Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Part 2 - Pages 28 to 128 - The Holocaust Effect - The Saga of a Survivor and his Influence on his Decendants




Shimon was constantly asked to take on a leadership role in the community. However, he had no interest in engaging in Jewish town politics. As a rule Radomsker Chassidim were known for their total devotion to the study of Torah. Shimon's main interests were Torah and his family, followed by his business. 
Still, Shimon did not neglect his community obligations. According to several Holocaust survivors from Radziejow now living in Canada, Shimon was the head of Radziejow's Chevre Kadishe. The Chevre Kadishe was in charge of ritually preparing the dead for burial. In Judaism the care for the dead is considered to be man's greatest kindness to his fellow man. For tradition teaches us that a dead person cannot show gratitude nor can a dead person return the favor. Jewish laws concerning this ritual are complex and require a scholar to ensure that all aspects are properly carried out. Moreover, it is preferred that the man in charge of the Chevre Kadishe also be pure in his devotion to the tenets of Judaism.
Also, Shimon was the trustee of the town’s Jewish Court. When Jews in Radziejow had civil legal disputes, those grievances were not brought to the town’s secular court rather the dispute was decided by the Radziejow's Jewish Court. Torah law was the only law used to administer justice in this court. When money was at issue, the Court required that the amount of money in dispute be deposited with a neutral entity or person. Even though there was an actual Jewish Bank in Radziejow located on Torunksa Street, Shimon was the preferred person to hold the funds by both the court and the litigants. The reason was simple, everyone in town trusted him. The people of Radziejow would joke that even the Rabbi couldn't be trusted with the funds lest after the case he might say, "I already spent the money."
      Shimon's reputation as a pious G-d fearing man was such that he was held in high esteem by not only the Jews of Radziejow but also the Poles. The Gentiles living near Market Square were delighted as they watched Shimon walk to Shul every Friday Evening.  All the shops had already closed for the coming Sabbath. When Shimon emerged from the Najman building on his way to Shul, he was dressed in his best clothes in order to honor G-d’s day of rest. Since Shimon was a wealthy man that spent his money freely to perform mitzvot (G-d's commandments),  his best clothes were likely the finest available in Poland.  
To the average Pole, he was quite a sight to behold, with his long black dress jacket made of the finest silk. The jacket is called a Kapotah and till this day is worn by members of Chassidic sects. Donning his head was a tall shiny black silk cantor style hat. And of course, owning the largest shoe store in town, he wore high boots made of the very best quality boot leather available. As a consequence along with reputation of honesty, the Poles never subjected him to the usual anti-Semitic taunts or attacks that even the Rabbi of Radziejow had to endure.
When I asked my Father why his father was immune from the normal anti-Semitic behavior of their neighbors, he simply replied, "[o]f course he was never subjected to any taunting, he was respected."
                 Shimon's daily routine was set in stone. No matter what the season he would wake up promptly at five in the morning. He would ritually wash his hands then dress making sure that his tallit katan (undershirt tallit) four corner fringes were hanging freely at his sides.  He then would descend the stairs to the main floor and walk  directly to the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea. Armed with his tea cup he would move to the parlor to continue studying the Gemora from the place he left off the previous night. He knew where he stopped by the bookmark he placed between the two portfolio pages of the tractate book of the Talmud he was studying. A portfolio page consists of both sides of a page,  The layout of the typical page is that the main text is in bold lettering of large type  and it is surrounded by smaller type that makes up the commentaries of different sages that have been included as references over the centuries. For the next few hours he would study without interruption. At a few minutes before seven a.m. he would replace the bookmark to indicate his exact place and then close the book. This was in keeping with the mystical belief that if you leave a book open you will forget what he had just learned. He would then put on his coat say goodbye to anyone in earshot and then walk directly to the Shul. 
At Shul he would don his tefillin (ritual phylacteries) along with his beige white with black stripes tallis (prayer shaul).  After ensuring that the strap he wrapped seven times around his arm was properly separated and that the Tallis top now covers his head he was ready to begin to daven (pray) with the required minyan (ten or more males) Shacarit ( morning prayers).  Shacharit lasted for about an hour. Once concluded, he would returned to his residence walking directly into the kitchen. He would then ritually wash his hands, say a blessing over a slice of bread or roll, then partake into a full breakfast prepared by one of his daughters. After eating and saying the Birkat Hamazon ( blessings after eating) he would walk from the kitchen located in the back of the building down the long hallway to the door that opened to the store. The store opened promptly at nine thirty and remained open until six in the evening. He would briefly leave in the afternoon to walk over to the Shul to recite the midday prayers called Mincha. Upon closing the store for the evening, depending on the time of year, he would walk back to the Shul for Mariv (evening prayers).
After the short service he would returned home to eat supper. When he finished, he would return to his specially designated chair located in the parlor and continue his studies from the point he left off in the morning. He would study non-stop until midnight. This was his schedule every day of the week until Friday evening. On Friday night all changed for it was time to celebrate the ushering in the Sabbath.
Occasionally, Shimon would have to relunctantly deviate from his routine in order to deal with family or community responsibilities. Shimon did his best to keep the outside distractions to a minimum. His main goal in life was to live by the rules of the Torah as practiced by his Chassidic sect, the Radomskers.
The building where the Najman’s lived and worked was a two story structure with a store on the first floor located in the front of the building facing the main street. The rear of the building and the upper floor was designated for living quarters. The location of the building made it one of the most coveted properties in Radziejow. It was situated on a corner lot facing Market Square, the center of commercial activity of the town.
Najman Building located at 5 Rynke Street
 
The building exists today with the address being 5 Rynek.  Rynek Street continues to be one of the main streets in Radziejow. The street is unusual in that all four blocks surrounding Market Square share the name Rynek Street. The street, at the far end, connects to Torunska Street, also known as Jewish Street, at the opposite side of Market Square from the Najman building.
Market Square

Market Square was famous for its flea and farmers market. Every Wednesday, with the exception of Jewish Holidays, the market bustled with people. It was a gay day for both the Jewish merchants and the Poles. The Jews open dozens of stalls in the market square to display their wares. Even the Najman’s had a booth despite the fact that there store faced Market Square. The reason for this was simple, a great deal of commerce took place within the four corners of Market Square.
From the surrounding farms scores of farmers and their families would travel to Radziejow specifically to shop or operate a booth in that area of Market Square designated the farmers' market. While in town, the farmers would buy shoes, clothing, and other items they needed. The currency at that time was the zloty and it was used as the normal way to buy an item. Still, bartering was sometimes conducted. A typical barter trade for the Najmans might include one or more live chickens for a pair of shoes.
The Najman building had three exterior entrances. The main entrance for the store faced Market Square, a door on the side street that opened to the Najman’s living quarters and a back door from the living quarters that lead to the yard. The main store had an interior door at the rear that led to the stock room. The store room contained the stock of shoes and boots of different sizes, different leather products, machines and tools along with those items needed in the making and repairing of shoes. There was also a work-space for a shoemaker that made the leather tops for shoes. In the back of the storage room was an interior door that connected to a short narrow hallway that led to the Najman’s living quarters. The living quarters on the first floor consisted of a parlor, dining room and kitchen. Attached to the kitchen was a large pantry that was covered with a removable roof. During the holiday of Sukkah the roof was removed. It was replaced with branches laid in a manner required by Jewish law. The pantry foods were moved to another location and the now cleared area became a dining room. The pantry now became the dining area for all meals as the Holiday requires that all meals be eaten under a thatched roof that allows more light into the room than shade. To many Jews in Radziejow, the Najman Sukkah was considered the ultimate in convenience since it was part of the actual kitchen.
The back yard was approximately 25 feet by 40 feet. Located near the rear was a a wooden shed and outhouse. The shed was used to keep coal and wood. But before Jewish holidays the shed was transformed into a livestock barn for poultry. The fowl was fed and housed in the shed. However these birds were "free range" since the chicken and geese ran freely in the fenced in yard. Then, on a per need basis, either a chicken or goose was either taken to the shochet on Jewish Street or sometimes the shochet would make a house call to drum up some business. A Shochet is an expert in Jewish ritually slaughter of animals, was essential in a Jewish community. Without his vital service a Jew cannot eat meat. Meat was considered a required luxury for the Jews of Europe. A Sabbath or holiday joy was symbolized by the required eating of meat. For his efforts, the shochet earned twenty five cents for a chicken or fifty cents for a goose. One thing for sure this method guaranteed that the meat was fresh for the holiday.
        The upper floor of the building consisted of several bedrooms. Shimon’s children slept two to a bedroom. The brothers and sisters slept according to their gender, two to a bed. Binem shared his bed with his brother, Azriel, who was a few years older then him. The two slept in the same bed together for over twenty years.
Binem - bottom right
             Malka - bottom left
Top row from left to right - Azriel - Shmeil- Masha


As I mentioned earlier many of the Jews living in Radziejow were related. The Najmans had many aunts, uncles and cousins living in the town.  I tried to elicit from my father the names of all his relations in the town and their particulars. Every time I did this he would make some excuses such as he just couldn't recall that data.  After thinking about this it occurred to me that possibly his subconscious blocked this information as to protect him from having to deal with the true scope of the tragedy that he experienced. This tragedy  being that the vast majority of his relatives were murdered during the Holocaust.
Uncle Israel - first row second on left

Still he did have some pleasant memories of his interrelationship with one special uncle. Binem's favorite relative was Uncle Israel. Israel was Binem’s mother’s brother. He operated a very successful bakery. Anyone looking at Uncle Israel would immediately recognize that he had the looks and demeanor of a storybook baker. Uncle Israel was a big man both tall and wide. He weighed well over two hundred and fifty pounds. He was always displayed a smile on his face. His jolly demeanor was infectious. Because he was known to have a great sense of humor whenever someone spoke with him that person would also smile.
Uncle Israel’s bakery was considered by both Poles and Jews to have the best bake goods in the area. He was well known for his tasty breads. Filling the bakery display case was an excellent selection of different specialty breads. His two most popular items were his signature rye bread and his perfect kaiser rolls.
Uncle Israel had a special love for Binem since he was the youngest of his sister's sons. She died when Binem was only a few years old. As a result, Uncle Israel always kept an eye on him.  
One day he decided that because Binem was a frail child it was his responsibility to "put some meat on his body". As a result, Uncle Israel insisted that Binem accompany him on his pickup and delivery route. As Binem grew older the tradition continued during Binem’s school vacations.  Binem continued to ride shotgun on Uncle Israel’s horse drawn vehicle. He rode with him during his daily flour purchases from the farms surrounding Radziejow. Uncle Israel always made sure that there was a big bag of rolls on the buggy seat for the two of them nosh on. He was constantly urging Binem, all in good fun, to gorge on them.  He would laugh and say in his jolly tone,  "[e]at, eat." When Binem felt too full to eat even one more mouthful Uncle Israel would chime in saying that "fat is healthy".
Besides owning the bakery, Uncle Israel had a thriving grocery store. Near the front of the store there were several different candies and sweets that always attracted kids.For this reason Binem was considered by his friends to be the luckiest kid in Radziejow. Uncle Israel gave Binem, carte blanche, to take as much candy as he wished. As a result, Binem and his friends all agreed that their favorite hangout was Uncle Israel's grocery store.
Before the beginning of World War II Uncle Israel made the hard decision to leave his beloved Radzijow and emigrate to the United States. There he would join his two brothers, Max and Sam, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The brothers moved to the United States in 1904. Both were successful in different business ventures. Uncle Israel's bakery and grocery store was taken over by Binem’s aunt and uncle, Hersel and Gitel Witkowski.
As a boy, just about every day, Binem would steal time away to play soccer with his friends. His father was against all sports because he felt that it was a complete waste of time. He would admonish Binem by patiently explaining that his time would be better spent in pursuit of his Torah studies and not by running around and trying to kick a ball. He repeatedly told Binem, "[w]hen you grow up you would be sorry for not studying harder."
            I asked my Father, starting with the Yiddish word “Nu” meaning was he right?"
He replied, "[l]ooking back on it, I wish I studied harder." 
Binem did not care about the consequences. His father, urged by his daughters saying "boys will be boys", tried to avoid the subject, at least most of the time. And when it was brought up Binem could never really be angry with his father about because he understood that Shimon was a scholar in Jewish Law and he wanted him to follow in his footsteps.
It was not like Binem had a great deal of time to waste. His day started at seven o'clock in the morning. After begrudgingly waking up, he would ritually wash his hands using the cup in a pan that was under his bed, which is a mitzvah, a Jewish commandment, best known in Yiddish as negal wasser. With his hands dripping he would get out of his bed go to the wash basin and actually wash his face. Afterwards, he would dress in the clothes laid out for him by his sisters and then rush downstairs to the kitchen to a waiting warm breakfast again prepared by one of his loving sisters. After eating a hurried meal, Binem would rush to public school trying his best not to be tardy. School started promptly at eight o'clock.
School attendance was a mandatory requirement of the Polish government. The curriculum was confined to the subjects of math, reading, geography and history. The classes were mixed with Jews and Poles both boys and girls. The majority of students were not Jewish coming from the town itself and the outlying farms. Classes lasted until one o'clock in the afternoon.
After school Binem would hurriedly walk home with his friends. Always on guard for ambushes by Polish youth gangs, the Jewish boys walked together because they felt there was strength and security in numbers. And this security was needed for good reason. The Polish boys seemed to enjoy fighting and especially fighting with the Jewish boys.
         When I asked him to explain, Binem said that the Polish farm boys were mostly anti-Semitic because they came from Jew hating parents. These youths were constantly looking to cause trouble with the Jewish kids. Ironically, Binem reflected on this and then stated that from his personal experience during the dark years of the Holocaust many of these same “bad apples” matured and seemed almost sympathetic to his plight and actually helped him to survive.
Returning to his schedule, when Binem arrived at his home he would go straight to the kitchen for lunch, again prepared for him by one of his sisters. After he finished his meal he recited the Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals). Then in a rush he ran off to Cheder, which was Hebrew school. Cheder, started at two o'clock in the afternoon and ended at seven o'clock in the evening. There he studied Mishna, Tanach and Gemorah, meaning Jewish Law, the Bible and the Talmud. Like the rest of the kinder (kids) while learning his mind would wander thinking about friends and things to do when he had some free time. After an exhausting day, Binem would return home and promptly sat down in the kitchen to eat dinner.
Radziejow's Boy School

By this time Binem was usually tired of his structured day. If it was his choice he would say that he was ready to have some free time or just nod off to sleep. But Shimon had different plans for his youngest son. Right after dinner, like an alarm clock, Shimon would summon Binem to join him in the parlor. Shimon would reach for one of the large leather bound volumes of the Talmud and open it. He would find his mark where he last left off with his son by turning to the daf, page, of Gemora, Talnmud. Binem , being the youngest, had the obligation of this honor to study one on one with one of the the most learned scholars in Radziejow. The reason for this exclusive honor is that Binem’s brothers were already too old for Shimon to force them to participate. As a result of his being forced by his father to learn with him Binem loathed this part of the evening. But, because he respected his father, for many years he never openly complained.
Binem as a teenager - top right
Shimon - bottom left

