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Shtetl Life Up Until the Holocaust

Shtetl in Hebrew
1939 Letter
By: Ephraim Gutsztejn, 12 years old
In remarkably prophetic words, and evincing a maturity way beyond his years, the young Radzilover boy, while studying for his Bar Mitzvah at Grodno Yeshiva, writes about the situation confronting the world.
Memoirs: Mosze Szymon Rozenbaum
By: Helen Rosenbaum
Mosze Szymon Rozenbaum was born in Radzilow in 1921. He was able to emigrate in late February of 1939, and was the only member of his immediate family to have survived the Holocaust, as his four siblings and mother were killed on July 7, 1941. His magnificent collection of photos from Radzilow is the largest of its kind, many of which were taken in the late 1930's and differ from the typical photos in that the majority of them are outdoors.
Memoirs: Moshe's Adventures
By: Moshe Atlasowicz (Morris Josephson "M.J." Atlas)
Interview of Morris "M.J." Atlas
By: Scott J. Atlas
Born in 1897, Moshe Atlasowicz left Radzilow in 1912. His memoirs of life around the period of 1910, and subsequent interview, include fascinating descriptions of his family life in Radzilow at the beginning of the 20th century and the factors that influenced him and members of his family to leave.
Reb Yisrael Mejer Gutsztejn and Pesza (nee Zimnowicz) Gutsztejn
From: The Atlasowicz Memoirs
My grandparents Yisrael Mejer and Pesza owned a well-known fabrics store on the northern side of Town Square, living on the same premises. Yisrael Mejer was one of the respected learned men of the town. After he died in 1927, Pesza continued to manage the business, along with three daughters, until they were all killed in 1941.
Memoirs: In the Lion's Den
By: Mendel Staroletni (Max Star)
Born in 1891, Mendel Staroletni was drafted into the Russian Army in 1914. The first 13 pages of his book deal with Radzilow in the context of the oncoming First World War.
Chanukah Menorah
19th Century Chanukah Menorah, taken out of Radzilow in 1909 by Chaim Josef Niedzwiecki.
Boruch Itzchok Bejnsztejn
The Dayan of Radzilow until his death in 1910
Yizkor Books

Radzilow had no Yizkor Book of its own, but is mentioned often in those of the nearby towns of Jedwabne and Szczuczyn. It is probably mentioned in the Lomza one too, which I have a copy of, but it's not yet translated.
References to Radzilow
From: The Jedwabne Yizkor Book
Jedwabne, located only 9 miles away to the SSW, shared a very close relationship with Radzilow. Life was very similar because both towns very about the same size, and events in one town frequently affected the other. Radzilow was the town most often mentioned in the Yizkor Book besides Jedwabne.
References to Radzilow
From: The Szczuczyn Yizkor Book
Szczuczyn, located only 12.2 miles away to the NNW, was one of the larger towns close to Radzilow, being about 4 times its size population and number of Jews. As a result, there were many commercial ties to Szczuczyn, as well as many marriages among its residents.
Radzilow Rabbis
Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz
Born around 1796, he served as Rabbi of Radzilow for several decades during the mid-1800's. Documents verify he was Assistant Rabbi from 1856-1865. It is not known how many years earlier he assumed that position. He became the official Rabbi, Head of the Congregation, around 1870. His father, Rabbi Szewel Surawicz, who was born in Tykocin, also served as the Rabbi of Radzilow.

Rabbi Jankiel Wejdenbaum - Soon

Rabbi of Radzilow for a short period, in between Rabbi Surawicz and Rabbi Goldberg

Rabbi Kiwa (Akiba) Goldberg

Born in 1853, he served as Rabbi of Radzilow from somewhere between 1898 and 1903, until his death, around 1924. Rabbi Goldberg, as official or as witness, appears in hundreds of  Radzilow vital records. One document in particular verifies his illness in 1924.
Rabbi Yehoshua Zelik Gelgor
Rabbi Gelgor replaced Rabbi Goldberg as Rabbi of Radzilow. His tenure was from between 1924 and 1928, until he was killed in 1941. He was the last Rabbi of Radzilow.
Rabbi Yehoshua Zelik Gelgor - 1934 Letter
Letter written by the Rabbi in 1934 to a family in Australia, in the spirit of beneficence, detailing the horrible poverty being suffered by one of their relatives in Radzilow.  The text is heartbreaking, and shows why so many Radzilovers chose to emigrate, rather than continue to endure terrible economic and political conditions. Letter includes the Rabbi's official seal.

