ŁOSICE Yizkor Book:
Loshits; lezeykher an umgebrakhte kehile

Łosice; in Memory of a Jewish Community, Exterminated by Nazi Murderers
M. Shner, Tel Aviv, 1963

 

Translated from Yiddish by Viktor Lewin

 

Editor: Mordechai Shner (B. Feder)

Editorial Board: Ben Yaakov Josef, Goldstein Chaim Icel, Pasternak-Hochman Rachel, Rozenband - Bialikamien Chaja-Rachel, Rozal Dawid, Rozal Menachem, Szmulewicz - Goldband Belcia, Shner Mordechai

Translation to Hebrew and Editing: A. Bar-Tana

 

Images scanned by Warren Grynberg

 

The English version was edited by Ada Holtzman

 

 

 

 

Łosicer Landsleit in Israel gathered around the memorial maceva for our community, Mount Zion, Jerusale, Israel,  August  28th, 1955.

 

Memories of the Past

 

 

Contents

 

The two great fires

 

 

33

The large wooden synagogue

Herszel Kupersztok

Yiddish

36

The year 1905 and the Beth Midrash Menorahs (Candlesticks(

Moisze Oksenhorn

Yiddish

38

Łosice During Wars and Revolutions

Iczel Rak

Yiddish

40

"Followers of "Zapasnea" in 1914

Ben Aron Alter Shchori

Yiddish

46

The funeral of Jakob Isres

Yosef Fridman (Yosel Bubik)

Yiddish

47

The"Shabath desecrator" is brought to the grave of Israel

Chaim Zinger (Haifa)

Hebrew

49

One year with the old cantor (Khazan)

Yosef Fridman

Yiddish

50

Poor and Rich

Cipora Graber-Koifman

Yiddish

52

Pogrom - Slander

Ahron Preter

Yiddish

53

 

 

The Two Great Fires

By Mordechai Szner

(pages 33-36)

 

To determine a date of an event, or someone's age, I remember my father telling people about the great catastrophes : so many years after the first catastrophe. The ‑"First" and the "Second" fire were as benchmarks in the history of Łosice. I, as a child, often asked my father to tell me the details about the catastrophes ‑ he would do it gladly. Since that time comparing such catastrophes, against the "Great Catastrophe" in Łosice were like child's game, and no wonder that this fact remained burnt into our memories. And during the last terrible catastrophe when my father, along with other Łosicer Jews, were burned. Who has the duty to remind the world about this, the most terrible catastrophe of all?

 

We tried to present an image of the catastrophe in a talk with a Łosice child, who , for many years has been our eldest Landsman in Israel, Reb Hersz Tritl Oksenhorn. He has since passed on and will no longer come on our annual reunions to say his enthusiastic Kiddush.

 

Reb Hersz Tritl Oksenhorn with his grandchildren in Israel

We met him at the Beth Midrash at a seniors' home in B'nai Berak, where he was conducting a study of Mishna. He was still the same, straight forward, good humored, humble, grey-haired learned man as I remembered him from my childhood in Łosice. He did not use glasses, but still managed to recognize me from afar. He spoke freely, told stories of the past as if they occurred yesterday, with all the details, with all the Piczewkes, accompanied with a smile, with a "tasty" Łosice phrase... he had the knowledge of the exact facts.

 

During the First fire he was a boy of only six or seven years. From our understanding this occurred between the beginning of the 1870s to 1900. 

 

He said," Entire Łosice only had wooden houses with straw roofs, other than the brick house of your zaida, the "shaky" Hersz Pesach. But no catastrophes occurred. It was told that a good Jew had once given a blessing on the shtetl ‑ that fire will not spread ‑ there would be a catastrophe, but it would never spread to other dwellings, just contained to the place where it started.

 

"This occurred three days after Pesach. My father, Mendl would repair pelts for farmers. The night following Pesach he rode to a village with the repaired pelts and mother rode for fabric, to Siemiatycze. In our house on the Sokolower Street, there was a cheder of the Konstantiner Rabbi. He was my teacher and also looked after me when they were away. The catastrophe happened in the morning when the children were already in cheder; suddenly there was a shout and instantly we saw fire over the entire town... The fire began in the kuzshnieh (forge) at Binyamin Koval's father, on the Szwinierower Street. The fire could be seen heading for the old shul (already half collapsed into the earth) from the cemetery.

