Thursday, May 8, 2014

THE HOLOCAUST EFFECT - The True Saga of a Survivor and his Influence on his Decendants - INTRODUCTION






                                                         INTRODUCTION



This project began in Chicago during the spring of 1981.  That year I became the proud father of my first child, a son.  We named him Adi, meaning precious jewelry in Hebrew.  My wife chose that name after consulting with my father.  After the two discussed the matter for a few minutes he requested that we name our newborn son after his favorite brother Azriel that was murdered, in cold blood,  by the Nazis during the Holocaust. As a new father that was still in awe of the amazing experience of having  participated in the miracle of the creation of life, my thoughts seemed to stream in all directions including even contemplating the meaning of man's existence. For some inexplicable reason I thought of the meaning of the date of my son's birth.   That caused me to think about  my birth date in 1955.  I remembered that I was born in the same year that my father became an American citizen.  I reflected on the stream of my thoughts and said to myself, "[p]erhaps there is some hidden connection between the unconnected events."
A few nights later I watched as my infant son as slept so comfortably, truly without a care in the world, another random thought popped into my mind. "One day my boy will grow up and ask me what happened to Grandpa during the Holocaust?After mulling over this question I realized that I was not prepared to answer since my understanding of my father's experience was sketchy, at best. The more I thought about this question the more I realized that the answer may be connected with an even more important issue that I have been contemplating, off and on, since I was a teenager.  That issue concerned my existence as it related to my lost family members that were murdered during the Holocaust. Why did my father survive when countless fell victim? 
I felt it was time to stop thinking about these issues and now actually formulate concrete answers. It was then I decided I must write this book. Even then I  knew that this was going to be a monumental task to not only organize the facts but also the background materials. Also, it was apparent to me that in telling the story I must not fall victim to the natural tendency of just developing a narrative based on my preconceived understanding of the Holocaust. I understood that such narratives avoided inconvenient facts and as a result produces a product that has only a passing regard to the truth.  I decided that as an aspiring  responsible father I would seek the true facts  for myself and my son.  In the back of mind I thought that I would share the information I gathered with anyone that may be interested. I had no delusions that what I was taking upon myself was an easy task.  Just the opposite.  I pursued this endeavor knowing that this was not going to be just difficult but very likely impossible. 
My first task would be decide how best to research my father's Holocaust odyssey.  I knew that my father grew up in an insignificant provincial town in Poland that had a population of less than seven thousand people. As a result, I suspected that there would be very little historical record  concerning the events that took place there  before, during, and after World War II.  Therefore, I knew that my best source of information must be my father.  The problem with this was that while I grew up in my parent's home my mother declared in no uncertain terms that we kids were not to bring up the subject of my father’s Holocaust experiences.  The subject was strictly taboo.   Until now, I kept this rule without a second thought.
Only once did I ever hear my father tell of his experiences during the Holocaust. The occasion was that my father took me to Israel on a three week tour as a Bar Mitzvah gift during the school year in February 1968.  My father met someone in a hotel and I sat in the background when he carried on a discussion with another Holocaust survivor. For whatever reason my father did not speak in Yiddish with this man.  I say so for he always spoke in Yiddish with his greenhorn friends. 
             I still remembered a good deal of what my father told his friend.  That was at least a starting point. Next was to develop a chronological timeline in the events that made up my father's Holocaust experience. As I thought about constructing just a basic timeline his historical picture became blurry. It was complicated to place different events in order. But I did not let this detour me.  I was determined to find the answers.  
         I felt that my undertaking constituted a fundamental search for truth. I became obsessed in  trying to understand the dynamics of World War II. l A period when a group of powerful politicians sank nations into the abyss of evil while other men rose to staggering heights of morality to overcome the power of overwhelming evil.
         
   I pledged to myself that my Mother's taboo would stop me.  So I mustered the courage and broached the subject with my father.  As I spoke he looked at me in a curious manner as if to say Ma Pitom (Hebrew for "whats this all of a sudden").  Then a moment later, to my complete  surprise, without any comment, he agreed to answer any question I might submit.

          I presumed there were at least three reasons for his change in attitude. First, he was growing old and felt that his personal experiences would one day die with him. Second, he was a new grandfather to the first male grandchild to carry on his name, and that grandchild was named after his brother who was murdered during the Holocaust.  Perhaps he felt a responsibility to Adi as well as his children and other grandchildren both present and future. Finally, possibly in his mind, I was uniquely qualified to be the recorder of his saga.
       The reason for my self diagnosed elevated status was that my father  may have considered me not to be your normal spoiled Jewish American born  kid.  First, he admired my great love for Israel.  He watched my progress from growing up as a spoiled kid to becoming a hard core Zionist and proud Jew. My love for Israel was such that I even chose as my wife Gila, who was sabarit, a native born Israeli. Second, I  had the unique status, for an American Jew, of being a citizen of Israel and a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces.  Finally, like his father, I was a believing practicing Jew that respectfully observed many Jewish laws and traditions including donning tefillin (phylacteries)  every morning.   Taken as a whole, I gave him nachas (pride) that his son was an unapologetic Jew that was unafraid to put his life on the line to face the enemies of our People. Thus, those things combined  probably made me, in his mind, the kind of Jew worthy to record his story.
As my research progressed I learned that Holocaust survivors didn't fit a particular pattern.  Some Holocaust survivors refuse to talk of their experiences.  Other  survivors seem quite willing to share with family members, friends and even address public forums.  The experiences told by them often seem to be a honest complete rendition of the hard cold facts of the Holocaust tragedy.   The survivor speaks as if testifying at trial displaying little emotion.  Occasionally, certain facts may cause the survivor to have a muted emotional moment.  When questioned about historical particulars many of these same survivors seem to have a knack to vaguely answer the question and then point the questioner in a different direction.  
 I learned that what several Holocaust survivors did have in common was that upon close examination that their public utterances represents only a selected groups of facts that make up a kind of  survivor's narrative.  The other facts remain secret, filed away in a locked box created in the mind of the survivor. 
During my interviews it became clear that those survivors that I questioned such as my father and his community of survivors  appeared to talk with "outsiders" by following a set of unspoken rules. For example, one may talk about the Holocaust with outsiders as long as it remains true and consistent to the survivor's  time developed general narrative.  That narrative was created sometime after the end of World War II and remains consistent to this very day. On the other hand, when survivors met in private candor, without the narrative, may be permissible.  But even then, that candor is often subject to limitations, depending upon certain undisclosed facts that were to remain secret forever.
Why a narrative? Simply, to reveal the actual truth of the Holocaust and the survivors' detailed tragedy can  prove to be psychologically harmful both to the survivor and the listener. For example, it is conceivable that the average Jewish listener when presented with the naked and unedited reality of the real danger of being a Jew a rational Jew can easily come to the only logical conclusion which is that being a Jew is just not worth it.  So the survivor upon reflection says to himself,  "G-d forbid that after surviving the Holocaust I should become a catalyst to destroy a Jew's faith in G-d and his  privilege of being counted among G-d's chosen people."  Likewise, for the survivor is constantly confronted with horrible memories that cause the survivor to stand at the edge of a deep and dark chasm that if the survivor is not extremely careful then he or she may fall into this bottomless pit of despair in  the survivor's desire to have faith in the goodness of man.  Moreover, the survivor avoids their own personal experience that when so many Jews needed G-d's protection the most G-d was nowhere to be found. To come to the realization that  satanic individuals such as Hitler are given free reign to diabolically and systematically exterminate Jews, is too much of a burden for any person, let alone a survivor,  to live with.
For sanity does not mix with the Holocaust. To illustrate this point, Hitler,  even at the hour of  his defeat that caused him to cowardly commit suicide, still proclaimed that he was the innocent one and it was the evil Jews that caused the War.  Moreover, he declared that he was proud that so many Jews paid the price for it.  Thus, to survivors the Holocaust represents such a traumatic and horrible event in the history of the Jewish people that to maintain sanity and the continuity of the Jewish people the naked truth of the Holocaust must be shrouded in  layers of protection. This can only be done by developing a narrative in which one must bear witness to the atrocity of the Holocaust and at the same time to force oneself to put away in the  "locked box" of one's mind many of the most troubling details. History has shown that as a result of  some survivors refusal to create a narrative many of them eventually abandoned Judaism, disavowed a belief in G-d, and in some extreme cases actually acknowledged G-d but only through their outward hatred and contempt for him.
        It is important to understand that after the Holocaust my father did find peace with G-d.  Although he was not Shomer Shabbas, a 100% Sabbath Law observer, perhaps due to the realities of being a sole proprietor of a retail shoe store, he always observed the Jewish holidays.  As he grew older he became more and more observant. He made sure that his children received a Jewish education, his sons have Bar Mitzvahs, and he paid for several trips for his children to go to Israel.  All these efforts were made in order that his children remained Jewish.    Practically speaking, he understood that against all odds he personally survived relatively unscratched by the horrors of the Nazis.  He understood that his surviving  the Holocaust was nothing less than a miracle.  For it logically acknowledged that only G-d has the capacity to perform miracles.  Thus, he reserved his hatred for the German people that capriciously gave Hitler the reigns for controlling one of the most powerful countries in the world.  My father would say that people killed Jews and these people were the Nazis and their anti-Semitic helpers.  These helpers include many Poles.  Still, he could not hate all the Poles, because he understood that there were several that endangered their own lives to saved him.  But even more confounding was that he couldn't hate all Germans because he encountered a few Germans that helped him to survive. 

