WORLD COMMITTEE                                   IRGUN YOTZEY PLOTZK

             for the                                                       BE-ISRAEL

PLOTZK MEMORIAL BOOK                       (Plotzker Association in Israel)

 

PLOTZK

(PŁOCK)

 

A HISTORY OF AN ANCIENT JEWISH COMMUNITY IN POLAND

 

 

 

Editor:

ELIYAHU EISENBERG

Vice-Chairman, Plotzker Association in Israel

 

 

 

 

"HAMENORA"

Publishing House

Tel-Aviv, 1967

 

The Yizkor Book  in MS Word File Format 

The Yizkor Book  in MS Acrobat Format

Book Donated to JewishGen Yizkor Books Database

 

 

Notes

The English part is not a complete translation of the Yizkor book of Płock but rather a synopsis, summary, and should be treated as such. there are 684 pages in Hebrew and Yiddish but only 96 pages in English.

I have translated and added the titles and page numbers of articles which do not appear in the English summary. I added the code "H" if article is in Hebrew, or "Y" if in Yiddish.

I have added also the sub-chapters to the various articles, which are not included in the original Table of Contents. On many occasions I have added from the Hebrew and Yiddish parts of the book  also names of people mentioned in the articles, when that was possible, mainly in the Holocaust chapters.

I have also added the names of people who appear in the photographs to the captions in English which did not include these names, see pages

I wish to thank the Płock Landsmanschaft who encouraged me and gave me and JewishGen the permission to post the Płock Yizkor book in the Internet.

 

It is my hope that this book will serve as commemoration to the Jewish ancient grand and holy community of Płock, exterminated by the Germans during the Holocaust.

 

Ada Holtzman April 18th, 2004Yom Hashoah , 27 Nissan, 5764

 

 

THE PLOTZK JEWISH COMMUNITY BETWEEN THE TWO WORLD WARS 1918-1939

 

EDUCATION, RELIGIOUS LIFE, CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS, PERSONALITIES

 

The Jewish Gymnasium

 

47

Jewish Primary Education

I. Ben Shai (Fuchs)

47

Shmuel Penson

B. Grey (Graubart)

48

My Father, R' Shmuel Penson

A. Penson

48

Jewish Education in Plotzk

Prof. D. Eisenberg

48

Memories of the melamed Yehiel Meir Kravietz

A. Sh.

49

The Popular Functions of the Jewish Library "Hazamir"

Prof. D. Eisenberg

49

Jubilee to the Jewish library in Płock

E.E.

H-249

Local Theater Groups

M. Magnes

49

Childhood Memories

M. Zylberberg 

50

The "small Beth Midrash" of Płock

Israel Zylberberg

Y-258

The arrival of a new rabbi to Płock

 

H-259

The Victim

Y. Warszawski

H-260

The Struggle for Restoring the Good Name of Rabbi H. Shapiro

A. Hartglas

50

Nahum Sokolov and Plotzk

Y. Warszawski

50

Nahum Sokolov's visit to Plotzk and Wyszogrod

M. Turkow

51

Shalom Ash and Plotzk

M. Zylberberg

51

My Uncle, Rabbi Y. L. Avida ("El Zet", R' Yehuda Leib Zlotnik)

Ruhama Shnir (Zlotnik)

51

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Avida (Zlotnik)

Dr. Nechemia Aloni

52

Alfred Blei, The Last Chairman

Meir (Michael) Koenigsberg

52

Zysze Landau

Melech Rawicz

53

Memories of My Father's Home

"Jewish Islands" in a Christian neighborhood

The uniqueness of the Jewish gymnasium of Płock

"Hashomer Hatzair" – the oldest scouts movements in Płock

The summer camps of Hashomer Hatzair

The home of grandfather in Dobrzyn

A new social and cultural framework

The Hebrew youth movement "Akiba" in Płock

Two tragic episodes in Akiba movement; the war burst out

Our escape from home

In Gostynin; granting the nobility title for saving life

First brutalities and abuses by the Nazis

We return to Płock

To the east with a torn refugee identity card

E. Eisenberg

53

 

