Chapter 1
Early Childhood, Family & Education

Chapter 2
Religious Life

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5
Kretinga & Neighborhood

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8
Emigration & Journey


Chapter 8 : Emigration & Journey

Subsections : 


Emigration & Journey   [back to top]

One can well imagine the impoverished condition of the vast majority of the Krottingen Jews after their homes and belongings were destroyed. The Jews general economic circumstances had never been in a flourishing condition and it had gradually deteriorated from about the middle of the 1880s. This resulted in lowering standards of living and in an interminable struggle by the breadwinners to provide the bare minimum necessary for the subsistence of their families.

In these unfortunate circumstances it was little wonder that the question of emigrating engaged the serious attention of a large number of the Krottinger Jews, either those who were occupied in business, such as shopkeepers or in some kind of petty trading, as well as some belonging to the artisan class. To travel abroad in those days, no passports or visas were required and the fares by cargo boats and fourth class rail, were exceptionally low.

However this was not a simple matter. It meant uprooting oneself from one's native town and going abroad to a strange land in search of a new life, a home and a livelihood. In the majority of cases one was devoid of any capital and entirely lacking a knowledge of the language of the country of destination. Despite this, there were a fair number of Jews who were courageous enough to embark upon emigration. The great majority went to Sunderland. Only a very small number made their home in the United States of America and South Africa.

A certain number of those who emigrated from Krottingen succeeded in establishing themselves in business and they thus encouraged many more to come to Sunderland. In the course of a few years, the number of landsmen there steadily increased. Those emigrating had a better chance of finding a relation or friend in Sunderland than in any other part of the country. It was an invariable practice by compatriots to assist the newly arrived immigrants in their efforts to establish themselves in some kind of business, usually peddling, in order to earn a living. They usually left their families behind till they were in a position to provide a modest home and livelihood for them. The time it took to achieve this was between one and two years as a rule, though in some cases their families loaned them earlier.

Amongst the immigrants in Sunderland, there were a few married couples without children, who set out for their destination together. Some were very enterprising and as they only had themselves to support, they rapidly established themselves in business and often sent for their parents or other relatives to join them. This was a common practice. Established immigrants often helped to bring over family and assisted them to set up in some kind of business to earn a livelihood. They in turn would then do the same for their relatives and friends left behind.

When father came to England, there were already a fair number of Krottinger Jews in Sunderland and by the time our family settled there a year later, their number had considerably increased. Only a few of our landsmen emigrated to other towns of this country. Amongst those in Sunderland, there might have been half a dozen families who were in a comfortable position but the others merely made a modest living, whilst many had a hard struggle to do so.

Reflecting on the calamity suffered by our landsmen as a result of the devastating fire, this to some extent, was a blessing in disguise, for it caused a good many of them to emigrate. This no doubt saved the lives of a number of their offspring, who might have fallen victim at the hands of the Nazis.

As soon as the sad news of the fire came to the knowledge of the Sundeland community, my father and some others of the leading landsmen there took steps to somewhat alleviate the distress of the Krottinger Jews. With the assistance of the Reverend A.A Green, who was then minister in Sunderland, a fund was raised among the landsmen and many Jews in town, as well as in neighbouring communities, in aid of the victims of the destructive fire.

After a substantial sum was raised, Rev. Green undertook the task of travelling to Krottingen, taking with him the money collected in order to assist in its distribution, and at the same time to investigate into the condition the townspeople were in at the time. He spent there a week or ten days, I believe, and assured them of his personal endeavors to obtain further support for them in England. Rev Green on his return from Krottingen called at our house and gave father a full account of the conditions he found there and the various people he met.

I happened to be in the room when Rev Green called, and father and he had quite a long interview concerning the position of the Krottingen community. As Rev. Green was somewhat conversant with the German language, they managed to understand each other. Even I could follow the mixture of Yiddish and German in which they carried on their conversation. I gathered that Rev. Green was very much impressed with many of those he came in contact, especially with Rabbi Leibsig, in whose company he seemed to have spent a good deal of his time. It was certainly an admirable gesture by Rev. Green to have taken the trouble he did in the matter , which was highly appreciated by the Jewish community of Krottingen.

