Skępe, Poland

Other Names:  Skepe, Skempe (Russian, German) Schemmensee (German, 1942-45)

Location:  52º52 N 19º21' E             131 km WNW of Warszawa                 26 miles NNW of Płock            Nearby cities:  Lipno, Sierpc

Skępe Today

A Personal Journey to Skępe
Spring, 2014

Getting there:

About four years ago, thanks to our persistent interest in genealogy, I discovered exactly where my paternal grandmother was born and raised before emigrating to the United States when she was about 16 years old.  Until that time, I only knew that my grandmother, Mollie Zamoskiewicz Fleishman, was from Poland.  She had a thick accent, lived behind her dry goods store in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn and made a traditional Shabbat dinner each Friday, whether or not there was company there to join her.  I knew her sister, Tante Lilly because our family would visit her occasionally in her Asbury Park, NJ home.  When I was a child, I met her sister Tante Rywke who visited once from Israel, but we could not even speak to one another.  My grandmother never told me anything about her life.  She promised that one day she would, but sadly, that day never came.  She left it for us to discover.

Since that time, we have been meeting relatives and sharing their stories and photos of the family.  Some of mSlawek and Zanetay cousins once lived in Skępe, as well, and were willing to share their memories with us.  We read the transcripts of the Holocaust Survivors’ Testimonies at Yad Vashem.  We contacted other people with a research interest in Skępe and in many cases we learned that we shared family members!  None of this, however, was done from Poland.  Our travel was across the U.S., to Canada and to Israel, meeting the sons, daughters and grandchildren of Skępe.

Thanks to a generous gift from our sons, it was now time for us to travel to Poland to see for ourselves that which we had been hearing and reading. Prior to heading to Skępe, we made the wise decision of hiring a translator.  Without a doubt, experiencing Skępe with Sławek and his assistant—his wife, Żaneta, enhanced our trip exponentially!  Even before the official job began, they met us at our hotel in Lipno on Sunday afternoon and, we spent the day on a walking and driving tour of the area.  Żaneta had worked in Skępe and had contacted friends about sites of particular interest to us, as the Jewish cemetery.   Nobody she asked could tell her anything about a Jewish cemetery in Skępe.                                                                                              

Outside Skepe
Plaque on
The environs of Skępe
This plaque was seen by the side of the road by the woods, Karnkowski Wood, between Lipno and Skępe.  Although Poles and Jews were taken here and killed the plaque reads:  Sanctified by the blood of Poles who were murdered in Lipno in 1939-1945
ul Sierpecka
This photo was taken on the road just outside of Skępe.  If you follow this road into town, you will be on the street where my cousins once lived. On the country roads leading into and out of Skępe, nesting storks were seen, sitting in the springtime sun.

An overview: sights from a walk around town; our introduction


St. Bernardine Monastery dominated the skyline approaching Skępe

Photo Courtesy of Roberta Fleishman
Statue of a goat found in the center of the square, known as the Rynek

"This statue of a goat sits on what appeared to us to be on the original base.  My mother had told me that there had been  a sculpture of Mary in the town square which apparently had been replaced by a goat."

Photo and commentary courtesy of Elyse Smith

Town Sign
old place

Our visit begins:

Our day proved to be an emotional roller coaster.  First we went to the town hall which houses offices for records, the library, and anything municipal you might want.  The library was out of frontier America.  The number of books probably would not equal those found in most grade schools; it was tiny!  It did, however, have three computers.  When asked about material about the Jews of Skępe,  the librarian told us there was nothing on Jews.  While she doubted there was anything, she did promise to look.  That was the first indication that it seemed like no one wanted to acknowledge the idea that Jews had once been there… that my family was once part of the community.  It felt like someone hit me in the stomach, leaving a sick and empty feeling.  Town hall
We then tried the records.  Jews.  There is nothing here.  Knowing the names are not enough.  They are not kept alphabetically.  If we know the exact day, month and year, then maybe they can help us.   But an interesting thing happened.  It is here that Mike gave Żaneta the moniker, Steamroller. As we went to each door she asked Sławek and us to wait outside.  She would go in and even when she returned empty handed she had a look of determination that she was not going to give up.  It finally ended when we re-visited the library, and the librarian (no doubt not wanting to disappoint Żaneta) found two pages in a book.  Looking at the book, the first name that jumped out at us was Avraham Cudkiewicz!  Then the picture of the Rabbi. Then Gutman (my relatives) and Goldman... and other names that we recognized from our research for the Kehilalinks. Żaneta wanted a copy made for us, asked for the address of the author of book, and our day (AND ENTIRE TRIP CHANGED).
We walked over to the home of the author, Zyta Wegner.  She is known as the unofficial historian of the Jews of Skępe.  She and her husband Bernard were very excited to meet us and had a warm welcome complete with homemade cookies and a nice hot cup of tea!  Zyta was born and raised in Skępe and still lives at 3 Sierpecka.  She remembered when Naomi Podrygal returned to Skępe after the war.  She was one of the lucky ones to have survived Auschwitz and came to her mother's house.  Naomi was their next door neighbor and could not believe her parents and 9 siblings were all murdered.  That experience transformed Zyta's interest and appreciation for her family's Jewish neighbors which continues  even today.  We cried as she recounted the story.