EDUCATION, RELIGIOUS LIFE, CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS, PERSONALITIES

 

THE JEWISH GYMNASIUM

Page 47

 

The "Jewish Gymnasium" (an all-Jewish secondary school) played a very important part in the cultural life of Plotzk. It was founded in 1915 by a group of nationally minded people, who under­stood that suitable secular education for Jewish youth could be provided only by an all-Jewish secondary school. General subjects were taught in Polish, while special attention was paid to Jewish subjects (Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history etc.).

 

The Gymnasium was very soon incorporated in the organization of Jewish schools in Poland, whose chairman was Mordechai Braude, and which maintained and supervised many similar national Jewish schools.

 

Among the Hebrew teachers of the "Jewish Gymnasium" were Hayim Fridman (Avshalom), Yakir Warshavsky, Pua Rakowska, David Eisenberg, Skarlat, Choronsky and Flam.

 

Their educational influence on the Jewish youth in Plotzk and neighborhood was noteworthy. The school was recognized by the Ministry of Education as equivalent to Government-Schools, which enabled graduates to continue their studies in universities. Many Jewish parents preferred therefore to enable their children to get there a Jewish as well as a secular education.

 

The Jewish public at large assisted the school financially and its founders and directors were devoted to its cause, yet their efforts were not always crowned with success. It existed only till 1936. The number of pupils constantly decreased in the thirties until the school was forced to close its gates.

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JEWISH PRIMARY EDUCATION

By Itzhak Ben-Shai (Fuchs)

Page 47-48

 

Before compulsory education was enforced by law, the Jews of Plotzk maintained a primary-school network. The oldest institutions were the "Chadarim", religious day-schools directed by "Rebbes" who taught their pupils Torah, Hebrew reading, Mishna and Talmud, etc. Never having obtained teaching licenses, these "rebbes" had to bribe the authorities in order to engage in their profession.

 

There also existed a "Cheder Metukan", a reformed elemen­tary school, which taught modern Hebrew and prepared its pupils for higher secular studies.

 

A Hebrew kindergarten was established in Plotzk during the First World War, where Hebrew was taught as a living language.

 

Other schools were added to the network of private schools during the twenties: a religious "Mizrachi" school, a school where Yiddish was the language of instruction, the "Yesodei Hatorah" school founded by the Aguda and various others.

 

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SHMUEL PENSON

By Benjamin Grey (Graubart)

Page 48

 

A biography of the above teacher, educator and youth-leader, who had great influence on the younger generation of Plotzk. He arrived in Plotzk from Lithuania, married there and became an influential figure in the community.

 

Thanks to his pedagogical qualifications, his lessons were favored by his many pupils who adored him and owed him their knowledge in Judaism, Jewish history and Hebrew.

 

The author, one of his pupils, describes the death of Penson in 1939 and the funeral which took place already under Nazi rule and adds: "We were all satisfied that our beloved teacher Penson died of natural causes before the Nazis succeeded to turn Jewish life into hell. His memory lives in the minds of his pupils, wherever they are, in Israel as well as in other countries of the world".

 

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MY FATHER, REB SHMUEL PENSON

By Abraham Penson

Page 48

 

The author gives some biographical data on his father, a writer and journalist, who published translations of works by Heinrich Heine and other poets in "Hatsefira" and other Hebrew periodicals. He devoted his life and energies to the establishment of Hebrew schools and other cultural activities. He died in September 1939, a week or two after the Nazi invasion.

 

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JEWISH EDUCATION IN PLOTZK

By Prof. David Eisenberg

Page 48

 

This article appeared in a provincial newspaper at Wloclawek in 1927 and deals with the necessity to expand the Jewish school system by establishing secondary schools for the education of children of the poorer classes. The importance of adding extra hours for the teaching of Jewish subjects, in order to promote Jewish national consciousness among the younger generation, is stressed.

