Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

Interviewee name: Jochewet Flumenker nee Fraid/Frajd, b. 12.5.1919 in Zamość.

Interview subject: Frajd family, Zigelsziper family, life in Lublin

Interview date: April 2008

 

Jochewet (Jochwetka) Flumenker nee Frajd was born on 12.5.1919 in Zamosc [Zamość]. In 1919 the family moved to Lublin, where Jochewet grew up until WW2.

The family lived in a Jewish neighborhood until 1933 at 6 Kowalska Street; then they moved to a bigger house, a four room apartment at 18 Bernardiska [Bernardyńska]. It was a nice building in a Polish neighborhood but all the tenants in the building were Jews.

The family was religious, more so on the father's side, but far from being extreme. Although Jochewet's father was a member of the Mizrachi Zionist religious party, he never spoke about immigration to Palestine at home.

Family life

At home, they spoke Yiddish and Polish. The family's financial situation was good. 

“The 'Shabbat' (Saturday) was like a holyday: My father used to come back home from Synagogue, I think he prayed in the Synagogue at 40 Shiroka Street [ulica Szeroka], where the Chief Rabbi was Harav Eiguer [Abraham? Eiger], who belonged to a family of well known Rabbis in Lublin. We used to sit down around the table to eat dinner. I remember the food we ate: staffed fish, chopped liver, chicken soup with rice and sometimes 'tchulent', then meat with groats and desert made of dried fruit.

People used to say that: "If after such a meal you go to sleep, when you wake-up you feel like you have resuscitated". In those times people were not on a diet. Food was considered better when it was full of fat. We didn't know anything about cholesterol or Weight-watchers then.

The religious families used to sing holiday songs and take a nap after dinner, but the liberal families like ours, used to travel on Saturday and arrange picnics. On every holiday we used to say one to another: 'The next year - in Jerusalem'. This was our prayer.

As far as I remember, in our Synagogue we used to commemorate all the national Polish holidays. The Rabbi used to hold a speech in a fluent Polish language, praising the President. In one of the school-trips we went to visit the famous 'Yeshiva of the wise men of Lublin'. We entered a room entirely covered with gold color, like a temple. Youngsters were sitting with their heads bent over some books. They were learning, completely disconnected from the outside world. The religious Jews believed that the salvation of the Israeli people would come after the Messiah would arrive, so in Lublin all were waiting for the Messiah to come"

Jochewet was a member of Hanoar HaZioni, a Zionist youth movement from the age of 12 and thanks to her Hebrew and Jewish history teachers, she never stopped thinking about immigration to Palestine.

“From a young age I was raised in view of the Zionist ideology, looking forward to settle down in the land of Israel (then Palestine). At the age of 12, I was already active in the 'Hanoar Hatzioni' movement, which belonged to the 'General Zionist' party. My dream was always to live in Palestine. I remember that in 1934, when my father bought a house on Sklodowska Street, I started a hunger strike. I didn't eat for 2 days as a protest against my father's decision not to buy a property in Palestine. I told him that after my graduation I would leave Poland and move to Palestine. That had been always my dream. I recall that my mother interfered in our discussion saying: "What? I will have a daughter only on paper?" (meaning that we will be in touch only by correspondence).

Jochewet went to elementary school and then to high school at the Gymnasium Humanistyczne, a Polish school where all the pupils were Jews [Co-educational Humanistic Highschool of the Society for Establishing Jewish Schools at 3 Niecała Street]. She had her A level qualification in 1938. She remembers that from time to time, a Polish inspector was sent to examine the pupils, instead of the Gymnasium's teachers.

A very rare phenomenon within the Gymnasium was the communist youth movement, with a large number of members among the pupils. They used to distribute flyers and pamphlets very discretely. The young Jewish communists were the instigators of repeated incidents, every year on November 11 and May 3, Independence Day and Constitution Day. Those were the two Polish National Days. The Poles used to go to church and the Jews went to the synagogue. When the Rabbi made speeches praising Poland and its authorities, the young communists would set a dove free with a red handkerchief in its mouth. 

Jochewet had only Jewish friends, but she remembers going to mixed parties, Jews and Catholics, without her parent's permission, and she always refused many "proposals".

“In spite of studying in a Jewish High school and not having much contact with Polish people, I frequently encountered anti-Semitic actions. For example: once I went with some girlfriends to skate on a plot of the Polish army. Suddenly, some Polish boys of our age came in. When they realized that we were Jewish, they started to bother us so we should fall on the ice.

When we were in High school, we went to many parties where Polish Catholic youngsters also participated. We used to dance and chat with them, but they would always make remarks about our being Jewish. They used to say sentences like: 'There is no need for Jewish boys, only Jewish girls!", since the Jewish girls were rather nice and special”.

