08.01.2023 | Redaktor

Deposit found in the Brzesko tenement house (2)

History of the tenement house #56 and its residents

In 1847, there was either nothing or a small wooden house on the site of the present one-story tenement house. Back then, there was no Długa street, and instead of Chopina street, there was only a narrow passage next to the church.

A fragment of the 1847 map showing the area of today’s Chopina street. Photo from the website www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl

On the other hand, in 1939, the arrangement of houses in this area was already very similar to the present one.

A fragment of a 1939 map showing the vicinity of J. Goetza street – present Chopina street. Tenement house #56 is marked with a purple circle. Photo from “Chronicles of the town of Brzesko” by Jan Burlikowski

Prior to the second world war, the numbering of buildings in Brzesko was different than at present, – the postal address consisted of only the name of the town and the house number, without a street name. The tenement house located presently at Chopina 6, used to have the number 56. This house is first mentioned in the available documents in 1880, in the death record of Mojżesz Klugman, son of Samuel Markus and Mindel, who died at the age of 55 on March 10 that year. Mojżesz Klugman died in Wojnicz, but lived in Brzesko in the house #56 and was buried in the Brzesko Jewish cemetery. Most likely, back then it was a small wooden house, like most of the buildings in Brzesko in the 19th century.

Mojżesz Klugman’s death record. Photo from the website www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl
Matzevah of Mojżesz Klugman at the Brzesko Jewish cemetery.

We do not know when exactly the Klugman family settled in Brzesko (Mojżesz Klugman’s parents used to live in Przemyśl), but most likely it happened in the 1840s, when Mojżesz married Brzesko-born Mirla Gittel nee Schupf. At least starting from 1880s, the family certainly lived in the house #56. After Mojżesz’ death, his son Samuel Markus, born in 1851, took care of the house.

Samuel Markus Klugman married Ester Glanzberg, a native of Kańczuga, and initially moved to his wife’s hometown, where their six children were born in 1875-1884. Most likely, it was his father’s death that caused Samuel Markus to return to Brzesko together with his family, and the next six Klugman children were born in the tenement house #56, which was rebuilt in 1895. (During the renovation of the building in the fall of 2022, a brick with this date was found in the house.)

Samuel Markus’ mother died in this house in 1903, and Samuel Markus himself only 7 years later, at the age of 59. His death record states that he lived in the tenement house #56 and was its owner.

Death record of Samuel Markus Kugman. Photo from the website www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl

His widow Hinda Ester Klugman lived in this building until her death in 1917.

Death record of Hinda Ester Klugman. Photo from the website www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl

Having grown up, the children of Samuel Markus and Hinde Ester Klugman left Brzesko, settling in larger cities, mainly in Kraków, and the eldest son, Natan, eventually emigrated to Germany. Already at the end of the 19th century, the Klugmans began to rent rooms in their house; with the time passing by, there were more and more tenants.

Most likely, only people not related to the Klugmans lived in the tenement house after Hinda Ester’s death. Surviving Brzesko Jew, Mr. Dov Landau (born in 1928) remembers that in the 1930s several families lived in this house, and all of them rented some space from the owners.

Between November 1938 and December 1940, Samuel Markus’s grandson, Hirsch (Herman) Klugman, returned to Brzesko. Hirsch was born in Germany in 1914 and lived there with his parents and siblings. In 1936, his elder sister Sara emigrated with her husband to the USA, and brother Kalman fled with his family to Palestine. Hirsch stayed in Germany with his parents. His mother, Brzesko-born Beile nee Lipschitz, , was shot in Germany in March 1938. Hirsch was deported to Poland together with his father Natan Klugman on October 28, 1938. Father and son returned to Brzesko, where Natan died on December 24, 1930 of a heart attack and was buried the next day in the Jewish cemetery.

On January 28, 1940, already in Brzesko, Hirsch married Rachela Cwern in the presence of Brzesko rabbi Chaim Teitelbaum. Rachela was born in Łódź, but before the war she also lived in Germany and was deported to Poland on the same day as the Klugmans. Maybe that’s when she met Hirsch. In December 1940 and January 1941, Hirsch (Herman) Klugman received an allowance from the Jewish Judenrat. According to Yad Vashem data, Hirsch and Rachel were murdered, most likely after being deported to Bełżec, as majority of Brzesko Jews


List of people who received aid from the Brzesko Judenrat (Jewish council) in December 1940 and January 1941. Photos from the JDC archive, https://search.archives.jdc.org/

