Thursday, May 8, 2014

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


This Aenterprise@ 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.  My wife chose that name after consulting with my father.  After a few minutes of reflection, 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 be streaming in all directions contemplating the meaning of man's existence. For some inexplicable reason it  suddenly dawned on me that I was coincidentally born in  the year1955 which was the same year that my father became an American citizen.  I thought to myself, "was there some deep connection between the two unconnected events. 
One night I observed my infant son as he slept so comfortably truly without a care in the world, another random thought popped into my mind. I thought to myself, "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 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 this issue and actually formulate concrete answers. I knew that this was a monumental task to not only organize but actually remain on a true path and not to fall victim to the natural tendency of just developing a convenient narrative that I felt comfortable with.  For I knew that such narratives avoided facts and had only a passing regard to what is true.  I decided that as an aspiring  responsible father I would seek the answers for myself, my son, and in the back of mind the information I gathered would be for anyone that may be interested. I had no delusions on how easy this task would be.  Just the opposite, I pursued this knowing that such an undertaking was not going to be just difficult but most likely impossible. 
The first task would be how 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.   I kept this rule without a second thought.
Only once did I ever hear small portions of my father tell experiences during the Holocaust.The occasion was that I 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, this time my father did not speak in Yiddish which was his custom with all his friends.  Instead he spoke in English the only language at that time that I understood.
             I still remembered bits and pieces of that discussion.  That was at least a start.The more I thought about constructing a basic timeline the historical picture became blurry. But I was determined to find the answers.  I felt that my undertaking constituted a fundamental search for truth. I became obsessed in  understanding the dynamics of World War II when some men sank into the abyss of evil while other men rose and overcame the darkest challenges in life.
         
   No taboo would stop me so I mustered the courage and broached the subject with my Father.  He looked at me in a curious manner.  Then a moment later, to my complete  surprise, without any comment, he agreed to try 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, as 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, he may have felt a responsibility that Adi and all his other children and 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 elevated status was that he 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 a spoiled kid to that of 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 precepts 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 the world of Holocaust survivors was not what it appeared to be.  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 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 upon close examination that these public utterances represents only a selected groups of facts that makes up the individual 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 that I questioned such as my father and his community of survivors talked with "outsiders" by following a set of instinctive rules. For example, one may talk about the Holocaust with others as long as it remains true and consistent to the survivor's  time developed general narrative.  That narrative began at the end of World War II and still exists today.  There is an exception to this rule, when survivors met in private candor, without the narrative, may be permissible.  But even then, that candor is often subject to limitations, depending upon the undisclosed facts.
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. The survivor reflects, "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 himself is constantly confronted with horrible memories that cause one to stand at the edge of a deep and dark chasm that if the survivor is not extremely careful then one may fall into this bottomless pit of despair for one's faith in man and a realization that  when the Jews needed G-d's protection 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 Jew 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 his cowardly suicide,  he 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 Holocaust 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  those survivors that refused to play along with the development of  such 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, perhaps due to the realities of being a sole proprietor of a retail shoe store, he observed most of the Jewish holidays.  As he grew older he became more and more observant. For his children he made sure that they received a Jewish education, his sons had Bar Mitzvahs, and he paid for a number of 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 survived relatively unscratched by the horrors of the Nazis.  He understood that his surviving  the Holocaust was nothing less than a miracle.  It logically followed that only G-d performs miracles.  Thus, he reserved his hatred for the German people that capriciously gave Hitler the reigns to control one of the most powerful countries in the world.  He said that people killed Jews and these people were the Nazis and their anti-Semitic helpers.  These helpers include many Poles.  But still, he could not hate all the Poles, because he understood that there were some that endangered their own lives to saved him.  But even more confounding was that he encountered Germans that helped him. 