        Things changed when Binem reached his early teen years. With the same precision that his older brothers experienced at about the same time in their lives he started to rebel. This rebellion was a slow and painful process because of his deep respect for Shimon. Binem began to complain in a roundabout way.
He would sometime speak to himself in a whisper in front of his father, "[w]hy do my friends have more free time then I do? Why, don't my friends have to study after dinner like me?"  
It took some time but Shimon eventually understood the hint. At age fifteen, In a day that Binem felt was a celebration of freedom Shimon finally relented.
This was not Binem’s first celebration of freedom. As the youngest son he was last in receiving privileges. For example, as a small boy each week during the day before Sabbath Eve his sisters were responsible for the preparation of the Shabbat cholent, a hot meat and bean dish. Also they baked the consensus favorite sweet kugel. The baking was done at home. This posed a problem. On Shabbat no cooking is allowed. So in order for the cholent and kugel to be kept these items had to be kept in a hot oven large enough to hold the pots.  Most Jewish households were equipped with small primitive stoves.  So the problem for the community was solved by utilizing the large ovens in the kosher bakery. So everyone transported to the bakery. So after the cooking and baking was complete the Najman's Shabbos food was placed in marked pots and transported by wagon to the kosher bakery that was located a few blocks away.
Binem’s problem was that on the Sabbath burdening a horse was strictly prohibited by Jewish law. So, Binem, because he was the youngest, had the embarrassing chore on Sabbath morning. Just prior to the Sabbath day meal, he was required to walk over to the bakery and retrieve then shlep ( carry) the heated items the two blocks to the Najman's kitchen . Now among the Jewish youth in general and Binem’s friends in particular, anyone that performed this task was laughed at and derisively called the "Shabbos Kugel Shlepper". It was considered a menial task on the Sabbath day when everyone else was enjoying themselves. As far as Binem was concerned it was degrading. This feeling was unfortunately reinforced by Binem’s friends as they stood near the bakery waiting for Binem to shlep the pots. As soon as he appeared his friends would crack up with laughter as they repeatedly shouted at Binem, “[y]ou are a kugel shlepper.”           
One cold Sabbath morning, Binem was returning from the bakery with the pots, when suddenly in a moment of complete overwhelming frustration, he rebelliously dropped both pots, causing the contents to spill all over the dirt covered street. Binem, knowing full well the ramifications of this outrageous act, returned to the house with the two empty pots in hand. His sisters were understandably upset. However, to Binem's astonishment, when Shimon was told that there was not going to be a hot meal because what Binem had done, Shimon instead of being angry and punishing him for ruining the Sabbath meal, Shimon, was thoughtfully reticent. He seemed to know the reason behind Binem's "negligence". Binem was not punished. As a result of Binem's act,  Shimon changed the chore to one that all of his sons were required to participate.
The majority of Radziejow’s Jewish eldery were frum (religious). Their children, many adults, were not.  Still out of respect and tradition, most of the Jewish town folk, at least in public, observed the laws and the traditions of the Sabbath. Of course, this had ramifications on the non-Jewish population. Since the vast majority of merchants were Jewish, the town business district was literally shut down Friday afternoon and reopened on Monday. Non-observant Jews and Poles alike could not shop on the Sabbath because all stores were closed.
Even with the short work week the Jews of Radziejow were financially better off than most of their Polish neighbors. While the peasants held leaseholds or owned the lands around Radziejow, the Jews of Radziejow owned and occupied a majority of the buildings used for commerce. As a result, the Jew, generally, lived in better housing. The Poles recognized this, but found solace by mocking their Jewish neighbors. “We own the streets while you Jews only own the buildings."
Most Poles did not live near Market Square, so on the Sabbath Market Square was empty of commerce and transformed itself into a Jewish controlled park. The square took on a festive air. Jews would promenade through the square on their afternoon walks that became part of their Sabbath routine. Jewish children would play football and other games in the center. Friends and relatives would meet to shmooze (talk). For the most part the Sabbath was an idyllic day.
From an early age when Binem's was on school vacation he was required to work in the family owned shoe and leather goods store. In fact, everyone in the family worked in the store. With so many family members working in the store one might wrongly conclude that the Najman Shoe Store was the only store in town. In fact, there were about nine other shoe stores in Radziejow. Competition was fierce to attract the limited customer pool. Amazingly all the store owners remained friends.
Among Binem's tasks at the store was stocking the shelves with new shoes or shoes that have been shown, dusting the display shoes to make them more attractive to the eye, and most importantly waiting on customers. To increase customer flow into the store Binem would often be told to stand outside the store and watch for“live ones to reel in". Binem instinctively was able to spot these future sales. They were usually farmers in town for the day. They would browse the window of any store they passed. Binem would go into action when they were within a few shops of the Binem Shoe Store . He would rush up to them and start a conversation. The farmers were both polite and amused as this young boy told of the bargains available at the shoe store. Many times Binem was successful in getting the family to cross the threshold of the family’s shop. Once inside the chances of making a sale increased manifold.
Binem reflected, “I did a very good at pulling customers in. They weren’t annoyed with me, in fact they enjoyed it. For them it was a type of entertainment."
The only obstacle for Binem was the fact that all the shoe stores used the same method for increasing customer traffic into their stores. This resulted in confusion when customers with several family members would, at the same time, be "reeled in" to several different stores.
The Najman Shoe Store also was a wholesaler of different materials and items that were essential for shoemakers. The store catered to both Polish and Jewish shoemakers around Radziejow. In Poland shoemakers both made and repaired shoes. Certain shoemakers were considered better craftsmen then others. One of the keys of the Najmans' success was that they developed a reputation to be able to keep prices down on the different grades of leather and materials associated with the construction of shoes. The materials included eyelets, laces, heels, etc… . These items are called findings. Shimon then later Shmiel, who took over general operations when he came of age,  had a strong relationship with the area shoemakers and thus the Najman store had a virtual lock on the wholesale distribution of all these items and the different grades of leather.

      The Jews of Radziejow were close knit, like a family. In fact, many residents were in some way related to the others. Those that were not blood related and were in fact only Jewish neighbors were still deemed to be a kind of distant relative. Everyone knew each other’s name and along with that they knew a great deal about their private lives. Religiously, while it was true that the elders of the community were for the most part strictly observant, the majority of young people were already straying away from the traditional bonds of Judaism that had held Jewish communities together for hundreds of years. Like the young non-Jews, Jewish youth was drawn to the several "isms" that were replacing the old traditional views of government throughout Europe. One major difference for the Jews was they were not only restricted from joining many of the popular "isms' but were in fact the scapegoat for the problems in the world.  These "isms" were Fascism and Nazism. Therefore, Jews straying from Judaism either embraced exclusively Jewish "isms" such as secular Zionism and Bundism or universal "isms" such as Communism.
Zionism was the political Jewish movement based on the proposition that Jews must end their exile by returning to the State of Israel. Only by living in their own country would Jews be capable of living normally. While business, the traditional way Jews earned a living in Poland, was important, Zionism required that these traditional jobs would not alone suffice in the creation of a Jewish independent country. Thus, the majority of Jews must be taught to do jobs that a nation needs such as farming, carpentry, construction, etc... .
The strongest group of Zionists in Radziejow was Shomer Hatarir.  Along with its adult members the group established a youth group which was a branch of the same Jewish youth group in Israel known as the Scouts. Shomer Hatzair was a left leaning socialist movement that was part of the Kibbutz movement in Israel. 
Other Zionists helped to establish the Jewish Public Library and Reading Room in 1929. The literature was, of course, of the kind that encouraged the philosophy a building a Jewish State in Palestine.
Shomer Hatzair Scouts established summer camps throughout Poland. The leaders encouraged young Jews to learn modern Hebrew, develop useful farming skills, and acquire the skills necessary to help rebuild the Land of Israel. The idea was that the graduates would make Aliyah (move to Israel) and join a kibbutz in Israel. This secular movement emphasized communal living. In many ways it was the shining example of communist philosophy. The camp emphasized that all its members, both men and women, to make decisions for the development of the communal project. All must work for the betterment of the commune but no one job was more important. In theory, the elected members of the governing board had no more rights and priveleges than a mere camp cook.
Radziejow Shomer Hatair Scouts 

Throughout Poland. Shomer Hatzir became a movement that emphasized developing the youth and therefore many of its activities were geared to entice young people to join. Members met once a week and would learn to sing the new Zionist songs, dance, listen to exciting lectures of life in the Land of Israel. Its goal was to build lasting relationships and a strong comradely among its members.
The highlight of being a member was attendance at the summer camps that took place once a year. The three week retreat would be located on farms throughout Poland. During the day the youth would learn real life skills necessary to live in Palestine. The emphasis was learning to physically work hard. For many of these young Jews this was a new experience. Jewish parents, in general, pampered their children to a very late age. When actual hard physical work was needed around the house or business it was usually done by hired Poles. To many of these spoiled youth the novel idea of working with one's hands was a new and pleasurable experience. That coupled with the rural setting of camping life with no real adult supervision became a very attractive vacation.
At night after a hard day of work the youth would be brought together to sing and dance. The camps stressed equal rights between the sexes. For many observant Jewish teens this was a dream come true since at home separation of the sexes was the required norm.  Here at camp it would be their only opportunity to experienced joint activities with the opposite sex. Orthodox parents that knew of this were appalled.  But what could they do?  They were at a complete loss of how to counter this twentieth century assault on traditional moral safeguards.
The Shomer Hatzair movement was a Zionist variation of the philosophy of Communism. Both philosophies promised to create a utopian society.  For many young Jews this ideal was a great draw.  In fact, this concept was familiar to Jewish religion. For thousands of years the Jewish people have been told to wait  for a Messiah that would  usher in the Messianic Era that to average Jews, at least  in their imagination, was a kind of utopian society. To many of these same Jews  it seemed that man has waited long enough and instead of waiting for the G-d to produce a utopian society, it was up to mankind to create it. Communism offered one alternative method to bring about this change.  In its purist sense, it meant that if Jews and Gentiles would abandon their religious differences and replace it with a political philosophy advocating the equality of man in which all workers would seek to create a just society 
Jews that adhered to communist philosophy believed that if everyone is equal then it stands to reason that anti-Semitism would end. This pie in the sky approach fooled many Jewish youth while most of their parents practically assumed that if it sounds too good to be true then it follows that it is not true. 
Some young Jews that were pampered by their hard working parents were intellectually drawn to the idea that all wealth should be shared to benefit of society. They joined the Communist established organizations such as The Union of Polish Youth and the International Red Aid as well as other other communist inspired community groups. In Radziejow it was no different. Jewish Communists operated openly in Radziejow. 
Bundism, not to confused with the religion of Buddhism, was a socialist secular Jewish movement. Its philosophy emphasized Jewish culture and not Jewish ritual. The Bund was essentially a Jewish national political party that advocated the rights of Jews to be an accepted minority in Polish politics. The Bundist allegiance was nationalistic to the country they lived in. Therefore, for the most part, they were anti-Zionists and anti-communists because these groups pledged their allegiance to other outside entities. Bundists were very active in the community. The Bund established a Radziejow chapter called The Workers' Association of Physical Education.
Orthodox Jews of Radziejow ignored these new ideas and focused on their time tested traditions of the Torah, as explained by the Oral and Written Law. As per tradition, observant Jews prayed that G-d would send a redeemer in the form of the Messiah to usher in an era when all Jews will return to live in Israel and worship at a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. A great hope among among the devout that  assiduously adhered to all the precepts handed down by Moses,  that G-d would continue to protect the Jews as he had done for the most part for hundreds of years in Poland, until the Messiah would arrive.                 
The pious Jews of Europe were soon to discover that G-d's protection was about to be temporarily removed.  Once removed, the hounds of Hell were about to be released on the Jewish people  As stated in Psalms 18, "the pains of death encircled me, and torrents of godless men would frighten me. The pains of the grave surrounded me, the snare of death confronted me."
To the Jews of Europe from the beginning of the  twentieth century a new world of social upheaval had emerged where traditional values were being pushed to the side and replaced with different sets of new values. It was no different in Radziejow. Many families watched as members left the community to start new lives in other parts of Europe, the United States and Israel. Many young Jews were seeking salvation through other methods than what Judaism had to offer. Their children were wearing the clothing of the gentiles and spoke of things that were antithetical to everything the parents believed in.  After a while many of the pious  Jews decided that it was a waste of effort to try and convince their children that they were on the wrong path.  So, for the most part, they were silent. "What can we do?" So, they "looked away".  They would say "Sha still" (don't say a word).  The pious remained pious as they watched their children go along different paths.  At the same time the devout continued to pray silently to the Almighty that their children would return to the Torah path.
Even with all these fundamental transformations occurring throughout Europe and in Radziejow itself, the Jewish community infrastructure continued to remain the same. For several decades the Jews of Radziejow maintained a central authority to control both civil and religious life of the community. It was as if the Jews had a government within the government of Poland. The Jews held set elections to choose their governing board. These elections were held every year. In 1936, the community voted in a seven member board. The board consisted of four Zionists, two Bund, and one Orthodox Jew. 
The Board was responsible for administrating the community budget. Revenues were collected in the form of taxes from the Jews residing in Radziejow. The amount collected was based on a careful consideration of each individual family's ability to pay. Still, often when a Jew would receive his bill, he would contact the Board to try as my father aptly put it "chew down" the assessment. The Board of the Kehila (community) used the funds collected to maintain the various Jewish institutions, fund holiday parties, and, of course, pay the Rabbi's salary. Also, the Board had the most important job of representing the Jews of Radziejow in just about all dealings with the local Polish government officials. 
Divorces and marriages were controlled by the Rabbis. All disputes among Jews were brought before a Jewish court. The tribunal consisted of the Rabbi and a few respected individuals in the community. The decisions of the Court were final and respected by all. Anyone that disregarded the ruling of the court faced the prospect of the ultimate punishment being imposed, that being not be permitted to be buried in the Jewish Cemetery. This punishment was rarely, if ever, imposed. Just the thought of the possiblity of such a penalty kept all litigants in line.
The Orthodox controlled other separate institutions. For example, Gemilus HaChesed (charity) was most likely completely controlled by the Orthodox in the community outside of the Board of the Kehila. Gemilus HaChesed was responsible for the Chevre Kadishe ( the Jewish burial society). Also, they distributed food and money, including a free loan society for the Jewish poor of Radziejow.   
Social activities were limited since it was a relatively a small rural town. Still the community maintained a Yiddish playhouse; however, there was no Jewish movie theater. There was also a sports club called Macabbi. The club established a soccer team in 1930 that competed with both Jewish and Polish teams.
The Jewish Cemetery was located just outside of town between the towns of Radziejow and Pietrokow. The cemetery grounds consisted of the actual burial grounds and an adjacent building that was used both as shelter and a place where bodies were ritually cleansed and then kept before burial. The cleansing of the body required that it be washed and prepared for burial according to strict Jewish Law. During the time of the ritual cleansing the Book of Psalms was recited and repeated by a shomer (guard) until burial.  The shomer was usually a relative of the deceased or an especially holy member of the community who did the task sometimes voluntarily and sometimes for pay. As the cemetery grew in size a six foot high chain linked fence topped by strands of barb wire was installed to protect the grounds. The cemetery was surrounded by open fields.
The burial grounds were dotted with dozens of monuments of all sizes and materials. Most of these monuments were made of stone, but some were made out of wood. When Shimon's wife Hinda died, to honor his wife he purchased a large marble base and topped it with an approximately fifteen foot intricately wood carved pillar monument that it would appear was crafted to resemble the Aitz Chaim (the Tree of Life). It stood out as the outstanding monument in the cemetery. As a consequence of its height, the locals used it as an actual man made navigation marker because it could be seen from great distances.
In the 1900s the majority of trade in goods and services in Radziejow was controlled by Jews. A virtual monopoly was held on certain goods, For example, leather  was essential in the production of many products such as shoes, belts, overcoats, purses, wallets, etc… . Shimon built the business to be the largest of such enterprises in the Radziejow area. After he retired his son Shmeil took over and continued as one of the main players in the wholesale leather trade.
Jews were also bakers, tailors, glass makers, shoemakers, and painters. Survivor Roman Roger’s family sold bicycles, bicycle parts, sewing machines, farm equipment and cow milking machines. Other Jews owned a variety of stores including shoes, general merchandise, food, and hardware stores. Also, there were tailors, barbers, watchmakers, silversmiths as well as other types of artisans. The town's only doctor  was Jewish, Doctor Paniski.
Jews were also involved in finance. There was a Jewish bank. Survivor Roman Rogers brother was a security broker. He specialized in the purchase and sale of Polish Government bonds issued on a regular basis starting in 1920.
Besides the kosher bakeries there were even kosher restaurants that catered to the community. Survivor Jack Marcus said there were two kosher restaurants. Survivors in Toronto told me that my father and his click of friends would hang out at one of the restaurant located close to the Najman Store. There he and his buddies would shmuz (talk) as they ate the hamishe (like homemade) entrees.
Radziejow's Jewish Mikva. Used for ritual immersion.

