April 19

1824, 1943


1824. I have said before that I prefer to record the births rather than the deaths, but that sometimes it is the death that makes the life significant. This is definitely the case for George Gordon, English poet and "hero" of the Greek attempt to rid themselves of Turkish rule, generally remember as plain Lord Byron


                              Who fell at Missolonghi, not from guns,
                              But an incurable affliction of the runs

which is a quote from, a piece of pre-advertising for, my life of Byron, "A Small Drop of Ink", written mostly in heroic couplets and ottava rima, until

                              On Easter Friday, April the 18th,
                              The poetry collapsed into a state of coma,
                              Unrhymed, unmetred, no longer heroic.
                              At six o’clock the next evening,
                              During a violent electrical storm
                              That mirrored the violence of his own last spasm,
                              The poetry simply blanked
                              And died.

Byron actually achieved nothing in Greece, except his death, and his enshrinement with posterity. I rather suspect the same was true of my kinsman Jacub Praszker, or Jakow Praszkier as he is sometimes spelled in the archive documents, who likewise took up arms in the name of a forsaken people, in his case his own, and likewise died in doing so, in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which began today in 1943.

Not that it's easy to find documents of any kind in any archive, but my cousin Terry in Australia (her grandfather and my grandfather were brothers, and they fled Poland together in 1919, making their ways eventually to England) has done such research as there can be, and she has found enough to confirm his heroism.

He was born in 1913, into what was a very poor, very Hasidic branch of the family, probably in ZduƄska Wola, just a few miles from the ancestral village of Praszka. 

At the beginning of the war he went to Warsaw with his wife Rosa Mastbaum, and became active at the Headquarters of Dror He-Chaluc, working at 20 Niska Street, living at 18 Muranowska Street, which was the Headquarters of the Refugee Committee, of which he was a member. His official job was to maintain communications with Histadrut Headquarters in Geneva, but he was also a member of the Jewish Military Union (ZZW), for which he obtained arms on the "Aryan" side, and the head of the youth organisation Hanoar Hasyjoni (Zionist Youth) - hard to distinguish He-Chaluc from HH, but Jews always do denominations.

When the Nazis sent their troops into the Warsaw Ghetto, to deport its surviving inhaitants to the nearest death camp, 
Jacub was given command of the Hanoar Hasyjoni teenagers, based at the brushmakers' shop, affiliated with the main Jewish Fighting Organization, the ZOB. 

The abjectly hopeless defense of the ghetto was mostly concentrated around Nalewki, Gesia and Zamenhof, and in Mila (where Leon Uris' novelistic account of the uprising is also focused) and its adjacent streets. The combat groups in the latter (naming them raises a memorial to them: may their memories be a blessing) were commanded by Zachariasz Artsztejn, Ber Braudo, Aron "Pawel" Bryskin, Josef Farber, Lewi Gruzalc, Dawid Hochberg, Lejb Rotblat and Uenryk Zylberberg. At the brush factory, which meant along Swietojerska and Walowa streets, as well as the upper section of Franciszkaiiska Street, the side with the odd-numbered houses, the combat groups were commanded by Hersz Berlinski, Jerzy "Jeleh" Blones, Jerzy Grynszpan, Chanoch Gutman and Jacub Praszkier, all these under the general command of Marek Edelman - the only one of these to survive, he spent his later years as a renowned cardiologist in Lodz.

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