 

We were still praying in the old half‑collapsed shul, even though the exceptional leader, Rabbi Baruch had already claimed property on the Medzricer Street for a new shul, but we were in no hurry to have it built.

 

"Punishment came from the sky.... Even swallows carried fire from the direction of the cemetery. "The old Hersz Tritl said with tears.

 

It wasn't long before the libraries, as a whole, in the shtetl, were standing in flames. People were lice‑like running into the fields. The scholar put Hersz Tritl's hands into a pillow and told him to run with the rest of the cheder boys, who, with fear and crying, were calling for the fathers and mothers. Little Hersz Tritl, with the pillow, the only thing saved of his father's possessions, ran to the Siedlcer Street and there next to the church, lay in a ditch. The Jews who ran by pulled the child with this possession into the field and thereby saved him because the fire quickly made it's way to the church.

 

Firemen came from the larger neighboring towns, such as, Siedlce,  Miedzyrzec, Biala Podlasksa ‑at that time there were no firemen stationed in Łosice. The fire could not be stopped. The entire shtetl was consumed by smoke, with the exception one brick. All the inhabitants spent the night in the fields, and bread was brought in from surrounding towns. Reb Hersz Tritl told, how his father, tired from running, was looking for him among the survivors in the field.

 

Some of the suffering Łosicer Jews settled in neighboring towns and villages, other families "lived" for weeks in the nearby forests, until the burned down "shacks" could be rebuilt. Among the survivors there was hunger and misery, because very little was saved. We pleaded for help through the newspapers, and delegates traveled throughout Poland collecting funds for the Łosicer survivors.

 

The shtetl was rebuilt, as it had been. Again, the majority of the houses were built out of wood, one house beside another. Some of the roofs were of shingles, instead of straw. A new synagogue was quickly built ‑ another wooden one. Glorious, as Reb Hersz Tritl remembers, "with paintings which you could not see..." at the new spot on the Miedzyrzecer Street. This was the first great fire.

 

The shtetl slowly revived itself. Fourteen years later the same disaster reoccurred; the second "big" Catastrophe. As before, the entire shtetl went up in smoke, and as before, the only house to survive was a brick one, at the corner of the square and the Sokolower Street. It belonged to Reb Hersz Pesach Liberman, "the shaky one".

 

"At that time", Reb Hersz Tritl tells, "I was self‑employed, got married, became a homeowner." He transported passengers and fabrics to and from Biala.

 

After the second fire, buildings were being built from bricks. Out of this grew the town square, the town hall in the middle of the square of red shingles and even down the lanes, stone houses, not only brick houses. Then the Big brick synagogue was built, which we all remember, even though the Beth Midrash next to it was constructed out of wood after the Second catastrophe.

 

   Even though the bricked shtetl remained standing, all of its Jews were burned.

 

  "How is it possible!?... Is it believable?"... We all asked this same question, as had the old Hersz Tritl.

 

 

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The Large Wooden Synagogue

By Herszel Kupersztok

(pages 36-38)

 

The oldest event which I can remember, from my childhood in Łosice, happened at the beginning of the 1880s, when I was a mere child of four years of age. This happened on a summer's Saturday afternoon. I noticed people running from every direction to the Siedlcer Street. I also ran. There was a large crowd of people standing in front of the Christian Church. Many Poles stood around, crossing themselves, and the Polish women wept bitterly. The church had been encircled by Russian police and soldiers, who had taken down the bells. The explanation that I got was that the Czar didn't want the bells to ring, and so the Poles couldn't go to the church to pray. Jewish children quickly ran to the Medzricer Street to make sure that they would not touch our beautiful synagogue. There were still, only a few Jews, facing the eastern wall, saying prayers.

 

The wooden synagogue was just so beautiful. It burned down during the second great fire, which occurred about eighty years ago. The synagogue was very high, with a rounded ark.