Many of the Jews in Radziejow enjoyed their wealth by buying the latest inventions and products. For example, Survivor Roman Roger was from a wealthy family. The Rogers owned two businesses,  one in Radziejow and another in a larger town located twenty miles away. The Rogers were on the cutting edge of ownership of the best twentieth century products available in rural Poland.  He remembered that among his family's more interesting possessions was a motorcycle and a Model T Ford.
The Poles living in Radziejow and the surrounding countryside were mostly ambivalent about the Jews. On one hand many disliked the Jews and viewed them as outsiders. Some priests continually ranted that the Jews killed Jesus. Also, to the average Pole the Jews did not act like Poles and certainly the Orthodox Jews did not dress like them. Orthodox Jews normally wore a black outfit and covered their heads with either a cap or yalmuke. Further, the Jews spoke to one another in a foreign language, Yiddish. That also pertubed the average Pole since Yiddish sounded awfully close to German, the language spoken by their nearest enemy. Many times during commercial transactions between Poles and Jews, the Poles would hear the Jews change from Polish to Yiddish. Not only did it seem to the average Pole feel that was rude, it also made them wonder whether the two Jews were conspiring to cheat him. Also disconcerting, the Jews made it a practice to remain as separate as possible from the mainstream population. For the most part Jews never socialized with Poles. Many Poles assumed that the Jews believed that they were somehow superior to them despite the Jews being a minority in Poland.
On the other hand, some Poles looked at the Jews with admiration and sympathy. Jewish men appeared to them as loving husbands, excellent fathers, and good providers for their family. The Jews dressed well and were quiet and reserved as opposed to many Polish men. Further, Jewish men did not drink to the extreme like their Polish counterparts. Many Jews seemed sincere and pious in their beliefs.
Those Poles that disliked the Jews had much in common with the other European Jew haters. In fact, there were a number of thriving anti-Semitic movements at the time in several European countries.  These movements specialized in spewing out an intense hatred to Jews and their religion. It is no wonder that the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Hitler was music to the ears to some Poles. And when those same Poles heard that Hitler's personal thugs, the brown-shirts, were attacking both Jews and their property, these Poles were further embolden to become lawless to grab their share of Jewish loot. Moreover, the Catholic Church, which just about all Poles were congregants, continued to foster a negative view of the descendants of the Hebrews who they preached were responsible for the murder of their god, Jesus.
Despite their differences, surprisingly, the Poles and Jews managed to remain civil to one another because in the final analysis they had a symbiotic relationship which made both groups dependent upon one another. The Polish Government understood this relationship and encouraged it. In most cases the central government went out of its way to promote this relationship by acting as an honest broker between the two groups. 
Prior to the promulgation of laws that led to the boycotting of Jewish business in the the 1930s, the government policy was one of tolerance towards the Jews. This position, which was out of step with mainstream thought was often tricky. Despite these government efforts the prevailing wisdom of the typical Pole’s attitude towards the Jews was that Poland would be better off without the Jews.
The Jews were not completely innocent in this matter. Many Jews, even the most liberal among them, viewed the Poles with suspicion. Interaction with the Poles was kept to a bare minimum, restricted to business and government transactions. The suspicion of Poles was not a case of paranoia. Periodic periods of anti-Semitism dot the history of the Jews living in  Poland. Still, despite these obstacles, the two communities lived most of the time side by side in relative peace and acting in a way that strengthened the mutual benefits of one another.
No matter how great the friction the two groups always found common ground in business and services. The Jews needed the Poles for their agriculture products and raw materials. The Poles needed the Jews for goods and services. Thus, the two groups were integrated despite the various walls, both physical and spiritual, that separated them.
The Jews socialized in their own gathering places. In Radziejow a favorite spot for the young and old was the kosher delicatessen located a few doors down from the Najman Shoe Store. While enjoying a tasty sandwich with friends, they would shmuuz (discuss) about the latest news, tell jokes and just hang out. The restaurant was in many ways as important as the synagogue as a gathering place that promoted social cohesion. 
The Synagogue was the official place where Jewish males bonded.  There they prayed together three times a day. Before services and after, the less pious among the participants would kibbitz (talk) with one another about their lives, both their triumphs and failures. During times of illness and tragedy they would console one another. When a death occured in the community the Shul members would rally behind the bereaved bringing the family of the deceased meals and whatever else was needed to help lessen the burden such as cash and free loans.
Just as importantly the Jews would genuinely celebrate together during their simchas (events of happiness) such as when one experienced nachas (pride and joy) from family member or friends. All would attend the many engagements, weddings, births, bar mitzahs. Gifts were generously given to make sure that the recipient understood that the invitee was truly thankful to be included in the celebration.  Survivor Heinich Gronow remarked  that the celebrants often had to restrict the list of invitees to close relatives lest the event would become too crowded.
This unique sense of loyalty to the community and family was forged over several in which the Jews of Europe were forced to live in designated areas called ghettos. The word ghetto dates back to the early seventeenth century. It is derived from the Venitian dialect of Italian and it literally means "island". The Jews in that Italian location were required to live on the island. Thus the name ghetto and that name stuck. As Europe progressed so did Poland. With the passage of time laws changed concerning ghettos to the point that in many countries Jews were allowed to legally live wherever they chose. Anti-Semitism continued among the populace despite the government changing laws. As a result Jews were dissuaded from moving out of the perceived safety and comfort of the ghetto.
Well before Nazi anti-Semitic culture took hold in Germany there were extremist Poles that portrayed Jews as evil. Their solution was that Jews must be expelled from Poland. The history of Poles being involved in blood libels, extortion, random beatings, pogroms, and murder is too long a list for the purpose of this book. 
Polish Poster displayed after WWI - The Scourge of Mankind

This hatred of Jews caused a bad reaction in a small minority of Jews. It appears that some Jews claimed that they were taught in certain Cheders (schools) to despise the Poles. One of these Jews  is quoted as saying that "[o]ur rabbi insisted that we Jewish children spit on the ground and utter curses while passing near a cross, or whenever we encountered a Christian priest or religious procession."Poland's Holocaust, p. 39. He continued by adding that "[o]n the way to school we passed a Roman Catholic church and a Russian Orthodox church, and we spat, pronouncing the words found in Deuteronomy 7:26" . . . thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it, for it is a cursed thing."  Poland's Holocaust, p.39.This kind of behavior by Jews towards Poles was rare.  Some Poles in Radziejow believed that Jews hated Poles. Clearly, this was not the case. The main reason why Jews maintained a separate community was that Jewish law encourages Jews to live in close proximity of one another. For example, there is a myriad of laws that govern the Sabbath. One law prohibits a Jew from carrying an object in public the area unless the area is enclosed by an Eruv (a fence or a symbolic fence). Likewise, a Sabbath observing Jew was restricting as to his mode of transportation and how far he could walk on the Sabbath. Jews were not allowed to travel by vehicle or ride a horse. Likewise, walking outside a town was prohibited. Thus, in order to attend Sabbath services in Radziejow one must live in walking distance of the synagogue.
This explains why there were no Jewish farmers living in the vicinity of Radziejow. Unlike Polish farmers that were free to ride into town on Sunday to attend church, a Jewish farmer was prohibited by Jewish Law to ride his wagon to Shul on the Sabbath. There were no exceptions to the rule. If a Jew would violate the law and ride to the Shul the Rabbi would admonish him saying that it would be better that he stay at home rather than desecrate the Sabbath by riding in a wagon. Thus, if there was a Jewish farmer that desired to attend Sabbath morning services he would have to make arrangements in advance for housing and meals within Radziejow.
The Sabbath was not the only reason for Jews to live together. Jews felt safe and comfortable participating in organized Jewish life which required constant interaction. For example, a Jew must daven ( pray) with a minyan (ten) men, three times a day. Only by working and living near one another, was it possible to keep many of the Torah laws.
The Jews in Poland were on the constant lookout for zealous Polish Jew haters. Although small in numbers this didn’t make them any less dangerous. These anti-Semites lived everywhere including the small town of Radziejow. They would parrot the international watchwords of hate. 
A favorite invective was that Jews were parasites proven by the fact there were no Jewish farmers in the surrounding area of Radziejow. They contended that the reason Jews were not farmers was because they looked down on people that engaged in hard labor. These anti-Semites simply ignored the reasons behind the lack of Jewish farmers.The first being that only recently were Jews allowed to own land and work as farmers. Second, as stated earlier, Jewish Law made it difficult to be a farmer and a practicing Jew. Finally, Jews contributed to Poland in other ways. Jews provided services for the Poles. All members of society need goods and services. Productivity in society is achieved by many different means that compliment and strengthen the work of others. Jews played a vital role in Poland in the manufacturing and distribution of goods and vital services . Without the Jewish businessmen that sold products to the general populous, production would have been far less effective for the distribution of manufactured goods.
For the most part, there was complete separation between Jewish social life and Polish social life. Both the Church and the Rabbis encouraged a complete separation of the two communities. The Catholic Church in Radziejow was the institution that has long defined the Polish social way of life. Church members met socially and formed fraternal bonds. 
Likewise the Synagogue in Radziejow was the binding force for Jewish social life.  Jews would socialize with one another as the Christians did. The Synagogue and the Church never planned joint activities. Thus, it was near impossible for a Jew to socially mingle with Poles. Moreover, many priests not only encouraged separation, but also taught suspicion and even hatred of the Jews. Likewise Rabbis discouraged interaction lest that lead to assimilation.
There was no real comparison between Jewish and Polish extremists advocating hatred for the other. The Polish haters advocated pogroms, boycotts, and public denigration of the Jews. From time to time the talk exploded into acts of violence that included physically attacking the Jews. On the other hand, Jewish extremism was limited to bad talk, thoughts, words, and small juvenile gestures.     
One of the greatest fears of the Rabbis and just about all Jewish parents was assimilation. Interaction and assimilation has always led to intermarriage. Thus, the Jewish community encouraged separation.
The Polish Government encouraged interaction between Jews and Gentiles, In spite of the government efforts, the majority of Christians were happy that the Jews practiced a kind of "voluntary isolationism". For the Christians did not want their children to marry Jews.   "A Jew who married a Christian was anathema in both social circles." Poland's Holocaust, p. 38.
    It is important to emphasize that the majority of Poles and Jews did not hate one another. Rather, each group was basically indifferent of the other. The Poles had their way of viewing the world and the Jews preferred their own way. The "Jews maintained their own lifestyle and values and preferred to have only limited contact with the Poles, usually confined to business dealings. Little wonder, then, that Poles and Jews did not really know each other well, even though they had lived side by side for centuries."ibid.
        The history of the two people living in one land tells that the vast majority of Jews and Poles viewed the separation of the two peoples as a preferred mutual accommodation. Both sides understood that living and interacting with one another may encourage Jewish children and Polish children to create bonds with their peers. As the children mature into adulthood these relationships could latter develop into love and then possibly marriage. "Ethnocentrism in Poland was a two way street." Poland's Holocaust, p.38.
It would be unjust to assert that as a result of these religious and political differences all Poles were anti-Semitic. Many religious Poles bore no ill feelings towards the Jews. For the most part they were involved in their own lives and were therefore indifferent towards these strangers in their midst. The Jews were a fact of life around them, being neither good nor bad. Similar to the way Americans view with curiosity the Amish and their lifestyle. One difference is that in America the Amish choose to live on farms that are located separate from mainstream American society; while the Jews live in close proximity to the Poles but choose a separate social life.  This results in the Jews having an interactive symbiotic business relationship with Poles in which they  work and lived in close proximity to the Poles.
The older religious Jews that had business relationships with Poles kept the relationships strictly limited to commerce. They rarely if ever found themselves in a social setting. On the other hand, Jewish children were required by law to attend public school with the Poles. What emerged was that some Jews developed social interactions with like-minded Poles inside schools and on rare occasions even outside of the school setting.
For the most part the Jews of Radziejow   had a mild interest in Polish politics in as such the politics related to Jews and commerce.  On the other hand Jews had little interested in Polish history, and even less with Polish culture. They were focused and preoccupied with earning a living and observing the precepts of the Torah. For example, when I asked my father to describe the Town Square he mentioned that displayed prominently in the square was a large statue of a great hero named Kazijestko.
I asked, :Who was he?"
My Father replied, "[h]e was an officer that fought in the United States War of Independence. He was a very popular General in Poland because he successfully did battle with invading Tartars and the Turks." 
I asked him, "[w]hat was your opinion about Kazijestko?"
His answer came with a smile, "Jews didn't mix in politics."  Later I realized that his smile and answer summed up the Jewish opinion of life in Poland.
For Jews in Radziejow the Shabbos (the Sabbath day on Saturday) made the toils of daily life worth living. It started every Thursday when the wives and the older daughters went to Jewish Street to purchase meat, vegetables, bakery goods, and other ingredients for cooking.  Thursday night and Friday was busy as Jewish women cleanded their houses and cooked for the Shala Shutos (three meals required on the Sabbath(.  Just prior to Shabbos evening Jews closed their shops went home and the men, women and children dressed with their finest clothes.  The women lighted the Shabbos candles then set the table as the men walked to the Shul on Jewish Street.   In Shul the men exchanged pleasantries concerning the week until services began.  With the Kabalat Shabbat prayer highlighted with the singing of  Lecha Dodi the Sabbath (bride) was ushered in.  After Evening praying the men returned home to the first of three festive meals.  The father blessed his children then made Kiddush (blessing over the wine).  Then the family would ritually wash their hands and wait silently until the Father made HaMotzi (blessing over the bread).  Then the family ate the best meal of the week.  During the dinner the men sang Zimeros (special songs for the Sabbath eve). The next morning the men, boys, and some women went to Shul for the morning service.  As they prayed they contemplated their existence and gave thanks to the G-d for all the blessings he had bestowed upon them during the week.  After services the family gathered at the dining room table to have the second festive meal.   The main hot dish was cholent a bean meat and potato chili type preparation  was served piping hot.  The men sang Zimeros (special songs composed for singing during the Shabbos meal).  Afterwards, it was quite common to see entire  Jewish families on Saturday afternoon, when weather permitted, promenade down Jewish Street making their way casually to Market Square. Those with more adventure leisurely hiked in the adjacent fields and forests. Some of the majestic green hills surrounding Radziejow were cautiously avoided. It was commonly known that the homeless people living in rickety dilapidated shacks were known for commit crimes and on occasion anti-Semitic attacks on Jews. In fact, many Jews feared visiting the Jewish Cemetery because the road leading there passed these dangerous hills. Others Jews decided to take a peaceful Shabbos shluft (nap).  Late afternoon meant the men return to Shul for the Mincha service.  When they returned home the family sat together and sometimes hastily ate the third required meal.  After Berkat Hamazon (prayer after meal) the men went back to Shul for the third and final time for  evening prayers.  The new week was ushered in.  Once a month it was followed by the blessing on the new moon.  Then the men returned home and the family gathered around the table to hear the father conduct the Havdalah service.   A special multi-wick candle was lit then during the prayer spices for smelling was passed around.  When the father was finished he drank the special cup for wine leaving just enough to douse the candle's flames  The service formally ended the Sabbath.  But in Radziejow most Jews had an additional day off of work because of Blue Laws prohibiting working on Sunday. 
When Binem was four years old his mother, Hinda, passed away at the relatively young age of 52. She died of unknown causes. She was a true Eshet Chail (righteous wife). Her life was dedicated to her husband and children. Even on the days she died, despite suffering from a terrible cold which was most likely pneumonia, she manned the Najman Store's outdoor booth in Market Square on Market Day Wednesday. When she died, Shimon was grief stricken. Hinda was the only woman he had ever loved. She had bore for him eleven children. six sons and five daughters.  She had worked side by side with Shimon in the store while at the same time caring for the needs of their children. 
After Shimon finished the thirty day mourning period someone asked him when he planned on remarrying. Shimon answered him, "I have only one wife." 
In accordance to his faithful love for Hinda, Shimon never remarried. Her grave and its monument stood as what Shimon wanted to proclaim as eternal testimony of his devotion and love for her. (Some years later as a direct result of the Nazis and Polish anti-Semitism, not only the monument but even her actual body was desecrated and destroyed.)
When a Jew in Radziejow died he or she was taken to the Jewish cemetery. It was located south of the town in the countryside near the road to the nearby town of Pitrokow. The cemetery was located on a large parcel of land. It consisted of a graveyard and a large building. Later a chain link fence was added that was topped off with two to three strands of barb wire. Over the years dozens of Jews had been buried in the graveyard.  The graveyard consisted of graves marked with Motzevot (grave markers with Hebrew). They were made of wood, granite or marble that ranged in height between three and six feet. Since the Jewish population was small, anyone visiting a beloved one's grave was comforted when he glanced at the adjacent graves and read the names on the headstones of the deceased that were once their Jewish neighbors.
Hinda's monument, as compared to all the other grave markers,  was considered by all as a  remarkable work of art.  It was built so it would tower over the entire cemetery. Its design, an ornate pillar of fine carved wood. the pillar was place on top of a raised stone foundation. The Matzevah stood at a height of approximately eighteen feet.  The monument seemed to beg the question of why would the Jewish community permit a mourner to erect such an ostentatious edifice?  The answer is simple.the person was Shimon Najman. Shimon was known to everyone as a humble and pious man. He was a Torah scholar who was modest in his pursuit of life. He was anything but a braggadocio.  So the administrators made an exception. They realized that the monument represented Shimon’s last statement, an unabashed proclamation to the world that cried out to all who saw it that Shimon painfully mourned the passing of wife.
When Hinda died the responsibility for the day to day supervision of raising the two youngest children, Binem and Malka, fell upon their sisters. Shimon’s daughters did their best to continue the pattern of child rearing that Hinda so expertly executed during her lifetime. One problem that confounded the sisters was that Binem was a poor eater. The sisters tried various methods to encourage Binem to eat, but all failed. As one of the sister’s mimicked Uncle Israel, “[w]e must put some meat on his bones." No matter what the sisters cooked to entice him to eat Binem would just picked at his food. As a result, he was considered an undersized sickly child.
First row right - Binem holding hands with Malka