After finishing her Gymnasium studies, Jochewet wanted to carry on academic studies in Palestine. Instead, her parents convinced her to study accountancy at Wyższa Szkoła Handlowa (W.S.H.) in Warsaw. She finished only one year of study.

Jochewet's parents

Her father, Abraham Jehoszua Fraid [Frajd], was born in 1891, in Zamość. He integrated his parent's leather grocery business. When his parents moved with the business to Lublin, Jochewet's family moved too. Abraham was active in the Leather Traders Organization and in his synagogue committee. When he invested in a house in a Polish neighborhood, Jochewet was angry with him. She wanted to know why he did not buy an orchard in Palestine instead. She didn't eat for three days in protest.

He survived the Holocaust.

Jochewet's mother, Channa Zigelsziper, was born in 1891-92 in Lublin. She was always a housewife. She was murdered in Belzec [German Nazi extermination camp in Bełżec], together with her daughter Riwka Regina, in March 1942.

Abraham and Channa married in 1918 and had two daughters: Jochewet and Riwka Regina who was born in 1926. 

Jochewet's paternal family

Her grandfather, Aharon Fraid [Frajd], was a Hassid (pious man) and he had a leather business. He died in 1919. Jochewet's grandmother, Riwka Fraid [Frajd], died before 1919. They had seven children:

  • Gitel, was married to X Mendelson from Zamość and had seven children. Gitel, her husband and three children were murdered; one daughter immigrated to Palestine in 1935; three children survived: two immigrated to Israel and one to Canada.
  • Elka, was married to X Miodownik; they lived in Warsaw and had three children. Elka, her husband and one daughter were murdered; one son emigrated to Argentine before the war and one son escaped to Russia and survived.
  • Rajzel, was married to Baruch Orenstein from Lublin. They had three sons. Rajzel, Baruch and one son survived; two sons were murdered.
  • Szlomo, was married and had one daughter. They lived in Zamość. The whole family was murdered.
  • Abraham Jehoszua, the interviewee's father.
  • Jechiel Chil, was married to Pnina X from Zamość; they lived in Lublin. They had two daughters. The whole family was murdered.
  • Channa, was married to David Alerchand from Tiszowiecz; they had three children. Channa, David and two daughters went to Palestine before the war, while one son remained in Poland and was murdered.

Jochewet's maternal family

Her grandfather, Izaak Zigelsziper, lived in Lublin and had an export business of eggs. He moved to Krasnistaw [Krasnystaw], where he bought a house. He died before the war. His grave is the only grave that remained in Krasnistaw's Jewish cemetery. Jochewet's grandmother, Jochewet Jacza (the interviewee is named after her grandmother), died before a [war?].

Izaak and Jacza had nine children, four sons and five daughters:

  • Matatjahu Mathias, emigrated to the S.A. before the war.
  • Sara, was married to Szmuel Zilberman from Lublin, they moved to Krasnistaw [Krasnystaw], following Sara's father. They had two children, Jochewet Jacza and Hersz; Sara, Szmuel and Jacza were murdered; Hersz escaped to Russia and survived.
  • Channa, the interviewee's mother.
  • Riwka, was married to Szmuel Halbersztadt; from Lublin, they moved to Krasnistaw, following Riwka's father. They had two children, Leon Lonek and Jochewet Jacza; the whole family was murdered; Leon was murdered in Sobibor [German Nazi concentration camp in Sobibór], after he participated in the revolt.
  • Jakow, was married to Chawa nee Bik; they lived in Warsaw and had two sons. The whole family was murdered.
  • Mosze, was married to Rujza Ruchla nee Ekstein; from Lublin, they moved to Krasnistaw [Krasnystaw], following Mosze's father. They had two daughters. The whole family was murdered.
  • Miriam, was married to Matatjahu Sztich; from Lublin, they moved to Krasnistaw [Krasnystaw], following Miriam's father. They had one daughter. The whole family was murdered.
  • Cipora, was married to X Keizman, an agronomist; they owned an estate in Pielobicz [?], not far from Krasnistaw [Krasnystaw]. They had two children. Her husband and her two sons were murdered. Cipora survived, remarried in 1947, but died a short while after in 1947 at the age of 42.
  • Szmuel, was a bachelor student. He died before the war.

While Jochewet was on vacation in the mountains, near Krinice [Krynica], close to the Czechoslovakian border, war was in the air. She was in a summer camp for Jewish students and academics from all over Poland, organized by academics from Lwow.  They could see army movements on the Czech side of the border.

World War II

September 19, 1939. The Germans entered Lublin. After a short time they took the family leather business, the schools were closed, the Jews had to wear armbands with a blue Magen David, there was no food. Above all, fear reigned.

