I would like to share today the story of Henoch Klapholz, who was one of the most outstanding persons in Brzesko history. In December 2020, great-grandson of Henoch, prof. Henry Klapholz, found several old photos, one of which most likely portrays Henoch Klapholz.
Henoch Klapholz, son of Jukel and Liebe, was born in Nowy Sącz on November 3, 1849. I don’t know when he moved to Brzesko, but in 1867 he already lived in the city: that year he got married to Rachel Kreindel Cellnik, daughter of Isak Mojżesz and Simcha Cellnik from Brzesko. Over the next 12 years, six children were born to them: Leib (1869). Meilech (1874), Kasriel (1875), Chaje (1878), Scheindel (1879) and Chawe (1880).
Although I don’t have a death certificate, I’m pretty sure that Rachel Kreindla died soon after Chawa’s birth. After a few years, Henoch remarried, this time with Rachel Laja Klapholz from Nowy Sącz. This young girl (born June 10, 1861) took care of her husband’s children, and in the years 1886-1901 survived the death of five of her own children (Abraham, 1886, Dwojra, 1888, Feigla, 1889, Joachim, 1891 and a girl born in 1901, who died before naming) – they all died in their infancy. Fortunately, 5 children of this couple survived – Nechume (1894), Jakob Ozyasz (1897), Golda (1898), Jozef (1899) and Marjem (1902). These are some basic facts about the family of Henoch Klapholz. And now about his work for the city of Brzesko.
According Jan Burlikowski’s “Chronicle of Brzesko”, Henoch Klapholz was a member of the Brzesko City Council from 1877 to 1919, and in the years 1898-1906 he was the City Mayor
“On September 28, 1898, a meeting of Brzesko Municipal Council took place, chaired by the eldest councilor Mojżesz Grauer. The council chose a new mayor and vice-mayor. The commune head (mayor) elected unanimously by 20 votes was Henoch Klapholz, an Israelite, representative of “Okocim” brewery in Vienna. He is surely one of the best mayors in the history of Brzesko. During his tenure as the mayor, in 1904, the largest fire in the history of the city broke out. He acted very energetically and wisely, rebuilding the city from ashes. To this end, he often went to the national department in Lviv, where plans for rebuilding the city were prepared, he applied for subsidies and loans for this purpose. He skillfully dealt with numerous and complicated matters related to the regulation of streets and squares, moving and rebuilding houses etc. He held the position of mayor until October 17, 1906. On this day he was elected deputy mayor. Before being elected as a mayor, he was a councilor for a number of terms. In recognition of his merits for the city, in particular for its reconstruction after the fire in 1904, on October 17, 1906, Brzesko Municipal Council proposed to name one of the streets after him, but when he refused, the street was named after Berek Joselewicz. It should be added that in 1910 as a deputy mayor Henoch Klapholz greatly contributed to the creation of a private high school in Brzesko, and later was a long-term member of the district school board. “
Birth certificate of his youngest daughter Marjem shows that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries Henoch Klapholz was also “the head of the Israelite congregation in Brzesko”.
Let us share a bit more about involvement of mayor Klapholz in the work especially important for Brzesko. Here is how the fire of 1904 was described in the report of the Municipal Council meeting on August 28, 1904: “A terrible catastrophe struck Brzesko on July 25, 1904. Almost the entire city, 228 houses and more than 400 farm buildings burned in flames with all property, this year’s crops, goods, equipment and real estate, so that currently 3,500 souls are left without clothing, roof and bread, wandering the streets, arousing pity and tearing the hearts of viewers…” Description of this fire can be found in many newspapers; photos of the city after the fire show the scale of the tragedy. Brzesko had to be rebuilt almost from scratch. And it is to mayor Klapholz that Brzesko largely owes its current appearance: construction of new brick tenement houses instead of the old wooden buildings, power plant, municipal sewage system and cobbled streets, etc. Maybe I will add that at the time when Henoch Klapholz was the mayor, the city had (in 1901) 3367 inhabitants: 1017 Catholics and 2250 Israelites.
The city burned down on July 26, 1904, and on October 23, the same year, Henoch Klapholz’s wife, Rachel Lea, died of pneumonia.
At that time, the mayor had five children aged 2 to 10, but even in that situation he found strength not only to care for his orphaned children, but also to rebuild the city, and a few years later – to establish the first Brzesko high school. In years 1911- 1920 his children (Jakob Osyasz, Golda and Marjem) and grandchildren (children of Meilech – Benedict and Roza, and children of Kasriel – Rosa Rachel and Jakob) also attended this school. Benedykt and Golda (Gustawa) Klapholz were among the first graduates of Brzesko high school (1918).