When Binem reached the age of seven he was required by law to attend elementary school (szkola podstawowa).  Compulsory education was mandatory until the age of 14.  This caused Shimon much concern. He knew by law that Binem must attend school. On the other hand he was being constantly told by both  his sons and daughters that Binem was just too frail to be able to withstand the daily schoolyard brawls instigated by the Polish ruffian youth against the Jewish children. Shimon was well aware of the fact that the Jewish elementary school in Radziejow had closed just before Binem was born. The closure was a great loss to the Jewish community. The Jewish elementary school taught a curriculum that was acceptable by the Polish government and allow the Jewish children to learn in a safe environment.
Shimon made a decision. In order to protect Binem he would send him to live with his older married sister Rifka (Ragina), who was happily married and living  in the nearby town of Lipno. She was married to Yaakov Fleishhocker. In Lipno there was a Jewish elementary school. Binem remained with his sister until he finished the second grade. By then Binem’s eating habits changed.  As a result he grew into a strong lad that appeared ready to withstand the anticipated harassment that he would encounter when he was scheduled to begin public school in Radziejow that fall.
The Jewish young boys donned caps to public school instead of the yarmulkes that  they wore at home. The caps were not to hide the fact that the children were Jewish. In fact all the Polish classmates knew who was or was not a Jew, Instead, from experience, Jewish schoolboys knew that a yarmulke was a tempting treat for his Polish classmates playing in the schoolyard. Like a magnate, once a yarmulke was spotted,  Polish kids would compete to be the first to grab it. But the taking was only the beginning.  The Polish kids then would play a perverse game of keep-away by tossing the yalmuke from one to another as they watched with glee as the helpless Jewish boy tried to retrieve it.  Rarely would he be successful in intercepting the yarmulke; however, when recess was just about to end the game ended with a Pole throwing the yarmulke to the ground in disgust with the accompanying derogatory tone, Zid (Jew)!
Polish youth, especially those from the outlying areas of Radziejow, would form gangs called Zevshultz. Binem commented that the typical gang member  was mentally slow to actually just plain dumb. These gangs main recreational activity was attacking Jewish pupils. Among the Jewish boys It was proven fact that a lone Jew was too tempting a target for a Zevshuz. So to counter this, Jewish classmates made it a priority to stick together in a buddy system. This mutual defense strategy was best when the buddy system consisted of at least five boys. The plan was to show a formidable united front and if need be to fight as a team. No matter how weak or scared the Jewish boy was when his group was in a schoolyard skirmish, he would fight to the best of his ability.
Total victory against the aggressors  was not in the lexicon of  the Jewish boys.  To win decisively was not logical. The problem was that if they were too successful in fighting back then often times the older Polish Zevshuzs that were watching  would come to the aid of their younger Zevshuz. In contrast, Jewish older pupils reacted differently. They never came to the aid of the younger boys because it would only escalate the problem. 
I asked my father, "Didn't your older brothers come to your aid?"
He smiled, "They had their own problems."
As a result, the younger Jewish classmates learned how to hold their own and if need be to face an additional onslaught of older Polish pupils. This is not to say that this strategy caused the Jewish pupils to become despondent  with their inability to win. Instead, the boys understood that there was no such thing as victory, the main strategy was survival.
Binem explained, "[w]hen we were ten boys walking together and we saw two Polish kids with a stick crossing our path, we knew that we could fight them off, but instead the Jewish kids, given the option, would rather run away. Because we used to say to one another, "[t]hey are two, but we are alone"."
This strategy of Jewish mutual defensive groups caused the boys to have life long lasting relationships among the members. The boys would always hang out with one another even when there was no actual threat. Upon graduation from public school at the age of 14,  the boys continued their friendship. Even after the Holocaust those that survived remained life-long favors no matter in what country they eventually settled. This comradery remained strongly because it was forged in the furnace of suffering and occasional triumph.
The Najman family members often discussed the level of anti-Semitism in Radziejow. There were almost daily manifestations. Verbal attacks were routine. Stones were regularly hurled at Jews as they walked outside of Jewish Street. Even the Rabbi was not immune from such attacks. There was little the Jews could do, but endure. 
The one exception was the community's ability to bribe the constables for protection. The Jewish shopkeepers were very liberal in showering gifts and money on the policemen when they entered their establishments. This curried favor causing the constables to always be prepared to intervene and protect the Jews.
Radziejow Survivor Ann Goldman Kumer confirmed that even as a female pupil she was not immune from the same anti-Semitism that that the boys were subjected to.  She remembers cringing when a Jewish classmate received a high grade on a test or some homework. There were sneers from the Polish pupils as they said in an undertone that the only reason that pupil received a high grade was because he was a Zid.
In the Najman home, Binem remained closest to his brother Azriel. Azriel was just a few years older than him. As a result, the two shared the same bedroom and bed. With the exception of the two years Binem stayed with his sister Rifka in Lino, Binem spent his youth and teenage years in the same bed with his brother.
During the day when not in school Azriel and Binem were constant companions. Azriel was a child prodigy. His ability to solve complex math problems was uncanny. He was grudgingly considered a genius by his teachers. This status was not out of pride of a student benefitting from their pedagogical tutelage; rather they acknowledged he was a genius because they had no choice. For Azriel was always correcting their computations. It came to a point that his math teacher doubted his own computations. In order to avoid being corrected in class by Azriel this "cowered" teacher consulted with Azriel before presenting certain difficult math problems to the class.
At age thirteen, Binem became a secret member of the Shomer Hatzair youth group. Survivors such as Jack Marcus, Ann Goldman Kumer, Roman Rogers, and Joyce Wagner fondly remember their experiences as members of this Zionist organization. They agreed that the club was both social and educational. The social aspect was the bringing together of teenagers of both sexes. They talked, danced, laughed and discovered themselves. Education consisted of lectures about the land of Israel, Zionism, and socialist principles. Also there were various sessions that consisted of hands on learning of skills necessary to do farm work.
Binem felt forced to keep his membership secret from his father. The reason for this was his father was a religious and Shomer Hatzair was a secular socialist movement. Shomer Hatzair advocated that Jews return to Israel and work the land to make it into an agricultural paradise. Shomer Hatzair was not only secular but advocated a socialist-marxist philosophy that centered redemption and return to the Land of Israel on the Jews efforts and not dependent on G-d's will, Shimon was deeply opposed to this radical philosophy. Several orthodox Jews had quietly been returning to Israel since exile. The numbers were small and most of these Jews consisted of rabbinical scholars that prayed and learned in cities across Palestine that included Tiberias, Safed, and Jerusalem. They had no intention of building a Jewish state rather it was done for both mystical reasons and personal needs. 
The Zionist differed in that their ultimate goal was to establish a country for the Jews as soon as possible. Orthodox Jews were not against this concept, but they worried that these Zionists were not G-d fearing Jews. Shimon's position was that when the Mesiah comes he would bring the Jews back to Israel with the in-gathering of the exiled Jews from Gallos (Diaspora). When the Messiah would actually come was beyond man’s ability to predict. Complicating this concept is that one of the thirteen principles of faith composed my Moshe Ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides (Rambam) was that Jews recited daily in their morning prayers was to believe that one must believe that the Messiah was coming this very day and even if he delays you must still wait.  
The compromise position for some believing Jews was that articulated by Rav Abraham Issac Cook (1865-1935), the first Chief Ashkenazi  Rabbi during the British Mandate,  was that the Zionist movement was part of G-d's plan in bringing about the messianic era.  Of course he would prefer that this be done in a way that honored G-d and in accordance to G-d's commandments. Still, he honored the Hatutzim (Zionist pioneers) for reclaiming the land in order to set the groundwork that in the future the spiritual redemption would take place.
Binem's friends were active participants in the secular Zionist group. That brought him to be in direct opposition to his father.  Binem was caught in a dilemma. Whenever Binem hinted to his father that he wanted to join, Shimon was quick to reply that Binem was forbidden to be associated with such people that did not respect G-d's commandments. Shimon, in vain, tried to explain to his son that the group he wished to join was anti-religious and promoted values that were not in accord with Jewish law. His favorite proof was that mixed folk dancing took place. In Shimon's opinion any organization that promotes such behavior was antithetical to the sacred law.  Binem listened and nodded, but in his mind he didn't agree.
By 1939, the year that Poland was invaded, Shomer Hatzair had grown to an astounding 70,000 members in Eastern Europe. With the rise of Nazi Germany in the late 1930s the group urgently shifted its focus from the training of agricultural workers for the settlement of Palestine to that of mutual defense from the coming onslaught of the Nazi juggernaut.
Binem knew that eventually his father would discover his defiance. His conscious told him that he must respect his father and abhorred the idea that he was acting against his wishes. On the other hand, he was a typical adolescent that wanted to think and behave like the other young Jews of Radziejow. So against Shimon's direct orders Binem would sneaked out at night and attend these Zionist gatherings in order to have a "good time" with his friends.
Binem became quite involved with this Zionist youth movement. As summer approached he knew that a showdown was inevitable. The Shomer Hatzair organized a three week sleep over summer camp. Binem and his friends were required to attend. Binem procrastinated to commit, he was afraid of Shimon's reaction. Binem, had already graduated from  public school so he was expected to work daily in the store with his brothers and sisters. He knew that if it was possible they would cover for him if his father, now retired, would unexpectedly  enter the store. But surely at religious services and at the Shabbos meals Shimon would be sure to notice. 
Binem procrastinated telling Shimon until he was faced with the inevitable.  That being all his friends signed up for camp and the final date for applying was growing dangerously near.  Then, feeling he had no alternative, decided he would tell his father that in no uncertain terms that he was going to the Shomer Hatzair camp. After listening to Binem's reasons he responded that he would not be allowed to attend, period.
Binem was visibly upset, he answered his father, "[w]hy can't I go, all my friends are going?"
Shimon replied, "if you go you will skip davening (praying three times a day), and you might even be served Chazir (pig), G-d forbid."
Binem understood his father's concerns, For in his heart he knew that his father’s comments were probably true. Still he was resolved not to take this refusal as the final resolution of this matter. In Binem’s mind, not to go just was not an option that he could accept and remain respected among his peers. 
Binem had a contingency plan.  He then staged a formal protest in the form of a hunger strike. He announced his intention in front of the entire family. Binem stopped eating. Binem's sisters later, in private, convinced him that he really didn’t need to stop eating. They explained that what he need only to appear as if he was on  a hunger strike. Binem thankfully agreed. So he ate food that they secretly supplied him with. The sisters motivation was that they were afraid, G-d forbid,  that he would starve himself to death. Shimon never discovered Binem's cheating, so as the hunger strike continued Shimon became more and more distressed.
Shimon became so worried about the health of his youngest son that he began to waiver. He reasoned that according to the Jewish Law the concept of Pekuach Nefesh ( danger to life), required him to act. So he consulted the town Rabbi, Chaim Platkewicz. After a scholarly discussion, the Rabbi decided to get involved. Acting as a kind of arbitrator, and known for his own leaning towards religious Zionist philosophy, the Rabbi met with Binem. When he was done, the Rabbi told Shimon that he believed that Binem was so determined to attend the summer camp that he would continue his hunger strike and thereby run the risk of ruining his health. He continued to explain that while Shomer Hatzair was a secular group with a strange approach to traditional Jewish values, its members were Jews and definitely not Goyim (Gentiles). Therefore it was his opinion that Shimon might consider allowing his son to attend the camp as long as Binem did so under two conditions. Those conditions were that Binem pledge that while attending he must eat strictly kosher and he must also daven (pray) three times a day  as required by Jewish Law. 
I asked my father, "[d]id you daven every day, like you promised your father and the Rabbi?"
He replied with a smile, "Only when I had a chance."
I pressed him for a more complete answer, "[h]ow often did you have a chance?"
Binem stated, "[w]hat was I to do? My friends would have laughed at me if I put on my Tefillin."
          Binem's experiences at the camp and as a member of the Shomer Hatzair had a profound effect on his adolescent years. Interestingly, when discussing the camp with my father's first cousin, Joyce Wagner, I had the feeling that she likewise felt that the camp was a turning point in her life. 
For me, it was difficult to understand how a three week camp could have such a lasting effect. So when we discussed the camp I watched his face change giving me the feeling that he was trying to find that feeling he had in the recesses of his conscious.   
 He summed it up, "[i]t was my best experience in Poland."
So Binem attended the camp . The camp attendees came from several Shomer Hatzair chapters located throughout Poland. The camp was operated as if it was a working kibbutz. The attendees were required to do farm work, attend lectures and participate in the evening social activities. For the first time in Binem’s life he was free of religious obligations. He truly enjoyed the companionship and the unity of purpose that was guided by the dedicated camp staff. Before the camp experience he viewed his life through the black and white world of Jewish existence being that what he has come to know living his life in Radziejow. The camp opened up a new vista that was bathed in the vibrant colors of a land of which Jews were reclaiming after thousands of years. 
Binem remembered one particular visiting staff member. He described him as a strong handsome man. His name was Mordechai Anielewicz. Binem observed by the way Anelewicz naturally carried himself.  Binem felt  that this strapping young man exuded leadership. And Binem was right. Anielewicz became a legendary Jewish hero whose who has become the face of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.  For Anielewicz led Warsaw's combined Jewish underground that raised the Jewish flag in defiance of the unstoppable German juggernaut and managed to bloody the nose of the bully. He did this by first leading the ghetto fighters to assassinate those Jews that actively cooperated with the Nazis. These traitors acted for their own benefit at the expense of their fellow Jews. He then planned and led a Jewish revolt that not only killed scores of Germans and their proxies but also aided the Allied cause by forcing Germany to deploy vital war resources to put down the revolt. Anielewicz's actions restored a sense of Jewish self worth and nationalist pride that resonated throughout the world. His unequivocal martyrdom proved to both Jews and the Gentile world that there was a choice, an alternative way to die to those still destined to be slaughtered by the Nazi extermination machine. Even today, his actions are pointed to by officers of the Israel Defense Forces as a source of inspiration supporting the proposition that even when a situation seems hopeless there is always free will to act.
Binem was not alone in becoming infected by the camp experience. In fact several of his friends actually made Aliyah to Palestine prior to the Holocaust. Ironically, those that had gone to settle in "dangerous" Israel were untouched by the ravages of the Holocaust. One can see G-d's hand in this because one of the strangest facts about the Holocaust is that Palestine was one of the safest havens in the world for Jews. For although Germany had plans to conquer Palestine, the Germans were stopped in Egypt by the British in the famous battles that took place at Al Alermain and Tobruk. As a result Hitler placed conquest of Palestine on the "back burnerwhile continuing his conquests of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Moreover, Jews were exempt from even being drafted to fight the Germans because the British Mandate Authorities refused to allow Jews living in Palestine to serve in the British Army. 
The Yishuv, the central Zionist authority headed by David Ben Gurion had contingency plans to organize resistance against the Germans in the event that the Germans made its way through the Sinai Peninsula to attack the British who were in control of Palestine. When it became clear that the Jew of Palestine were safe from Hitler’s armies, many demanded that they be allowed to enlist and fight the Germans. Only after a great deal of pressure did the British authorities permit the forming of a Jewish Brigade from Palestine comprised of volunteers.  These Jews were trained to fight and participated in several battles against Nazi Germany.
When Binem returned from summer camp disaster struck the Najmans.  The Najman building was destroyed by fire. The conflagration was accidental. It started in the neighboring carpentry workshop that comprised one half of the building. The fire quickly spread eventually engulfing the Najman's half. The family barely escaped with their lives. Many of their possession were burned in the inferno.
Like most provincial buildings throughout Poland, the building and their belongings were not insured. When the Najman brothers Harry and Max who were living in the United States heard the bad news they quickly sent enough money to rebuild the building, restock the store, and furnish the house. My father said that all this was accomplished because at that time the dollar was very strong in Poland. As a result of the help of the two brothers enough money was sent to rebuild a even better building.