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 acknowledged fear because they have lived a life where being a Jew was safe.  Moreover, the teachers, rabbis, and Jewish leaders have long ago decided that the history of the Jewish people was to be softened,  been muted, white washed and best ignored. 
I conducted a series of interviews with my father in the appropriate location, in  the very house that I grew up. Each session lasted about hour. It took several days to complete. During the interview,  I recorded the interview 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  he would give tell his story in chronological order beginning with his birth and continuing through his childhood and the prelude of the Holocaust.  We continued with his account of . He what happened when he reached age twenty, the year Poland was invaded through his Holocaust experience. Finally, he then told of 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 at best emotionally drained.  Also I was angry and depressed after only now comprehending what the Germans forced my Father endure. Compounding this feeling of ennui, I came to the realization of the magnitude of  my Father's suffering as a result of the Holocaust upheaval.  Now, I too, began to internalize this tragedy. 
At the conclusion of the final interview,  I stared at my father in awe. 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 this account be lost and for me it would be 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. I then formally asked his apporoval to publish his experiences.
I could tell by the look on his face he was pleased with my reaction. I'm sure that he was thinking that there was nothing truely 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, A[w]hatever you want to do is ok.@
I was now motivated and excited. I understood that my father's life during the Holocaust was stranger than fiction.  That his survival was premised on supernatural intervention.   I felt that I had been given information that may possibly contain a  key 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 started to realize that I was inadequate for this most 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 skill were sufficient let alone the necessary background knowledge that was so essential to author such an important legacy.
I became so frustrated and despondent that without consulting my father I stopped working on the project.  I lied to myself saying that it was just a temporary break necessary in order to get the creative juices 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 aAback burner.@
Time flew by quickly raising two children, going to law school, and afterwards, opening my own law practice. Then years later when my wife and I became "empty-nesters" I suddenly had more free time on my hands.  I decided that it was now time to do things that I always said I wanted to do but never got around to do it.  And then I remembered and resolved that now was right the time to make good on the pledge I made to my father and finally complete our long abandoned project.
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 telling them that one day I would finish the book.
I came up with a bizarre roundabout idea on how to kick off the project.  Luckily my son, Adi, who was an adult in his early twenties was in a position to give his dad a helping hand.  Among his many gifts, talents and skills was that he like many young people he had become a computer maven. It was not just a hobby for him.  In fact  he actually got paid to create websites for companies and organizations. I decided that I could exploit his skill by using my parental guilt powers to  delegate to him the task of creating a Holocaust website that was dedicated to his 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 your grandfather.
I suggested that the ultimate goal of this website would include the memorization of the history and daily life of the once thriving Jewish presence in Radziejow. I explained that the website should somehow create a virtual Jewish Radziejow.
During this discussion he had a strange look on his face.  I believed 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 an incredulously look on his face and simply responded,Aanything else.@
My first thought was "success.  My second thought was that  since his response opened the door to further exploitation  I decided to run by him something I had been thinking about for the website=s mission.
AYour 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.@
My son, had over the years become a truly observant Jew.  He took more seriously the fifth commandment than his father did concerning honoring ones father.  For 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 me questions concerning the website.  For example, one day he inquired about what web address would I like. I thought about for a moment and remembering the bit about getting my family's building back, replied, A[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 became the headstone of this forgotten Jewish town.