November 11, 1939, Independence Day. A few days before, as a preventive action against demonstrations and riots, the Germans kidnapped Jews and sent them to prison. The Germans were interested in knowing who the richest people in the Jewish community were. A Jewish woman brought her arrested husband three bread rolls. Her husband returned one to his wife, after he put a note to the community leaders inside: "FRAID and GOLDSTEIN, escape",  these were the names he had given to the German interrogators. The Frajds and the Goldsteins hired a horse-wagon and escaped to Zamość, under German occupation. Zamosć had been under Soviet occupation for a short time, and when they left, many Jews left with them. The Soviets allowed them to take their belongings, even furniture, in Soviet transportation put at their disposal. The German regiment posted in Zamość was of Austrian origin, they behaved less cruelly than most German soldiers. All the remaining inhabitants had wanted to run away, and so only old and sick people remained in Zamość. This was the situation when the Fraids arrived. Uncle Szlomo Fraid, a brother of Jochewet's father, was still in the city, as his wife was sick.

Men were sent to work every day. In December 1939, when the situation worsened, the family returned to Lublin. 

Before the ghetto was set up, they moved to a Jewish neighborhood, split in two: Abraham Izaak and Jochewet in one place, and Channa and Riwka Regina in a different place. In 1941, they all moved to the ghetto. Abraham Izaak escaped the ghetto and was hidden by Polish friends, leather traders, in a village. Jochewet went to work in a hat workshop for some time, until she escaped and joined her father in his hiding place. They remained hidden until the Soviets arrived, on July 22, 1944.

They returned to Lublin to search for Channa and Riwka Regina and other family members, and the only one they found was aunt Cipora Keizman nee Zigelsziper alone, disguised as deaf and dumb. They decided to leave Lublin, full of so many memories and went to Lodz [Łódź]. A few days later the Kielce pogrom took place. Immigration to Palestine was one of their priorities. So they went to Stuttgart, Germany, to an U.N.N.R.A. camp, "DPs Refugees Camp". Jochewet worked in the camp as a secretary for the Jewish Agency of Palestine. She also worked for the Keren Kayemet Le-Israel, the Zionist Coordination for Children and Youth in Poland and the Women International Zionist Organization (WIZO).

In the meantime, Aunt Cipora died. Still in Germany, Abraham Izaak married a survivor, Jenta Eizenberg. Jochewet met Hersz Zwi Flumenker from Warsaw, a survivor. After the war Hersz had gone to his relatives in Stuttgart. They got married on September 30, 1948.

Abraham Izaak and his new wife Jenta, and Jochewet and her husband Hersz (Zvi), immigrated to Israel on March 17, 1949, with the first flight from Germany to Israel. Jochewet didn't wait long to start working for WIZO, first as a part-time-volunteer, and later in several positions until she retired in 1982. Then she volunteered again. Hersz with his brother Szlomo Flumenker and Abraham Izaak, set up a company which imported machinery to manufacture metal machines. His brother was a professional since in Poland he had owned a factory for sewing machines in Warsaw. The concern was not a success. Abraham Izaak Fraid died in 1958. Szlomo Flumenker died in 1968 and Hersz closed the firm down. Then he became a salesman for a firm in Haifa, AUTOPARK. He died in 1989.

Jochewet and Hersz have two children:

  • Hanan, was born in 1950 [..]
  • Sarit, was born in 1954 […]

*** 

From the story of Jochewet:

“In 1986 I took a 'Roots' tour in Poland, which was still under Communist regime. I walked across the streets of Lublin, which I had known so well. Every street and every stone remind me of my childhood. Walking at the promenade on the main street of the city, where I used to go for walks every Saturday with my parents and my family, I started to cry.

The famous Yeshiva was destroyed. I entered the place and searched with my eyes for the room where a model of the Temple used to stand, but it was not there. I was told that during the war, the Gestapo Headquarters settled in the Yeshiva building and the Germans took everything - all the treasures and all the beautiful objects. After the war many Holocaust survivors gathered in Lublin and a Jewish Committee was founded. Jewish people from all places assembled in Lublin; they came to have the chance to speak Yiddish and to find out details about their loved ones who had disappeared during the war. When we arrived in Israel, here the people had no idea of what we had passed in the Holocaust. And how did we survive? mThe population in Israel thought that they had suffered more, due to the malaria disease and the war against the British. They could not believe what we, the Holocaust survivors, were telling them. Therefore, at the beginning, the new immigrants coming from Europe told nothing about their suffering and the horrors they had coped with. Many survivors did not tell about their past even to their wives and children and, eventually, died taking their secrets to the grave.

Everything changed after the 'Eichman trial'. At present we speak about the past. Holocaust survivors appear in front of school children telling their personal stories. The school pupils as well, travel to see the extermination camps in Poland. My son and daughter also visited Lublin.

In 2005 I went with my daughter Sarit. We hired a car and traveled to Warsaw, Lublin and the annihilation camps. I think that every Jew must get to know and assimilate the past”.

 

 

 

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