For over 150 years, Milwaukee has been home to a large community of people of Polish descent. The Milwaukee Polonia Project hopes to show the interweaving, intertwining family trees that resulted in this community. It is hoped that, eventually, all the families can be connected to one another. The Milwaukee Polonia Project is also a means to explore our common history and celebrate our shared heritage.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012


The general scene of the wreckage after the explosion on November 3, 1935. (Originally published in Milwaukee Journal.)

Autumn, 1935 was a tense time on the South side of Milwaukee.  The Great Depression was entering its sixth year.  The initial stock market avalanche had wiped out the family savings of both millionaires and mill workers.  Since then, the constant pressure of no work - no money had slowly ground away people's confidence, self-esteem and even hope.  It is no wonder that individuals snapped, causing sporadic outbreaks of violence in varied and unlikely places.  One of those places was the strike at the A.J. Lindemann and Hoverson Co.  (See Featured Profile #1) where striking workers and replacements exchanged insults, as well as paint and rocks.  While this was occurring, another more lethal flash point was festering in the heart of the Milwaukee's South side.

Hugh "Idzi" Rutkowski was a somewhat clever individual with some manual skills.  He had attended St. Vincent's Academy and Boy's Technical High School where he learned the auto mechanic's trade.  Unfortunately, he had not been able to find consistent employment.  In  the Fall of 1935, he was 20, unemployed, living with his parents, and frustrated.  He was also a bully with an inflated sense of his abilities and a total lack of respect for the law and the rights of others.  Unfortunately for him, and his innocent victims, those are the qualities he drew upon to formulate his plan to get rich quick.

(as published in the Milwaukee Sentinel)
On October 2, 1935 he took the first step in this plan when he stole 150 sticks of dynamite, blasting caps and fuses from the Estabrook park CCC camp.  He had tried to get a job there earlier in the year, but had been rejected because of his bad teeth.

On October 22, 1935, Idzi stole a West Milwaukee police squad car from two unsuspecting officers who were in the police station at 4755 W. Beloit Road.  He stripped it of its siren, radio, red spotlight and license plates.  He placed these items on a Ford V-8 coupe (which he had probably also stolen) to make it look like a police car and then hid the coupe in a garage at 2960 S. Thirteenth Street. This garage had been rented for him by Paul Chovanec, a small, 16-year-old neighborhood boy whom Idzi dominated.  It is not known to what extent Paul Chovanec would assist in the ensuing crimes, but he undoubtedly was involved.

On Saturday, October 26th, the main event began when at 7:32 p.m. an explosion erupted under a 5-inch sewer outside the Shorewood City Hall at 3930 N. Murray Ave.  It tore a hole through the cellar, splintered one of the large columns supporting the roof and shattered every window in the structure.  Because of the smell of dynamite in the air, and the effects of the explosion, the police suspected that the explosion was the work of human hands, but no one had any idea who might want to attack Shorewood.

The next bombings occurred less than twenty-four hours later when two banks were targeted.   At 6:10 p.m. on October 27th, another bomb went off against the rear wall of the Citizens branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank located at 3602 W. Villard Ave.  It weakened the building's foundation and sprayed glass over the surrounding homes.  Using his stolen car that was made up to look like a police vehicle, Idzi then sped away to the site of his next target.  Less than 30 minutes later, another bomb exploded, this time at the East Side branch of the First Wisconsin National Bank at the corner of N. Farwell and E. North Avenue.  The dynamite had been placed on the ground at the rear of the building, so much of the force of the explosion went outward, wrecking near-by parked cars. 

Now the city knew that the explosions were the work of one or more individuals bent on terror.  The mood of the city darkened even more. Everyone was cautious and worried, not knowing when the next bomb might explode. For four days, the police searched frantically for clues, rounding up large numbers of random "suspects" in the desperate attempt to find the bomber through shear luck. The rest of the city waited, suspended in fear.  Then on Thursday, the next two bombs exploded in quick succession.  This time, the police stations were targeted.  At 6:47 p.m. a bomb that had been left on a window ledge of the Fifth Precinct Police Station at Third and Hadley went off.  Although the damage to the building and surrounding houses was severe, the occupants of the police building luckily escaped injury.  The same was true less than 11 minutes later when the second bomb went off, this time at the Third Precinct Police Station at Twelfth and West Vine Streets.

At this point, the police began to suspect how the bombers were eluding capture.  About the time of the first bomb exploded, three false alarms had been called in.  The confusion caused by the response to these false alarms and to the real bombing had let the bombers make their escape.  The police also suspected that the bombers were using the equipment stolen from the police car to disguise their own auto as a police vehicle.

