We Remember Jewish Ciechanowiec!

This Memorial Web Site has been Initiated and Erected by Gary Gelber email: Ciechanowiec@yahoo.com   and Ada Holtzman email: ada001 "at" netvision.net.il

In Memory of Ciechanowiec Shtetl Which Once Graced This Earth and is No More...

Coordinates: 52°40' : 22°31'
112.6 kilometers ENE of Warsaw

A Map


The Synagogue of Ciechanowiec in 1950. It still exis (2007). It is an empty building next to the cinema in the "old town" part of Ciechanowiec.  
Photograph courtesy of Tomasz Wisniewski

 


Jewish Ciechanowiec, Town's Map
(Source: Ciechanowiec Yizkor Book, submitted by Gary Gelber)

Ciechanowiec, Poland
Source: Gary Gelber: The Plisky Family History, (copyright 1988).

One of the calamities experienced by Ciechanowiec was World War I.

During that war the town was almost completely burned to the ground. Many of the Jews living there fled elsewhere. After the war the town was rebuilt. By 1921 there were 1,649 Jews (50%) living there. Yiddish and Hebrew schools, Zionist and Halutz (pioneer) Youth Movements flourished.

By 1939, Ciechanowiec had reached its height with approximately 6,000 Jews. As the Ciechanowiec Memorial Book states, all madness broke out in Europe and everything was completely destroyed.

My great grandfather was Aria Layb Luba, also known as Aria the Cossack. Aria was a melamed, a teacher, in the town. He was six feet tall which gave him great stature in the town. He was about 80 years old when the Nazis killed him along with my Pliski (Pliszki, Pliska, Pliszka) family.

The ghettos were liquidated October 15 and November 2. The Landsleit in Israel used to commemorated the November 2 date by coming together for a memorial service.

Contact Gary Gelber: Gershon567 at hotmail.com (replace "at" by @ to avoid spam).


A lonely Matzeva (Tombstone) in the deserted Jewish Cemetery of Ciechanowiec
Photograph courtesy of Tomasz Wisniewski

 

The Yizkor Book


Ciechanoviec
Bialystok District;
Memorial and Records
Editor: Eliezer Leoni, Tel Aviv 1964
Published by the Ciechanovitzer Immigrant Association in
Israel and the USA

The Translation of the Yizkor Book in JewishGen Yizkor Book Database

The English Part
Table of Contents

 

Page

Marginal Comments

Professor Benjamin Mazar, Jerusalem

3

The Jews in Ciechanowiec

The early history of Ciechanowiec

Eliezer Leoni, Tel Aviv
(translated by I.M. Lask)

7

The development of the Jewish Community of Ciechanowiec

 

14

The Rabbis of Ciechanowiec

 

21

Rabbi Sabbethai, son of Rabbi Eliezer Zussman, author of "Meir Nativ" (the path-lighter)

 

23

Rabbi Hayyim son of Rabbi Peretz Hacohen

 

27

Rabbi Eliahu Baruch Komay

 

33

Rabbi David Kamin

 

40

The Maggid (Homeliest) reb Moshe Halevi Rubinstein

 

45

The economic life of Ciechanowiec

 

48

The moral and national character of Ciechanowiec Jewry

 

54

Heads of the Haskala in Ciechanowiec

 

60

Ciechanowiec in more recent times

 

65

Atrocities and Hell

Ester Kleinoth (Goldberg)

68

Chechanovtze in the new world

Dr. David Tabak (New York)

77

From the Yiddish and Hebrew Part:

The Savage Murderer, Romanus

Yehuda Rydz

 

 YIZKOR - In Memoriam

The Necrology List of the Jewish Community of Ciechanowiec
Pages 719-809

 
The Synagogue of Ciechanowiec in 1950. It still exis (2007). It is an empty building next to the cinema in the "old town" part of Ciechanowiec.  
 Photograph courtesy of Tomasz Wisniewski

CIECHANOWIEC
(Region Wysokie Mazowiecki, District Bialystok)

Coordinates: 52°40' : 22°31'
112.6 kilometers ENE of Warsaw

"Pinkas Hakehilot" Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities - Poland: Vol. IV: Warsaw and District, Yad Vashem, 1989, p. 392-395, written by Shmuel Levin (until WWII) and Abraham Kalvan (the Holocaust).

