope that the ensuing money that comes to you from America will come on occasions that are happy. If possible, it would be appropriate if the children’s summer colony this year be named for him in his memory.

 

In the name of the Zambrów Relief Society
Menachem Stone, Secretary

 


 


The Beginning of the End
 

By Yitzhak Stupnik

 

 

I entered my parents' house. A note was already waiting for me on the table: I am obligated to present myself to the military, in the Zambrów Kuszaren.

 

At the command post I encountered no small number of my friends, who had already put on military garb. We practically did not speak, we felt what it was that awaited us.

 

The Jews of the shtetl ran about with fear on their faces, trying to provision themselves with food. Mothers stood at the corners of the streets, bidding farewell to their children who were going off to the front.

 

The Poles, who all the time shrieked that we were aliens – ‘altered’ their position a bit: our blood was necessary for the Fatherland.
 

We waited for an order while in military formation. Finally, all of the Zambrów Jews were allocated to one company, to be the first to go into fire...we marched off to the East Prussian border, during which time the first of the German bombers appeared over Zambrów and destroyed three-quarters of the city. We also suffered great losses at the front. Our company lost one hundred and thirty men and returned with only ninety-five men. Then we took up positions behind Nowogród. We dug ourselves into foxholes covered with branches. When the German tanks were to ride over us, we were supposed to blow them up at the point when they ride over our concealed and buried heads...

 

I fell asleep in the ‘grave’ while standing, after so many disturbing days and nights. My father then came to me in a dream, with his white head and gray beard, stroking me and calming me: ‘Do not fear, my servant Jacob,’ Do not be afraid, my child!...

 

Thereby, I felt a strong movement in my shoulder: this was my commanding officer, who had ordered me out of the ‘grave’ because the Polish method of attacking German tanks is certain suicide... we began to move back. It was before nightfall. The Germans detected our company and shot it up. I was wounded in my right foot. We ran for the entire night. Before dawn, with no strength left, without food or drink – we saw that we were surrounded by the enemy...

 

The Germans transported the able-bodied soldiers off to somewhere in Germany, and the wounded were driven into the church at Jendziv. Despite the fact that I had lost a lot of blood, I jumped the fence of the church, and I went into the Bet HaMedrash of the little shtetl, and here I encountered a Jewish family who immediately changed me into civilian clothing, and with a limp I set out to get back to Zambrów. My parents greeted me with great happiness, ‘let you be wounded, so long as you are alive!’ My parents were worried about the fate of my two brothers, Yankl and Moshkeh, who were also at the front, but had no news of them.

 

There was a panic in the shtetl: the Red Army is leaving, and how long is it before the Germans will kill all of the Jews. Accordingly, the men all hid, and the confused women awaited the surprises of the coming day. We lived in fear of death for two weeks, until finally the Germans drew back silently without a word, to the west side. The city remained in a state of chaos, no sort of citizen-militia had been formed. The Red Army entered the city.

 

The Zambrów Jews breathed more freely: all citizens are equal. Everyone has to work. Collectives and cooperatives were created. Everyone worked at their craft and made a living. Jews who had no trade were employed by the Soviets and also earned their bread. Even the very observant Jews, who were far from being in sympathy with communism, saw in the Red Army a means to save the oppressed Jews. This example serves to illustrate the fact: On the First of May, many religious Jews marched with a red flag, among them: my father Abraham Shmuel the Shokhet, wearing their long kapotes, etc.

 

This ‘Red Paradise’ did not last long. The Russians drew back and the Germans took over the city. And it is hear that the destruction begins...
 

 

 

   A Letter to the Land of Israel  

 

 

 

Young People Obtaining Schooling After Work

 

The Teachers are Sitting in the Middle: –
Yehoshua Domb, Lola Gordon, Bercheh Sokol, Nathan Stoliar, Pinia Baumkaler


 

When the Russians Occupied Zambrów

 

 

Zambrów, January 8, 1940


My dear son Aryeh,

 

... We think about you, because we have not heard any news from you for a long time. We received your last postcard. We are all well, and things here are good, we feel free, and Jew and Christian are treated equally...


Israel Kossowsky.

 

 

Dear brother Aryeh,

 

... Fate (or oversight) has spared us. Our family has not suffered from the war and its aftermath. I have returned intact from the field. I obtained work as a bookkeeper in a large business. Mosheki works as a carpenter, and Zalman is getting ready to enter the Jewish gymnasium which is opening in Zambrów. You would have never believed this, we have true freedom. Our house has remained intact...

 

Your brother Yitzhak Kossowsky.
 

 

 

Blood, Fire, and Columns of Smoke
 

By Yitzhak Golombek

 

 

I. Zambrów – My Birthplace

 

Who among us from Zambrów does not remember our shtetl with its precious young people, with its synagogues, its yeshiva, with its skilled craftsmen and its workers, who brought honor to the Jewish populace, depriving the gentiles of the canard that Jews are only fit to conduct trade: Jews in Zambrów plowed, sowed, and also reaped.

While being a shtetl of Mitnagdim, Zambrów also had a reputation from its Hasidim.

 

In the ‘Red Bet HaMedrash' (called that because it was built out of red bricks) it was mostly the occupiers of land that worshipped there. In the ‘White Bet HaMedrash,’ as it was called in the final years, the Bet HaMedrash of the craftsmen, one could come to hear all the wonderful maggidim and orators who appeared before us in our shtetl. The beautiful Zambrów synagogue was a center for the town’s intelligentsia. There, on the High Holy Days, one would encounter Jews, who for the entire cycle of the year had not sat down in a Bet HaMedrash. The synagogue graciously took in all those who came to collect funds for the benefit of the Land of Israel. Neighboring the White Bet HaMedrash, was the so-called ‘shtibl,’ the [sic: spiritual] home of the Hasidim of Zambrów.

 

The ‘Zionist minyan’ could be found in Salkind’s house, where the activists worshipped with Koczor and Rawikow at their head.
 

The Jews of Zambrów founded a Manual Trades Bank, a Gemilut Hasadim Bank and a Bikur Kholim. Zambrów, which had been small, became a city and a magnet for Jewry. Zambrów, the city of merchants, craftsmen and land leasing, did not know much of the bitter need and deprivation, which never left all the other surrounding small towns. There was a large military camp here, and twice a week there were market days.
 

In the years 1934 and 1935, Zambrów began to feel the heavy hand of the risen Narodowa Party.40 They began to boycott Jewish businesses and beat Jews in the streets. Life became difficult, and unbearable. Young Jewish men organized themselves in order to offer resistance. Once, on a market day, it was on a Tuesday, peasants, who had arrived from the surrounding villages launched a pogrom. They tore out paving stones and used them to knock out the panes of windows, while robbing stores. Many Jews were wounded. That day remained in the memory of Zambrów as ‘The Black Tuesday.’ It was from that ‘Black Tuesday’ that all of the trouble started which Zambrów had to withstand in the coming years, until its demise.
 

The young people of Zambrów began to look for ways and means to flee. With great difficulty and the expenditure of much energy, a very few managed to get to the Land of Israel. Many other young people left their ancestral home at that time and undertook to go all over the world, without any specific goal in mind.

 

II. The War Between Poland and Russia


 

 

A Market Day

 

The outbreak of the war between Poland and Germany heralded the destruction of the Jewish communities. In the year 1939 I returned to Zambrów from the front as a Polish fighter. It was difficult to recognize the shtetl. The side, in the direction of Łomża, and the left wing of the marketplace lay in ruins, gutted by fire. [Also] the Red Bet HaMedrash had gone up in smoke, [as well as] the house of the yeshiva, the White Bet HaMedrash, and all the surrounding houses. Upon my arrival in Zambrów, the Germans were still there. We had no roof over our head, but my family was intact, and I later heard from people that the Germans still held back their hands from murdering and did not touch anyone in the shtetl. However, a fragment of shrapnel pierced a store, and Leibl Golombek and an additional number of Jews whose names I do not remember any longer fell at that time. After the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Germans pulled back to the second side of Szumowo, meaning to the Bug River, which was a natural boundary between Germany and Russia, after the partitioning of Poland.


When the Red Army entered our area, we were overjoyed: the dark terror that weighed heavily on the burned down and impoverished city lifted, and there was dancing in the streets, the joy being so great – we had gotten rid of the Nazi murderers!
 

Life in Zambrów began to normalize itself in accordance with the Soviet style. It was our communist youth that had a large part in the introduction and establishment of the communist way of life. The gentiles immediately changed their skin, and changed their appellation of the Jews away from shame: no more would be heard ‘zyd-kommunist’ or ‘zyd-spekulant.’ The communist régime did not tarry, and it sentenced masses of Jews for the crime of ‘speculation,’ for long years of prison.
 

Slowly life acquired a certain normalcy to it. Commerce came to a standstill. The balebatim got jobs in the government. The larger houses in the city were nationalized. New houses began to be built.

 

III. The Expulsion of the Jews of Ostrów Mazowiecka Begins

 

Like an outpouring that comes from a broken dam, Jews began to come streaming across the border into our city. The Germans, on their side of the border, began their work of extermination. Thousands of people sat in the street without a roof over their heads, and Zambrów did everything within its power to help and lighten the suffering of the refugees. Meanwhile, the Russian authorities looked away at those events transpiring in our streets. But not for long. Some time later, the Russian authorities began to look upon the Jews as spies for Germany and shipped them off en masse to Siberia. Tens of families remained living with their Zambrów relatives, until they were later transferred to Slonim. Our young people were mobilized by the Russians and sent to Russia to serve in the Red Army.

 

IV. The Russian War in 1941

 

 

 
Soldiers Drilling in the Marketplace  

A Spot in the Marketplace

 

The Germans had taken possession of our region beginning from the first day of the war. On the second day German patrols roamed the streets. In the month of June 1941 the Germans called together the activists of the shtetl and said that they want to have Jewish representation for the Jewish populace. It was at that time that the first Judenrat was created, with R’ Gershon Srebrowicz at its head. The first demand that the Germans put forward was a financial levy. It was the responsibility of the head [sic: of the Judenrat] to provide this ‘contribution’ in the sum of hundreds of thousands of gold marks, a levy which the German authorities imposed on the Jewish populace. A failure to provide this contribution at the precisely designated time placed the lives of tens of Jews in jeopardy.

 

The demands of the Germans became ever more difficult and oppressive. They began to seize Jews and send them to work on the digging of trenches near the Zambrów barracks. Among those seized, on one day, was my father ע"ה. My father told us that, at work, an officer approached him and asked: ‘Jew, what is your occupation? – ‘I am a tenant farmer,’ my father replied. The German then screamed at him in a wild voice: ‘You lie, Jew, you are lying!’ He went off and asked other Jews about my father. Discovering that my father had told the truth, the German called my father away to a side and asked him to stand on a bench. He called together a number of Germans to look at a Jewish tenant farmer. He questioned my father about his family, about the children and wanted to know if the children are also tenant farmers. After work, he gave my father a loaf of bread and told him never to come back to work on the digging, but to remain at his work on the land. When our father told this to us, we understood that we needed to hide ourselves.

 

Living in Zambrów became increasingly more bitter from day to day. One early morning, the Germans went into the Wander Gasse, and they seized my uncle Leibl Slowik with his son Moshe, the old cow-herder and his son-in-law, Leibl Dzenchill, and other additional Jews, whose names I no longer recall. They were taken away, and we never saw them again alive. We were told that they were working here, or there, on roads, and similar stories...

 

After this incident, Jews began to hide themselves, avoiding the possibility of appearing in the streets. The Germans then took to the Judenrat demanding they provide people for labor, most of them for work in the Zambrów barracks. Regarding the ‘contributions,’ the Judenrat failed, not having the resources to satisfy the very high German demands. The members of the Judenrat were beaten murderously more than one time. In the end, the Germans dissolved the Judenrat. They found a Jew named Glicksman and gave him full power to set up a new Judenrat on a completely different basis. Glicksman, a scion of Grudzonc, was an assimilated Jew without any Jewish feelings and spoke the German language. He verbally abused the Jews, had bad names for them, and raised his voice to them even higher and more sharply than the Germans. His power over the Jews was practically unconstrained. His police – stern and insolent. If it happened that they could not get what they wanted in a gentle way, they knew very well how to extract it with severity.
 

 

V. The Sorrowful Tuesday

 

 

ulica Czyżewska (Czyzew Street)

 

The order was given that on August 19, at 5:00 A.M., all the Jews in Zambrów were to assemble in the marketplace. All, except for the small children, have to be in the street. Anyone who will be encountered in a house will be shot on the spot. Glicksman issued this order. His police force then went from house to house to inform everyone about this issued order. There were many craftsmen who worked in the surrounding villages, so Glicksman’s messengers traveled there and brought them back to the city. They were told to dress themselves in their holiday finest. Various rumors began to spread: some said they were to be taken to work; others said that they were looking for communists.

 

On the day of August 841, at 5:00 A.M., young and old alike in Zambrów found themselves in the marketplace. At about five o’clock, there appeared armored vehicles with S. S. troops in them, armed with machine guns. They took up a formation surrounding the marketplace. We were arrayed in rows like soldiers. And then the ‘work’ started. Incidentally, the Poles knew how to keep a secret, that they [sic: the Jews] were to be taken away and killed. They stood behind the houses and looked out from corners towards the marketplace, waiting for the moment when they could begin the work of plundering the abandoned city. We, from our places in the marketplace, could see how the company of Poles was forming itself, with bands around their arms. It became very clear to us, what it was that

the Poles were intending to do.

 


A Street in Zambrów

 

The selektion then began. The bandits went about between the rows and selected the best of the young men and women, and took them out of the rows. They were immediately arranged in groups of five, facing the direction of Łomża, diagonally opposite the ulica Czyżewska. I was standing with my father and mother and my two brothers, Israel and Yankl. My brother Moshe and his wife stood in a second row. A thought dawned on me and my youngest brother: since another row was formed, selected by Glicksman’s men, we were not to stand and wait for the S. S. troops to come to us, and we ran over to the second side of the street and placed ourselves in that row. And this is how I saw, five minutes later, how my father with my brother Israel, and the brothers Meir and David Bronack, came to the general row. We stood facing the direction of Bialystok. Later on it became forbidden for us to look at the second side. I will recall here, that for the elderly in the city with Rabbi Regensberg at their head, the Germans brought a big freight truck, and took them off in the direction of Warsaw.

 

Meanwhile the groups were closed. Our group became filled. My brother Moshe and his wife were the last ones that finished out the large row that was headed towards Łomża. The order came to march. The first to move was the group facing Warsaw. After them we went off in the direction of Czyżew. The group heading toward Warsaw was guarded by Poles carrying staves, all from Zambrów, well-known among the Zambrów populace, and by the S. S. troops. The wailing and keening was indescribable. Mothers ran after children, and children after parents. The Germans opened fire to drive people out of the marketplace. The wailing and crying could continue to be heard even very, very far from the city. Little children without parents, parents without children. Entire families were eradicated at one time. A terrible sorrow fell upon those who were left behind. The little children, who remained without parents, were divided up among families. I took I took Chaim Kuropatwa’s child. He was called Yankl, and he became our child – until Auschwitz.


 

VI . Dealings with the Germans about a Ghetto

 

 

 

The Town on a Saturday
 

 

The Germans cordoned off the streets that ran parallel to the ulica Czyżewska, that is the Jatkewa and Neben Gasse, which was to include Szliedziewsky’s and Dembrowsky’s factories, and the river should be a boundary line. The burgomaster of the city was August Kaufmann, the German, who lived diagonally opposite the cemetery. He confiscated Szliedziewsky’s wealth from Gedalia Tykoczinsky ז"ל and from Dembrowsky – our yard along with the buildings. It looked like the deal was done, but something behind the scenes caused them to regret this and walk away from abandoning their businesses. For us Jews, this change was a matter of great significance. It meant that we would have more room for those who would be taken into the ghetto. Because of this change, things all of a sudden quieted down. And since the space on the two small streets was too crowded for those Jews who remained, rumors spread that the town council had made a decision to approach the Germans and ask them to take away another couple of hundred Jews, asserting that the severe overcrowding in the ghetto would endanger the health of the Christian populace, which by the way would be separated from the ghetto by a barbed wire fence. In the meantime, they began to build a fence, and in the corner of the Bialystok road near Kaufmann’s house, a tower was erected. It became clear that this enclosed area had been designated to be a ghetto.
 