Like so many survivors he developed his narrative and remained true to it during his life.  He was always quick to point out that G-d never killed Jews during the Holocaust.  We must blame the haters. Thus, he steered clear of the very real danger of  constantly reopening his mind's long cauterized wounds.  For his focused mission was to provide for his family so that his children would grow up to to be good Jews. He therefore sacrificed the benefits of possible catharsis that may be achieved by unrestricted dialog concerning the Holocaust so as to insure that he and his family not turn away from G-d and the Jewish faith.
By my father telling me his account he made his only exception to this unwritten rule.  He probably reasoned that the unmentionable should only be discussed between those who have experienced the real danger of being a Jew. Few American born Jews can understand this danger because they have lived lives where being a Jew was safe.  Moreover, the teachers, rabbis, and Jewish leaders have long ago decided that the tragic history of the Jewish people was to be softened,  muted, white washed and best ignored. 
I conducted a series of interviews with my father in the appropriate location,   the very house that I grew up. Each session lasted about hour. It took several days to complete. During the interviews,  I used a tape recorder and did not taking any physical notes. I did this in order to allow for a flow of information that was not subject to interruption or distraction. The format for the interviews was that the first part  he would  tell his story in chronological order beginning with his birth and continuing through his childhood and the prelude of the Holocaust.  When he finished we started the second part in which he told of his Holocaust saga that began when he reached age twenty, the year Poland was invaded until his liberation by the Russian Army in January, 1944.   The final part was  his post-Holocaust experiences in Poland, Germany and finally America. As he spoke, I would only interrupt to ask questions for the purpose of clarify a point or lead my father in a direction that I felt it was necessary that he further elaborate.
Upon finishing our last session, I confess, I was emotionally drained.  Also I was disappointed in myself as well as depressed that  only now I comprehended what the Germans forced my father endure. Compounding this feeling, I came to the realization of the magnitude of  my father's suffering as a result of the Holocaust upheaval.  Only then did I too begin to internalize this tragedy. 
At the conclusion of the final interview,  I stared at my father feeling proud that I was the son of such a man. I enthusiastically told him that him that the events that he endured and overcame were nothing less than a miracle.  I continued by declaring that it would be a sin that his account of the War be lost.  I then said it would be for me both an honor and a duty to publicize his account for the benefit of our family, Jews, and any human being interested in the travails of man. With that said, I asked his permission to publish his experiences.
I could tell by the look on his face that he was pleased with my reaction. I'm sure that he was thinking that in his opinion he was no different then any other Holocaust Survivor.  He saw nothing truly extraordinary in his life that others would find interesting.  But still,  he was pleasantly surprised that I thought his story was worthy to tell others. So he answered with the most modest reply, "[w]hatever you want to do is o.k."


I was now motivated and excited. After hearing my father's extraordinary saga at least I understood that my father's Holocaust experience would read even stranger than fiction.  Personally, I could come to no other conclusion other than that his survival must have been the result of actual supernatural intervention.   I felt as if I was presented with a treasure that may even possibly contain keys to revealing monumental hidden forces that are at work in our universe. 
The next day I started to put pen to paper.  As the pages began to pile up I slowly realized that I was inadequate prepared to author such an important project. For I found after reviewing these initial drafts of my Father’s account that I was not doing justice to his incredible story.  I said to myself that it was presumptuous to believe that my writing skills were sufficient for the task; let alone, I did not have the necessary historical background knowledge that was so essential to author such an important legacy.
I became so frustrated and despondent from my lack of progress that without consulting my father I stopped working on the project.  I lied to myself by saying that it was just a temporary break necessary to allow for my creative juices to start flowing. Mercifully, my father never asked me about my progress. As more and more time went by, I continued to rationalize that I did not abandon this project, rather, I was merely placing it on the "back burner."
Time flew by quickly raising two children.  I decided that now was the time to accomplish those things that I never got around to do. It was then that I  resolved that now was right time to make good on my pledge to my father and finally complete our long abandoned project. My father had already passed away but his voice on those several cassette tapes made it as if he was working with me side by side.

As my immediate family can attest, once I put my mind to doing something, I become obsessive-compulsive about it. This project was one that my entire family was glad that I was finally going to complete because for a long time I have been giving them a collective headache repeating the mantra that one day I would finish the book.
I came up with a bizarre roundabout idea on how to kick off the project.  Instead of just gong forward and writing the book I would modestly start out by telling his story by way of an Internet website.  The first step was to create a website. Luckily I found the perfect ally in this project, my son, Adi.  He was an adult in his early twenties who possessed the gifts, talents and skills to design a website. For he was like so many young people what I would describe as a computer maven. Websites to him was not just a hobby but  he actually got paid to create websites for companies and organizations.
As usual, I decided that I could get him to do this by employing my parental guilt powers.  So I just said to him that "I need you to create a Holocaust website that was dedicated to your  grandfather, his family and the destroyed Jewish Community of Radziejow.
I explained to him that such a blog would be a perfect vehicle to fulfill my commitment that I made to his grandfather. The ultimate goal of this website would include the memorization of the history and daily life of the once thriving Jewish presence in Radziejow. The website should somehow create a virtual Jewish Radziejow.
During this monologue I noticed that he had a strange look on his face.  I gathered he was thinking that it was not easy to be a son.  Still, after putting forth my vision of the website, he stared into my eyes with an incredulously look on his face and simply responded, "anything else."
My first thought was "success".  My second thought was that since his response was so "positive" he left opened the door to further exploitation.  So  I decided to run by him something I had been thinking about to be the website's mission.
"Your grandfather and I agreed that his family's building in Poland was unjustly stolen from him.  So shouldn't the website  give the Poles of Radziejow an opportunity to correct this injustice." I said these words in a convincing but slightly sarcastic tone.
My son, had over the years become a truly observant Jew.  He took more seriously the fifth commandment than I  did concerning honoring one's father.  For embarrassingly I had waited thirty years to show proper honor to my father whereas my son immediately set out to create this website that was just an idea in his father's mind.

To do this he methodically created the technical working structure that would serve as the foundation of the website. At various times he would ask for my input concerning my goals.  For example, one day he inquired about what web address would I like. I thought about it for a moment then rremembering the bit about getting my family's building back, so I replied, "[w]hat better name for this website then Polandinjustice.com."   
Don't misunderstand me, I knew that barring some sort of divine intervention, the Poles would never return The Najman property. Rather, I thought that an interesting website should contain a vehicle for telling the story of my father's lost world.  The building's ownership illustrated a central theme of the website.  For the Najman Building represented all the Jewish property that the Nazis stole during the War from the Jews of Radziejow and  that even after the War that theft was legitimized and made permanent by liberated Poles.
After creating this website my son and I soon became the custodians of a great deal of previously forgotten facts and lost evidence about my father, his family, and the Jews of Radziejow. For example, we were able to obtain an official hand written document that recorded the names of all the Jews that lived in the Radziejow Ghetto a short time before its liquidation. Shockingly, many of those names were hauntingly familiar.They were the names of my father's family including his, my relatives and many familiar names that I heard my mother and father talk about when I was a boy.I remembered that many were living in other parts of the United States, Canada, France, and Australia.  More  evidence arrived in my email. We received a photograph of the very Shul where my grandfather conducted the holiest of all prayer services, Nilah, for Yom Kippur. We received another photo from a child of a Holocaust survivor living in Toronto.The photograph was of the entire Jewish community of Radziejow's along with the Polish town officials that were present in the late 1930s dedication of the newly built Beit Rachel Synagogue. In the background of this remarkable photograph, is "Jewish Street", the center of Jewish life and later the location of the Nazi imposed ghetto.We also received a picture from a Polish travel agent of the Beit Rachel Synagogue after it was blown up by the Nazis. Likewise we received a photograph of the Jews forced to live in the Ghetto, complete with their cutout Jewish stars that they were ordered to wear on the front of their clothing. Of particular interest, we obtained a picture of the entire contingent of German soldiers and Gestapo at a ceremony in Radziejow's Market Square. Also we received a picture of dozens of Jewish men conscripted to do force labor, that were being marched out of Radziejow.These slave laborers were accompanied by a sharply dressed mounted German Police Officer. We discovered an actual picture of the Jews of the Radziejow Ghetto. And through my website a polish photographer sent me a picture of the Jewish Cemetery where my Grandparents and Great Grandparent's on my Grandmothers side were buried.Unfortunately, the cemetery no longer exists.It was partially dismantled during the War. After the War, it was transformed into a cement quarry.Today, it is a park.This is only a partial list of the amazing discoveries of our Polish roots. Of particular interest is a blurry photo that the sender said was that of the day the Jews of Radziejow were liquidated.  Then I received a few photos from the Radziejow librarian that showed the German troops that were sent to liquidate the Ghetto.

As the website grew we were able to reconstruct my father's life before, during and after the war. All this information was published on our website to be available to anyone that may be interested, alive today or even to those to be born in the distant future.  For as far as I know, one of the beauties and sometime curses of the Internet is whatever appears on it today will remain there for as long as the World Wide Web will continue.