 
By creating this website my son and I were able to discover a great deal of previously forgotten facts and lost evidence about my father, his family, and the Jews of Radziejow. Among our discoveries 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 AGreenhorn@ friends.The list was comprised of many familiar names that I heard my Mother and Father talk about when I was a boy.I remembered they were living in other parts of the United States, Canada, France, and Australia.
Soon important evidence arrived in my email. First a photograph of the very Shul where my grandfather conducted the holiest of all prayer services, Nilah, for Yom Kippur. Another photo was received 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 AJewish Street@, the center of Jewish life and later the location of the Ghetto.We also received a picture from a Polish travel agent of the Beit Rachel Synagogue after it was blown up by the Nazis.Also we received a photograph of the Jews forced to live in the Ghetto, complete with their Jewish stars 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.Likewise, 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 used as a quarry.Today, it is a park.This is only a partial list of the amazing discoveries of our Polish roots.
More importantly, we were able to reconstruct my father=s life before, during and after the war.This valuable information is now preserved on the website for anyone that may be interested, alive today or those to be born.Because, 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 a flash of inspiration. I understood it was time to fulfill my pledge to my father.It seemed to me the project was now actually feasible.I was now older and wiser.My writing skills have developed after being a lawyer for nearly twenty years. Further, I had already collected supporting evidence during the life of my website along with the several stories I already posted, telling my Father=s Holocaust experiences.Finally, with the development of the Internet, I was now able to research many background issues almost instantaneously.
My Internet research eventually led me to the website, Geni.I was first made aware of the site by Scott Dan, a distant cousin living in Ohio.Eventually, I was able to construct a family tree dating back to the 1750s.For me, that was an astounding revelation, 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 located them in a torn plastic bag at the bottom of a bedroom closet.Upon seeing them my first impression was the cassettes would not work.The technology for cassette recordings has long passed and these cassettes were now well past the life expectancy of a cassette, for the cassettes were over thirty years old.To my surprise, the cassettes worked flawlessly.
My plan was simple, the book would be Ben Neuman=s account of the Holocaust. It would begin with my father=s account of his experiences in the town of his birth Radziejow.It would then tell the story of a man that became prey, hunted by Germans but in his run for freedom he found pure and inspiring humanity in the good of some men and women.It would detail how he achieved his impossible dream of outlasting his insane evil Nazi tormentors. The account would be told, for the most part, through his eyes and supplemented by other survivors from his hometown, Radziejow.
As I started writing, I soon remembered the reason for the long hiatus. I was inadequately equipped to place the saga in its proper context.Without accurate background material, the account would be subject to the simplest of criticism, the story just doesn’t match up with history.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 thinking. I asked myself how could he possibly know what actually happened when he was born? So I did a research on the Internet and found that the President was killed five days after entering office in 1922.The fact that my Father had the wrong date is not surprising, for he just repeated what was told him.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 the book.Standing alone his account was remarkable but there exists many stirring stories written by other survivors of the Holocaust.Thirty years later, it dawned on me that what his story lacked that would make it even more compelling was the continuation of his story. For the Holocaust legacy does not end with his liberation, nor did it even end with his death.The Holocaust legacy continued through the lives of his children and grandchildren.
Moreover, I discovered that I, the son of Ben Neuman, was an essential part of the narrative.Only by understanding the Holocaust=s effects on my Father, and his influence on me, can a true picture of the real ramifications of Hitler=s plan to exterminate the Jewish People be understood.
More importantly, it becomes clear 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 part of this book was necessary.So far, what I wrote left out an important element. Meaning, my book had to go one step beyond the normal recalling of this most tragic experience.I had to at least make the attempt to explore the meaning of the events told.I wanted to leave the readers with at least some glimmer of insights on our lives as fellow human travelers.So the last part of the book must contain a discussion of major issues man is confronted by as a result of the Holocaust.It became clear that by analyzing the Holocaust through my Father=s experiences it might be possible to find answers to these 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 his eye sight and he has no perspective of what the greater picture of the battle so to my father=s experiences needed such context with the history of World War II.
In doing so, to my chagrin, this research revealed distorted misconceptions that I as well as many other Jews maintained as truths concerning the Poles and their complicity in Hitler=s Holocaust.For instance, before researching the subject I assumed that it was unquestionable that with the exception of a very few Poles 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 AChrist 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 in Poland before, during and after the Holocaust,I was forced to conclude that to be honest and objective required that I not generalize.
M 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 Spielberg video interview that took place in his house in June 1996.It was conducted by Margaret Liftman for Survivors of the Shoah, Visual History Foundation. I later reviewed the videotaped testimonies of ten other Survivors from RadziejowThird, the book, written by my AAunt Yeka@ entitled,A Promise Kept, To Bear Witness, by Joyce Wagner, published in 2007. Fourth, my cousin=s, Lenny Marcus, video documentary about Radziejow produced for Public Television of Boston. Fifth, the research found on my website Polandinjustice.com. Sixth, personal interviews I conducted with several Holocaust survivors that lived in Radziejow.Also, the interviews conducted by the Steven Speilberg’s Holocaust Foundation. Finally, extensive Internet research on Radziejow from several websites including Virtual Shtetel.
As I guide to my style of writing, Ben Neuman, is referred to as ABinem@ or Amy 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.It was located near Frankfort, Germany on the grounds of the former concentration camp Bergen Belson. His name stayed with him at his next stop, 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 he never met my Father until he disembarked from his ship the AMarine Jumper@, when he arrived in the United States. And then finally, when he moved to Chicago to please my mother, and then his new bride, Bernice Halevy.He gave up his protected life in Milwaukee and took the chance by moving to a strange city for he understood that my mother was very close to my grandmother, Eve, and to my great grandmother that I don’t remember her name only that she was always called “Bubba”.