 

The author urges the members of the Jewish middle class to contribute substantial sums in order to enable children of poverty-stricken families to benefit from secondary education.

 

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MEMORIES OF YEHIEL MEIR KRAVIETZ

By A. Sh.

Page 49

 

Yehiel Meir Kravietz, a melamed by profession, was of pheno­menal intelligence. Although a religious man, he was conversant with secular topics such as Darwinism, Socialism, etc. He used to quote passages from a great variety of books which he read in the public library, and was popular with the "Mariavits" sect, whose members he was often invited to address on religious and other subjects.

 

Kravietz was very poor but never cared about that. When he once received a rare manuscript as a present, he would not even think of selling it and thereby improving his deplorable economic situation. Years later, when Jewish community representatives were invited to a reception held by a Catholic bishop and wanted to present him with a suitable gift; Yehiel Meir did not hesitate to offer his precious manuscript to the community for this purpose.

 

He was killed, as many others, during the Nazi massacre.

 

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THE POPULAR FUNCTIONS OF THE JEWISH LIBRARY "HAZAMIR"

By David Eisenberg

Page 49

 

This article was written in 1926, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Jewish Public Library "Hazamir", founded in Plotzk in 1896.

 

The author shows that the "Hazamir" library served as a useful instrument in spreading general education and culture among the poorer segments of the Jewish population. The library, a non-party institution, succeeded in being of service to all classes of the population, and especially to the younger generation.

 

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LOCAL THEATER GROUPS

By M. Magnes

Page 49

 

The author describes in detail the first beginnings of theater. performances in Plotzk, which started in 1906. Several Trade Unions organized drama groups in the town. Every performance became an important event in the cultural life of the town's Youth. Despite political differences, the activities of the theater groups encouraged all the various sections of Youth to cooperate in this cultural sphere. The actors were all non-professionals, and the revenue from shows was always used for cultural and social-aid purposes.

 

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CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

By Michael Zylberberg

Page 50

 

The author describes the house of his grandfather Rabbi Shimon, who was a member of the Plotzk Rabbinical Court, and one of the leading Gerer Chassidim, where Chassidim used to meet and tell many Chassidic tales. Grandfather Shimon was always very moderate when passing verdicts at the Rabbinical court. In his childhood he had studied together with the famous Zionist leader Nahum Sokolov.

 

he author further describes the "melamdim" of Plotzk who gave their pupils an elementary Jewish education. They were mostly very poor but devoted to their holy task. One of them was the un­forgettable Fishel Posner, a very strict and demanding person, whose "Heder" was situated in "Altman's courtyard".

 

The "Little Beit Hamidrash" was an institute of higher Jewish learning whose graduates possessed a solid knowledge of the Talmud and other religious books. But many of its students began to show an interest in secular education, obtained textbooks for the study of Polish, German and other subjects. Some of them became later on active in various political movements.

 

 

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THE STRUGGLE FOR RESTORING THE GOOD NAME OF RABBI H. SHAPIRO

By A. Hartglas

Page 50

 

The author, a pre-war member of the Polish Parliament and former Director General of the Israel Ministry of the Interior, describes the various efforts made by him in the early twenties for a legal posthumous restoration of the executed Rabbi's good name.

 

Rabbi Shapiro had been falsely accused of spying for the Bolsheviks, and was put to death in 1920 by a Polish Military court.

 

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NAHUM SOKOLOV AND PLOTZK

By Yakir Warshawski

Page 50-51

 

(Excerpt from an article in "Hajnt", a Warsaw Yiddish daily,

thirty days after Sokolov's death)

 

Nahum Sokolov loved Plotzk, that romantic Polish town on the Vistula, where he spent some years of his boyhood. He used to say "Although I was born in Wyszogrod, I consider myself a son of Plotzk, because I studied there. My sentiments are based on the Talmudic saying : Whoever teaches the son of his friend Torah, may be con­sidered as his father".