 

Translated by Ada Holtzman

 

Year 

Population 

Jews 

^%

1808

526

442

84%

1829

617

247

40%

1857

1200

760

63%

1897

2320

1498

66%

 

It is assumed that Ciechanowiec was founded in the 10th century. The settlement was destroyed by the Tatars in the year of 1240. In 1366 Ciechanowiec moved under Lithuania patronage and after the unification between Poland and Lithuania (in the year of 1385) it returned to the patronage of Poland. In the 15th century, Ciechanowiec was the property of the noble family of Kiszko and its descendants who called themselves "Ciechanowski". Urban privileges were granted to Ciechanowiec in the year of 1429; in the year 1520, a custom central station was founded which controlled the merchandise transported to Russia, through the town. In 1592 Ciechanowiec was transferred to the ownership of the nobles Radziwil. The river Nirzec crosses Ciechanowiec and divide it into two parts. By the end of the 16th century, the town was also divided administratively and each part became a separate administrative body. The part to the right of the river was called Nowe Miasto (the new city) and the left part was called Stare Miasto (the old city). The separation between the two parts of the town was kept until World War I. Every part of the town belonged to other owners and was included also in other provinces. The area of the "old city" was much bigger than the "new city". Also from economic point of view, the "old city" was much stronger than its neighbor. Already by the end of the 16th century there were some industry plants and a large number of artisans workshops, mainly of tailors, cobblers and furriers. By then already artisans associations were founded. In the "old city" there were already 275 houses, while in the "new city" there were only 58 houses. In the Swedish war, by the middle of the 17th century, both parts of the town were severely damaged. Ciechanowiec was conquered by the Swedes and also after it was liberated by the Polish army it was not recovered until the 18th century. The number of houses decreased then to 120 in the "old city" and 35 only in the "new city". Also the number of inhabitants decreased to 700 in both parts of the town. In the year of 1786, a hospital was founded in Ciechanowiec, which served the population of the whole region.

 

Ciechanowiec became famous for its botanic garden founded in the place the nature researcher Krzystof Kloka. In the first partition of Poland, in the year of 1772, the "old city" was included in Russia and the "new city" was transferred to the government of Prussia; afterwards it was annexed to the Warsaw Princedom and included in the kingdom of Poland. In the 19th century, the "old city" had an important economical role. Textile industry was developed in it and factories to buttons were built as well. The economy of the "new city" was based mostly on agricultural products and only by the second half of the 19th century, industry plants were erected there as well, like a flourmill, potash incinerator, beer brewery, soap workshop and other workshops. During World War I, under the government of the Germans, the two parts of the city were united.

 

The Jewish community in Ciechanowiec has been regarded as one of the most ancient Jewish settlements in Poland. According one assumption the Kuzary Jews founded it. Near Ciechanowiec there is indeed a small village by the name "Kuzari" and in the town itself there was a street name: "The Kuzari Street". Historians saw in these signs the proof to the assumptions that Jews were settled in Ciechanowiec already upon its foundation. There is no doubt that already in the second half of the 16th century Jews lived in Ciechanowiec. During the 17th century their number increased constantly. At that time a synagogue was erected and near it 3 Bathei Midrash (study houses) (according to the tradition which was accepted in the community, the synagogue was built already in the 14th century). In the 16th century the cemetery was sanctified.

 

In the 18th century there had already been a distinctive Jewish settlement in Ciechanowiec. The representatives of the community of Ciechanowiec were active in the   Vaad Arba Aratzoth  (the General Assembly of the Jewish 4 councils of Poland during the 16-18th centuries) and were among the main speakers in that Committee. In the year of 1760, Nissan son of Yehuda was appointed to be the pleader of the Committee (a central role in the framework of the Committee). He was described as "A diligent man, who knows his work, a holy work, he faces kings and rulers and his lips drop honey". In the assembly of the Committee in the year of 1726, the claim of the community of Ciechanowiec against the communities of Wegrow regarding the affiliation of the Jews of Wysokie Mazowiecki was discussed and the two communities demanded the patronage over it. The debate was rejected because both communities did not prove their claim in evidence. After a short time, the Jews of Wysokie Mazowiecki gained their independence and were not subject of neither one.