A cup of tea with the WegnersAs it turns out, Zyta has a sister, who at 91 years of age, living in Bydgoszcz, with a memory like a steel trap, knew many members of our family.  Within 15 minutes of our visit we were on the phone with her.  We all agreed to be in touch again!
We were representatives of the 5th family to visit the Wegners over the years. Bernard whole- heartedly supports his wife's efforts.  In fact, they shared some instances where he also worked on behalf of the former Jewish neighbors.  As we sat sharing stories, he shocked us all when we asked about a farmer named Pruskiewicz from a very small nearby village named Bogzaplac.
My cousin Faye had described how this farmer had saved her and her mother's life late in the war.  Faye could only remember that his name sounded like Puskewicz.  Mike promised he would try to hunt any records down about this man.  (He had been unsuccessful until we were getting ready to come to Poland.) One day looking over a zoomed-in version of a map of Skępe, he noticed a builder in town by the name of Pruskiewicz.  It was so close that he felt it was more than a coincidence and when we talked to our translator about jobs we wanted him to do, calling this Pruskiewicz was one of them.  So when the name Pruskiewicz was mentioned and we started to tell the story Faye shared, Bernard took over and told the same story as Faye and more!!  Who would have believed it!
We all agreed to meet again the next day at the Wegner home for a last visit in my grandmother’s town.  Pan Wegner, knowing that we would never be able to find the Jewish Cemetery, led us to the site.  He was right.    Even if we were somehow able to navigate to the location, there would have been no way to even know we were there.  It was a heartbreaking visit.  While the cemetery was destroyed during the war, and the headstones were taken by Skępe Poles, there was nothing to indicate that there was once a cemetery on this ground.  In fact, Sławek told us that young Poles had no idea and used the area for camping. How could they have known?  There was not a sign, a stone, a twig or rock to even indicate that this was once sanctified space.  That this was the place that my great grandparents, my aunts and uncles and my cousins are buried.  The only remnant left of what was once 7 acres of the Jewish Cemetery was the foundation for a very small building. We have since learned that this was an ohel for the burial of an important person, as the rabbi.

We said Kaddish, placed 4 stones - 2 from each of us, a stone from all members of the Zamoskiewicz and Gutman families - for all the relatives buried in the unmarked graves on these two ridges of a hill.

An Ohel

A heartbreaking visit to the Jewish Cemetery of Skępe.

Not a sign, not a stone, a twig or a rock remains to show that this is sacred ground.
The oldest part of the cemetery
Path by
Path along the lake by the cemetery

We were told that we would never find the cemetery without help.

Now we can understand why.
Steps made from the headstones in the Jewish cemetery were once used to connect this house and the lake.

Thanks to Bernard Wegner, we were able to find the Jewish Cemetery in Skępe.  He not only brought us to the site, but explained about the different parts... how when the oldest part was filled, they moved over to the next hill.  He pointed out how the home on the hill used the headstones from the Jewish cemetery for steps between the house and the lake.  They were recently removed.... to who knows where.
As we returned from the home with the "steps," he reminded me that my ancestors (grandmother, great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) walked along the same path.  They could have also gotten fish from the lake for their food

History on poster
City Hall
History of the town as painted by Zyta Wegner, found on posters throughout the square
On the City Hall in Skępe:
Recovery of civic rights
on January 1, 1997

An introduction to Skępe's mayor,  ......with Sławek and Mike
Banner in the conference room in City Hall
With Zyta in City hall
Zyta and Bobbie in City Hall with items rescued from attics and basements by Zyta.

