Lichtensztajn Izrael (1904, Radzyń Podlaski - 18/19 April 1943, Warsaw) - teacher, writer, co-founder of the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto
He was born in 1904 in Radzyń Podlaski. He came from the family of the merchant Jankiel and Dwojra, he had three siblings - sister Jente and brothers Szlomo and Berl.
In the 1920s, he attended the Jewish Teachers' College in Vilnius (Polish: Żydowskie Seminarium Nauczycielskie w Wilnie), where he prepared to work in Jewish secular schools teaching in Yiddish. At the same time, he was involved in political activities: initially he joined Hashomer Hatzair, and then joined Poale Zion Left (Polish: Poale Syjon Lewica).
In 1931 he obtained teaching qualifications, and in 1932 he moved to Warsaw, where he took the position of the secretary of the editorial office of Literarisze Bleter and the head of the primary school named after Ber Borochov - the hero of Poale Syjon Lewica, at 68 Nowolipki Street.
In 1937, he wrote to his brother - Szlomo:
“I have a girlfriend with whom I would like to be. She also works, she is an artist painter, a very intelligent and kind girl" [[ref.: I. Lichtensztajn's letter of 12 November 1937 to Szlomo and Noemi Lichtensztajn, collection of Ruth Lahav. Quote based on the Ringelblum Archive. Volume 4. The life and work of Gela Seksztajn, ed. M. Tarnowska, Warsaw 2011, p. XXV.]]
The girl Israel wrote about was Gela Seksztajn - a painter and drawing teacher. In 1938, Izrael and Gela got married, and on 4 November 1940, their daughter Margolit was born. A dozen or so days later, the Germans locked up the Warsaw ghetto.
In the ghetto, Israel continued his work at the Borochov school. In addition to efforts to ensure the highest possible level of education at school, he supervised the printing of illegal newspapers. He allowed the organization of meetings of members of Poalej Syjon. There was also a kitchen for children in the school.
During his activity in the party, Lichtensztajn met Emanuel Ringelblum. They both collaborated in the Jewish Social Self-Help (Polish: Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna), the executive committee of the Yiddish cultural organization Ikor, and in the organization of the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto. Israel was one of Ringelblum's most trusted associates. From the beginning of the Archive's creation, only the two and two secretaries of the Archive knew about the place where it was hidden.
In August 1942, shortly after the commencement of the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, Izrael Lichtensztajn, with the help of his two former students: Dawid Graber and Nachum Grzywacz, hid part of the ghetto archive in the school's basement at 68 Nowolipki Street.
In the buried milk cans, in addition to documents describing life in the Warsaw ghetto, Lichtensztajn also placed his and his wife's wills. "I want my wife Gela Seksztajn to be mentioned, she is a talented painter, whose dozens of works have not been exhibited, have not seen the light of day," he wrote in his last will.
However, neither Izrael Lichtensztajn nor his family died during the great liquidation action. In February 1943, Israel hid another part of the Ringelblum Archive at the Borochov school. He devoted the following weeks to organizing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Among other things, he was involved in collecting funds for the needs of the Jewish Combat Organization.
He probably died on the night of 18-19 April 1943. At the same time, his wife and daughter were murdered.
- Archiwum Ringelbluma. Tom 4. Życie i twórczość Geli Seksztajn, ed. M. Tarnowska, Warsaw 2011;
- Batorski P., Strażnik Archiwum, nauczyciel, literat. Izrael Lichtensztajn, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny [online] https://www.jhi.pl/artykuly/straznik-archiwum-nauczyciel-literat-izrael-lichtensztajn,5170#_ftnref14 [access: 29.03.2022];
- Kassow S.D., Kto napisze naszą historię? Ukryte Archiwum Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw 2018.