 

In the beginning of the 18th century, R' Yehoshua Halevi had the office of the community Rabbi, who was representative of the community also in the Vaad Arba Aratzoth. His signature appears on various documents of the regulations of the Committee. After him, came to office his son, R' Issachar Berisz, who was among the signatories of the excommunication of the Frankists sect. R' Issachar Berisz was among the messengers who went to Warsaw in the year of 1759, to appeal to the Pope "nuncio" to speed up the process of converting to Christianity of that sect. In 1756 R' Issachar Berisz was also among the signatories of the excommunication of the Sabbatai Zevi followers and he took the side of R' Jacob Emden in his conflict with R' Yehonatan Eyebeschuetz. In the year of 1750, R' Moshe Segal of Ciechanowiec is mentioned in the debates of the Committee, regarding the assistance of his sons, Aharon and Zajnwil' to the owners of a big printing house in Amsterdam, Josef and Jakob Propes, who published a new version of the SH"S (the six Orders of the of the Mishnah). In the year 1761 Rabbi Dawid Szaul Katznelenbogen served as the Rabbi of Ciechanowiec and managed also a Yeshiva (Talmudic college) in the place. After him the Rabbi of Ciechanowiec was R' Szabtai Zusman K"tz. Author of the book "Meir Nativ". After Rabbi K"tz moved to Hamburg Germany, the Rabbi in Ciechanowiec was R' Chaim B"R Perec who was called "R' Chaim Ciechanowiecer". After a short time, R' Chaim left Ciechanowiec and moved to Pinsk from where he immigrated to Eretz Israel. Between the years 1848-1888 the Rabbinate in Ciechanowiec was served by R' Jakob Lajb Heler who was born in Ciechanowiec. In 1889 followed him R' Eliahu Baruch Kamai, who served as a Rabbi 10 years (until 1899). From Ciechanowiec he moved to become the  Rosh (head) of the famous Mir yeshiva. During his period of his office also served as Rabbis in Ciechanowiec R' Dawid Kamin, author of the book "Beth David" about rulings of ritual slaughtering, Hazan and Shochet and R' Mosze Rubinstein, author of the book: "Esh Dat" (fire of religion) Magid & Matif (herald and preacher). After him R' Zalman Szneorsohn came to office as the Rabbi of Ciechanowiec (until 1928).

 

The Jews of Ciechanowiec were engaged mainly in commerce and artisanship. In the year 1775 some Jews owned weaving mills. The weaving industry under Jewish hands developed starting from the 20s of the 19th century. This industry left its mark on the Jewish economical life in Ciechanowiec. After the Polish revolt in year 1830, the Russians set up a very high custom tax in while crossing the border from Poland Kingdom and Russia. The "New Town" which belonged to the Poland Kingdom, and especially the Jews living there, highly suffered from the closure of the border. Then some of the weaving mills, owned by Jews, were transferred from the "new town" to the "Old Town". The "Old Town" became a very important center of wool commerce, of which almost all was owned by Jews. The well-known industrialist, born in Ciechanowiec was Szaul Horowicz, who moved his buttons factory from Warsaw to Ciechanowiec. This was the among the largest factories of buttons production in Poland. The Jews also owned large shops of textiles ("manufaktura"). But many of the family supporters in Ciechanowiec were engaged in petit commerce and craftsmanship. Because the town was far from the railway station (which was in Czyzewo), transportation cooperative was founded, which transported passengers to and from the station and transported merchandise to Warsaw, Bialystok and other towns. Jews owned the cooperative.

 

Charity institutions were founded in Ciechanowiec in the beginning of the 20th century. Then "Gmilut Khassadim" was established, the first in town and after a few years also were founded the following organizations:  "Bikur Kholim" (visiting the sick), "Hachnasat Kala" (caring for the bride), "Hachnasat Orkhim" (welcoming the visitors).  A committee was also erected whose aim was to assist passers-by when they came to Ciechanowiec in order to avoid them begging from the landlords. Every year they also distributed "Maot Khitin" (money from the wheat) to the poor for the Passover Holiday.

 

In Ciechanowiec there was one synagogue, some Beth Midrash (college for Talmudic study) and "Shitbalach" of the Hassidim. Until the end of the 19th century, the Beth Midrash was the only spiritual center of town. In Ciechanowiec there was "Talmud Torah" (Torah study) in which almost all the children of the Jews got their education. In the beginning of the 20th century "Cheder Metukan" (revised religious study school) headed by the Maskil (the Enlightened - a disciple of Moses Mendelsshon) Mosze Dawid Heller. In the beginning it had only one class and boys and girls studied together. In the same time, a professional school was also established, mainly for girls. Its language was Russian but one hour a day was dedicated to study of Hebrew. In the year 1908 a "mechina" - preparatory school for Gymnasium was established in Ciechanowiec. It was limited for Jews - only 9% so very few Jewish pupils attended it. In later times (near the outbreak of World War I), "Tarbut" school was founded, which after the war joined the Tarbut Hebrew schools chain centered in Warsaw.