Thursday was also the day that a "ransom" note of sorts and a blasting cap were discovered on a desk in the Palmer Street School.  The note apparently had been typed on a typewriter stolen from the school the Monday before.  The letter was so long, rambling, and filled with misspelled words and ungrammatical sentences that it was difficult to read.  It demanded $125,000 in set specified denominations and then went on:

plan mus be got or up go sity                           [My plan must be accepted or up goes
                                                                             the city
i gif far wrnig i do it to 125,000                       I give fair warning.  I do it, too.  $125,000
is leetl                                                                is little]

if no tak ofer wtmj by fri, it wel betoob         [If you don't take the offer on WTMJ by
bad dis is de las chance....                                   Friday, it will become bad. 
                                                                         This is the last chance.]

The note rambled on, taunting the police with their incompetence, bragging about how clever the bomber had been so that the police could not identify him, warning that if the offer to trade peace for money was not accepted three bombs would go off, at least one at a theater, and many people would be killed.

It ended, somewhat ironically and prophetically:

i no afrad to di so i no kar i e x con                 [I'm not afraid to die, so I don't care.  I'm 
an vet i handle dy. over there                               an ex-con
                                                                          and vet.  I handled dynamite over there.
i expert boms kin be timed elek caps i             I'm an expert.  Bombs can be timed
                                                                              with electric caps. I
mean not d e fuzes they b in to fast                   mean, not the fuses.  They burn
                                                                               too fast.]

The last reference about using electric caps and not fuses was probably a response to an article that had appeared in the newspapers.  All the bombs that had gone off so far had been set with simple burning fuses.  This, the article had explained, indicated that the bombings were the work of an amateur.  Professionals did not use simple fuses because they were too risky.  Real professionals used electric detonators.  Being called an amateur must have rankled Idzi.  He decided he would show them.  His next bomb would use a timed electric detonator, and it would be a super bomb.  The previous explosions had been caused by about five sticks of dynamite each.  His next bomb would use 35.

Again the city waited anxiously.  Friday and Saturday passed with no explosions, but several false alarms.  Sunday, November 3, started the same, but at 2:40 p.m. the tension in the atmosphere was released with a terrific explosion that was heard up to eight miles away.  The source  was a sheet metal garage in the rear of 2121 W. Mitchell Street where Idzi and Paul had been trying to set an elector detonator to their super bomb.  Whether the early detonation was caused by an electrical short in the wiring, a slip of the hand or some other error, we'll never know.

(Published in Milwaukee Sentinel)
The force of the explosion was so great that a large section of the garage roof  was blown over the alley and two whole houses before landing in Mitchell Street.  Windows in St. Vincent de Paul were shattered.  Nearby homes also sustained heavy damage.   Unfortunately, one of those was the upstairs bedroom across the alley at 2117-B Mitchell Street where nine-year-old Patricia Mylnarek was killed by the impact of the explosion.  Her mother Clara and brother Conrad were also injured.  Fortunately, there was a driving rain at the time which probably kept damage down by preventing fires and the sympathetic explosion of other dynamite stored nearby.  Still, the damage to person and property was significant.   Also sent to the hospital:

Lydia Tarnowski, 29, 1727 S. 21st Street
Albert Raddatz, 57, 2127 W. Mitchell Street, his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Edna Grebe, 34, 2618 W. Lincoln Ave.
Joseph Kowalski, 36, 1803 S. 39th Street
Gladys Pietrzak, 18, 2143 W. Maple Street
Lucille Gustafson, 34, 1721 S. 21st Street
Hilda Budnik, 37, 2121 W. Mitchell Street
Rose (Antoniak) Kleczka, 49, 2117 W. Mitchell Street

(Rose Kleczka was the wife of Ed Klezka, the owner of the house in which Patricia Mylnarek was killed.  Ed Kleczka was the brother of John C. Kleczka, see Featured Profile #8.)

Others escaped with their lives only through pure chance.  Joseph Doligalski, uncle of Idzi, had taken his car out of another section of the garage where the bomb exploded just before.  Earl Tarnowski, son of the injured Lydia, was in the basement of their house on an errand.  The explosion blew two basement doors off their hinges.  Earl just missed being seriously injured when one of the doors flew by, just grazing his head.

(As published in the Milwaukee Sentinel)
Idzi and Paul were obliterated instantly.  Tiny bits of their bodies were spread out over the Mitchell Street neighborhood.  [On a personal note, on this fateful afternoon, my mother was playing in her yard a few blocks away with her cousins, Dan and Leo Kitzke.  When they heard the terrific explosion, they ran toward its source out of curiosity.  They had not gone very far when they ran into their uncle Roman Kitzke who turned them back.  However, even by that time, they had seen human limbs and flesh hanging from the trees.]  The bits and pieces of Idzi and Paul that could be collected had to be buried in the same coffin because there was no way to tell them apart.

The reign of terror by Milwaukee's Mad Bomber had ended.

