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April 21, 1978 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-04-21

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Polish Jewish Remnant Disappearing

pots. On the site on which categories: the handful of
the German commanders Jews who live in a world
barrack used to stand, a of their. own, unchanged
(Editor's note: Edwin
Eytan, the Jewish Tele- transport cooperative has from the old days, and the
been built which proudly rest. In WA-Raw, the old
graphic Agency's Euro-
pean Bureau Chief, vis- displays a large poster "The "faithful" are about 200,
ited Poland recently.
P.K.S. Cooperative is a top mainly elderly, sick and
working concern building poor.
This is the last in a series
Most of them would like
the road to Socialism."
of features about Polish
A little lower, on the wall, to go to Israel, but are afraid
Jewry today.)
lose their pensions, their
a modest plaque has been
Mila 18 is no more. A gar-
den with red and yellow affixed recalling the endless old, usually derelict flats
flowers has replaced the crowd which assembled and the free medical treat-
here day after day to go to ment.
burned-out house which
There are less than half a
its death. The railway
served as the headquarters
of the Warsaw Ghetto fight- tracks on which the Treb- dozen children brought up
linka and Auschwitz "ex- traditionally and only two
Thirty-three years after press" used to run are still of these study with Szapiro
whose Talmud Torah, in a
in the ground.
the war, Poland has become
At the corner of Stayski basement room of the Vad
"Juden Rein.:' There are
and Zamenhoff, the end bit Hakehila building, isa desk
practically no Jews left in
of which is called Dubois of wooden planks nailed to-
what was, before the war,
after a pre-war Polish gether.
the world's largest Jewish
community, the cradle of Socialist leader, now stands
The last brit mila took
the modern building of Po- place in 1975 and was car-
Jewish culture, poetry and
land's largest weekly ried out by a visiting
Of the 3.5 million Jews "Politika" which had been American rabbi. The pa-
ruthlessly anti-Israel and rents insisted that their
who lived in Poland before
anti-Semitic during the end names be kept secret.
the war, most died in Au-
schwitz, Treblinka and of the Gomulka period in
A number of months
Maidanek. A handful of
ago, the president of the
Six of its staff members Vad Hakehilot, Moshe
survivors, 6-12,000 accord-
including editors Daniel Finkelstein, himself mar-
ing to various estimates, are
Passent and Djuri Urban ried to a Pole, received a
left in Poland.
are reputed to be Jews. request for a mohel from
It is difficult to find
My guide, an old former the small city of Legnitza.
even the trade of those
ghetto inhabitant shrugs There is none available.
who lived here less than a
his shoulders. "Jews, "They will have to wait
generation ago. Their
however, who have never for some visitors from the
houses have been burned
seen the ghetto or its West."
and razed, their books
traces. When the ghetto
and libraries have disap-
In Poland today, there is
existed they were too not a single rabbi, a mohel
peared, the yeshivot have
young to remember. Now N
been turned into public
they cross its streets too
institutions. Even the
fast in their black official
tombs in Warsaw's
limousines. If you really
Jewish cemetery, the
want to see Warsaw's last
world's largest, have dis-
remaining Jews, you
appeared, submerged by
must go to the
the wild grass and a
forest of trees which have
invaded the alleys. The
A small alley with an
cemetery guard calls it "a earth-beaten path behind
the building of Vad
The old Poland with its
Hakehila; a derelict old
miraculous rabbis and vag-
building with broken win-
abonds, the shtetls and
dows and half tottering
ghettos, has vanished as if it
walls, the synagogue, half
had never existed. About
hidden from view, is in bad a
2,000 Poles now live where
shape as its surroundings.
half a million Jews lived in
Some of the windows are
an area of one square
covered with wooden
kilometer 35 years ago.
boards. The main steps are
At the corner of Mila St.
broken, the walls are damp
and Zamenhoff, two young
and eroded. Inside, some of
boys sit on the steps of the
Warsaw's last remaining
monument marking Mor-
Jews are gathered. They
dechai Annilevitz's bunker,
number 34 to sing "Yaasse
doing their homework "to
Shalom," 34 old, sick and
get it over faster." Only a
tired people: Yossele, the
handful in the crowd know
former engineer who cannot
the Warsaw Ghetto revolt
go to Israel because his only
took place here.
daughter is married to a
Mila St., of which the poet
Pole; Mendele, the money
Bronewski once wrote,
changer who is married to a
"Mila is not nice — it is the
Polish woman and
ugliest street in the world,"
moreover makes a good liv-
has lost its ugliness and
ing; Haimke, in his leather
charm. It is now bordered by
jacket and leather cap who
small, rather elegant
is afraid to lose his 3,000
houses with front gardens
zlotis (about 900 Pounds)
and garages, a comfortable
pension and have to start
middle class suburb.
from scratch.
Nalevski St., once
In the front row, just be-
teeming with peddlers
fore the Aron Hakodesh
and street vendors, -is
stands Reb Moishe Szapiro,
now lined with new
beautiful in his white talit
apartment buildings. A
and black silken suit. Reb
hundred meters away to
Szapiro is Warsaw's
the west, Karmelika St.,
shohet but also the
where the ghetto "Jewish
melamed, the unofficial
tram" used to run stands
rehbe and occasionally the
silent and deserted.
hazan. For Rosh Hashana
Only Stayski Square, the
and Yom Kippur he does not
former Umschlagplatz into
lead the prayers. On these
which hundreds of
occasions, a professional
thousands of Jews were
cantor is brought from ab-
herded to he deported, re-
tains its sinister aspect. It is
The - Jews in Poland
lined with factories and de-
today fall into two

(Copyright 1978, JTA, Inc.)

or professional hazan.
Of the 1,300-2,000 Jews
estimated to be left in War-
saw, 80 percent belong to
the "realists," Jews who
want to preserve their
Jewish culture and tradi-
tions while inserting them-
selves into the Socialist soc-
iety and cooperating with
the Communist regime.
The editor of the Jewish
Yiddish weekly
"Folkstimme," Schmiel
Tenneblatt, explains. "I be-
lieve in both Communism
"nd Jewish culture. I try to
promote both concepts."
The "Kulturverband"
does not lack money. It
operates with a budget of
some 5 million zlotis
(over 1.5 million Pounds),
part of it supplied by the
government, part of it by
the Jewish cooperatives
set up with the help of the
Joint Distribution Com-
mittee, donations, which
continue to pay to it 25
percent of their profits.
It is housed in a modern,
even luxurious building in
the heart of Warsaw, also
built by the JDC in the days
in which it could freely op-
erate in Poland.
The "Kulturverband" op-
erates 17 Jewish clubs in
provincial towns. These are
mainly meeting places.

Friday, April 21, 1918 21

A Happy And Healthy


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