 

By the end of the 19th century, the first Zionist group was organized in Ciechanowiec, which called itself "Khibat Zion". In the first Zionist Congress 1897, 2 Zionist delegates were from Ciechanowiec. Because the Zionist Movement was prohibited in the Russian Empire, the organization run secret activities and meetings were held in private houses. In this time, the "Bund" movement was active in Ciechanowiec also under conditions of an underground.

 

During World War I many Jews escaped to Russia. In battles which took place near Ciechanowiec during the year of 1915,22 Jews were killed. The town was conquered by the Germans by the end of 1915 and slowly life returned to its routine. The escapees started to return to town. The public activity, which was completely paralyzed by the beginning of the War was renewed and even increased. During the year of 1916, a popular library was founded, which attracted the young generation. Also the pioneer Zionist youth movements started to get organized. In spite of the difficult economic situation of most of the Jewish inhabitants, the educational institutions were re-opened. In Ciechanowiec, as in other cities in Poland, there was shortage of food and various industrial products. The commerce and craft were completely frozen. Many Jews had no means of living. The community opened a public kitchen for the poor and 200 Jews got their hot meal there daily.

 

 

Between the Two World Wars

 

During the war between Prussia and Russia, in 1920, Ciechanowiec was conquered by the Bolsheviks for a short period of time. After the rule of town was returned to Poles, there were pogroms against the Jews who were accused of collaboration with the Russians. Many Jews were bitten and robbed. By the pressure of the Jewish representatives in the Polish Parliament (the "Sejm"), The government sent an inquiry committee to Ciechanowiec and the order returned to town followed its activity.

 

During the period between the two World Wars the Jews of Ciechanowiec continued to make living mainly from commerce and artisanship. The Jews owned some of the biggest textile shops.  Also the trade of eggs and gander was an important source of living for the Jews. The Jews also owned some industrial plants, such as flourmills, saw mill and factories of tiles and ply woods. In the outskirts of town there were two agricultural farms owned by Jews. The tailors and cobblers distinguished themselves among the Jewish artisans.

 

The economical situation of most of the Jews was very hard. Economic and social institutions tried to relieve the material situation of the Jews by organizing mutual aid societies. The Jewish Merchants Union, which was founded in 1927, gave through his bank credit with very low interest. In 1928 this bank had 250 members. At the same time, Jewish artisans association was founded and also petit commerce merchants created their own union. Their main aims were to arrange trade permits and work licenses to the members. In the year 1925 a charity fund (Gmilut Hassadim) was founded which assisted the merchants and artisans in granting credit without any interest. The societies and institutions of the community gave aid to the poorest. The society "Linat Tzedek" added to its activities, also granting free medical aid to the people in need.

 

In spite of the difficult economical situation, the cultural and public life of Ciechanowiec roused significantly.   Nearly all the parties, the political movements and their youth organizations which operated in Poland had branches in Ciechanowiec. The number of the members of the Zionist groups nearly doubled. In this respect, "the League for Working Israel" was in the head of the groups. Second place belonged to the General Zionists ("Al Hamishmar" group) and after them came "Mizrachi".  Among the Zionist youth organizations, Hashomer Hatzair was the prominent one. The youth organizations founded pioneer preparatory farms ("hachshara") near Ciechanowiec. In 1927 a branch of "Hakhalutz" movement (the Pioneer) was founded. In the 30s, branches of the Revisionists and Beitar were also founded.

 

"Agudat Israel" and its organizations "Tzeiri Agudat Israel" and "Poalei Agudat Israel" were mainly active in the election to the municipality and the community. They were very active in education. The "Bund" was based on the professional unions it founded. In the 20s, the groups of Folkists developed and their main influence was at the petit commerce and artisans circles. Its influence diminished with the passing years. Few youth belonged to the illegal communist party and their delegates were behind strikes and demonstrations in town.

