Tuesday, December 31, 2013

THE MAKING OF THIS BOOK - THE HOLOCAUST EFFECT



          
Map Depicts Radziejow When the Town Was Controlled By Russia

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

Map Depicts Radziejow When the Town Was Controlled By Russia

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

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

                                  The Making of This Book- The                                  Holocaust Effect





Bimem Najman



The seed for this project was planted in Chicago during the spring of 1981. That year I became the proud father of my first child, a son. We named him Adi, meaning precious jewelry in Hebrew. My wife chose that name after consulting with my father. The two discussed the matter of his naming for only a few minutes. My dad requested that we name our newborn after his favorite brother Azriel. His brother, likethe rest of his family, was murdered, in cold blood, by the Nazis during the Holocaust. As a new father that was still in awe of the amazing experience of having participated in the miracle of the creation of life, my thoughts seemed to stream in all directions including even contemplating the meaning of man's existence. For some inexplicable reason I thought of the meaning of the date of my son's birth. That caused me to think about my birth date in 1955. I remembered that I was born in the same year that my father became an American citizen. I reflected on the stream of my thoughts and said to myself. "Perhaps there is some hidden connection between the unconnected events."



A few nights later I watched as my infant son as he slept so comfortably, truly without a care in the world, another random thought popped into my mind. "What will I say to my son when he grows older and asks me what happened to Grandpa during the Holocaust?" After mulling over this question I realized that I was not prepared to answer. My understanding of my father's tragic experience was sketchy, at best. The more I thought about this question the more I realized that such a hypothetical question may be related to an even more important question that I have been been plagued by since I was a teenager. This concerned how was my existence related to my lost family members that were murdered during the Holocaust. It was nowbecoming clear that the focal point of my teenage quandary may possibly find an answer if I investigated why my father survived when countless Jews didn't.
       I felt that the time had now arrived to stop thinking about these issues and formulate concrete answers. It was then I decided I will write this book. I knew that this was going to be a monumental task to not only organize the facts surrounding my father's Holocaust experience but that alone would be incomplete. I knew that his experiences must be matched up with the individual events of the World War II that caused his suffering.
      In order to remain accurate I would have to be vigilant to the truth.  That meant being careful that as I tell of his ordeal I must not fall victim to the human tendency of developing a narrative based on my own understanding of the Holocaust. Often times in order for a  narrative to flow and remain consistent many authors sacrifice including inconvenient facts.     I was not going to allow for any shortcuts. I decided that I would seek and record the true facts  for myself and my son.  In the back of mind I thought that one day perhaps I would share the information I gathered with anyone that may be interested. 
       In starting this undertaking I had no delusions that what I was taking upon myself would be easy. Just the opposite.  I pursued this endeavor knowing that this was not going to be not just difficult but very likely impossible to achieve. 
       As a preliminary matter I had to decide how best to research my father's Holocaust odyssey.  I knew nothing of Poland.  All that I was sure of was that my father grew up in an insignificant provincial town in Poland about thirty miles from a port city called Danzig.  I also remembered that Radziejow had a population of  less than seven thousand people. Thus, I suspected that there would be little historical record existing of events that took place there before, during, and after World War II.  
      That left me with my father as the best source of information.  The problem was that while growing up in my parent's home my mother declared in no uncertain terms that we kids were not to bring up the subject of the Holocaust.  These memories of my father were deemed strictly taboo.   Until now, I kept this rule without a second thought.
     Only once did I ever hear my father tell of his experiences during the Holocaust. The place was in Israel in February 1968.  That month is considered the slow season for my father's shoe store.  So he decided to take me, as part of my Jewish education, to Israel for a three week tour.  He said it was my Mitzvah present. At the time I was not yet Bar Mitzah age. But no matter. This was a special time for the Jewish people. Only eight months had past since the most amazing victory for Israel occurred during what had came to be known as the Six Day War.  Israel was being threatened with annihilation by several Arab nations.  Instead in less thana week, Israel destroyed the Armies of its three Arab neighbors, Syria, Egypt and Jordan. Most importantly the Israel Defense Forces had captured the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, which is Judaism's most holy site, from Jordan. 
      My father wanted me to have the experience of putting on for the first time in my life,  Tefillin  at this most sacred place.  During the tour my father met with a former friend that lived in Israel. We all had dinner in Tel Aviv's Dan Hotel's restaurant, where we staying. My father and his friend talked in English. This was unusual since they were both from Radziejow. Up until then I only heard my father speak in Yiddish with his greenhorn friends.  This greenhorn, however, had made Aliyah to Israel before World War II.  He had been speaking Hebrew for nearly forty years. His English was excellent.  So, I assumed, that he probably had lost his fluency in Yiddish. And since my father did not speak Hebrew, English was the best language for the two to communicate. 

