Czeladź – A memeorial to its sacred people

By Abraham Grün

Czeladź – A memeorial to its sacred people
By Abraham Grün

The city is a big border city of about 30,000 citizens, scattered over a large area with Będzin about 3 km to the east, with the Jewish cemetery serving both communities marking their separate jurisdiction areas. The Piaski Coal Mine is to the city's south-east on the way to Sosnowiec. The major coal mine was to its south-west, and was the largest mine in the area. The road leading to Grodziec is to the north and the river Brynica , marking the border between Russia and Germany to the west. Czeladź belonged to Russia and Siemianowice Śląskie belonged to Germany before the First World War. The Czeladź Jewry before the Second World War had just a few hundred families. Many of the Polish Jews who were exiled from Germany – The Zbąszyń Jews - during the two years before the war settled in the city, thus adding a few tens families to its Jewish population. Their livelihood depended mainly on commerce and crafts. Nearly all groceries – retail and wholesale marketing – the bakeries, fabric and shops dealing with men's clothing and accessories were in Jewish hands, thus turning the Jews into sole craftsmen in those fields of shoemaking, tailoring, metal working and more. Jews were sole suppliers for coal mines, mine workers, citizens and even neighboring towns as peddlers. Many of the city houses were owned by Jews.
As mentioned before, the city was wide spread but Jews were mainly in the center on Bytomska, Milowitska, Rynek, Jangroda, Będzinska, living near the Polish citizens. There were hardly any Jews in the suburbs of the city, namely: Stronia, Szpitalna and more. In comparison, there were houses occupied solely by Jews. The city Jewry was mainly religious and even Hassidic. Public Jewish life revolved around the Beit Midrash – Place of Tora study – and the Shtiebel of the Gur Hasiddim in Rabi's Mendel Bizikowski Radomsko, at Rabi's Manela Mandelbaum Wolbrom at the house of Nechemia Sztrochlitz and the Shtiebel at Rabi's Binyamin Berman. In those Shtiebels, Tora and religious studies took place as well as public Jewish gatherings, and political, and sometimes personal, debates were underway. These institutions were under the "rule" of community elders and synagogue managers who hardly ever rotated and were served with the highest of honors. At the head of these institutes in the Gur Shtiebel, in the years prior to the war, was the branched Klainer family headed by Rabi Shmuel Klainer, nicknamed "Trotsky". That Shtiebel was the most organized and drew the best of Hassidic youth from which most of the young office holders had come.
At the head of the Wolbrom Shtiebel were Rabi Aron Gelbard, and Rabi Eliezer Roshnik. At the head of the Radomsko Shtiebel were Rabi Ber Schweitzer and Rabi Shlomo Gutshtein. At the head of the Binyamin Berman Shtiebel was he himself. At the head of the synagogue was a board of dignitaries and Kabbalists among them: Rabis Eliezer Lipman Lewenthal, Haim Schweitzer, Brish Haide, Jaakov Gelbard, Shaul Szwartsbom, Nechemia Sztrochlitz, Haim Wainberg, and more. Added to them were the veteran synagogue managers: Rabis Leibl Kawan and Pinhas Shalom Lipel.
There was a permanent opposition in the synagogue itself made up mainly of revisionists, that were a nationalist faction within the Zionist movement, headed by Efraim Klainman, Israel Iser Roicher, Pinkus Brothers, who later emigrated to Silesia and the Kohen brothers and more. Relating to the synagogue I must not forget Rabi Manela Mandelbaum, even though he had started to pray with the Radomsko Shtiebel of late. He was among the main donors for the renovation and upkeep of the synagogue and even renovated and painted the northern wall that was damaged. Those in religious capacities did not change very often either and they were headed by the teacher Rabi Lewenthal and the circumcisers Rabi Gliksman and Loit, and the synagogue's veteran beadle Maril. During the High holidays and the ten Days of Awe between them – Yamim Noraim –Rabi Mosze Leib Faska in the synagogue and Rabi ליפא פישמן at Gur, Rabi Binyamin Berman at Radomsko and Rabi Moshe Wolf Szafir at Wolbrom served in addition.