 

VII. The New Aktion

 

 

The Town on a Saturday
 

 

Two weeks and two days later, the Germans again ordered the Judenrat to call all of the Jews together on the marketplace, with the same warning that they will shoot anyone on the spot who failed to come. Everyone has to appear at the designated location in the marketplace. Everyone, except children. This notification from the Jewish police engendered a new outbreak of panic, which was anticipated because they no longer forcibly dragged people along. Whoever could hide themselves did so. I, the rest of my family and the little Yankeleh Kuropatwa, spent the night at our colony under the open sky. At seven o’clock in the morning, the peasants who had come to the city were intensely amazed when they found us in the field. They brought us the tidings that the Germans had once again led off many people, men and women. At ten in the morning, I was already at the yard on the Łomża Gasse. The Poles had come to see if any of the Jews remained, fully prepared to seize booty. And when they saw me and my brother Yankeleh, they said to me, in amazement: ‘You are still here?’

 

It was harvest time. And since we had just constructed a new barn, small-time peasants came to us and asked if they could place their grain in a small corner of the barn. Their intent was premeditated: since they expected that I would be taken away, they would come to reclaim the grain they had stored with me, and who would be there to keep them from taking everything?

 

It was Thursday, September 4. Many people were missing at that time, and to give orders to others as to what they should do was not possible. Everyone dealt in a way dictated by their own common sense. As we were later told, the Germans raised a hue and cry that they were short of Jews. We thought that the Germans needed Jews to do labor, and therefore, as a result, they would take only the able and young. Accordingly, everyone made an attempt to appear worn out and old. Women put kerchiefs on their heads. The intent of the Germans this time, however, was much worse than before. They seized people randomly, young and old, even pregnant women. ‘They are taking us to the

slaughter,’ the terrifying thought stabbed in our minds. That morning they were led off in the direction of Bialystok. And as we later found out, they were killed in a forest near Ruti Kasaki. May the Lord Avenge Their Blood.
 

 

VIII. The Preparations to Occupy the Ghetto


‘Now there will be enough space for the Jews,’ the Poles were heard to say. The Zambrów ghetto was created, but all the Jewish tenant farmers were obliged to remain on their places outside the ghetto and work their fields. This was the wish of Kishel, the German land-farming inspector. It was harvest time, when the grain needed to be gathered in, the potatoes dug up, and to get ready for the winter planting, and he therefore had need of the hands of the Jewish tenant-farmers. The entire population of the ghetto derived help during that time by this. When a Jew was caught outside of the ghetto, he would say that he had been working in the fields with a Jewish tenant-farmer – and this was legitimate.

 

At the end of September 1941, we were given no more than fifteen minutes of time to go out, that is, to leave our houses, the barns with grain, the machines, horses and cows – and return to the ghetto. My mother, myself and my brother Yankeleh were taken in by the family of Yudl Eusman. Together, we were in a two-story house – the Eusman family, Alter Dwozhets (Dworzec) and we three.

 

IX. Life in the Ghetto


It was a hard and difficult life. We had many orphaned children. Also, parents who had lost their children. Fate, however, declared that there would be some solitary families that remained intact. The Zambrów ghetto became a place of refuge for Jews from the surrounding towns. The ghetto was literally the center and gathering point for workers that the Germans drew from there, for labor gangs to build and pave streets and roads. Our gang worked at breaking stones and pouring asphalt. All of the Jewish workers worked only for the Germans. There was a gang that worked in the Zambrów barracks, where the Germans had created a camp for Russian prisoners of war.

 

We lived in the ghetto under a despotic régime of self-governance. Glicksman, the ‘Chief Jew’ had a police staff under him and ruled his kingdom with a high hand.

 

X. A Typhus Epidemic in the Ghetto

 

The thousands of prisoners in the Zambrów camp fell victim to hunger and typhus. The typhus disease was carried into the ghetto. It was said that since the surrounding fields had been made filthy with the fecal waste from the barracks, it was the cucumbers that we ate from those fields carried the typhus bacteria.

 

Near the river, in the ghetto, we had a hospital. The doctors were Dr. Grundland and Dr. Friedman. The head nurse was Masha Slowik. Their dedication was without limit. But their reach was too limited to be of help.

 

Here, in praise, I wish to recall the lady, Elkeh Kaplan ז"ל, a truly righteous woman who collected kasha, grits, potatoes, and cooked up a bit of food for the abandoned orphan children.

 

The ghetto did not know any spiritual life. There was no Bet HaMedrash, no school, and there were no resources to be found in the ghetto. In the last months, the Germans permitted the transfer of a new, unfinished house from outside the ghetto. The house was moved and was set up on the account of the owner, Sender Kaplan. This house became our Bet HaMedrash.

 

In the meantime, a variety of news reached us, brought by refugees. They told of Treblinka near Malkin. The human mind could grasp, and then not grasp what this meant. However, we did grasp that we, too, were exposed to the danger of extermination.

 

We also received a variety of false reports. Regarding the people who were led away on Tuesday, we were told that they were seen working on a road in Ostrów Mazowiecka. All of these reports came from gentile mouths, from Poles who the Germans put up to this. There is a story about a letter from David Bronack, which a Pole named Klosak brought. This Pole had worked steadily for Yossl the Painter, and we knew him well. He demanded one hundred and fifty marks for the letter from Rivka Bronack. She immediately came running to tell me the news, that the people are alive. We gave the Pole one hundred and fifty marks, and he gave us the letter. He told us that David Bronack gave him the letter, and apart from this we could not get another word out of him. In the letter the following was written: ‘We are alive and are working on the roads.’ Sadly, neither Rivka, nor her son Moshe, could recognize David’s handwriting, but because of the many errors that we found in the letter, we understood that this was a fabrication, a means to swindle us out of money.

 

During the time that I still was living outside the ghetto, Poles told us that they heard from other Poles, who had accompanied Jews along the way, that they were all shot in Glebocz near Szumowo, in an incompletely built Russian fortification, and in this same mass grave, many other Jews were also buried, who were from the area, until the substantial fort intended for the Russian artillery was filled up.
 

 

XI. Jewish Valuables are Turned Over to be Hidden in Gentile Hands

 

When life had already lost all semblance of order, all those who remained alive gave away a large part of their furniture, bed linen and clothing to Poles who they knew. And on another day, it was already possible to see how displeased they were to encounter someone from the family, who knew about these transferred valuables. There were also instances where Poles immediately refused to return any item that someone wanted to sell in order to buy bread, and it became necessary to look for help from the Judenrat, meaning from the Germans, to reclaim those items from Polish hands. The Jews of the ghetto were like a thorn in the eyes of our neighbors, the Poles. They would say: ‘See, the Jews have been settled in the ghetto, and it's like nothing, they are alive. If it were us, we would have died of hunger within a month.’

 

We began hearing rumors about the liquidation of the ghetto in September. Beinusz Tykoczinsky and I, once when we went together outside the ghetto, ran into Beinusz’s good friend Szliedzesky, who, under the Russian régime held the post of Chief of the Firefighters Brigade, with Beinusz as an assistant. Szliedzesky said to Beinusz: ‘It goes very badly for the ghetto. This morning we were given an order to set up a guard over it.’ We already knew what this meant, because we had heard from refugees that the Germans always call out the firefighters when they are getting ready to liquidate a ghetto. We brought this frightening news into the ghetto, and a panic broke out immediately. Despite this, a couple of days went by and nothing happened, and the tension subsided.

 

In those days, a group of comrades who had left the ghetto in order to join the partisans in the forests, came back home. This matter was kept in extreme secrecy, so that, God forbid, the news would not pass to the Germans by way of an informer. One of the group was Yitzhak Prawda. The group went out of the ghetto well-dressed, shod, and provisioned with a sum of money. In the fields they encountered remnants of the Russian army, mostly Ukrainians. The Russians and Ukrainians beat them, took away their money, stripped them naked and barefoot, and drove them away in shame back to the Germans.

 

Immediately rumors about the liquidation of the ghetto started up again. As previously mentioned, the Jewish craftsmen worked exclusively for the Germans. Among them were tailors, shoemakers, furniture makers, and other sorts of trades(men). One day, the Germans appeared and demanded of the Judenrat that they gather up all work, whether finished or unfinished, that the Germans had ordered. The Judenrat police went out to carry out this order. For us, this was the signal that the danger of liquidation was near. The ghetto residents, in resignation and terrorized by fear of death, began to look for stratagems by which to save themselves. Whoever had gentile acquaintances carried off whatever remnants of goods they had, to have them hidden or to plead for mercy, that they should hide that individual himself. The work gangs marched into the ghetto. We gathered at the Judenrat and demanded that Glicksman tell the truth.

 

XII. Glicksman and His Truth


Glicksman began by addressing his police and began to shout over the heads of the gathered people: ‘What do they want, the dirty Jews? The Germans took away these things in order to exchange them for other things.’

 

The Zambrów Jews, seasoned from their troubles and knowing their ‘Senior Jew,’ didn’t take him at his word. When nightfall came, everyone took for the barbed wire. The barbed wire was cut, and we fled underneath to the river, near Dembowski’s and Szliedzesky’s. Men, women, and older children ran, with packs on their backs to the extent that they had the strength to carry. We fled to the nearest forest. I, and my mother and brother, at about ten o’clock at night, went off in the same direction. In the ghetto, the only ones left were older people who surrendered to their fate, and children in cradles, that parents were unable to take along. In the late hours of the night, when Glicksman saw that he was left without Jews, he, and his entire coterie also fled and hid themselves, out of fear of the Germans. Those who arrived in the forest later said that it had already become difficult to get out of the ghetto, because the Germans had surrounded it.
 

 

XIII. Zambrów Jews in the Forest


Fate decreed that one misfortune should be worst than the next. Fleeing into the forest, we knew was no salvation. However, people, when exposed to the danger of being killed will run anywhere in the world, driven by an inner force, an impetus that cannot be contained. Having run a considerable distance, one remains standing, spent, without any strength left and one asks the other: ‘Where do we go?’ The only answer that could be was: ‘Into the forest!’ And how will they be able to live, even if just being able to regain some equilibrium – men, women, and children, hungry, beaten down, without help, surrounded with a murderous foe on all sides? – To this there was no answer.

 

My mother, my brother and I, dragged ourselves to the Czeczork Forest. We sought out a hiding place between shrubs and settled ourselves there. We heard people running nearby, heard their heavy breathing and mumbling. The night was long and didn’t want to end. Very early on we heard a great disturbance in the forest, the sound of a struggle. I crawled out of my ditch and immediately saw in front of me a cadre of Poles, in groups of five, six, or more, with staves and scythes in their hands, pushing the Jews and striking out left and right. The Jews cried, begging for mercy from their beaters, pleading with them to take bribes, ha – money, gold – that is what they want though. Having gotten rid of one band, we immediately fell into the hands of a second band. With each band, little shkotzim ran along, from seven to ten years of age. They climbed out from under every shrub, making noise, whistling, shouting: ‘Żydy! Żydy! Żydy! I crawled back into my hiding place and sought counsel with my mother and brother, as to what we should do. I had just begun to get back into our ditch, and we had a small shaygetz near us, and he shouted at the top of his lungs: ‘Żydy! Żydy! Żydy!’ He let out a whistle, and the adults immediately came running. As soon as they saw us, they remained standing and called out, ‘Oh, Jesus, the Golombeks!’ They covered the mouth of the little rat and sat down next to us. As beaten down and broken as we were, we burst out in tears.

 

Who were these shkotzim? A person named Proszenski lived on our street. His sons worked for us as shepherds. In more recent times, one of them worked for August Kaufmann, the burgomaster of the city, and sitting on the ground with us, beside the shrub, he told us: in the city placards were hung about that carried the notice that if a number of Jews will be apprehended and brought to the gendarmerie, a reward of an amount of money and a bottle of whiskey will be given. I was able to sense that they had already gotten the whiskey. The placard also warned that whoever would hide a Jew would be shot on the spot.

 

It was under these circumstances that the bandits from the city went into the forest – and after them, came the bands [sic: of predators] from the village.

 

They let us go free, and we proceeded further. After each bit of the journey that we took, they confronted us. They robbed us and took away whatever they could find that we had. There were those among them who did not allow themselves to be bought off. They did as follows: One of them, who was their representative, first robbed us, emptying what he could of the Jews, after which they began to beat and drive the people further. They seized a couple of tens of Jews this way, and drove them into a barn in Czeczork. There, others were waiting, who led the Jews into the city. At first, resistance was offered to them, struggling with the assailants. In the end, however, it was necessary to capitulate. We were too weak to defend ourselves against murderous enemies, who only wanted our deaths, in order that they could have all our assets, which would remain as booty for them to plunder. There was not a single Christian family that didn’t have one sort of Jewish valuable or another in their possession.

 

In this manner, the Poles rounded up hundreds of people that day. When the sun was getting ready to set, we also were apprehended and driven into the barn, which we found to be full of captured Jews. They robbed us of our money, watches, good clothing and shoes. We gathered up money among ourselves, dollars, and shoved it into the hands of the leader of the Polish band from the city. It was now clear to us that they will enthusiastically lead us to be killed.
 

 

XIV. We Leave Our Mother in the Forest


Night fell. Again, I sought counsel with my mother as to what we should do. One of the members of the band told us, after he had received money from us: ‘Run!’ So my mother said: ‘Children, if you can save yourselves, run away from here! Let at least a memory of this family remain.’ The first one to run was my brother Yankeleh ז"ל. And as soon as Yankeleh went off, my mother said to me: ‘Yitzhak, try to save yourself.’ It was difficult for me to get myself moving. I was suffering from a broken foot that I had gotten from an accident while working in Szumowo. Despite this, with the elastic bandage, which wound around my thigh down to my toes, with all of my strength I undertook to flee with all of the others. In this way, I reached Bielicki’s garden. There, I hid myself in a field booth and had a long bitter cry.

 

In the still of the night, yet another cry carried in my direction, the crying voice of someone who thought they were talking to themselves: 'There no longer is a mother, there is no longer a brother, alone like a rock.’ I tear out of the booth, and I run to the fence. I call out: ‘Yankeleh!’ – but I didn’t see him any further. In the morning, my neighbors told me that Yankeleh stayed with them and left in the night, and they do not know where he went. Later on, I was also told that if had he not left immediately, he would have been taken away with all of the others to the Zambrów barracks.

 

Glicksman and his men, as I heard it told, presented themselves to the Germans, and he will be the ‘senior Jew’ in the concentration camp.
 

 

XV. My Third Day in the Forest


With the setting of the sun, the Germans surrounded the forest and opened fire. After that, they penetrated deeper into the forest, accompanied by Poles. They again trapped a lot of Jews in their dragnet. The truth of the matter is that life had become repulsive to these people, and almost all of them had decided to give themselves up.

 

The Poles did not permit any Jews to come into their homes. When they sold you a bit of bread, they demanded that you immediately go away.

 

In the garden of a peasant, I found a pit full of potatoes, which had a cover with a small door. That is where I made a place for myself to live. During the day, I wandered about the fields. At night, I went into the potato pit. I loitered about this way for two weeks, in the field and in the pit. With each passing day, I saw fewer and fewer Jews. The Poles told me that all are going into the barracks of their own free will, and they are given food there. The peasants provide potatoes for the camp. Hearing that the people were alive, I decided to give myself up and go to see if I could help my mother. After fourteen days of living in a pit, I presented myself to the gendarmerie. I was led to the ghetto. That was the gathering point for all the apprehended Jews, and those who came of their own volition. The fire fighters escorted the captured as far as the barracks. I asked to be allowed to go into my home, to take a towel. I was permitted to do this, but not to take any more than fifteen minutes. I could not negotiate the street in the ghetto, which was covered in mountains of pots, bottles, pieces of furniture, utensils, shoes, linen, clothing, pillows, books, copies of the Pentateuch, and volumes of the Talmud. Every home was barricaded by loose goods that had been extracted from the houses. I made a path for myself through this to our house. The door was broken open, and everything from the drawers had been pulled out, thrown about on the floor, linens, clothing, shoes, the furniture upended.

 

The Zambrów Jews who had gone off to the fields took practically nothing with them. They left everything behind, abandoned to be plundered. By contrast, the Jews from Łomża arrived in the camp with bedding, pots and utensils.

 

XVI. The March to the Barracks


The Jews wore yellow badges in the form of a Jewish star, on the front and back. The Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalk, being compelled to walk in the middle of the street, where the sewer waste ran. Marching over then Zambrów's Kosciuszko Gasse, I saw Poles, residents of Zambrów and its vicinity, workers, merchants, peasants. All looked to the side, but I saw one shikseh who was weeping, as she went by. This was a woman of the streets in Zambrów who I knew...
 