               INTERESTING JEWS OF RADZIEJOW

My father told me of his idyllic life growing up in Radziejow. As he spoke it was clear that he was reliving the rhythm and flow of his life in the Jewish community as he related to other Jews and Poles around them. Of course life itself for all Jews in Radziejow revolved around being Jewish.  This was true even among the secular non practicing Jews. For most Poles were not interested in how religious a Jew was.  In their minds, all Jews were at  best second class citizens.  As result an invisible barrier separated  Jews from the dominant Catholic community of Radziejow. Most Jews actually the preferred relationship.  Jews themselves were focused like a laser on being successful in business. Being successful meant food on the table, a roof over one’s head, and gave a Jew a sense of security against the hostile world.
No matter how bad things were on the outside world the Jews of Radziejow prayed, attended simchas (joyous gatherings) and celebrated Jewish holidays together. Everyone knew everyone. Even for those few individuals that were brogas (angry) with a relative or friend still begrudgingly acknowledged that they were all equal parts of the Jewish mishpacha (family) that made up their small but vibrant community.
Binem described the Jews of Radziejow as in many ways a composite that was depicted in short stories and novels by the famous Jewish author,  Shalom Alechim. In those writings, many humourous, Shalom Alechim gave touchingly poignant description of eastern Europe Jewish rural life. He wrote in Yiddish, and was the most famous Jewish writer of his time. Likewise he ranks as one of the great Jewish storyteller of all times.
The Jews of Radziejow, like the Jews throughout rural Poland, viewed life as a harsh test administered by the Almighty. Pogroms and other anti-Semitic manifestations were common. Thus, the best approach for a Jew to keep one's sanity was to view all experiences, both good and bad, with a touch of fatalistic humor. 
For example, I overheard my father telling some of his fellow greeners (newcomers) a joke in Shul.  