After maintaining the website by writing blog articles for some years, one day, I had yet another  flash of inspiration. I understood it was time to fulfill my pledge to my father and actually write the book. For my part, it now seemed that the project was now actually feasible. Moreover, I reasoned that I was now older and wiser.  Likewise, time had improved  my writing skills for during my hiatus as a  lawyer for nearly twenty years I was constantly writing. Further, I had already collected enough supporting evidence during the life of my website along with the several stories I already posted to have a head start. Finally, as was astutely pointed out to me by the research librarian at the Farmington Hills Holocaust museum, that with the development of the Internet, I was now able to research many background historical issues almost instantaneously. As far as genealogy questions I received help from a website called Geni. Actually, I was first made aware of the site by Scott Dan, a distant cousin living in Ohio. With the help of this website combined with other resources I was able to construct a family tree dating back to the 1750s. For me, that was an astounding, equivalent in some way, to those blue blood Americans that date their lineage back to the landing of the Mayflower in Plymouth, Mass.
My first step in writing my Father's account was to locate those long forgotten cassette tapes recorded in the early 1980s. After some thought and searching I found  them in a torn plastic grocery bag at the bottom of a bedroom closet.Upon seeing them my first impression was that these cassettes would not work.The longevity for these cassette recordings has long passed being over thirty years old.  I put one in an old recorder that was laying around in the same closet, plugged it in, and to my surprise, the cassettes worked flawlessly.
My writing plan was that the book would be an exact account of Ben Neuman's experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. It would begin with my his experiences in the town of his birth Radziejow. It would then tell the story of a boy that grew into a young man only to become prey, hunted by Germans for no other reason that he was a Jew.  During his run for freedom he would find pure and inspiring humanity.  He would learn that there were good men and women willing to risk their lives in order to give him some assistance. .It would detail how he achieved his impossible dream of outlasting his insane evil Nazi tormentors and their "Thousand Year Reich".  The account would be told, for the most part, through his eyes and supplemented by the account of other survivors from his hometown, Radziejow.
As I started writing, I soon remembered one of the reasons for the long hiatus. I was inadequately equipped to place the saga in its proper historical context.Without accurate background material, the account would be subject to the simplest of criticism, that being that the story just doesn’t match up with historical facts. For example, on the very first tape my father mentions the assassination of the first Polish President of the Second Republic of Poland. He dated the assassination as occurring during the same year of his birth. So, on my first draft I gave a verbatim translation of the date of the assassination. However, on the second draft, I instinctively questioned the accuracy of his statement.  I asked myself how could he possibly know what actually happened when he was born? So I did some research on the Internet and found that the President was killed five days after entering office in the year 1922, three years after my father was born. The fact that my Father had the wrong date is not surprising, for he only repeated what was told him  when he was a boy.  However, writing a book and using the wrong date would be inexcusable.
        Also, thirty years earlier when I was trying to understand my Father's account, I discovered that a verbatim account was only one element of a saga. Standing alone his account was remarkable but his account could be strengthened by the many stirring stories told by other survivors of their experiences during the same parallel events.            
Moreover, now thirty years later, it dawned on me that what his saga lacked was what could be considered even more compelling,  the aftermath effect of his unique experience.  For his Holocaust legacy did not end with his liberation, nor did it end with his death. but rather it continued through the lives of his children and grandchildren.
So I discovered that I, the son of Ben Neuman, was an essential part of the saga.  My story was a continuation, a second book.  For it became clear to me that only by understanding how the  Holocaust's effects on my Father  and how it influence me, can a true picture emerge of the real ramifications of Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jewish People.
     It became clear to me that Hitler's slaughter of the Jews cannot be limited to the generally accepted figure of six million Jews. One must add on the much greater number of all the potential children and grandchildren that were never born. Only by taking into account this tremendous loss can a person begin to have a realistic understanding of the scope and size of the true calamity that occurred as the result of the German people placing their fate into the hands of a madman and his gang of murderers.
Also, I came to realize that a third book was necessary. Meaning, book one and book two leaves out  a most important aspect of the Holocaust.  I believe this most recent tragedy that has befallen the Jewish people must contain a glimmer of insights on our lives as fellow human travelers. So the third book in this trilogy  must discuss the major issues man that the Holocaust forces all humans to attempt to find meaning. It has become clear to me that by analyzing the Holocaust through my father's experiences it might be possible to find answers to many existential questions.
As I put finger to keys, I soon found that it was essential that I include historical background material as I wrote the narrative. For just as a foot soldier in battle only knows what is directly in front of him for he has no perspective of what it is taking place in the greater picture of the battle so to my father's experiences needs such context with the history of World War II. 
Interestingly my research revealed a distorted misconception that I as well as many other Jews maintained as truth concerning the Poles and their complicity in Hitler's Holocaust. I assumed that it was unquestionable that with the exception of a small number of  Poles it would be fair to  generalize that all Poles were anti-Semites at their core. Moreover, I accepted as a given that one of the reasons for this burning hatred towards Jews was that many priests taught the Poles that Jews were "Christ Killers" and therefore deserved whatever punishment G-d, through the Germans, deemed appropriate. And even though there are several examples of this type of behavior by Poles during and after the Holocaust,I was forced to conclude that to be honest and objective this wasn't  the case.
My research revealed that both Jews and Poles in Radziejow fared much better than there fellow citizens living in other towns. Still, to a lesser degree, like the Jews, these Poles also suffered horribly from the Nazi occupation.I further discovered that not all Poles that were anti-Semites before the War behaved as such during and after the War.I learned that there was no black and white logic during the Holocaust.Rather, there was a life and death struggle for Jews and Poles alike.Thus, any truth about the relationship between the Poles and the Jews was actually complicated and became determined by a number of factors. Therefore, it is only right that Poles living during the Holocaust should be judged on their individual behavior and at all costs we must avoid the easy method of stereotyping all Poles because of the bad behavior of some.
The materials used to write this account comes from several sources. First, and foremost, my personal interview of my father in the early 1980s. The interviews produced five 90 minute cassettes.Second, my father's interview by the Shoah Foundation that was established by Steven Spielberg.  This interview took place in his house in June 1996. It was conducted by Margaret Liftman for Survivors of the Shoah, Visual History Foundation. Third,  similar videotaped testimonies of ten other Survivors from Radziejow.  Fourth, the book, written by my "Aunt Yetka" entitled, A Promise Kept, To Bear Witness.  My aunt whose real name is Joyce Wagner, published her account in 2007. Fifth, my cousin's, Lenny Marcus, video documentary about Radziejow produced for Public Television of Boston.  Sixth, the research found on my website Polandinjustice.com. Sixth,  I conducted personal interviews with several Holocaust survivors that lived in Radziejow. Seventh, assistance from the Radziejow Library that included photographs of the German occupation of the town during World War II.  Finally, extensive internet research on Radziejow from several websites including Virtual Shtetl.
As a guide to my style of writing Ben Neuman is referred to as Binem or my father depending whether I am telling his story or those times that I directly speak to him.  Binem was his name in Poland. The name stayed with him when he left Poland in 1946 and moved to the largest of the HIAS camps for displaced Jews. His camp was located near Frankfort, Germany near the grounds of the former concentration camp Bergen Belson. His name remained Binem at his next stop when he immigrated to the United States in 1949 and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There he was supported by his oldest brother, Harry Neuman. Harry, to his great merit, took in my father and not only hosted him but went the extra step of setting him up in business. He did this even though they never personally met until my father  disembarked from the Marine Jumper, the passenger ship that sailed from Frankfort Germany to Ellis Island, New York. A few years later he married my mother, Bernice Halevy, and six months later on my mother's insistence  he moved to Chicago. In doing so he gave up Harry's protection and took a chance by moving to a strange city.  He did so because  my mother made it clear that she needed to live near her mother, Eve, and her grandmother who was only known to all of us as “Bubba”. Binem finally changed his name to Ben when he became an American citizen, on May 31, 1955, just a few months before my birth. My father lived out the remainder of his life in Chicago which was more than  fifty years.  During that time he became the father to three children, myself,  Scott, my older sister, Helene, and my younger brother, Keith.
The name Binem did not completely end for my father's citizenship in 1955.  For the rest of his life he continued to be Binem to all his Yiddish speaking greenhorn friends. Even my mother, a native born American, would occassionally switch back and forth from Ben to Binem.While I was growing up, I made it a point to “zone out” the name Binem because it reminded me that my father was some sort of foreigner.  I only called him and thought of him as dad.  As I grew older, the name Binem appealed to me because it created a link between my world and the lost world of my father.
Before the War the Jewish community of Poland was by many accounts considered to be the foundation stone of world Jewry. At the end of World War II the Jewish community of Poland was effectively non-existent. This end began with Hitler's Nazi Party took control of Germany in 1933.The dynamics became an unstoppable force. Hitler's speeches were heard in Poland and to those Poles that were already anti-Semitic, Hitler legitimized their hatred of the Jews. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 the Jews were long waiting for the inevitable. Like the German blitzkrieg, the Nazi killing machine blitzkrieg the Jews of Poland. As early as September 21, 1939, SS Obergruppenfuhrer, Reinhard Heydrich contacted all chiefs of the security police on the rules for rounding up Jews. The plan called for Jews to be collected into enclaves of five hundred or more. Radziejow was designated as the site for one of those enclaves.These enclaves later evolved into ghettos. Once the authorities compiled lists of all the Jews in each enclave, the Nazis were ready to implement Hitler's dream, the destruction of Polish Jewry. Heydrich, in January 1942, at the famous Wannsee Conference , prepared the blueprint for the final solution to the Jewish Question.That blueprint outlined the mechanism for the extermination of all Jews in Poland. According to the plan, the stronger Jews were to be worked to death while those not strong enough to work would immediately be liquidated. Binem was one of the strong ones.
         At the time of the German invasion of Poland Binem was just entering adulthood just turning  20 year old.  Soon thereafter the German sent him to a forced a labor camp a good distance away from his village. He worked there for nearly two years until he was told by the Nazis that the camp would be closed down and the workers were to be sent to another larger work camp named, Auschwitz. Binem knew from several rumors, that Auschwitz was nothing less than an extermination camp for Jews. So he did the only thing an innocent person could do, he escaped the Nazi round up at his work camp and he fled. Alone in his thoughts he had no clue what to do when the world around him crumbled. My father was thrusted into life's most dangerous  tests in which in order for his survival he was forced to withstand both the fury of nature's the world's most dangerous predator, man.   

