February 16, 2009

Church Encounter Post Occupation

The Neuman building is around five hundred meters from the Catholic Church of Radziejow. My father never set foot in this church until near the end of World War II. As the story goes, one Jew that once did business with the Church, a roofer, fell off it after being hired to repair the church. He ended up deaf as a result of the fall. The Church was considered a place where Jews kept their distance.

My father up to the end of World War II spent his entire life in Radziejow save his early school years. The law in Poland required that my father attend public school. The problem was that when he was ready to enter the public school he was very frail The gentile children in Radziejow made sport of the Jewish children. These poor children had to endure the constant physical assaults by these polish ruffians. Since my father was too small he went to live with his sister Rivka in a nearby, more civilized, town. For two years he attended school there until he “filled out” a bit so he could fight back. From then on he spent all his days in Radziejow.

Once the Russians drove the Germans from Radziejow, about a dozen surviving Jews of Radziejow returned. They lived in my Father’s building. One day these survivors came across a tank that was in a field just outside Radziejow. Inside the tank was a dead Russian soldier. The Jews did not know what to do with the body. Should they bury the poor soul?

They decided that he was a christian and therefore his body should be turned over to the church. Thus, my father entered the church for the first time in his life. This is the same church that was used by the Germans to gather the Jews after they liquidated the Jewish Ghetto of Radziejow. This was the same church that the trucks picked up those Jews from the church to be gassed at Chelmo.

But, my father, wanted to honor this soldier that gave his life so my father and his fellow Jews and my father’s fellow Polish citizens could live! He sat in the pew for the service. And then attended the burial.

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