"A Jewish traveling salesman, on a Sunday morning, was standing at the outskirts of a village. As he stood there he suddenly had an irresistible urge to go to the bathroom. He had no time to locate an outhouse. His stomach groaned and he realized that he must have severe diarrhea. Having to act fast, he found the nearest secluded area, and relieved himself. Unfortunately, when the poor Jew stood up, he found himself surrounded by an angry mob of Poles exiting a nearby church. Apparently they had just concluded the Sunday Mass. A leader of the pact emerged who unfortunately was a well known rabid anti-Semite. He shouted at the terrified Jew, "Jew, how can you do such a thing at our holiest shrine!"  The Jew turned around and found that indeed he did relieve himself in front of some marker. The Jew thought, “Just my luck, to die because I had to relieve myself.” Knowing that in seconds the crowd would unleash a deadly torrent of fists and kick he had to act fast. Luckily, his years of being a salesman had made him quick witted. In a flash, he changed his facial expression to one of fear to that of reverence, as if he just experienced a divine revelation. He said in his most earnest tone, "[y]ou must understand I have been plagued for years with terrible constipation. This time I had gone three weeks without relieving myself. Just before I arrived here I had been traveling throughout Poland seeking a cure. I have been examined by the most prestigious doctors. Alas, none were able to cure my cursed malady. However, thank G-d, this morning, as I passed your sacred shrine, a miracle occurred. Suddenly like being hit by a bolt of lightning I was overwhelmed with the urge to vacate my bowels.  Of course, knowing it was G-d's  will I immediately complied. G-d truly answered my prayers and preformed a miracle. It must be that your shrine has miracle powers. To all of you my act  must seem like a terrible blasphemy, but to me it is proof of the power of your holy shrine. The anti-Semite and the rest of the churchgoers were dumbstruck, they didn't know what to say or do.  "How could they beat this Jew after he had given testimony about the healing powers of our precious shrine?" After a moment of silence the leader smiled and said that it must have been as the Jew said. So instead of being on the receiving end of a mob's physical wrath, he received pats on the back and cheers."
The Jews of Radziejow were focused on being successful in business and the observance of Jewish law and customs. When smart business sense clashed with Jewish traditions, logic took a back seat. A good case in point was the town's domestic referral service. Most Jews in town whether they could afford a maid or not felt that they must employ a maid. Ability to afford such a luxury didn't matter because to have a maid achieved the appearance of success. One enterprising Jewish woman capitalized on this status symbol.  This Jewish woman earned her living by finding maids from Polish women that lived on farms surrounding Radziejow. She received a commission each time she placed a maid from a homeowner. Her problem was that there were not enough homeowners to sustain this type of business. To solve this her business plan called for a high turnover of maids. Thus, this shrewd woman schemed to have the maids constantly shuffling from one household to the next. The enterprising woman would solicit offers from other Jews to lure a maid away from her present job. The maid was happy to get a raise in pay and the woman was delighted when she received a new commission. The Jewish household that lost the good maid would then turn to the woman to find their household a new maid and hopefully an even a better maid than the last one.
Everyone in town knew this shuffling of the maids was a friendly scam. However, the Jews allowed this shady business to continue with positive cheer. For all the users of this service understood that she needed a means for supporting herself? And besides, shouldn't a good maid get a better salary? So no one protested or became indignant over this arrangement. Instead, it was viewed as just another fact of life in Radziejow. In other words, it became a tradition. And traditions was the lifeblood that kept the community bonded.  
There were several local characters that helped keep the town Jews smiling. For example, one of the more famous members of the community was  Reb Yuko, a tailor by profession but better known for being the beatle ( rabbi's administrative assistant). He was praised for his devotion to community service. He volunteered for the thankless job of being the go to person for Hachnasat Orichim roughly translated as the organization responsible for welcoming Jewish visitors. Radziejow had few hotels or inns for overnight visitors. Survivor Jack Marcus stated that his grandfather operated a type of inn about two blocks from his grandfather’s home that housed up to six travelers. But the majority of itinerant salesmen staying overnight would go directly to Reb Yuko. He then assumed responsibility to arrange Kosher meals and a place to sleep for this stranger. Reb Yuko was entrusted with extraordinary powers. He was authorized to assign a Jewish household to board a guest. The way he did this was by issuing a voucher. On this official form was a place for Reb Yuko to fill in the name and address of a community member. The visitor would take the voucher to that address where the homeowner would take the voucher that was issued under the official powers of the Kehila (the Community Council). While everything looked official, unofficially everyone knew that the Jews of Radziejow would gladly host a visiting Jew with or without a voucher. The reason for such hospitality was that hosting a visitor is an important mitzvah (commandment) from G-d. The Jews on Reb Yuko’s list of households were always interested in doing a mitzvah. Still Reb Yuko organized this mitzvah so all could share on a pro-rata basis a mitzvah that also bound the community together.
Reb Yuko lid a pure austere life and was considered to be the most humble of all the Jews in Radziejow. As a result he became a local legend. The more he tried to dissuade others from putting him on a pedestal the more famous he became.   He was considered by many of the townspeople to be a true Lamid Vavnik. Literally translated that means one of the thirty six. According to Jewish tradition thirty six holy Jews as well as an additional thirty six holy Gentiles were necessary for G-d to daily renew his covenant with humans not to destroy the world. In Jewish lore the world existence hinged on these Lamid Vavniks. At no time does anyone actually know who are these Lamid Vavniks but that doesn’t stop some Jews from guessing. In order to obtain this status the person must be considered by G-d to be both pure and righteous. To many, Reb Yuko fit the bill. He was an extremely humble and honest man that appeared to never do anything that one might conceive of as a sin. And as far as the townsfolk were concerned he was a saint without equal. 
It was told that one day a rich Jew living in Radziejow approached  Reb Yuko and made an amazing proposition.  “Reb Yuko, I will give you ten thousand Zlotz if you would only pledge that you will change places with me in the World to Come, meaning Heaven.
As expected by all,  Reb Yuko refused the money.  But what was surprising was why.  He told the man that even if he offered all the money in the world it would not guarantee that G-d would honor such an exchange. He went on to say that as a result he couldn't possibly take the money because that would be the equivalent of stealing. And if he indeed stole this man's money then what good would the agreement be because the man would have changed places with a thief.  Then, "[w]ho knows, by taking your place in the world to come I might be far better off then you!"
Being careful not to completely disappoint the rich man he gave the man a sure fire alternative. "You would be better off just giving the money to charity."
One well known personality was associated with the Jewish Academy. The Academy was closed down a few years before Binem reached school age.  The Academy reopened several years later.  On staff at the Academy was a beloved teacher that taught at the reopened school. His name was Shmeil Zeifer. He was an assimilated Jew. He taught secular subjects and was an excellent teacher by all standards. The students loved his stories and his personal interaction with them. He was not without his detractors. The religious parents wanted him to be fired, but they reluctantly agreed to allowed him teach secular subjects. They did so only because all Jews in Radziejow felt that the times were changing in the World. Many young adults were no longer cleaving unquestionably to the old traditions. They could not blame Shmeil Zeifer for this change. He was merely one of the early “converts”. The pious Jews remained pious but had little choice but to allow their children to explore the new sources of secular knowledge. Zeifer allowed them to do so in a safely protected Jewish environment as opposed to the dangers inherent in sending their children to the public school.
Another character associated with the school was a man whose name was Shverek. He was better known as "Yisroel with the Clapper". His job was to ring the bell to call the children to school. Both children and adults anticipated the ringing as part of the natural sounds of Radziejow. People adjusted their schedules according to the sound of his bell. Yisroel with the Clapper was in many ways like the animated character Gabby the bell ringer in Gulliver’s Travels who sang the song "All's Well" as he range the bell. Just like Gabby, Yisroel gave the Jews of Radziejow a sense of security. Coincidentally the animated movie came out in 1939 the year Poland was invaded by Germany marking the beginning of  World War II.
The town was filled with several other colorful characters. One of the more famous was Calman Hirsh. He was a poor man that always had a smile on his face. When Calman smiled, all of Radziejow's Jews smiled with him. Also there was Tover Guluf. He was called that because he was deaf. His deafness was famous in Radziejow because he served as an example to the community to make sure not to have anything to do with the church in town.
Radziejow Church - steep roof on left side
By profession he was a roofer. During a terrible storm he was contacted by a member of the Church. He was told that the church’s roof was damaged during the storm and that resulted in the roof was leaking causing damage to the interior. Apparently Hirsh was known to be fearless and was known to go up on roofs even while it was still raining. Hirsh was so skilled and experienced in repairing roofs that he only used the minimum amount of safety equipment necessary.  A normal roofer would use a great deal of equipment requiring a a long setup time to repair the Church's steep roof. 
Hirsh braved the weather and went to work.  Unfortunately, while in the midst of the repair he slipped and slid from the apex of the roof landing head first on the ground below.  He was terribly injured but eventually he recovered.  As a result of the fall  he lost his ability to hear. Thus he received the nick name, Tover Guluf (Tover the Deaf Guy).  Of course a few of the Jewish wise crackers said that he was deaf, because G-d punished him. 
I asked my father were they right.  He answered that “a Jew should not have anything to do with fixing a church."
The most prominent person in town was Rabbi Chaim Benjamin Platkiewicz. He was hired in 1926. He replaced Rabbi Sziojma Grodzinski who served from 1919, the year that Binem was born, until 1925. That year the old rabbi moved to become be the new rabbi in Zagorow in Slupca County. Of the many town’s rabbis during the long history of the Jewish community of Radziejow Rabbi Mazur was the most admired. He served during the late 1880s until the early part of the 1900s.  
When Rabbi Plakewicz  was hired by the Radziejow Jewish Community he either purchased or was given a house that was located about six blocks away from the old Shul. After settling in he learned that the house was not in an ideal location. On occasion when  walking to Shul he was rudely greeted by certain unfriendly Polish neighbors. Most discourteous of the lot were the juvenile delinquents. For example, one fine Sabbath day he was walking to Shul for the morning service when a few young ruffians made it a game of running up to him and pulling on his beard then making a swiftly escape. The Rabbi viewed these antics as degrading but was at a loss as how to deal with the situation. He took solace in the fact that throughout history Jews have been similarly tormented by the uncivilized members of their host nations. In this case, his house placed him in a location where some of the most anti-Semitic townsfolk lived. Therefore, he decided to quietly endure the occasional acts of aggression and degradation as being some sort of divine test.Trying to find a positive spin to this situation he thought that he would use these acts to improve his character.
        Perhaps, these anti-Semitic acts were instrumental in the Rabbi’s embrace of the philosophy of Religious Zionism. To the Orthodox community the movement known as  Religious Zionism focused on the return of all Jews to the land of Israel in order to fulfill G-d’s of promise of  the redemption of the Jewish people from exile. 
The dominant Zionist movement was that of Secular Zionism. emphasized that it was essential for Jews to live in their own county in order to become a normal people like the the people of other nations. Both movements agreed that the Jews of Poland needed their own country where Jews could feel safe and secure based on their own mutual security and not dependent on the good will of others in their host nations.
Although anti-Semitic aggression occurred year long in Radziejow, one Polish holiday called Dyngus Day emphasized the real danger to Jews. Dyngus Day was celebrated on the Monday after Easter. For Poles it is a day of fun. The historical origin of the holiday dates back to 966 A.D. when the Polish Prince Misezko was baptized. According to tradition boys sprinkle girls with water as a sign of fertility and purification. Girls were permitted to retaliate the following day by throwing dishes at the boys. The Jews of Radziejow were not privy to the details of the holiday but were well aware of one of its bizarre customs. Anti-Semites used the holiday as an excuse to splash water on Jews whether the Jew was male or female. The more water, the better! When A Pole  splashed a Jew it was done  with malicious intent.
Dyngus Day Celebrated in a Polish Village
Every Dyngus Day the Rabbi was splashed when he walked to Shul. But one Dyngus day an audacious anti-Semitic woman dumped an entire bucketful of water on the Rabbi. Several Poles watching cringed because of the amount but then still laughed because they thought a soaked rabbi was quite a funny site.
The next three days when the Rabbi walked passed his Polish neighbors on his way to Shul the Poles remembered the funny incident and would laugh at him. On the fourth day things changed radically. Not only did the laughter stop but a strange feeling of remorse was seen on their faces. For the woman who became a local celebrity for dousing the Rabbi suddenly died of unknown causes. For a few, her death was attributed as a mere coincidence. But most others feared it was punishment from G-d for disrespecting a holy man. The neighborhood Poles came to a silent understanding that it was a dangerous thing to bother the Rabbi. From that day on, the Rabbi was spared the degradation of being the target of stone throwers, beard pullers and water splashers.
In 1935, the four sons of the late Rabbi Mazur, the former spiritual leader of the old Shul, made their annual pilgrimage to visit the resting place of their parents in the Radziejow Jewish Cemetery. These men lived in the city of Danzig, near the Baltic Sea, which was less than 100 miles away from Radziejow. They were successful businessmen. In fact, so successful, they had become the richest family of Jews in Danzig and possibly all of Poland. It was a tradition for the sons to come yearly during their Mother’s Yersteit to recite the traditional Kadish prayer with a minyan of at least ten men in front of her gravesite. Each year on this day it became a community celebration. They would invite the entire community to join them to participate at the resting place of their parents. Before the celebration ended the brothers would make a substantial contribution to the coffers of the general fund of the Jewish community.
In the mid 1930s the sons were feeling extremely generous that year and decided they would do something special to honor their parents. They requested a meeting with the leading Jews of the town. At the meeting, one son told the leaders that they would underwrite any project the community decided that there was a particular need. They emphasized that the cost of such a project was not to be an issue. The sons then solicited suggestions from each of the Jews in attendance. One attendee thought it would be nice to build a Jewish hospital. Other equally important suggestions were made. When it was Shimon's turn, he stated the obvious fact that the present Shul was too small to serve the needs of the Jewish Community. He pointed out that on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur there was not enough space to comfortably accommodate all those that wished to attend services. Then Shimon added that Rabbi Plotgevitch lived a considerable distance from the Shul. He commented that he believed that the walk through the Polish neighborhood was not pleasant for the Rabbi. In fact he cited the dangers and insults the Rabbi had experienced in the past were not appropriate for the most distinguished member of the Jewish community. He suggested that if a new shul would be built it should include living quarters for the Rabbi and his family.
Upon hearing the crowd in the room unanimously nodded in agreement. Likewise, the Mazur brothers embraced the suggestion. What better tribute to their father who was once the Rabbi of Radziejow then for their sons to build a grand Shul as a memorial. It was immediately decided to go forward with the project. The sons said that they would gladly pay the entire bill for the Shul's construction.

Dedication of Beit Rachel Synagogue - mid 1930s
 
Due to a variety of reasons including local Jewish politics, it took nearly three years to construct. Upon completion the new Shul was spacious and solidly constructed. The contractor utilized the latest building techniques. Attached to the Shul was ample living quarters for the Rabbi and his family. The Shul was named Beit Rachel. It is likely that the brothers named the Shul after their mother.
Just a few years before the outbreak of the German invasion of Poland the entire Jewish community and local Polish officials town turned out for the opening ceremonies. A photograph of the ceremony includes many of the Jews mentioned in this book including Frankenberg the mini bus driver, Shlomovich the tailor, Shpievak a tailor, Lubinski the wheat dealer, Zief, Rakowski, Markowski, to name just a few.
To many, it must have been the most joyous occassion ever experienced by the Radziejow Jewish community.  Everyone marveled that they should be privileged to have such a modern Shul. The main structure was made of concrete and brick. All the wood used in its building was specially treated making the wood fireproof. 
No one could conceive that just a few years later the Nazis would order that the German occupiers burn down all the local synagogues in Watherland, which the part of Poland that was annexed to Germany. In Radziejow the fireproof construction of the Shul caused a hiccup in this ruthless Nazi plan. However, fireproofing would not be enough to stop the Nazi's evil plan. To finish off the the destruction after fire the Nazis in charge of its destruction used dynamite.  

                                              The Winds of Holocaust

When Binem was a teenager he heard that before the First World War Radziejow was positioned in a disputed no-man’s-land between Russia and Germany. Both Germany and Russia laid claim to Radziejow; however, the land surrounding Radziejow was controlled by the Russians. Although the town was not occupied, Russian soldiers would “visit” Radziejow. While there the soldiers would often amuse themselves by perpetrating acts of anti-Semitism. Even if the police wanted to prevent these outrages, they themselves were powerless to act. As the frequency and severity of these abuses increased the Jewish community demanded from their community leaders to do something. Having few options it was decided that a delegation be sent across the border to meet with German leaders and request that the Germans to protect the Jewish community. This act of desperation was considered by some as a fool’s mission. Surprisingly, this delegation of powerless Jews was hospitably treated by the Germans. The meeting later resulted in the Government of  Germany agreeing to take control of the town. Years later, this historical irony was remembered by the Jewish community when the Jews of the town viewed Russia as their only hope for salvation.

Polish Propoganda Poster. Soiviet-Polish War 1920-1921
"Jewish Paws Again? Never!


In the year 1933 there was a clear change in the relationships between Jews and many Poles living in Radziejow. With Hitler's meteoric rise to power and his accompanying diatribes against Jews some Poles in Radziejow joined in support of Hitler’s hatred by carrying out their own local brand of anti-Semitism. These acts ranged from Jew haters indirectly and directly confronting Jews by utilizing psychological and physical attacks. 
Anti-Semitism occurred both in words and deeds. For example Hitler’s broadcast speeches to the German people were often picked up on radios within Poland. A few of the more active Jew haters proudly set their radios on their window sills with the speakers facing the street in order to force helpless Jews passing to listen to Hitler’s demonic voice along while shouting for dramatic effect the most despicable anti-Semitic vitriolic.
Though Radziejow had a reputation of relative religious tolerance compared to may communities throughout Poland, many of the local Poles embraced this new wave of anti-Semitism to the point that they actually perpetrated individual physical attacks against innocent Jews that even escalated to pogroms against the entire Jewish community.  Although the community was small not all of the Jews actually experienced these attacks.Survivor Sally Klingbaum, born in Kolo, moved to Radziejow in the 1930s when she married a local young man. The couple ran a dry goods store. She remembers that during her time in Radziejow she knew that anti-Semitism existed but she did not personally see or experience any of this hatred.
The first wide spread pogrom in Radziejow occurred at the end of a soccer match between the local Jewish team and a regional Polish team. The Jewish team won the close game by a single goal. As a result the irate Polish fans, without any provocation, attacked the Jewish spectators in the stands. The rioting soon spread from the stadium to Jewish Street. Luckily, the local Polish police mobilized quickly and established order by arresting several of the more violent Poles. Soon the riot petered out. The Jews lauded the Police for its quick response. 
In a second incident that was even more disturbing started with a violent altercation between a Pole and a Jew. A Polish butcher was renting  space from a Jewish butcher. The Polish butcher sold tref (non kosher meat) in completely separate area of the shop from where the Jewish butcher sold kosher meat. It came to pass that for whatever reason the Pole refused to pay his monthly rent. The Jewish butcher insisted that he pay his rent on time or leave. This resulted in a heated exchange between the two butchers that escalated into physical blows.  The Jewish butcher was just getting the upper hand in the fight when a crowd of Poles passed in front of the shop. The Poles were on their way home from daily mass.  At that exact moment the Jew had reached for a hammer and struck the Pole. With blood dripping from an open gash on his face,  The Pole seized the opportunity and called out to the crowd that the Jews were trying to kill him. The crowd reacted violently and began attacking Jews walking down the street. In short order a full blown pogrom ensued. Again, the Police raced to the scene to protect approximately 70 Jews who were attacked along Jewish Street.
It is important to point out that the Police did not act entirely out of benevolence and good will or even upholding the law. Actually, the Police vigilance was due to the carefully cultivated good-will created by the Jewish community with each police officer. Thus, the officers zeal in protecting the Jews was attributed to Jewish shopkeepers constantly paying bribes to the officers. These bribes, for the most part, were not overt but instead distributed in a way as to endear themselves with the local constables. The Jewish shop owners usually did not charge a “shopping” police officer for small items. Larger items were sold to them at greatly reduced discounts.  So much so, that the discount caused the shopkeepers often times to substain losses from these transactions.
Even with police protection the Jews of Radziejow were aware that their tranquil lives were being swept away in Europe’s renewed atmosphere of hatred towards Jews. As the German power soared some Poles increasingly looked at their Jews as a source of every problem in Poland. Acts of violence against Jews grew each year. In 1936 twenty-one pogroms and 348 individual acts of violence were perpetrated in the Bialystok region alone. In that same year, throughout Poland, seventy-nine Jews were killed and approximately five hundred were wounded from October to April. The following year, in the month of August, there were 350 physical assaults against the Jews of Poland.
Radziejow was no exception. Local thugs walked up to Jews and ranted the montra, "Jew, Jew you better run, before its too late." Or even more ominous, "You better go to Israel before we hang you."
The main problem preventing Jews from escaping the obvious impending disaster was that realistically there was no place in the world for Jews to find refuge. It was apparent that no country was interested in taking in large numbers of Jews. The Jews of Radziejow as the rest of the Jews of Europe were trapped.