When I confront the savage Holocaust I am most troubled that a civilized society would officially sanction the torture and murder of Jewish men, women, and children. Today, it is difficult to comprehend the reality of this enormous evil.  Making it even more incomprehensible is that that among European countries, just a decade earlier Germany was considered as one of the models of  civilized society.  Seemingly on a dime things changed with Hitler and his cohorts.  His signature barbarity incorporated into the law of the land his philosophy of hatred. Within a short period of time the Jews of Germany and those living in lands occupied by German forces were headed towards their doom. It was as if innocent people were loaded onto a roller coaster with tracks pointed in the direction of  flaming ovens.
When the liquidation of the Ghettos my father understood that he was to be murdered by either being shot, starved, beaten, or gassed. Binem knew that he was to be killed for only one reason. That reason being that he was a member of an outlawed religion. He accepted his fate because his status as Jew was beyond his control. Likewise, he understood that he had no other choice but to await the angel of death to finally get around to him.
Binem decided that just because he had no alternative but to be murdered didn’t mean he had to cooperate with his Nazi murderers.  He decided that his sole act of defiance would be to stubbornly refuse to surrender to his enemies. He had a simple plan. He was going to make the Nazis work to kill him. He would resist them by trying, against all odds,  to survive the War. He would play this game of death by his won rules. And perhaps, G-d willing, like winning a lottery, he held out for the very remote chance of winning the greatest prize of all, life! A simple plan, all he had to do was stay alive long enough until Germany was defeated. Binem's understood that the main flaw in his simple plan was that Germany was the most powerful country in the world. The nations and armies of Europe had been defeated and cowered. And as my father described himself a “skinny dried up Jew” was going to do what nations could not do, he was going to thwart the Nazis by living.
Astonishingly, as a result of several events that could be only described as miracles, Binem, to his complete astonishment, won the game of death and survived. He was lucky while the vast majority of his fellow Jews in Poland and throughout Europe were slaughtered by the Nazis. After the War he adjusted to a world where a Jew might be considered a normal human being. In the end he found himself living a secure and comfortable life in the United States.
Binem's ordeal was different from most of other survivors’ experiences during the Holocaust. Binem did not experience the horrors of a extermination camp.Nor did he survive by making his way to the safe harbor of the Allies' lines. No he was not a partisan fighting to free Poland from the Nazis. Nor did he devise some ingenious plan to outwit the Nazis. His was a simple strategy, run and hide.
In my opinion his plan required the greatest amount of heroism. For Binem was on his own, completely isolated from his fellow Jews.He lived in a constant state of starvation. He suffered alone the curses of nature which included the freezing cold winters and the storms that shook the very ground of his fragile existence. At the same time he was plagued by itching from being infested with lice. When he was sick there was no medicine.There was no one to care for him. There was not a sympathetic person to console him. He was completely alone.
Compounding these daily tortures was the reality that at any moment there was a very real possibility that he would be captured or immediately murdered. Binem knew this completely.  Every waking moment and even in his dreams he thought about the moment that he would be found by the Gestapo, caught in the fields by the German Army, or turned in by a collaborator when he begged food from the Poles, the game was over.
To maximize his chances for survival  he ventured that his best chance to survive would be to flee to the only place he was familiar with.That area was the fields, forests and villages that surrounded his once beloved Radziejow. He made this decision not because he spent his years exploring this area, thus he could rely on his superior knowledge of the area to survive. Just the opposite, he was as unfamiliar with these fields and forests as a city slicker is with the forest preserves near the city.  Still he believed that even though he was no expert on this area he at least can honestly say that he did know it better than anywhere else in Poland. So he decided to use that little knowledge to at least achieve a more realistic goal of just making it through the day in order to see what tomorrow might bring.
It will never be known exactly why he survived when others were caught and slaughtered. In my opinion, my father survived because he was either destined to survive from the very beginning of the Holocaust or he earned the right to survive by his actions during the War.
His odyssey is sprinkled with true miracles and unbelievable events. I am not saying this because I am his son and a believing Jew. As I write these words, today March 10, 2015, I was listening to the  radio and heard the story of a baby that was rescued from a car that overturned in a body of water.  For 14 hours the car was submerged.  The rescuers heard the cries of a woman for help coming from the car.  So they frantically worked and succeeded to find a woman long since drowned but the 18 month old baby still alive.  The accounts of the rescuers will always be true in their minds even though a rational human being knows that a dead mother cannot cry out for help to save her baby. So to it is with my father's saga, by all reasonable objective standards, based on his account, he shouldn't have survived.  But the fact is that he did. Thus, his survival forces me to conclude that a higher force had decreed that Binem was to survive just like the baby survived.
For those who conclude that he was just lucky, I most vehemently disagree. For by using the word luck to  explain his survival is just a convenient way to avoid the need to challenge the scientific rational world we live in demands of us to unquestionably subscribe to. I cannot conclude that his survival was by sheer luck.   I do accept that there are situations that a person can seem to be lucky. After nearly 60 years of live on this planet I have seen luck rule out on several occasions. And I further accept that luck does not need to be explained in terms of intervention by higher forces. Further, I would say that that some people can for a short period of time be very lucky. However, in my father's case luck cannot be the answer for no  one is lucky for long consecutive periods of time.  In my father's case, over four years. My life experiences have taught me that long term luck doesn't exist. I am not alone in this conclusion, just ask the highly rich Las Vegas casino owners that do not bet that luck can last for any long term period of time!


This book encompasses the true story of one of the last Jew of an entire region. He became a kind of ghost haunting the local populous. His existence caused Poles to conclude that the invincible Germans aren't so invincible if they couldn't even catch a “skinny dried up Jew”. He was reminder to the Poles that Jews were once living among them and the Germans hauled them away just as garbage is collected. For those he touched during his journey he was an enigma.He represented a test for them to see how they would react to this sorry reminder of the past. His survival tells of the profundity of mankind's short and tenuous life on this tiny planet.
Binem's journey ended several decades later with his death on Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Spring of 2006. When I visit his grave my eyes always focus on two words on Binem's gravestone that best describe his life, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR.



















































THE HOLOCAUST EFFECT - Part 1 - FORWARD - and Pages 1-27

FORWARD


My father, Ben Neuman, was a Holocaust survivor. He experienced unimaginable suffering over a period of several years. His ordeal included starvation, exposure to the cruel Polish winters, and constant fear of certain death. Near the end of the war, as a result of a chance encounter, he survived. His salvation was linked to a pact that required him to protect a Gestapo agent.
In 1944 Nazi Germany began to collapse as a result of a relentless onslaught by the Allies on two fronts. During this period my father finally found refuge with a rich and powerful family living just outside of Binem's hometown Radziejow. The husband was German and the wife was Polish. They owned a thirty room mansion that was surrounded by a sprawling country estate. My father affectionately referred to the wife as the “Polish Princess”. After being sheltered by the two for several months Binem was confronted by the couple’s son, a German officer, who was on a short leave for Christmas.  The son had been experiencing the fury of the Soviet Union on the Russian Front.  When the parents told him that they were hiding a Jew the son insisted he meet with him alone. Without warning Binem, the awkward meeting was arranged.  After the initial startling encounter, the two young men engaged in a surreal conversation. The Nazi son made it clear that the demise of Germany was near. The regally dressed soldier who pledged loyalty to Adolf Hitler, may his name be erased, did something quite unexpected.  He managed to extract a pledge from my father to protect his parents once the war ended. He had his reasons for picking this hapless Jew. He knew what was in store for his parents once the Russians arrived. For he had already witnessed the in kind cruelty that the Russians meted out to Germans regardless if they were soldiers and civilians. My father, who had endured the unrelenting hardship from the Nazi ilk this son had fought for,  had zero compassion to this smiling Nazi; however,  he had strong feelings for the Polish Princess.  Since he had nothing to lose by agreeing and everything to lose by refusing Binem gave the appropriate commitment.  He agreed to use his best efforts to try and save this soldier's  Nazi's parents but he could not guarantee that he would be successful. 
A short time later the Russian army liberated Binem. Only then did my father learn that the soldier's father who he swore to try and protect was in fact a German spy before the War and during the occupation of Poland he was a Gestapo officer. At that time Binem was but a shell of a man. He weighed a mere 114-pound.  His mind was clouded by  the haunting memories of his life prior to the War, his tragic odyssey during the Holocaust and what his life would be as one of the  few Jewish survivors.  If this load was not heavy enough he now had the additional burden to somehow serve as the protector of a hated couple. In essence he was to stand alone between the Russians conquerors and his German rescuers.


* * *
My father died of natural causes at age 83.  The date of his death was April 29th, 2003 which happened to be Holocaust Memorial day. I point this out because had he been murdered as a result of the Holocaust I would not exist.
 At his funeral I represented the family and delivered the eulogy. For the Rabbi in charge of the funeral it was an unusual request since the ceremony was taking place during a period on the Jewish calendar that no eulogies are allowed.  However, as my son would say I "know just enough about Judaism to be dangerous." So after some persuasion peppered with some accepted exceptions to this rule  the Rabbi relented.  I truly wanted to speak that day because I felt that it was important for the hundred or so people in attendance to understand the true miracle of my father’s existence.


     My father was a quiet hero.He was a true survivor in so many ways.His life was filled with many tragedies as well as triumphs. He lived through the worst nightmares we can imagine and persevered.
     Dad grew up in a very religious home in the village of Radziejow in Poland. He was the second youngest of eleven brothers and sisters. His brothers and sisters, like so many in Poland at the time, were less religious than their parents.But because my father was the youngest son, he was the one my grandfather pushed to maintain the traditions.
     My father went to public school from early morning to early afternoon.  As soon as the school bell rung he rushed to  attend cheder for his Jewish studies.When he finally arrived home in the evening, he would study with my Grandfather Talmud until late into the night.
      The Nazis invaded Poland when my father was twenty years old.He observed my grandfather, Shimon Najman, the most trusted member of the Jewish community, refuse to allow the Nazis to change his religious ways. For example, my father begged him to shave his beard lest the Nazis use it as a pretext to beat him.  My grandfather “compromised” by placing a handkerchief over his beard.\
      The Nazis first acts in occupying Radziejow, my father's hometown, were to humiliate the Jews by an endless set of laws to degrade the Jews.  These included roll calls in which the Jews were degraded before the townspeople.  But my grandfather refused to participate. He simply continued to study Talmud in his living room despite the family’s pleas for him to cooperate.
     Within months of the beginning of the occupation my grandfather became ill. He died at home surrounded by his still-intact family and was then buried by the community with dignity. Some attending the funeral remarked that Shimon Najman’s death received a blessing from G-d by allowing him to  pass away at home rather than face what the Nazis had in store for the Jews.
     Two years later the Jews of Radziejow were liquidated by the Nazis. During the liquidation of the Ghetto, my father was a laborer in a forced-labor camp with his brothers.When they learned what happened to the Jews of Radziejow his brothers told him that they were doomed, but as the youngest brother, he must somehow survive.
      So my father escaped and hid in the fields surrounding his village. He had no food, no shelter, and no plan. Life became unbearable. So unbearable that he decided to end his misery. Late one night he crept into the Jewish cemetery where his father was buried. First he prayed and then he cried.When he was done he removed his belt and wrapped it around his neck. He then pulled as hard as he could at the belt, but nothing happened. So he took a substance that he had in his pocket that he was sure was poisonous and swallowed it. Again nothing happened.  He suddenly heard a voice in the wind moaning, “Get out of here.” So he ran away, feeling that he failed at even trying to kill himself.
     And thank G-d that he did because he survived. What drove him to survive was his desire to watch the Nazis suffer as he and the Jewish people suffered. His vision was achieved when he watched the Russians liberated him and then they administered vengeance on the Nazi barbarians.
     After the war, he did not know where to go or what to do so he returned to his town.The Russian officials drafted him as a police officer. He moved back into the house of his birth. There were no longer any Jews left but him but soon a few others returned.He soon found that the Poles of his town were not so happy that the Nazis had failed to kill all the Jews. Within a year a friend on the police force warned him that there were people plotting to kill him.
     So my father took flight from his beloved Radziejow never to return again. He ended up near Frankfurt, Germany at Bergen Belson, an infamous concentration camp now-turned refugee camp. There, his name was published on a list of survivors that was sent around the world.
     An older brother, Harry Neuman, who had left Poland when my father was four years old, located him. My father had already signed up to go to Palestine to help establish the State of Israel, Harry convinced him through letters that he had already lived through hell, and it was time to begin living a normal life. He decided to listen to his brother's advice and immigrate to the United States. He moved in with Harry and his wife Ida in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There his brother set him up in business, and most importantly gave him the tools to live a normal life.
     Soon thereafter, my father decided it was time to find a wife.He took dancing lessons at the Fred Astaire Studio. He was set up to meet Bernice Halevy, from Chicago, Illinois.They couldn’t have been more different.She was born and raised in the United States, spoke Yiddish, but knew little about the Jewish religion.She was always known as tomboy. During the war, she had volunteered in the spirit of “Rosie the Riveter” and became a welder in a munitions factory. She matured into a woman who was lovely but always remained tough as nails. On the other hand, my father was a quiet man. He was still experiencing the after-effects of the Holocaust. But they fell in love and got married.
     My mother forced my father to give up his business in Milwaukee and move to Chicago.He knew how to sell shoes from his family business in Poland so he went to work at Mailings Shoe Store in downtown Chicago. One of the salesmen took advantage of my father because he was a greenhorn. He stole  my father’s customers and robbed him of his commissions.After discussing it with my mother, my father took the salesman into an alley and taught him a lesson. That salesman never took a penny away from my family again.
     As a child, I watched my father sleep in an odd manner.When he slept, his legs would constantly be moving.My mother said he was dreaming that he was running from the Nazis.
     My parents ultimately decided to open their own shoe store, Ben’s Shoes, in the 1960s. Through robberies, shakedowns, slow business and thriving business, my father raised three American children that grew up to be proud Jews.
     After my mother died, I watched my younger brother Keith care for my father until his last days.  My father's health deteriorated. His lungs were bad.  He had heart problems, His hearing was impaired. He could barely see. Still, as long as he was alive, I always felt I was someone’s child. But today, at age forty-seven, I realize that I now have to fully grow up and play the role of a mature adult as my father did.
     My wife, my children, and I will miss Grandpa because we know that if he did not survive the Holocaust we would not be here today.


