Diary of Tour in Poland, 1999

by Sol Goldberg and David Shenhav/Shanoff

Introduction

The purpose of our trip was to learn as much as possible about our ancestors' homes and background, which were deeply rooted in Poland, prior to World War II and the Shoah. The maternal (Bornstein) and paternal (Goldberg) families of Sol Goldberg as well as maternal (Goldberg) and paternal (Chrzanowicz, hereafter called Shanoff) families of David Shenhav/Shanoff have, as cursory historical research evidenced, been linked to Poland for countless generations. Sol's research of our families' history was very much embellished by oral nostalgic reminiscences by older members of the Goldberg, Bornstein and Shanoff families residing in North America. 

The research determined the route of our travels in Poland:--Warsaw, Lodz, Radomsko, Kamiensk, Pajeczno and Krakow. 5.Sol's father Leibish and David's mother Tobale were two of nine Goldberg siblings, born to Yitzhak Goldberg and Esther-Breindel Rosenzweig. All immigrated to Canada prior to 1930 except for the eldest daughter Blima-Devora who was married to Noah Zoberman. The Zobermans together with their children and grandchildren were either killed in the Radomsko Ghetto or were sent to their deaths in Treblinka. David's father Chaim-Shmuel Shanoff was the only child of Yosef, who left Poland for Canada. All of his siblings perished in the Holocaust. Two cousins, Fela Friedman and Henry Waks survived and now live in Toronto. In addition David's uncle Shimon-Moishe's widow Luba also survived Auschwitz and lived in Montreal until her death. Sol's mother Frymcia (nee Bornstein) immigrated to Canada in June 1930 together with her husband Leibish and children Ruth, age 6, Sol, age 4, and Rita, age 2. Sol's mother's siblings immigrated to the U.S. in the early Twenties and settled in New York. Only Frymcia's father Chaim Bornstein and his daughter Hendel, and her daughter Sonya, remained in Radomsko. Chaim died a natural death in 1941 while Hendel and her daughter Sonya are presumed to have died either in the Ghetto or in Treblinka. Frymcia's mother Ruda nee Koziwoda died of a heart attack en route home to Radomsko from the United States in 1923.

Thursday, May 20

Arrival in Warsaw

We met in Warsaw on Thursday, May 20. Sol's plane from Madrid, where he attended his new Grandson Sergio Simcha's Brith-Milah, was delayed which curtailed our first day's plans. After checking in to The Forum Hotel in the city's center we made our way towards Warsaw's only remaining synagogue, the Nozyk, on Ulica Twarda. We met and were very impressed by the new Rabbi (Rabinowicz), a Dane, who had been ordained in Jerusalem and had taken on the position of Chief Rabbi of Poland. He is 27 years old and was expecting his wife and three children to join him imminently. He had learned to speak Polish and we spoke to him in English and Hebrew. He invited us to a meal (seudah) the following evening to celebrate Shavuoth.
As we left the shul and were passing the adjoining Yiddish Theatre a woman invited us in to see the musical Chagall. The performance was in Yiddish mostly by a non-Jewish cast. The sets were reproduction of paintings by Chagall, hence the title, and the songs were sad and sentimental of other times.

Friday, May 21

We visited the many sites connected with the Jewish Community prior to September 1, 1939, when Jews comprised a third of Warsaw's population.

The Ghetto Area, The Nathan Rappaport Monument commemorating the Ghetto Fighters, Mila 18. We photographed the other monuments and bunkers memorializing heroes such as Emmanuel Ringelblum and Mordechai Anielewicz.

Umschlag Platz: This is where the station platform was where all Warsaw Jews were herded on to freight boxcars for deportation to Treblinka. Here we shed a few tears and silently prayed. We were horrified by the anti-Semitic graffiti.

We taxied over to Stary Miasto, the old town, where we had a light supper at a Bistro type restaurant. Castle Square has a lot of Pubs, Restaurants, and Boutiques and pushcarts selling all manner of souvenirs. The Square was packed with hundreds of young Poles enjoying the pleasant weather.