 

People from surrounding towns would to look in wonder at our new synagogue, the workmanship and the paintings. Upon the ark was carved the different objects of life and vitality. On the first row was a lion and lioness, then, a large bird, deer, fox, wolves, and other illustrations. On the eastern wall was carved all kinds of weapons, shofar, harp, and the weapons of Jakob. On the west wall, which led to the women's shul, was carvings of people, a large fish, in a curved form around the wall with it's tail in it's mouth, and in the middle was an ox (actual size); something which we would want to eat in the other world. We, Łosice Jewish children would be protective of our shul. After every wedding which was hosted by the shul, the relatives would go in and look at the synagogue, stretching their necks to the paintings on the high walls, we would look upon the relatives with wonder as they would take pieces of our lives ‑ fiddles and drums.

 

A second happening that crept into my mind was tied to our synagogue, already later, the bricked one. I was then already grown‑up and spent my time learning in shtetl. I tutored one student or groups of students in reading and writing. The first factory for hand‑made shoes had just been built. The factory was run by Yosel Chaim Moisze's. It has to be said that the workers earned well and paid well for their lessons.

 

One Saturday afternoon the shoemakers invited me into the shoemakers' prayer house, which was next door to the synagogue. There were a few meetings to discuss the raising of wages. Mele Koke said a few words, "Take a look my brothers, workers, the success of our Proletariat, the factory owner... he, Yosel Chaim Moisze's, our boss, makes Kiddush on wine ‑ on a jug of wine, but we make Kiddush on small, black chalachlech, when there before him lie two large Challot"... This was said in Mele Koke's strongest tone, and after all, stood to pray Mincha... this was before the Russian Revolution in 1905. This was the revolutionary mind of the Łosicer shoemakers.

 

This reminds me of another fact, which was the bond between the prayer vessel of wine and the shoemakers.

There was the time when Rebbe Mordechiale left prayers wearing the fur hat of the Zaidan Zshepatsa. He was accompanied by Welwel Shamash. In the middle of the square a village peasant went by and spit on the Rebbe. There was an uproar, but no one touched the Pole. Then the shoemaker Gedalia Gawrile discovered what had just happened. He ran back into the workplace and grabbed an iron bar, which they used to attach soles/heels to the shoes, ran after the peasant and hit him in the middle of his head; "here you go for shaming our Rebbe"‑ the peasant fell heavily (wounded).

 

Łosicer shoemakers could defend themselves against a vulgar peasant. The Nazi enemy came with their cannons, which spat fire, and their gas chambers; against this our brothers were too weak and our beloved shtetl was wiped out together with six million martyrs in Europe.

 

 

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The Year 1905 and the Beth Midrash Menorahs (Candlesticks)
By Moisze Oksenhorn

(pages 38-40)

 

Moisze Oksenhorn

 

The first Russian Revolution in 1905 had cause a stir in our village. There were demonstrations, quarrels ‑ but no blood was shed, however when things got heated this threat was never far away.

 

Trouble began when monies which the Jewish community was to give to the Bund to support their operations was not given. When it was time to go the large Beth Midrash to pray, it was discovered that the menorrahs     (chandeliers) had been stolen. It was said that the Bundists, at night, had stolen the menorrahs and were planning to sell them if the congregation did not agree to the Bund's demands for money.

 

That same day, Reb Mordechiale called for a large meeting at the Beth Midrash. The Rebbe vowed that if the menorrahs were not returned within the next two days those involved would be arrested, charged, and thrown in jail. Those involved in the entire undertaking were: Herszel Apel and Gerszon Rozenband.

 

Shouts of scandal could be heard throughout the Beth Midrash, and the threats of violence were ever present. We could hear whispers that there was talk of withdrawing their rights to prayer. On the second day the lights were hanging in their proper places.

 

The Bundists then tried a different tactic to extort money from the congregation. They place armed men at all roads, which led to Łosice. They tried to enforce an economic boycott, which would not allow raw materials in and finished products out.

 

There came a time when both Herszel Apel and Gerszon Rozenband were to be sentenced. Shots were fired from the square into Herszel Apel's store, luckily no one was hurt. It was judged that the shot only meant to scare, not harm. All the same, the shot caused quite a stir in town. All things were quiet Between the Bundists and the community. The time of revolution quickly ended in Russia, as it also did in Łosice.

