The Zambrów Yizkor Book
The English Translation

Courtesy of the United Zembrover Society

HOME          SITE MAP          ABOUT THE MUSEUM          FEEDBACK         OPPORTUNITIES          LINKS



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 Zambrow,
under the Auspices of Centos





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



The Last 5-6 Years


The last 5-6 years, before doom overtook the Jewish community of Zambrow, 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 100 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.. 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 3-5 years in jail, or being sent to forced labor (Каторга Работа) in Kartuz-Bereza. The market days are a Hell.


In the good years, the Zambrow shoemakers would provide about 75% 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 ???, 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 10 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 Zambrow 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 Zambrow 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: Zambrow 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 appear, unappointed ambassadors from amongst the Zambrow 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, Linat HaTzedek, the Zambrow Sick Fund, which supplied medicaments, doctors, nurses and sanatoria, ??? and healing for the sick of the city from all walks of life, and the tireless leader in these bad times, Shlomo Dzentshal, the son of Lejzor the Butcher, who is the president and the father to all of these who are suffering, The Women’s Society, that 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 ??? and the swollen bellies that come from malnutrition.



Shlomo Dzentshal and Max Stone


The dollars arrive in the name of that decent public servant Shlomo Dzentshal, 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 Zambrow 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


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 Zambrow 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 hand-written, done artistically, and inform 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, theater 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 cursčd by day, may you be cursčd 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 30 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...





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 enter a Jewish store and buy 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 Lomza, 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 Lomza. 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 Zambrow used its influence with Warsaw, to permit the renewal of ‘picketing’ against the Jewish stores, in which the picketers will 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 95% of the Jewish stores, barely 40% 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 & 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 Zambrow


To: The Zambrow Help Committee in Chicago


In the name of the Hilfskomitet of the Jewish Community of Zambrow, we certify that we have received from our Chicago landsleit, through Mr. Max Stone – 50 Dollars (and 276.50 zlotys). The money will be distributed along with the $750.00 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 Zambrow, we express our heartiest thanks to you, and our wished for a Happy Holiday.


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

Abraham Shmuel Fiontek
Leib Razing
David Finkelstein



Linat HaTzedek


To Brother Max Stone, Secretary of the Help Committee of Zambrow Landsleit 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 Zambrow 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 v”g, because we will inscribe his name in the Pinkas of Linat Tzedek, and on the day of Yahrzeit, we will hold a memorial.


In the name of the Komitet:

Shlomo Dzhenczal, Chairman
Yaakov Odem, Secretary



Letter II


12/7 – 1939


Dear Friend Shlomo Dzhenczal,


I have sent 600 zlotys to you for the Zambrow Relief Society, to be divided among the four organizations in Zambrow. The Women’s Society – 80 zlotys, ‘Linat HaTzedek’ – 80 zlotys, The Manual Trades Society – 80 zlotys. To Centos, for the summer colony for the poor children – 360 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 gathered up 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 Zambrow Relief Society
Menachem Stone, Secretary




The Beginning of the End

By Yitzhak Stupnik


I entered my parent’s house. A note was already waiting for me on the table: I am obligated to present myself to the military, in the Zambrow 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 Zambrow 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 Zambrow and destroyed ľ of the city. We also suffered great losses at the front. Our company lost 130 men, and returned with only 95 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, set out to get back to Zambrow. 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 work, 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 Zambrow 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 that 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 Zambrow


Zambrow, 8.1.1940

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 Zambrow. You would have never believed this, we have true freedom. Our house has remained intact...


Your brother Yitzhak Kossowsky.




38   Translator’s Note: The Yiddish title uses the rubric ‘A Bintel Brief,’ which is a name associated with a famous column of letters published in the Jewish Daily Forward. In its day, it was an ‘advice column’ that in subsequent times was given reprise by the likes of ‘Dear Abby.’ I have avoided this rubric in order not to cause confusion, since this content has nothing to do with ‘A Bintel Brief’ in the Forward.
39   A possible typographical error, in which the year very likely was 1938.


next >>


Zambrów YB




Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links

Copyright © Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved. 
Image Use Policy.