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Juliusz Ulas Urbański - "Święta Kuczek już nie będzie. Żydzi w Leżajsku"

"There will be no more Sukkoth. Jews in Lezajsk" - by Juliusz Ulas Urban'ski-

Mr. Urbanski has been collecting materials about affairs of Lezajsk's Jewish community since 1975.

Jews_in_Lezajsk       On_the_graves_of_ancestors        Walking_around_the_town     The_price_of_life    

Dear reader

I am aware that in writing about the former Jewish community of Lezajsk I will face many dilemmas when describing certain events. (..) In the following article I want to remember events and people from 60 years ago, which are probably close to heart of older people. If the young read it then, I think, they will no longer be puzzled by the behaviour of our orthodox Jewish pilgrims and tourists. (...)

Jews in Lezajsk

Only Jews with German sounding surnames lived in Lezajsk.

1 Ader Adler Alter Aster Akner
6 Anfang Adwokat Altman Altschűller Ascher
11 Ausibel Bakon Bardach Beck Berstein
16 Berger Beer Beili Barber Bass
21 Bilfeld Birnbach Binder Brűll Brodt
26 Birnfeld Bergenicht Both Bohrer Bodenstein
31 Blumenfeld Burstin Burta Diller Drylman
36 Drűcker Dierer Erbaum Erlich Engelberg
41 Eisenberg Eibenstark Eimem Etner Eheman
46 Einchorn Elenbogen Engländer Faust Fäeber
51 Frankenhar Feit Fergenbaum Feldman Ferber
56 Fetter Fenster Frenkl Fischler Freinfeld
61 Friedlander Flizku Frescher Flichtenbaum Friedman
66 Flaumenbaum Fligelman Garfunkel Grabscheind Glanzberg
71 Gans Galler Glatt Gärtner Geitzhals
76 Greisman Geistler Gerecht Grűnfelg Grűnberg
81 Guzik Gross Goldman Goldberg Goldstein
86 Grisinger Goldbrener Gottlieb Goldschmidt Goldfarb
91 Goldwender Gotesdiener Grűnbaum Grűnmann Gruszow
96 Grűnwald Hasenfeld Hamersfeld Haarzopf Haberstein
101 Haftel Hammer Haar Hacker Hauben
106 Heiselbeck Hanfling Hirschfeld Horn Horowitz
111 Hollender Holloschűzer Holloschűtz Horman Holles
116 Hoffort Honig Idler Iser Jamm
121 Jäger Klarkman Karfioł Karpf Kraut
126 Kraus Klapholz Kanner Kärner Kohn
131 Kornblau Knoblich Kalter Kirschenblűt Kirschbaum
136 Kirschner Kinderfreund Kisel Kleinman Krampf
141 Krant Kerbe Keller Kneitel Körber
146 Kurtman Kurz Kupferschmidt Kűhl Katz
151 Klarman Klaufman Kandel Kosten Liberman
156 Lisker Linderbaum Lieber Luftschitz Löw
161 Lör Laufer Laks Lasser Laub
166 Landau Lewandel Lugenbaum Mander Mehcon
171 Metzger Minder Mondschein Műller Műnz
176 Narzinsenfeld Nadel Nadelsbach Nattel Neuman
181 Neis Nussbaum Ohlbaum Orbach Ost
186 Oster Pflanzer Parnes Palenberg Pechtalt
191 Permitter Pinkas Penner Potascher Profus
196 Propper Puderbeitel Ratch Raber Rabinowicz
201 Rajzli Reichenthal Reisner Reiss Reif
206 Reich Reblum Ringel Reischer Reinholz
211 Ringler Ring Rottenberg Rothman Rosenblűth
216 Rosenbaum Rotenberger Rosenzweig Rosner Rottenstrauch
221 Rebhun Roth Rokach Rosenblatt Rosen
226 Strauch Schwarzstein Spatz Schmacz Sattelman
231 Schwarzer Schank Safier Sales Sandbank
236 Satler Spergel Stein Stempel Stilbach
241 Steinharatt Sternlicht Steifeld Stern Stelzer
246 Stendig Scechtel Schweber Scheinbach Schechtman
251 Sternberg Schenkelheim Schneck Schiff Schechter
261 Schmiedt Silberman Schlűsserberg Stifel Schipper
266 Schoor Sonneblűth Sobel Solbach Stossvogel
271 Strauch Steinnauer Sprűng Strum Tannenbaum
276 Tanzman Taffel Teicher Teitelbaum Teichman
281 Teschner Tepfer Tűrkenkopf Tuchfeld Tugenchaft
286 Thurm Uher Ulryk Verständig Vetter
291 Wachs Wagner Wang Wander Wasserman
296 Waldman Walkier Wahrhafling Wachtenkönig Waller
301 Wanderer Weinberg Weinman Weissberg Weissbrot
306 Werdenbaum Weissblum Weingarten Wetscher Weinreich
311 Wenger Wirth Wilkenfeld Wiener Wolkenfeld
316 Wolf Wurcel Zales Zeibel Zinn
321 Zinnentaube Zucker Zellner    


