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.
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.
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.
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.
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 HOLOCAUST SAGA
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|
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.
|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).
|Radziejow and surrounding countryside back in the 1800s|
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|
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.
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,
|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|
|Radziejow's Beit Yakov Girls School|
|My Grandfather, Shimon Najman|
|Najman Family Tree|
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.
|Radziejow Today - Arrow points to the location of the Najman Building. Market Square is now a park.|
|Fourth Radomsker Rebbe- Rebbe Shlomo Chonoch Rabinowicz|
|Radomsker's Rebbe Gravesite|
Warsaw Jewish Cemetery
|Max and Marcella Neuman|