 

In the community committee, the main influence was of the Zionists. In the elections of 1924, they, together with the artisans under their influence, received most of the mandates. In the next elections the Zionists lost few delegates but maintained their power. The Jews had some representatives in the City Council. In the 30s, the rabbi of the community was R' Benjamin Zeew Kagan, who perished in the Holocaust.

 

In the inter-war period there were a few Jewish schools in Ciechanowiec. In addition to "Talmud Torah", the "Cheder Metukan" continued to exist. In the year of 1925, a girls' school was erected "Beth Yaacov" of "Agudath Israel".  In 1925, in the "new city" a kindergarten was founded. In Ciechanowiec existed also a state elementary school for the Jewish children with seven classes (the “Szabasowka”). In the year 1928 a Yeshiva (Talmudic college) was founded where 100 young men studied, also students from other towns. In Ciechanowiec there were two large libraries, the first one of the Zionist was called "Tarbut" and the second one of the Bund was named after Y.L. Perec. In addition to them there were also small libraries of parties and youth movements. For a while, sport organizations were active in Ciechanowiec, like "Maccabi" of the Zionists and "Stern" of the "Bund".

 

When the anti-Semitism grew in Poland during the 30s, its traces were noticeable in all realms of life in Ciechanowiec also. The boycotts against the Jews continued, including pickets, which were placed near Jewish shops, but also trials to raise more violent attacks against the Jews. In July 1937, during a market day, which took place in the neighboring villages, anti-Semite violent groups attacked the Jewish stalls, bit the Jews and chased them away. The pogroms repeated also in September of that year. The rioters attacked even little children. After these events, an investigator on behalf of the Voivoda (the regional council) was sent to Ciechanowiec. But his investigation was carried out only ostensibly. The rioters were caught and brought to trial, but the court only warned them and no punishment was ruled.

 

During the Second World War

 

Ciechanowiec was occupied by the units of the German army in the beginning of 1939. After a few days the Germans left town according to the Pact between Germany and the U.S.S.R., and Ciechanowiec fell under the Soviet rule. Because it was near the border, it became a center for refugees from the German occupied territories in Poland. Tens among the refugee fell sick with typhus epidemic. The Russians built a hospital in which the sick among the refugees and the townspeople of Ciechanowiec were hospitalized and the epidemic was liquidated. The Jews of town adjusted quickly to the new situation. In the beginning of 1940, the artisans organized themselves in cooperatives and many worked in offices and factories for the new rulers. In the spring of 1940 a decree was issued obliging everyone to issue Russian "passport" (identity card). During this period, many Jews of Ciechanowiec were declared as "untrustworthy elements", their property had been nationalized before by the Soviets and many of them were sent to exile in Russia. Also the refugees who refused to receive "passports" were banished. But due to this deportation decree, many survived the war and saw its end. In the years 1940-1941 many of the youth were enlisted to the Red Army.

 

On June 22nd, 1941 at 4:00 am Ciechanowiec was bombarded by the German artillery. The bombardment mainly hit a neighborhood in the "old city", where 30 Jews were injured and many died later from their wounds. The town was occupied in the same day. As a mayor of town, the German appointed a "Volksdeutscher" name Richter. Life of the Jews became outlawed. Murders, robbery and abuse became a matter of daily routine. The Germans imprisoned 7 Jews, among them Szabtai Kaszmejn and Yeszajah Klopot and executed them. Men and women were snapped to forced labor. These acts were accompanied by brutal and cruel treatments. The situation worsened when the Nazi Romanus arrived to Ciechanowiec and appointed the mayor of town. In the end of 1941, all the Jews over 12 years of age were obliged to bear white ribbon and yellow Star of David on it. The synagogues were shut down and even a prayer of the individual was considered a sever offense. A Judenrat was appointed with Efraim Winer as its chairman. In the autumn of 1941, a ghetto was established. It included 2 quarters. Around each one a wire fence was built and the connection between the two was a bridge. Exit from the Ghetto was banned. Those who dare exit in search of food, were shot on the spot. Food supplies were brought into the Ghetto by authorization of the Nazi Romanus and his Polish anti-Semite assistant Pszilkowski. Everyday women and men between the ages of 18-60 were led to forced labor outside the Ghetto. They worked in paving the road, in building and in German factories. As wages for their work, they were given 300 gram of bread only. The situation of the artisans was little better. Raw materials were brought from Bielsk and for the finished products they received food products. In the winter of 1941/42 Jews who were deported from Zareby and Czyzewo were added to the ghetto population. In Ciechanowiec there were by then 4000 Jews. Around 1000 of them were occupied daily by the Germans.