Rynek-house 1
Rynek-house 2
Pozmanter house

This grey building, taken from Skępe’s square and looking down ul. Sierpecka, was owned by Szlama and Rywka Pozmanter,.  The Cudkiewicz family lived in and ran a fabric store in the front section facing Rynek (square).  The Pozmanters lived in the rear part of the building facing Sierpecka.


Many of the Jews of Skępe lived and worked in buildings around the Rynek.  As we looked around, we wondered in which buildings my family lived and worked.  Rynek-house

Strykowski Home


Photos by Roberta Fleishman and Michael Smith


Rynek-view 2

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A Personal Journey
November, 2013

Elyse Smith, a daughter and granddaughter of Skępe, visited in November of 2013.
She is a descendant of the Adler and Cudkiewicz families.

Elyse w
                            Bernard and Zyta
After a delicious meal of fish, bread, and cake we visit with Zyta (next to me) and Bernard Wegner (kneeling), our gracious hosts.  Anna and Victor (our friends and translators from Warsaw) joined me as well.  The Wegners were so very hospitable.  We had met them only a short time before, as she was referred to us as Skępe's self-appointed historian.
Zyta and Bernard shared volumes of stories with us about the town, my grandparents’ and great grandparents’ homes, the Adler bakery, and other relatives.

Apparently, we were their second visitor.  Some years ago, Naomi Wasserman, a native of Skępe, who turned out to be my cousin, was the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust and then settled in Israel.


The Adler Home

"The wooden home is boarded up now.  It is a very unique home in Skępe; it appears to have two rear additions.  It also seemed to be the only "connected " house in town."

Elyse-house, back

The Adler Home from the Back

The photos from the back seem to show the addition

Elyse--back 2


The Adler Bakery

"This was exactly the way my mother described her grandfather's bakery on the main square in Skępe.  She told me stories how she and her brother would always go in and grandpa would give them gobs of raw batter to eat!"  Elyse stands in front of her grandfather's bakery.

Photos and commentary courtesy of Elyse Smith

Following our visit to Skępe....

Our Visit Uncovered An Unexpected Connection Between
Skępe and Montevideo, Uruguay
by Michael Smith

We were at the end of our trip to Poland and staying at the Marriott next to the Chopin International Airport in Warsaw.  Scanning recent news we noticed an article about the Jewish Cemetery in Dobrzyn nad Wisła - a small town not far from Skępe.  The story detailed how bones from Jewish graves were being uncovered as a result of the rising Wisła River.

When we returned to Wisconsin Mike revisited the news on Dobrzyn nad Wisła on Google and found a Memorial page by Julian Preisler (a contributor to this web page).  While reading Julian’s ‘Memorial’ we realized that the two Goldman brothers in Skępe had originated in Dobrzyn nad Wisła and another brother had emigrated to Uruguay before the war.

It wasn’t long before we had an ‘Aha’ moment and saw a possible connection between our five family members who left Europe for Uruguay after the war and Isaac and Sarah Goldman of Montevideo.  Here’s the story.

Aunt Rywka wanted to leave Europe and sent letters to her siblings living in the United States and to her older brother Motyl, who had moved to Uruguay.  Since Motyl was the first to respond, as the story goes, Uruguay became her destination.  When Rywka, her two daughters, and her sister Chava’s two children arrived in the Port of Montevideo, they were met by Isaac Goldman (a good friend of Motyl), who took them to Motyl’s home.  The plan had been to live with Motyl, but it soon became clear that his wife was not happy with the arrangement.  Within a short time, Aunt Rywka moved herself and the four children in with the Goldman family.  (Avraham Shavit’s Memoir, “Piles of Pine Needles” found on this website, presents the full story and generosity of the Goldman family).

The question:  could the Goldman’s of Montevideo be the great aunt and uncle that Julian Preisler writes about on his Memorial page to Dobrzyn nad Wisła?  Turns out, they were the same family!  65 years later a surprise connection is found.

Avraham, Fela, Faye, Rywka and Sara with Sarah and Isaac Goldman and family in a photo in Uruguay from 1950
Back of

Photo courtesy of Shavit Family album

Memories Make our Eyes Brimming with Tears


Translated from the Polish by Sławomir Witkowski
Edited by Michael Smith
To read, click here


Compiled by Roberta Fleishman and Mike Smith
Copyright © 2013 Roberta Ann Fleishman

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