 

Nahum Sokolov was regarded a genius and at the age of 15 already had a good knowledge of five languages : Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German and French. He played a role in public life and at a young age already became a friend of the Russian Governor, who took a great liking to him.

 

The visit of Nahum Sokolov, the prominent Zionist leader, was a holiday for the Jews of Plotzk, who were proud of him as of one who had grown up in their own midst.

 

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NAHUM SOKOLOV'S VISIT TO PLOTZK AND WYSZOGROD

By Mark Turkov

Page 51

 

A newspaper report on a visit by Nahum Sokolov to Plotzk in the twenties. The author describes the enthusiastic reception accorded the Zionist leader by the Plotzk Jewish population which proudly recalled the fact that Nahum Sokolov had spend some of his boyhood years in this town.

 

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SHALOM ASH AND PLOTZK

By Michael Zylberberg

Page 51

 

The famous Jewish writer Shalom Ash had connections with Plotzk. He wrote his novel "The Shtetl" in one of the town's suburbs. Being fond of its surroundings, he and his wife spent a certain period of their life there.

 

The author met Shalom Ash in London in 1953. When he told him what had happened to him during the holocaust period, Shalom Ash listened with great interest for many hours. He called Plotzk "our Plotzk", and related how it inspired him to write novels about Polish Jewry and how much he had liked his stay there.

 

Shalom Ash is quoted as having said in that conversation "The beauty of Plotzk in indescribable. Everything there was so lovely and Yiddish. The town and the countryside inspired me to write..."

 

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MY UNCLE, RABBI Y. L. AVIDA ("EL. ZET." – YEHUDA LAJB ZLOTNIK)

By Ruhama Shnir (Zlotnik)

The article was published in "Davar" 12.11.1962

Pages 51-52

 

The writer, a niece of Rabbi Avida, who was brought up in her late father's house, regards him as a great personality. His life was dedicated to Jewish education and Zionism. He was a well known public speaker whose speeches always made a lasting impression on his audiences. After the First World War he settled in Canada, and later on went to South Africa, where he founded Hebrew schools and a Hebrew Teachers Seminary.

 

     Mrs. Snir met her uncle again after 23 years, when he visited Eretz Israel in the forties. It was then that he decided to come to Israel, but his plans were realized only after the establishment of the State, when he moved to Jerusalem. He was happy to spend the last years of his life in the eternal city.

 

Rabbi Avida translated "Ecclesiastes" into Yiddish. He was an outstanding intellectual, whose achievements in the sphere of Zionism and Jewish education in many countries were of great importance.

 

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RABBI YEHUDA LEIB AVIDA (ZLOTNIK)

By Dr. Nechemia Aloni

Article published in "Haaretz" 23.10.1962

Page 52

 

Rabbi Y. L. Avida's life-work spread over many countries: Poland, Canada, South Africa and Israel; and many spheres: Zionist edu­cation, the Keren Kayemet, Jewish folklore research and journalism. He wrote three books on legal Talmudic subjects and many articles on Jewish folklore. While in Canada and South Africa he acquired an excellent knowledge of English and French and published several poems in English. He was devoted to Yiddish and a Soviet scholar called him "a rabbi, who is also a Yiddish language scholar".

 

Rabbi Avida spent his last years in Jerusalem. He was beloved by all who knew him in the Diaspora and in Israel.

 

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ALFRED BLEI, THE LAST CHAIRMAN

By Meir (Michael) Koenigsberg

Page 52

 

A tribute to the personality of Alfred Blei, who in the pre-war years was for a long time active in the Jewish Community. Being one of the few survivors of the holocaust, he returned home after the liberation and in spite of his age (he was 70 at the time) dedicated himself to reconstruction work. He headed a small group of survivors who cooperated with him until his death in 1958.