Najman Family Photo Taken in the Mid 1930s
I asked my father, "[d]idn't the Jews talk about this new wave of anti-Semitism?”
He answered, "[t]alking about it with one another did not stop the growing fear among us, it only intensified it." 
        Corresponding with the period just after Hitler took control of Germany, the United States began to tighten immigration rules to the point where a very limited amount of immigrants were admitted under a strictly enforced quota system. The Najman brothers living in North America, Harry and Max, watched in horror the plight of European Jewry. Together, they made a concerted effort to bring the family to safety in the United States. They filled out the required complex immigration forms and collected the complicated set of corresponding documents necessary to satisfy the requirements for sponsoring a family to immigrate to the United States. They even sent money to Poland to pay for the family’s transportation expenses. However, all was for naught. Because of the strict quota at the time Hitler invaded Poland, the Najmans were still on the long waiting list for the issuance of visas.
My father recalled that the plight of Polish Jewry became so desperate that an engineer in Warsaw organized a march of deliverance to Palestine. In this twentieth century version of  Exodus, the engineer pleaded, "[e]very Jew should join this march to freedom."
His words convinced thousands of Jews to join him. Predictably the Jews did not get far. After hundreds gathered at a designated starting point in Warsaw to begin their long trek the Polish Government stopped the march because the participants failed to obtain the required transit visas. The government officials explained to the marchers that they needed visas allowing them to enter each country between Poland and Palestine. As a result of this government action, the Police quickly dispersed the marchers. This incident sent a shockwave throughout the Jewish communities in Poland. It was now crystal clear that the Jews were stuck in this dangerous situation that all knew was soon to become much worse.
          Binem remembered a group of  Jews in Radziejow discussing the event. He remembered that some commented that even if the Police didn't intervene the march was doomed from the beginning. It was completely disorganized. Such basic requirements as food, portable housing, medical supplies and other provisions were not prepared for the long journey. Others commented that even if they did have everything necessary to complete such a treacherous journey it would have made little difference. Palestine was completely surrounded by hostile neighbors that would never had allowed to pass through Muslim controlled lands in order to reach Palestine. The Arab mentality at the time of the March was to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestine. It was obvious that the marchers would have evoked a violent response that would have inevitably would have ended in tragedy.


The failure of the March illustrated to many Jews in Poland their overall helplessness. After the disaster of the March the vast majority of Jews were forced to realize that there was nothing they could do to be proactive to stave off  the impending disaster. That left the religious Jews to pray for divine salvation while the secular Jews put their faith in the overall goodness of mankind to prevent Hitler and his ilk from succeeding in their fiendish pronouncements. And even if  G-d turned his face on the Jewish plight and likewise the nations failed to stop Hitler many rationalized that as bad as Hitler is  "the Jews have survived worse enemies."

Binem and his family were at a complete loss on what they should do in light of the ominous events. Some of the young Jews advocated that although the old had little choice but to ride out the storm, the young should take a chance and run away from Poland. Binem, merely a teenager, refused to contemplate the thought of abandoning his family in this desperate hour. He reasoned that even if though it is probably the logical course he was not of the age to make such a radical decision. 
Just about all Jewish families living in Radziejow were having the same discussion. A general consensus emerged that there were no real options so therefore the Jews of Radziejow would wait to see if the machinations of the anti-Semites would come to fruition and thereby give them cart-blanch to attack the Jews.

Shimon, now in his mid-sixties, had long ruled out entertaining the idea of leaving Poland to join his elder sons in America. He understood from others that America was not religious enough for an observant Jew. He would point out that Hinda[s mother, Miriam, actually returned to Poland from the United States after living with the family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin because Jewish life was better in Poland.

Miriam returned for three main reasons. One, she expressed  that America wasn't kosher enough for her. Upon her return she told the family that Jews in the United States were always cutting corners when it came to Jewish law and traditions. She explained in horror that Jews worked on Saturday, the Jewish day of rest. Moreover, they were lax in their adherence to such fundamental tenents of Jewish law such as kashrut (kosher food), attending the three daily prayer service, or even more alarming no one studied the Talmud and Jewish law. Second, now in her eighties, she wanted to be buried next to her husband, Baer Poczciwy. His grave was located in Radziejow's Jewish cemetery. Shimon also wanted to be buried next to his late wife, Hinda, who he still loved dearly and sorely missed. Finally, Miriam wanted to help care for great grand children. One of her granddaughter’s was extremely frail and needed her assistance.
Shimon reasoned that if an elderly woman was unafraid to return to Poland, things couldn’t be as bad as people were making out. Moreover, he understood that the Najmans were very strongly tied to Radziejow. All of the family's roots were in Radziejow including many relatives, the building, and the business. It would be near impossible to sell the building and the business. If the Najmans decided to leave they would have to walk away from their assets and livelihood. On top of these problems, there were just too many Najmans to make the journey at one time. There were nine brothers and sisters living in or near Radziejow. Two of the sisters were married and had children. Moving was a logistical nightmare. And what if these doom and gloom predictions didn’t occur? He thought, “[w]ouldn't it be foolish to move and lose everything on the mere chance that Hitler might invade Poland?”

It was not that Shimon was ignoring the looming danger. He knew that most likely disaster was eminent. However, he clearly understood that he was he was powerless to prevent it. So he did what he knew was best in such situations, he prayed that the Almighty would protect the People of Israel. He hoped by the merit of his studying Torah as well as the other Jews in Poland G-d would be receptive to their loyalty. Binem pointed out that Shimon never openly discussed his concerns during the family meetings. He felt that if he did it would only increase the level of fear that all were experiencing.

Radziejow Survivor Joyce Wagner, Binem’s first cousin, stated that all was set for her family to join their relatives in living in the city of Milwaukee. At the last moment, her father, Hersh, refused. He heard that in the United States Jews walked with their heads uncovered and actually worked on the Sabbath. That was too much for him to see. He told the family that he rather risk facing the anti-Semites then to endanger his soul.

Shimon and Hersh were not fools. They knew the reality. As a side note, when I was serving as a combat medic in the Israel Defense Forces I experienced the horrors of war during my four tours of duty in Lebanon during and following the War that became known as Shalom Hagalil, Peace for Galilee. I met a fellow medic that was an interesting character. He was from the largest religious cities in Israel, Bnei Brak. He was medic in the IDF but in civilian life he was both a rabbi and a lawyer. He had a reputation in our regiment of seemingly always being scared. In fact, as a cruel joke some guys in our unit would throw rocks into his sleeping quarters to watch him react. 
Since graduating high school I have always considered myself a believing Jew. So one day asked him, “[d]on’t you have any faith in G-d?”

He replied, “[i]f you knew G-d like I know G-d than you too would be afraid.” His answer has stuck with me the rest of my life.

The medic’s position was likely the same of Shimon.  For a true Torah scholar understands that G-d acts in ways that sometimes seem cruel and senseless. However, it is a test for believers to experience terrible things and nevertheless continue to have faith that G-d only acts in our best interest. Therefore, it is our duty to pray to him for salvation regardless of the situation.

Masha Najman

         More ominous was the prophetic visions of Binem's older sister, Masha.  Masha  was married. She  was known as the family's poet because she was always writing poetry. One Shabbat, three years before the war broke out,  the family was gathered at the Shabbat dinner table. Masha suddenly, without provocation, shouted out a bone chilling screamed. The Najmans were startled. Her face was drained white as if she had been terrorized. She then tried to vocalize her thoughts but all that could be heard from her lips was a whisper saying, "I smelled gas, poison gas."

The family members looked at each other hoping that someone could explain. Finally she calmed down. One of the family members asked her what she was saying under her breath. She replied that she saw people around the house pumping gas through the walls in order to poison us. Binem, now seventeen years old, was the youngest male sibling at the table. He and the other siblings were sure that she must be losing her mind.
The following days her health deteriorated as she continuously told of  her nightmarish vision. The family, feeling that there was no alternative, decided that she must consult Doctor Paninski. After examining her he told of his findings. He said that she suffered from no physical malady. He suggested that she be examined by specialists at the regional mental asylum. The family reluctantly agreed over Masha's protests. There she underwent a series of tests and was seen by a number of psychiatrists.
All the psychiatrists diagnosed her condition as a form of mental trauma which they called shock. According to their consensus diagnosis, her vision was the resulted from a brain trauma. They explained that the only known treatment for this condition that has been somewhat effective in similar cases was electroshock treatment. They then explained the pros and cons of electroshock therapy.

Shimon was aghast to learn the details of this horrific procedure. Moreover, he was skeptical in their diagnosis. He repeatedly asked the psychiatrists if this treatment was dangerous. The doctor always responded that the treatment could be dangerous. They were truthful because legally in order for a hospital in Poland to perform this radical procedure the administrating doctor was required to have a family member sign a release form. Normally the husband is considered the closest family member. Shimon’s son-in-law deferred to his father-in-law to make this decision since Shimon was a scholar and a man of experience. Shimon agreed to take on this responsibility. The document stated that after being explained the risks and benefits of electroshock therapy the patient by way of the family advocate knowingly waives any right to hold the hospital and doctors responsible in the event that something went wrong.

Shimon was not convinced that this radical treatment would work nor did he feel that it was safe to have an electric current shocking his daughter’s brain. He had no need to consult his rebbe, the Radomsker Rebbe, because he had already concluded that he would not allow his daughter to be treated in such a manner. Therefore, Shimon refused to sign the waiver.
The doctors were not accustomed to having their expertise refused. Still, since she was already admitted in the hospital it was agreed to allow Masha to continue to be observed and be treated using non-invasive methods. Masha stayed a number of days at the hospital. She hated it there. She knew what she saw and no one was gong to convince her otherwise. So in order to force her own release she announced that she was beginning a hunger strike. Even during the hunger strike, she told family members that she continued to see visions of piles of Jewish bodies being burned. The administrators of the hospital concluded that the alternative treatments were not helping but rather exasperating her condition. That coupled with her hunger strike caused her to be discharged from the hospital.

When she returned home, Masha continually beseeched her family to escape from Poland, otherwise they were doomed. Time did not alter her declaration. On one occasion she suddenly became hysterical imploring her family to run from the house because hidden within the walls were poison gas pipes. She continued saying that the vents were behind all the pictures on the walls. The family patiently removed all the pictures to show her that there was nothing there. Still this did assuage her distress. Her bizarre behavior continued even after the invasion of Poland by Germany. It was then that the family members agree that her supposed insanity was in actuality true visions. 

Binem, in hindsight, explained, "[s]he was prophetic! Masha was telling us what was going to happen to the Jewish people."

As far as the Jews of Radziejow were concerned, the main topic in the news concerned German expansionism. Hitler changed from a theoretical problem for Polish Jewry to an actual problem starting in March of 1938 Germany when he annexed Austria. Hitler carefully gauged the reaction of World leaders in the wake of this clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  He concluded that it evoked little response.  So he decided to turn his next effort to Czechoslovakia where a region called the Sudetenland had a  population that was predominately ethnic German.  After extensive diplomatic negotiations Britain and France agreed that Germany would not oppose Nazi Germany's annexation of this territory.  This agreement was recorded in the infamous document known as the Munich Agreement. Prime Minister of Great Britain Neville Chamberlain declared to the English people, in no uncertain terms, that the agreement insured "peace for our time."
Instead of placating Hitler’s obsession to for expansionism it only acted as a catalyst. The more he saw weakness in the European nations resolve the greater his appetite to control all of Europe. Hitler professed that he was now satisfied. But his thoughts and actions were the exact opposite from his true motives. Hitler’s eyes turned towards its peaceful neighbor Poland.

The government of Poland was now faced with what appeared to be an inevitable invasion by Germany. Poland had no choice but to mobilize its armed forces. Defenses were shored up and men were called up by the thousands.
Among those mobilized were over 100,000 Jews. Poland's Holocaust, p.35. The Najman brothers were not among those called up to report for military service. The Polish Army drafted men above the age of 21. Binem was 20. The two older brothers, Max and Harry, were living in the United States. Binem's remaining brothers living with him in Radziejow were Michael, Shmeil, and Azriel. Michael, called Macho, had a medical deferment. Macho suffered from a severe medical condition known commonly as being a hunch-back. This deformity caused. Macho to have one shoulder much higher than the other. Shmiel indeed was registered to serve and he was about to be drafted. However when the war began he had yet to be called up. Binem’s remaining other brother, Azriel, was over 21 years old and thus eligible to serve. However, during the chaos before the War the local officials in charge of the draft failed to get around to even registering him.
 Hitler in his lust for power set out to conquer both Europe and Asia. He did this because he was a meglomaniac.  But he hid his true motive from the German masses.  Instead he announced that the military was being used in order to supply the Fatherland with the natural resources and manpower required to fulfill Germany's destiny of becoming the most powerful nation on earth. Moreover, Germany itself was too small and therefore the German people needed space to grow to fulfill the national aspiration of creating a "Thousand Year Reich".   The Nazis euphemistically referred to this fundamental German manifest destiny as  Lebensraum.  But what the term in actuality meant was a "racist ideology that proposed [the] aggressive, territorial expansion." Wikipedia.  
When Hitler decided to invade Poland he understood that either the European nations would again cave to his aggression or if not then the nations would be punished by German might.  He believed that all of Europe was weak and had no stomach for war. Therefore, in his mind, all the nations that comprise Europe were ripe for subjugation and conquest.
In 1939 the Germany’s population was 69 million with an additional 10 million new citizens with the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland. On the other side of the border,  Poland's population was just over 30 million. The vast majority of Poles, approximately 26 million,  were Roman Catholics with about three million Jews and  additional one million Germans that were citizines of Poland called Volkesdutsche. Most Poles considered the Volkesdutsche as a fifth column for Germany.


Polish Map - German Invasion of Poland  September, 1939- Arrow on top left indicates German Army Thrust in in the direction of  Radziejow 

On September 1, 1939, that the Wermacht invade Poland. The Nazis manufactured a false pretext to justify this international aggression and blatant land grab.  Germany alleged that Polish troops crossed the border and attacked the town of Gliewitz in order to take out a "vital transmitter" that was set up at the local radio station. Of course, this was a complete fabrication. WWII, Gilbert, p.1.   At the time of this pretext excuse Germany was fully mobilized to attack Poland from three directions.

Polish Infantry, 1939


   

Hitler overseeing his invasion force at the Polish-German Border -1939





Germany Invades Poland - September, 1939



Among the German troops following the blitzkeig was three SS Death Head regiments and later followed by the equally ruthless SS Brandenburg Division. The Death Heads had a very different mission than that of the Wermacht. Their secret mission was to rid Poland of its Jewish population in a horrifically barbaric manner.
A German Army unit occupying a Polish village 
September 1939


The Death Heads were ruthless beyond one's darkest imagination. The mindset of these specially selected soldiers with complete unquestioning obedience to their officers. "As a result of these secret orders whole villages were burned to the ground. Peasants and Jews were executed mainly by mobile firing squads." WWII, Gilbert, p.3-4. 
The clandestine implementation of Hitler’s secret policy was in keeping with Hitler's ominous public declaration that if war broke out "[t]he result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe." ibid, p.6. Even during the early stages of the invasion it became clear that Hitler's secret plan was being implemented with unimaginable cruelty. "Within two weeks, the Brandenburg (Death Head) Division had left a trail of murder in more than thirteen Polish towns and villages." ibid, p.8.

1939 German Invasion of Poland - Germans Burning a Town in Poland


As the war progressed Poland’s apparatuses of government that is necessary to maintain a sovereign nation was systematically dismantled. The World watched in horror as the German bully decimated the brave but weaker Poles. Civilized people could not understand why Nazi Germany would commit such atrocities against peaceful Poland that for years lived in harmony with one another.  
The Wehrmacht was nearly twice as large as the Poland's army and several times more organized. Germany fielded over 60 divisions and dominated the air with approximately two thousand aircraft. The German land forces constituted five armies making up a total of 1.5 million soldiers. The Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, was made up of hundreds of the latest attack planes and bombers. The Wermacht was a professional army commanded by capable Generals.  Thus making the German Army the most powerful fighting force in Europe.
On the other hand, Poland had 39 divisions on paper but in reality the Army could actually field much less. Moreover its air force consisted of about 800 outmoded aircraft that were not remotely capable of battling Germany’s fighter aircraft. Unlike the Soviet- Poland War of 1920, Polish generals had no delusions that they could somehow defeat the German Army.  