 

The persecutions worsened in the year 1942, and in the end of January 1942, 18 Jews were arrested. The Germans accused them of being communists. Among them were Lin and his two sons, Mosze Zolotow and Ajzik Midler. The prisoners were held during 3 weeks and after cruel tortures were executed. In March 1942 6 other Jews were murdered, among them Menes Lew and Icchak Zeliger. In October 31st, 1942, the Germans ordered the Jews to bring 250 men and 35 women with profession to Romanus, to be sent to a nearby village Pobikra for work. The aim of the Germans was to deceive the Jews and hide the truth about their tragic fate. All the men and women who presented themselves were taken out of the Ghetto under guard, taken to a place 35 kms far from Ciechanowiec and were shot to death. Only 5 managed to escape.

 

In the morning of November 2nd, 1942 the German and Polish police encircled the ghetto. Panic seized the ghetto. Many tried to escape to no avail. The Germans and their Polish collaborators opened fire and many of the Jews were murdered on the spot. Only 31 persons managed to escape. Large part of the local population in the place collaborated with the occupiers. They blackmailed those who run away to the forests and asked for hiding in the villages. They were paid by money and valuables and later denounced those Jews to the Germans. Only very few survived and lived to see liberation. On November 15th, 1942 the Germans liquidated the ghetto completely and the remaining Jews were deported by carts to Czyzewo railway station and from there deported to the extermination camps Treblinka and Majdanek.

 

Bibliography

 

·        The Yad Vashem archive in Jerusalem, documents: M-11 / B73, 155, M-11/46, 022/47, M-1/E/2230/2757

·        The Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem, documents: HM/7604, HM/6673

·        The Central Zionist Archive in Jerusalem, documents S-5/1972, S-5/1804, S-5/1707, Z-4/3569/III

·        Ciechanowiec; Memorial and Records, editor: Eliezer Leoni, Tel Aviv 1964

·        Yehoshua Mordechai Rozenblum, My Town Ciechanowiec, Tel Aviv 1951

·        "Hajnt" 14.6.1938, 24.12.1936, 11.6.1930, 29.1.1929, 9.11.1927, 11.7.1939, 25.7.1938, 28.6.1938

·        "Naj Folkszeitung" 9.1.1937


The Savage Murderer, Romanus
By Yehuda Rydz*
Translated by Gary Gelber
Published in the Ciechanowiec Yizkor Book, Tel Aviv 1964

When it comes to describe the atrocious deeds of a murderer named Romanus (who by coincidence had the same name as that of an ancient military people) it reminds me of a fable. Someone asked a tyrant why he was so quick to sentence people to death for small offenses? The tyrant answered: "I believe that the death penalty should be used for even the smallest transgression. As for the appropriate penalty to apply for great transgressions. Well, this I haven't yet thought about..."

Romanus (head of the S.S. in the area) tortured and murdered people for no reason what so ever. (The S.S. were elite German military and police units of the Nazi Party that carried out central tasks for the "Final Solution" of the Jews). His hatred toward the Jews burned and flamed within him, and there was no way to extinguish the hatred.

At work he tortured Jews horrendously. Once, he had lazily sprawled out beside a ruined outer wall. Workers had seen several bricks fall on top of Yaakov Kizmacher and crush his hand. Blood gushed from his hand and in his agony, Yaakov badly needed to cry out and scream. No doctors came to his aid so I stopped the flow of blood with the most primitive means available. Romanus had looked on with amazement and great enjoyment as to what had just occurred. Despite Yaakov's clenching hand, Romanus forced Yaakov to continue working.

Romanus used to "amuse himself" by shooting bullets into open windows. One time, he was in the ghetto and he started shooting into the home of my brother-in-law, Moishe Plisky, and nearly scared his child to death. Moishe dashed with his family to Shaina-Vruna, the midwife, but the cut throat, with his accomplice, had intercepted him. They tied my brother-in-law up, powerfully beat him and then forced him to return home.

