Ada Holtzman

Address on behalf of the "Successor generation" at the Holocaust day meeting, at the Treblinka Martyrs' Memorial in Nachlat Itzhak Cemetery

Givata'iim - Israel, Yom HaShoa/12 L'Omer, Nisan 27, 5760 (May 2nd ,2000)

Translated by my good friend Morris Gradel

The Speech in Hebrew:

And the Owl Saw It All ...

I have been asked by my good friend, Binyamin Yaari - on the occasion of this gathering in memory of the victims of the Holocaust who perished at Treblinka - once more to say a few words. Everything I said two years ago is of even greater importance today - the first Holocaust Day of the new millennium.

Many are no more with us today ...
Among them my beloved father, Meir Holtzman, who died recently after a sudden illness. During the last period of his life we set out together on a quest into his past, his family, and his community of Gombin, a small and remote town in the district of Mazowia in the province of Warsaw, Poland.

Together we turned the pages of his reminiscences, clear as sparkling crystal despite his advanced years. I recall many hours of love, where he explained, translated documents and memoirs, and brought me near to his world, the world of a guileless pioneer from Poland, the world of a Jew who wept in Yiddish over the past that always flowed through his veins, but smiled in Hebrew over the future of his people returned to their homeland...

His sudden death brought him to his mother in Heaven, Rasza Holtzman, of the Zlotnik family in Plock, a noble Jewish mother, a widow who brought up ten children, of whom there remained only he and his sister Chana. Twenty-seven souls, the descendants of her body and her love, perished in the Holocaust. And I have remained alone on my voyage, alone in my search for memory...

In searching our roots with my father, Blessed Be His Memory, I discovered branch after branch, lopped off, broken, and erased from the chain of generations of my family, the HOLTZMANS, GOSTYNSKIS, HONIGSTOKS, SANNICKIS, WLOJDESLAWSKIS, KORENS, LUIDORS, LUKSENBURGS, ZAWIERUCHAS, ZLOTNIKS, CYNNAMONS, KOWADLOS, LISSERS, GAWRONS - from Plock, Wyszogrod, Gombin, Raciaz, Lodz, Warsaw, Glowno, Glowaczow, Radom, Kutno, Kiernozia, Zakroczym, Zychlin, Lowicz, Dobrzykow... just one family, but 500 souls ascended to Heaven through the incinerators: babies, tiny children, young boys and girls, grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces - and of them all there is no grave, the day of their death is unknown, and their memory cries unto me from the rivers of Poland, from the forests of Chelmno, from the wells of Treblinka ... I find no comfort, since for us, children of the successor generation, the wound of our parents was so deep that it has wounded our hearts for ever...

I have passed many nights without rest, for the horrors of the Holocaust from witness and books do not disappear. The more I read and learned, the greater the powerlessness I felt incessantly: how did the Holocaust come about, and how was it possible that human beings born in the image of the Almighty, and themselves the children of mothers, could inflict such horror on other human beings, alone for the "sin", the original and only one, that they were Jews ...

The people of Plock were led to the slaughter in Treblinka, after they had been expelled from various ghettoes on February 20th, 1941. Their holy ashes are spread over the gardens of Treblinka, and their memory is engraved on one symbolic tombstone at that terrible place. One stone, the gravestone of myriads of innocent souls ... and among them the family of my grandmother Rasza...

From this ancient community of Plock there also arose Jewish heroes, of whom few are named in the story of the Holocaust. Among these, few out of many, most of them anonymous, let me recall Marian Platkiewicz, one of the insurgents of Treblinka, and who survived. Another hero, who did not survive, was Rudek Lubranicki, a native of Plock, one of the prominent leaders of the revolt, who fell in that death camp with weapon in hand. Unforgettable too is Tova Biatus (Tovka), one of the outstanding leaders of "Hashomer Hatsair" in Plock, courier and underground fighter, who fell in the last action in the Chmielnik ghetto. Time too to honor the memory of Rajzel (Rozka) Korczak, also born in Plock, active in the underground of the Vilna ghetto and in the Jewish partisan organization "Nekama" (Revenge), comrade in arm of Abba Kovner. Words of honor should be said to the memory of Simcha Guterman, who fell in the revolt at the Warsaw Ghetto. His grandson, Raz Guterman, son of Jakob, fell in battle in Israel Lebanon War 1982...
Nor should we forget Moshe Bahir (Szklarek), one of the younger combatants of the forgotten uprising in Sobibor, an uprising that led to the closing of that death camp.

