Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (also called the Piaseczner Rebbe) was born in Grodzisk, Poland to his father, the Imrei Elimelech of Grodzhisk. Named after his maternal great-grandfather, the renowned Maor VaShemesh, he was a scion of a distinguished family, which included Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, the Chozeh of Lublin and the Maggid of Kozhnitz.
At the age of three, he was orphaned by the death of his father. In 1905 he married Rachel Chaya Miriam, daughter of his nephew Grand Rabbi Yerachmiel Moshe of Kozhnitz. She helped him prepare his lectures and books, even adding pertinent insights of her own.
In 1909 he was appointed rabbi of Piaseczno, near Warsaw, and subsequently attracted many chasidim. He was deeply focused on the education of children and young men, establishing the yeshiva Da'as Moshe in 1923.
Rabbi Shapira's only son and his son's wife were killed during the Nazi aerial bombing of Warsaw in September, 1939. After the Nazi invasion of Poland, Rabbi Shapira was interned with a few of his chasidim in the Warsaw Ghetto, where he ran a secret synagogue. He wrote a book while in the camp and told some of his students where he buried it (in a canister). Later The students went back and recovered his inspirational speeches of this period from the ruins of the ghetto and published under the title Aish Kodesh.
After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was crushed in 1943, Rabbi Shapira was taken to the Trevaniki work camp near Lublin. Prisoners who were completely worked out by exhaustion and starvation were removed and sent to the Treblinka extermination camp. Rabbi Shapira spent his last few months in Treblinka, where he was murdered by the Nazis in 1943.
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