The First World War
Hours of Emergency in Zambrów, Poland
From the Zambrów Yizkor Book (abridged English version), 1963

Zambrów is a member of the Museum's World Jewish Communities

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During the first World War, in the summer of 1915, Zambrów, being far removed from the fortifications and battles at the Frontier, turned into an asylum for hundreds of refugees from the whole environment. Scores of families and refugees arrived there from Grayevo, Shtuchin, Yedvabne, Novogrod, Ostrolenko and many other places where the battles were raging. The Russians started to retreat. They got instructions to leave for the German enemy a "parched territory." They put to fire every village, and every place abandoned by them was burned down and a scorched territory was left.

A Cossack division occupied Zambrów. All the inhabitants of the town lived in fear and terror because of the Russian designs to burn the town. The Jews were particularly afraid of the Cossacks. Most of them hid in cellars and other shelters. Yankel Pravda, together with the Polish Town Clerk Komorowski, collected a big amount of money from the Zambrów inhabitants in order to bribe the Cossack Commandant and to "persuade" him to give up his nefarious intentions of burning the town. They succeeded in this task and were congratulated by all the citizens for saving the town from the Cossack clutches. The Cossacks left the town without causing any damage.


At the end of the First World War when the Germans occupied the town of Zambrów there suddenly entered a band of wild Poles and disarmed the Germans, who [then] capitulated and returned to Germany. These Polish knaves and scamps headed by the son of the shoemaker Jashombeck took the reins into their hands and became the lords of the town. They started to make pogroms against the Jews, accusing the latter of collaboration with the Russians. Later when the Bolsheviks invaded, some young Jews cooperated with them. The Bolsheviks, whilst at Zambrów, appointed some Jews as officials, police officers, etc. because the Russians put no trust in the Polish [people]. When the Bolsheviks retreated, the Poles started to wreak their vengeance upon the Jews, visiting the "sins" of a few Jewish youngsters upon the whole community. The parents of these youngsters were awfully treated, beaten and arrested. Yirmiahu Sayeta was tortured owing to the fact that his son ran away with the Russians. Israel Pravda's wife jumped from the balcony when the Poles came to torment her on account of her husband's escape. Many other Jews suffered from the Poles, many were robbed of their property, maltreated and some even shot without any trial.


The apothecary (or druggist) Shklovin was a leftist although he participated in Jewish public life and even used to come to the Hevra Shas House of prayer in order to pray. During the Bolshevist invasion he got in touch with several Russian commandants staying at Zambrów, [and] cooperated with the Bolshevist army. This he had to do in his capacity as apothecary. After the Bolshevist retreat from Poland, Shklovin was looked for by the Polish police. When they did not find him, they began to molest and harass his wife and children. The wife applied to the apothecary Skarzynski who was head of the civil authorities. She implored him to save her husband. Skarzynski advised her to bring her husband to him, to his apothecary, where he [would] be safe.

Shklovin put on his best clothes and went to Skarzynski. A multitude of Polish scoundrels and scamps, knaves and rascals thronged the apothecary's house and demanded that Shklovin be handed over to them. The perfidious Skarzynski did not even try to save Shklovin, but permitted the Polish mob to drag Shklovin into the street, take off his clothes, and to harness him to a cart filled with filth and dung. Shklovin together with another young man from Warsaw were forced to drag the cart along the Zambrów streets until they breathed their last breath and dropped down dead....








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