On the graves of ancestors

When the Jewish settlement was established, on the other side of the ravine, where few houses were built, among the bushes of lilac and hazel, hidden from the prying eyes, a few graves emerged, mainly of the children who died of then unknown diseases. This was the beginnings of kirkut, the oldest necropolis in the town. Jewish residents of the town and the surroundings were buried there, divided into the male and female section. (...) The cemetery needed expanding and neighboring plots of land were purchased. At first it was surrounded by a wooden fence, made of thick, tightly fit planks, 2 meters tall. Then the fence was made of bricks and the gate was opened only for funerals and celebrations at cadyk's grave. Each grave had a matzeva, at the feet, in most cases made of sandstone, granite or marble.
They were adorned with writings of many forms and different content. Symbols commemorated the life of the deceased, especially his religiousness and good deeds. Apart from religious symbols such as the Star of David, menorah or a crown, there were signs depicting the name of the deceased. Jan Brzoza in his book "On the small square" cites a pre-war text on one of matzevas:
"Beda Ariel went to God, cry and lament, shed bitter tears, as a son of Levi and a grandson of Levi died". Goyim, before the war, could see the cemetery only through the cracks or holes in the wall (..).

Funeral rites were conducted on the day of death. Possibly it was a habit brought from Palestine, where high temperatures forced speedy burials. The rites were conducted by trained people in the Kehilla. The deceased was taken to the funeral home on kirkut grounds and hidden from the curious. The body was placed on a special wooden plank and washed. Arians called this "mangling of the corpse" (the expression comes from the washing machine rollers and does not sound as sinister as in English- Monika). Dead boys were circumcised. Then the body was wrapped in cloth, put on a special stretcher, covered in a shroud and quickly carried to the grave which was prepared beforehand. If church bells were heard, the deceased was put on the ground and the proceedings stopped until the bells stopped tolling. For this reason, funerals were usually conducted at the time of the day when there were no Catholic masses or funerals scheduled. Donations to cover funeral costs were gathered in old pots, which were shaken as to elicit more contributions.

