THE STORY OF THE PHOTOS OF MEIR HOLTZMAN

 

The story how he got the pictures is in itself an incredible one.

He and my mother, Riwcia Gostinska, left in a rush, in July 39, on an illegal ship “Kolerado”, heading to Palestine. They were not allowed to take with them even the family pictures.

Later, in the last week, before the break out of the WWII, my uncle, Sheika Bruk (originally from Nowogrudek but immigrated as a Khalutz to Palestine in the early thirties), came back to Poland, to marry fictitiously a woman, in order to take her back with him to Eretz Israel, obtaining the status of a citizen of Palestine, by marrying him. He had a few days before their ship sailed back, and he visited Gombin, from where his real future wife, Channa Holcman, my aunt, came from. He was walking in the streets of Gombin, when he saw one of my uncles.

"You must be HOLCMAN"! shouted Sheika,

“and you must be Channa's groom”, my uncle shouted... and thus they met, and gave to him, all the family, many pictures of the youth movement: Hashomer Hatzairand and other photos of the town...

The pictures are all kept by my father in a wooden box he made in the age of 13 by himself at the Jewish school...

Another source of pictures, and most appalling, are pictures which were found by one of the Etinger brothers, who was among the liberating Russian Red Army troops which conquered Gabin. They are pictures stamped by the damn SS eagle mark, of my father nieces, brothers, sisters, sisters in law... Leon wrote that he has a similar picture of his grandfather.

The pictures were in Gabin Town Hall, and in the total chaos there, Etinger just grabbed whatever he could and recognized, and brought them years later, to my father.

I also found old postcards and other pictures at my late aunt Rachel Shechter inheritance.

My paternal aunt, Channa Bruk gave me also about 35 rare photos, among them a most exquisite picture of a young couple on its wedding, my uncle Hersz Holczman and his wife Sara-Chaja Koren from Zichlin.

My Zlotnik relatives in tel Aviv also gave pictures which their late parents, Szmuel Zlotnik and Bilha nee Simchon, already in Palestine, took in Gombin, on their visit Poland in 1934.

It can be a joint venture, to collect, enlarge, print and comment. For the past months, I’ve been working on those pictures with my father, trying to decipher the people in the pictures.

Among my father’s photos there are many pictures of Hashomer Hatzaiir, of “Ha’Halutz”, of “Maccabi” movement, of “Kibbutz Akhshara” in Kalisz and Czestochowa, of the Jewish school in Gabin, of youth bathing in the lake of Gombin, of Rabbi Zlotnik, of staged drama play with young children, of youngsters departing from Glickzeliger, on his way to Palestine the following morning... the youth soccer team and many more.

Amazing joy of life and vitality is captured, in spite of the miserable conditions they suffered of at those times. Needless to remark that nearly all of those beloved family members friends and acquaintances, perished in the disaster, and their ashes fill the flourishing flower beds of Chelmno nad Ner in Poland.

The pictures are for me the images left of a whole family, a whole shtetl, a whole Jewry, so tragically ended.


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