     After I finished speaking, I returned to my seat satisfied that I honored my father.While the Rabbi spoke my mind wandered. I finally stared at the casket that was about ten feet in front of me. Completely at ease I experienced a waking dream. I saw my father hovering above and behind the casket. He was in a standing position. The entire area around him was basked in a soft calming light. He was dressed in a shroud and wore a shimmering tallis, or prayer shawl. He stood between two similarly dressed apparitions. The vision felt natural, it was as if I was experiencing a very pleasant ceremony.  I  felt enveloped with a feeling of peace and tranquility.The vision ended as naturally as it had begun. It suddenly occurred to me to turn to my sister and brother and ask them if they were watching the same thing.  Unfortunately they both answered that they did not see a thing.


* * *


      Since my father was a Holocaust survivor that fact elevates me to the honored status of being the child of a Holocaust survivor.  By writing this book I now feel that I have earned the right to this honor.

           The process started way back in 1981.  One day I sat down with my father and he recalled his personal experiences during the Holocaust.When he was done I felt that the events he described were so extraordinary that he had what could only be described to have experienced a series of miracles. I do not say this flippantly. To illustrate such a claim let me cite a few examples. He related that soon after he escaped from his work camp he became so depressed that he decided to end his life. So he returned to his hometown, Radziejow, and walked around the middle of town waiting for a Nazi, German, or Pole to catch him. Miraculously, no matter what he did that day no one paid the least amount of attention to him.  The only words he could use to describe this eerie day was that he must have been invisible! Similarly, after the War, my father was walking alone one night through the lonely streets of Alexandrow. Out of nowhere, a man appeared and addressed him by name. My father was startled; he had thought the streets were completely deserted. He asked the man, “How do you know my name, and by the way what is your name?”The man answered,“That’s not important.”He continued, “Europe is a Jewish cemetery; you must leave Poland now.” My father turned his head for a mere second, and when he looked back, the man had disappeared.He searched the area frantically for the mysterious man, but could not find him. Soon thereafter, he fled Poland to avoided being murdered as a result of contract being put out on him by a group of Polish anti-Semites.


* * *


The purpose of this book is to memorialize my father’s life as well as the Jews of Radziejow that were murdered by the Nazi scourge. Today, Jewish Poland as it was before the Holocaust is no more. There is not a single Jew remaining in Radziejow.All that remains of the world of the Jews of Radziejow are the descendants of the survivors scattered throughout the world. The children of the survivors and their children are living examples of Hitler’s failure to destroy the Jewish people.
My father’s saga portrays a unique perspective of how the Jews were sytematically murdered during the Holocaust and how he became one on the few survivors. Ben Neuman lived over the War  because of two factors. First, he had a unique skill of knowing how to successfully deal with the Germans, Poles, Russians. Second, and more importantly, he was destined to do so.  It is my hope that when the reader reflects on Binem's experiences this will cause one to reexamine his or her own perspective concerning our lives on this small planet called Earth and its relationship to the vastness of our universe.


                                          PART ONE
                                          THE  HOLOCAUST SAGA


Bimem Najman

The First World War ended on November 11, 1918.  Seven months later a sixth son was born to a pious Jew living in a small provincial Polish town. The town’s name is Radziejow. The exact month and day of the boy’s birth was never definitively determined. The boy was named seven days later at his circumcision.  The pious man and his wife named the boy Binem.  Binem was to grow up, survive the harshest of times, and moved to the United States.  Thirty six years later, known as a double chai (chai meaning life) in Jewish mysticism, Binem had his first son.  He named the boy after his pious father, Shimon. I, Scott Neuman, am Shimon. And my father, Ben Neuman, is Binem.

      As a side note, Binem's birthday was always a family inside joke.  We officially celebrated his birthday on June 10.  We claimed that date as his birthday because it was the date my father used when filling  out applications for visas, passport, marriage license, etc... .  However, my Father confessed that his actual birthday was probably not on that date.  We would patiently listen to his explanation for this mystery every year at his birthday celebration. It would begin after he blew out the candles.  He would grin at all of us then he would announce that today probably was not his actual birthday.  He stated that it was a known fact by everyone in his hometown that any official dates were usually not the actual dates.   As far as the issuance of birth certificate, he explained that the procedure was that upon a child's birth that information was written on an official form by a certain lazy town official whose job was to register all local births with Poland's central government.  Upon  receipt by the proper office the  central government would commence the official registration.  The problem was that the official in that office used the date that he received it.  Exacerbating matters, the same bored town official in Radziejow had for some time unilaterally  decided it was easier if he would send the birth certificates together.  Meaning, he would collect a pile of these  forms from several births and then send them all in one neat package to the central government.  Months later the parent would receive an official birth certificate. As a result my father's actual birthday was a mystery to him.  If that confusion was not enough religious Jews in Poland celebrated birthdays according to the Hebrew lunar calendar.  Meaning the actual birthday on the solar calendar changed each year. Moreover, my father's mother died when he was a small boy.  His father, a Talmudic scholar, had little time for such things as birthdays. Let alone calculating the actual birth date on what he called the "goyisha" calendar.  Therefore, the only date that my father had as a reference to his actual birth date was the date on his official birth certificate.
Map Depicts Radziejow When the Town Was Controlled By Russia

These ad hoc practices by government officials were typical in Radziejow. The town was considered by the cental government authorities as a small rural town.  When my father was born the closest border was more than thirty miles away.  That was the border with Germany.  However, during different times in Poland’s history Radziejow was controlled by not only Poland but also Germany and Russia.  Just a few short years before Binem was born, Radziejow was part of Russia.  It was my father's understanding that the town was literally on the border between Germany and Russia.  He was told that the Russian occupiers were extremely anti-Semitic and that manifested itself by Russian soldiers constantly harassing Jews.  Russian soldiers would often make a special visit to Radziejow for the sole purpose of harassing the Jews.  They did this by pulling on the the beards of Jews along with other degrading acts.  These bullies had but one purpose, that being, to humiliate the hated Jews.
According to my father, in a bit of historical irony, in an act of sheer desperation by the town’s Jewish leaders, a delegation was sent to Germany to beseech the German government to take control over Radziejow.  Germany at this time was led by the Kaiser.  Upon hearing this request, and of course with other considerations, he sent in the German army to take over the town.  The German justification for this border seizure was to protect the Jews.  And in fact the Jews were grateful and felt much safer under the protective umbrella of Germany.  Some decades later when World War II erupted, many Jews of Poland fled German controlled Poland to Russian held territory.  A few weeks later, when Russia invaded Poland in the East, some Jews actually fled to German controlled territory because historically the Germans treated the Jews better than the Russians. WWII, Gilbert.
My father, Binem Neuman, was born in the period that Poland regained its independence.  The reborn nation was a result of the division of Germany's territories which was a consequence of Germany's surrender. In 1918 Poland became known as the Second Polish Republic,   
 At the time of Binem's birth Poland was at war with the new Soviet Union. In November of 1917 Vladamir Lenin leader of the Communist revolution, became its dictator.  The war began in 1919 and ended in 1921.  In a decisive battle, known today as the Battle of Warsaw, Poland was victorious. Many historians agree that this decisive battle essentially stopped Communist plans to sweep across Western Europe.   The war ended in March of 1921with the signing of a treaty known as the Peace of Riga.
     Binem was told that during the War with Russia the Jewish community of Poland was threatened with a particular virulent strain of Polish anti-Semitism.  A group of rabble rousing nationalists charged that the Jews never assimilated into mainstream Polish society and therefore constituted a fifth column. This group made the audacious diatribe that the Jews conspired with Russia to help Russia defeat Poland.  This accusation filtered its way to Radziejow.  Locals branded the Jews as traitors. These Jew-haters pointed out that in recent local history the Jews petitioned a foreign government, Germany,  for their own benefit.
Around the same time, Gabriel Narutowicz, the first President of Poland, was tragically assassinated five days after taking office on December 11, 1922.  The assassin , Eliguiusz Niewiadomski, was believed to be a member of the right wing National Democratic Party.  This same party would later align itself with Hitler's anti-Semitic polices prior to the outbreak of World War II.   Many believed that the assassin acted on the false rumor that the President was married to a Jewess.  
Under the guise of patriotism, several city officials of Radziejow without cause arrested several prominent Jews. These Jews were falsely charged with treason for alleged collaboration with the Russians during the War.   It was irrelevant to the persecutors and prosecutor that the accused Jews were never even involved in politics.  The sole rationale for their arrests was a timeless moneymaking scheme used by anti-Semites for extorting the Jewish community.  In this case the plan was to implement a newly established criminal statute to justify the  arrest of  Jews and charge them with the capital crime of treason.  Government officials dropped the hint that if the Jews were to pay  a ransom then the charges would be dropped.
     The ransom demanded was the then enormous sum  of 100,000 zloty.  When the Jewish community complained that this extortion amount was impossible to raise. The government officials doubled down and said if the Jews failed to pay the ransom, then the hostages would be killed.    To understand the enormity of the ransom demand one need only review official documents that calculate that the total value of all the Jewish community properties in Radziejow in 1938 was valued at 18,000 zloty.  These crooked town officials demanded a sum over five times that amount. 
     The Jews of Radziejow, just like the Jews throughout the nearly 2,000 years of exile,  painfully realized that they had no alternative but to somehow find a way to pay the ransom as the only way to save their innocent lantzmen, which in Yiddish means relatives and friends.  Those Jews  appointed by the Kehilla (Jewish Community Governing Committee) that were made  responsible to collect this ransom made it quite clear to their fellow town Jews that if they failed to collect the ransom then the community would have to bear the guilt of standing by and watching the execution of innocent Jews.  Left unsaid but the Jews implicitly understood that if the hostages were executed the Poles that would not end this tragedy.  For the execution would surely be followed by a pogrom against the whole Jewish community. So against all odds the money was collected and presented to the extortionists before the arbitrary deadline expired.   The hostages were subsequently released. 
A short time after the release, the Kehilla filed a formal protest with the national government.  To the credit of the new Government of Poland, an investigation was conducted to determine the facts surrounding the payment of the ransom .  The investigators concluded that malfeasance was perpetrated by several town officials.  This resulted in  an actual  judicial proceeding.  Evidence was presented to determine  whether the Jewish Community of Radziejow should be compensated as a victim of government corruption. After a lengthy trial that  examined all the evidence presented, the Court, to the surprise of all, ruled for the Jews; to the  consternation of a good many of the town's Poles.  The Court ordered the local government to disgorge the ransom money and return the entire amount to the Jewish Community.