      I still remembered a good deal of what my father told his friend.  That conversation was a starting point. Therefore, my first step was to talk to my father about his experiences in Poland, with an emphasis on how he survived the Holocaust. At the same time I would develop a chronological timeline of those events that made up my father's Holocaust experience. As I thought about constructing the timeline I thought it would be essential to match up these events with the events of World War II.  I knew it would be complicated to place different events in its proper chronilogical order. I would soon learn that the calendar was not high priority with those struggling to survive the Nazi extermination machine. But I would not let this detour me.




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

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


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


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


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


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


After maintaining the website by writing blog articles for some years, one day, I had yet another  flash of inspiration. I understood it was time to fulfill my pledge to my father and actually write the book. For my part, it now seemed that the project was now actually feasible. Moreover, I reasoned that I was now older and wiser.  Likewise, time had improved  my writing skills for during my hiatus as a  lawyer for nearly twenty years I was constantly writing. Further, I had already collected enough supporting evidence during the life of my website along with the several stories I already posted to have a head start. Finally, as was astutely pointed out to me by the research librarian at the Farmington Hills Holocaust museum, that with the development of the Internet, I was now able to research many background historical issues almost instantaneously. As far as genealogy questions I received help from a website called Geni. Actually, I was first made aware of the site by Scott Dan, a distant cousin living in Ohio. With the help of this website combined with other resources I was able to construct a family tree dating back to the 1750s. For me, that was an astounding, equivalent in some way, to those blue blood Americans that date their lineage back to the landing of the Mayflower in Plymouth, Mass.


My first step in writing my Father's account was to locate those long forgotten cassette tapes recorded in the early 1980s. After some thought and searching I found  them in a torn plastic grocery bag at the bottom of a bedroom closet.Upon seeing them my first impression was that these cassettes would not work.The longevity for these cassette recordings has long passed being over thirty years old.  I put one in an old recorder that was laying around in the same closet, plugged it in, and to my surprise, the cassettes worked flawlessly.


My writing plan was that the book would be an exact account of Ben Neuman's experiences before, during and after the Holocaust. It would begin with my his experiences in the town of his birth Radziejow. It would then tell the story of a boy that grew into a young man only to become prey, hunted by Germans for no other reason that he was a Jew.  During his run for freedom he would find pure and inspiring humanity.  He would learn that there were good men and women willing to risk their lives in order to give him some assistance. .It would detail how he achieved his impossible dream of outlasting his insane evil Nazi tormentors and their "Thousand Year Reich".  The account would be told, for the most part, through his eyes and supplemented by the account of other survivors from his hometown, Radziejow.
As I started writing, I soon remembered one of the reasons for the long hiatus. I was inadequately equipped to place the saga in its proper historical context.Without accurate background material, the account would be subject to the simplest of criticism, that being that the story just doesn’t match up with historical facts. For example, on the very first tape my father mentions the assassination of the first Polish President of the Second Republic of Poland. He dated the assassination as occurring during the same year of his birth. So, on my first draft I gave a verbatim translation of the date of the assassination. However, on the second draft, I instinctively questioned the accuracy of his statement.  I asked myself how could he possibly know what actually happened when he was born? So I did some research on the Internet and found that the President was killed five days after entering office in the year 1922, three years after my father was born. The fact that my Father had the wrong date is not surprising, for he only repeated what was told him  when he was a boy.  However, writing a book and using the wrong date would be inexcusable.
        Also, thirty years earlier when I was trying to understand my Father's account, I discovered that a verbatim account was only one element of a saga. Standing alone his account was remarkable but his account could be strengthened by the many stirring stories told by other survivors of their experiences during the same parallel events.            