As reader of the Tora in the synagogue was Rabi Mosze Leib Faska and as the Shofar (deer horn) blower was Rabi Jaakov Haida. The readers of the Tora were invited to the synagogue from the Shtiebels for the morning prayer, among them : Moshe Wolf Szafir, Ber Schweitzer, Hirsz Leib Pergricht , Haim Mordehai Klainer and Shlomo Gutshtein and Feiwel Goldfraind who even blew the Shofar after his father in law – Rabi Jaakov Haida – passed away. There was a kind of tenure in the reading of the Tora as well and indeed, in the synagogue where I prayed, the same people were honored by the reading of the Tora during high holidays: Rabi Lewenthal (Levi on the New Year, at the end on Yom Kippur – Maftir – and Hatan Tora on Simchat Tora), Rabi Haim Schweitzer ( The song of Moses and the first Hatan Bereshit), Rabi Jaakov Haida and after his death, his son Rabi Berish Haida (The Ten commandments and the second Hatan Tora), Rabi Shaul Szwartzbaum (Second Hatan Bereshit). Rabis Hertske Kohen, Itzik Kohen, and Slomo Schweitzer step up as Kohanim (priests) and Rabis Yosef Epshtein and Paltiel Pinkus as Levites. For the Maftir – the end of the service – Moshele Gertler, Nechemia Sztrochlitz, Jaacov Gelbard, Mendel Boźekowski, Herman Rechnic, Goldfainder (a porcelain factory Jósefów owner), Efraim Kleinman, Yosel Grosman, Jonatan Holtzdorf, were called. Naturally, during the holidays other prayer leaders were called as well as the synagogue managers.
The traditional Kiddush - the sanctification of the Sabbath or a festival with a blessing over wine before the evening and noon meals and small repast or refreshments served following Sabbath morning services after the recitation of Kiddush – during Simchat Tora, the festival celebrating the completion and re- beginning of the reading of the Tora – took place at Rabis, and sons in law: Haim Schweitzer and Berish Haida.
Youth education was primarily religious and sustained by two Hedders - religious elementary schools – one at Rabi Moshe Awigdor in the study hall and the other at Nechemia Sztrochlitz's court and Shtiebel. A Yeshiva - religious, Talmudic college "The Crown of the Tora" was in Rabi Manela's court and a religious girls' school "Beith Jaacov" that was built recently.
The religious youth that wanted more than what was offered in the city went to the schools in nearby Będzin and especially to the Agudah school "The Tora Fundamentals (Yesodi HaTora) or The Agudah, as everyone called it. For general education, there were a few city schools, headed by the veteran school on Będzinska Street. Those who wanted higher education went on to the local colleges in Będzin.
Here is the place to remember the Jewish kindergarten, headed by Regina Getler, where most children took their first steps in the educational system.
In addition to the well branched out Hassidic activity was a Zionist activity and Shomer Zair Clubs - headed by Asher Fishel, Beitar - Brith Yosef Trumpeldor youth movement – headed by Zvi Sztrochlitz, Gordonia – headed by Fela Urman - a Zionist youth movement. The movement's doctrines were based on the beliefs of Aron David Gordon, i.e. the recovery of Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish People through manual labor and the revival of the Hebrew language. In Gordonia the cadets learned Hebrew and the graduates organized themselves into training groups pending Aliya to the Holy Land.
All these activities were influenced by and coordinated with those of the Będzin and Sosnowiec branches. This activity, among others, resulted in a significant number of citizens from the city coming to Eretz Yisrael as pioneers. Jews from all walks of life in the city escorted the pioneering immigrants on their way not just with song and dance and celebrations but with blessings and hope. I remember how we gathered festively by the tramway – the cable car- when Israel and Hana Lea Gelbard, Meir Szwartzbaum, and the Fishel brothers and others made Aliya.
The Czeladź Jewry conducted active public life, and thus we find a big benefit society – Gmach – headed by Rabi Haim Schweitzer and managed by Shaul Pomerantz; a Sick Visiting Society headed by Shaul Szwartzbaum, Aron Gelbard, Mendel Boźekowski, Mosze Leib Faska, Leibel Kawan, and more; a charity to Dower a Bride Society and, of course, a Burial Society that accompanied the City dead to their last resting place, headed by Shalom Lipel, Berish Haida, Laim Weinberg and more.