 

 

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Łosice During Wars and Revolutions

By Icel Rak

(pages 40-46)

 


Iczel Rak

The first great upheaval, that I can remember, in our shtetl was during the Russian‑Japanese War in 1904. When we were called to enlist in the reserves the whole shtetl was enveloped with fears and tears, which could be felt and heard in all the streets. The events on the wider front unfolded with such quickness that the reserves had to hurriedly go to their military detachments. When the war ended the town of Łosice shouted with joy and happiness, and celebrated.... happy that they did not go as soldiers, thanked the Lord, and went to write in the Sefer Torah. This last entry into the Torah, taking it to the synagogue, was tied together with a holiday and the liberation of the entire community. The orchestra of Jancza Brasz was brought in, who by that time had become the best musician in the entire region. Rebbes came from all the surrounding shtetlachs. Small and big, rich and poor were going around the Sefer Torah, surrounding it with several torches. The orchestra leader made everyone happy and the tunes were bouncing around in my head. After placing the Sefer Torah in the synagogue, the orchestra played a cantoral piece of music under the windows of every reserve soldier. Young and old danced in the streets, they were happy, and they partied until late into the night.

 

In 1905 I was taught by Hersz Chaim, the scholar, who had his cheder over the Beth Midrash. One wintry evening when I had stepped out of the cheder for a minute I saw a great deal of movement in and around the Beth Midrash; a strange figure for a weekday. I went to the entrance of the Beth Midrash where I was confronted by two men with a large red flag who wouldn't allow me in. I went in through the womens' hall, the backway, and inside, there was standing the important Bundist leader Herszel Borowski. One by one they spoke. What they talked about I didn't understand. What could a cheder boy understand from terms such as, Revolution, Proletariat, or Working Class? When Borowski finished speaking not even the Czar frightened me. The picture of the Czar Bethivishka was hanging in the cheder who we were led to believe was a holy figure. I was shaking; again I went out the back way (the upper door) because the flag bearers didn't let anyone out. Back to the cheder with a scream I told the Rebbe what I saw. The teacher calmed me, and then took all the children to their homes.

 

When Hersz Chaim took me home, things were already stirring in town. After the meeting the Bundists paraded through the square and broke all the windows of the town hall. The Russian police were notified and hid themselves behind the bathhouse, not showing themselves to the demonstrators. However, a few days later, the guilty ones were arrested ‑ Mele Koke and Szmuel Moisze Berisz.

 

May 1, 1905 was a day of parades and demonstrations by workers. I did not go to cheder because the local revolutionary committee forbade scholars to teach on a workers' holiday. I was on the street and I saw everything. The town truly looked festive. All the shops were closed and people were parading on the streets dressed in their holiday finest. The demonstration took place on a beautiful, sunny day. The paraders marched three‑abreast, arm‑in‑arm, wearing red armbands. Demonstrators were often checked to make sure that they were wearing the red insignia. Among the demonstrators were: Mele Koke, Herszel Borowski, Israel Notkes, and Aiba the water carrier, and others.

 

When I grew up and started to read books, I asked my father to write my brother in England to send us Die Yiddische Tag Zeitung ‑"Freint" which was published in St. Petersburg. I was like this for an entire year. I was the only one in town who had a newspaper. I would read the newspaper in it's entirety, and later go to the Beth Midrash, Between Mincha and Maariv, and stopped before a group. I became a complete political resource. As I entered, they would form a circle around me and begin tugging me: Well! What's happening in the world? This was the time of the Bielis libel case and everyone was worried about the blood libel. I remembered the morning of the first disaster when I came into the Beth Midrash with the message, that Beilis was freed. They carried me on their hands, we wished each other Mazel Tov, and the happiness passed over the entire Jewish shtetl.

 

I remember precisely the date of August 1, 1914 when W.W.I. started. The atmosphere in Łosice was one of fear. Mobilized soldiers were sent off by crying family members and friends. Almost everyone left behind was either too young or too old. We were driven from Łosice to Parczew for forced labor to dig deep trenches. The work was very hard. Together with others, I also tried to run away, at night. They would catch us and whip us until we bled, but I ran away from them, this time, and hid until the German Army occupied Łosice in 1915.