Sources: (references to page numbers in newspapers are to the page on Google News)

Balousek, Marv and J. Allen Kirsch, 50 Wisconsin Crimes of the Century, "Idzi's Reign of Terror", beginning p. 136.

"Bomber Blows Self to Bits, Child Killed,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, November 4, 1935, p. 1

"Hope May Be in Vain, But Parents of Rutkowski's Pal Await His Return," Milwaukee Sentinel, November 4, 1935, p. 1

"Police Find Four Deadly Missiles Hidden in Garage,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, December 6, 1935, p. 1

"Shorewood Blast Began Bombings,"  Milwaukee Sentinel, November 4, 1935, p.2.

"Two Killed in New Blast, Believe Bomber a Victim," Milwaukee Journal, November 4, 1935, p. 1

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Featured Profile #19 - Clement J. Zablocki

Clement John Zablocki (1912 - 1983)

Clement Zablocki was born in Milwaukee in November, 1912.  His parents were Mathew and Mary (Jankowski) Zablocki.  Like many Milwaukee Poles, they had come to Milwaukee from the Poznan area of German Poland sometime before the turn of the century.  The Zablocki family ran a small grocery store.  Mathew also worked as a laborer at various factories. Clement was the fourth out of the eight known children born into this family.  He attended grade school at St. Vincent de Paul where Fr. Michael Domachowski (Featured Profile #3) was Pastor, and then went on to Marquette High School.  In order to pay for his tuition at Marquette University, he worked as a store clerk and as an organist and choir director for various local churches.  (He had been learning to play the organ since he was 10.)  He graduated from Marquette in 1936 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree.  Upon graduation, he worked full time as church organist and choir director.  He also continued his studies by doing graduate work in education at Marquette and of the organ at School Sisters of St. Francis.  In 1937, he married his grade school sweetheart, Blanche Janic. (They would eventually adopt two children.)  He seemed to have settled down into the lifestyle of many musicians: getting paying gigs when he could and supplementing his income with other (non-musical) fill-ins.  In Zablocki's case, his "fill-ins" were teaching high school and citizenship classes for people wishing to be naturalized.

According to Zablocki Legend, that is when an event happened that altered not only Zablocki's life, but ultimately, American politics.  Zablocki was teaching a class when a student ("Mrs. Geniusz"), after listening to Zablocki's fervent lecture on the need for citizens to participate in politics, asked him why he didn't run himself.  So he did.  He threw his hat into the primary ring for a State Senate seat in 1938.  He lost, but he was a close second.  Zablocki was not a photogenic candidate.  His looks were average, at best.  Neal Pease of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has described him as "a short, likeable, regular guy from Milwaukee who wore a map of Poland for his face..."   He was undeniably, short, only about five foot, five.  Once, when he was campaigning, a woman to whom he had been introduced exclaimed,  "Oh, but you're such a short man!"  To which Zablocki  replied, "Lady, I just want you to vote for me, not marry me."  The story illustrates Zablocki's wit and sense of humor, traits that served him well in politics.  He was also outgoing and the life of the party. His social and family connections gave him many opportunities to shine in the Polish community and other forums.  It was later said that he was equally at home with both the caviar and the kielbassa cowds.  When that State Senate seat opened up in 1942, he ran again, and this time he won.  He was to never leave public office.  

 He was re-elected to the State Senate in 1946.  Then came the 1948 Congressional elections.  The Fourth Wisconsin Congressional District, which encompassed the south side of Milwaukee, has often been held by a person of Polish descent.  John Kleczka (Featured Profile #8) had held the seat from 1918 to 1922.  Thaddeus Wasielewski (Featured Profile #16) had held it from 1940 but was unseated in what can only be described as the freak election of 1946 in which a split Democratic vote allowed a Republican to capture the seat.  When Wasielewski decided not to run again in 1948, Zablocki jumped in.  He was elected that year, and every other year thereafter, for the rest of his life.

This article is too short to discuss the long career of Clement Zablocki:  his friendship with John Kennedy, his distance from Lyndon Johnson, his sketchy record on civil rights.  However, what must be at least mentioned about Zablocki's Congressional career was his involvement in foreign relations.  After his initial election to Congress, he was appointed to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in January, 1949.  He would stay on that committee, gradually working his way up through the ranks of seniority, until he was elected Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations/Foreign Affairs in 1977, a position which he held until his death.  Of course, the most prominent event in American foreign affairs during that time was the Vietnam War.  Like many Americans, that conflict changed his attitude about the role of the presidency in foreign relations.  As an early supporter of the war, he was a co-sponsor of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and as Chair of the House Far East Subcommittee, which had oversight over the conflict, he blocked any House investigation into the conduct of the war.  However, after the 1968 election, he began to distance himself from hawkish sentiments.  He began to be an advocate for nuclear arms reduction.  After Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia in 1970, he also began to believe that the power of the president in foreign relations must be balanced by Congressional oversight.  His work, both in committee, and behind closed doors, helped insure the passage of the War Powers Resolution over Nixon's veto, and he, along with Senator Jacob Javits, are generally credited with being the driving forces behind that historic legislation.