Cadyk Elimelech is buried on the Lezajsk cemetery. Therefore it is now the place of worship and visits of Jews from all corners of the world, especially Israel and the US. There are about 2,300 Jews buried in Lezajsk (according to K.Gdula). The only surviving document is 40 post-mortem cards issued in 1913. They were found, in the summer 1979, accidentally by Tadeusz Fus, during renovation of a kindergarten in the building of ex-vicariate of the Greek-Orthodox church. They were well preserved, in the attic, under a beam.(..)
Until 1940 nothing signaled the total devastation of the cemetery that was to come. Cadyk's Elimelech's grave was in a wooden shack. In spring of that year, on orders of the occupant, "locals" - Józef Owsik and Józef Zaba, supervised by Johan Keipr, Stanislaw Werner and Michal Nabrzezny dismantled the shack and dug up the grave. They were looking for a "golden calf". From the large ditch 300x250x250cm they took out human remains and some metal and clay pots. The bones were left under a nearby tree for a few days. This was the reality. However, human imagination, hard at work, resulted in such accounts: "During the war, Germans gave orders to dig up the grave and found gold. The digging, by Polish workers, was heard all over the Górna street. Then a scream was heard and people run out of the cemetery. Cadyk was lying there, in a white shroud, as if buried yesterday, and had eyes. Lawyer Z. shrugged on hearing this story and a daughter of Marguszka got angry. "My father saw them running. Why would they run? Scared of the bones? No, the cadyk was laying there and looking at them with his eyes".
This is how legends are made and this is how this legend spread for the benefit of visiting orthodox Jews, because a miracle is the favourite child of faith. What happened then? A local youth, Adam Werner put the scull on a stick and frightened children who were playing nearby. Later, thanks to Kehilla's efforts the bones were collected and reburied in the upper part of the cemetery, on the left side of the road, allegedly in a grave of his
family member. Later there was a meteorological station built there (according to witnesses Józef Dec and Mieczyslaw Pudelkiewicz).
In 1962, on the spot of the old grave a brick ohel was built, on orders of
rabbi Frydman from Vienna, a formed student of Cracow School of Rabbinism, in thanks for saving his life during the war.

The Ohel was built by:

Investor representative - Zdzislaw Zawilski,

Designed by- engineer architect Arnold Baranski
Mason - Zenon Fraczek, Waclaw Garbacki,
Metal works - Zygmunt Weglarz.
Paid in cash by Zdzislaw Zawilski.
The history of this building has another thread. In December 1959 appeared in Lezajsk a Jew, communist Baruch Safier. He came back from the motherland of communism, Soviet Union, from a gulag. He became the base and the support for all the rebuilding of the cadyk's grave. This resulted in conflicts with the authorities, misunderstandings, gossip and money disputes and in the end Baruch Safier lost his people's trust. Then, a Polish woman, Janina Ordyczynska, begun to look after the ohel and did so until 1990, when she died in unusual circumstances. She has just opened the door to the ohel for the pilgrims when she fell and was taken to hospital when she died.
After her death, her daughter Krystyna Kiersnowska, took over.
"That one, of the Jews"- she was called in the town. She had their trust. The fact that Baruch accidentally spotted the original matzeva from the cadyk's grave among the pavement slabs on the Stawowa street. It read "our lord and teacher and man of God rabbi Elimelech Lazar Lippman in this grave rests, died 21 day of Adaru", was the most important and mobilizing factor to rebuild the ohel.

The pre-war Jewish cemetery was separated from Górna Street with a deep ravine. Today it is filled in. The brick wall of the cemetery was replaced in a lattice iron fence funded by the Nissenbaums. The randomly placed matzevas are no longer protected against curious eyes. Most forgotten matzevos still serve as paving stones on Lezajsk's streets.
The cemetery was not the only place where Jews were buried.
During the occupation they were buried wherever they met their death.
After long analysis and consultations with witnesses the following was established:
2 males (Zeible) - were buried on the grounds of primary school Nr 2 (about 8 metres away from Mickiewicza street and 4 metres from the northern edge of the property), 1 male - on Dolna street, near the house of the Dolega, 2 women and 3 children - Sanowa street no 38 (Sara Wagner with children: Henio and Lonia and her sister in law with her son), The Rubenfeld couple at Sanowa st number 20, 3 males (2 Jews, 1 Pole) - between former well and fence on the grounds of the court several people on the edge of Wierzawicki forest on the right side of the road towards Jaroslaw 3 people (Galler - mother and 3 sons) at "Chalupki" on the property belonging to the Malec family, about 20-25 Jewish children in mass grave on the right side of the cemetery’s entrance
10-12 Jews in Giedlarowa and 4 member family of Rimler from Zolynia In Brzoza Królewska the Kurschenblatt family was in hiding.