Let me quote from the book "The Revolt in the Forest of Owls", written by the late David Avidan, and based on the diaries of Moshe Bahir (Szklarek):

"Sobibor, an extermination camp in the Lublin region - from Polish "sowa", an owl, and "bor", a wood, and hence "the forest of owls" ... and the owl gripped the end of the branch and looked out on the forest. To its hooded eyes, the only source of light in the darkness that surrounded it, were revealed many sights. The owl saw it all... It saw the Third Reich arrive on the spot; it saw the Polish army in its hour of defeat; it saw camps briskly erected, camps it did not know, for purposes unknown. Then it saw people come to the camps and disappear. Their number was almost constant. Where did the rest go?

The owl saw it all, also the incinerators, but the owl did not understand..."

Moshe Bahir (Szklarek), the only survivor of his large family from Plock, came to Israel, rebuilt his life, and was among the founders of Kibbutz Ofakim.
One day many years ago, at his Kibbutz, during the prayer "Kol Nidrei" on the eve of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), it was announced that a son had been born to him. Years later that same son fell in the Yom Kippur War ...

That is the fateful story of one man, a simple Jew from Plock, who proves to any sceptic that the Jews there, on that other planet, did not go like sheep to the slaughte. His personal story illustrates too the contribution of Holocaust survivors, including those who fell in all Israel's wars, to the rebirth and building of this land.

I devote much of my spare time to various projects on the Internet in perpetuation of their memory. Amongst others, I have opened a special page called "TREBLINK", dedicated to the memory of Yankel Wiernik, one of the insurgents of Treblinka, who published his testimony in English, in London and New York, as early as 1944! Yankel Wiernik constructed in Israel the model of the extermination camp of Treblinka that is on display at the "Lochamei Hagetaot" - Ghetto Fighters' House Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum.

I have published on my Internet site the names of the Jewish communities that are today engraved on the symbolic gravestones at Treblinka that are a memorial to their inhabitants who perished there. My aim is for each community to have an Internet Memorial Web page that will bind them together by showing vanished Jewish life, the once vibrant Jewish life that froze into a stone on the fields of carnage, the killing fields of Treblinka.

From this platform I call upon all who are interested to help me in establishing such "bonds" (LINKS), or in opening memorial pages for populations killed at Treblinka, to contact me as follows: ada01@netvision.net.il
http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Rue/4017/treblink.htm

I am attempting, despite the difficulties facing such a project, to shed light on the glorious culture, traditions, institutions, organizations, and the longing for Zion, the longing that led to the establishment of the Zionist movements in Poland that formed the base for the great ideologies for which our parents offered their lives.

And there stands one symbolic memorial stone to the Jews of Warsaw. More than 500,000 souls were erased from the book of life, and one solitary stone marks their grave...

To the memory of the Jews of Warsaw allow me to quote from the foreword to David Flinker's book "Warsaw"1):

"... Only a few years have gone by and the name of Warsaw has disappeared from the newspapers. The funeral orations have ceased. Slowly and quietly oblivion is taking over.

The ruins have remained, the mute and silent ruins of life that here once vibrated with activity, of hope, of stormy, seething struggle. Yes, the ruins have remained, the ruins of a city of a special kind, of a city with two hearts: a city that was the heart of Polishness; and a city that was the heart of profound and traditional Jewishness, a city and a mother of Israel.

It was a city, where each street and each house bore witness to the past glory of Poland, of her kings, princes and parliaments; a city, where each stone was permeated with the spirit of Judaism, Torah and Righteousness.

.... It was too a city with a rebellious tradition, of national and social struggles - and yet a city of ease and calm, merriment and charm, a lover of pleasure and dance.

This was Warsaw - the city with two hearts.

There was a time when it seemed that the two hearts would unite into one aching heart, bearing one burden, facing one destiny ... Thus it seemed in September 1939, when all Warsaw, its Jewish and Christian citizens alike, were fighting for their lives against the terrible German invader. Jewish girls from the Street of the Franciscans bound the wounds of Polish warriors; and likewise, Jews from Twarda Street, clutching their weapons still, were tended by Polish women. Then Warsaw had one heart, one prayer and one curse.

But the fate of the Jews was a brutal experience. In the Christian suburb of Krakowi life grew more difficult; in the Jewish Nalewki Street there was already no life....

And Jewish eyes saw with fear and amazement; they saw how the ghetto walls arose, growing higher and higher. They saw with fear and hope. Surely such a thing was not possible ... in the 20th Century ... in the age of culture and progress. Surely the world would shake with anger and the vile Germans would not dare ... But the vile Germans did dare, and the world was silent and withdrawn. Silent were all those in whom faith reposed. And silent were those who but a while before had fought shoulder to shoulder with the segregated - silent because of fear, of weakness, of powerlessness, of apathy. The Warsaw of Twarda and Nalewki was silent, its mouth clogged and choked.

