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Holocaust Survivor Finds Fatherly Figure

Holocaust Survivor Finds Fatherly Figure

He had everything he wanted, a wonderful wife, a happy family and then along came the Nazis

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Dovid Henoch Zaklikowski in his youth in Poland.
Dovid Henoch Zaklikowski in his youth in Poland.

He had everything he wanted, a wonderful wife, a happy family, wonderful in-laws, and a job that provided him with enough money to spend a good part of his day devoted to his Torah studies.

My grandfather, Dovid Henoch Zaklikowski, or Reb Henoch, as he was affectionately known, lived in Krushnik, Poland, in the hometown of his wife, Miriam. There he was known for his diligence in Torah study, his kind smile and generous heart.

Then along came the Nazis and his life was destroyed, like so many others. He was first hauled off to a nearby camp, and was later moved to the infamous Auschwitz death camp.

He miraculously survived, despite the fact that no less than three times he found himself on the line headed to the gas chambers (read about one of the times here). He was the sole survivor from his entire family.

He was alive, but he was a broken man. His perpetual smile disappeared, along with so many other smiles across Europe.

He had everything he wanted, a wonderful wife, a happy family, wonderful in-laws, and a job. Then along came the Nazis and his life was destroyed, like so many others. Reb Henoch eventually arrived at the Pocking Displaced Persons Camp in Germany, run by the Americans and the American Joint Distribution Center, where he remarried to Mattel Rozenstein and had a son, Moshe. It was there that the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, sent Reb Henoch a slaughterer's knife, and instructed him to learn the art of shechitah (ritual slaughter). He learnt it and he learnt it well; it would later become his source of livelihood in the United States.

Reb Henoch remained in the camp for several years at the urging of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak, who encouraged him to continue his involvement with the local Jewish community. In January 1950, it was to Reb Henoch's home that a telegram arrived, informing the Jewish community of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak's passing.

Having attended in 1928 the wedding of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of righteous memory – Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak's son-in-law and successor – and hearing of his great piety and scholarship, Reb Henoch immediately accepted him as his Rebbe, his spiritual leader. The new Rebbe's kind and empathetic letters addressed to him in Pocking left Reb Henoch with the feeling that he had a truly caring family member in New York. The Rebbe concerned himself with Reb Henoch's health and livelihood, and advised on how to go about his emigration to the United States.

"Your wife should have an easy birth and she should give birth in the proper time; the child should be strong and healthy, and you should know no more sorrow, heaven forbid," the Rebbe wrote to Reb Henoch when his wife was due with their daughter, later named Miriam, on June 26, 1951.

Life was not easy for Reb Henoch, physically and emotionally. He was beset with worries about his health and his future. In a letter dated the 11th of the Jewish month of Nissan (the Rebbe's birthday), April 17, 1951, the Rebbe instructed him to endeavor to replace his current feelings of fear with the "fear of G‑d," through studying and contemplating G‑d's greatness and how the entire world is under constant individual Divine Providence, as taught in Chabad teachings. in doing so, he'd "exchange" one fear for another:

יתעסק בלימוד דא"ח ביראת שמים. ועל פי מארז"ל, מבטלין ממנו יראה ופחד אחר, ויראת ה' לחיים בגו"ר

In another letter, dated September 2, 1951, the Rebbe writes to Reb Henoch, advising him on whether he should remain in Pocking for the High Holidays, or head to the United States as soon as possible. Reb Henoch had obtained a visa for himself and his family, but it wasn't easy. He had finally passed the mandatory medical exam, an exam he had failed several times in the past. Remaining in Germany for the High Holidays might jeopardize his visa, but would also give him a few extra dollars to have in his pocket upon his arrival in the United States—as there would be a greater demand for poultry for the holidays.

Mattel Zaklikowski in Pocking, Germany
Mattel Zaklikowski in Pocking, Germany
The Rebbe writes to him that he has remembered him and his family in his prayers, and "G‑d should grant you all [you wish] in a way that is good for you in physical and spiritual matters. And you and your family, may they be well, should be written for a good and sweet year. With blessing to be written and inscribed for good."

The blessings warmed Reb Henoch's heart, once again reminding him that across the Atlantic there was someone who cared about him. A part of his smile returned.

At the end of the letter, the Rebbe advised him regarding his predicament: If he is certain that he could stay in Pocking over the High Holidays and the visa would still be valid – without the need to retake the medical exam – then he should stay. Otherwise, he should leave to New York before the High Holidays—which is what Reb Henoch ended up doing.

Upon Reb Henoch's arrival at Ellis Island, he called Lubavitch World Headquarters to inform the Rebbe of his arrival. The Rebbe was not there; however, the one who responded to the phone call said he would pass on the message.