 

XVII. Entry into the New Hell

 

A German soldier with a death’s head insignia on his helmet, opens up the barrier into the stalag and lets us in. Up to then, the Poles had fulfilled their sacred mission – and then left. There is stalag number one, number two, and tower number 3. Thanks to God, I too, am now in Hell. People are running back and forth. Later, I found out that this was the day when the peasants had delivered a contingent of potatoes for the camp. But this is a story unto itself, as we see so later on.

 

I inquire about as to where Jews from Zambrów might be found. I am told, that block 3 will be designated for them, and those from Łomża will occupy block 1 and 2. Block 4 held Czyżew, Wisoka and Umgebung. In block 5 – Jews gathered up from various places.

 

When I arrived at the block, I was surrounded on all sides. They began to tell me about the great extent of the hunger. As previously mentioned, those from Zambrów fled into the forest empty-handed; no protection for their skin, not a pot to cook in, and a pail in which to hold water was totally out of the question. In order to get water into the camp, it was necessary to let each other down, one over another, into a deep well. The people from Zambrów were eager to draw water, but they had no pail at hand – so, they are suffering this way for two weeks already, slavering for a drop of water.

 

I immediately began to inquire: ‘Who has seen my mother?’ I was led up to the second story. In the large chambers, with plank cots in three levels, lost in a forest of people, I found my mother ע"ה. This is the picture: The ‘residence’ was the middle one of the three levels of cots, running the length of the wall, cots banged together from boards and poles. Shrunken in there, sat my beloved mother. Seeing me approach her, she gave herself a push, tearing herself to me, but then immediately falling back for lack of any strength. I jumped up onto the cot, and my first words were: ‘Mama, forgive me, for having left you alone.’ With tears in her eyes, my mother said to me: ‘ But I was the one who sent you away. Do you have any news of Yankeleh?’

 

In the meantime, my entire family gathered around us: my uncle Slowik’s two daughters, Chaya and Masha, my uncle Isaac with the children, Rivka Bronack with two daughters and a son, and a little daughter of my brother Moshe, age two-and-a-half years old. She was called Racheleh. I had brought a couple of loves of bread with me, and I divided this and in doing so bought myself into both worlds.

 

My mother told me that she is living this entire time on the ration of bread that she receives. She had not tasted so much as a single spoonful of soup. Once she ascended to her place on the bunk bed, she no longer stirred from there. And this was also the case with many other women. I sat myself on the bunk bed. When my mother regained some of her composure, she spoke further:

 

‘Since I figured that I had lost my children, and that I would not live much longer than another couple of days, I took my packet of jewelry and threw it under the bunk bed. Since life has ended and there are no children, what do I need it for?’ This packet held the legacy of generations – precious stones, golden chains, rings and small watches.

 

The lowest bunk bed was about ten centimeters from the ground. I went underneath, found a stick and swept the packet out from underneath.

 

In the kitchen, they gave out a bit of soup and kasha. So I went down, and got a bit of soup, ‘vashka’ in the lingo of the camp, in the pot that I had brought with me.

 

A little later I went down again to see and hear what was going on downstairs. Again a running around, a movement with shooting that came immediately after it. I barely am able to become aware of what had happened, that they are now first carrying dead out on stretchers.

 

I must say here that the Jews from Łomża were far more bold than the ones from Zambrów. On that day, potatoes were brought into the camp, and the hungry, pity them, let themselves loose wildly at the fully-laden wagons and began to grab potatoes. The soldiers at their posts opened fire, and about five or six people fell. Despite this, a number of wagons were emptied of their contents. People fell on the potatoes and began to gnaw them while they were still raw, as if they were good, sap-filled apples.

 

Everyone in the camp could not understand why I had come. There is no way back from here. A barbed wire fence – and then another fence. And such surveillance! Hemmed in, walled in, unable to penetrate through, and getting close to the barbed wire means a faster death from a bullet in the back. Death here is sown left and right.
 

 

XVIII. Getting Out – And Returning

 

A long row of wagons, loaded with potatoes, stood outside. The peasants, who had to wait in the line for unloading, came inside with whips in their hands, to take a look at the ‘Żydzs.’ In this way, I encountered a peasant that I knew, inside the barracks, and struck up a conversation with him. And in talking to him this way, I took off the yellow star from myself, put up the collar of my short jacket and took the whip out of the hands of the peasant. The peasant did not catch on to what was going on. I ask him: ‘Where is your horse and wagon?’ He says: ‘On the other side of the fence.’ So I gesture to him: ‘Come out of here. Here they shoot. Why do you want to loiter around here? Come to the wagon.’ We went out of the barracks and continued talking. I passed the first guard tower uneventfully, then the second tower, and I am now at the main tower. My heart was pounding out of fear, but I steeled myself. And here I was out free. I am proceeding without my clothes badge in the middle of the sidewalk, to spite the Poles. I am stared at, indeed, with wonder, but I continue along my way insolently, with feigned haughtiness. I come to the ghetto, do not go in through the gate, but through the back way, on the side of Dunovich’s fence. Big Tiska, a wall-builder encounters me. He says: ‘You were led out of here this morning, how is it that you are coming here?’ I say: ‘The

camp commander sent me to bring back wood for the kitchen.’ In the meantime, I grabbed a neighbor of mine, Litwinsky, with a horse and wagon. He tells me that he works in the city council, transporting things from the ghetto. I give him thirty marks for him to transport a bit of wood for me. The gentile permitted himself to deal. I entered my own home and began to pack up some things with which to cover myself, grabbed a blanket, a bit of underwear, a couple of towels. More to the point, I wanted to take some pots, bowls and plates. And this was mostly to be retrieved from the street. Also, I found small sacks of food that the peasants felt was not worth taking away, lying in the street. I filled a wagon with pots and pans and utensils, with kasha flour, with everything that came to my hand. On top, over all of these things, I put wood that the gentile through out through the gate; I went out the way I came in – through the back way. I went into a bakery and bought ten old loaves of bread, literally dried out, for which I was charged a high price. With everything loaded onto the wagon, I am now traveling with a great deal of merchandise. I had made up with the gentile that at the gate he should say that he was sent from the ghetto for the Jews, with me as the interpreter. And

that is the way it was. I said that I was coming from the forest, and that the bread was for my family in the camp. With luck, I got through the first gate. And they then permit you to go on further, because they know that there is no way back. I ride over to the third block. I was greeted with great astonishment and tumult; from whence did I bring all of these things? Previously, I had not entrusted my great secret to anyone, so they would not know what I was thinking. I recall the elderly Chaimsohn falling upon by neck and beginning to kiss me.

 

When the wood was taken down from the wagon, and they saw the pots and pans and utensils, there ensued such a melee of grabbing, that if I had not grabbed a pot for myself, I would have been left with nothing. Also, all the sacks of food were taken up, but the people afterwards brought back part of it for me. On that day, I brought life back into that block, and one could now see people standing by the kitchen with plates and pots.

 

On that day, Donkland, a man from Zambrów, approached me, who had been a former police-lieutenant in the ghetto, and wearing an official armband in the camp, and he asked me, if I wanted to come and live with him in his room, designated for a couple of families, since it was within his discretion to pick whom he wants, and since I am a ‘sidekick’ he wants to include me in these couple of families. I was taken into this room with my mother. We got a corner, and in a couple of days time, my brother Yankeleh arrived in the camp.

 

They were a few tens of Jews near Sendzjawa in a barn on a field (also Chaim Kaufman was in this group). The Poles turned them in to the German gendarmerie. From that time on, Yankeleh was with me.
 

 

XIX. The Bread of Hunger

 

Life in the camp got progressively harder and harder from day to day. The little children who were with us began to die off. Also, our child, who remained after my brother Moshe and Sarah Bronack died. The typhus epidemic grew more intense, spreading death and desolation around. A sort of hospital was set up in a large and cold barracks. Using straw as the bedding, like in a horse stable, and covered in rags, the sick expired from the cold, in pain and agony beyond human capacity.

 

It was in the months of November-December. Tortured by hunger, strategies were sought for how to get bread brought in from the outside. Those who have survived must surely remember how we used to drain the effluent from the latrines in the barracks, and take it away in large barrels as the refuse with which to fertilize the fields. It was believed, as previously already mentioned, that it was this waste material that was the cause of the typhus epidemic in the camp. Using these very same barrels, the carriers of the typhus plague, they were employed for smuggling bread into the camp. We struck a deal with a certain gentile, a latrine worker, that on the way back from the field with an empty barrel, he should fill the vessel with a sack full of bread loaves for the camp. We paid for the bread with gold and precious stones, which not only once had traces on it of having been in that barrel. We literally fought with one another, almost like a war, for this bread. And indeed, this war led to the revelation of this ‘conspiracy.’

 

The Germans would never have thought that these vessels would be used to conceal food. And when the fighting broke out in the camp, an open war, the Germans investigated and discovered the reason for it. They beat up the latrine barrels, but there was no one that was willing to take the cover off the barrel and stick his head inside – well, the Germans then used long insulated tongs...

 

There were a group of ‘toughs’ in the block that wanted to seize the ‘monopoly’ over the bread. The police in the block oversight were partners in this endeavor. On the other side, stood people starved, totally spent, furiously impelled to buy a morsel of bread for themselves. Who were these ‘toughs?’ The ringleaders were Arky and Barky. The police had to get involved in order to make a compromise: on one day, the ‘toughs’ will get the bread, and on the next day – the remainder of the block.

 

About the camp, there straggled people who were mere shadows, who begged for their own death. The block became infested with lice. The lice crawled all over the clothing, those items that were already worn, but had to be worn during the day and slept in at night. With the coming of the day, some of the clothing was taken off, first the overcoat, and put out on the snow, in order to freeze the lice. This aired out coat was then put on again, and some other part of the clothing was taken off to be frozen.
 

 

XX. The Łomża Refugees Plan to Escape


The Łomża Jews had organized themselves to plan a breakout from the camp. And one out of every ten of the group volunteered to crawl through the barbed wire, and to reach the fence. The post watch opened fire on them, but nobody was hit, and the group escaped. At a second time, a group of Zambrów and Łomża residents also attempted an escape. Once again, they were fired upon. Shmulkeh Golombek’s son who had blundered into the barbed wire and was wounded, was captured, this being the younger one from Dobczyn and another young man from Zambrów, whose name I do not remember. The third one captured was from Łomża. The executioners carried out their vengeance in a very basic way, in front of the people as witnesses. All the Jews in the camp were driven together on a large plaza, and the three young boys were brought there, one of them crippled in the feet. Four S. S. troops stepped forward to do whipping, holding nagaikas.42 All three were stood up, and one after another were whipped with the braided nagaikas. Two of them beat them as if they were threshing wheat with grain in them, and each one was given thirty lashes. After the whipping, they were taken to the hospital, and they died there.

 

I had previously told that the peasants used to provide potatoes for the camp. Two of the young men who has gotten away in the first escape, from the Łomża group, bought a horse and wagon, and brought potatoes, pretending to be peasants. Hidden under the potatoes, they would smuggle meat, butter, and other sorts of foodstuffs. Young men, from Zambrów and Łomża, worked in the commissary of the camp, and they knew how to conceal these provisions. One time the boys dealt with this stuff in an unguarded fashion, perhaps out of too much confidence in themselves. They came into the camp with a wagon load of potatoes, at a time when there was no one else with them, real peasants. The guards inspected these ‘peasants,’ and they were not satisfied. A patrol was sent after the wagon. An investigation and search was conducted in the wagon, and they found what they found. For this crime of bringing food to the hungry, the Germans sentenced these two young men to death. They were hung in the barracks. If I am not mistaken, they were called Itzik and Yudkeleh. I knew them from the labor camp at Szumowo. We were there together, both people from Łomża and Zambrów.

 

Once again, all contact and dealing with the outside world was broken off. We literally expired from hunger. Death hovered over our heads.

 

The dead from the camp were interred in the Zambrów cemetery. There was a small wagon in the camp, on which, day-after-day, the dead were placed, and under watch taken to the cemetery. The graves were dug to a depth of forty centimeters and lightly covered with the earth. On the way back, usually we bought a bite of bread, onions, and potatoes from the residents who lived beside the cemetery. On time, Schaja Henoch’s son-in-law came along. He stepped away from the funeral procession to buy bread. When he returned, the soldier shot him. He was shot, and we were ordered to bury him immediately. People said that when he was lain in his grave, his still showed signs of life.


 

XXI. The News

 

It was the middle of December, 1941. Seeing that the typhus epidemic grew more intense, and people were dying on a daily basis either from typhus or from hunger, the commandant of the camp, on one day called our representatives to him and said to them as follows: ‘I see that you are all going to die here, and I have decided to convey you ‘further to the east,’ near Odessa. There you will work and remain alive. Here, we have no work for you. Tell you brethren, that they should comport themselves quietly and in an orderly fashion, and we will deal with them in a good way.’

 

When the representatives came back to the blocks and relayed the news to us, there was no doubt in any mind that this means – Treblinka! The exhausted ones were shaken, and the spirit of rebellion rose in the blocks. This was true with the people from Zambrów and Łomża, as by those from Czyżew and Wysoka. Voices were raised that said: ‘We will be killed here, but not to go to Treblinka!’ Talk began about a rebellion. With bare fists, however, nothing could be done, and there could be no talk about having arms and ammunition. And even at the price of hundreds of victims, we were to break through the gates, where would we go? We had already fled once – and came back or had fallen back into German hands.
 

 

XXII. Glicksman Feigns ‘Making an Effort’


As we understood it, Glicksman, along with the Senior from Łomża, Mushinsky, again made a deal with the camp commandant. Now the commandant no longer spoke of Odessa, but only about a labor camp. I am not certain if he actually called out the name of Auschwitz. At this time, that name was not familiar to us. The commandant said that in this labor camp there were factories, and he promised that we will have the same seniors and leaders there. That is what was communicated in that hall, that after long negotiations that Glicksman engaged in, that we will not be sent ‘to the east,’ but rather to a second camp.

 

XXIII. The Preparations for the Trip

 

'Life has become repulsive, and it is not possible to continue this way!’ – You could hear this in every conversation. People, who were half-dead, for whom there are no words to describe their misfortune, gave up on everything, making peace with their dark fate. In the meantime, news reached us, all manner of rumors. First the Łomża block would travel. The transports will depart by night. The extraordinary situation will be clarified. The people in all the other blocks will remain confined, not even permitted to stick their heads out from their confinement, and it is forbidden to light candles.

 

Between the eighth and the tenth of January 1942, the ‘work’ began. In the middle of the night, movement began in the first block. Immediately short shots were heard, and there was no lack of victims. The same took place on the second night in the second block. And now comes our turn: block number three. I think it was about eleven o’clock at night. A fresh newly fallen snow shone in the window with its pristine whiteness. We began to drag ourselves out of the barracks to a rear gate. There was a deathly silence all around. We felt like we were going on our last walk. No one brought so much as a word to their lips, as if everyone, simultaneously, had turned to stone. We go and fall in the snow. One person helps another. Each one has a pack on their backs. On the other side of the gate there was a long row of sleighs and wagons waiting for us. One way or another, we got on board. The entourage moves. There are a hundred sleighs and wagons. I was among the last. I am not among those who are in any hurry. It didn’t matter to me if I was the last one to die. We are traveling in the direction of Czyżew, to the train station. On the way, once again, I spoke my thought out loud: ‘Perhaps we should flee?’ My mother was silent and didn’t utter a word. This time she didn’t say ‘yes’ and not ‘no.’ She was mumbling with her lips as if she were reciting the Tehilim. Yankeleh said: ‘I no long will flee. I have nowhere to flee to. The Poles drive you out, turn you over to the Germans. There is no Jewish settlement. Where am I going to go?’ I myself lacked nimbleness on my feet, and I had decided to stay with my mother. And Yankeleh added: ‘Whatever happens to you, will happen to me.’ And so we traveled. The road was strewn with frozen people who had fallen off the wagons. Sleighs came up from the rear and collected them. I will never forget this terrifying trip.
 

 

XXIV. On the Train Station at Czyżew


Dawn began to break when we arrived at the Czyżew station platform. A chain of about fifty to sixty freight cars stood there. We were driven across the icy stretch. Those who were frozen were dragged by the head and the feet and thrown into the wagons. As to the living, about fifty were crammed into each car, and the doors sealed from the outside. And this way, we stood and froze for long hours. In the end the train moved. After riding for a couple of hours, we again remained standing. We are expiring from the cold, oppressed by hunger and thirst. We lick the ice from the rivets on the sides of the wagon that had grown up on their large steel heads.