 

The Jews in Łosice viewed the Germans as their liberators, from the Czar's anti-Semitic yoke, however the Germans soon revealed their true character to us. Three days into their occupation, on Sabbath, I, along with ten other boys, even younger than myself, were taken for forced labor. The work was to rebuild the damaged bridge on the Siedlcer   Street, next to Sziwa Bayla's. High wooden walls were built and we had to fill them with sand, without spilling any, G_d forbid. This was German efficiency. I was now a "grown" boy who had already done some heavy labor, however, next to me was a small weak boy who couldn't even lift the shovel; which was bigger than he was. When he accidentally spilled some sand, a fat German officer hit him with a club over the head, which caused it to swell. Having seen this, at the first opportunity, I ran away to the closest cemetery, not standing up even though the German officer was shouting that he was going to shoot me. I left the cemetery, went down the Death Street to Abba Sznajder, who hid me in his attic.

 

 Losice Town Council 1915-1916.

 Standing from the right:  Yosel Woda,  Mosze Kopicz (Niewieski), Jankel Liber (Goldes), Menasze Borowski, Fritz Kaminski (from Zakre), Menasze (Chaja Fajga's), Zamiatacz, "the Nose"

Seated: Berisz Landau, Gesner from Broiz, Herszel Apel, Motl Dozer, Tuwia Yechiel Dobrzinski

 

At the time of the German occupation the first Workers' library was established in Łosice named after the Bundist leader, Groser. At that time the leaders of the Bund were: Abrahamel Rozenboim (Sztriker), Szija ‑ Faliak Rozal, David Bekerman, Yosel Czop, Moisze Chochm, Aszer Kupersztok, Baile Rosencwajg, Faigie Mermelstein, and I. We collected books and rented a room at Welwel Bogacz's. Our work demonstrated pride and enthusiasm. The number of readers quickly grew. Soon we had to rent a larger room and the library was named "Future". Here we began our united cultural work. We organized evening courses, a choir, and theatrical performances. We brought in speakers such as, David Nimark and Abraham Sloszni from Siedlce. Our influence grew in the shtetl. The performances of the Lovers' Group had a large following. The main roles were played by Hania Faiga Goldstyn, Yosel Goldfarb (Breina Rachel's), and Yosef Frydman (Bubik).

Magistrate and prison on Siedlcher Street before W.W.I.

 

On one occasion the Germans marched out the entire population onto the square. After they sent home women, children, and old people, the remainder was encircled by the police and taken for forced labor. At the very last moment I ran away. Forced labor was so cruel and inhuman, causing the deaths of eight Łosicers. Many were able to buy their freedom.

 

During this time I was arrested for conducting black market activities and imprisoned in the jail (the Koze), next to the City Hall. I was there with Szamai Ariah, Aicze Note's. There were two other cells waiting to be filled with Jews destined for forced labor. At night, with a smuggled pair of pliers we bent the hinges of the door and made our escape. The jailbreak caused uproar in Łosice, and the whole community talked about it for the longest time. They scoffed at German vigilance.

 

When W.W.I ended and peace finally came, Poland became a free country. Soon, the first civic elections were called and Łosice became a busy place. Our Bundist organization was especially strong and active. We released a list of candidates. At our meetings and discussions with other parties two names always got attention; Berl Gutman and Yoske Minc. The Bundists won four of the six seats, which were allotted to the Jewish electorate.

 

When the Red Army occupied Łosice during the Polish ‑ Soviet War in 1920, we didn't know how to behave towards the conquering power. Among us there were extremists who worked with the Bolsheviks. During the first day of the occupation one of the extremists brought over a Russian General to where we seated on a bench and proclaimed that we were an example of the Polish working class. A revolutionary committee was organized on the spot. Berl Gutman was appointed the chairman, Szija ‑ Falik Rozal as the head of the militia, and I as the appropriation Kommissar. My consul office was in the Town Hall. Among my staff were the dentist, Fokler, and secretaries ‑ Gedalia Lewin, Baila Rozencwajg, and Faige Mermelstein.