Moreover, now thirty years later, it dawned on me that what his saga lacked was what could be considered even more compelling,  the aftermath effect of his unique experience.  For his Holocaust legacy did not end with his liberation, nor did it end with his death. but rather it continued through the lives of his children and grandchildren.


So I discovered that I, the son of Ben Neuman, was an essential part of the saga.  My story was a continuation, a second book.  For it became clear to me that only by understanding how the  Holocaust's effects on my Father  and how it influence me, can a true picture emerge of the real ramifications of Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jewish People.


     It became clear to me that Hitler's slaughter of the Jews cannot be limited to the generally accepted figure of six million Jews. One must add on the much greater number of all the potential children and grandchildren that were never born. Only by taking into account this tremendous loss can a person begin to have a realistic understanding of the scope and size of the true calamity that occurred as the result of the German people placing their fate into the hands of a madman and his gang of murderers.


Also, I came to realize that a third book was necessary. Meaning, book one and book two leaves out  a most important aspect of the Holocaust.  I believe this most recent tragedy that has befallen the Jewish people must contain a glimmer of insights on our lives as fellow human travelers. So the third book in this trilogy  must discuss the major issues man that the Holocaust forces all humans to attempt to find meaning. It has become clear to me that by analyzing the Holocaust through my father's experiences it might be possible to find answers to many existential questions.


As I put finger to keys, I soon found that it was essential that I include historical background material as I wrote the narrative. For just as a foot soldier in battle only knows what is directly in front of him for he has no perspective of what it is taking place in the greater picture of the battle so to my father's experiences needs such context with the history of World War II. 


Interestingly my research revealed a distorted misconception that I as well as many other Jews maintained as truth concerning the Poles and their complicity in Hitler's Holocaust. I assumed that it was unquestionable that with the exception of a small number of  Poles it would be fair to  generalize that all Poles were anti-Semites at their core. Moreover, I accepted as a given that one of the reasons for this burning hatred towards Jews was that many priests taught the Poles that Jews were "Christ Killers" and therefore deserved whatever punishment G-d, through the Germans, deemed appropriate. And even though there are several examples of this type of behavior by Poles during and after the Holocaust,I was forced to conclude that to be honest and objective this wasn't  the case.

My research revealed that both Jews and Poles in Radziejow fared much better than there fellow citizens living in other towns. Still, to a lesser degree, like the Jews, these Poles also suffered horribly from the Nazi occupation.I further discovered that not all Poles that were anti-Semites before the War behaved as such during and after the War.I learned that there was no black and white logic during the Holocaust.Rather, there was a life and death struggle for Jews and Poles alike.Thus, any truth about the relationship between the Poles and the Jews was actually complicated and became determined by a number of factors. Therefore, it is only right that Poles living during the Holocaust should be judged on their individual behavior and at all costs we must avoid the easy method of stereotyping all Poles because of the bad behavior of some.

The materials used to write this account comes from several sources. First, and foremost, my personal interview of my father in the early 1980s. The interviews produced five 90 minute cassettes.Second, my father's interview by the Shoah Foundation that was established by Steven Spielberg.  This interview took place in his house in June 1996. It was conducted by Margaret Liftman for Survivors of the Shoah, Visual History Foundation. Third,  similar videotaped testimonies of ten other Survivors from Radziejow.  Fourth, the book, written by my "Aunt Yetka" entitled, A Promise Kept, To Bear Witness.  My aunt whose real name is Joyce Wagner, published her account in 2007. Fifth, my cousin's, Lenny Marcus, video documentary about Radziejow produced for Public Television of Boston.  Sixth, the research found on my website Polandinjustice.com. Sixth,  I conducted personal interviews with several Holocaust survivors that lived in Radziejow. Seventh, assistance from the Radziejow Library that included photographs of the German occupation of the town during World War II.  Finally, extensive internet research on Radziejow from several websites including Virtual Shtetl.