 

In the pre-war years he used to divide his time between his business activities and social obligations to which he devoted most of his energy. At the age of 60, Alfred Blei divided his property between his employees, retaining for himself only a modest income. Integrity, modesty, devotion to public causes, constant readiness to help the needy and to intervene whenever and wherever it was needed, tolerance and nobility, these were the outstanding character­istics of the unforgettable Alfred Blei, who was, unfortunately, destined to serve as the last Chairman of the Jewish Committee in Plotzk.

 

In the post-war years he made great efforts to locate Plotzk-born survivors and served, as the author puts it, as the "Post Office Box" of Plotzk-born Jews.

 

The Polish Government nominated him as a member of a Special Court for the Warsaw region which tried cases of Nazi murderers.

 

This article contains many biographical data on Alfred Blei, his communal activities, business relations and personality.

 

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ZYSZE LANDAU

By Melech Rawicz

Page 53

 

Zysze Landau was born in 1889 and emigrated to the U. S. A. in 1906 where he made a name for himself as a Yiddish poet, and where he published an anthology on "Yiddish Poetry in America till 1919". First he earned his living as a home painter, but when he became sick and unfit for physical work he switched to an advertising job.

 

Landau opposed the trend of Yiddish poetry at that time, which was influenced by political motivations, advocating instead pure-art poetry. He was very devoted to his fellow-poets and assisted them as much as he could in publishing their works.

 

He died of a heart-attack at the early age of 48.

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MEMORIES OF MY FATHER'S HOME

By Eliyahu Eisenberg

Page 53-54

 

The author, who is the son of David Eisenberg, the popular Hebrew teacher and scholar of Plotzk, describes in his memoirs the Jewish life of Plotzk during a period of 20 years (1920-1940), as seen through the eyes of a young boy and member of a Zionist youth-movement.

 

The late Prof. Eisenberg devoted his energies to the spreading of Hebrew and Jewish knowledge among the Jewish youth of the town and their education in the spirit of Zionism. As a Hebrew teacher in the Jewish Secondary School of Plotzk he fought the prevailing tendencies to minimize the teaching of these subjects, but did not always succeed. After a valiant struggle for his ideas which were opposed by factors which did not appreciate sufficiently the importance of the teaching of Jewish subjects, he had to resign his post and moved to another locality, where he continued his pedago­gical activities.

 

The author describes the foundation and closing of the "Gym­nasium" (the local Jewish secondary school) and pays tribute to this institution which had an outstanding influence on the spiritual life of the town's younger pro-Zionist generation.

 

The first group of scouts, "Hashomer Hatzair", originated in that school. Mr. Eisenberg devotes part of his article to the developments which took place in the above youth-movement until it became a left-wing radical movement. After leaving the movement, under the influence of his father, he found his way to a then newly ­established Zionist youth organization, "Akiba", which adhered to the traditional way of life and endeavored to disseminate Hebrew language and culture.

 

The memories describe the author's early boyhood-years in his grandfather's house near Plotzk. His grandfather was a "Feld­scher" (medical practitioner without diploma). The way he entered his profession throws light on the pattern of life in Jewish towns in Poland in the second half of the 19th century.

 

The way of life of the author's family at the outskirts of Plotzk where "Jewish islands" existed in a purely Christian neighborhood - is lovingly described.

 

Although Jewish children suffered sometimes from the Christian boys of their age, the general relations between Jews and Gentiles were quite satisfactory. The landscape and childhood experiences in the gardens and on the lawns of those non-Jewish suburbs of the town, including the Convent of the Mariavits, also find mention.

 

The author remembers several friends of his father who were active in the sphere of Hebrew teaching, and describes their influence.

 

The last part of this article deals with the panic and helplessness of all Polish citizens and especially of the Jews during the first stages of the war (September 1939). The author and his parents fled from town in order to escape the invading Nazi armies, but had to return later on to Nazi-occupied Plotzk.

 

 

 

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P.R.I.

 

Last updated May 17th, 2004