Upon Rev. Green's return from Krottingen, the fund-raising committee, of which he was treasurer, put in an appeal in the Jewish Chronicle for the support of the victims. A letter to the editor by Rev. Green, drawing the attention of its readers, appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, in its issue of July 21st. He stated in his impassioned appeal: "The distress and destitution had in no way been exaggerated; the ruin is complete...It was impossible for me to distinguish where the streets had once been, charred timbers and a few walls here and there, alone marked where once the homes of the people had been...The men were content to sleep in the open air if they could procure temporary shelter for their wives and children, for the aged and sick; to accommodate these latter, sheds had been hastely made...The few houses in the outskirts of the town, which escaped destruction, are more than overcrowded. In Memel, a relief committee collected four thousand Marks, which was expended in forwarding food and clothing for the relief of present necessities...The chance of assistance in Russia is minimised by the rival claims of nine towns farther in the interior of Russia, where fires have recently taken place...Assistance to be of any value, must reach the people while the summer weather permits the work of reconstruction of the houses in town."

I believe that there was a liberal response to this appeal, but I don't know the amount of cash it was raised in this country altogether. I remember that a canvassing committee was appointed in Sunderland, and I was told that practically every member of its community contributed more or less to the fund. The Krottingen relations and their landsmen generally, made great sacrifices by assisting them to the upmost in their power, though but few of them were in a comfortable position at the time.

A year or two before leaving my native country, there was a great deal of talk in town about emigrating abroad or, as it was called, "opreisen noch Aingland oder America." I remember one day a boy in our cheder arrived very excited and gleefully imparted the news that he was going in a few weeks' time with his parents to one of those distant and magical-sounding cities, the name of which I cannot remember. It was probably Sunderland, since a number of Jews had recently gone there. We were all naturally very envious of that boy, for we were yearning for such good fortune to come our way, and hoped that this great wish of ours would one day be realised !

There were many exciting reports arriving in Krottingen from those who had emigrated to Sunderland, and which were circulating throughout the town. Many of them gave glowing accounts, concerning the life there: The amenities and conveniences of the houses, as compared with those in der heim, at home---somewhat exaggerated, no doubt. They told of the plentiful supply of fresh water simply by the turning of a tap, which was connected to a lead pipe fastened to the kitchen wall, instead of having to draw water from a brunnen, a deep well, in buckets and store it in a tub in the house. And in place of candles or paraffin lamps to light the rooms with, Gas, an inflammable vapour, was used; and this was likewise served through metal pipes fixed to the wall or ceiling, with a burner and tap connection which could be lit by turning the gas on.

We were also told about the sanitary conditions of the houses and of the well-equipped public baths, with separate cubicles, where one could have a hot bath for the charge of two pence, inclusive of a piece of soap and two clean towels. Many of the better-off classes even had bathrooms built in their own homes, with hot and cold water laid on. We were also given to understand of the many other attractive features in the everyday life in England, especially of the more comfortable houses people lived in than at home, as well as in the matter of food and drink which, of course had a splendid appeal to youngsters. It was said that everyone in the country, rich and poor alike, had the choice of eating Challah all week, instead of only on Shabbos, or goyim on Sunday; and that the light afternoon meal, which we call tea, is usually served with cake and biscuits, in addition to buttered bread and jam; and one can have milk or lemonade to drink instead of tea. The people were also more elegantly dressed than "at home;" and if one can afford it, there were places of entertainment to go to, besides those which are free of charge, such as listening to music played in the parks during the summer.

Thus the vista of a better life that was held out in exchange for the poor, circumscribed existence, which was the lot of most Jews in the old country, acted as an allurement to many of them to join their relatives and friends abroad. All these attractions naturally had an influence upon the average person, especially upon the younger members of the local community. But father's reasons for emigrating were mainly out of a desire to live in a free country; and to provide a better future for his family, which he couldn't hope for in Tzarist Russia. So one can understand how thrilled I was when father one day announced his intention to emigrate to England, on the advice of his two brothers, who preceded him by two or three years and had settled in Stockton-on-Tees.

Father left for England in the summer of 1898, together with one of my elder brothers, Shmere. When father settled he at once set about planning for the rst of the family (save for our two eldest brothers) to join him and Shmere in Sunderland. With the assistance of his friends, father managed to rent and furnish a small house. The furnishing of the house was done a modest scale, just to meet our modest requirements, and even that had to be done partly with the help of our landsmen. Father had saved up a small amount of money from his profession as itinerant preacher but most of it had to cover the cost of our journey to Sunderland.


The journey from Krottingen to Sunderland took us almost a week. Besides our stepmother and her one year old child (Sidney), there were my sister Rivka who was in her fouteenth year, my brother Elye, about 16, Tevke (theo), aged 7 and I in my twelth year. The first stage of the journey was getting across the Russian frontier into Germany, which was two miles from Krottingen. To have done so legally would have involved considerable trouble and expense so we did it in the "normal" way by smuggling across. Each one was helped to pass the sentry at the frontier sepaprately by some of our friends, adopting the same stratagem as previously and their escorts were likewise well-known reputable men of Krottingen.

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