Binem officially took the name Ben the day he became an American citizen, on May 31, 1955, just a few months before my birth.He lived in Chicago for over fifty years, having three children, myself, my older sister, Helene, and my younger brother, Keith.
All my Father=s Yiddish speaking, greenhorn, friends continued to called him Binem.Even my mother, a native born American, would 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 made my cather into some sort of foreigner, so I just called him and thought of him as dad. As I grew older, the name Binem appealed to me because it formed a connection for me between my world and the lost world of my father=s family.
The Jewish community of Poland was effectively non-existent after World War II. 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 antisemitic, Hitler gave them an opportunity to publicly display their hatred of the Jews. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 the Jews were waiting for the inevitable.Like the German blitzkrieg, the Jews of Poland were soon under strict control of the Nazis. 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 one of those enclaves.These enclaves later evolved into ghettos.Once the authorities compiled lists of all the Jews there, the Germans were ready for the next step.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 just be liquidated. Binem was one of the strong ones.
Binem was an average 20 year old, with no knowledge or any survival training. He had no idea what to do when the world around him crumbled.After the German invasion of Poland, he was sent to a forced a labor camp a good distance away from his village, Radziejow, Poland.He worked there for several months until he was told by the camp authorities and 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 an extermination camp.So he did the only thing an innocent person could do, he escaped the Nazi round up at his work camp and he fled to the area he knew best, the surrounding rural area ofRadziejow.
The torture and murder of Jewish men, women, and children was officially sanctioned by German law.Today, it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this evil.Making it even more incomprehensible is that that among European countries, before Hitler, Germany was considered a civilized society.Once this type of barbarity was incorporated into the law of the land, Jews both citizens of Germany and those living in lands occupied by German forces were headed towards their doom. It was as if innocent people were forced to ride on a death roller coaster without brakes with the riders completely aware that the tracks led to flaming ovens.
As the occupation of Poland took hold, my father understood that his journey could only end with his death by being shot, starved, beaten, workedor gassed. Binem knew that he was to be murdered 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 his murder.
Binem decided that just because he had no alternative didn’t mean he had to facilitate the Nazi murderers by cooperating. He decided that his act of defiance would be to refuse to surrender to his enemies.He had a simple plan.He was going to make the Nazis work in order to kill him. He would resist them by trying to survive the War despite Hitler=s edict.He would play his role to the very end.And perhaps, like the odds of winning a lottery, he held out for the very remote chance of winning the greatest prize of all.That prize being life!It seemed simple, all he had to do was stay alive long enough until Germany was defeated. Binem=s problem was Germany was the most powerful country in the world.Nations and armies had been defeated and cowered. As he put it he was just “a skinny dried up Jew.”
That may have been the case but it was actually Binem’s will to survive verses the Nazis plan to kill him.Astonishingly, as a result of several events that could be only described as miracles, Binem, to his complete astonishment, won the prize.He was not murdered.Instead while the vast majority of his fellow Jews in Poland and throughout Europe were slaughtered by the Nazis, he was very much alive.After the War he adjusted to a world where a Jew could be Anormal@. And 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 the extermination camps.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 the curses of nature which included the freezing cold winters and the storms that shook the very ground of his unshielded condition. He was plagued by itching from being infested with lice.
He was constantly tortured by the very real possibility that he would be discovered. For Binem knew at any moment he could be found by the Gestapo, caught in the fields by the German Army, or turned in when he begged food from the Poles. 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.
He determined 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 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 felt that even though he was no expert on this area he did know it better than anywhere else.So he used this little knowledge to stay true to his goal of just making it through the day in order to see what tomorrow might bring.
There was never the thought of a heroic stance.He planned no ambushes of German soldiers.The idea of sabotage never entered his mind.He never contemplated plans of vengeance against his tormentors. He had only one goal.That goal was simply, G-d willing, that one day he may bear witness to the Nazis’ suffering in a like manner that he and his fellow Jews experienced.
It may never be known exactly why he survived. I have come to the conclusion that my father survived because he was either destined to survive from the very beginning of the War 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 stating this because I am his son and a believing Jew.I believe it is clear by all reasonably objective standards that Binem=s survival of the events that confronted him forces one to conclude that a higher force decreed that Binem was to survive.
For the only other answer would be a non-answer, that my Father survived by sheer luck.After 58 years on this planet I feel I have an understanding of what luck is.Luck itself does not need to be explained in terms of higher forces.Likewise, I can accept that some people can for a short period of time be very lucky.However, in my Father=s case, his luck would have had to last for five years.My life experiences have taught me that type of luck doesn=t exist.I am not alone in this conclusion, just ask the highly rich Las Vegas casino owners!
This is the true story 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 gentiles that Jews were once living amongst 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.Two words on Binem=s gravestone 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, which included starvation, exposure to the cruel Polish winter, and fear of certain death. Near the end of the war, as a result of a chance encounter, he was saved.His salvation was premised on a deal with a Nazi.
In 1945 as Nazi Germany began to wither as a result of a relentless onslaught on two fronts my father found refuge with a rich and powerful family living in central Poland. The husband was German and the wife was Polish.They owned a thirty-room mansion encompassed by a sprawling country estate. My father referred to the wife as the “Polish Princess.”After being sheltered a few months he couple’s son, a German officer just returned from the Russian Front met with my father.They talked and it was clear that the end of Germany was near.The regal soldier extracted from my father an oath to protect his parents when the war ended. He had good reason.He had already witnessed what the Russians did to German citizens. My father, feeling he had nothing to lose, agreed to do the best he could.Later he learned that the husband who he swore to protect was a Gestapo officer.When the Russian Army arrived, my father, a 114-pound survivor of the Holocaust, was all that stood between the Russians and his rescuers.


