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 Holocaust experience.
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 of writing this book started 36 years ago, in 1981. As if guided by an unknown power, I persuaded my father to recall 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 use the word miracles in flippant manner. To illustrate let me cite a few examples. My father told me 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 to bring attention to himself that day not one person 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.
|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 1919 until he left this position in 1924.
|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|