As a guide to my style of writing Ben Neuman is referred to as Binem or my father depending whether I am telling his story or those times that I directly speak to him.  Binem was his name in Poland. The name stayed with him when he left Poland in 1946 and moved to the largest of the HIAS camps for displaced Jews. His camp was located near Frankfort, Germany near the grounds of the former concentration camp Bergen Belson. His name remained Binem at his next stop when he immigrated to the United States in 1949 and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There he was supported by his oldest brother, Harry Neuman. Harry, to his great merit, took in my father and not only hosted him but went the extra step of setting him up in business. He did this even though they never personally met until my father  disembarked from the Marine Jumper, the passenger ship that sailed from Frankfort Germany to Ellis Island, New York. A few years later he married my mother, Bernice Halevy, and six months later on my mother's insistence  he moved to Chicago. In doing so he gave up Harry's protection and took a chance by moving to a strange city.  He did so because  my mother made it clear that she needed to live near her mother, Eve, and her grandmother who was only known to all of us as “Bubba”. Binem finally changed his name to Ben when he became an American citizen, on May 31, 1955, just a few months before my birth. My father lived out the remainder of his life in Chicago which was more than  fifty years.  During that time he became the father to three children, myself,  Scott, my older sister, Helene, and my younger brother, Keith.

The name Binem did not completely end for my father's citizenship in 1955.  For the rest of his life he continued to be Binem to all his Yiddish speaking greenhorn friends. Even my mother, a native born American, would occassionally switch back and forth from Ben to Binem.While I was growing up, I made it a point to “zone out” the name Binem because it reminded me that my father was some sort of foreigner.  I only called him and thought of him as dad.  As I grew older, the name Binem appealed to me because it created a link between my world and the lost world of my father.

Before the War the Jewish community of Poland was by many accounts considered to be the foundation stone of world Jewry. At the end of World War II the Jewish community of Poland was effectively non-existent. This end began with Hitler's Nazi Party took control of Germany in 1933.The dynamics became an unstoppable force. Hitler's speeches were heard in Poland and to those Poles that were already anti-Semitic, Hitler legitimized their hatred of the Jews. When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 the Jews were long waiting for the inevitable. Like the German blitzkrieg, the Nazi killing machine blitzkrieg the Jews of Poland. As early as September 21, 1939, SS Obergruppenfuhrer, Reinhard Heydrich contacted all chiefs of the security police on the rules for rounding up Jews. The plan called for Jews to be collected into enclaves of five hundred or more. Radziejow was designated as the site for one of those enclaves.These enclaves later evolved into ghettos. Once the authorities compiled lists of all the Jews in each enclave, the Nazis were ready to implement Hitler's dream, the destruction of Polish Jewry. Heydrich, in January 1942, at the famous Wannsee Conference , prepared the blueprint for the final solution to the Jewish Question.That blueprint outlined the mechanism for the extermination of all Jews in Poland. According to the plan, the stronger Jews were to be worked to death while those not strong enough to work would immediately be liquidated. Binem was one of the strong ones. 
         At the time of the German invasion of Poland Binem was just entering adulthood just turning  20 year old.  Soon thereafter the German sent him to a forced a labor camp a good distance away from his village. He worked there for nearly two years until he was told by the Nazis that the camp would be closed down and the workers were to be sent to another larger work camp named, Auschwitz. Binem knew from several rumors, that Auschwitz was nothing less than an extermination camp for Jews. So he did the only thing an innocent person could do, he escaped the Nazi round up at his work camp and he fled. Alone in his thoughts he had no clue what to do when the world around him crumbled. My father was thrusted into life's most dangerous  tests in which in order for his survival he was forced to withstand both the fury of nature's the world's most dangerous predator, man.   