 

During the short Bolshevik occupation of Łosice business dealings Between Poland and the Soviet Union were cordial. The Polish Foreign Minister met with important Bolsheviks in Moscow. My job was to take care of the logistics and providing food for them. It was agreed that the conference would take place at the residence owned by Sadowski. The priest loaned us forks and spoons for the delegates. The evening after the conference a high-ranking Soviet official held a meeting at the town hall in Łosice. In his speech he spoke strongly against anti-Semitism.

 

For my work during the Bolshevik occupation I was tried by the Polish government. I was freed thanks to the help of the political opposition, the Zionists, of which Herszel Karcz and Barisz Landau were members.

 

 

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Followers of Zapasnea (1914)

By Chaim Shchori

(pages 46-47)

 

When the First World War began in 1914, 1 was but a child of six years of age. The war broke out and the Zapashnea (reserves) were mobilized; Jews from Łosice. I was branded by that sight; a sight which I will never forget. This was also the last time that I saw my father, who was mobilized and died at the front along with scores of Russian soldiers.

 

The war broke out on Friday, August the first, 1914 ‑ Erev Sabbath (eve of Sabbath) in Łosice. It was a shock; in our home as in countless others crying was heard.

 

Those mobilized had to leave tomorrow, Sabbath, August the second. The Rabbi forbade the troops to leave. Early in the morning the whole town assembled to pray Tefillah Batsibor (prayer in public) in the great synagogue. Everyone came and at this time we all prayed together, in one place. The Zapashnea had their own minyan and their service was conducted by Naftali Sznejder "Agodt Achim". Later we were all together in the great synagogue. One heard crying, praying, begging, and trembling. Women and men, young and old cried and cried. The Rabbi gave a strong sermon and motivated the mobilized soldiers. After prayers were over, around ten A.M., the shtetl came together on the hill where Dawid Milner's windmill stood on the Bialer Street to send off the soldiers who were driven off in peasants' wagons.

 

Thirty Jews were mobilized. I remember those who left. Yosel Patkawar, Mele Koke, Welwel Lisawar, Welwel Rozal, Mod Kwacz, Icchak Yaponczik, Welwel Kowel, Czalka Kanyoch, Moisze Stormanszanar, Chaim ‑ Yosef Kanyoch, and Abraham Woda. They returned after the war. Those who were officially listed as killed were: my father, Aharon Alter Szwarc, Nuske Bak, Rachel Katsala's husband, and Bracha's man. Those who were missing in action were: Yisruelka Briness and Rywka Zisl's husband. They went away, proud, while relatives cried. We once again returned to town and my mother was a widow with small children.

 

 

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The Funeral of Jakob Isres

By Yosef Fridman (Yosel Bubik)
(Yiddish: pages 47 - 49)

 

The religious institutions regulated young peoples' lives in Łosice as they did in other shtetlach in the region. Even so, from time to time, a crisis would push its authority to the borders. Such a crisis occurred during the First World War with the funeral of the Bundist, Jakob Isres.

 

At that time the Bund's influence was already taking the young in directions totally alien to that of their parents. This involved reading about Socialism and discussions about religious thought: atheism and monotheism.

 

Jakob Isres married and not long after a son was born. The Rebbe of the shtetl was determined that the son would not follow in his father's footsteps. Jakob Isres took action, took stones and broke the Rebbe's windows, unlike a modern Bundist or activist of the day. The child was quickly taken to the shtetl for the circumcision and the business of the breaking of the windows was just as quickly swept under the rug in order to avoid going to court. We, as bystanders, would also easily have forgotten about this affair if not for the misfortune to befall Jakob Isres. A short time later he died during a typhus epidemic.

 

The religious authorities in the shtetl decided to take revenge upon the deceased by ordering that he be buried by the fence. We didn't even believe that the religious of Łosice would be so insensitive. Why is this happening? This was the question asked in shtetl because, after all he died a natural death. Each side, the religious and the Bundists, were using the death of Jakob Isres as an example for others in the shtetl. All appeals by the Bundists proved futile, they locked the doors and decided that they would conduct a ceremony, which would conclude in the burial of Jakob in a nice place in the cemetery.

