Memoirs of a Holocaust Survivor
Written by Ichac Weizman (Wajcman) in 1995
from Hebrew by Dikla Weizman née
MY LIFE STORY
ARE IN SARID
Our reception was
extraordinary. In the evening all the members gathered in the dining hall and a
festive dinner was served. There were performances and speeches. One of our
members also thanked the Kibbutz and told a brief history of the group. From the
firs moment we felt that we were welcomed. We did not feel patronized or distant
attitudes of the Kibbutz members. Just the opposite – most of the members wanted
our friendship and their doors were open to us.
Most of the members of the Kibbutz had relatives that had been
exterminated in the Holocaust. They tried to understand with our help what and
how such an enormous disaster happened to the European Jewry. Our group,
Ge’ulim, had good luck to come to Sarid. The members were well educated and
intelligent. The atmosphere was calm, tranquil and of course it influenced us.
Most of the members of the Kibbutz worked in agriculture although they
had other professions – physicists, mathematicians, musicians etc. All of them
gave up their previous professions in order to settle upon the land and make the
Zionist revolution come true. They willingly gave up their status and prestige.
Most of the members connected with us in spite of the great age difference. They
did it in an admirable way.
David was a teacher and tutor. He knew Polish well, and Frieda,
who was from Romania, knew Yiddish well. She really was a mother to all of us
together and to each and every one of us separately. We loved and worshiped her.
She was a patient woman, good hearted, honest and firm. She knew how to make us
do whatever she wanted in her own sophisticated way. She gave us warmth and
care, but insisted that we would fulfill our tasks.
David was a wonderful teacher – he knew how to teach. He was a man
with wide horizons and knowledge both in the humanities and the sciences. He was
very conscientious about his work. At first he tried to teach us in Polish. We
revolted and showed that we knew Hebrew well enough for studying in Hebrew. We
studied for half a day willingly and happily. As a result our curriculum was
broader than the initial one in subject matter and extent. In a short time we
succeeded to integrate into the various branches of the farm and other
occupations and through working together with the members of the Kibbutz we
became close to the Kibbutz population and were friendly with everyone.
very seldom with the young people of the Kibbutz who were about our own age
because they studied in a boarding high school in Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek and
seldom came home. We were very sorry about that.
enjoyed every moment in Sarid - the freedom, the open-mindedness, the caring,
the open spaces, the cornfields, the vineyards and the groves. The place and the
conditions succeeded in giving us back much of our lost youth and spirit for
life. For us Sarid was a refreshing, educating and personality building
experience. The atmosphere impressed us very much and the members of the Kibbutz
were our personality models. We wanted very much to be like them – healthy,
strong and modest.
were among them very important figures such as: Shlomo Rozen, later the
minister of absorption (taking care of new comers to Israel), Moshe Tzipor,
the editor of the daily newspaper "Al Hamishmar" (on guard in Hebrew), Amitay,
Natan Yonatan, a poet, Tzfira his wife, a gifted musician and many
others – gifted and modest. Their behavior was not patronizing and they were
friendly with everyone. All that impressed me very much. Until now I appreciate
those dedicated honest people that were content with little and helped others.
addition to the studies and work we started military training with the
Palmach. We trained with the use of light weapons, patrolling, ambushes and
guarding assignments. I remember once when we came back from training a British
patrol discovered us. We ran one by one into a grove and hid there. We hardly
managed to get away.
personally, had an unpleasant incident in those days. That night I was
standing in a guard check post that was located in a grove guarding the fence.
It was a cloudy night and very dark. It was near one o’clock a.m. I was very
alert, taking good care and listening to every rustle and movement. It should be
remembered that it was at the beginning of the Independence War.
whole region was tense. Sarid’s location has been beneath the mountains of
Nazareth, surrounded by Arab villages and nomad Bedouins who had been stealing
cows and sheep. Suddenly I saw a movement of an image and heard a rustle. I
stopped breathing trying to concentrate. ‘May be I am
wrong? May be it is a shrub rustling because of the wind? May be it is a passing
animal?’ I became highly alerted, tense and exited. Any buzz made me
suspicious. I tried to make efforts to get used to the darkness and sharpen my
several minutes I again heard a clear rustle. I shouted the code word. No answer
and no response. I shouted again and announced: ‘I am shooting!’ again I
shouted: ‘don’t come near! I am shooting!’ after several warnings I loaded the
rifle, exited and tense, pointed the rifle to the direction of the noise and
shot a single bullet. Only then the two images started shouting: ‘don’t shoot!
