Natan Shapira



In 1882 Mr. BERL RYBAK was elected Kartuz Bereza city Mayor and then reelected nine times. RYBAK performed this function until German entrance in Kartuz Bereza in 1915, that is to say during almost 33 years. Germans wanted him to continue in this position, but after being advised by  friends about responsibilities, city address in war times, police, contact with German authorities among others, he reached the conclusion that for this position was necessary  a young and energetic person. The decision was to elect NAFTALY LEVINSON, young and intelligent man, for Vice Mayor position.


During first 20 years in function, RYBAK didn't have any especial problem . His work consisted on issuing passports, inspecting shepherding fields and collecting special taxes to Jews, as for example meat tax and candles tax. Together with four people, of which two should be non Jews, forced population to pay official taxes. The rabbis of Kartuz Bereza didn't intervene in city matters. The cause was rivalry and difficulty to speak existing among them.


In 1905 new winds began to blow , and as in other towns, also in Kartuz Bereza turbulent groups arose. The gendarmes used to come to City Council to watch behavior and places where suspects inhabited. It was evident that when they suspected of somebody, nothing good  was waiting him.  Town Council  was located in RYBAK's house and every time a gendarme came to receive details on a suspicious Jew,  they brought near him at once an appetizing meal and a bottle of alcoholic drink.  The non Jew drank and drank, and meanwhile somebody of Rybak family ran to prevent the suspect, who  already knew what should do.....


Kartuz Bereza Police Chief received a fixed bribe, as annual compensation, so doesn't happen  anything bad to Jews of town.


Of  1905 events, I remember one related to a Jewish soldier whose last name was HORWITZ that  serviced in Kartuz Bereza. He was detained by mistake and were waiting him very severe punishments. The case arrived to youth's that integrated town revolutionary movement, and these decided to free him. They knew detainee would be transported by main road. At preset hour, they left in a sled, and faced those that took the detainee. One of youths stopped guards to ask them something. When they stopped to answer him, he threw tobacco on their eyes. In that moment HORWITZ escaped and occupied a place in revolutionaries sled.


Military began to look for the detainee. Revolutionaries arrived at RYBAK's house  and  demanded him to help hiding the Jew. RYBAK had a brilliant idea: his house abutted police's commandant's house and the attic of both houses were separated by a door. They hid HORWITZ in commandant's attic!!. He was hidden there during two weeks, and when  military controlled each car which left the town, they didn't find him. When military tranquilized, HORWITZ escaped to a town near  Kartuz Bereza, and then he left in train to Germany borders. After a time arrived of him a letter from US....


SHIMSHON DOVID SHAPIRA, intelligent man, Rybak's son-in-law, helped his father-in-law in  complicated cases. With the help of SHAPIRA and with money of ISRAEL GRINBERG (one of richest  Jews of  town),  is founded in  year 1905 a Jewish state mixed school, where Russian was taught. About 120 Jewish students studied there. Until 1915 was directed by teacher GIRASHOV.  


With the help of both, SHAPIRA and GRINBERG, the first Savings and Loans Fund is founded in year 1909


The Library had books in Russian, German and Yiddish, and was directed by Shapira. Many youths went there to read. 


In February 1919 Kartuz Bereza was conquered by Poles. The above mentioned NAFTALY LEVINSON, was named Mayor. The son-in-law of SHAPRIA, YECHIEL NISAN ZAKHEIM  was named Under Mayor . During about ten years was in this position,  until he resigned.  He was a studious and arrogant Jew, who defended interests of Jews with great effort. He offered great and disinterested support to Jewish institutions.


In year 1939 ZAKHEIM returned to Kartuz Bereza. He participated in community life, and during Nazi's  conquest  tried alleviating Jews suffering in Ghettos. He predicted the tragic end of Jews, with his wife LIBE  SHAPIRO a dentist, and together with other activists committed suicide the night before Ghetto's liquidation. Their two children survived; both are outstanding engineers who activated in  secret French Jew movements, and  they fought from there with courage.