(Written by his grandson Z. Baumstein,
from Argentina Ostrowiec Yizkor Book, 1949
Translation by Pamela Russ)
In fond memory of my grandfather Lipa Baumstein,known by the name of “Lipa Ostrowker”
I would like to describe here several experiences and episodes of my grandfather, may he rest in peace, which I saw and experienced.
In the year 1914, with the outbreak of the World War, I was only eight years old. In Ostrówek, where my grandfather lived, that is behind the city of Ostrowiec, there was a Christian neighborhood. His house was in a large courtyard, in which there were more than twenty rooms. My grandfather lived there with his children and other members of the family.
At that time, I went through many emotional moments. When the Russians withdrew, my grandfather bought from them the stolen Torah scrolls and Jewish books. At that moment, I recognized the humility and character of my grandfather. This opened my eyes for the later events in our Jewish life.
After the Austrian military had been in our city for a short time, they retreated. As they ran from the Russians, they set fire to the bridge that connected our area to Ostrowiec, and they took the naft [nafthalene] from my grandfather’s store.
When the Russians returned, they informed on my grandfather, that he had sold or given the naft to the Austrians. They arrested him and wanted to hang him. But the Christians in the city and in the village got involved, pleading with the commandant for his freedom. The superintendent of the courtyard ran to the commandant, fell to his feet, and pleaded for mercy for my grandfather. The end was that they let him go.
A few months later, the Russians retreated again. That same day, in my grandfather’s store, which was in the front of the house, the naphthalene storage room ignited. The fire destroyed almost the entire store. The only victim of the fire was Lipa Wallerstein’s son, who just happened to be in the store at that time. When my uncle Yakov heard about this, he ran into the fire, ignoring the tremendous danger, and tried to rescue Lipa’s son from the fire. (Today, Lipa Wallerstein lives in Chile, and my uncle Yakov Baumstein – in Paraguay.)
As they were leaving the city, the Russians wanted to take my grandfather with them as a hostage, or my father Chaim Leib. But since my father was sick and bedridden, they wanted to take one of my uncles. The commander sent for my grandfather who had hidden himself. His oldest daughter Miriam went over to the commander and when asked where my grandfather was – she answered that she did not know, and they immediately arrested her. A military unit came to the house to look for him. They found my grandmother lying on a couch, in which there were Torah scrolls hidden. She cried and pleaded with the Russians that they should not touch anything, because these were holy objects, but nothing helped. Other than the fact that they robbed everything, they also took my grandmother and uncle, who was standing outside with his hand bound up (wounded in the fire), and they left. The entire courtyard was left empty. I ran to the magistrate and found my grandmother there behind the fence. When she saw me, my grandmother called me over and told me to watch over the child who was three years old at the time. A few hours later, I saw two wagons led by Russians, and they were leading away my grandmother and my uncle Yakov. I ran after them and shouted until I was worn down. Sadly, I returned home. My uncle Shmuel went after them and tried to save them, but he could do absolutely nothing.
The following day, the Austrians came again. The courtyard and the warehouse were taken over by the military.
In a short time, homeless and fleeing Jews arrived from the Russian regions. My grandfather organized a kitchen for them in the soap factory.
It became quiet. My grandfather occupied himself with all kinds of activities, driving around in various cities. The authorities, when they found out about this, arrested everyone and sent them off to Opatow. After eight months imprisonment, my grandfather was freed. With great joy, they made a celebration for all the Jews in the city – poor and rich. The joy was even greater when four or five months later my grandfather received a letter from my grandmother that they were all in Minsk living freely. Their liberation came after the Russian Revolution. They quickly came home.
My grandfather Lipa ran a beautiful Jewish life, and gave charity with a generous hand. It is interesting that close to the time of his death he left a request in his will that they should contribute 40,000 zlotys to complete the walled fence around the cemetery, and 20,000 zlotys for a residence for the yeshiva boys.
May my memories serve not only for my compatriots, but for all those who knew Reb Lipa Ostrowker, and are today spread across the big world.
[Notation: Ostrówek was a village dating back to the 14th century , even at a time before the town of Ostrowiec was established. Today, Ostrówek is part of Ostrowiec located in the vicinity of Wiejska and Sandomierska Streets. In the 19th century, the Ostrowiec steel plant was established in this area. Source: Wojtek Mazan]
Lipa's main family page can be seen here.