The previous evening we were told at the Shul to come for Shabbat services at 10.30 because dusk falls late in Warsaw. When we got there sadly there was no minyan. Actually there were 15 of us, but the rabbi wouldn't accept the pedigrees of six of the men and so could not count them for the minyan. We did, however, participate in the Shavuoth Seudah which was accompanied by enthusiastic singing in Hebrew. Present was a nice young man, Yona, from Brooklyn with his wife and baby girl. Yona is the representative in Poland of The Ronald S, Lauder Foundation. He is also a Habadnik. The evening meal lasted past midnight. We met several interesting people in the course of the evening, a mother and son from Costa Rica en
route to Israel and a young Jewish girl from Lithuania. Tired and full of Yiddishkeit we returned to our hotel.

Saturday, May 22

From Warsaw to Lodz

After breakfast, we picked up our car, a Renault Megane Automatic, as neither one of us had driven a gearshift for years. We then set out for Lodz about 2 1/2 hours from Warsaw. The countryside was unattractive and rural with many villages alongside the two lane highway. On arrival in Lodz we checked in to The Grand Hotel, built in 1888 which must have been truly
Grand in it's day and which our Father's surely knew. It is still a very nice and comfortable hotel and we were quite pleased with our room which only cost US$67 per day including breakfast. The hotel is located on the main street, Piotrkowska corner Sierpnia and we recommend it to anyone visiting Lodz. It is only a few meters away from the apt. building where Arthur Rubenstein was born and lived and faced a small green park named in his honour.

We were most anxious to visit the sites connected to our family's history. In this aim we were tremendously assisted by the remarkable memories of our cousins Adele Yablon in Montreal and Fela Frieman in Toronto. Adele had lived in Lodz as a teenager and Fela lived there until the
outbreak of war in 1939.

43 Wolczanska Street: David's parents, Toba and Chaim-Shmuel Shanoff lived in an apartment in this building until they left for Canada. The building is in not too bad a state of repair and still has a very attractive facade. We went in to the courtyard and admired and photographed the building fro many angles. Both David and his brother Harry were born in the building. David distinctly remembers his being on the first floor on the right side facing the building.

24 Piotrkowska Street: Our Aunt and Uncle, Sabina and Simcha Grossman lived in this building and two of their three children ( Diane and Gabriel) were born here and the third Stanley was born in Canada. It is worth noting that our uncle Simcha was the first to immigrate to Canada and our entire Goldberg family will be eternally grateful to him for having brought all of them to Canada in the 1920's.only two of the Goldberg siblings did not come to Canada. The eldest Blima-Devora whom was married and remained in Radomsko and Reuven wo went to Israel in 1925 and lived there all of his life.

Our attempts to find the home of our Goldberg grandparents and Sol's father were futile. The people we asked could not even direct us to the area we sought, Grunya Mark.

21 Podrzeczna Street: This building consists of residential apartments and commercial
premises (formerly #9) and was owned by David's grandfather Yosef who died prior to the war. We photographed the building. and spent some time examining the exterior.

19 Podrzeczna Street: This building has been recuperated by a relative who lived there before the war and is already collecting a meager rent. The last two buildings. are located opposite a park and not too far from the plants of the Famous Jewish Poznanski Family textile empire, Poltex.

In Lodz we met a nice young man, Pawel Nowak, a native of Radomsko, whom Sol had met on the Internet. Pawel is 24 years old and a student at the University in Lodz in the Law Faculty. We had dinner a lovely restaurant, The Esplanada, on the main street and turned in exhausted after what was an emotional day.

Sunday, May 23

From Lodz to Radomsko

After checking out of our hotel early we made one more tour of the family homes and before heading for Radomsko we visited the Jewish Cemetery, which we found in a remarkable state of preservation. David attempted to find his grandfather Yose's grave near the famous Radoschitzer Rebbe, but to no avail. The Lodz cemetery was untouched by the Nazis. It is surrounded by a high stonewall and contains more than 300,000 graves, many of which are of
imposing stature, decorated and sculpted. The most outstanding ones are dedicated to the Poznanski and Karse families. They are truly works of art.

