Monday, October 29, 2007

History of the Rabbi and the Shul.

There were two shuls in Radziejow, the Old Shul and the New Shul built in the mid 1930s. During the early 1900s the Rabbi of the Old Shul was Rabbi Mazur. He had a number of sons. The Rabbi and his wife died in the 1920s. They were buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Radziejow. Prior to their parents death, the sons moved to the city of Danzig and went into business. The business was very successful. The Mazurs became one of the richest families in Poland. The sons would come to Radziejow every year for the Yortzit (anniversary of the death) of their parents. They donated a great deal of money to the Jewish community of Radziejow.
Sometime after the death of Rabbi Mazur the community hired Rabbi Platgevich. The Rabbi lived about 6 blocks away from the Old Shul. The local antisemites constantly harassed the Rabbi. When he would walk to the Old Shul, they would, on occassion, throw stones at him and pull his beard.
The Poles celebrate a holiday called Dingo. On Dingo, it was a custom to splash one another with water. One Polish woman took a large bucket of water and poured it on Rabbi Platgevich as he walked to the Old Shul. Strangely, three days later, the woman became ill and died. The Poles thought that perhaps this was a result of insulting a man of G-d and therefore temporarily halted harassing the Rabbi.
The Gabbi of the Shul was one of the most honest men in town. The Gabbi serves as a kind of layman assistant rabbi. He would prepare the Shul for its religious and civic activities, distribute Shul charity to the poor, and helped arrange food and housing for visiting Jews. The Gabbi's reputation for honestly was well known. Once, a wealthy member of the community tried to test him. The man offered the Gabbi a large fortune if the Gabbi would give the wealthy man the Gabbi's share in the World to Come. The Gabbi didn't hesitate when he answered the wealthy man that even if he offered all his money he would never give up his share in the World to Come.
One day, the Mazur sons came to Radziejow for the Yortzit of their parents. They were in a particularly generous mood. They asked to have a town meeting of Jews to inquire what they wanted them to donate to the town this year. They asked the leading members of the community. One man said that they would like a Jewish hospital. When they came to my Grandfather, Shimon Neijman, he said that it would be helpful if their would be a bigger Shul with apartments for the Rabbi to live in so he would not be harassed by the antisemites. The Mazurs liked the idea and a beautiful Shul was built.
The Shul stood for about five years. After Germany invaded In the early 1940s the Nazis occupied Radziejow. They tried to burn the Shul down, but it was so well built with fireproof materials that they failed. One day their was a large explosion.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Father's Memories of the Property and What the Jews and Poles Lost!

eIn the early 1990s I asked my father about the building that was stolen from him. He described it as the nicest building in Market Square. He explained that it was a two story building. On the first floor was the store and a storeroom. A hallway connected the store to the kitchen and living room. Also on the first floor was a pantry. The pantry's roof was removed on Sukkot. Tree branches replaced the roof to serve as a Sukkah. The back exist led into the backyard. In the backyard was the outhouse and a shed. The shed held wood and coal for the fireplaces and stove. The shed was also used to keep geese and chickens during the holiday season. The Upstairs consisted of 4--6 bedrooms. There was a shortage of beds. My father and his siblings slept two to a bed. My father slept in the same bed with his brother, Arizel, from 1920 to 1939.
Since most of the Jews lived in town and operated most of the stores, the town's business section virtually shut down for Jewish Holidays and the Jewish Sabbath. The Jewish children would play soccer in the town center during these holidays. Since the Neuman building was right across the street from the town center, the Neuman children played with their friends in the town center.
If the Holocaust never occurred and the Poles would have been a little hospitable to the Jews, one can imagine that I and my brother and sister would have been playing in Market Square. And yes, my children and my sister's children would have played there. And finally, my children's children and my sister children's children would have one day played in the Market Square next to the Neuman building in Radziejow. How sad for us and sad for the citizens of Radziejow.
For the Jews of Radziejow were not "parasites" as the antisemitic citizens of Poland would have liked everyone to believe. My father said that the Polish farmers needed a doctor, a tailor, a baker, a place to buy general merchandise. The Jews provided the Poles with these services. But instead of cherishing these citizens, a large number of Poles agreed with Hitler and were happy the day when the Nazis shipped the Jews out of Radziejow to Chelmo. Those Jews never returned. Instead, they were placed in gas trucks and murdered!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Don't Get Me Wrong - Poles Did Help My Father During the War!