On 2 March 1994, during engineering works at the junction of Rzeszowska- Mickiewicza Street human remains were found and taken to the communal cemetery.
It was a Jew, in a Soviet uniform, who died because of heavy drinking in Potascher's house in December 1944 or January 1945.
In spring 1944, at night, German gendarmes shot on the Jewish cemetery 4 unidentified Poles.


Walking around the town

What is left after the Jewish community to remind visiting Jews of the bygone era?
Nothing or very little.
All remains of saved Judaica were bought and taken away by Baruch Safier.
There are no documents or pictures. The buildings on the main square (Rynek) and adjacent streets are the same but somehow different. Rebuilding and new front changed their appearance. Curtains in the windows, flowers and only Arian faces.

No more dark passages, with crooked gates, stench of urine and constant noise, typical "rejwach".
Today Rynek is covered in flowers and ringed with chains of cars. City guards don't fine people for throwing night soil on the streets. On warm, summer Sabbath days there are no chairs and benches on the pavements. There are no Jews sitting on them with their legs stretched across the pavement, reaching to the sewers. The saying "our streets, your buildings" lost its ring. There are no arguments, there is no need to seek compromise. The well on Rynek which was the place of "water people" no longer exists.
It was them who supplied the Jewish community with water, especially nearby bakeries. The stalls disappeared and the original hexagon shaped kiosk which belonged to
Pesla Safier and sold ice-cream and soda water (with juice if desired) as well as cakes, is long gone. The well and Pesla's kiosk served as a background for the welcoming of Polish President Moscicki when he came to Lezajsk.

 Gone are:
- Golda Tanzman's bakery (ul. Rzeszowska 17), which had crispy "kajzerki" with poppy seed. My father stopped eating them after he saw a cat urinating on a sack of flour there.
- colonial good shop belonging to Salomon Weinstein (ul. Mickiewicza 8), where just before Sabbath, it was possible to buy for pennies ripe bananas and oranges. The young bought from him chleb swietojanski (type of bread), figs and chalva when they went on dates.
- kosher butcher, Abraham Renhental (ul. Rzeszowska), which sold "unclean" meat via the back door to Catholics.
- fabrics shop of Alter Anfang (ul. Mickiewicza), piled with finest fabrics and full of young shop assistants with peyos shaped like corkscrews dangling around their ears.
Everybody would find something there. Beautifully packed goods were wrapped with the company paper and tied with a ribbon, with its color always matching that of the lady client's dress.
- shop of Chaja Gruber (ul. Górna 7), which even on the Sabbath, via a side door would sell necessities. The procedure of buying was somewhat strange though. On the counter one pound portions of of sugar, salt, flour, buckwheat etc were laid in horn shaped paper bags. Next to them, on glass saucers change was placed. The buyer himself had to take desired goods as well as pay and give change to himself. Chaja only supervised closely. Jews always had a way to get round the rules.

Israel's buses no longer leave the square for Rzeszow via Zolyn and Lancut do Rzeszowa,
always full of bearded and peyos-ed passengers and the sweet smell of onions. Simon Sztendig, the only Judaism teacher, no longer gives his lessons. Brick houses no longer have removable roofs used when Jews celebrated the Sukkoth so they were not disrupted by local "szajgece" (villains). The band of Mozes Ader, with its Polish base player Helena Jurzyniec, no longer plays at weddings. Their beautiful melodies always sent your legs dancing.
Hanna Grunberg no longer brings "recommended servants", young local girls looking for work.
Nobody brings door to door on X-mas mornings carps and other fish and advertises "our maca" to the goyim.
The printing house belonging to Izaka Kuhla (ul. Mickiewicza 3) will no longer print "kantyczek" with many songs, sung in 1937-1939 by beggars next to the monastery.
The police will no longer arrest members of communist and workers organizations before Jewish national holidays.
Leib Katz no longer wonders around the square, especially on hot days, complaining of constant headaches and singing Jewish songs, being a target of jokes and pranks.
There is nobody around to have his peyos pulled, threatened with holy water, touched with a slice of bacon or lard, Who now remembers Joela Profus, the baker who did not know how many children he had.
"Sabbath goyeks" no longer exist - they provided services such as lighting the fire during the Sabbath, opened the windows etc.
The mikva is not visited by Jewish women wrapped in big shawls. Nobody offers matza, makagig, kugel or the "peyos vodka" anymore.
One can't hear the sound of Hersh Laks (ul. Górna) carriage driving the rich to the synagogue. Every Sunday and on holiday even in rain he took teacher Stefania Czechowicz to the monastery, as well as travelers from the station, or even priest Czeslaw Broda, returning from social engagements, which was always a sensation because the church had its own carriage with beautiful horses.