By chance, Ephraim, Herschel and Yaakov ("the smuggler") Plisky had a confrontation (with the murderer) too. By accident, Romanus caught them trading with the (Polish) peasants (which was strictly forbidden). Romanus threw them in jail and in the two-week period there, they were savagely beaten. When they passed out from the beatings, Romanus splashed water on them and attempted to revive them, so that he could continue torturing them. When the torturer freed them, they returned home, walking on their hands, because their feet were broken. They remained lying in their beds, half-dead, without any medical help. They were not able to eat nor drink. In such a sorrowful state they remained bedridden for two months. By no means did that end their suffering. Regardless of how Romanus heard that these Jews were feeling better -- he ordered them brought before him. He beat them four consecutive days, virtually without water. Finally, the murderer looked upon them and couldn't decide which one to continue beating. Because the tortured victims were imminently near agony of death, Romanus released them, so that they should recover and that he would be able to torture them anew.

Another time a Shabbos (Sabbath), when I went to work, Romanus was riding on a horse with a policeman-bodyguard. The murderer accused me of not working hard enough. He preyed upon me to run in front of his horse. I was in this dismal state until we reached the "New Town" (Ciechanowiec) Cemetery. During the whole time he beat me constantly. At the cemetery, Romanus forced me to kneel upon the ground. As I was kneeling, Romanus and his accomplice came toward me on horseback. They preyed upon me with their unruly horses, and it ended with a bludgeon landing an inblow to my head. I remained there on the groun. I completely blacand I was unable to see. The only thing I was able to feel was the blood oozing from my cracked hea.Fin, and with great effort, I stood on my feet and proceeded towardthe Gentile's house where I worked. The blood was washed off and my head was bandaged. I was in bed, at the Gentile's house, until Saturday night and theI returned to the ghetto. I had lain with enormous pain for two weeks until I went back to work. After that bloody Shabbos I was very troubled. I felt that a terrible storm faced me, as Romanus' terror was, sooner or later, to befall the Jewish community in Ciechanowiec.

The situation in the ghetto took a turn for the worse every day. Rumors wildly spread that the ghetto in the nearby town of Czyzewo had been liquidated. We couldn't believe it, yet, we set out to find the truth about this terrible news. We contacted a Ciechanowiecer Christian, paid him a tidy sum of money, and sent him to Czyzewo to explain the situation in that ghetto. (The ghetto's were enclosed and Jews were not allowed to leave). When the Christian returned from his journey, he broke the awful news to us that he had not meet (nor seen) any Jews in Czyzewo.

We anticipated an "aktion" (an operation involving the mass assembly, deportation and murder of the Jews by the Nazis) every day. The Jews went about the ghetto lackadaisically. They didn't know what to do with themselves. Pious Jews consoled themselves that G-d will not desert His children in a time of trouble such as this. And just as G-d had taken Abraham, our father, out from the furnace of fire, and Daniel from the lion's den, so at the last minute He will demonstrate a great miracle, and we will all survive.

As the situation in the ghetto became increasingly critical, I suddenly saw that the Jews were no longer being compelled to work. In general, Romanus was no longer concerned if one worked or didn't work. The nights were filled with nightmares. People didn't sleep. Instead, they continually thought about what the future had in store for them. "What are we up against?" they asked. "Will our fate be the same as the Czyzewo Jews?" I had observed what was happening in the ghetto with open eyes and without any illusions. At once, it became clear to me: one must escape from the ghetto and very fast!

I had a secret, small (trap) door which one was able to escape from the ghetto. My wife, Faiga, (ne'e Plisky), did not agree with this idea, so I took my two grown children an off I went to the Gentile, for whom I had worked for. I remained hidden in an attic until one o'clock in the morning. A deep feeling of ruination dominated the air. The children began to cry, "Father, let's go back home!" Besides from us, no one else had yet escaped from the ghetto. I took pity on them and so I returned to the ghetto. My wife came to me reproachfully: "All the Jews are in bed sound asleep. Only you seem to be afflicted." I answered her: "May G-d grant that I come out of this entire situation in one piece." And with that I laid down on the bed, fully clothed.

While lying down, I suddenly heard an intense sound of shooting. It was an enormous, blood curdling noise. I went out into the street and there I saw Jews, literally hanging from the wire (that surrounded the ghetto), and they were painfully trying to escape. The murderers were shooting at the Jews (with automatic rifles) and one could see them falling like prey. Everyone felt that this was the end. Romanus had finally made up his mind to liquidate the ghetto. Two days prior to this final ending, he had brought in many German soldiers plus many, many wagons.