In the spring of 1942, tenement house #56 was incorporated into the closed ghetto. There are no documents that would allow us to determine with certainty who lived in this house at that time, but with a very high probability those were the families who had lived there for years, all of whose children had been born in this building:

* Hirsch (Herman) Klugman with his wife and possibly parents;

* the Bochner family: father Elias from Czchów, mother Chawa Singer/Geldgiesser, children Laja (1917), Szyja Dawid (1919), Ryfka (1921), Schulem (1923). There are notes in the vital record books that in January 1941 the whole family was still in Brzesko;

Laja Bochner’s birth record. Laja, daughter of Elias Bochner and Chawa Singer, was born in tenement house #56 in Brzesko on October 6, 1917. A note in German proves that on January 15, 1941, the family was still in Brzesko. Similar notes are are attached to the birth records of all the children of this family

* the Roth family: father Boruch from Bełz, mother Lea née Brikner and their eight children – Estera Cyrla (1922), Mojżesz (1925), Genowefa (1926), Abraham (1928), Chaim Joel (1929), Markus (1931 ), Jochveta (1932), Nechuma (1936)

* the Templer/Backer family: father Chaim Israel, mother Feigl Sara née Perlman and their seven children – Chane Reizla (1928), Pessla (1930), Elieser (1932), Mojżesz Leib (1933), Szejna Brajna (1935), Nechuma (1936), Hillel Schulim (1940)

* the Mandel family: father Meilech from Nowy Sącz, mother Ester Hinde née Herbstman (daughter of the Brzesko sofer Eliezer Herbstman) and their two children, Feigla Chana and Majer

After the ghetto had been closed in Brzesko, 4,000 to 6,000 people were crammed into it. According to the testimonies of the few survivors, even very large families had to live in one room, sometimes together with other people, up to 15-20 people in one room. Most likely, more people moved into house #56 at that time as well.

In September 1942, the ghetto was liquidated and all surviving Jews were deported to Bełżec death camp. Most likely, it was then that the residents of the tenement house #56 were murdered. There is nothing left of them except entries in the vital records books and this newly found deposit.

We do not know who and under what circumstances placed a dozen or so books and mezuzah and tefillin texts in the attic. They must have belonged to someone in the building. Maybe just before the liquidation of the ghetto, having lost all hope of survival, the daughter of the Brzesko sofer Eliezer Herbstman, Ester Hinde Mandel, took a tiny scroll of parchment with the sacred text transcribed by her father from the mezuzah attached to the door and hid it together with the books ? Maybe she felt that there would be no more Jews in Brzesko and did not want the Germans to desecrate the mezuzah? Or, on the contrary, she hoped that the war would end, that surviving Jews would return to the town and put the mezuzah back in its proper place?

Klaf – text for the mezuzah found in the attic of the tenement house

We will never know who was the owner  of the books hidden in the attic..

Sidur, a tiny prayer book you could put in your pocket. The prayers are in Hebrew, and the instructions are in Yiddish, the everyday language of Galician Jews. This prayer book almost certainly belonged to a woman. Maybe she went to pray in the nearby Wolf Laub Synagogue?

A book for children in Yiddish with short stories and poems and a textbook for learning modern Hebrew, also for children. Maybe one of the residents of the tenement house was thinking about emigrating to Palestine and because of it taught the children Hebrew – not the holy language of the Torah, but the modern everyday language? And perhaps the mother read her young children those short Yiddish stories in the evenings?

One of the found children’s books

“The Book of Life” published in Krakow in 1923, – principles of attending the sick and dying, laws related to funeral and mourning rites. In this book there are several stamps of the “Society for the purchase of books for the house of study (beit midrash) in Briegel” (Briegel  is the name of the town of Brzesko in Yiddish.) Apparently, one of the house residents borrowed this book from the book collection in one of the Brzesko synagogues. And the Talmud, Torah with Rashi’s comments most likely belonged to one of the orthodox inhabitants of the tenement house…

Whoever hid this package in the attic of the tenement house probably did not think that for many decades the trace of the mezuzah on the doorpost of the house would be one of very few traces of the pre-war presence of Jews in Brzesko, and that the books and those tiny parchment scrolls would be found almost exactly on the 80th anniversary of the extermination of the Brzesko Jews.

May the memory of all Holocaust victims be an eternal blessing.

The tenement house before renovation, 2019, photo by Krzysztof Wasyłek
The tenement house today

© Anna Brzyska, 2023