The Women's Organization – "Froen Ferain" – that had most city Jewish women under its wings was headed by the Rabi Lewenthal's wife, who taught brides the laws of family purity and Leicze Rechnic, Hana Grün, Itele Gelbard, Faigele Gelbard, Rechele Laufer and more. Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej w Polsce – in charge of the Health of Jews – was organized with many members. It is the first time management is made up of second generation members who had so far been far from public activity. Thus, we find on the management in addition to the founders, Doctor Liberman from Sosnowiec, Shimon Gelbard, Buchnik and Hana Grün, Yechiel Gelberd, Markus Rechnic, Advocate Rozenberg, Magister Rozenblaum. Helping with the actual work are, Mrs Nusinbaum, Faigele Epshtein, Fela Szwartzboum, Lena Kohen and more.
As far as municipal activity is concerned, there was a time when three Jews – Rabi Haim Schweitzer, Herman Rechnic and Hana Grün – Haida – served on the city council. Herman Rechnic was a public figure accepted by all segments of the public, including the religious sector even though he was not religious the way it was defined at the time. Activity of the anti-Semitic Endekim has risen lately resulting in a limiting of Jewish municipal activity.
Many Jews tried to flee east at the outbreak of World War II, but most returned and only a few actually fled and reached faraway Russia. Upon their return many encountered dangerous situations and a few of them were murdered, like Rabi Moshe Mordehai Kuperberg's three sons who were murdered on the Sławków Bridge.
As early as 1940 Jews were gathered and transported to labor camps in Germany. This went on until 1943.
In 1941, Jews were transported to a ghetto south east to the city and a management headed by Pozmantir from Będzin, on behalf of the Sosnowiec Judenrat, was established. Life in the ghetto went on but suffered limitations as more round ups to death camps took place on a regular basis, until in May 1943 the ghetto was destroyed and the few Jews left in it were transported to the Kamionka ghetto in Będzin. They were transported from here to Auschwitz with the last remaining Zaglembie Jews.
At the end of the war, a few survivors returned to the village to check out remaining family members and try to salvage property. Local Polish citizens murdered two of the returning Jews, Shlomo Gelbard and Meir Grosman. This murder in broad daylight signaled the rest of the Jews what the situation was like and they left and spread over the globe.
Most Czeladz Jews, about a hundred people, survivors and veterans alike, found their way to Israel and are involved in all fields of life. A few tens of them immigrated to the US, especially New York and Los Angeles. There are a few in Europe (Germany, France, Belgium, England and Norway) and even as far as Australia.
In September 1970, 25 years after the end of the war, a memorial monument was unveiled in memory of the sacred Czeladź Jews. Another such memorial monument was built in the Holocaust Basement on Mount Zion, Jerusalem. 75 of the Czeladź survivors, coming from all parts of Israel, took part in the ceremony as well as a representative from abroad. The gathering was organized by the steering committee – Fela Koniarska, Zvi Sztrochlitz, Yosef Gelbard, Lea Meger-Zukerman, Rywcia Gruszka Beserglük, Abraham Grün. Part of the ceremony was the lighting of six candles in memory of the six million murdered Jews in the Holocaust. Rabi Herszel Nusbaum, Rabi Feiwel Goldfraind, Zelik Roshnik, Shimon Gelbard, Hana Goldberg, Fela Koniarska (Szwartzbaum) were offered the honor to light the candles. Rabi Shlomo Gelbard and Shimon Czarni from abroad were honored with the unveiling of the monument. Eulogies were carried out by Abraham Grün, Shimon Gelbard and Feiwel Goldfraind. At the end, a memorial service in memory of Holocaust sacred people and others who had passed away after the war was conducted and the entire audience said Kaddish – a sanctification prayer, mourner's prayer - in awe and reverence.
This assembly did not serve solely as an opportunity to commemorate the memory of the dead but also as the largest gathering of the Czeladź Jewish citizens after the war. And it was, indeed, a serious, historical and moving moment.
We wish this recount to serve as an additional memorial for the Czeladź sacred Jews.
I beg forgiveness if I added or erred in recounting details, or if, by mistake I have hurt anyone. I ask for forgiveness and absolution, for I describe only partially and briefly a period I was only 6-12 years old.

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