The ghetto.
Only now and then did a strangled cry emerge from the walls and out to the world: Save us! But the great and merciful world was burdened with other problems. What did it care for the strangled cry from a gloomy ghetto? ...

And we here did not even know how the ghetto was dying.
We did not know.
Whilst the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw and of all Poland wallowed in blood and tears, whilst our brothers and sisters were transported to Treblinka, loaded onto the wagons of death; whilst Jewish children were thrown from windows or smashed against walls - we carried on as usual, we the Jews of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, of London and New York. We ate and we drank and enjoyed ourselves. Only when the straggling remnants began to arrive - here, one from a town two from a family, were we paralyzed with fright and with pain...

... And then there burst from the Jewish heart the bitter question: Where is the Other Warsaw? Have you seen her? Has horror stilled her voice? Or perhaps she has not been silent? Late came the answer. An answer cruel and terrible. The Other Warsaw, the Polish Warsaw, had seen, had known, and remained indifferent. After all, only Jews were being slaughtered. What did she care? ...

The city of two hearts had lost one of them. The Jewish heart was torn up by its roots. The sun rises and sets on the streets of Grzebow and on Gnesza, on Franciszkan and on Twarda streets. The Jews alone were not there. People had vanished. Only a handful remained, clinging with their last strength to the walls of the dead city. They had already seen, already felt everything. They know they can expect no help from anyone. Yet the fighters of the ghetto tried to arouse the second heart, to speak with their neighbors - all in vain. Polish Warsaw did not lift a finger, not even during the Jewish uprising!

And the Jews - isolated, abandoned, desolate, and poorly armed - fought their hopeless fight against Hitler's mighty army. Every street, every alleyway, every house, and every cellar became a bastion of Jewish resistance. At the same time, the terrible and tragic truth was that in one part of the town the tanks rumbled, the cannons roared, the shells whined, houses went up in flames, and the cries of the wounded rent the air -
while nearby, on the other side of the ghetto walls, the shops were open, the trams ran on their rails, people strolled to and fro. Here, life was as before; people dined and went to sleep in their own beds - while from afar could be heard the sound of guns and of exploding shells...

The final destruction of the Jews of Warsaw was a fact. Together with the victims, the city fell, the houses crumbled. Desolate ruins marked what was once a Jewish habitation, silent ruins that stared at the other side, where life throbbed, people walked in the sun; shopkeepers served their customers.... and in the evenings there stole among the ruins the shadowy figures of the last of the scavengers, seeking for buried Jewish property...

The Second Warsaw, the Warsaw of the Poles, rises again. But not the Warsaw of the Jews. The Warsaw of the Jews is eradicated. Fallen is the tree of European Jewry. Jewish Warsaw is become a huge cemetery. It ileft to us to relate and record its events and history, life and suffering, joy and sorrow, and the terrible days of destruction of a great Jewish center"

1) "Arim Ve'Imahot Be'Israel", 3rd Volume, edited by Rabbi Y. L. Ha'Kohen Fyszman:
WARSAW, David Flinker, Mosad ha'Rav Kook, Jerusalem 1948.

Time is running out, and I will therefore conclude by reading out the names of the Jewish communities murdered in Treblinka. Mention must be made here of the successful work - despite considerable difficulties - carried out by Hitachdut Yotsei Polin - Association of Polish Jews in Israel, (Center of Organizations), Chairman: Benjamin Meirtchak, of adding to the memorial at Treblinka more than 80 symbolic stones for those communities that were not previously represented - and our thanks go out to them on this sacred achievement.

From this platform I repeat my message of two years ago.
Every effort must be put into preserving the memory of the Holocaust and its victims:

Y To learn and to teach,
Y to act and to activate,
Y to hear and to make heard,
Y To be aware and to make aware,
Y to cry out and to alert,
Y to remember and remind ...

No one else will do it for us. This is our duty and also our right, we the successor generation, we who were born with a burden of sadness and pain on our shoulders. We are the vengeance and our children are the consolation...

Not to pardon and not to forget!