"Chabka" Chobik, the mute no longer sits on the threshold of the house on Rzeszowska street, which he shared all his life with chickens and pigeons and in winter with other birds. When he was chased away from the town by the occupant he took with him three white doves.
"Malamed"Josl Krauz no longer teaches in cheders
No longer amuses us the sign on the front of a shop “here you can buy soap, jam and other things”, or another sign “wipe your shoes clean first and then you will be welcome”.
Today all shops have display windows and doors are without iron bars or wooden shutters locked with strange locks.
The restaurant of Hollender Greissman (ul. Mickiewicza), where court writers “popped in” for a “little glass” or beer with onion pancakes when the judge, with a bunch of newspapers, went out to answer the call of nature. It could last as long as 45 mins.
There is no more Etner and his chicken slaughter house where on special hooks surrounding a concrete pool screaming chicken were hanged by its bound feet. He carried a set of knives in a special cloth case.
There is no fuel wholesale of Abraham Sandbank (Plac Szkolny), who, for the convenience of the poor, sold coal even in 10 kg bags.
There is no more "trafika" belonging to old Nusymowa (ul. Rzeszowska), where one could buy two cigarettes "Machorkowe", a quarter of a 25g bag of tobacco "Obywatelski" brand, cherry "fifke"(mouthpiece), tissue paper "Solali" or "Her-Be-Wo", or “tools” to make homemade cigarettes and a special device. One could also sell “Washingtons" as US dollars were called, there.
Motl Reiss no longer makes whips out of reed and carpet beaters and baskets.
One will not find the shop with hats, umbrellas and clothes belonging to Zeibl brothers (ul. Mickiewicza). They were so close to surviving the war – they were accidentally spotted when they were hiding in an abandoned house on Rzeszowska street.
There are no "ejrufy" such as between the houses of Brodt and Szozda (ul.
Rzeszowska) or Holloschitz and Podgórskieg (ul. Furgalskiego), which were metal wires hanged quite high and represented a symbolic fence which allowed Jews greater freedom of movement during the Sabbath.
The spring under "Ciukowa Górka" no longer beats. It supplied the mikveh, creating a stream flowing along kirkut, Dolna Street to "Ksiezy Staw" (priest’s pond). In September, the month of penance, Jews stood along its banks and shook their sins out of their pockets while reciting Michaesh lines.
Jewish door-to-door traders no longer get back home before the Sabbath carrying eggs, cream cheese and milk in bottles for which they bartered thread, ribbons, hair clips, combs and knives.
The photo shop "Sztuka" (art) of Natan Rosenbluth (Rynek), no longer stands. It made “at any time all kinds of photographs on the premises and outside”. I myself have a picture taken by Mr. Natan, as a boy sitting at the table with a candle on it and a prayer book in my hand.
Lezajsk’s synagogues were burnt down on 15 September 1939. The left over walls were taken down on 15 September 1939. The left over walls were taken down and the bricks were used to pave the main square. Later when it was renovated the bricks landed in a landfill. Today their place is occupied by new houses, and one is a restaurant, originally called "Targowa", now "Helena". (…)
Who of the current Lezajsk residents can point to the house of Chaim Metzger on
Lazienna Street or to houses of other Jews who lived on Boznic, Kacik czy Proroka streets.
Now hardly anything is left that could remind us of those times and those people.