After a pleasant drive through the back roads around Piotrkow, we arrived in Radomsko and checked into The Europa Hotel on Reymonta, a very modest hotel, to say the least, which Sol's Aunt Gina had stayed in when she returned to visit her father in the early 1920s. After checking in and with our young friend Pawel in tow, we proceeded to see the town sights
including where Sol's family lived and where he and his sisters were born at 12 Krakowska Street. The building was totally demolished in the first days of the war by German Bombers as Radomsko was not too far from the German Border. The Municipal Fire Station now sits on the property. We also saw where Sol's grandfather's bakery store was on the Reymonta, which is now occupied by two stores. It was impossible to locate with any certainty, despite determined efforts, the homes of our grandparents Yitzhak and Esther-Breindel Goldberg and of our aunt and uncle Blima-Devorah Zoberman, as street names have been changed. The fault for not finding our grandparents' home was that we were looking for 3 Dobrszycka Street on the wrong side of the railway station. 

We then proceeded to the Jewish Cemetery on the Przedborz Road where we indeed felt the ghosts of our mishpakhah. We lit memorial candles at the Ohel (mausoleum) of the Radomsko Rebbe. Sol's Grandmother Ruda is buried close to the Rebbe's Ohel, but a cursory look around was unsuccessful in finding it. A Hassid of the Rebbe cleaned the area around the Rebbe's grave, but the rest of the cemetery is in deplorable condition, overgrown with high grasses and hard to plough through. Sol is determined to do something about having the cemetery cleaned up and towards that end has been in touch with Rabbi Besser who is with the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation which supports the maintenance of Jewish Cemeteries in Eastern Europe. Sol has also suggested to Gloria Berkenstat Freund, Chairperson of the Radomsko Shtetl Committee on the Internet, that we try to raise private funds ourselves. Gloria thought it was a good idea and that we plan a trip to Radomsko to rededicate the cemetery after it is cleaned up. At the Hotel Zamachek where Sol and Davis stayed, they were told by the owner Andrejz that he could hire men to clean up the cemetery at a cost of 800 Zlotys (US$200) per man for a month. We feel that $2,000 would be a good starting point. Incidentally, there are about 2,000 graves in the cemetery which is surrounded by a high stonewall, which Rabbi Besser told me was repaired with funds provided by The Lauder Foundation.

It was now rather late in the afternoon and we still hadn't eaten since an early breakfast. The two or three restaurants in town were packed with families celebrating communions of their children which is the custom here in May, and we aware unable to get food anywhere this being Sunday and the stores were closed. We then made a decision to check out of the Europa and head for our next destination, Krakow, a distance of 200 kilometers, and hoping to revisit Radomsko on the way back. So, driven by hunger, we reclaimed our suitcases and hit the road. We stopped at a roadside McDonalds outside of Czestochowa for a burger, fries, and a
coke.

Monday, May 24

Arrival in Krakow

We arrived in Krakow and checked into the "Cracovia Hotel" After getting settled, we headed for the Stary Miasto, or market square, in the old town, a ten minute walk from our hotel. We had a good meal at the Hawalka, a 150 year old restaurant which was nicely decorated. We did a short tour of the square which was jammed with young people and tourists and returned to the hotel.

After breakfast we walked to the old town again and went through the market where we made several souvenir purchases at some of the dozens of stalls there. They were mostly selling amber jeweler, decorated boxes and polish artifacts. We then took a taxi to the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz, named for a King who allowed Jews to participate in commerce and live in
Krakow proper. Jews had lived here from the latter part of the 15th century until their annihilation in the Holocaust. We toured the entire quarter for a couple of hours and had lunch at a psuedo Jewish restaurant, Ariel, which featured Carp a la Juif, which actually was very good.

We visited the remnants of five synagogues and spent a great deal of time in the Isaaca Synagogue which has been turned in to a museum and exhibition hall. A documentary was being shown of the Krakow Jewish community before the war. It was truly bustling with active commercial, cultural and religious life. There was also a photographic exhibition of life in the
ghetto during the war.