 

In my car were: Velvel the Fisher with is wife and little daughter; Elkeh, Meir-Yankl Golombek’s daughter with children. We still harbored the thought that, despite all, we were being taken to Treblinka. When we arrived at the Malkin station and the train stopped there, a frightful panic immediately broke out. We knew that from Malkin, one rode into a forest, and the distance is not more than from ten to fifteen minutes a ride. Velvel’s little daughter began to tremble and spasm over her entire body, and she screamed that she did not want to die. Following here, everyone broke out into bitter wailing. I sat stonily in a corner, and looked at my watch. Five, six, seven minutes... ten minutes...fifteen minutes. We are proceeding to travel further. Who can convey the agony of that moment. ‘Yes’ – Velvel says to me – ‘Glicksman didn’t deceive us after all. Indeed, we are not going to Treblinka, just as he said.’ Velvel, who belonged to the police staff, knew Glicksman and his ways well.
 

 

XXV. Not to Treblinka!


We are happy with our newly won life. Not Treblinka, well, then it can be whatever it will be. And, lo, once again we remain standing at a station platform, parallel to our train. My Yankeleh sticks his head out. ‘Yitzhak, it is a military train,’ he says to me. And the kitchen stands exactly diagonally opposite my little window. Since Yankeleh had worked for the Germans, he spoke German quite well, and so he says to the cook: ‘We are refugees, can we ask for something to drink?’ The cook says: ‘Give me a pot, and I will give you coffee.’ I had a small bowl with me, that we used as a urinal in the train car. It was quickly wiped out, and Yankeleh stuck it out between the grating on the little window, which went up and down, and in the blink of an eye, we had a bowl full of black coffee (at the time that the bowl was on the way from the kitchen to our little window, a soldier shot twice in that direction. However, the bowl came into our hands intact). We divided the coffee by drops, and everyone got a taste of it. We were happy: not Treblinka, and to that, we even got a bit of black coffee – well, there must be a God in heaven! But this joy did not last for long.

 

After two days and two nights of travel, we finally came to a junction. Taking down the covering from the grated window, we saw a lit up area with large excavation machinery. The snow had covered hills and vales. These were the chambers of Birkenau, Auschwitz.

 

And if so, are these the machines used to dig graves? Is it here that we will come to our eternal rest? Meanwhile, a variety of ideas came to us. Velvel says: ‘If they let us take our packages, this will be a sign for life; and if, God forbid not – it means that we need nothing anymore, it will be a sign of death.’ We hear a noise, and it sounds Jewish. Yiddish is being spoken. What a joy, we are among Jews. A wagon platform arrived with pickaxes and spades, Several tens of people in pajamas, who speak Yiddish, led by Germans in uniform, and it was about midnight, going from Friday to Saturday. They immediately went to work. The locks on the doors were covered with ice, and they were hacked apart with the pickaxes. They began shouting ‘Everyone out! Everyone down!’ They began to hit us with batons over the head. In a minute an entire movement started, and an alarm broke out. Around us there stretched a long line of freight trucks, covered in black tarpaulins. We hear the command: ‘Into the trucks, up!’ The unloading was hellish, like out of a nightmare. You immediately saw a pile of people. Frozen, fainted, half-dead. And I saw one who had pulled his overcoat over his head to protect against the cold, and he was beaten with batons and thrown onto the huge pile of people. Another command: ‘Women separate! Men separate! To the trucks!’ And the freight trucks are soon overfilled. I remain with my mother and brother, locked and impoverished in the great trap. We see how men and women are picked off. They are set out in rows of five. The job of the selection was being conducted by German officers. A significantly large number were picked out. The Germans don’t let anyone through. We see the way people tear themselves away to come into the ranks of those selected, and they are driven back. And here my mother said: ‘Run children, maybe you will be able to save yourselves.’ We exchanged kisses with our dear mother. She remained standing with outstretched arms, and tears were flowing from her eyes. In a moment, we no longer saw her.

 

We get closer to the row which is very strongly inspected. The big German shouts at us: ‘No more room, locked!’ We force ourselves over to him. We present ourselves anyway. He takes us in with a glance. Two handsome young men. He asks me: ‘ What is your occupation?’ I answer: ‘Construction workers.’ And Yankeleh says: ‘ I am a gardener.’ ‘Remain here!’ the German says. And in this fashion, we were the last two who had the privilege of being in that group.

 

When we left that place, dawn had already begun to break. God had begun to look down upon his great handiwork. On the killing field, the mountain of the dead, frozen, beaten, and half-dead remained. They waited for new freight trucks to arrive and take them away, because they could not walk under their own power. I remember that Chaim the Harness Maker wanted to push himself into that line. But everyone had received the order to lock [arms] and not let anyone else in. Pitiably, all he got was a whack in the head with a baton, and he was driven away. A minute earlier, before the lined were closed, Bendet Fekarevich the watchmaker smuggled himself in. We begin to march, that is, those Zambrów Jews able to work, approximately a hundred in number. What the number of the women was, I do not know, but I gathered that it was much less. The remaining Jews of the Sacred Congregation of the Jews of Zambrów were killed that same night in the gas chambers.
 

 

XXVI. The March to the Birkenau Camp


The march began with beating and kicking, with pushing and hitting with clubs and rifles. We came to a large tent. We were taken inside, and turned over to the hands of the camp people, dressed in pajamas.

 

This was the dress in the camp. We were arrayed in two rows. Those who were occupied with us, were Jews, big, strong young men. They shout like the Germans, and also hit like the Germans. My Yankeleh says: ‘See, it is possible to make a German out of a Jew.’ One, the senior among them, gives his speech. The first greeting was accompanied by a hail of curse words. Listen up! Do you know what Auschwitz is? You came here by yourselves, you were brought here in chains. So, damn your father! Turn over your dollars, gold and precious stones. If any of these things are found with you after the bath, he will go directly to the ovens. That is a ‘K.L.’ Kein Leben.47’ You go in through a gate, and you go up to God through the chimney. You understand that here, you need nothing!’ He goes through the row this way, stops at an individual and asks: ‘What, you are not pleased?’ – raises his hand and delivers a hard blow to the face.

 

A blanket is spread out – and immediately a sum of money fell on it, along with watches, golden chains, and rings. Who could take the risk of trying to conceal something valuable on his person? After this welcome, a number of us were granted a small dish of hot kasha. In this time, less robust five or six men had fallen down from lack of strength, lying by the door, lacking the strength to get up on their own. After eating, the procedure began of etching us with a tattoo number on the arm. When this was over, we were told we would be taken to bathe.
 

 

XXVII. Into the Bath!


They lead us out of this barrack and bring us to a second barrack. This is the location of the baths. We are given the order: ‘Undress!’ To strip naked, immediately outside at the entrance to the barrack. We strip off our lice-filled but warm clothing, and we stand naked as the day we were born in the frosty outdoors. ‘Wait a bit, another party is bathing right now. They will come out soon.’ We wait this way for about a half an hour, frozen, contracted from the cold. Our clothing was cleaned off. Finally, with luck, we are going into the bath. Barbers were waiting for us with hair-cutting machines, and they took to us, to shear off the hair from our heads. After the haircut, we went and stood under the spigots. Water is pouring onto us, water as cold as ice. A number of us first take to having a drink. Imagine if you will, how great the thirst was that oppressed us.

 

After the bath, we were driven to a disinfection station. We were made to sit on benches, like in a bathhouse, no comparison intended, and released a bit of steam onto us. After this, regardless of how wet we were, we were driven into yet another large barrack. Here, we were allocated clothing. ‘Fall out into rows!’ – the order was given. And again a speech, with the same theme: ‘anyone who might steal an extra shirt, or a legging for the feet, will immediately go into the oven!’ Shirts are given to some, drawers, pants, a jacket, a pair of shoes with leggings. Shivering from the cold, we donned these rags. Some got three-quarter trousers, others shoes that could barely be put on the feet. There was no covering for the totally shorn heads.

 

Now Polish guards take us over. We are told, that we are going to Block 21. Again, we stand, petrified by the cold under an open sky. We wait until everyone gets dressed.

 

XXVIII. Block Number 21


Finally, the ‘party’ begins to move. We wind through, in a serpentine path, small streets of barracks. We come to Block 21. ‘Remain standing!’ – the block senior orders. We remain standing. And another order: ‘Undress, and enter the block one at a time!’ We undressed on the snow, and we waited. We are allowed in, one at a time. I happened to be among the first. Inside, near the entrance, there was the camp doctor, not a German. He begins to examine me. As previously mentioned, I wore a bandage on my right foot. I had already torn off the lower part of it, but the top part still adhered to me, even to the point of having melded with my skin. ‘What is this?’ – the doctor asks me. I explain to him that I received a blow to my leg when I worked for the Germans, and this was put on me then. He asked me to sit down, and to raise myself fifteen times, and when I did this, he let me through. And this is how several went through the examination, and if someone displeased the doctor, he made note of the tattoo number on his arm.

 

Now we go to sleep. The bunks are concrete, with five people to a compartment. And on the concrete there was a blanket and two coveralls. We arranged ourselves on the hard bunks, and immediately fell asleep. [After] a couple of hours of deep sleep, they are shouting already: ‘Get up!’ We tear open our eyes, and bandits are already standing there with irons and shovels and they are banging on our feet. The feet stick out of the bunks, because we lay stretched out straight, like herring in a barrel. We jump up from our sleeping place, but they don’t permit you to get dressed. Nobody indicated doing more than pulling on one’s trousers. We ran barefoot, and completed getting dressed on the snow. We received an order to fall in by pairs and straighten the line – and remain standing, not to move from the spot. We stand, and stand, shivering from the intense cold. After standing like this for two long hours, we were allowed inside and given a meal. It consisted of a soup made from green leaves with kasha, and a potato in it. Barely having swallowed the bit of food with the ardor of the hungry, and another order resounds: ‘Out!’ Once again, we are standing outside in the cold. Clutches of people steal up to us, curious. ‘Where do you come from?’ – they ask. We hear that the new transports are being taken for work in the factories and coal mines of Buna. ‘And if not, you will have our fate.’ It is superfluous to say that we envied those who were already dead.

 

When night fell, we were admitted into the barrack. We were given a bit of black coffee – and to sleep. And do you think we are allowed to sleep? In the middle of the night – an alarm. ‘Get up!’ We raise our heads. An order: look at the number on your arm!’ The senior of the house calls out numbers. And since the group knew what this implied, nobody replied when his number was called. We also knew who they were looking for, because they themselves told us that the doctor had taken down their names. From what I can remember, among the listed were: Bendet Fekarovich, Kozatsky, Konopiata, and a Finkelstein, who lived with an American widow on the Wodna Gasse, and the widow’s son, and a few others whose names I no longer remember.

 

Since calling the names out was proving futile, the guards, who were mostly Poles and Ukrainians, grabbed the shovels and began beat people on their heads and feet. Again we were chased outside naked. Outside, a very frightening snowstorm was raging that night. Half-dead, not one of us was able to utter a single word. The block chief took up a position and began anew to call out the numbers, but the numbers that he was really looking for he kept until last. All of us were let back into the barrack, and they detained those sought out of doors. Now the guards took themselves to the job of killing out in the street. The frightening screams from those being tortured, which reached us in the barrack... Kozatsky’s plaintive whining... slowly grew still, and still they kept hearing the dull thud of the shovels, and the tired breathing of the beaters, We never again saw our beaten and tortured brethren again. The block chief ordered the dead to be dragged to Block Five, which was the last station to the crematorium.
 

 

XXIX. We Travel to Buna


We stayed in Birkenau for seven days, several days with the same tribulations and severe tortures. A piece of bread with marmalade – and then driven out of the barrack to stand until the meal of a bit of soup with kasha was served. After this meal, again, having to stand on one’s feet in the cold. In the evening black coffee brewed from leaves. We never got more than one piece of bread a day. This is how we lived for seven days. Every day, and every hour, was more than we wanted, being not more than a delay from dying, because we had already seen the dead. Hunger and cold began to devour people. One spark of hope possibly remained with part of us: perhaps we will be sent to Buna. There, we heard, people worked, some in a factory, others in the coal mines, and food was given. One morning, when we were driven to stand out in the street, the block chief arrived with a smile in his moustache. ‘Well, you have luck,’ he said. ‘You are going to Buna. My block has been selected for this purpose.’ Well, good, a joy. It doesn’t matter what else will happen, so long as we get out of this hell. On the second day, they brought us to the barrack with the bath. There, we were examined by the camp doctor. After this, we were given new clothing. When we came out of the bath, we were turned over to the hands of an S. S. command, and we went out to travel. The distance from Birkenau to Buna was about forty kilometers. After two hours of marching, we were brought into a fine building. This was a bathhouse with the best and newest appointments. Here, we bathed ourselves and went through a thorough disinfection. We also were given a portion of bread and set out on our journey again.

 

Coming out of the bath, I started to get sharp pains in my foot. My brother Yankeleh and Moshe Bronack propped me up from both sides, otherwise I would not have been able to continue. Late in the night, we came to this new Garden of Eden. Again we were driven to the bath barrack, and again we went through a disinfection. Finally, we were led into a large barrack, a hall that had rows of beds, three-tiered, with two blankets on each bed. After a lecture, which was given to us by a German Jew with a thick club for splitting heads, we were finally allocated beds. It was the first night in many long months that we slept like people, covered with a blanket. A new spark of hope stole into our hearts: who knows, maybe they will give us something to eat... when we go out to work, it may be possible to go on living. Here, we are told, we will remain for two weeks time, meaning, until we regain some of our strength, and after that we will go to work.

 

In the morning, we made our beds. Since I was a veteran soldier, I made my bed, and my brother Yankeleh’s bed, which was next to mine, like I had learned to do in the army barracks. The report preparer, an S. S. man, came for inspection in the hall, and he stopped by our beds. He called over the house chief and ordered him to bring the two who occupied these beds. We were presented to him, and he designated us to do the work of making the beds and keep all the beds in the hall in order. This was a big deal for us, because every morning we would be driven out into the street to march and sing German songs, as if we were in the military.

 

On the third morning, very early, the S. S. man came again to us for an inspection. We were not yet finished doing our work on the beds. I immediately hear ‘Come here!’ I run over to him. He begins to shout in a wild voice: ‘Is this how you make a bed?’ and delivers a blow with all his might, with a fist to my face. I immediately spit out two of my cheek teeth. With this comes a second shout: ‘Stand at attention!’ Like I have a choice here? I remain at attention, bloodied, and he hits me again with his fist, in the second cheek, and knocks out two more of my teeth. I am missing these teeth to this day.
 

 

XXX. The Typhus in Buna


Already, in the first days in the new resting place, the result of the physical deterioration to which we were subject began to manifest itself among the survivors of the Zambrów Jews. Many instances of sickness occurred, headaches, sore throats, congestion, and we had no way to deal with it. To go to the doctor in the hospital meant – ‘going into the oven.’ One girded one’s self to overcome the symptoms and hid them so long as was possible to conceal the signs of illness. Among the first of our sick was Chaimsohn’s son-in-law, who when he arrived in the camp was a healthy young man. When he was bedridden by fever, he had no choice and was compelled to go to the doctor. He did not return. This was the way several tens of people went away from us.

 

As for me, my vision began to blur. One day, I was holding myself together with all my might, and then another day. This lasted until I ended up lying on the floor between two beds (it was forbidden to lay down on a bed during the day). I said goodbye to my dear brother, and with all my friends and townsfolk, with the thought that they will never see me again. My brother and Moshe Bronack escorted me to the hospital. There they took my temperature – and no longer permitted me to leave. They established that everyone who had arrived on our transport who came to the hospital, was sick with typhus. Every day, from the hospital, nine out of ten of the sick were taken away into the ‘oven,’ and only one – to the hospital in Auschwitz. After an examination by the S. S. doctor, we were divided into groups. When the hospital attendants gave us portions of bread, they didn’t fail to remark thereby: 'this is the last bread you will ever eat.’ We are standing and waiting in groups of three and five. My group consisted of three. I no longer remember who the other people were, I only know that they were not from Zambrów.

 

Transport trucks came to the hospital, and the sick were chased outside, naked and barefoot, in a meager shirt. The S. S. troops would grab people by the head and feet and throw them into the trucks. My group was last. After an hour of waiting, came our row. We are driven out, like all the others, naked. We were standing in Dutch Sabots, and we were forced to leave them behind and proceed barefoot. Not far from the door, was a Red Cross car. An S. S. man alights, opens the door, and lets us in. He takes the papers and asks: ‘This is all the shit?’ We bid Buna farewell.