At the last minute, I opened my secret trap door. Together with Shmuel Vinovitch, I escaped to a nearby forest. By running I encountered Matta's son-in-law, the watchmaker. He drew near to us and said, "Let's stay together and see what the future has in store for us."

* "Yehuda Rydz, a son-in-law, of Laibel Lemkes (Plisky), is originally from Danir. Around the time of the Soviet occupation, he lived in Ciechanowiec." 

Ciechanowiec Mutual Aid Societies in America
Written by Gary Gelber

The townspeople from Ciechanowiec founded several mutual benefit aid societies in America. The key phrase of each group was mutual help. Newcomers to America were assisted by those who came before them. Various organizations were created to meet their needs. The following were the organizations. They are all defunct (2003).

1. Chevra Bnai Yaakov Anshe Chechanovsa

2.Chevra Bnai Moshe Anshe Neishtadt Chechnovtze (1907)

3. Chechanovitzer-Semiatitcher Branch #195 (Farband-Labor Zionist Org./Workman's Circle)

4. Brisker-Ciechanowiecer Branch # 15 (I.W.O.)

5. Tchechanovtzer Progressive Society

6. Chechanovtzer Progressive Ladies Auxiliary

7. Chechanovtzer Progressive Relief Committee (founded 1915; Yitzchock Kaplan, secretary)

8. Jewish Pioneers, Chechanovsa Chapter.

Herschel Plisky, my grandfather, joined the Chevra Bnai Moshe Chechnovtze Society and frequently attended the meetings. Sam Shapiro, who was a former secretary of the society, recalled how Herschel used to bring a bottle of liquor, for the collation that followed the meeting. Sam recalled that Herschel so enjoyed coming to the meetings, that he used to climb the stairs, two at a time. At special occasions the seats in the front of the meeting hall were reserved for a small fee. Several times, Herschel used to reserve seats in the front so that he would have a "choice" seat.

As mentioned prior, Isidore (Yitzchock) Kaplan was secretary of the society for many years. Kaplan was not his original name. The family name was Kaufka, and he changed it once the family came to America. Isidore was also in charge of the Relief Committee which coordinated the fund-raising drives to send money to the town.

Thousands of dollars were raised and sent to Ciechanowiec, during and after World War I. The book, Yidishe Landsmanshaftn in New york (1938) stated that the Relief Committee had sent $18,000 to the town for various needs.

Old Family Photographs


Aria Layb LUBA

Gary Gelber writes...

Aria Layb LUBA was a melamed (teacher) in Milejczyce, until WWI. During the First World War, the Germans appointed him as a policeman to stop the stealing that was going on in the fields. He was nicknamed, Aria the Cossack, because of his tall stature. He was six feet tall. Aria rode a horse through the town and was accompanied by a soldier. He became unpopular because he did his job very well and the townspeople were not able to go out into the fields without getting caught. After the war Aria relocated to Ciechanowiec where he continued to teach. Nataniel Pioreh, of Tel Aviv, recalled back in 1980, how Aria was his melamed, strict and tall. Aria was about 80 years old when the Nazis murdered him in 1942. The Ciechanowiec Yizkor Book, lists his name as Kossack, Aria (the melamed).


Tombstone of "Reb Israel Mosze, son of Reb Cwi, died Tammuz 15, 5685 (7 July, 1925); a honest and innocent man, died in Shem Tov - good name".

Leah, Genendel, Hannah, and Baila-Ruchel PLISKI. They are standing around the grave of Israel Moshe PLISKI who died 1925. All of them perished in the Holocaust...

Leah PLISKI and Genendel PLISKI, sisters. Both perished in the Holocaust, probably 1942.

A note from Gary Gelber:

Genendel tried to come to America in 1913. She was sent back to Ciechanowiec, labelled as "feeble-minded". In those years, immigration was trying to discourage so many East Europeans from coming to America. Being slow to answer or overwhelmed with the Ellis Island process caused officials to quickly label people as undesirable. It was a great shame to have to return to ones shtetl having America turn you away. Then her tragic end is known...


Jewish Youth in Ciechanowiec 19.12.1937

 Jewish Genealogy

JRI: Surname List: Ciechanowiec (Lomza Gubernia)

The JewishGen Family Finder (JGFF) 

 Immigrants to America from Ciechanowiec Years: 1892-1924 (the Ellis Island Database in one step)


Ciechanowiec today.

Bialystok Memorial Web Page

This memorial web site was originally created  in June 2003

Last updated 18th January 2013