* * *

My father died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of eighty-three. G-d ended his odyssey on Earth on Holocaust Memorial Day – April 29th, 2003.In my eulogy, 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 twelve 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 would go to public school from early morning to early afternoon. Then he would attend cheder for his Jewish studies.When he finally arrived home in the evening, he would study Talmud with my Grandfather until late into the night.


The Nazis came to 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 ways. My father begged him to shave his beard lest the Nazis use it as a pretext to beat him. His“compromise” was wearing a handkerchief over his beard.


The Nazis humiliated the Jews of the town by having spontaneous roll calls in which they assigned the Jews to degrading tasks. 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.


One day my grandfather became ill. He died at home surrounded by his still-intact family, and was buried by the community with dignity. Those participating at the funeral all remarked that Shimon Najman’s death was a blessing from G-d, that he could pass away at home rather than face what the Nazis had in store for the Jews.


The Jews of Radziejow were soon after liquidated by the Nazis.My father found himself in forced-labor camp with his brothers.His brothers told him that they themselves 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.At the same time, he swallowed a substance that he was sure was poisonous. He then pulled as hard as he could at the belt, but nothing happened. Pulling even harder, he suddenly heard a voice in the wind moaning, “Get out of here.” So he ran away, feeling that he failed at even this.


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. This vision was achieved when the Russians liberated him and took revenge 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, and he moved back into his house. There were no longer any Jews left but him and a few others.He soon found that the Poles of his town were not so happy that the Nazis had failed to kill all the Jews. 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. Though my father had 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 immigrate to the United States to live with Harry 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.”She matured into a woman who was lovely but 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, stealing my father’s customers and robbing 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 a 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, when his health deteriorated. His lungs were bad, he had heart problems, his hearing was impaired, and he could barely see. 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.While the Rabbi spoke, my mind wandered as I stared at the casket that was about ten feet in front of me. I then experienced what appeared to be a waking dream.I saw my father hovering above and behind the casket. He was standing.He and his surroundings 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 as if I was having a very pleasant dream and was refusing to wake up.I was enveloped with a feeling of peace and tranquility.The vision ended as naturally as it had begun.


* * *


Ben Neuman was a Holocaust survivor, which makes me the son of a survivor. In 1981, 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 experienced miracles.For example 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 attention to him.He had become invisible!

Similarly, after the war, my father was walking alone one night through the lonely streets of Radziejow. 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 what is your name?”The man answered,“That’s not important.”He continued, “Europe is a Jewish cemetery – you should leave Poland now.” My father turned his head for a mere second, and when he looked back, the man had disappeared.He searched the town frantically for the mysterious man, but could not find him. Soon after, he fled Poland to avoided being murdered by Polish anti-Semites.

* * *

The main focus 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 prospective of how the Jews suffered during the Holocaust.Ben Neuman survived by being able to successfully deal with the Germans, Poles, Russians, and his physical surroundings. It is my hope that reflecting on the lessons to be learned from my father’s story will cause the serious reader to reexamine his or her own perspective concerning life on this small planet called Earth as it relates to the vastness of this universe.










 

                                                     PART ONE

 