 

XXXI. In the Hospital


The truth was that it was all the same to us, wherever they were taking us. We all were running a high fever, and we were badly affected by the cold. We bundled ourselves together and jumped like a ball. After a fifteen to twenty minute ride, the automobile came to a halt and stood still. The door opened. I look around. It is literally a city. Red walls. I read on the big sign: ‘Hospital.’ We are taken into a long corridor. There is a cement floor. Doors open one against the other. After a long wait on the cold floor, we were taken into a washroom. Here, we were taken over by Poles. The first greeting we received was: ‘Clients for the oven.’ And they began to ‘work’ on us. They let a stream of ice-cold water on us from a water hose, until we lay unconscious. Two Poles, took hold of me by my head and feet and carried me into a house. The house chief took note of the number on my arm. I was thrown onto the middle bed of a three-level bunk bed. The bed was not more than sixty-five centimeters wide, but I was not, God forbid, on that bed alone, but with another sick person. I remember enough that my neighbor was as hot as fire, and I was a cold as ice. We embraced each other, and in this way I fell asleep. In the morning when I awoke, I was immobilized as if I was held in iron pliers, in the arms of my bed companion, and with great difficulty disentangled myself from him. The young man was dead.

 

As to medicines, they didn’t know about such things in this hospital. The ill were kept there until they either got through their disease, or gave up the ghost. After three weeks of torture and suffering, I was able to leave the hospital – and go back into the camp. It was the camp of Auschwitz.

 

In the year 1943, a person, meaning a Jew, could expect to endure in Auschwitz for at most three months time. The camp had twenty thousand people in it – Poles, Russians, French, Germans, Jews, Belgians, Dutch. The principal spokespersons in the camp were the Poles. The human stock was turned over continuously. New transports full of Jews kept on coming. A large part of the people were sent to work, and the rest – into the gas ovens. At all times, the camp held the same number of people. Those that fell were replaced with newcomers. After two weeks of work, all that remained of a person was skin and bones. Added to this, people were beaten with staves unto death. Auschwitz produced thousands of dead every day. Non-Jews there were able to get packages from home, and letters once a month. Only on us, the Jews, did that great anger fall. Death stood ever ready behind us.

 

In Auschwitz, factories were constructed to make arms. I worked on building the ammunition factory. We were about six hundred workers, mostly Jews, and Christian ‘kapos.’ Germans, Poles, and in part also German Jews, worked in the good commands, as in the camp, in the factories, under a roof. Approximately in May 1943, I met up with Bendet Sosnowiec in my division of a hundred that were carrying bricks to the building. He told me that in Auschwitz could be found Koszcewa, Plotki Adon-Olam of Ostrów Mazowiecka. There was a son-in-law of Zelig from the brick works. From them I heard that everyone from Buna was taken back to Birkenau, and there all the Jews from Zambrów gave up the ghost.

 

XXXII. The Murder Combination Auschwitz-Birkenau

 

 


The Unforgettable School Students, Beloved and Pleasant in Life

 

Auschwitz (called Oshpitzin in Yiddish, Oświęcim in Polish) lies between Weisel and Salto. Birkenau (Brzezinka) in one large swamp, and in 1944 when the German army retreated from the east, I worked there in erecting barracks for the German Air Command. On the swamp was built the great death factory with four large chimneys, which in one day could cremate between forty and fifty thousand people.

 

As was previously stated, men and women were held in Auschwitz from every nation in Europe, but only the Jews were killed without stopping. All manner of bizarre deaths were visited on people in Auschwitz, as was the case, for example in Block 10 and 11, where the most beautiful women were held, on whom to perform experiments; torturing them, cutting them, sterilizing them, after which they were either shot or gassed. There were also hospitals in Auschwitz, where Jews were brought every two weeks for examination, and from there led off in light shirts to the gas chambers. Every month, each block had a quota of fifty men on transport, this means to have them cremated after they had been tortured by hunger. No Christians were taken in such aktionen. In 1944, in the course of several days, it is estimated that up to fifty thousand French Jews were transported to Auschwitz, and they were gassed. The ovens could not cremate that many. and so they dug pits in which they were cremated. In the factory where I worked, at a distance of five kilometers from that place, it was necessary to shut the windows because of the stench, which was not possible to stand. Some time later, Hungarian Jews were brought, and others in the same number. A Jew that remained alive after six months of being in Auschwitz was an exception, one out of a thousand. Over one million Jews were exterminated in Auschwitz. Their ashes were spread out over the fields around Birkenau and saturated their swamps. The black road that led to the crematoria is pressed with human ash and bone. The clothes of a million people, their shoes, gold teeth, glasses, not to mention jewelry, money, valuable papers – everything was precisely sorted and taken off to Germany. That is the way the Germans conducted their war.

 

In the year 1944, there really was an uprising in one crematorium, but regrettably not one young man was able to save his own life. Allied airplanes bombed Auschwitz, but no bomb ever struck a crematorium. A bomb fell in the block where Bendet Sosnowiec was, and he was wounded in the arm.

 

This murder combination operated this way until January 1945. On January 22, I left Auschwitz through the gate that had on it the inscription ‘ Arbeit Macht Frei ’...



 

Black Tuesday

By Yitzhak Golda

(A chapter from my book, “In the Wolf’s Talons”)

 

Yitzhak Golda

 

It is Monday at dusk, the evening of the aktion of August 22, 1941. This is an unforgettable date to us, scions of Zambrów.

 

On that very day, immediately in the morning, the sun appeared in the sky. However, it rapidly vanished under the black clouds that covered it like a mask. Silence, silence reigned in the street, not a hint of a breeze, as it was a prelude to a thunderstorm. The air was stifling and smelled of gunpowder.
 

The Jewish populace was expecting something of a decree; each and every one of us knew very well and had heard of what had happened in the vicinity, and what had happened to the Jews of Szumowo. The Christian populace, meanwhile, also was looking forward to this in a similar manner, and they later told us everything, how the Jews were tortured: they were ordered to carry out all of the Torah scrolls from the Bet HaMedrash onto a pyre of wood, and then burned, forcing them to sing and dance around the fire. After this, all of them [sic: the Jews] were frightfully tortured to death.


We would listen to stories like this every day. Some of the people believed them. However, there were many Jews who simply deluded themselves, and they believed that what had happened in their vicinity would not be true for them, but rather that the Christians are trying to panic the Jews. They would especially comfort themselves in the following way: Zambrów is after all a work center, in which the majority of the Jews work for the Germans. Therefore, such a thing could not happen in our location.
 

People went about harboring these kinds of illusions. They, the Germans, however, looked upon everyone in the same manner, like a butcher looking at a fowl he is readying to slaughter. There were no ‘better Jews’ to the Germans, all of us looked the same to them, one sooner, the other later. We Zambrów Jews were among the later ones. And indeed, during that quiet nightfall, the ‘Black Terrorists’ (S. S.), as they were called, found it desirable to travel to us in Zambrów.
 

It was still twilight, when first on the Łomża Gasse, a taxi appeared, and after the taxi a freight truck covered in a black tarpaulin. As it happens, at that moment, I was returning from a friend and needed to cut through the ‘Szwenta-Kiszka’ Gasse to reach my house, on the Molishev Gasse (at that time there was not yet a ghetto). Along the way, I was able to observe this. I immediately understood what was up here. They immediately rode to the city gendarmerie, which was formerly the headquarters of the magistrate. Immediately a German flag appeared with a swastika in the middle, fluttering at the tip of a high pole that stood beside the gendarmerie. Police and all of the S. S. troops entered the command post.
 

I immediately went home to tell what I had seen and consulted with the family about what we should do. I thought that, in the house, they did not yet know about this new development. However, when I arrived home, my older brother Berel was in the house. At that same time, he had also returned from the street, was also at the ‘Judenrat’ and related that the ‘Judenrat’ had received an order that the entire Jewish community is to be notified that at 5:00 A.M. the next morning, all Jews over the age of fifteen are to gather on the marketplace. As to what purpose – the ‘Judenrat’ itself didn’t know.
 

Hearing this sad news, it became dark and bitter for us. We began to decide what it was we had to do. Our brother Berel added something else: Pruszynski the musician, a Christian, told him that one should not go out into the streets on the morrow, because there is going to be an ‘aktion,’ and many men will be taken away to be shot. The Christian told us he had heard this from reliable sources and was not lying (as happened later on). Therefore, my brother said, my plan is that we will not go to turn ourselves in tomorrow, to the Angel of Death, but we should find some place to hide ourselves. All of us were then of a mind not to go to the assembly point.
 

My brother-in-law, Zaydkeh, was not at home. He was with an acquaintance, but in the middle of this discussion he happened to arrive and gave us entirely different news. He related that he was at the ‘Judenrat’ and said that everyone has to be at the assembly point, and there is no danger. The Germans merely wish to take people who are able to work. Anyone who does not appear at that place will be considered the same as a political criminal. Well, my brother-in-law said, he said we should trust in God, and what will be, will be.
 

My brother-in-law’s words affected everyone greatly, and the initiative for everyone to attempt to hide was dissipated. Because of this we decided that early in the morning we would all go to the assembly point. except for my brother Berel ז"ל, who hid along with those who did not wish to go there.
 

It is night. My mother ז"ל prepared fresh undergarments for everyone. We dressed in our better clothing, getting ourselves ready, as if for a wedding. We do not get undressed before going to sleep, but rather lay down in all our clothes. And so, we await 5:00 A.M. in the morning...

 

On that morning, Tuesday, August 23 -- a date that no surviving Zambrów Jew who lived through that time will never forget, because we, scions of Zambrów, paid entirely too dear a price. The beat and most presentable of our youth were torn away from us on that day, never again to return.

 

The clock struck 4:30 A.M. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and reminded myself that in less than a half hour we will be standing before the Day of Judgment. A shiver ran through my bones. I quickly got out of bed. My father and his brother-in-law ז"ל had been up for some time already, covered in their prayer shawls, reciting individual prayers. The early morning rays of the sun were beginning to penetrate through the windows. It will be a nice day... the birds were already singing the praises of a beautiful nature. Everything was normal, as if there was no war even going on. More than anyone else, I envied the birds at that moment, who were so free and fortunate and don’t know anything about ‘Black Terrorists,’ about any ‘aktion,’ or other decrees that we, the pitiable, sinful Jews, all have to endure. Time, however, did not stand still. It was shortly before five o’clock, and we have to go to the assembly point. At that moment, we heard knocking at the window, this being a member of the ‘Judenrat’ I think it was ‘Itcheh Pomp’ and the second person with him – one of the Jewish police, I think ‘ Arkeh Bick.’ Both were soaked and all sweaty from running around the Jewish houses to tell everyone to gather at the assembly point. Itcheh Pomp quickly said that we were to depart for the assembly point because almost everyone is already gathered there.

 

We all immediately set out for the street, and my brother Berel ז"ל was going along with us, but midway he disappeared away from us. As he later told us, he took a risky chance at that moment. During the entire time of the ‘aktion,’ he stood under a wall to the side and observed everything that happened from that spot.

 

When we all arrived at the assembly point, about three thousand people already stood arrayed in ranks: the men separate and the women separate, all arranged in straight rows, just like at a military parade. As I learned later on, we came a little too late, because other Jews had been standing there since four o’clock in the morning... because of this, we were that more anxious to quickly fall into the ranks so the Germans would not notice us. My mother and sister stood themselves in the ranks of the women, and my father and I and my brother-in-law among the men.

 

A deathly quiet reigned on the street. All eyes were turned in the direction where the truck with the black tarpaulin stood, and where the S. S. troops in their black Death’s Head uniforms. All were dressed festively. In total, they were only eight men. All were visibly dead drunk, talking among themselves, laughing and banging with their rubber truncheons against the shined German insignias on their boots.

 

On the wooden walk that went around the marketplace, groups of people from the Christian populace began to assemble, to look at what was being done to this small group of Jews. The S. S. troops, however, do not permit them to stand by, and order the Polish police with the white armbands to break up these small circles. The Christians jump into the gates of the houses, and look out from there, at leisure, at the beautiful spectacle that is going to be made of the Jews. They spoke among themselves and made signs with their hands, one to another, as if they were carrying on a serious debate, No one, not even their neighbors scrutinized them as carefully as I did: I understood what they had to say very well, and what they were gesticulating about. I understood that they were already arguing over those Jewish assets and how to divide up that booty... I saw in their faces how they took such satisfaction from our misfortune. I understood it all and entreated God in heaven not to let them live to realize their wishes.

 

The ‘selektion’ is at its peak intensity. The S. S. troops, with their truncheons in hand, go about among the people, examining each Jew from head to toe, and those with whom they are satisfied are told to step out into a second line, both men and women. In general, they took one out of every three Jews, and ordered him to also stand among those who were ‘selected.’ At that moment of the ‘selektion,’ the people were so confused that nobody understood what was going on and what to do. There were, in fact, quite a number of people who simply ran over to the group that was selected. From all of this, it is possible to see how far the Nazis could go in deceiving a mass of people, so that there would be no chaos or panic, that they should not perceive that they were not being selected for death, but life, meaning – to go for labor.

 

This ‘selektion’ lasted until ten o’clock in the morning. The crowd was already worn out from standing so long on their feet. During that time, everyone silently recited their confession in their heart, because no one could know whose fate it would be to remain among the living. Beside me in the line stood the Zambrów Yeshiva headmaster, called R’ Yudl. I can still see him before my eyes (he was later taken away with the other Jews from the ‘barracks’, to Auschwitz and killed there). At that time, he was standing with a bowed head and murmured something silently. His long black beard was pressed under the folds of his overcoat in order that the S. S. troops not take him for an old man. But as the S. S. man went by, he rather calmly raised his head and looked the murderer square in the eye. The Jewish police, who wore white armbands during the ‘selektion,’ and who were certain that nothing would happen to them, and because of this their senior, Glicksman ordered them to stand in a separate line. The ‘Judenrat’ also stood in a separate line. The members of the ‘Judenrat,’ as well as those of the police, pulled over many of their relatives to the ‘selected’ ranks – at the last moment, when the entire colony had already begun to move in order to leave the location. Thanks to this, they were spared from death. This was also the case with Zaremsky, whom Isaac Sucharewicz ( a ‘Judenrat’ member) had saved. The rest of the people, who had no connection to someone in the ‘Judenrat’ or the police – were taken away, literally like sheep, to the slaughter.

 

The rabbi, Rabbi Regensberg ז"ל, did not go out onto the street during the time of the aktion, because he felt very weak at that time, but despite this he wanted to be among all of the Jews. However, the ‘Senior Jew’ Glicksman did not permit him to come out to the marketplace and promised him that nothing bad will happen. However, as it later became evident, even Glicksman’s assurances did not help. One of the S. S. men called over the ‘Senior Jew’ and asked about the Rabbi of the city. He replied that the Rabbi was ill and cannot come out to the assembly point. They immediately ordered the Jewish police to bring the Rabbi. It did not take long, and two Jewish policemen were seen supporting the Rabbi under his arms, directly to the place where the truck stood that was covered in the black tarpaulin (we later named this vehicle the ‘Chevra Kadisha Wagon’). The S. S. ordered that a stool be brought out for the Rabbi. When the stool was already placed beside the truck, they ordered the Jewish police to take the Rabbi under his arms and help him get into the truck. The Rabbi thanked them for their ‘helpfulness’ but got into the truck by himself. It is worth noting that, at the time, the Rabbi was ninety-five years old. At the time, he was counted among the oldest rabbis in all of Poland, and it was pitiably that his fate to be brought down by such murderous hands. Anyone who did not see how the Rabbi took his leave of all the members of the ‘Judenrat’ who stood nearby, since no other people were permitted near to that place, could not have had their hearts torn into little pieces watching his great sorrow from a distance. When the Rabbi was already seated under the black tarpaulin of the ‘Chevra Kadisha Wagon,’ the S. S. murderers gathered together seven other Jews, all of whom were old. Among them was an elderly Jewish man, a melamed from Jablonka. At the time that all of these seven elderly men were standing near the truck, getting ready to board it, this elderly man felt a need to relieve himself. The old man, not thinking, dropped his trousers in front of the S. S. murderer, and they immediately understood what the oldster wanted to do, and he was ordered to quickly get off the street and return immediately. They did not send a guard with him. The oldster had enough presence of mind to not come back, and to fool these ‘wise’ guys. They paid no attention to the fact that the old man did not return, and together with the Rabbi they boarded the remaining old men onto the truck and took them off in the direction of Szumowo-Glebocz. As soon as they had disposed of the elderly, they ordered the ‘selected’ ones to begin moving. As the ‘Judenrat’ subsequently certified, this colony consisted of fifteen hundred people, of which six hundred were women. Women who had small children with them were not taken. The best and most beautiful of the young people of our city, on that day, were taken away by the Germans to Szumowo. All of them there were driven into the synagogue building, and from there by truck, fifty people at a time, they were taken to the execution place in the Glebocz Forest. At ten o’clock that night, all of them were already dead. The transport of this colony of people took place in the following manner: at the front and rear taxis rode with two S. S. troops, who were accompanied by four Polish policemen. with rubber truncheons in their hands. In this manner, a group of twelve men led a host of fifteen hundred people to the slaughter!
 