 

We, today, cannot imagine the tumult, which resulted in the shtetl over this entire affair. It happened almost fifty years ago. Child and adult stood up, and at no other time were there as many people as there were at this funeral. There was an inner feeling of stillness, of protest against the decision by the religious authority.

 

His upbringing, as the upbringing of others who were anti‑religious was illustrated by his example. Free of religious dogma, he smoked cigarettes, along with other so‑called "evil things". There were many as he, but the heavy fate fell squarely upon Jakob Isres.

 

His friends, loved ones, and followers had performed the burial, but the religious authorities were determined to have things their way, for good reason, as the spiritual leader of the community. Fearing this, members of the Bund stood guard at the gravesite and at the cemetery. The shtetl was in an uproar ‑ the German police along with the Commander came to the cemetery to enforce the rules of the spiritual authority. I was then fourteen years old, and what can a youngster understand of such happenings! When I think of this event I can feel nothing but hurt. On one side of the grave was the police and it's Commandant, along with the Rebbe and his followers, and on the other side were the Bundists, with Abrahamel Sztriker. In the middle, in the grave was the interred, who had been so for a few days. All the witnesses were of the same mind that this fiasco should be concluded peacefully. The Rebbe, however, wanted to disinter the body and tried to convince the German Commandant, but he thought differently. His position was the opposite. Why should we take a man who had already been buried for two days and taken to another place? His decision/order was to leave him in peace, and to allow him to remain where he lay.

 

 

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One Year with the Old Cantor (Hazzan)

By Yosef Fridman

(pages 50-52)

 

When I became learned enough to understand music/singing, the Hazzan was already very elderly. He took great care in his lessons, with his cane in hand, grey hair and beard, he would walk, taking very small steps around the shtetl, looking, looking. Searching for that pure and clear voice among the little ones from which he would recruit a great portion of his new, young singers. When no new soprano or alto was discovered his bent‑over body became even more so because of the pressure to find new talent.

 

Even though his melodies were not new, the entire shtetl would wait, as if under a trace, for his recitation of the prayers. I didn't know if the old Hazzan knew how to read notes, but he did know how to organize and keep a choir together; he was a magician. He was respected in a "familiar"way. The shtetl was reflected by his silver hair and by his more silvery beard.

 

It took a few years to sing with Icchak Shochet's morning prayers and with Icze Mair Rozal's Musaf. I will remember until the very last moments that year when I sang Kol Nidre with the old Hazzan. The Beth Midrash was quiet. There was fear in every comer, along with tearful hearts and eyes as the old Hazzan, with his tiny steps, took his place. The body of the old Hazzan quivered. I didn't understand the reason for this quivering. Was he afraid that our instruments would not arrive preventing us from bringing in the New Year properly, or maybe he had a feeling that this was his last Kol Nidre?

 

During the first Kol Nidre evening, I, among the choir, kept my eyes fixed upon every movement that the Hazzan made. Every movement that he made caused my whole body to shake; from his large grey eyebrows, which were raised, I saw a pair of elderly eyes, which were filled with tears. Such eyes, I would only see on my mother's face when she would stand over my bed where I lay and burning up with a fever. I don't recall how long the Hazzan's stare was, but for me it seemed like forever.

 

By this time in my life I had already heard a few good Hazzanim and opera singers. Their voices were certainly better than the old Hazzan's voice, but the old Hazzan's eyes on that Kol Nidre evening were such as I have never before seen or since.

 

This is the Hazzan who had given up hope to find a successor last year, but gave of his time to assisting me.

 

The Medzricer Rebbe came to Łosice for a visit, as lead singer he stayed by Gerszon Godl's, who lived next to us. We lived with Geln Szneider. When the Rabbi prepared for Sabbath, all the rooms at Gerszon Godl's were stuffed with Jews. I tried with all my energy to squeeze in a little closer to see and hear the Rebbe, however every time that I got closer a pair of strong hands would grab me and carried me further away. My only alternative was to climb unto the fence and crawl over to the Rebbe's window. From there I heard the strong melody of the Medzricer Rebbe's Shalom Aleichem. This was the same version of Shalom Aleichem that I had memorized and sung for my friends, in Beth Midrash, early Sabbath morning when no adults were around.