          BEN NEUMAN'S PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE HOLOCAUST
 



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 was 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 Binum.  Binum was to grow up, survive the harshest of times, and moved to the United States.  Thirty six years, known as a double chai (chai meaning life) in Jewish mysticism, Binum had his first son.  He named the boy after his pious father, Shimon. I, Scott Neuman, am Shimon and my father, Ben Neuman, is Binum.
      As a side note, Binum's birthday was alaways a family inside joke.  We officially elebrated his birthday on June 10, 1919.  We used this date because it was the date my father supplied in all his applications for visas, his passport, and even his marriage license.  However, my Father always insisted that his actual birthday was probably not on that date.  He would repeat this montra every year when we would celebrate his birthday.  After blowing out the candle or candles, he would announce that it was a known fact by everyone in his hometown that any official dates were usually not accurate dates.   As far as the issuance of birth certificates, he explained that upon a child's birth, a certain lazy town official had the task of registering all local births with Polands central government.  Upon the central government receiving the proper documentation a birth certificate would then be issued. In Radziejow, the town official unilaterally decided that it was not necessary to immediately send in the required paperwork on the same day he was notified of the birth.  Rather, his unofficial protocol was to collect a pile of these  forms from several births then send them all in one neat package to the central government..  This created a problem since his unofficial protocol did allow the central registry to record birth certificates separately.  Rather the date of the birth was the same date that was given on the letter to the registry.    As a result my father's actual birthday was a mystery to him.  For, religious Jews in Poland celebrated birthdays according to the Hebrew lunar calendar.  That coupled with the fact that my father was a small boy when his mother, Hinda, died. His father, Shimon, a talmudic scholar, had little desire of remembering the exact date on the Polish calendar.  Therefore, the only date that my Father had as a reference tohis actual birthdate was the date on his official birth certificate.
Unofficial practices by government officials were typical in Radziejow. For the town was considered as a small rural border town.  Interestingly, at this time in the history of Poland 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 is said that the town was literally on the border between Germany and Russia.  My father was told that the Russian occupiers were extremely anti-Semitic and that manifested itself in Russian soldiers constantly harassing the Jews.  Russian soldiers would often visit 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 with the specific purpose of humiliating the hated Jews.
According to my Father, in a bit of tragic irony, Germany, at one time, was considered the most humane administrator of Radziejow.  Prior to the outbreak of World War I, Radziejow was controlled by Russia.  The Jews suffered from constant outbreaks of Russian anti- Semitism. In an act of sheer desperation by the town’s Jewish leaders, a delegation was sent to Germany to beseech the German government officials to take control over Radziejow.  Germany, at this time was led by the Kaiser, sent in the German army to take over the town.  The German justification for this 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 aftermath of World War I.  This was the time when Poland regained its independence.  The new nation was born as a result of the division of Germany's territories which was a consequence of Germany's surrender. Thus in 1918 Poland became known as the Second Polish Republic,   
 In the year Binem was born, Poland was at war with the new Russia. 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 stopped Communist plan to sweep across Western Europe.   The war later ended in March of 1921with signing of a treaty known as the Peace of Riga.
     Binem was told that during the War with Russia the Jewish community was threatened with a particular virulent strain of Polish anti-Semitism.  A group of national rabble rousers 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 in an effort 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 for their own benefit.
     After the War, 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 irrationally arrested several prominent Jews. The Jews were falsely charged with treason for alleged collaboration with the Russians during the War.   It was irrelevant to the persecutors that the accused Jews were never even involved in politics.  The sole rationale for their arrests was a timeless moneymaking scheme of anti-Semites of extorting the Jewish community.  In this case the plan was to use the newly established criminal code to arrest Jews and charge them with the capital crime of treason.  Of course, the Jews were told that if they pay a ransom then the charges would be dropped.
     The ransom demanded was the then enormous sum  of 100,000 zloty.   It was made clear that in the event the the Jews failed to pay the ransom, then the hostages would be killed.    To understand the size of the enormity of the demand one need only understand 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 as the Jews throughout the nearly 2,000 years of exile,  painfully realized that they had no alternative than to somehow find a way to pay the ransom as the only way to save their innocent lantzmen which is Yiddish for relatives and friends .  Those Jews 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 live with the guilt of standing by and watching the execution of innocent men.  Moreover, members of the community implicitly understood that if the hostages were executed the Poles would be hardly satisfied, surely a pogrom would follow. Before the arbitrary deadline expired, the Jews of Radziejow were somehow able to collect the enitre ransom.  The hostages were released. 
A short time after the release, the Jews filed a formal protest with the national government.  To the credit of the new Government of Poland, an investigation was opened to determine the facts surrounding the payment of the ransom .  The investigators concluded malfeasance by the town officials involved.  As a result, a  judicial proceeding was convened to determine whether the Jewish Community of Radziejow was the victim of extortion. The Court, after a lengthy trial and examining all the evidence presented came to the surprise decision that befuddled a good many Poles of Radziejow, ruled in favor of the Jews and against the town officials.  The Court ordered the local government to disgorge the ransom money and return the entire amount to the Jewish Community.
The town of Radziejow is located in Kuyavian-Poverainian Province ideally situated on a moraine hill approximately 124 meters above sea level. It is picturesquely set on a hill surrounded by rolling fields of farmland.  Dotting the landscape are shacks, farmhouses, barns and even enormous mansions on large estates.  Just before harvest season, life is teeming, with golden stalks rise high towards the sky, covering the fields like a dense forest.  Peasants cultivate their fields surrounded by hum of buzzing insects and the sweet fragrance of wild flowers.  With the conclusion of the harvest the countryside goes through an enormous change. Cold weather arrives and the buzz of the insects is soon gone. The wild flowers are no more. The fields become visually a gloomy kind of desert.  But all know that when spring returns the cycle of life is renewed..  