The tragic moment was when the entire colony was taken from the marketplace on the Ostroger Gasse, down the hill, in the direction of Szumowo-Ostrog-Mazowiecki. Those remaining behind still stood under guard by the remaining S. S. troops on the street. A wailing and a cry went up from the women and children. A frightful panic seized everyone. The S. S. troops immediately took up their arms and began to shoot directly at the people. At that moment, I happened to be standing by the pump which was in the middle of the street. A line of women stood immediately beside the pump. As soon as they heard the shooting, they began to flee. And as they ran, an elderly woman, right in front of my eyes, fell down not far from me, having been struck by a bullet to the heart. She was immediately covered in blood. The shooting, however, did not last very long because the crowd became afraid and it calmed down. Once again, the S. S. troops ordered everyone to get into lines, according to age. The first were a group of fifteen to thirty year olds. At that time, I was seventeen years old. I put myself into this group. A fat S. S. trooper ordered us not to make chaos or start a panic, and one at a time we should run home. Our group was close to five hundred people. Seeing that we were set free, we fled however quickly we could, in order not to stand there and look into the eyes of the murderer.
 

Not knowing the fate of my family, I came running home. I felt myself to be fortunate that I encountered my father and mother, brother and sister, who were also saved in this way from the selektion as I was. On seeing my sister’s sorrow, who mourned her husband who had fallen in among the ‘seized,’ all our satisfaction was spoiled. We wanted to comfort ourselves, as did all the Jews in that time did, with the feeling that these people had only been taken away to do labor, and that one day they would return. My sister refused to be comforted, and cried whiningly...

 

On that day, it was Tisha B’Av in our house, and this is the way it was in all Jewish homes in which some member of a family was missing. This is how the aktion of the ‘Black Tuesday’ came to an end. This was a day in which we paid with fifteen hundred young, innocent martyrs. An unforgettable chapter for those of us survivors from Zambrów.

 

The Eyewitness Account of a Christian


After Black Tuesday, after they took away fifteen hundred people, various rumors spread about their fate. Some were comforted, and others were saddened. It must be said that the larger part of the populace allowed itself to be lulled by false hopes: nothing bad will happen to those people who were taken away. They will work for a specific period of time, and afterwards they will peaceably be sent home. They could not grasp in their mind, how civilized people could permit so many people to be slaughtered. But there were others who understood the situation differently: this was an extermination initiative, and we will never see them again. However, the one thing no one was able to arrive at, was where were all of these people killed. This was a secret. And our family was the only one that was privileged to uncover this secret, thanks to our father ז"ל, who had many connections with the area Christians.

My entire family was killed and unfortunately did not live to see the liberation, so that they could personally be able to speak of this. The details that I relate here were the eyewitness account of a Christian, Stefan Muszalowski, who does not live far from the place where the butchery took place.

A short time after ‘Black Tuesday,’ a Christian by the name of Stefan Muszalowski came to us from the village of Glebocz. He came especially to relate the entire story, because he had heard that my brother-in-law had fallen among these hapless people. Before telling us, he made us all swear not to tell anyone, because he was terribly afraid of the Germans. My father ז"ל, was therefore compelled to assure him that nobody would be told. We took this Christian into a second room, where there were no unfamiliar people and locked the door. The Christian then began to speak in this manner:

On that same Tuesday, a nice day, the hay in the fields, which had been cut for some time and was as dry as pepper, needed to be gathered quickly from the fields because if the rains came it would get wet again. I was therefore hurried in conveying the hay, shortly before sunset. I was riding with my wagon full of hay back home, from the other side of the forest, and it was necessary to cross through a small part of the forest itself. Even before I got to the forest, I could hear heavy machine gun fire and the loud outcries of people. I could not grasp what was going on here. I thought this to be maneuvers being conducted by the German soldiers. But afterwards I recollected the large pit, that I and other people from or village had dug. At that time, the Germans told us, when we asked them, why this pit was being dug, that this was a place to ‘store potatoes.’ Now, while riding along, everything became clear to me: in place of potatoes they had filled this space with human bodies...

The Christian continues his story: I draw near to the forest, and the sounds of shooting and shouting suddenly stop, and it becomes still. Just as I entered the forest, the entire spectacle was yet again repeated: shooting again, and again, the outcries. Along the path through the forest that I was travelling, it was not possible to pass by and not behold the scene that I later saw with my own eyes, because the pit lay about fifty meters to the left of the road. Once again, it became still for a while. I saw nothing. Suddenly, I hear a thick masculine voice, in German: ‘Halt!’ And I had no sooner turned my head to the left, than I saw a German soldier with a machine gun on his back crawling out from between the trees, coming right at me, and so I remained still. The German approached me immediately and ordered me to get down from the wagon, [so] I debarked the wagon with my crop in hand. And I then immediately ask him what he wants of me. He motioned with his hand that I should go with him, because he wants to show me something. His speech was a little bit German and a little bit Polish, and because of this I could understand what he wanted from me. I went with him. It did not take long, and we reached the place of execution. A terrifying picture unfolded before my eyes, when I saw the pit full of fresh corpses that lay like herring packed in a barrel, one thrown on top of the other, twitching like fish on dry land. Around the pit stood about twenty S. S. troops, all visibly dead drunk, watching this whole scene with satisfaction. As soon as they saw me, they immediately called me over to them. One of them then asks me if I am a Pole. I answer in the affirmative. He then indicates that I should go nearer to the pit, and that I should look carefully at the people in the pit. I went over to the pit, looked at the people, and said that they were Jews. As soon as they heard me say this, one of the S. S. men walked over to me and gave me a slap across the face, on one side, and then again on the other. It immediately became dark and bitter for me, and I lowered my head. But not waiting long, the same S. S. man orders me to raise my head a little and pay attention to what else he has to say to me. The same question came again: I am to answer whom it is that I see here in the pit, and for the second time, somehow involuntarily, I blurted out that I did not know. I cannot remember these people, because they are covered in blood, and lie one on top of another. This answer immediately satisfied them, and the translator immediately conveyed to me in Polish: ‘This satisfies us. No one knows, and that suffices.’ These people, the S. S. man says, are war criminals, these are Russians. They made war against us, and for that reason we killed them all. And now, he continues, you now know, you filthy Pole, who these people are. Repeat it, the S. S. man repeated murderously.

A heavenly miracle occurred at that time, that a taxi drove up and stopped. A tall man, who was well-dressed emerged, recognizably an officer, and immediately called over several of the S. S. troops to him and quietly whispered something to them. What he had to say, I did not apprehend. The officer immediately ordered the S. S. troops to release me. The S. S. troops immediately called me over, took down my name, and also the address of where I live. The same S. S. man twho brought me there, took me back, crop in hand, to my horse and wagon. I quickly got up into the wagon, flicked the horse and galloped on ahead. Meanwhile, the S. S. man had turned to the side and vanished into the thick pine trees. When I came home – the Christian continues to tell – it was already dark. I went into my hut to tell my wife the whole story. We did not eat our evening meal. For the entire night, I could not shut my eyes to sleep, the entire picture from the forest, the S. S. troops and the pit, the dead bodies stood before my eyes. I lay there thinking about the fact that they wrote down my name. Maybe they will come to take me.

Shortly after the liberation, when I had emerged from the dark pit into God’s free world, I also had the privilege of being able to see this [mass] grave, now overgrown, thanks to this same Christian, Stefan Moszalowski. The grave is about twenty meters long and two meters wide. One length looks like a long rake. All around is a bare parcel of field, surrounded by a thick stand of pine trees. As the Christian told me, shortly before the liberation, in the month of June 1944, the Germans brought a party of Jews from Bialystok, who were especially employed to dig up the mass graves in our vicinity and to incinerate the bones. The grave of the Zambrów Jews in the Glebocz Forest was also dug up, and the bones burnt...
 

A Smoking Ember Rescued from the Fire

By Moshe, the son of Berel Lewinsky

(From his memoirs, recorded by Joseph Yerushalmi)

     
The Germans occupied our city a month after the outbreak of the war. Before their arrival, they had bombarded the city and burned about half the buildings, among them the entire Jewish district from the Łomża Road, the synagogue, the houses of study to the cemetery. They were in the city for just ten days, after which, according to their agreement, the Russians entered. They took over what the Germans had left, founded professional cooperatives, and sent some of the well-to-do to Siberia. In July 1941 the Germans came back. This time, they immediately began with repressions, confiscating assets, seizing people for so-called forced labor, etc. On one occasion they rounded up ninety men, among them also aged, such as R’ Tuvia Skocnadek, and they never came back. On a second occasion, they compelled everyone to assemble on the marketplace and seized eight hundred people, among them the aged Rabbi – and they were never seen again.  

Moshe Lewinsky


We felt that we were going under. We were advised to build a ghetto. We collected money, about three kilos of gold, and obtained permission from the Łomża Gestapo to squeeze ourselves into a ghetto between the Jatkowa Gasse and Swietna-Kszisa – to the river. About two thousand of us people were gathered into that location and surrounded ourselves with barbed wire. We were there from July 1941 to November 1942. In November, we were taken to the vacant barracks buildings. There were about fourteen thousand Jews concentrated there, from Łomża, Wysoka, Czerwin-Bura, Jablonka, Rutki and Szumowo. Those were hard days there, hunger and cold, epidemics and death. Until the Nazis began in January 1943 to transfer a party of Jews each night of about two thousand people through Czyżew to Auschwitz. At the train station at Czyżew it was easy to escape, but nobody knew where to go. While we were still in the ghetto, I fled with my entire family to a peasant, a good friend of mine, but we came back almost immediately because he was afraid to try and hide the entire family. Also, here in Czyżew, when my feet were almost entirely frozen, a peasant called to me and told me to crawl to the outside of the city, and to travel with him to a village. He said he would hide me. This was a friend of mine from the military, and not only once had I done favors for him. With frozen feet, I crawled, holding onto the hollows in the walls – until I got to the outskirts of the city and got into his wagon. However, my entire family went off to Auschwitz. I saved myself in order to be able to tell what happened to us. The peasant kept me for only one day, and on the following morning he told me to travel back to Czyżew, because his wife was afraid to hide me in the house. I went off on foot through the forest, to the first gentile who kept me with the family for a day, and he took me in amicably, trusting the secret only to his son, and did not tell his wife, ‘quartering’ me in a stack of hay. For me it was sufficiently warm there. During the day I lay there, squashed in – at night, I crawled out a bit. I ate dried out bread, and every other day he stealthily brought me a half portion from his dog...


I was severely weakened by the bad food, from the lice that pestered me, and from the wounds in my frozen feet. The peasant tended to me, and with a great effort got a hold of a small bottle of naphtha with which to massage my feet. He decided to reveal my hideout to his wife. She became extremely upset, grabbed her children and ran off to her father. However, she calmed down and came back and began to give me a warm bowl of soup each day and washed my shirt. I was there for twenty months. Once, German representatives came and confiscated the hay from the peasant. Everything was laid out in wagons and taken away. I was almost uncovered. My good gentile, however, rescued me, and told me to run behind to the stacks of hay in the fields. There also I was saved by a miracle, because the Germans there were looking for peasants who had fled from forced labor. I entered a bog and sequestered myself there, and I was not taken. I came back to my peasant, and I wanted to surrender myself to the Germans, because I had become severely weakened, confused, and isolated. My peasant gave me hope and comforted me, saying that the Russians were very close to arriving. The Germans began to scour the entire area, and even at that point I experienced a miracle that I was not taken, practically under their noses. As they retreated, they ripped up the entire vicinity. I barely escaped with my life. The Russians found me fainting and like discarded garbage. They interrogated me, gave me food, and told me to run away from this place. There were battles to take place here. I then dragged myself two kilometers to Kolaki and later was able to return to my good gentile. When the front moved on, I went to Zambrów. I found a city that was destroyed. After a great deal of searching, I found one other Jew, Finkelstein from the Wodna Gasse, who had also found sanctuary with a gentile. We took up residence in the attic of Averml Tuchman’s forge on the Bialystok Road. On the morrow, a few other Jews were found: the three Stupnik brothers, a son of Zaydl Tabak, a couple of Jews from Czerowny-Bur. We founded a ‘Jewish colony’ and took up residence in the vacant house of Itcheh Mulyar. Together with Finkelstein, we began to till a small parcel of land. The magistrate helped us out a bit. We saw, however, that our lives were in danger if we remained here. The gentiles were finishing up what the Nazis had not succeeded in doing and were murdering the few who had been left living. So we fled to Lodz, where a larger center of Jews existed, but also here we found no home, despite the fact that there was a way to make a living. Our only home became Israel, and I made aliyah and was satisfied. True, I was orphaned, isolated, without my wife and children.
 

I remember my good peasant very well, and I write letters to him, and also from time to time I send him a little money to help his family.
 

I have also not forgotten the Amalekites, despite the fact that their name does not cross my lips.


 

   A Letter from the Other World  


Under the ruins of the house at Nowolipki 68, in September 1946, and at the beginning of December 1950, there was found parts of the archive of Emanuel Ringelblum from the Warsaw Ghetto.44 The historical documents were largely published by the Jewish Historical Society and others. Among other items, a letter was found there from our landsman, teacher and leader of Poaeli Zion, Nathan (Noskeh) Smolar, the son of Dovcheh Smolar, dated the 10th of December 1942, in Warsaw. He tells here of his last meeting with his mother, in Bialystok, how the Germans captured his wife, Esther – the well-known teacher in the Zambrów Borokhov School (Poaeli Zion) – with his three year-old little daughter Ninkeleh. [And] how later, how his sister Ethel was captured and killed, who had dedicated her life in Warsaw to raising Jewish children – orphans and homeless ones.
 

Nathan Smolar was one of the finest Jewish pedagogues and directed a municipal Jewish school. During the ghetto period he was alone – and put forward his struggle for giving a Jewish education, and he was in a fighting group of Jewish intellectuals against the enemy, and as such he fell – on the barricades, among the first active combatants against the Nazi plague. He was among the first instigators of the Ghetto rebellion.
 

Being isolated and torn away from his family, he believed that the only one who remained alive was his sister in New York, in the Bronx, at 1568 Leland Avenue, Pesha Deitchman. He therefore wrote her a letter, his last letter. However, since contact with America was broken off, he buried the letter in the cache of the ghetto archive of the historian Emanuel Ringelblum, his friend. He believed that we would not be exterminated, and that a day would come when Jewry would again unite and push forward its struggle for a better future. He believed that his letter would reach his sister.
 

As an aside: he did not know that his younger sister, Esther, the wife of the writer Szlewin, saved herself (is now living in Paris). He also did not know that his younger brother, Hershl, also remained alive, after having fought with the partisans in the Minsk area. (Now, he is in Warsaw, the Chairman of Polish Jewry).

 

And Here is the Letter:

 

The Smolar Family
 

To the Forest, the Forest! With Bow and Arrow!

Zambrów children from the three cheders, and their teachers: Bercheh Sokol, Fyvel Zukrovich, and
Zerakh Kagan, ז"ל, going to the Forest, with the National Flags at Front, On Lag B’Omer 1918.


My dear sister Pesha Deitchman,

Should I not survive, whoever has the possibility should send over to you this small folio about your family, because here a thousand times more awful things happened.

Your brother Noskeh
 

The family’s Book of Job begins with our dear mother ז"ל, in Zambrów, at the end of July 1941. Even a week earlier, she, the good-hearted one, risked her life for the price of a golden watch (from father’s wedding gifts), and set out on the danger-filled way towards Bialystok, to determine if her children were still alive. She took along a little bag of candy, a bit of kasha and oil for the children, because in Bialystok Jews were already afraid to go out in the street to procure a bit of food. In Bialystok she met up only with me and sister Ethel, after we had fled from Zambrów to Bialystok on the second day of the war. Esther (our sister) had left Bialystok immediately on the first day, and we have no news from her. Herschel (a brother) left on the second day and has remained somewhere among the malefactors. I received regards from him somewhere in the vicinity of Baranovich. Mother traveled back on that very same evening – having spent altogether one day with us. A week later, the German band of murderers entered Zambrów, called together and then drove out the entire shtetl into the streets, about fifteen hundred old and young, men and women with small children were all gathered together, dragged off to the Czyżew vicinity in the forest, where large trenches had already been dug, and there met their end with the others. The news reached us in Bialystok three weeks later. We, especially Ethel, the frail youngest of my mother, so spoiled, took it very badly.