The price of life

In Lezajsk, just like in the rest of the country, decent people selflessly helped Jews condemned by the Nazis. Knowing that they may have to pay with their own life and that of their loved ones, they still decided to help. (…)

Helping in those circumstances was not an easy task. Some Jews believed that they looked Arian and that all they had to do become unrecognizable is to put on glasses. But they frequently had a characteristic accent and used phrases that sounded very Jewish. The Jewish way of life was very distinct and different from that of people of Aryan background. These differences were sometimes almost hardly visible but they were still noticeable. It was easier to shelter women than men, who could always be subject to brutal examination and betrayed by their circumcision. Even those who did not have classic Semitic features such as a beaked nose, prominent ears and black hair, always bore marks of Jewishness on their faces and could be easily identified.
Despite these difficulties many Poles selflessly helped to shelter Jews and this is borne out by testimonies of many witnesses, which I quote below:

1. Memoirs of Maria Bogucka - 1981:
„One evening when I was trying to close the door to the hall after forester Skowron from Brzoza Krolewska left our house I felt that somebody was stopping me. I heard a voice:” quiet, quiet, please don’t be afraid.” I opened the kitchen door to let in some light and I saw a man so hairy that he resembled a caveman. He said: “I am the young Zejbeł. You used to do shopping at our shop. Please help us, I am with my older brother. He is sick and has fever. I think he has pneumonia, please give us some food and some medicine.” I gave what I could, bread, butter, eggs and hot milk in a bottle.

He came every other day in the evening. It lasted for quite a while until they were arrested. I went to town once. I saw them walking to the court carrying a loaf of bread from me. I rushed back home, took children to the Gdulas and went with my husband to the parish to await the end of the drama".
Maria Bogucka and husband Leonard – a doctor, lived in a vicarage in Makow Podhalański.

2.Death of the Zejbls
„It was during the Lent. Irena Dec heard from the street:” they are leading the Zejbls. They were arrested.” The Zejbls, maybe because they were sick and feverish shouted out surnames –“ we will die with the Przybylskis, Urbańskis, Dec, they helped us."
(The quotation comes from a work by Hanna Krall – Proofs of existence, page 27)
It was not the Poles who caught and were leading the Zeibls. A local Volksdeutsch Johan Keiper bumped into them in the street and told his friend, a Pole. Both were terrified. The Pole said: Johan if you can please save them. Keiper run to the police station. But in a moment they were lead to a neigbouring property belonging to Kiszakiewicz (now primary school no.2) and shot. The reason was given that they had lice.
3. The drama of the Lewinters
„Late at night the Lewinters knocked at out door, worried and crying asked to stay for a few days because they had no shelter. The town was plastered with announcements that helping Jews will be punished by death. My cousin Janka Wierzbicka, agreed to receive them. We put them in the last room (house of Adam Dec on Sandomierska street) warning them not to betray their presence. They were careless and must have approached the window facing the street. After a few days people started asking us if we are sheltering the Lewinters. Mr. Lewinter had attacks of loud cough and this revealed their presence.  So Anna Romańska organized another place. Dressed in farmer’s clothes they traveled by a horse cart to Rogóżno and then by train to Przemyśl. Mr. Lewinter could not get used to the new situation, got depressed and committed suicide. He was secretly buried in the garden of the house in which they were hiding. From the flat he could see the Przemysl ghetto and what was happening. Mrs. Lewinter survived and after the war came back to Lezajsk where she lived in poverty supported by charity of friendly people, especially nuns. She was sick and paralyzed. She died in 1952."
Memoirs of Stanisława Opioła (from 1981) secretary of Lezajsk high school.
4. Unexpected letter from Tauba Kraut from 1985 and the author’s answer. Years ago I received an 11-page letter from a Jewish lady who used to live in Lezajsk. It is quite typical and worth reading. Style as in the original.
„I married in Giedlarowa near Leżajsk, first we lived in Giedlarowa, then we settled in Leżajsk, Łańcut county. There we had 3 acres of land on Gilershof, we had a house in Leżajsk on Ruska street, a big garden from Ruska street to the next street. The big house was quite old and had a beautiful garden. I planted apple and pear treas. Then with Jankiel Kirschenblat we run a textile shop on Rzeszowska street. Jankiel Kirschenblat built a beautiful house and his sister and brother in law another one next to it. They were cousins of my husband Getz Kraut. The garden extended from one street to another, I don’t remember its name. I would like to know who bought our house for a pittance. It was somebody from the US. I would like to know where my and my husband’s parents were taken. Apparently they were driven out of Lezajsk to a small forest near Wierzawice village. Can anybody tell me where that is? There were several carts full of people and the Nazis shot them there. The carts returned, maybe they were hired by an hour. I would like to know if they were shot in that forest or taken somewhere else.

