Henoch Klapholz, son of Jukel and Liebe, was born in Nowy Sącz on November 3, 1849. By 1867 he had moved to Brzesko: that year he married Ruchel 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).
Ruchel Kreindel 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 witnessed the death of five of her own children (Abraham, 1886, Dwojra, 1888, Feigla, 1889, Joachim, 1891 and a baby-girl born in 1901) – 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).
According to Jan Burlikowski’s “Chronicle of Brzesko”, Henoch Klapholz was a member of the Brzesko Town Council from 1877 to 1919, and in the years 1898-1906 he was the 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. 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 talented children would have an opportunity for further 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 towns, 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 Brzesko in the event of a favourable settlement of this petition, will costruct 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 town, and numerous residents took part in his funeral.”
Henoch Klapholz was buried at the new Jewish cemetery in Brzesko, but for many decades his grave seemed to have been lost. In August 2020, conservators from Tarnów, Mr. Dariusz Jaworek and Mrs. Ewa Dagnan-Jaworek, noticed two pieces of an overturned matzevah made of black granite. After turning the stones and putting two pieces together, we saw an exceptionally beautiful matzevah with the inscription painted gold. Mr. Yossi Elran helped decipher the entire text. Here is its English translation:
Hanoch Henoch Klapholtz
son of Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua
may he rest in peace
My pangs! My pangs will wail wrapped in sorrow,
Bemoaning and lamentation, hold your head down,
Woe! Woe! They will shout and cry in bitterness,
The most perfect of people has withered, gone and passed on,
The town and the nearby regions, companies and societies,
Wrapped themselves in mourning, raised groans,
Their president has been taken and their leader has gone,
After him, his honour who will take and bring splendour?
With intelligence, knowledge, honesty and wisdom,
He managed his community for 40 years with faith.
He went out to save and defend his community,
He was close to those who called for him and for those who asked for help,
With a good name he should be crowned and adorned with a wreath,
A memorial and a name amongst ministers and counts,
He had, and to his discipline they would heed,
Who could count and tell about his many enterprises?
The city was satisfied with his praised repair of the city,
His merits shall advocate him before His Merciful Chair ,
The Lord of the Universe shall have mercy on his dust.
Passed away on the 1 day of Pesach, the year (5)686
May his soul be bound in the bond of life
After several months of restoration work, the renovated tombstone of Henoch Klapholz was unveiled during a solemn ceremony that took place on October 3, 2021.
Especially for this ceremony, the great-great-granddaughter of Henoch Klapholz, Mrs. Monica Dugot, flew from the USA with her husband and daughter. Together, we were able to honour the outstanding Brzesko citizen, to whom the town owes so much.
© Anna Brzyska, 2020