A few days later, a letter from the Rebbe arrived to Ellis Island, written during an extremely busy time for the Rebbe, the High Holidays season: "I received the message that you have arrived with your family to the shores of the United States. May it be G‑d's will that everything should go well and easily; you should quickly gain admission into the country."

At the end the typewritten letter, the Rebbe added in by pen: "Please give my regards to all our Jewish brethren that find themselves on Ellis Island, with the blessing to be signed, and conclusively sealed for [a] good [year]."

For the holiday of Sukkot, Reb Henoch was hosted by HIAS in a Manhattan hotel. Reb Henoch trekked to Lubavitch World Headquarters in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY, for the Simchat Torah celebration, one of the happiest holidays on the Jewish calendar.

He arrived in middle of the dancing. During the dancing, the Rebbe pulled over Reb Henoch, as a father to a son, and began dancing with him. A broken man's heart was touched. That night, tears of joy rolled down Reb Henoch's face, as he was welcomed to his new life, to a new beginning.

Reb Dovid Henoch Zaklikowski
Reb Dovid Henoch Zaklikowski
From that day on, Reb Henoch would not take a step without first asking the Rebbe for his blessings and advice. He did not have any family to turn to, but the Rebbe "adopted" him, constantly providing him with encouragement and assistance. When times were hard, the Rebbe would send him money—without him even asking for it. The Rebbe offered him a loan to cover the down payment when he purchased his home. And once, when Reb Henoch was ill, he was discharged from the hospital only to get a message: "I want to see Zaklikowski when he comes out of the hospital."

Reb Henoch and his wife requested from the Rebbe a blessing for another child. Mattel had had difficulty giving birth to their previous children, and the doctors said she could not give birth again. The Rebbe blessed them and Mattel became pregnant. The Rebbe guided her all along, instructing her to be careful, not to lift heavy items, and to rest. A son was born, and the Rebbe directed them to name him after Henoch or his wife's father and/or grandfather. He was named, after Mattel's father and grandfather, Avraham Yaakov.

Reb Henoch turned a new leaf in life. Once again he was known for his kindness of heart. He arranged for others' employment, and would quietly assist others financially, once leaving a large portion of his paycheck in someone's home, when he noticed their impoverished lifestyle.

When Reb Henoch became ill, he requested from his children not to inform the Rebbe, "I do not want to cause him any grief."

A short while before he passed away, he begged his doctors to permit him to join the large children's parade outside of Lubavitch World Headquarters on the holiday of Lag b'Omer. The Rebbe would preside over the parade, and he did not want to miss a chance to see the Rebbe.

On the 6th of the Jewish month of Tammuz, June 20, 1980, Reb Henoch passed away. May his memory be for a blessing.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Anonymous brooklyn, ny January 12, 2011

Reb Hanoch Zaklikofsy - my father's dear friend Upon googling krosnik - (my father's home town) I came across your very touching article.
Your parents were my parents' shadchin and as a child I remember your parents very well.
Somehow when we were little, I thought our parents would live forever.
It was nice coming across someone that my parents were very close with.
My father's name was Yitchok Raindel. You may know my brother noach. Reply

Shahid October 13, 2010

Very Touching! Very touching and it has left deep impression on me. Reply

Anonymous Jacksonville Beach, FL October 12, 2010

Holocaust Survivor Find Fatherly figure What a touching story and thanks to you and Chabad for sharing it with all of us! Reply

Igerne Paris, France October 12, 2010

Thanks I found the story very touching and inspiring

Although friends of mine did, I never met the Rebbe and I regret it... and I thank you, Chabad, for being here to transmit his teachings and to share your memories! Reply

Anonymous mesa, Arizona, USA October 11, 2010

Holocaust Survivor Find Fatherly figure This is a beatiful story of love and compassion. It touched the deepest part of my soul. May our G-d bring peace in our hearts even though all the hate there is around the world for the Jewish people.

We have the greatest love of all in the entire universe, and is from our Creator. Lets pray for those who hates us and persecute us, for our G-d is keeping them still in this world for a purpose. He will bring us back into His bossom by gathering us from all over the world, and we will be a family united in Him again!! Reply

Anonymous Newtown, PA October 11, 2010

Inspirational.. Thank you for sharing this inspirational and moving account of your Grandfather, May his memory be for a Blessing. Reply

Michal Evenari Passau, Germany September 2, 2010

The displaced Persons camp I was moved by the story of Rav Henoch.
And the whole past came back to me, the Nazis and their Jew hatred. (I was 10 when the war ended.)
What impressed me most was the camp of
displaced persons in Pocking. I don't live far away from Pocking now. And I have never been to this place, where once was a camp.
I even did not know it.
I am Jewish by now and I will do everything to get there. With the above story in mind.
Thank you for printing this. Reply

izz ktz September 2, 2010

wow Jews are truly amazing! I love them and I love the Rebbe! Reply