One man from Ruska street who drove them there came back and I asked him what happened to them and he told me that they were taken away from there by the Germans on buses.
I now go back to Giedlarow, where we Getzel and Tobka Kraut survived. There was one angel who saved us. We want to know about his family. His sacred name was Marcin Krówka. He was married in Czerwonka at „Dworczynie ", his wife’s name was Czerwonka. We survived there. Anielcia was 5, she saw us many times, she was very clever. Marcin had a son Franek and daughter Janka. Anielcia Baran lived in Giedlarowa in the same house where we hid. I would like the address of Franciszek Krówka. I would also like somebody to show me Lezajsk’s Jewish cemetery and the monuments which we heard about, and that somebody is looking after the graves. My grandmother was Tauba Kizelstein from Wólka Niedzwiecka. Her first name was the same as mine Tauba. I will never forget what this Hitlerites, Germans did to us. One man lived next to Gallera who sold bicycles and I and Galler climbed upstairs and that man saw us and came and said come down because I don’t want to be blamed. So we came down and run to our cemetery and further and thank God we survived. But many did not. Who would be so nice and show us the Rynek, which was paved by stones from the cemetery? I will be grateful if somebody could show me where the synagogue was. I remember when it burned and priest Broda stood there watching and crying and told the Poles “don’t laugh, this is a sacred place”. I can only pray for the innocent people who died there".
That’s all from the author of the letter.
This letter moved me. I investigated and interviewed many people. I feel a moral obligation to give an answer, which I place below.

Leżajsk, 26 June I985.

Dear Mrs. Tauba!

        I believe the recipient of your letter was meant to be one of the older residents of Lezajsk or Giedlarowa, who might have known you and remembered the described events. By a coincidence your letter ended up in my hands so as it is customary I reply with great pleasure. I am happy that I could be of assistance and that I could live, for a short while, among memories written on the pages of history.
Your house in Giedlarowa was on the 5th kilometer, on the curve of the road – now there are new houses there, not a trace of old days. Your house in Lezajsk on Ruska street from 1937 this street was called Bronisława Pierackiego street and now 1 Maja street) you bought from Mrs Mroczkowska probably in 1936 and the field from Mrs Pomianowska. The house was rebuilt by the current owners. There is no trace of apple and pear trees in the garden you mentioned. The back of the garden still borders Stawowa street (now  Świerczewskiego street) and on the spot where the pond was now there is a playground. The house was bought from you by Mrs Dziedzińska from the US for her family in Leżajsk and it is hard for me to determine whether it was for a “pittance”. The little forest near Wierzawice village is still there and in it there are mass graves of Jews shot by the Germans. The graves are forgotten and covered by overgrowth and trees just like many such graves in Poland.
You mention a man from Ruska street who talked about small buses. During the war only four residents of Ruska street had horses and could act as „forszpani" (whose duty was to render horse and cart services for the German police and army) who drove your parents and in-laws. If you had given the name maybe it would have been possible to find him. In my search I found an account of a former „forszpan", but not from Ruska street, who witnessed the execution in that forest. It is hard to believe that this is how people treated other people. If that „forszpan " told you a story about the buses taking the victims in an unknown direction maybe he was ordered to say so by the Germans, or maybe he wanted to spare you this terrible news. There is no doubt – all taken from the town were shot in that forest, and most likely nobody survived. There is a story that a boy aged 17 managed to escape but this is unconfirmed.