Radziejow is located approximately a relatively short distance to one of Europe's major rivers, the Vistula.  The town is located within a hundred miles of Bydoszcc, Pozan, Lodz and Warsaw. It has always been a political football because it is located near the old border that divided Russia and Germany.  In fact when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, Radziejow was immediately annexed and incorporated into Greater Germany.  The annexed part of Poland was called Wartheland.  The Nazis changed the town=s name from Radziejow back to its German name, Radichau.  The incorporated area known as the Wartheland, was almost 92,000 square kilometers in size and its popluation was about ten million. (Poland's Holocaust, p.8).  As part of this reunificationof this territory into Germany, Hitler planned to completely empty the land of Poles or Jews and replace them with Europeans that they considered ethnic Germans. (.  WWII, Gilbert).                     
Locating towns in Poland can be confusing. Many towns such as Radziejow and Piotrkow shared its names with other towns in Poland.  Sometimes the names are spelled exactly the same and other times they are spelled differently but pronounced the same. For example, a town close to Radziejow called Chelmo shared its name with the town where one of the first extermination camps known as Chelmo that was located in the southern part of Poland.
The Jewish history of 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 provisions to attract the Jews.  Those provisions included promises to provide a safe haven for Jews.  At the time of these charters, Jews were in the midst of being banished from several European countries.  Even where banishment was not the order, the Jews suffered greatly.  Poland's welcoming 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 say that  G-d took a piece of Eretz Yisroel (the Land of Israel), which he had hidden away in the heavens at the time when the Temple was destroyed, and sent it down upon the earth (in Poland)  and said, My resting place for my children in their exile.  (Poland's Holocaust, p. 35).
Historical accounts concerning Radziejow date back to around the twelfth century. About three hundred years later Jews began to settle in the town.  There is a record showing that a Jewish synagogue was located in Radziejow in the early 1500s.  By a king's edict issued in 1546 all the town Jews were banished from living in the town.  The Jews returned two hundred years later in the eighteenth century.  By the 1770s, Jews made up approximately five percent of the town residents.  Those Jews were restricted to live along Torunska Street which became the main street in the open Jewish ghetto.
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 on or near Jewish Street.  For it is a fact that the Jews enjoyed living together.  They loved the familiar sounds and beloved smells that were to be found only on Torunska Street.  The Jews felt safe and comfortable living near the kosher bakery where the sweet smell of different breads were baked fresh daily, of course, except 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.  Also, the familiar sound of animals awaiting kosher ritual slaughter could be heard.  Even the unpleasant smell of those same animals created a sense of inner tranquility.  For the Jews of Radziejow were secure among their lantzmen (Jewish relatives or friends). 
  After Germany’s defeat in World War I, as per the terms of the armistice agreement imposed by the victorious allies German territories were taken away. Radziejow 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.
The Jewish community was located in a row of houses and businesses along Torunska Street.  Jack Marcus a survivor stated that it was called Yiddishe Street.  It was a long unremarkable street comprised of one story shops on both sides of a wide gravel road.  A majority of the shops had living quarters behind the retail space and above. None of the shops were noteworthy because they will little more than shacks with one or more larger than usual windows for displaying the wares sold within.  There were no trees lining the side of the road.  Down the center of the street was a narrow water drainage channel less than a foot deep.  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.
 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 a schoolhouse.  There were two separate minyans, one Chassidic and one traditional orthodox. ( a minyan is made up of ten or more men required to pray together three times a day).   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 heart of the Jewish Street, approximately five blocks away from the first synagogue.   This synagogue served the mainstream Jews who were orthodox in prayer but many of the members might have considered themselves modern and progressive.  The strictly observant Jews remained connected to the old house of worship and study.
In contast 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 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 dynamite.
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.  He 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.      
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. Moshe Najman  was a doctor.  He died treating patients during an epidemic. The names of towns in Poland present a 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 exptermination camp, Chelmo.  The two towns are less separated by less than a hundred miles.
Shimon, Binem's father, was one of twelve children. The oldest child 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 also married a woman from the town named  Bajia Leszcynska.  He and his wife had eight children.  It is unclear whether they 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 his 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.
      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.  
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 became folklore among both Jews and Poles of Radziejow. There was an incident that occurred at the border crossing between Russia and Poland.   Baer was confronted by a border guard and asked if he had any contrband in his possession.  He answered no.  Then the guard searched his belongings and found an undeclared bottle of contraband whisky.  Baer, an honest man, truly forgot about the bottle.  But now he knew that it appeared that he told a government official a lie. Baer thought fast and grabbed the bottle whisky and drank out all its contents in one great gulp before the startled guard could even protest.  The contraband was gone. The guards was bewildered. But since there was no evidence, he let Baer pass.   Thus, Baer maintained his reputation for honesty and never breaking the law. 
Sometimes honesty and success in business do not go hand in hand.  Baer showed the community that one could be quite successful working hard and earn a generous living by honestly conducting his business affairs.  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.  To marry a scholar in the Jewish community was more prestigious than marrying a wealthy man.  The only place one may find such scholars were in the Talmudic academies known as yeshivas.  Baer would travel across Poland from yeshiva to yeshiva to find the best students for his daughters,