When I confront the savage Holocaust I am most troubled that a civilized society would officially sanction the torture and murder of Jewish men, women, and children. Today, it is difficult to comprehend the reality of this enormous evil.  Making it even more incomprehensible is that that among European countries, just a decade earlier Germany was considered as one of the models of  civilized society.  Seemingly on a dime things changed with Hitler and his cohorts.  His signature barbarity incorporated into the law of the land his philosophy of hatred. Within a short period of time the Jews of Germany and those living in lands occupied by German forces were headed towards their doom. It was as if innocent people were loaded onto a roller coaster with tracks pointed in the direction of  flaming ovens.

When the liquidation of the Ghettos my father understood that he was to be murdered by either being shot, starved, beaten, or gassed. Binem knew that he was to be killed for only one reason. That reason being that he was a member of an outlawed religion. He accepted his fate because his status as Jew was beyond his control. Likewise, he understood that he had no other choice but to await the angel of death to finally get around to him.

Binem decided that just because he had no alternative but to be murdered didn’t mean he had to cooperate with his Nazi murderers.  He decided that his sole act of defiance would be to stubbornly refuse to surrender to his enemies. He had a simple plan. He was going to make the Nazis work to kill him. He would resist them by trying, against all odds,  to survive the War. He would play this game of death by his won rules. And perhaps, G-d willing, like winning a lottery, he held out for the very remote chance of winning the greatest prize of all, life! A simple plan, all he had to do was stay alive long enough until Germany was defeated. Binem's understood that the main flaw in his simple plan was that Germany was the most powerful country in the world. The nations and armies of Europe had been defeated and cowered. And as my father described himself a “skinny dried up Jew” was going to do what nations could not do, he was going to thwart the Nazis by living.
Astonishingly, as a result of several events that could be only described as miracles, Binem, to his complete astonishment, won the game of death and survived. He was lucky while the vast majority of his fellow Jews in Poland and throughout Europe were slaughtered by the Nazis. After the War he adjusted to a world where a Jew might be considered a normal human being. In the end he found himself living a secure and comfortable life in the United States.

Binem's ordeal was different from most of other survivors’ experiences during the Holocaust. Binem did not experience the horrors of a extermination camp.Nor did he survive by making his way to the safe harbor of the Allies' lines. No he was not a partisan fighting to free Poland from the Nazis. Nor did he devise some ingenious plan to outwit the Nazis. His was a simple strategy, run and hide.

In my opinion his plan required the greatest amount of heroism. For Binem was on his own, completely isolated from his fellow Jews.He lived in a constant state of starvation. He suffered alone the curses of nature which included the freezing cold winters and the storms that shook the very ground of his fragile existence. At the same time he was plagued by itching from being infested with lice. When he was sick there was no medicine.There was no one to care for him. There was not a sympathetic person to console him. He was completely alone.
Compounding these daily tortures was the reality that at any moment there was a very real possibility that he would be captured or immediately murdered. Binem knew this completely.  Every waking moment and even in his dreams he thought about the moment that he would be found by the Gestapo, caught in the fields by the German Army, or turned in by a collaborator when he begged food from the Poles, the game was over.
To maximize his chances for survival  he ventured that his best chance to survive would be to flee to the only place he was familiar with.That area was the fields, forests and villages that surrounded his once beloved Radziejow. He made this decision not because he spent his years exploring this area, thus he could rely on his superior knowledge of the area to survive. Just the opposite, he was as unfamiliar with these fields and forests as a city slicker is with the forest preserves near the city.  Still he believed that even though he was no expert on this area he at least can honestly say that he did know it better than anywhere else in Poland. So he decided to use that little knowledge to at least achieve a more realistic goal of just making it through the day in order to see what tomorrow might bring.
It will never be known exactly why he survived when others were caught and slaughtered. In my opinion, my father survived because he was either destined to survive from the very beginning of the Holocaust or he earned the right to survive by his actions during the War.
His odyssey is sprinkled with true miracles and unbelievable events. I am not saying this because I am his son and a believing Jew. As I write these words, today March 10, 2015, I was listening to the  radio and heard the story of a baby that was rescued from a car that overturned in a body of water.  For 14 hours the car was submerged.  The rescuers heard the cries of a woman for help coming from the car.  So they frantically worked and succeeded to find a woman long since drowned but the 18 month old baby still alive.  The accounts of the rescuers will always be true in their minds even though a rational human being knows that a dead mother cannot cry out for help to save her baby. So to it is with my father's saga, by all reasonable objective standards, based on his account, he shouldn't have survived.  But the fact is that he did. Thus, his survival forces me to conclude that a higher force had decreed that Binem was to survive just like the baby survived.
For those who conclude that he was just lucky, I most vehemently disagree. For by using the word luck to  explain his survival is just a convenient way to avoid the need to challenge the scientific rational world we live in demands of us to unquestionably subscribe to. I cannot conclude that his survival was by sheer luck.   I do accept that there are situations that a person can seem to be lucky. After nearly 60 years of live on this planet I have seen luck rule out on several occasions. And I further accept that luck does not need to be explained in terms of intervention by higher forces. Further, I would say that that some people can for a short period of time be very lucky. However, in my father's case luck cannot be the answer for no  one is lucky for long consecutive periods of time.  In my father's case, over four years. My life experiences have taught me that long term luck doesn't exist. I am not alone in this conclusion, just ask the highly rich Las Vegas casino owners that do not bet that luck can last for any long term period of time!