I went to Giedlarowa. There is no house of Marcin Krówka,who after the war moved to Rzuchow. On the spot there are new buildings and in one of them Aniela, who you remembered as a 5 year old girl, lives. She married and is now called Aniela Grabowy. They are modest people and admire their parents who sheltered you. She remembers you and Lejba Struch. Her children were very interested in her remembering the old days.
I went to the spot of the burned down synagogue and the cemetery. I saw the remaining graves and cadyk Elimelech’s ohel. In mass graves there apparently are also buried Poles and Russian POWs. There are a few old lindens. I went to Ruska street and Rzeszowska street where you had your shop with Kirschenblűt.
I also remember when Lezajk’s synagogues burned, the black smoke enveloping the town and streets covered with ash from the burnt prayer books. Priest Broda was killed in Dachau.
I want to remind you some events from that time which perhaps you have forgotten:

Do you remember the farm and the house of Marcin Krówka right next to the forest? A small wooden house supported by huge rocks. The floor of the storage room had one loose plank which could be lifted to allow passage to your hiding place. Do you remember the people you met in the forest when you were collecting blueberries? Do you remember when you were milking a cow and suddenly you saw Anielcia standing in the door of the cowshed shouting “mummy, mummy, soldiers came!” and a German gendarme right behind her? You hid your head between the cow’s thigh and the belly and the gendarme left without even searching the cowshed. Anielcia’s shouting saved your life. Do you remember when the gendarmes came to arrest Maria Krowka who was sent to collect the money lent to a neighbour before the war?
Do you know what your husband went through when he was taken from the ghetto? Right next to the ruins of the burnt synagogue the carts of  „forszpan" were parked. Your husband sat on the cart of Stanisław Śliż resigned to go anywhere. Suddenly he was herded by Gestapo together with others for a “collection”. At the last moment he put something wrapped in a piece of cloth in Sliz’s pocket. After “the collection” he was assigned to another cart. They went towards Jarosław. They rejoiced when they passed Wierzawice and then Pełkinia thinking that they are taken to work. At the train station in Jarosław they boarded carriages. A few days later your husband knocked on the window of Sliz’s house at night. He was let in, had dinner with the family and asked for his “something” back. He was very surprised to find it intact. He wanted to leave some of the money for “safekeeping”.

Do you remember the words of Mr. Śliż - „Gätz what you went through only you know, what I will go through I do not know. Take all the money ". He was given a big loaf of bread and left with wishes to survive the war. The neighbours knew that your husband visited Krokoszowa (the first house on the right on Gilershof) – they knew you were at Krówka’s. This was a chain of “good will”, although sometimes broken by people undeserving to be called human. The Krówkas and many other Poles did not plant an olive tree in the alley of the Righteous in Jerusalem. Instead, in Poland a linden tree that you planted on a farm in Giedlarowa is growing. A beautiful 40-year old tree visited year after year by bees, it was meant to be a symbol of your life in case of your death.
Soon, Lezajsk will probably celebrate 200 anniversary of cadyk Elimelech’s death. Maybe even former residents will attend although their ranks thinned in the passage of time.

We should not forget that for over 300 years the history of Lezajsk was written by both our nations.


Pacyfikacja Leżajska-Juliusz Ulas Urbański

Strona poświecona Żydom z Europy Wschodniej


  Obyczaje żydowskie     Leżajski sztetl      Jidysz        Żydzi w Leżajsku   Chasydzi w Leżajsku-2005

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Ostatnia aktualizacja:  2006-02-10