Zablocki was perhaps at the height of his power in 1983, when he suffered a heart attach in his office, just prior to a scheduled meeting with Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir. He went into a coma and died three days later, never having regained consciousness.  His wife had died of cancer in 1977, but his children were at his side.

Perhaps an indication of the respect in which Zablocki was held are the local landmarks that have been named after him.  They include a Greenfield park, a grade school, a library and the VA medical center. These accolades are not limited to Milwaukee.  In 1984, a $10 million out-patient wing of the American's Children's Hospital in Krakow, Poland was also named in his honor.

Relation to Nearest Featured Profile (Alan Kulwicki, Featured Profile #18):  No near relation.

Path From Nearest Featured Profile:  Alan Kulwicki > father, Gerald Kulwicki > father, John Kulwicki > brother, Theodore Ignatz Kulwicki > son, Arthur Kulwicki > wife, PRIVATE (Ciezki) Kulwicki > father, Alexander Ciezki > sister, Josephine (Ciezki) Adamski > daughter, Anne (Adamski) Zablocki > husband, Harry Zablocki > brother, Clement J. Zablocki 


"Clement J. Zablocki" on the website for the National Soldiers' Home Historic District

"Clement J. Zablocki Papers Now Available," - Marquette University Raynor Library

"House Speaker to Attend Zablocki Funeral Thursday," Milwaukee Sentinel, December 5, 1983, p. 1

Leahy, Stephen M., "Clement J. Zablocki: The Politics of Personality and Presidential Power," in The Human Tradition in American Since 1945, edited by David L. Anderson, starting at page 113.

Leahy, Stephen Michael, "Polonia's child: The public life of Clement J. Zablocki" (January 1, 1994). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9433781., Abstract

Pease, Neal, Review of Stephen M. Leahy's The Life of Milwaukee's Most Popular Politician, Clement J. Zablocki:  Milwaukee Politics and Congressional Foreign Policy, in Polish American Studies, Vol. 60, No. 2, (Autumn, 2003), pp 99-101.

"Zablocki, Clement John,"  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

"Zablocki, Clement John," Wisconsin Biological Dictionary, edited by Caryn Hannan

"Zablocki Remains Unconscious,"   Lewiston (Maine) Journal, p. 15 on Google News

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Status Update - October, 2012

Family Names Added Since Last Update:


Number of Profiles Added Since Last Update:  438

New Intra-Connections (Lucht to Fons):

89)   .... Norbert Grosz > sister, Esther (Grosz) Stocki > husband, Leo Stocki > brother, Harry Stocki > wife, Eleanor (Maciejewski) [Jagodzinski] Stocki > her first husband, Raymond Jagodzinski > sister, Irene (Jagodzinski) Kitzke > husband, Bernard Kitzke > father, Walter Kitzke ....

90)   .... Roman Mogilka > son, David Mogilka > wife, Genevieve (Bartnicki) Mogilka > sister, Alice (Bartnicki) Fons to [PRIVATE] Fons > Edward H. Fons > brother, Louis A. Fons

91)  .... Gerald Kulwicki > sister, Irene (Kulwicki) Perlberg > husband, Florian Perlberg > brother, Alvin Perlberg > wife, Florence (Kulwicki) Perlberg > father, John Kulwicki ....

 92) .... Bennedick Michalski > wife, Balbina (Tutaj) Michalski > sister, Anna (Tutaj) Jeka > Joseph A. Jeka > Estelle (Kaluzny) Jeka > brother, George Kaluzny > wife Lucille (Michalski) Kaluzny > sister, Wanda (Michalski) Fons ....

PCN: 12.25

October, 2012:  12.25
September, 2012:  6.4
August, 2012: 3.89
July, 2012:  4.57
June, 2012:  7.75
May, 2012:  9.33
April, 2012:  16.67
March, 2012:  16
February, 2012:  12.8
January, 2012:  19

Newly-Discovered Changed Names:

Ciezki to Cheske
Szedziewski to Stevens

Newly-Discovered Alternate Spellings:

Jazdzewski Jazdziewski
JereczekJerechek Zereizuk
Klajbor Klaybor
Nowakowski Nowikowski
Rozewicz Rosewicz Rozewitz
Serocki Swocki
Sikora Sykora Sykuva
Szerbot Szierbat Szerbat Szerlat Scherbart
Zacherjacz Zacharyasz Zacharyiasz Zachariasz