Some time passed, and first I, and then Ethel, left Bialystok and came to Warsaw. Ethel considered herself very fortunate when it fell to me to be able to find her work as a governess in an orphanage. How much heart she gave to those children. How many times did she sit for hours at a time to find a suitable lullaby, or a game for the children, loving them – like a mother loves her own children. Today, there are no more children, there is no more Ethel. I have gotten off the timeline a bit – forgive me, my sister.

It has already been some time since the ‘resettlement’ began (this is the name the Germans have given to the mass-murder of Jews), the beginning of the prelude, the preface to the tragedy: shootings have started in the streets precisely in this fashion: an auto drives by, and from it they shoot Jewish passers-by. In addition to this, there are organized nightly mass shootings, about fifty or so Jews are taken out of their dwellings, taken away several houses from their own, told to turn around and lie down. Later – a new group of one hundred people were taken out of arrest houses and shot: through a notification, we are told, that this is punishment for not obeying the demands made by the German authorities, and that we even resist them. And again there are tens and hundreds of murders. Rumors abound, one worse than the next, circulating that they will drive us out of Warsaw, somewhere outside the city. We could not believe it – could it be possible to drive the Jews out of Warsaw, such a city that was a mother to Jewry, a city of four hundred thousand Jews? We learned on our own that this would certainly happen to the homeless, with those who had fled here, but no way would this happen to those who were born here.

That is, until the trouble started. Placards appeared – all Warsaw Jews – except... and except... would that it would have happened this way, so there would not have been so many victims. Perhaps self-defense would have been established, and such a denouement would not have occurred, that over three hundred thousand Jews, among which there were tens of thousands of young, should be led like sheep to the slaughter.

Exceptions were listed on the notices: except for all those who work in the municipal institutions, in the provisioning organizations, social institutions (the Jewish Help Committee, Centos, TOZ), the manual trades union, and others. Yes, and everyone they take under their protection (and do not have to be sent out), their wives and children.

A stampede began. Until the Jewish police was seen to be sending away all the poorest of the refugees who, had fled here; driving the poor from their houses. who had nothing with which they could buy themselves out of this situation, since ninety percent already had documentation that they belong to the privileged categories and are not required to be sent away.

I too, who was employed by the community – took care of myself by joining a shop – I became a carpenter and after many pains, I was taken under the aegis of a shop, including my wife and child even though she herself was also a community employee.

A panic began: the J. H. K. was no longer recognized: in very short order legitimization by the community will not be tolerated... by contrast: ‘shop’ – that was the talisman, a one hundred percent assurance. In order to verify the rumors, I was pointed out as one, and there another one of the J. H. K. appointed by the community, seized, not paying any heed to legitimacies. When I finally got my ID card with the red stamp of the S. S., I was completely secure and had protected my family, for whom I had acquired a special classification for all the members of my family. To be absolutely sure, and to obtain further protection, I took my wife and child into the factory with me. Other hundreds of shop workers did the same thing. They sat themselves in the yard of the factory (Gensza 30), shoved far into a corner, far from malevolent eyes, and sat there for the day. And when the Angels of Terror – the Jewish police, bands of German S. S., with their Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Latvian accomplices – ended their day’s work, we would go home to lodge for the night. Often we would not undress, because of the continuous night-shootings and wild rumors about night pogroms.

And lo, one day, the talisman of the shop card became voided, and to my misfortune our shop was the first one where this gate was broken down. It was on a Friday, August 7, a sum total of seventeen days after the beginning of the mass-murders. The women and children and the old folks were, as they were every day, seated spread out, way back, hidden deep into the yard, unseen by the outside world, when the S. S. and Ukrainians broke into the rear through a fence in the adjacent yard. The people were wondrously clam. They ordered everyone to get up, line up and head towards the gate, where only the documents would be inspected, everyone has documents – so they went quietly. They came to the gate, but there is no inspection of documents: they proceed further, and anyone who dared to utter a word, to resist, began being beaten with truncheons, pointed rods, right in the face. A few were shot outright – and everyone then proceeds as ordered. We, the men, didn’t even know what was taking place here, because the factory has to be operating on full steam, and each person has to be at their work station. They did not even look into the factory at that time. They gathered everyone together and took them to the assembly place – the modern Golgotha, from which they were led to the train cars to the extermination point at Treblinka, where mass executions took place by gas and shooting.

I hurled myself in vain at this, like a wounded animal in a cage. I ran to the assembly point, paid to find out if Esther, my wife, with Ninkeleh are still here. I sent money, a lot of money, to bribe the police, to Dr. R.45 We sent our own factory police. I found out that they were able to avoid getting on the first transport of six thousand people, which had left at 11 o’clock in the morning. But with force and with beating, they were driven out of their hiding places, when the second transport had left that day. Nothing could be done to help them. With a child in her arms, it was not possible to avoid the bleak fate. I received news that she was seen with Ninkeleh, wearing her red jacket, on the way to the train cars.

In vain I expended additional effort, making a telephone call to a person I knew had a business connection to the overseers at the Treblinka camp. He replied that he could provide no help, that everyone there is condemned to death. (He, himself, was later shot there). From that time on, the glow vanished from the shops. It was not only family members who were arrested, but random people – whoever had, or didn’t have a shop ID card. Blockading the shops became a frequent occurrence. It happened in this way: a pair of S. S. men would enter and immediately after them, Ukrainians, who spread through the entire area of the factory, and after them, Jewish police. Everyone is ordered out into the yard. Women and children hide themselves. The Ukrainians search. [They look] for money, watches or other kinds of jewelry. They can be bought off, but often after them come others, and drive people out of their hiding places. Out in the yard an S. S. man goes through the ranks with his riding crop, pulling out this one and that one, those who are told to go to the side, this means – to death. Anyone who does not go immediately is beaten with the riding crop, or as was the case with us in several instances, shot on the spot. Those who have been stood aside squirm, making attempts to run over to the ranks of the ones left behind, but the Jewish police does its job faithfully – and does not permit this. You try to pass them, as you did to the Ukrainians, jewelry, or several hundred zlotys. Much is given to obtain this temporary salvation. Many conceal themselves during these blockades in previously prepared hideouts, thanks to which there remains a small remnant of women. Along with the blockade of the shops, there is a blockade of the housing block of the factory. Everyone is dragged out of there, who have not been able to hide themselves properly, or to bribe their way out of the hands of the Ukrainians. I managed in this way, partly through concealment, and partly through luck, to stay alive until this day...October 12, 1942.

On the night of September 5th to the 6th, a new form of misfortune arrives. All the shops, all the ‘platzuvkehs’ who go to work for the Germans on the Aryan side, are going to be disbanded. Everyone has to leave their residence by Sunday, September 6 at 10:00 A.M., and come to the sealed streets (Mila, Slubecki, Stawki). There a fresh registration will take place of all the workers, and those who get through this process will be able to go back to their place. I live on the Mila Gasse, and on that morning of September 6, I stood by the window and looked out. No pen is able to write down a description of the nightmarish picture of that morning.

Tens of thousands of people, faces darkened, all hope given up, unwashed faces, mothers, masses, and masses, wander back and forth. There is helplessness in their gaze. And they go and keep going. And the segregations take place. One part goes back, and the larger part, in the thousands, are led to the assembly point.

A thousand and one stories of tragedy are told by those who survived that day. Who can retell it all? Each word is reliving a tragedy. Our segregation first took place on the fourth day – Wednesday. Every day, we waited for our landlord, the German Henzl, and in the end he came with the good news: our shop is going to remain. It is permitted for five hundred men to stay, and as they remained after so many blockades, there were less than five hundred men, amd it appears that everyone will get to stay. Notwithstanding this, the elderly, women and children, should hide themselves. The remaining men should promptly present themselves.

We waited for the entire day for the S. S. troops who were carrying out the ‘selektion.’ They arrived at about 6:00 P. M., like an angry storm, like a [swarm of] locusts. Leading them was the murderer himself – Brandt. With bloodshot eyes and a hoarse shout, they quickly, quickly took to their ‘work.’ Alert workers in the factory understood how to utilize the psychology of terror and hammered out metallic labels with the initials O. B. W. (Ost-Deutsche Bau-Tischlerie- Warschtatten), with numbers and sold them at three zlotys apiece. These metal labels were called dog tags, and despite this, many bought them as if they were a real talisman, to prevent any and all misfortune. In order to make these metallic labels appear to be significant, they were not given to the women. It was these metallic labels that the S. S. troops took to be an important credential, and anyone who did not have such a tag was sentenced [sic: to death]. With wild shouting, with truncheons and riding crops, and the senior Brandt with a board in his hand, they divided the group up into three camps, and anyone who was sentenced was bestially beaten. Twice, Brandt broke the boards over the backs and the heads of those who did not move quickly enough, who had been sentenced to die. Blood ran freely. And in order to inflame his anger even further, or to justify his perverted actions in the eyes of the civilian German shop owners, he shouted out at every blow: enough, enough, for you, three years we are bleeding because of you Jews, and it is because of you that the German people suffer.

My sister, Ethel, was also among these hundreds of men and women. Her children from the orphanage had long ago been taken away to the usual sacrificial altar. I took her into the factory as my wife and exerted myself to get her a factory ID, a card with the S. S. stamp on it, indicating that she was legitimate according to the rules – and she lived with me. She went to the selektion with confidence. There was no question that she was going to get through. Who could, if not she, a young twenty-two year-old, fresh, beautiful; especially since the desired contingent for the factory had not been filled. As soon as the S. S. had separated out those with the metal tags, and ordered them to return to the factory, a strict blockade was carried out in the housing, dragging people out of the housing and the hideouts, and afterwards taking them to the train cars, and after that not a trace of her.

Additional blockades took place afterwards, internal selektions, and seizures – I, in the meantime, remained.

What happened to my sister Chana and her daughter Belcheh, I do not know. I only know this: The same thing also occurred during November in Zambrów. There, the executions took place in Czeworny-Bor? – I have no news from them.
 

This write-up was found in the Ringelblum Archive. The original is found in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw:

All the Jews of Zambrów, as well as the Jews from the surrounding vicinity, were packed in by the Germans into the Zambrów barracks. The Łomża Jews brought the elderly with them from their old age home, and the orphans from the city orphanage. Approximately twenty thousand Jews were squeezed into these barracks – without appropriate food, without water, without light or air. There were no sanitary facilities. The overcrowding was frightening. The little food we had taken with us from the ghetto lasted about two weeks.

Shortly afterwards the hunger began to assault us with full force. After much exertion, the Judenrat was able to get a ‘concession’ to gather up the abandoned food that had been left behind in the ghetto and transfer it to the barracks. When we finally got a bit of food, we immediately opened up a community kitchen and immediately provided a warm midday meal to the children, and the elderly, and whatever was left over were distributed to the able-bodied [adults].

Because of the seriously deficient sanitary conditions, a typhus epidemic broke out. People dropped like flies. With the expenditure of a great deal of effort, we managed to organize a hospital in that place, and with great difficulty we acquired a little bit of medicine from Skrozhnik’s pharmacy, where I had previously been employed. By whatever means, under these given awful conditions, we managed to run a small pharmacy. It is worth mentioning the dedication and extraordinary relationship of the Jewish doctors, who were with us, as for example -- Dr. Knott from Łomża (now in Israel) and others. They stood at their post and served the sick day and night.

The moment of the liquidation arrived. The Germans mobilized a mass of peasants with wagons, and every night they transferred about two thousand men from the barracks to the close-by train station at Czyżew, loaded them onto special sealed train cars, and then transported to somewhere. When someone tried to ask: ‘Where are they taking us,’ the cynical reply was: to a labor camp, where each person will be able to work at his own trade, without overcrowding or hunger. I was in the last transport, which left Zambrów on December 27, 1942 (19 Tevet 5703). The camp commandant came to the senior member of the Judenrat with a proposal: he had, in his possession, a kilogram of Veronal46 – he wanted to use the drug to put the children, the old and the sick, to sleep permanently, who were not fit to work and will not be able to survive the difficult trip. No one took up this satanic proposal. Despite this, they managed to achieve their goal, and they poisoned about two hundred of the old and infirmed.

At the last moment, when I needed to leave the barracks, I ran through the rooms to see if anyone was still left. To my great heartache, I saw about two hundred children, elderly and the weakened, lying sunk in a deep sleep and a rattle coming out of their throats. This was their last death rattle that pierced the air. I immediately grasped what was going on here, and from my heart I tore out the old, sorrowful blessing: ‘Baruch Dayan HaEmet!’ That death rattle followed me for the entire journey, and with weeping and pain I stuck with the solitary brethren who yet remained alive, who are now going to experience a train journey of unknown nature, over which death was fanning us with its wing.

We were five days taken on this journey, without food or water. Small children, neglected, lay whimpering: they pleaded for a bit of bread and a bit of water. From time to time, we scraped off the bits of ice from the small train car windows, and gave it to the children to revive them somewhat. We finally arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 3, 1943 (26 Tevet). There we met up with about ten percent of those who had come on the transports that had arrived to date, that were yet alive. All the others had given up the ghost and breathed their last in the gas chambers. The ones who remained alive were sentenced to hard labor in the death camp...

And this is how I got through this gruesome period and was liberated twenty-eight months later by the liberating American army, in Munich, on May 15, 1945.
 

We Organize a Partisan Group

By Yitzhak Stupnik
(Buenos Aires)

 

My brother Yankl and I managed to wriggle out of the Zambrów ghetto and went off to work in the ‘Pniew sheds,’ a colony not far from Czeworny-Bur, near the swampy Pniew Forest. We worked there for a prosperous peasant, Wiszniewski. We figured out that when our situation would become difficult, we will flee directly into the forest. My older brother Moshe was in the Łomża ghetto. On one Saturday we went over to Czeworny-Bur. The Jews there were being harassed minimally, because they were needed there to work. Once there we remained until Sunday. Sunday, after the noon hour, the news spread with lightning speed that all the roads are surrounded by gendarmes, so that no one could flee, and the gentiles in the area had received a forceful order to come with their wagons to transfer the Jews from Czeworny-Bur to the Zambrów barracks. We came up with the idea by ourselves... we decided to flee at any price. Riding on horses, the gentiles searched for Jews who had fled into the fields and brought them back to the Germans. They received either a half liter of whiskey, or a kilo of sugar for each Jew that they could seize this way. The Soltis of Czeworny-Bur himself got on one knee and aimed his gun at a Jewish boy who had saved himself and was running in the filed, just as if he were shooting a wild duck, as was reported by other gentiles...

In the dark we managed to wriggle out into the forest with a few other Jews. Before dawn we saw some human form shadows moving towards us. We were frozen: it was our brother Moshe from the Łomża ghetto. They too were confined in order to transfer them to Zambrów. A member of the Judenrat, a young man from Zambrów, Baumkolier, accidentally happened to learn about the aktion, and he quickly let all the Jews know: save yourselves as best you can, flee! Accordingly, certain individuals fled, among them my brother, Moshe. He ran the whole night to Czeworny-Bur, to us.

We then decided not to separate and to remain together. We decided to go back to the Pniew sheds at night. At the edge of the forest we espied a peasant’s hut. Moshe, who looked like a peasant, went into it to ask for something to eat. We waited at a distance. He came out quickly, and a band of gentile thugs began to chase him, in order to turn him over to the Germans. We immediately came to the aid of our brother with sticks, which we had hacked off the trees, and the gentile thugs ran off. We dragged ourselves to the shed at night. The Wiszniewski family took us back, let us spend the night in the loft of the stall, gave us food to eat – but very strenuously encouraged us stay in the forest during the day, and that only at night could we come to eat and sleep. In the morning, both our lives and their lives were in danger. We remained there for four weeks: in the forest during the day, at night, up in the loft. Our brother Moshe was counted as a friend, not as a brother. We met up in the forest with other remnants from our vicinity, from Gać, etc., and we decided to form a partisan group at our own risk, in the Pniew Forest.

It was about six months after the liquidation of the Zambrów ghetto. Alone and dejected, we wandered in the forests, hiding by day and looking for something to eat by night. We had no connection to Polish partisans, and when we did come in contact [with them], it would be to our detriment – they would have killed us, being no better than the Germans. When we discovered several others in the forest who had escaped death, such as Israelkeh Gebel, the butcher from Gać, his son, Zelik, with his wife and three small children, the two Rudnik brothers, Isaac Burstein (also a butcher), Yossl Kwiatek and others, we decided to organize ourselves into a ‘partisan brigade,’ procure arms, and fight the enemy. My brother Yankl was nominated as the Commandant, and we found a suitable location in the Pniew Forest for our headquarters. With an enormous amount of effort, we procured some arms with a limited number of ammunition rounds from the peasantry. On one morning, a peasant was drawing near to us, with an unsteady gait. We immediately went on alert, because he had become suspicious to us. With fear in his eyes, the peasant got closer and expressed his feeling regarding our plight and began to tell us that at his location, under the roof of his barn, a man and his wife are hidden who are Jews, and they need to be rescued because the surrounding neighbors had sniffed them out and will turn them over to the Germans. The Polish groups from the A. K. (Armia Krajowa) circulate in the area, and they kill off the remaining Jews.