This book encompasses the true story of one of the last Jew of an entire region. He became a kind of ghost haunting the local populous.His existence caused Poles to conclude that the invincible Germans aren't so invincible if they couldn't even catch a “skinny dried up Jew”. He was reminder to the Poles that Jews were once living among them and the Germans hauled them away just as garbage is collected. For those he touched during his journey he was an enigma.He represented a test for them to see how they would react to this sorry reminder of the past. His survival tells of the profundity of mankind's short and tenuous life on this tiny planet.

Binem's journey ended several decades later with his death on Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Spring of 2006. When I visit his grave my eyes always focus on two words on Binem's gravestone that best describe his life, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR.


















Map Depicts Radziejow When the Town Was Controlled By Russia

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

The First World War ended on November 11, 1918.  Seven months later a sixth son was born to a pious Jew living in a small provincial Polish town. The town’s name is Radziejow. The exact month and day of the boy’s birth was never definitively determined. The boy was named seven days later at his circumcision.  The pious man and his wife named the boy Binem.  Binem was to grow up, survive the harshest of times, and moved to the United States.  Thirty six years later, known as a double chai (chai meaning life) in Jewish mysticism, Binem had his first son.  He named the boy after his pious father, Shimon. I, Scott Neuman, am Shimon. And my father, Ben Neuman, is Binem.
      As a side note, Binem's birthday was always a family inside joke.  We officially celebrated his birthday on June 10.  We claimed that date as his birthday because it was the date my father used when filling  out applications for visas, passport, marriage license, etc... .  However, my Father confessed that his actual birthday was probably not on that date.  We would patiently listen to his explanation for this mystery every year at his birthday celebration. It would begin after he blew out the candles.  He would grin at all of us then he would announce that today probably was not his actual birthday.  He stated that it was a known fact by everyone in his hometown that any official dates were usually not the actual dates.   As far as the issuance of birth certificate, he explained that the procedure was that upon a child's birth that information was written on an official form by a certain lazy town official whose job was to register all local births with Poland's central government.  Upon  receipt by the proper office the  central government would commence the official registration.  The problem was that the official in that office used the date that he received it.  Exacerbating matters, the same bored town official in Radziejow had for some time unilaterally  decided it was easier if he would send the birth certificates together.  Meaning, he would collect a pile of these  forms from several births and then send them all in one neat package to the central government.  Months later the parent would receive an official birth certificate. As a result my father's actual birthday was a mystery to him.  If that confusion was not enough religious Jews in Poland celebrated birthdays according to the Hebrew lunar calendar.  Meaning the actual birthday on the solar calendar changed each year. Moreover, my father's mother died when he was a small boy.  His father, a Talmudic scholar, had little time for such things as birthdays. Let alone calculating the actual birth date on what he called the "goyisha" calendar.  Therefore, the only date that my father had as a reference to his actual birth date was the date on his official birth certificate.

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







































No comments:

Comments