        When I searched for Radziejow on the map it soon becomes clear that this would not be simple. Many towns in Poland such as Radziejow and Piotrkow share its names with other towns in Poland that are located in different provinces. Sometimes the names are spelled exactly the same and other times they are spelled slightly differently. For example there is a town named Chelmo that it is relatively near to Radziejow and there is another Chelmo that is located near to the infamous extermination camp Chelmo in the southern part of Poland.
Radziejow and Surrounding Countryside

The town of Radziejow is located in Kuyavian-Poverainian Province.  It sits  ideally on a moraine hill approximately 124 meters above sea level. It is picturesquely surrounded by the countryside's lush greenery and the rolling fields of farmland.  Dotting the landscape are haystacks, shacks, farmhouses, barns, cottages and even mansions located on large estates. 



Springtime in Radziejow


Crops Begin to Grow in a Field Near Radziejow

Spring turns Radziejow and the surrounding countryside into a kind of Garden of Eden.  The forests turn green and the crops in the fields begin to grow.  This continues until Autumn when the harvest season arrives and nature reaches its peak. Golden stalks rise high towards the sky covering the fields created like a dense forest.  Peasants scurry as they cultivate their fields.  All this in a cacophony of sounds such as the humming of buzzing insects.  To top it off the sweet fragrance of wild flowers permeates everywhere.  

After Harvest in a field Near Radziejow
Winter in Radziejow

When the harvest ends the countryside completely transforms.  Winter arrives and the fields become  a barren wasteland. Still the fond memories of  the forests, the smell of the wild flowers and the vitality of nature affords the citizens of Radziejow solace to await the Spring when the cycle of life renews.  
Radziejow is a relatively short distance away from one of Europe's major rivers, the Vistula.  The town is located within a few hour's drive of Bydoszcc, Pozan, Lodz and Warsaw. As a result of this central strategic location Radziejow could be described as a national  football for Poland's neighbors in that it periodically changes possessions with neighboring Russia and Germany.  
Map of Poland 1770
     
Radziejow's was located within Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century.  In fact when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 he used this disputed area as an excuse to immediately annex, Radziejow and  incorporated into Greater Germany. 
The Germans called this region Wartheland.  The Nazis changed the town's name from Radziejow back to its German name, Radichau.   At the time of annexation the incorporated area known as the Wartheland was about 92,000 square kilometers in size and its popluation was about ten million. (Poland's Holocaust, p.8).  As part of Hitler's so called reunification of this territory into Germany, it was  planned that the Army would soon completely empty the land of Poles or Jews and replace them with Europeans that the Nazis have officially labeled ethnic Germans. ( WWII, Gilbert). 
The history of Jews living in Poland dates back to the thirteenth century. King Kazimierz III and then later King Boleslav of Poland granted charters that invited Jews from around the world to live in Poland.  The charters contained several specific provisions meant to attract Jews.  Those provisions included promises to provide a safe haven for Jews; for at the time Jews were being expelled from several European countries.  Even in places where banishment was not yet ordered the Jews in those countries suffered greatly.  Poland's new charters providing a welcome invitation was thought by many of the long suffering Jews as a gift from G-d.
Interestingly, it has longed been said among Jews that the very name Poland can be divided into two Hebrew words.  The first syllable Po meaning here.  The second syllable land was similar to the Hebrew word loon meaning lodging place.  A prominent Rabbi even went so far as to remark  that  G-d knew that one day the Jews would be exiled from Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel). To protect his people he hid away in Heaven a portion of Eretz Yisroel so when the time came that the Temple would be destroyed he would return this piece of Eretz Yisroel and place it  in Poland so it could serve as to be a resting place for the Jews during their exile.  (Poland's Holocaust, p. 35).
Historical accounts concerning the town of Radziejow date back as early as the 12th century. About three hundred years later there are references that Jews began to settle there.  One of these records show that a Jewish synagogue was located in Radziejow in the early 1500s.  Later that century, around 1546, a king's edict ordered all the town Jews be banished from living in the town.  Two centuries later, the Jews returned.  By the 1770s, Jews made up approximately five percent of the town residents.  Those Jews were restricted to reside and do business  along Torunska Street which became a main street.  Under the Nazis that same street was where the  Jewish ghetto was placed.


Radziejow and surrounding countryside back in the 1800s

The Jews engaged in a variety of professions and businesses.  By 1862, Jews were no longer required to live in the vicinity of Torunska Street.  By then, the street was known by Pole and Jew alike as Jewish Street.  Even with this newly granted freedom, the Jews, for the most part,  remained living and doing business along and nearby  to Jewish Street.  The reason for this is simple; Jews enjoy living and working together.  Likewise, they loved to be around the familiar sounds and smells that could only be found on Torunska Street. 
Jewish life is demanding with its communal prayer times along with many food restrictions.  So for the Jews of Radziejow it was convenient to live close to the Shul (house of prayer),  kosher bakery, and kosher butcher shop.  It was a delight for them to just stroll along Torunska and take in the sweet smell of different breads that were baked fresh daily; but, of course, never on Shabbos.  Likewise, the Jews enjoyed the hustle and haggling found at the kosher butcher shops where a variety of meat delicacies were to be found.  Likewise the familiar sound of animals awaiting kosher ritual slaughter seemed to shout in the ears of a Jew, "I am home!"Even the unpleasant smell of those same animals created a certain sense of inner tranquility.  To sum it up, the Jews of Radziejow felt secure among their lantzmen (Jewish relatives or friends).
Street located in Radziejow 
 
The Jewish community was located in a row of houses and businesses along Torunska Street. Jack Marcus, a Holocaust survivor,  stated that as far as the Jewish community was concerned  it was called Yiddishe Street. The building architecture was unremarkable being comprised of one story shops on both sides of a gravel road. A majority of the shops had living quarters behind the retail space and above. None of the shops were noteworthy because they were little more than shack like structures with some of the more larger stores being slightly more elaborate by the adorned display windows. There were no trees lining the side of the road.  The vast majority of the traffic on the street was pedestrian. Next was the horse drawn wagons. Few motor vehicles were to be found traversing Yiddishe Street; or for that matter, Radziejow itself.


Radziejow Jewish Day School. 1916-1917

 There were two Jewish houses of worship in Radziejow.  The first one was located across from the corner where Torunska Street begins.  The building was not only a place for prayer but also an after day school schoolhouse.  Within the building there were two separate minyans (congregation of ten or more men required for communal prayer), one Chassidic and one Traditional-Orthodox.  The minyans met three times a day, 365 days a year.   The building had a large Beit Midrash (study hall) as well as classrooms. 

The second synagogue, Beit Rachel, was built in the mid 1930s.   It was located near the center of Jewish Street, approximately five blocks away from the first synagogue.  Beit Rachel during its short period of existence served the mainstream type orthodox Jews along with  many Jews that considered themselves modern, progressive, and some even thought of themselves as secular.  The strictly observant Jews remained loyal to the old house of worship and study.
Be it Rachel -Opening Ceremony mid  1930s