Here follows a list of the Jewish communities (May the Lord Revenge Their Blood) who were murdered by the Germans and their henchmen (May Their Names be Obliterated) in the death camp of Treblinka in the dark years 1942-1943:

(Last Updated June 7th 2000)

ADAMOW

AUGUSTOW

BARANOW SANDOMIERSKI

BIALYSTOK

BIALOBRZEGI

BIALA PODLASKIASKA

BIALA RAWSKA

BIELSK PODLASKIASKI

BLEDOW

BLONIE

BODZANOW

BODZENTYN

BRANSK

BROK

BUSKO ZDROJ

CIECHANOWIEC

CIEPIELOW

CHECINY

CHMIELNIK

CHOROSZCZ

CZESTOCHOWA

CMIELOW

DABROWA BIALA

DOBRE

DRUSKIENNIKI

DRZEWICA

FALENICA

GARBATKA

GARWOLIN

GLOWNO

GLOWACZOW

GNIEWOSZOW

GOLEDZISZOW

GONIADZ

GORZKOWICE

GORA KALWARIA

GRAJEWO

GRODNO

GRODZISK MAZ.

GRODEK BIALA

GROJEC

INDURA

ILZA

INOWLODZ

IWANSKA

JADOW

JANOW PODLASKIASKI

JALOWKA

JANOW SOKOLSKI*

JASIONOWKA

JEDLINSK

JEDWABNE

JEZIORY

JEZOW

JEDZREJOW

KALUSZYN

KAMIENSK

KARCZEW

KIELCE

KIELBASIN

KLESZCZELE

KLIMONTOW

KNYSZYN

KOCK

KOLUSZKI

KOLBIEL

KONIECPOL

KONSTANTYNOW

KONSKIE

KOPRZYWNICA

KORYCIN

KOSOW LACKI

KOZIENICE

KRYNKI

KUFLEW

KUZNICA BIALA

KUNOW

LAGOW

LAPY

LASKARZEW

LATOWICZ

LEGIONOWO

LIPNO*

LIPSKO NAD WISLA

LOCHOW

LOSICE

LODZ

LOWICZ

LUDWISIN

LUKOW

LUNNA

LYSKOW

MAGNUSZEW

MAKOW MAZOWIECKI

MALKINIA

MALOGOSZCZ

MARIAMPOL

MARIANOW

MICHALOWO

MIEDZYRZEC PODLASKI

MILEJCZYCE

MINSK MAZOWIECKI

MLAWA

MNISZEW

MOGIELNICA

MORDY

MOSTY

MROZY

MSZCZONOW

NAREW

NASIELSK

NOWY KORCZYN

NOWE MIASTO NAD PILICA

OBLAS

ODELSK

OPATOW

OPOCZNO

ORLA

OSIEK

OSTROWIEC

OSTROW MAZOWIECKI

OSTRYNA

OTWOCK

OZAROW

PACANOW

PARYSOW

PIASECZNO

PIONKI

PIOTRKOW TRIBULANSKI

PINCZOW

PLOCK

POLICZNA

POREBA

POROZOW

PORZECZE

PRUSZKOW

PRUZANY

PRZEBORZ

PRZEMYSL

PRZYGLOW

PRZYSUCHA

PRZYTYK

PULTUSK

RADOM

RADOMSKO

RADOSZYCE

RADZILOW

RADZYMIN

RAJGROD

RAWA MAZOWIECKA

REMBERTOW

ROS

ROZANA

SANDOMIERZ

SARNOW

SEROKOMLA

SEDZISZOW

SIDRA

SIECIECHOW

SIEDLCE

SIEMIATYCZE

SIENNICA

SIENNO

SKARYSZEW

SKARZYSKO - KAMIENNA

SKIDEL

SKIERNIEWICE

SLAWATYCZE

SLUPIA NOWA

SOBIENIE JEZIORY

SOBOLEW

SOCHACZEW

SOKOLY

SOKOLOW PODLASKI

SOKOLKA

SOLEC NAD WISLA

SOPOCKINIE

STARACHOWICE

STANISLAWOW

STASZOW

STERDYN

STOCZEK P. SOKOLOWSKI

STOCZEK LUKOWSKI

STOPNICA

STROMIEC

SUCHEDNIOW

SUCHOWOLA

SULEJOW

SZCZEKOCINY

SZCZUCZYN

SZRENSK

SZYDLOWIEC

SWISLOCZ

TARCZYN

TARLOW

TERESPOL

TLUSZCZ

TOMASZOW MAZ.

TRZCIANNE

UJAZD

WARKA

WASILKOW

WAWER

WARSZAWA

WEGROW

WIERZBNIK

WISKITKI

WISZNICE

WLOSZCZOWA

WODZISLAW

WOLANOW

WOLKOWYSK

WOLOMIN

WOLPA

WYSZKOW

WYSZOGROD

ZABLUDOW

ZAWICHOST

ZWOLEN

ZARKI

ZARNOW

ZELECHOW

ZYRARDOW


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