In the evening we returned to the old market square in Krakow and again ate at the Hawalka. We enjoyed a long walk back to our hotel having lost our way for over 1/2 an hour. Krakow is a very attractive city, especially the Baroque parts built during the reign of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. We were unable to establish how many Jews there are in Krakow today, but they can't number more than a few hundred.

Tuesday, May 25, 1999

From Krakow to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Radomsko

We left Krakow early after breakfast and drove to the concentration camp through lovely countryside and arrived in Auschwitz mid-morning. We spent several hours there and lit candles in the crematoria and said Kaddish. There is nothing we can add to what is already known. It would be superfluous. This was Sol's third visit to Auschwitz. We then drove back to Radomsko where we were fortunate to find accommodations at the only decent Hotel in town, a charming rural type of Inn set amidst a small forest. It could easily be mistaken for a New England bed and breakfast. The hotel is called Zamachek which we mentioned earlier. There is an excellent and reasonable restaurant on the premises and enjoyed borscht, potato latkes (placzki, which we could not find anywhere else in Poland), excellent schmaltz herring with diced onions in oil, vodka and beer and finished with dessert crepes and good coffee. We deserved a good meal
and it was nice to have found it in Radomsko. The owner, Andrejz was so glad to know that Sol was born in the town that he presented us with two bottles of Vodka that were crated and handsomely hand painted and surely cost more than what we paid for the meal or even the room.

Wednesday, May 26

From Radomsko to Kamiensk, Pajeczno, and Lodz

After breakfast we toured the town looking for family homes and returning to 12 Krakowska Street where Sol was born. We drove up and down streets that Sol remembered his mother talking about: Reymonta, Aleja, Stodolna Gasse, etc. We then spent the rest of the morning at the Radomsko Regional Museum. The exhibits dated from prehistoric to the present. We were escorted around the Museum as if we were dignitaries when they found out I was a native. In a small room devoted to photos and artifacts of the pre war Jewish Community we saw a poster sized picture of the Jewish Community Council of seven men and to our surprise it included our uncle Noah Zoberman who was married to our aunt Blima-Devorah, the eldest of the Goldberg siblings. Sol had previously seen the picture in the Radomsko Yizkor Book.

Herewith is a little family history. Our grandfather, Yitzhak Goldberg, was born in Kamiensk, 16 kilometers from Radomsko. Our grandmother, Esther-Breindel nee Rosenzweig, was born in Radoszyce close to Kamiensk. They lived in Kamiensk where their first five children were born: Blima-Devorah in 1886, Shaya in 1888, Toba in 1891, Sabina in 1893, and Leibish in 1895.

When Sol's father Leibish was 3 weeks old, the family moved to Lodz where the next 4 children were born: Reuven, Adele, Shimon, and Chayele. Sol's maternal grandfather, Chaim Bornstein, was born in Przedborz and his grandmother, Ruda Koziwoda, was born in Pajeczno. They lived in Radomsko, where Chaim owned a very successful bakery, and where all their children were born, here in chronological order and their subsequent place of residence: Julius in California,  Sol in New Jersey, Adolph in Brooklyn, Frymcia in Canada, Kitty in Long Island, Millie in Brooklyn, Shirley in Florida, and Gina in Manhattan. Hendel never left Radomsko and perished in the Holocaust. Sol obtained birth certificates at the Radomsko City Hall for himself and his two sisters Ruth and Rita, a nice souvenir.

We bid adieu to Radomsko and drove north about 16 kilometers to Kamiensk, where we spent hours exploring the lovely shtetl which was but a hamlet in our grandparents time. As already noted above, our roots on the Goldberg side are here. We visited the City Hall where we were graciously received by the town's engineer, who presented each of us with a descriptive brochure of the town. We enquired where the Jewish cemetery was and to our consternation we were told that a playground and soccer field now cover the ground of the former Jewish cemetery which was completely destroyed by the Nazis. We visited a Shenk (Bar) and drank a toast to our family with Vodka. From Kamiensk we drove through exceedingly beautiful country, pastoral fields with spring flowers, for about 30 kilometers to Pajeczno where Sol's maternal grandmother, Ruda Koziwoda, was born and where for generation the Koziwodas lived, worked, and prayed. We found the site of the town's synagogue which alas is now the cinema. We met an elderly couple who lived across from the shul and they described to us the boundaries of the Ghetto as established by the German Army. They told us the cemetery was behind the church. We drove over there only to find a playing field. Just as in Kamiensk, not a grave or a marker remains. 