1939 German Invasion of Poland

The German invasion began with fast moving armor tanks and mobilized artillery overrunning the Polish defenses before the soldiers were prepared to react. This new type of warfare became known as Blitzkrieg. With Polish troops powerless to stop this new war tactic, the Germans quickly overcame the scattered haphazard Polish defenses. The Polish  soldiers manning these defenses were either wiped out or captured during the initial German onslaught.  Those that managed to escape were in disarray and tried to retreat to prepared defense positions in the rear. Even while retreating the Polish soldiers organized and tried in vain to counterattack. The Polish army showed tremendous courage battling its larger, more organized and technologically advanced foe. With over 2700 German tanks to Poland's 800 the Poles were at a loss as to how to react.  
On September 1, 1939 at the famous battle referred to as the Charge at Krjanty, Polish cavalry attacked a dispersed German infantry battalion only to end up fighting against German armoured cars firing machine guns.  The cavalry retreated losing about a third of the 250 cavalry soldiers along with its commander, Swiesciak.   Still the battle was considered a victory of sorts because it temporarily delayed the German advance.  A myth was created about this battle in which the Polish Cavalry charged German Panzer tanks with the soldiers wielding lances and sabres  Regardless, just about all efforts by the Polish Army were tragic regardless of the brave efforts to defend the Polish homeland from the invading Huns. Internet, BBC, September 1, 1939, On This Day, Germany Invades Poland.


Fast Moving  German tanks Invade Poland

  Radziejow Survivor Henry Gronow was a Jewish soldier in the Polish cavalry at the time of the invasion.   He was drafted into the Polish Army in 1934.  He served in a Polish cavalry unit. Three years later, in 1937, he received his discharge.  When Germany entered the Sudetenland located in Czechoslovakia in 1938  he was recalled for reserve duty.  A few months later he was again discharged.  He was on the front line with orders to repel the German invasion force.  He and his fellow soldiers witnessed the Germans new tactic in war strategy called blitzkrieg.  First came wave after wave of fast moving tanks supported by hundreds of  Luftwaffe bombers along with supporting massive artillery support.  The attack was then followed by tens of thousands of infantry troops and their support units. Gronow and his fellow soldiers were never prepared to stop such a massive display of firepower. After three weeks of Poland's brave but fruitless resistance, Henry Gronow along with the brave Poles he fought with ceased to be able to defend Poland.  He along with tens of thousands of troops were either killed, wounded, or captured. 


On September 1, 1939, the day the War broke out, the Najman family was awoken by the sounds from a distant battle. Radziejow was a mere hour’s drive from the border with Germany. The next few days left both the Jews and their fellow Polish villagers shook in fear knowing that at any moment the Germans would appear. The top priority of the townsfolk was to get news of the events occurring around them.  However, news was scarce from the Polish side while the German radio broadcasts told of victory after victory. Just a few days later, on September 5, 2013, the Germans occupied the town of Piotrkow.

The Jews of Radziejow soon learned from refugees what had transpired. "[T]he Germans set fire to dozens of Jewish homes, then shot dead those Jews who manged to run from the burning buildings. Entering a building which had escaped the flames, soldiers took out six Jews and ordered them to run. Five were shot down, the sixth, Reb Bunem Lebel, died later of his wounds." WWII, Gilbert, page 5.


Refugees from all over Poland told similar stories.Events transpired rapidly revealing the true horror of the Jewish predicament in occupied Poland.  The German Army was targeting Jews for humiliation and destruction. When Radziejow Jews heard these stories they were at a complete loss on how to react.  Fathers looked at their wives and children and knew that they could not protect their families from the oncoming onslaught.  "If the Polish Army with their tanks and guns could not stop these animals what could I Jew do."  As a result depression, despondency, and hopelessness overwhelmed the Jews of Poland.
 The Najman family huddled in the basement and listened in silent terror as they heard the whistling of artillery shells then bursting and small arms fire.  The sounds were constant, but most frightening of all was the sounds from bombing raids of the Luftwaffe as they bombed and destroyed fortifications and installations and then followed up by strafing the soldiers as they sought cover.



Poles and Jews Fleeing the Nazi Blitzkrieg 1939
The Jews of Radziejow either hid in their homes or wandered aimlessly down Jewish Street. Soon thereafter, there was a gathering in front of the Shul. The Jews debated as to what was their best course of action. All agreed that the Germans had terrible machinations against them. With Radziejow being one of the larger Jewish towns close to the border, the Jews felt especially targeted. Still there was some hope. The Polish Army continued to persevere. The Jews observed soldiers digging fortifications around the town,            Any hope of the Poles stopping the Nazi menace evaporated as other commented that as a result of these Polish fortifications it was guaranteed that there would be a full scale battle outside and then within the town of Radziejow. There was a whispered majority consensus that with the German juggernaut moving closer to Radziejow the only course of action was to evacuate the town.

The Najmans had a family meeting to decide whether to flee or stay. They discussed the two options. If they chose to stay then they would find themselves in the middle of the upcoming battle.  If they flee they would have to  abandon nearly everything they owned and become refugees. But what else could they do knowing how the Germans would treat them once Radziejow was occupied. So the decision was made to flee.  
Transportation was almost impossible to arrange. Just about all of the horses, wagons, buggies, and motorized vehicles were either requisitioned by the Polish Army or were being used by their owners to flee. Finally, after much searching, a family member was able to procure a horse and a large wagon. The wagon was quickly loaded. Every inch of the wagon was critical. The wagon had to serve as both transportation for those family members that were unable to walk as well as to carry vital items such as food, clothing, furniture, cooking utensils, religious items and merchandise. Once they finished packing the essentials there was not an inch of room to spare . After locking the doors of the Najman building,  the Najman family hit the unknown road.



Polish Refugees fleeing the German Onslaught of Watheland, September, 1939
As they left Radziejow the Najmans understood that they were now homeless refugees. The brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles, tried to cheer each other up as they followed on foot behind the wagon. On the wagon itself was the driver and sitting next to him was the family Patriarch, Shimon. They left Radziejow with scores of likeminded townsfolk, both Polish and Jewish. Silently, all were asking themselves the same question. “When, if ever, would they be able to return?” Shmiel, being the eldest son of the Najman clan, was the leader. He was responsible for the welfare of the group. He made his decisions after consultation with Shimon and selected family members. 
The Najmans had no plan or even any idea as to where they were going. Shmeil logically decided and all agreed that it would be best to travel east because Germany was to the west. His decision was strengthened by the reality that all civilian traffic was moving towards the east, while the traffic going east consisted of only a few army vehicles. 
When they reached the main highway the road was jammed with a mass of humanity made up of  thousands of refugees fleeing from the front. A several mile long caravan of escaping refugees was heading towards the capitol and largest city in Poland, Warsaw. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace, and at times not at all.

1939 Poland - German invaders humiliate a Jew by forcing him to have his beard cut off. 


Shimon was sixty eight years old when the war broke out. He was now long retired.  He spent all of his time either studying Torah or praying.  One would think that to him the War was but inconvenience. But in truth he knew as an expert on the history of the Jews that the invasion was but the harbinger of yet another cataclysmic catastrophe that was threatening the very existence of the Jewish People. 
As he sat perched on the seat next to wagon driver he was quiet, appearing lost in his thoughts. Family members were worried about him.  They all had heard stories about German soldiers that took pleasure in haranguing frum (orthodox) looking Jews.  That included cutting off their beards. One look at Shimon and you knew that he would soon be subject to the cruelty of the anti-Semitic invaders.So fearing for Shimon's safety they urged him to change his clothes and shave off his beard. Shimon adamantly refused.He understood that his future and his family's future as well was not dependent on whether he had a beard or not. His refusal did not deter his family to continue to pressure him.  They said that if he didn't it could endanger the little ones that were with them. Eventually he buckled, at least in his own mind but not in anyone elses, that he would cover his beard with a handkerchief. Of course, the Najmans knew that this was nothing better than a bad joke often told by people in a time of danger. They asked themselves,  "[h]ow could a handkerchief around his face fool the Germans?" But the family was resigned to the fact that it was useless to further protest. So Shimon wore a handkerchief around the lbeower part of his face thus covering his beard.

After days of traveling the Najman caravan was overtaken by forward elements of a Wehrmacht mechanized unit. This was the Najmans first contact with the German invaders. The soldiers were stern but professional. They didn't seem to care if the Najmans were Jewish.  What they did care about was to execute their orders. The officer demanded that the Najmans as well as the everyone else in this endless stream of refugees to turn around and return to their villages and homes. Having no choice, the Najmans complied and started back west in the direction of Radziejow.

Radziejow Survivor Roman Rogers stated that on this same road he was confronted by a less professional German soldier. For whatever reason the German was carrying a small bale of hay. The soldier warned Rogers that the Jews of Poland like the Jews of Germany would soon be slaughtered.

Radziejow Survivor Sally Klingbaum was in Radziejow when Germany invaded Poland. She remembered that everyone was afraid but no one knew exactly what to expect. Ten days later, like the other Jews she and her family fled Radziejow. Within two weeks she and her family returned to Radziejow. When she arrived they discovered that all their hosehold belongings had been stolen. She said that all that was left were a few items that had the total of value of seven zloty. At that time the exchange rate in 1939 was about 639 zloty to the dollar.

Radziejow Survivor Geroge Gronjnowski was twelve years old when the Wehrmacht first occupied Radziejow. Despite the danger, his family was one of the few Jewish families that decided to remain in the town. He remembered that the soldiers entered the town riding on motorcycles with attached side cars. Sitting in the side cars were soldiers aiming mounted machine guns at seemingly everything they passed. The soldiers first took up a stationary positions in the center of town, that being Market Square. They set up four machine gun nests at the four corners of the market. One of the machine gun nests was opposite to the Najman building, less than a hundred feet away. He stated that the Jews that had remained seemed to him to be at the same time in a state of shock, fear, and bewilderment. The had no delusions that all was going to be well. All knew of Hitler’s despicable policies concerning treatment of Jews. Still, for some, it was not as if they had lost all hope. Several of the Jews reminded the rest that surely the British and French would quickly come to the aid of Poland.

Radziejow Survivor Ann Goldman Kumer stated that on the first day of occupation of Radziejow the Jews were gathered together and forced to stand in Market Square. They were surrounded by both Wehrmacht soldiers and German Police called Gendameries, dressed in their distinctive green uniforms. It soon became clear that the reason for this gathering was to separate the Jews from the Poles in order to degrade humiliate the Jews. As the Poles watched, they forced one Jew to get down on all fours and howl like a dog. Then the religious Jews were lined up so to have their side-locks cut off.  She remembered that in those first days Jewish girls were raped by German soldiers. Her mother, upon learning of this, placed Ann and her sister in a hidden safe-room located behind a wall in their cellar.

Radziejow Survivor Geroge Gronjnowski, then a young boy,  soon learned the word for Jew in German was Yudah. The Jews of Radziejow were dumbstruck when several of their Polish neighbors collaborated with the Nazis.  They did this by identifying Jews. The Jews were both disappointed at such unpatriotic behavior and felt personally betrayed. They felt that such cooperation was treasonous even for an anti-Semite. 
One Jew asked another, “[a]re not the Germans the enemy of the Poles as well as the Jews?” 
The Jews quickly learned that the Poles, for whatever reason,  could not to be counted on for help. It didn't matter whether the reason for pointing out Jews was that a Pole was an anti-Semite or just someone looking out for himself.  The results for the Jews were ultimately the same.

Radziejow Survivor Joyce Wagner remembered that on the day that the war broke out she was in the family store. Suddenly the news spread around town like wildfire that Germany invaded Poland. She said that she cried like a baby. Even to this very day she remembered that her spirit was overwhelmed with an ominous feeling of dread. She recalled that within a few day of the time of the invasion the Germans entered Radziejow. She saw in the distance haystacks bordering the towns outskirts blazing on fire. The smoked billowed in the air around her as the sounds of town folk panicking came from all directions. Joyce remembered that she and her family escaped to a nearby town. This was to no avail because the Germans soon thereafter occupied that town. Her family too felt that they had run out of options. So they decided to return to Radziejow.


Map of German Invasion Armies - Poland's Army Pomeranian  Defended Radziejow

When the Najmans arrived back in town they were both physically and mentally spent. As they drove through the town they immediately saw that many of the stores and homes owned by Jews had been ransacked. They later learned that when the Jews fled Radziejow Poles began looting the unguarded properties. Fortunately, the Najmans found that the looters had not completely cleaned out their storeroom. There remained some precious merchandise mainly because the Najmans were among the first Jews to return. Apparently, the looters were planning to finish stealing the remainder the next day.
In the street in front of the Najman building German soldiers and German Police were out in force.The Najmans watched in horror as they saw patrols made up of five or more soldiers parading down the street. This display of power was to make it clear to all the townsfolk that the German Army was now in charge of Radziejow. It was a fete accompli.
Radziejow Survivor Roman Rogers stated that at the very beginning of the occupation the Jews of Radziejow were falsely accused of paying the Poles to kill Germans. This lie was but an excuse to round up Jews and then murder them. One of these roundup included several woman and thirty-seven men. The men were taken ten miles from the city. There they were murdered in cold blood by shooting then buried in a long ditch. The women fared somewhat better, they were sent to prison.
The situation in Poland went from catastrophe to even worse. On August 23, 1939, Russia and Germany signed a non-aggression agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Among the non-disclosed terms was an agreement that divided up both Northern Europe and Eastern Europe between the two nations. Russia monitored the the success of the German invasion of Poland. On September 17, 1939, just sixteen days into the invasion, seeing that the Poles were being routed, according to the terms of the pact Russia invaded Poland and claimed its eastern half.  The Russians did not cite the secret non aggression pact, rather they claimed that they were reluctantly entering Poland out of responsibility to their neighbor. They proclaimed that the Polish government was near collapse and only Russia could  protect the Poles as well as the Ukrainians and Belarusians that lived in that part of Poland. 
Poland's Government sent out  pleas for assistance to their western allies.  They demanded that their allies provide immediate military aid.  For the most part their request went unanswered. 
The British and French ambassadors in Berlin met with the Germany's Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. The ambassadors presented a united front and told the Foreign Minister in no uncertain terms that absent a complete withdrawal of German troops from Poland, both France and England would support Poland.

In Hitler’s mind, this new ultimatum was similar to the other vacuous warnings given by these two countries when Germany annexed Austria and the Sudetenland. This time differed,  France and England were resolved that if the Germans failed to meet this demand they would have no choice but to declare that a state of war existed between them and Germany. Unfortunately for Poland even though this was a true ultimatum,  Hitler knew that both France and England were not in any position to come to the aid of Poland.






























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