Let’s stop for a moment at this side of Henoch Klapholz’ activity, which was very important also for his daughter-in-law Julia (Margula) Klapholz nee Pomeranz (wife of his son Meilech).
“Until 1910, there was only one 5-class school in Brzesko … Youth who wanted to continue their education could take the exam and study in high school. The closest schools were in Bochnia, Tarnów, Krakow … But the vast majority of students finished their education at the level of 5-class school. Hence, a group of citizens took initiative in establishing a high school in Brzesko so that talanted children would have an opportunity for furter education in Brzesko … “
“On August 5, 1907, during the meeting of Brzesko Municipal Council, the deputy mayor Henoch Klapholz took the floor and said: ” After the 1904 fire, Brzesko was beautifully rebuilt according to the regulation plan, now it’s got wide streets and sewage system, commerce and industry have developed, and residents crave for knowledge and education complaining about the lack of high school… Why our poviat town should be so impaired that children have to be sent to schools in other cities, when nothing prevents Brzesko from having a high school of its own?..” After this speech, a resolution was adopted unanimously: “The magistrate is advised to send a motivated petition to the competent authorities in the shortest time for the establishment of a secondary school in Brzesko, provided that the Commune Council grants the relevant square free of charge and that the Municipality of Brzesk. in the event of a favorable settlement of this petition, will build a building suitable for these purposes at its own expense.”
“Julia Klapholz was also one of the founders of this high school. Her father, vice mayor of the city Henoch Klapholz (here Jan Burlikowski made a mistake – Henoch Klapholż was Julia’s father-in-law – AB), was a long-term member of the high school parent committee and together with the mayor Stanisław Wisłocki provided the school with all the help it needed. Julia Klapholz and the judge Antoni Kozubski organized the first lessons at the Brzesko high school … ” (quoted after Jan Burlikowski, “Chronicle of the City of Brzesko”, Volume II, pp. 69, 105)
Another member of Klapholz family, Meilech (son of Henoch and husband of Julia), was also a long-term member of the City Council (1902-1918).
Henoch Klapholz died on March 30, 1926.
As “Nowy Dziennik” (one of Krakow newspapers) wrote, “Henoch Klapholz enjoyed universal respect of the whole population of the city, and numerous residents took part in his funeral.”
He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Brzesko. We’ve been looking for his matzeva for several years and could finally find it only in August 2020. Over the years it fell down and got broken. In 2021 we hope to renovate this tombstone. You can read a separate article about at at this website.
Unfortunately, I do not know much about the war-time fate of Klapholz family
Meilech Klapholz (son of Henoch, 1874-1926) moved with his family to Vienna, most probably at the beginning of 1920s, where he died of stenocardia in 1926. When the war started, his wife Julia Klapholz was deported from Vienna to the Warsaw Ghetto, and from there – to one of the death camps, where she was murdered.
Children of Meilech and Julia, Benedykt (1899-1968) and Rosa (1901-1986), survived the Holocaust. Family of Benedykt Klapholz was in the Warsaw ghetto. Marietta Klapholz (daughter of Benedykt), who was only 3 when the war broke out, was saved by Stefania Matuszewska. This Polish woman was hiding the girl after her grandfather had managed to bribe a Nazi officer and sneak his granddaughter out of the ghetto.
Monica Dugot, daughter of Marietta Klapholz: “I had understood that it was my mother’s grandfather (father of Emilie Selczer) who had made the arrangements to have my mother hidden with this woman / Stefania. According to my mother her grandfather managed to sneak out of the ghetto one more time to check and make sure my mother was ok with Stefania. At the time Stefania apparently told my great grandfather not to go back to the ghetto and that she would try and hide him but he replied that his wife and family were still in the ghetto and he needed to be with them. My mother never saw her grandfather again… One big memory I have as a child was twice a week we would send packages to Stefania in Poland (I think Warsaw) with coffee, chocolate, gifts etc.”
Descendants of Meilech Klapholz currently live in the USA.
I also know, that Kasriel Klapholz (son of Henoch) and his children Rachela Kreindla (Rozalia) and Jakob survived the war. All of them emigrated to the US. Rozalia didn’t have children; the only son of Jakob Klapholz (1902-1989) and his wife Frida (1909-1981), Henry Klapholz, his children and grandchildren live in the USA.
Two daughters of Henoch, Scheindel and Gusta (Gołda) were murdered. Before the war Scheindel lived in Vienna together with her husband Izrael Safier; on November 2, 1941, she was deported to Łódź ghetto, where she perished. Gusta was shot in Brzesko on June 18, 1942.
© Anna Brzyska, 2021