From Pajeczno we headed back north to Lodz. To our dismay, we could not obtain accommodations at the Grand Hotel, where we had previously stayed because it was booked solid for a ballet festival. On a stroll near the hotel, we chanced upon a photographic exhibition under the patronage of the British Ambassador, whom we met together with the British Consul in Warsaw. The Ambassador told us that a fortnight earlier he had escorted the wife of London's Lord Mayor back to her shtetl. To our great discomfort we could only get a room in an old hotel, which spoiled our stay in Lodz, and we decided to leave the next morning. However, in the evening we took a tour in a bicycle powered "rickshaw" and then had dinner again at the nice Esplanada Restaurant.

Thursday, May 27

From Lodz to Warsaw

Early in the morning we took a spin around Lodz again visiting the family's former residences before leaving for Warsaw where we arrived after a three-hour drive. We again checked into the Forum Hotel, which we found to our liking, especially because it is so centrally located. In the evening we went back and wandered around the old town and had a nice dinner at a restaurant facing the square. After dinner we went back again to the Yiddish Theatre where we saw a melodrama Yoshka Musicant, by the late great Ida Kaminska. We did not enjoy it as much as Chagall. We met a tour group of Jews from Florida and enjoyed talking to them. Also sitting next to us was another couple from Florida not connected to the tour group. During intermission, the man told us that he was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and began crying, as did the others, when he recounted how he suffered at the hands of the Germans. After the theatre we turned in early for the long drive the next morning to Treblinka.

Friday, May 28

Treblinka

The drive from Warsaw to Treblinka took close to three hours, over some rather sub-standard roads, but through beautiful scenery. We imagined our relatives traveling the same way en route to the ovens. Treblinka is miles away from populated centers. At the camp there is no realistic trace of the atrocities that took place there. There are literally hundreds of commemorative gravestones, each bearing the name of Jewish populated cities, towns, and shtetls whose Jews were annihilated by the Nazis. We, of course, searched for those connected to our families and found and photographed gravestones with the names of Lodz, Radomsko, Kamiensk, Pajeczno, Radoszyce, and others. We presume most of our family perished in Treblinka. Interestingly, the only other people there were five Polish gentiles who lit candles at the main monument. The return trip to Warsaw was a sad and silent ride. When we got back we turned in the car to Hertz and retired early as we had to leave the Hotel for the Airport at 6 a.m.

Friday, May 29

Departure from Warsaw and Conclusion

We arrived at the Airport at 6.30 a.m. Sol went back to Madrid to again see his son, daughter in law and his two grandsons, Daniel and Sergio. David left for the return trip to Tel-Aviv. 

Some additional notes: We were blessed with perfect weather throughout our stay. The days with temperatures of 22-25c ((75-80f) and pleasant evenings. Not a drop of rain during our stay. We enjoyed the car which was comfortable and safe. We had one unpleasant incident. We stopped for a drink at a service station between Kattowitz and Radomsko. when we tried to start the car it was stalled. The station phoned a company called S.O.S., aptly named, who had to tow us 20 miles to the Renault dealer in Kattowitz where the problem was solved in 2 minutes. Cost for towing 200 zlotys, about $50.

(SF NOTE: Revise this part)

Observations:-
1. Poland is a huge Jewish Graveyard
2.Anti-Semitism is pervasive, even without Jews. As yitzhak Shamir said
"They suck it in with their Mother's Milk".
3.Poland is covered with anti-semitic grafitti and on a wall in the jewish
quarter in Krakow, Kazimierz, we saw a wall plastered with writing "Zydz
Kurwa", Jewish Whores! No Comment needed
4.Our visit was interesting, educational, stimulating and permeated with a
non-dismissive deep sense of sadness at times a dreadful feeling of
helplessness.


Comments and Queries are welcome and appreciated.
SSG25@SPRINT.CA

 

 

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