We quickly took counsel and decided to carefully proceed and rescue these two Jewish people, according to the signs that the peasant had given us. My brother Mishka was designated as the one to lead the mission. Late at night, with his gun loaded, he came up to the barn. He climbed up to the eaves, and he heard an intake of breath in the straw. Mishka whispered in the dark: I am a Jew, having come to rescue you! Come out and tell me who you are? – I am Motl Sh. from Myszyniec, a male voice responded. – And I am Rashkeh Ch. from Lomzyca, a querulous female voice answered. A shudder ran through Mishka’s bones, as soon as he heard the name of Motl Sh. He was a well-known informer who had cooperated with the Germans in the Łomża ghetto and had brought no small number of Jewish lives to an end, and later caused troubles in the Zambrów ghetto. Mishka didn’t lose control of himself and said: I cannot rescue two at a time, therefore let Rashkeh Ch. come with me first. Out of a great deal of grief and joy, Rashkeh forgot to put on her shoes and ran barefoot with me. When we were on our way, she realized that she couldn’t step on the pointed little stones and must go and get her shoes. Mishka did not let her go back, told her to wait at the entrance to the forest and went back alone to look for the shoes. Looking for the shoes in the straw, Mishka noticed persons wearing short leather jackets, besieging the barn, lighting it up with flashlights – they sensed that there were Jews there... Mishka immediately jumped down and stationed himself behind a wagon, with his gun in hand. One of them drew nearer to him. Mishka did not want to waste a bullet on him, he silently gave his a blow in the head with the butt of his gun to the heart. That individual immediately fell to the ground and Mishka fled to the forest. They shot at him in the dark, but did not hit him. Motl Sh. also fled, saving himself, and before dawn found our location. He stood before us with his head down and said nothing. We decided to try him. After Israelkeh the Butcher, and others told us about the Jewish victims in the Łomża ghetto that fell because of Motl, also informing on the secret means of procuring food for the Jews, the new refugees who arrived in the ghetto, etc., until the senior in the Łomża Judenrat, Mr. Mushinsky, became aware through a German, that Motl was a provocateur and is turning over all this information to the Germans. Mushinsky then allowed him to be arrested and confined to the cellar of the Judenrat. The Germans then let them know that all the Łomża Jews would be held accountable for him. He was released, and he went off to Zambrów... it pained us that millions of our brethren were killed while innocent, and this bandit remained alive here and was standing in front of us. Our ‘tribunal’ sentenced him to death.
 

   A Scion of Zambrów – Leader of the Minsk Ghetto Fighters    

     

Herschel, the son of Dovcheh Smolar was enthralled with communism as a youngster. He served six years in the Łomża prison. When the Red Army entered Łomża, they set him free. In accordance with party orders, he penetrated the Minsk ghetto in order to secretly lead the anti-fascist resistance groups. Afterwards, Smolar went over from Minsk to the partisans, and received an array of distinguished medals from the Red Army, and today he is the head of the central committee of Polish Jewry.

In the year 1946, his book, ‘The Minsk Ghetto’ was published in Moscow in 1946 by the ‘Emes’ publishing company – where all the terrifying deeds of the Nazis are recounted. We bring here, a summary of a long article (eight hundred lines in close penmanship) that was dedicated in ‘Einikeit’ of 28 September 1944 – an organ of the Jewish anti-fascist committee in the Soviet Union.

 



H. Smolar

... Herschel Smolar, the thirty-five-year-old young man, had no other option but to fall into the paws of the bestial enemy in the Minsk ghetto. He could have gotten Aryan papers and resided among the gentiles, but he said instead: I am after all, a Jew, and my place is among Jews. He immediately went to work as the commandant for the underground resistance company that had only one objective: strike the enemy by all means. Smolar was already seasoned at this work: it is already eleven years that he is working illegally in the party, including his six years in prison, until the Red Army freed him. He had contacts in the surrounding vicinity by clandestine means. [In the outside world] he was known as Yefim Stoliarewicz. After a few weeks he needed to arrange for the municipal hospital to attend to the sick with infectious diseases. The location was created for him by Dr. Leib Kulik. The Germans did not interfere in the affairs of the hospital a great deal, being afraid to become infected themselves. It was here that the resistance units were organized, and it was here that poisons and all manner of other dangerous materials were prepared in order to poison the food and drink of the enemy, by Jewish workers and cooks. It was from here that armed wings would sally forth and assault the German provision trucks, food storage dumps, leather supplies, manufactured goods, sugar, etc., and distribute this booty within the ghetto. When the dangerous Stoliarewicz was being intensely hunted by the Gestapo – Smolar left the area. The Judenrat received an order to turn in Stoliarewicz –- if they failed to do so, they will pay for it with their heads. So, the head of the Judenrat, Joffe, fell upon a stratagem: a night before this the Nazis had assaulted a large house and killed about seventy men. They then put false papers on the body of one of the dead men under the name of Stoliarewicz, bloodied him up, and brought him to the Gestapo commandant. At this point, Smolar needed to conceal himself even from Jewish eyes, and he was brought into the hospital on a cot by sanitary workers, concealing him among the severe typhus cases, and his bed became the general headquarters of the underground resistance company. It was here that he organized the plan to send out groups of one hundred and fifty men at a time secretly, and to connect up with the partisans in the Naliboki Forests. Everyone began to search for ammunition for these resistance groups. On July 23, 1942, Tisha B’Av, the Nazis made a bloodbath in the ghetto. For four days and four nights, they shot and murdered. Smolar was stuck away in the space between a double wall in the hospital. The Nazis shot and killed all of the sick, and Smolar stayed between the walls and carried on from there. This was until a messenger came to him from the party central command, from twenty-two year-old Maria Gorokhova, who worked as a cook in the German kitchen, and together with another girl who was Jewish, Emma Rodowa, got Smolar out of the ghetto. As a carpenter, he was now living in the most dangerous house, in the Gestapo building, and above him was the senior German commander Kuba. They came to transfer him to the partisans after six weeks. He traversed ten kilometers with the trusted individual and gave no sign of connecting with them. He returned and hid himself with a woman, a lecturer in medical courses – under a bed, covered with sacks and valises. Later he was taken to a railroad employee at night where he slept, and the Gestapo came knocking at the door. Smolar jumped through the window, onto the roof in his nightshirt. He scrunched himself up on the roof, in order not to be noticed. When it quieted down he went back inside through the window. His companions were arrested. The Germans sealed up the house. Smolar gathered up his borrowed papers and set out on the road. He wandered for seventeen days until he reached the partisan company and became its commander, according to the order of the Party. Then Smolar began to carry out a new accounting with the enemy.
 

The Third Fire

By Isaac Malinowicz
(The Bronx)

 

A Banquet on Israeli Independence Day. A Group of Zambrów Landslayt in America,
with Mr. and Mrs. I. Malinowicz drink a ‘L’Chaim’ to the Zambrów Survivors.
 

The ‘Special Cave’ Devoted the Memory of European Jewry on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, is comprised of monuments to the destroyed Jewish Communities. The first one, to the left, is the Zambrów Memorial Tablet, and standing beside it is the Representative of the Society of Jews from Łomża and Zambrów in Argentina, Ch. H. Rudnik, of blessed memory.


They would say that when the lovely summer arrives, the fires start. Every summer, entire towns would burn down, with Jewish assets, Jews of means, balebatim, craftsmen, would pitiably be left without a roof over their heads or a bite of bread for the children.

The fire did not spare our Zambrów either. The first fire, which burned down practically the entire shtetl, broke out on a Friday just before candle lighting. It was a hot summer day in 1895. Women and men always liked to tell about the great fire, with the added groan: ‘we should not even think of anything burning today, the way it burned back then...’ Whole stories would circulate around town about this. Some simply said that in the smithy by the river, on the Ostrog Road, there was a shipment of illegal merchandise that had been bought from the soldiers, and this had been ignited, and spread the fire all over the town, with its straw-thatched roofs. Others said: If God wills it, a straw roof does not burn and gunpowder doesn’t explode. Rather, the city had sinned against the maggid R’ Eliakim Getzel, and he cursed the city – and his holy words had come to pass. And you can see a sign of this, adds an elderly Jewish woman, with a sigh: the fire broke out precisely after midday on Friday, when the men were taking a steam bath, preparing for the coming of the Sabbath. Others were still out making their rounds through the villages of the vicinity, and those that were indeed home were working hard to get finished in time for the Sabbath. A garment, a shoe, a hat – not well slept, exhausted by the entire week’s labor, barely able to make it to the little bit of Sabbath, to rest a bit and catch a little sleep. The womenfolk worked hard to get the Holy Sabbath into their homes, cooking, baking, getting the cholent ready, cleaning, washing, and here, suddenly, totally unanticipated: a fire from God cascaded over the city...

So, afterwards. two times seven good years went by, the shtetl quickly and beautifully had rebuilt itself, the new barracks that were built, the two divisions of soldiers in the city – provided a source of income, so that in very short order, houses were constructed with tin roofs or covered with roof tiles, some with shingles, but no longer with straw. A very attractive commercial street was set up, the Kościelna Gasse, with wooden sidewalks, stone and concrete houses with balconies. The city was revitalized, but that great fire was often recalled: so-and-so got married ‘after the fire,’ that one was born ‘after the fire,’ there simply was no other point of reference that had comparable significance.

That is, until... the second fire occurred.

This, indeed, was on a Saturday night, immediately after Havdalah, when everyone was home, well-rested, and having gotten some sleep still dressed in their Sabbath finery. This was May 1, 1909. The workers did not strike on the first of May, because that day was a sort of Sabbath to them, and in general it was rather quiet in the city, not like the year 1905. Along with another couple of young boyfriends, we were sitting at the ‘booth’ on the Pasek, drinking soda water with red syrup, joking with one another when we suddenly heard a shout: Alert, there is a fire. Where is the fire? – At the barracks, the mangel near the capitan is on fire. So we ran home. The fire was already close to us, the Jews having relied too much on the gentile firefighters, because there were no Jews in the firefighting command structure. One Jew, Gordon the ‘Tiefer’ was a firefighter, and no other... an anti-Semitic attitude reigned in the shtetl, this being not long after crucifixes had been broken in the cemetery, for which the Jews were blamed, and because of this, instead of throwing water to extinguish the flames, the gentiles threw gasoline on the Jewish houses, and because of this the Jewish part of Zambrów burned for that entire night, taking down the largest part of the city, up to the middle of the marketplace and about five hundred Jewish houses were burned down.

A variety of curious things took place around the shtetl:

One Jewish man, a gabbai in the Chevra Kadisha, shouted out into the street: ‘Jews, come and help me perform rescue.’ He was dragging a very heavy box. So he was given assistance, and the box was taken away to some place on the Ostrog Road. Everyone thought: there is bedding inside, laundry, jewelry, candlesticks, but it was later found out that the box contained soil from the Land of Israel... He actually permitted his bedding and clothes to simply get burned...

A second person was storing his daughter’s dowry in his oven, not trusting to turn it over to earn interest. He shouted: ‘Jews, help, the oven is on fire...'

On the following morning, wagons laden with bread arrived from Łomża, from Bialystok, and from other neighboring towns. Also, this time, the shtetl was quickly rebuilt. By and large, the homes were insured, and the Jews took on fire protection, borrowed a bit, and built even nicer houses, mostly of stone, concrete construction, with balconies and pretty stores in front. There was a living to be made, and the homeless erected barracks for themselves on the marketplace, and life began to normalize itself. However, there was one thing that Jewish Zambrów won from this fire: many Jews signed up into the firefighters’ brigade. While it is true that the anti-Semitic commanders, like the pharmacist Skarzynski, and his deputy, the Prussian, Baker, looked askance at the Jewish firefighters, but they had no right to forbid it. Accordingly, every Sunday, the Jews would put on their firefighters’ caps (the satin covered helmets were not made available to them so quickly...), and went to conduct an ‘exercise.’ They would stop the formation at some spot and drill, or just plain crawl up on a roof, and wield the axes or a hook against the burning roof. In time, the Jewish firefighters became the best in the shtetl.

Until the third fire came along – after thirty-two years...

The city had changed considerably. Government changed hands -- Czarist, German, Polish, Bolshevik, and again German. All of then excelled at one thing: their enmity towards the Jews. At the end of 1941, the Jewish section of Zambrów burned down for the third time, but this fire was the most terrifying. After this, it was no longer rebuilt, and will never be rebuilt forever. It is told that this too, took place on the Sabbath. It was not a summery Sabbath day, but rather a frosty day in December. The Jews who had been held in the Zambrów barracks were brought to Auschwitz before dawn that day, where they were crowded in together with the Jews of Łomża and other Jews from the vicinity. That Saturday, it was not the houses of Zambrów that were burned, but rather the living souls of the residents of Zambrów...

We counted: the first fire, the second fire, but it is the third fire that will eternally remain in our memory. Our living Zambrów residents were carried off with the smoke and the gas, and they will never come back to us...
 

   Memories of a Yahrzeit  

 

The United Zembrower Society recently purchased $10,000 worth of State of Israel Bonds.

Right to Left: Sam & D. Stein, Joe Savetsky, David Stein, Joe Waxman, I. Cooper (President),
M. Monkash (representing the Israel Bond Organization), G. Tabak, Isaac Malinovich, Ben Cooper.
 

On the 18th Memorial Day, dedicated to the Annihilation of Zambrów ( Tel Aviv 1961).

Right to Left: M. Bursztyn, L. Golombek, J. Jabkowsky, Ahuva Greenber, Chaim-Yossl Rudnik (Argentina), Zvi Zamir (Slowik), Cantor Wilkomirsky, Gershonovich, Dr. Yom-Tov Lewinsky.
 

From that beautiful, living Zambrów, all that remained were four mass graves, somewhere or another, without a marker and without a name. No one knows where to go to pay respect to one’s ancestors.

The First Grave was at the long military trenches in Szumowo.

This was in the middle of summer, on the 19th of August. All around, things were flowering and growing. As usual, the sun was sending its rays into the world. The German beat, then ordered us to gather at the marketplace in Zambrów on a beautiful clear Tuesday. The Germans selected fifteen hundred men, the best among the Jews, along with the Rabbi and the Yeshiva headmaster, and drove them all off to Szumowo, into a church building or a church school, divided them up into groups in accordance with their crafts, by age, and until ten o’clock at night, the trench in the Glebocz Forest became filled with the dead, and the living dead...

Today, this blood-soaked place is covered in wild grass and forest trees. Cattle graze there. And who is to say that late in the dark nights, that the solitary groan does not reverberate about, the echoes of orphaned wailing, the weeping of fathers and mothers, the sighing of sisters and brothers? Who knows?

The Second Mass Grave, takes us to Kosaki. Three weeks later, at the beginning of September, an additional fifteen hundred men were driven to that location. This consisted of about nine hundred from Zambrów and about six hundred from Rutki, and they were all thrown alive into a mass grave. The earth at that location heaved for hours on end, like fermenting dough – until those who were buried this way eventually asphyxiated and died, and no longer twitched in their grave. Wild grass grows there today, dogs howl on dark nights. The ‘God-fearing gentiles’ cross themselves, when they travel past this place... Jews are no longer here. There is no one to recite a Kaddish at this terrifying place.

The Third Grave is someplace behind the Zambrów barracks. On December 27, 1942 (19 Tevet 5703) the inhuman Germans could no longer stomach the suffering of the two hundred elderly and sick Jews in the ghetto hospital. They were all dosed with Veronal barbiturate, and put permanently to sleep. The last of their death rattle reverberated through the empty barracks for hours on end, until they lapsed into unconsciousness.

Very quietly the murderers disposed of the dead bodies, and to this day no one knows where their remains are to be found...

The Fourth Grave, the last one, somewhere in the gas ovens of Auschwitz... Here our Zambrów martyrs were exterminated en masse. Here hundreds and thousands of Jews were burned alive and asphyxiated, from all over Europe. It is here that a world of Jews must come to recite the Kaddish...

And yet, the world continues on its trajectory, the sun continued to bestow its light, and the earth brings forth its fruit.

As to the ‘old home’ from that sacred Jewish Zambrów, somewhere or another, four graves were created – without a marker, without a name...


 

The Survivors, After the Holocaust