Beatrice Fields - 10.5 Minute Video Interview
Recounts her 1935 trip to visit her grandfather, Michel Sztabinski
Molly (nee Gryngras) Gottfried - 24 Minute Audio Interview
Conducted in 1963, she talks about what she remembers of her life in Radzilow before emigrating in 1906 at the age of 19.
The Immigrant Experience
Away From the Shtetl
Miguel Gutstein's (Moshe Gutsztejn) letter
Moshe left Radzilow in the mid-1920's, and went to Kovno, Lithuania, where he taught at a Gymnasium for a couple of years and met his wife-to-be. From there he went to Guantanamo, Cuba, and sent for her. They were married in Guantanamo in 1928. This letter, written in 1935 to his sister Chana, who was by then in Tel Aviv, Israel, shows some of the typical immigrant feelings of starting over, of helplessness, of being so far away from the family that was once so close, now spread out all over the world.
Ben-Tzion Dorogoy
Born Bencjyon Dorogoj in Radzilow in 1918, he went to Israel in 1936, leaving his parents and siblings behind. Only sister Frume managed to survive by escaping just before the Germans advanced into town. His sister Szyma was the first person killed in the pogroms of 1941. His father and brother were killed after the war, returning to Radzilow. Ben-Tzion joined the Jewish Police Forces in 1937 and then in 1942, hearing of the tragic events in Poland, joined the Jewish Brigade. He served in Italy during 1944 and then took part in Israel's War of Independence.
Mosze Szymon Sawicki (Bursztyn)
In September 1939, when the Soviets invaded Eastern Poland, about 200,000 soldiers of the Polish army who were in the occupied territory were taken as prisoners. Among them were thousands of Jewish soldiers and officers, including Mosze Szymon. After the German attack on the Soviet Union in July 1941, "Anders Army" was created, a sort of "Polish regiment" within the framework of the Red Army. Many Jewish members were allowed to leave when Anders Army was in Palestine, including, Menachem Begin. Anders Army went on to participate and liberate Monte Cassino, in one of the most historic battles of WWII.
Efroim Hersz Niedzwiecki
Efroim Hersz left Radzilow in 1933 and went to Palestine. In 1939 he enlisted in the British Army, fighting for the Allies. He served as a German Prisoner of War from 1941-45. Photos include those from Stalag VIII B in Germany.
Abraham Kielczewski
Abraham left Radzilow around 1933 and went to Kibbutz Lida, where members of Ha'Halutz trained for aliyah to Israel. Abraham eventually went to Israel on the Atrato, a Greek ship which made a total of seven trips to Israel before finally being caught by the British on May 28, 1939. In total the ship brought 2,423 people to Israel.
Brajna Kowalska
Brajna was born in 1891. Her father died in 1900, and a few years later her mother remarried. Brajna, then only 13, decided she did not want to live in a step-fathered household and decided to go to England, to join her uncle and aunt, accompanied by the 9-year-old niece of the same aunt. The two girls made the trip without adult supervision.
Joel Guthwert
Born in Radzilow in 1850, he was sent to Finland in 1872 to fulfill his Russian Army military obligations. He eventually settled in Finland to raise his family, most members of which still live there today.
Benjamin Porycki - Soon
Born in Radzilow in 1904, he went to Israel in 1927. He was one of the most active Radzilover landsmen in Israel, becoming President of the Landsmanshaftn Society called the "Benevolent Fund In Memory of the Martyrs of Radzilov." Benjamin filled out dozens of Pages of Testimony at Yad Vashem for friends, relatives and landsmen murdered in the Holocaust. His son Avraham Dotan continues the tradition of keeping the memory of Radzilow alive.
Jewish Landmarks

For pinpointed locations, see Radzilow Street Map
Jewish Cemetery - Taken in 1939, it is the only photo of the cemetery uncovered to date; also, photo of site as it looks now
Cheder - Remains of building on outskirts of town
Synagogues - There were three synagogues in town; no photo has yet been found from before the war; photo of former location of one of them
Fire Brigade - Stories about the Fire Brigade and the equipment, known as "the Buda"
Catholic Rituals
Zapust Canival
Local custom, around for at least a couple hundred years, of dance, song and costume, that Jewish residents surely saw or knew something about while living there.