It would be untrue to state that all Poles were antisemitic and all assisted the Nazis in the murder of Polish Jewry. In fact, Ben Neuman was saved by several Poles living in the area surrounding Radziejow. My father escaped a German work camp shortly after the Jews of Radziejow were shipped off to Chelmo for gassing in the gas vans. He had no place to hide, shelter or food. He lived outside hiding in the hay stacks. When he got hungry he would beg for food from poor peasants and shoemakers that knew my father from their purchases of leather goods from the store located in Radziejow. Some peasants would let him stay the night. Others would give him as much food as he could eat. They wouldn't let him take food with. They were afraid that he might be captured and interrogated as to where he got the food he was carrying. Occasionally they would let him stay and hide with them for several days. He did not shower, had body lice, and was unshaven. Despite his unhygenic appearance, and the real danger he represented, these simple Poles placed themselves and their families in danger by aiding a Jew.
Did they do it out of love for the Jews, an act of defiance to the Germans, or because they felt sorry for a fellow human? I don't know, but the fact is they did it.
One polish shoemaker allowed him to stay in his one room house that served as his place of buisness. My father hid behind a sheet that separated the work room from the "bedroom". The Polish shoemaker would have a constant flow of German soldiers in his workshop. My father trembled behind the sheet hoping that he would not be discovered. After a few days he thanked the simple shoemaker for his help and moved on.
As time dragged on, my father felt that all was lost and the only way to end his misery would be to either commit suicide or turning himself over to the Germans. Then a miracle occurred, he entered the town of Radziejow and started to walk around expecting that he would be turned in. Instead, no one turned him in. He just wandered around the town. Suddenly, he ran into a polish woman that he went to public school with. She told him not to lose heart, she would find help. Eventually she and her brother found a place for him to stay at a rich estate with a "polish princess" whose husband was German and her son was an officer in the German Army (possibly the SS)! More to follow in forthcoming blogs about this amazing true life story.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Voice Recordings of Ben Neuman's Holocaust Experience Interview!

Several hours of Ben Neuman's experience in Poland will be featured in the next several blogs. Ben Neuman's story of the good and bad Polish neighbors during the Holocaust will be presented. There are several surprises. Among them, how he survived, which of his fellow citizens provided him with food and shelter and which neighbors collaborated with the Nazis. His story tells about righteous gentiles, many of whom were very poor. Some of these people and decendants still live in Poland today.
We will begin with the period just prior to the war. The Neumans sold leather goods to both the general public and shoemakers. Shimon Neuman was well respected by all of his neighbors. He never had to fear walking to Shul on Shabbos like several other Jews of Radziejow. In fact, the gentiles would look out their window and marvel as he war his dress capote (Coat), his hat and shining shoes.
Shimon Neuman was a Radomsker Chasid. He followed the Rebbe that resided in the city of Radom, Poland. He would travel to the town of Radom for the Rebbe's advice about personal matters. For example, one of the Neuman daughter's was having trouble giving birth because she was very petite.. Shimon Neuman travelled to Radom for help. It was difficult to get an appointment with the Rebbe. However, upon paying the proper people he finally got an audience. The Rebbe listened to the problem came up with a novel solution. Buy a chicken and give it to the poorest member of the Radziejow community. Shimon Neuman promptly complied. Subsequently, his daughter gave birth to a healthy baby. (to be continued).