In contrast to the near non existing building standards of Radziejow, Beit Rachel was built according to the best building practices available at that time.  Both Jews and Gentiles agreed the building was both opulent and sound. For example, it was unusual for a structure in Radziejow to be built of brick.  Beit Rachel was completely constructed of this material.  In fact, the contractor made sure that only the finest building materials of the day were used in its construction.  He claimed that the building was virtually fireproof.  Unfortunately, only a few years after it was opened the Germans proved that even a fireproof building could not withstand the destructive capabilities of the Nazis.
The first and only Rabbi of Beit Rachel was Chaim Plotgevitz.  He was the Rabbi of the old Shul starting in 1926. His politics was that of pro-Zionist leanings. In fact his son Menacham immigrated to Israel after the Holocaust and lived there well past the 1980s.  Menacham operated a liquor store on the main business street in Tiberias, next to the Sea of Galilee.  The previous Rabbi was Sziojma Grodzinski who served the community from the year Binem was born, 1919, until he left this position in 1924.  
 After Germany’s humiliating defeat in World War I, as per the terms of the armistice agreement imposed by the victorious allies, German territories and lands were taken away. Radziejow was one of these areas. It was incorporated into the newly reestablished country of Poland. At that time, the population of the town was about seven thousand people. Binem was one of the less than one thousand Jews residing in the village.
Binem parents were Shimon Najman and Hinda Pocziwy.  Shimon was born in the town of Piotrkow Kujawski which was the nearest town to Radziejow.  It was located south of Radziejow, less than six miles away.   Shimon's father's name was Moshe Najman and his mother's maiden name was Maria Braun.  
As a side note, the names of towns in Poland present a novice researcher with a significant problem.  Many towns such as Radziejow and Piotrkow share their names with other towns in Poland.  Sometimes the names are spelled exactly the same and other times they are pronounced the same way but are spelled slightly differently.  For example, a town close to Radziejow called Chelmo shared its name with the town where the first extermination camp, Chelmo.  The two towns are less separated by less than a hundred miles. Radziejow itself shares its name with similar  named towns such as Rydzewo, Jezewo, 
Shimon, Binem's father, was one of twelve children. The oldest sibling was named Hersz.  Hersz was  followed by Masza Masha Shayman, Markus, Perel Gitel, Michal, Mindia Lecycka, Nachman Nuchem, Izrael Ber, Rywka, Szmul, Abram Jakob, Szymon (Shimon), and Mendel.   At one time Shimon's brother Hersz lived in Radziejow because he married a woman from the town named  Bajia Leszcynska.  He and his wife had eight children.  It is unclear whether Herz continued to live in Radziejow, because my father never mentioned him in his interviews.  His only comment about Shimon's side of the family was that they were not close.  Still, Manes, a cousin of Binem from his father's side, and also a Holocaust survivor, lived in Radziejow and was among Binem's closest friends.   Binem did state that he had several cousins that were in the Polish Army when Germany invaded Poland.  He remorsefully said that those that were not killed during the invasion were captured and later murdered by the Germans.
Moshe Najman was Binem’s grandfather. He was doctor that died in a plague.  Unfortunately we have no information concerning Binem’s grandmother.
Najman Family before the birth of my father, Binem - Photo includes my great grandparents, Baer and Miraim Poczciwy, my granparents Shimon and Hinda Najman
   
   Hinda was Binem’s mother.  Her maiden name was Poczciwy.  Her father's name was Baer and her mother's name was Miriam.  The Pocziwys lived continuously in Radziejow from the 1700s.  Hinda's grandmother was Hana Lajerowicz and her grandfather was Shimon Lajerowicz.  Her great grandfather was Jacob Gradowski and her great grandmothers name was Maya Gradowska.  
My Grandmother, Hinda Najman
Hinda was one of eleven children.   The oldest was Hudis Wagner. Hudas was followed by Hinda (Neuman), Max (Levy), Szymszon , Izrael Szymsio, Hudes Ryfka, Sam (Levy), Izrael (Levy), Gitel (Witkowski), Chava Brenner, and Chaim.   Hinda's brothers and sisters lived in Radziejow.  Sam, Izrael, and Max emigrated to the United States prior to the Holocaust.
The listing of the names of Binem's relatives serves two purposes.  First, one reason for writing this book is to show the roots of the Najman family and Binem’s life in Radziejow. Another reason for the list is that all the names give context to the scope of the losses involved in the Nazi created nightmare called today, The Holocaust.  A quick calculation reveals that both Hinda and Shimon's come from families of ten to twelve siblings.  And their siblings each had a corresponding number of children.  In turn, Shimon and Hinda had eleven children.  Many of their children were of the age to have had several of their own children prior to World War II.  A quick mathematical projection shows the sheer number of Jews murdered by the Nazi menace and the scope of the Holocaust tragedy.
  Baer Poczciwy, Binem's grandfather on his mother’s side, was by profession a horse trader.  His reputation in the community was that of honesty and integrity in all his personal and business affairs.  He was so honest that a incident he had with government authorities became folklore among both Jews and Poles of Radziejow. It occurred at the border crossing between Russia and Poland.   Baer was confronted by a border guard and asked if he had any contraband in his possession.  He answered no.  The guard proceeded to search Baer's belongings and discovered an undeclared bottle of contraband whisky.  Baer, an honest man, truly forgot about the bottle.  But he knew that it appeared that he told a government official that he lied. Baer thought fast and grabbed the bottle whisky from the startled custom official and drank out all its contents in one great gulp before the official could protest.  The contraband was gone. A crowd of government officials and border guards surrounded the now inebriated Baer.  After discussing the matter between themselves they concluded that there was no evidence of contraband.  With a smile on their faces they let Baer pass.   Thus,  Baer maintained his reputation for honesty and never breaking the law. 
Many skeptics believe that honesty and success in business do not go hand in hand.  Even to these skeptics they had to admit  that Baer was the exception to this rule.  He was an example to both Jews and Gentiles. He was well liked and became one of the wealthier Jews in Radziejow.
Baer was rich enough to afford to arrange for his four daughters to marry Torah scholars.  In the Orthodox Jewish communities in Poland a shidduch (match) for one's daughter to a Torah scholar was more prestigious than marrying a wealthy man.  The best place for a father to find such scholars were in the Talmudic academies known as yeshivas. Baer was committed to marry all his daughters to Torah scholars.  He traveled across Poland visiting the very finest yeshiva to find the perfect matches for his daughter from the very best students. 
Once he located a suitable prospect, he would offer the young man a generous financial package.  This unusual method enabled him to entice three highly intelligent bachelors to court his daughters.  For example, Gitel, Hinda's sister, married a red bearded Torah scholar named Hersh Jacob Witowski who came from a rabbinical family.  Hersh's  daughter, Joyce Wagner said her father was known to be the “best Baltifilla", meaning the finest person to lead the community during  prayer services. She stated that he was a kind and considerate man.  Unlike many Orthodox fathers' attitude about educating girls, he  insisted that Joyce be given a Jewish education.  Moreover,  he was a large donor to the opening of Beis Yakov Girls School in Radziejow.  
Radziejow's Beit Yakov Girls School 

      Miriam Poczciwy, Binem's grandmother, was a pious woman who was beloved the community. She was known for her generosity.   She would help poor brides to have weddings with dignity.  She would raise money for the bride's dress,  dowery and the wedding feast. As a result of her many contributions to the community she was loved and respected by all Jews in Radziejow regardless of Jewish affiliation or financial status.
Years before the outbreak of World War II, Baer passed away. Her sons had moved to the United States.  They insisted that she come to live with them in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Since the brothers were all were successful businessmen they made sure that her life in the United States was extremely comfortable.  She lived with them in Milwaukee until just before the beginning of World War II. To the surprise of everyone, she insisted that her sons send her back to Poland.  They tried to tell her that Jews from Poland and the rest of Europe were fleeing for their to the United States.  She didn't care.  Instead she gave them two reasons for moviing back to Poland.  First, she maintained that the United States was not kosher enough for her.  And second, she wanted to be buried next to her husband, Baer, in the Radziejow Jewish cemetery.  I was also told by Gilda Wagner, the great granddaughter of Miriam, that a third reason for her return was to care for her great grandchildren of one of her sickly granddaughters. 


My Grandfather, Shimon Najman
Shimon, Binem's father, was considered a melamden, a scholar, and was among the best students at his Yeshiva located in Piotrkow.   Baer offered him a deal that a yeshiva bacher (student), couldn't  refuse.  In exchange for marrying his daughter, Hinda, he promised to pay room and board at the Yeshiva for five additional years of study and then he would set him up in business of his choice. It is unknown whether another reason for Baer’s choice was that he may have known Hersz who at one time lived in Radziejow and was Shimon’s brother. 
      The engagement contract was signed, and soon thereafter Shimon and Hinda met and subsequently married.  As per the agreement, Shimon continued his studies. After five years of intense Talmudic studies, True to the terms of the agreement Baer eventually set up Shimon in the leather/shoe business in Radziejow.
I believe that the engagement might have been even longer because I recollect that Shimon arrived in Radziejow after his army service.
Ruta Neuman

Shimon was quite successful in the leather business.  As the business grew so did the family. According to the family plaque located in the Holocaust Museum on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Binem had five brothers and five sisters.  Rifka, his sister, was the oldest,  followed by his brother Harry, Masha, Max, Machel, Gucha, Ruta, Shmiel, Azriel, and Malka.  His sister Ruta, died at the age of 19 just before the War when she choked to death on a chicken bone.





Najman Family Tree

My father pointed out that one reason Jewish families had so many children was that children represented a retirement plan for the parents.  This was a centuries old tradition among the Jews of Poland. When children were old enough they were trained in the family business.  Eventually they would take over the business and the father and mother would retire.  The children, in turn, were required to support the retired parents during their old age.  My father mused that in this system parents lived quite happily in a secure family environment without ever having to work again. 
This tradition resulted in Jewish boys from a very young age already knew what their future would be. This caused most boys not to aspire to seek out different professions.  To do so would mark the child as rebellious and ungrateful.
Shimon was a completely pious man.  Every waking hour was spent devoted to following the Torah.  He was Radomsker Chasid.  The Radomsker Chassidim was large Hasidic sect with thousands of followers throughout Poland.  The sect was led by the Radomsker Rebbe, Reb Shlomo Hakohan Rabinowicz.  The name Radomsker was derived from the name of the town in Poland where the Rebbe lived, that being Radom. 
The Rebbe was thought to be the richest rabbi in Poland.  As a result of his great personal wealth, he was not beholden to donations since he himself provided the bulk of the funds for maintaining the institutions.   It is said that he gave half of his personal fortune for the upkeep of the sect's several yeshivas of higher Torah learning.
He was known for his extensive personal library which was renowned among Torah scholars throughout the world.  In those days, the sign of a Jewish scholar was outwardly judged by the quality and quantity of holy books on one's shelves.   For example, I remember visiting the house of the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, located in Tel Aviv.  I was amazed at the thousands of books in his personal library.  Well the Rebbe’s library elicited the same reaction from visitors to his home.
       His chassidic sect, established many shtibelehs ( houses of worship) throughout Poland.  It was calculated that the number of Radomsker Shtebilahs was greater than those operated by Geyer Chassidim, the largest Hasidic sect in Poland and considered to be one of the great Chassidic dynasties in the world. The philosophy of the sect was that members that were scholars should remain in their own communities.  This is in contrast to most Chassidic groups at that time which encouraged scholars to live near the movement's Rebbe.  Radomsker's emphasized constant Torah learning and steered clear of distractions, such as local Jewish politics.