 

To this day I don't know how the old Hazzan found out that I was going to give a concert for my friends. I only knew, when my friends boasted how good I sounded; just like the Medzricer Rebbe. The old Hazzan listened through the closed door in the Beth Midrash, and from that moment on the Hazzan kept a close watch on me.

 

Brindl, the Hazzan's wife! He happily called his wife, opening the door, and putting on the samovar. You see, today, we have a guest ‑ he is Harczka's son. He rubbed his hands together with pride and talked quietly, as if to himself. When the Hazzan's wife fixed the tea, the old Hazzan moved me closer to the glass, and threw in two pieces of sugar ‑ something I had not experienced before. I felt proud as never before.

 

Weeks passed, occupied with hard work to prepare for the Holy Days. Every evening, after singing, the Hazzan would hug me, so I should not become cold. When it came closer to Yom Kippur we were more concerned with his health. He was very weak, from age, stress, and the strain of the twenty‑four hour fast. We forced him to eat a little something. His weak body suffered during Yom Kippur, so at the moment of prayers we carried home the dead Hazzan, who sang no more.

 

After his death, forty years went by before a replacement was found for his position.

 

 

                                                                                                                                   Home

 

Poor and Rich

By Cipora Graber-Koifman

(pages 52-53)

 

I was still a young girl when I lost Łosice, but the picture of the shtetl remains imprinted in my memory, and love, as every love is cherished through childhood and youth.

 

I remind myself of the walks to "Polinowa" where all, without distinction, could breathe fresh air and relax while lying on the grass under the trees around Kowel. On the streets in shtetl there was a distinction between rich and poor. There were "rich" streets and "poor" streets. The children from the rich homes and those from the poor homes never mixed together. Others knew this when they passed by our town. When we walked on one street (Bialer Street), I think, the rich children went to the Siedlcer  Street with the bridges. Fights would break out while swimming in the Gai. One would splash another, throw mud, and spit water at each other. I don't know how it was in Beth Midrash, but my father would come home from Sabbath prayers, singing and happy; happy when he was allowed to go to the Amod. He did not feel his poorness there.

 

The Nazis mixed everyone together ‑ no distinctions were made between rich or poor in the shtetl. Everyone together, everyone was taken.

 

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Pogrom ‑ Slander

By Ahron Preter

(page 53)

 

During the last few years before W.W.II, in Łosice, as in all of Poland, there were strong anti‑Semitic feelings. The Endeks ‑ (reactionary party) was a strong force in the shtetl, and caused much trouble for the Jews.

 

A terrible event occurred in 1938, which almost led to a true pogrom. "The Butcher" Kabrilok, someone known to be an enemy of the Jews, got drunk and sent a Gentile boy out onto the plaza to bother Jewish passers‑by especially the women. When he bothered Yosel Ziszke's son, the Gentile boy was injured when he was hit over the head with a bottle. Waiting for them was Kabrilok with his gang. With blood on the plaza, they covered it with paint, and didn't wash it off. They started a pogrom. Soon rocks were being thrown at Jewish homes, which broke many windows. The situation worsened. On Wednesday morning there was to be a market (Yarid) day. To come to Łosice one would have to be an idiot, because the peasants from neighboring villages were called to take part in a pogrom to avenge the spilling of Christian blood. We were prepared for a bloody pogrom.

 

Money was gathered among the Jews. Mele Grynberg and Mair Krakowiak went to Siedlce and brought back a Russian Kommissar with military troops. They called the Gentiles together and warned them that they would be held responsible if anything further was to happen. At the last moment the pogrom was averted.

 

 

Unveiling of the memorial macula for the Losicer community in Mount Zion Jerusalem, in the Holocaust Cellar.

Standing from the right:

The Landsleit: Szlomo Karszenstein, Szlomo Rubinstein, Herszl Trajtl Oksenhoren, Joel Dawid Fridman and Paltiel Dawid Grynberg

 

In the dedication cermony, from right to left:

Rachel Hochman, Abraham Liberman, sara Rozal, Arie Liberman, unknown, Icel Rak, Jakob Fridman, Lea Kanelstein, Abraham Ber, Abraham Szajnkind, Menachem Rozal

 

 

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