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.  Gitel, Hinda's sister, married a red bearded Torah scholar, Hersh Jacob Witowski, who came from a rabbinical family.  His daughter, Joyce Wagner said of her father that he was the “best Baltifilla", meaning the finest person to lead the community during important prayer services. She stated that her father insisted that she be given a Jewish education.  As a result he helped sponsor the opening of Bat Yakov, a girls school. 
      Miriam Poczciwy, Binem's grandmother, was a pious woman and 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, the dowery and the wedding feast. As a result of her contribution to the community she was loved and respected by all regardless of one’s financial status.
Years before the outbreak of World War II, her beloved husband Baer passed away. Her sons now living in the United States insisted she come to live with them in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Since the brothers were all were successful businessmen they made sure that her life was comfortable with them.  She lived there for a while, then, just before the beginning of World War II, she insisted that her sons send her back to Poland.   She gave them two reasons for this.  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 granddaughters. 
Shimon, Binem's father, was considered a melamden, a scholar, and was among the best students at his Yeshiva.  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.
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.
My father pointed out that the reason Jewish families had so many children was that children represented a comfortable 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 empasized 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 studing 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, which group did Shimon pray with? There was enough Radomskers in town as well as other hasids to have their own separate minyan .  On the other hand 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 likely that Shimon was a member of both congregations but probably usually prayed with Hersh and the other Radomskers at the old Shul.
The reason for this is that according to a group of Holocaust survivors from Radziejow that I met in Toronto, Canada, they emphasized that my Grandfather was considered among the most respected and holiest members of their congregation. As evidence, they pointed out that during the Yom Kippur special prayer known as Neliah that takes place just before the end of the holiday, which is considered the last chance for Jews to beseech G-d to erase any bad decrees that were written for the New Year. They said he always led that service. My guess is that he performed that service at the small shul.  For I do remember that I was told by a survivor that it took over two years to build Beit Rachel because of politics in the community.  If that was the case, based on my own personal experience, I suspect that my Grandfather, now a man in his mid-sixties stayed with the frumer elements of the community and remained with the small shul.
     As Shimon's shoe and leather business continued to grow, he decided it was time to find a larger building.  In the year Binem was born, 1919, my grandfather bought half of a building, not along Jewish Street, but at a prime location in town. It sat on a corner of Market Square. Although it was not on Jewish Street, other Jewish shops were located on the sides of the Market Square.  Many of Binem's friends and relatives had stores in the area such as the Levy, Markowski, Frankenbergs, and the Rosenbergs.
     Shimon's building was large enough to house both the business and a respectable and comfortable living quarters.  So the family moved to the area behind the on the first floor as well as the entire second floor.
     Shimon's wholesale leather business as well as shoe store became the largest store of its kind in the area.  Still, the store did have competition.  There were at least six other shoe stores owned by Jews in the town.  Shimon had the added advantage of selling leather and Afindings@ 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.
Within a few blocks of the store one of the two churches of Radziejow was located.  As a rule in the Jewish community, all Jews steered clear of the Church.  A Jew in Radziejow living in Radziejow had no idea what the interior of the churches looked like, let alone what was done inside a church.  Sadly, the first introduction for many of them would occur several years later when the Nazis used the church as a gathering point the night before they were transported to death.
Family members lived around the store.  Joyce Wagner,known to us as  Aunt Yetka, lived around the block from the store.  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.  She lived around the corner of Shimon=s house.  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 she managed to survive the horrors of the most infamous extermination camp of the Holocaust, Auschwitz.
When Binem was a young boy he traveled with Shimon on several pilgrimages to the city of Radom .  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 this G-d given power along with his own personal great wisdom to help his Hassidum overcome life challenges.
These private audiences were difficult to arrange.  To have a private meeting with the Radomsker Rebbe, one began with the drafting of a note describing the problem along with a donation.  This was handed to the Rebbe's personal Shamos (assistant).  Binem described the Shamos as a giant man with flaming red hair.  The Shamos then would consult with the Rebbe to determine if he 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.
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,  that 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.   
Binem remembers the two men as they discussed the matter.  After an intense discussion the Rebbe came up with a seemingly 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 chicken.  He then made inquiries and determined which family in Radziejow was most in need. Shimon then 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.
    It is interesting to point out that the Radomsker Rebbe, may his soul rest in peace,  later was murdered by the Nazis as he 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, AYou 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 AI 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 killed his daughter and son-in law.
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 instigated an anti-Semitic school teacher.  Harry felt he was completely justified to respond in kind over 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.
        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 thru hard work and an 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.
         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 soon became both a soldier and citizen of Canada. Still his dream of joining his brother remained.  For several years he actively sought entry to the United States.  Finally he had an opportunity.  
Soon after gaining status as a lawful immigrant he was again drafted this time into the American Army.   After the war he 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 nanny prostelzed the children to believe in Christianity. The two boys 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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