Radomsker’s for the most part were businessmen that spent as much time as possible studying the Talmud.  They were modest in lifestyle but large in both their financial and spiritual expression.  At a minimum, Radomskers’ tithed their gross income.
Many of the pious Jews in Radziejow were Radomskers.  Which brings up the question, where did my grandfather, Shimon, pray? There was sufficent numbers of Radomskers in town as well as other hasids such as Geer, the largest sect of Hassidim in Poland,  to maintain their own separate minyan .  On the other hand history points out that Shimon had a hand in the building of the mainstream Orthodox Synagogue, Beit Rachel.  Joyce Wagner, daughter of one of these pious men said that her father, Hersh Jacob Witowski, prayed at the small shul and not at the newly built Beit Rachel, headed by Rabbi Platkiewicz.  It is probable that Shimon was a member of both congregations but probably oftened prayed with Hersh and the other Radomskers at the old Shul.
Why would he attend both Shuls? I met Radziejow survivors in Toronto, Canada, they were all in agreement that my grandfather was considered among the most respected Jews as well as devout Jews in Radziejow.  As evidence, they recalled fondly that on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar,Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when almost all of the  Jews of the town attend synagogue for the entire day.   They recalled the last prayer set called Neliah, which marks the last chance to repent as to improve your lot in the coming year, that the Congregation always picked to lead the prayer of the community the member that G-d most likely would would respond to and thereby to respond to all the members praying with him.  That man was Shimon. For the Jews agreed that with Shimo Najman beseeching G-d to erase any bad decrees that G-d may have been  written for the New Year against them, they were confident that Shimon represented for them the the best chance to obtain  good results. My guess is that Shimon's history of performing this service began with the small shul and with the moving of Rabbi Plotkevich to the large shul two years prior to the German occupation, the Rabbi would have tasked Shimon to lead the Nilah service where it would do the most good, that being the place where most of the Jews prayed.  That place was the new Beit Rachel.  On the other hand, for regular daily prayers, I believe that Shimon remained loyal to the Radomskers at the small shul.



Radziejow Today - Arrow points to the location of the Najman Building.  Market Square is now a park.
     As Shimon's shoe leather business continued to grow. He decided that it was necessary to relocate to a larger building.  In the same year Binem was born, 1919, my grandfather bought half of a building, not along Jewish Street, but at a prime location in town. The building sat opposite to one of the corners of Market Square. Although it was not on Jewish Street, many Jewish shops were located on the four sides of Market Square.  Many of these store owners sons were either friends of Binem or actual relatives such as the Levys, Markowskis, Frankenbergs, and the Rosenbergs.
     Shimon's building was large enough to house both the business and a respectable and comfortable living quarters in the back.  So the family moved to the residence area of the building that was located behind the on the first floor storeroom as well as the entire second floor.
     This expansion caused Shimon's wholesale leather business as well as the shoe store to become the largest of its kind in Radziejow.  It did so even though the store had stiff competition.  There were at least six other shoe stores owned by Jews in the town.  Shimon had the advantage of selling leather and findings associated with the making and repair of shoes and boots.  When the Holocaust broke out, Shimon's reputation along with his business relationship with several Polish shoemakers helped Binem to survive.

Najman Building



Within a few blocks of the Najman Building is one of the two churches of Radziejow.  As a rule in the Jewish community, all Jews would steered clear of the Church.  A Jew would never enter a church.  Thus the Jews  had no idea what the interior of the churches looked like, let alone what was done inside a church.  Sadly, in 1942 their first introduction to the  interior was when the Nazis used the church as a transport point for all the Jews living in the ghetto the night before they were sent to the Chelmo Extermination Camp.
Several family members lived around the store.  Radziejow Survivor Joyce Wagner, known to us as  Aunt Yetka, lived just around the block.  She was a first cousin to Binem on his mother's side.  Joyce survived the Holocaust and told her experiences in her book entitled A Promise Kept.  Joyce's family name was Witkowski.  Her father, Jacob Witkowski, owned a grocery store.  He was a Torah scholar like Shimon. Her mother Gitel, Hinda's sister, helped her husband in the store. Yetka and Binem were not only cousins but also good friends.  When the War broke out, Yetka experienced the liquidation of the Radziejow Ghetto and then later managed to survive the horrors of the most infamous extermination camp of the Holocaust, Auschwitz.

Fourth Radomsker Rebbe- Rebbe Shlomo Chonoch Rabinowicz 


When Binem was a young boy he traveled with Shimon on several pilgrimages to the city of Radomsko .  There Shimon would arrange to attend private audiences with the Radomsker Rebbe.  Having a private audience with the Rebbe was considered a great honor for a Hasid.  The Rebbe was believed to be endowed by the Creator with Ruach Hakodesh, the holy spirit.  When one presented him with a personal problem, the Rebbe had the ability to combine his intellectual powers with that of divine inspiration to help him advise his Hasidim on how to overcome life challenges.
These private audiences were difficult to arrange.  To have a private meeting with the Radomsker Rebbe, one began the process by writing out the problem. Then the note along with a donation was brought to the Rebbe's personal Shamos (assistant).  Binem described the Shamos as a giant man with flaming red hair.  The Shamos in turn would consult with the Rebbe to determine if the Rebbe would meet with the supplicant.  If the Rebbe agreed, then the hasid would wait his turn to be called into the Rabbi's private study for the consultation. This waiting period could take several hours.
Binem remembered one such audience with the Rebbe.  It was the day his father took him on a journey to request an emergency meeting with the Rebbe.  Shimon asked the Rebbe for advice and prayer concerning his daughter, Masha. She was in the midst of a difficult pregnancy.  At that time Masha was 31 years old while Binem was a mere eleven years old when the meeting took place.  Masha was a delicate woman of small physical stature.  Her doctor stated that her pregnancy was very risky for Masha because her body, most likely, could not withstand the pangs of childbirth.  Upon being informed Shimon, of course, was extremely distraught with this diagnosis.  Without delay, he rushed to Radom to ask the Radomsker Rebbe what should be done.   
Masha Najman
Binem remembers the two men as they discussed the matter.  After an intense discussion the Rebbe came up with what seemed to Binem to be a preposterous solution. He told Shimon to buy a chicken and donate the chicken to the poorest family in Radziejow.  The Rebbe assured him that once this was accomplished all would be well. 
On the way back to Radziejow, Binem although only a boy thought that the Rebbe’s solution to this medical life endangering problem was at best questionable.  Shimon, on the other hand, appeared to have no doubt that the Rebbe's advice was sound and must be acted upon with due haste. For in Shimon’s way of thinking if the Rebbe told him that the birth would happen without any complications if he gave a chicken to a poor family, there was no reason to second guess.
So the first thing Shimon did when he returned to Radziejow was rush to buy a plump healthy looking chicken.  He then made inquiries and determined which family in Radziejow was most in need. Shimon then cheerfully gave the chicken to that  poor family.  Having fulfilled the advice of the Rebbe, Shimon was satisfied that the problem was solved. In fact, the subject never came up again.  All that remained was the waiting period for the birth.  Miraculously, time proved that the Rebbe prescription was the correct one because Masha had an easy birth.


Radomsker's Rebbe Gravesite
Warsaw Jewish Cemetery
    It is interesting to point out that the Radomsker Rebbe, may his soul rest in peace,  several years later died a martyr’s death.  During the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Nazis, in a surprise roundup, stormed into the the Rebbe's apartment that was located in the heart of the ghetto. He was there with his daughter and son-in-law.  The soldiers ordered the Rebbe to accompany them.  He refused.  Clearly, it was his position that a Jew does not take orders from the enemies of G-d. 
He said, " [y]ou are planning to kill me, so do so now, because I am not cooperating with you."
          The Nazis again ordered him as well as the married couple to follow him.       The Rebbe replied that "I am ready to die here in my room and not somewhere in gas-wagon."
The Nazis in the room were infuriated.  As a result of the Rebbe's righteous defiance, one of the outraged Nazis shot him in the head, and then shot and killed his daughter and son-in law.
Max and Harry Neuman


Before the War two of Binem's older brothers immigrated to the United States.  Harry in 1921 and Max in 1924. According to Harry's son Don, a retired professor of English, Harry decided to leave Poland over a verbal confrontation with Shimon that was  instigated an anti-Semitic school teacher.  Harry felt he was completely justified to respond in kind to derogatory statements made by the teacher that articulated his deep hatred of the Jewish people.  These statements were not new, the teacher had for many years manifested his anti-Semitism both in his words in the classroom and his behavior towards the Jewish students. When the Principal of the school confronted Shimon concerning his son’s behavior he sided with the school authorities. Shimon knew that if the argument escalated then Polish authorities would likely become involved and the outcome would be that the government would side with the school.  So in order to maintain the balance of peace between the Jews and the government authorities Shimon forced Harry to apologize.  Harry, being a proud young man was upset with his father’s reaction.  So on that day Harry decided that he had enough of the ways of Poland.  Within a short period after the incident Harry boarded a ship bound for the United States.
Harry Neuman
        According to my father’s version Harry was nearing draft age for service in the Army.  Army service was very difficult because of the hatred of Jews by the soldiers and officers.  Therefore, Shimon decided that Harry should leave Poland to live with his relatives in the United States. Harry settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 
Whatever the reason, Harry made his way to Milwaukee to join is uncles and cousins from Radziejow.  They helped him with both employment and housing.  As time passed  Harry always a bright and hard worker that possessed excellent business acumen became a highly successful entrepreneur. He operated a number of businesses over the years and eventually owned a large retail garden supply complex.   He married Ida, and had two children, Donald and Helene.


Max Neuman
         When another of Binem’s brothers, Max, decided to go to America the process became complicated.  The United States immigration policy had changed.  A strict immigration quota now limited the number of people allowed to enter the United States. So instead, Max decided to try his luck in Canada.  Max gained Canadian citizenship becoming a soldier. Still his dream of joining his brother in Milwaukee remained.  For several years he actively sought entry to the United States.  Finally he had an opportunity.  
Max and Marcella Neuman



Soon after gaining legal immigration status he was drafted this time into the American Army.   He eventually settled in Los Angeles and owned a successful non-kosher butcher shop.  He married Marcella and had three children, Sheldon, Helene, and Mark. My Mother told me that the children’s Hispanic nanny was a fervent proselytizing J Witness.  Needless to say two of the three eventually converted to Christianity.  Mark became a Jew for Jesus and Sheldon became a Seven Day Adventist.  The sister Helene remained Jewish.

















































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