We are a checking unit. We came to check the alertness of the guards’.
It was a
miracle that I did not hurt one of them. Exited and tense I shouted at them: ‘ I
could have killed one of you! Why did you not answer my code word ?!’. Their
answer was that they wanted to put me to a real test up until the end. They
complemented me about my alertness but I could not forgive myself about the fact
that I could have killed someone. Confused and tense I finished my shift.
guides and my friends tried to make me talk about the incident and explained
that I acted in the right way and that the region commander and his deputy were
in the wrong – they did not act according to the instructions and took an
uncalculated risk. They should have approached quietly and at the moment the
guard shouted for identification they had to light a torch and shout the code
word. To my regret they did not act as they should have. I was very distressed
about this incident. In spite of the overall tension about the region, for me
the incident was traumatic and for a while I could not get rid of the depression
caused by the incident.
I grew physically. The good conditions helped all of us to catch up and be
within the normal growth range for our age. We also succeeded to catch upon a
big part of the studies we missed during the war. Looking back, I can definitely
say that it was a pleasant fruitful period that laid the foundation on which I
built the continuation of my life in Israel.
period we shed our suspiciousness and other habits of Holocaust prisoners. We
became like the “Tsabars”
in our behavior, clothes and the cheeky style of speech that was typical of the
children and youth that were born and raised in Eretz Israel. We had a beautiful
time in Sarid (a little more than a year and a half).
the decision of the United Nation (November 27th 1947) to divide Palestine
(Eretz Israel) into two independent states, Jewish and Arab, the Arabs attacked
the Jews and the Independence War began. We knew that we would be recruited to a
full time service with the Palmach. We were not comfortable with staying in the
Kibbutz and studying while most people of our age group and even older were
already fighting. People from Sarid were also recruited or volunteered.
stopped studying and worked with the members of the Kibbutz digging defense
trenches. Day after day we dug ditches and trenches. It reminded me of the first
days of the Second World War when all the civil population was recruited for
digging defense trenches. We just started getting used to a free and normal life
without stress and worry and we were once again back in war. The sudden
transition made me feel as if I was back in the beginning of World War II. Again
we suffered bombings and fears typical to a person lying helpless in a ditch. We
felt that our place was not there; we should be in the front.
the beginning of 1948. The British were still in the country. The policy of
“divide and rule” was still going on strongly. There were the first signs of the
British Army preparing to leave and each side wanted to take hold of their
sites. Sarid was very near to the army airfield in Ramat David. The race against
time was on. That time the race was about which side would take hold of the
airfield after the British would get out. The army of the Iraqi general Ka’u’gjy
entered the Valley of Izra’el and besieged
Kibbutz Mishmar Ha’emek. We heard and saw the cannons bombing the Kibbutz. Most
of the men from the villages near Mishmar Ha’emek recruited or volunteered for
help, including us.
joined concentrated efforts and our forces succeeded in beating off the attack
on Mishmar Ha’emek. According to knowledgeable people it was an important
strategic and tactic victory. Ka’u’gji withdrew and there was a change for the
better in the Valley front.
atmosphere improved and we could feel more comfortable in the Kibbutz, but only
for a short time. The mood in the group became gloomy when the we received the
sad news that the brother of Raya, a member of our group, was among those
that were killed while escorting the supplies convoy that tried to get through
to Kibbutz Ye’hi’am in the Galilee. The group and the Kibbutz were in deep
mourning. He was an only elder brother who raised her, took care of her
throughout the Second World War – with the partisans, in the forests and in
their wanderings. He was for her a father, a brother and really the only one in
the world. We were heart broken seeing her grief.
happened a few days before our recruitment. We did not need a more concrete case
to make us realize what to expect in the army and what would be the cost of the
Declaration of Israel was on the eve of May 15th 1948 (I’yar 5th 5708 – Hebrew
calendar). A few days later all the Palmach mobilized our group for full time
service. We were sent to Yona camp near Beyt Lid for military training. It was a
real army camp - closed, fenced and no entering or leaving without permission.
Every thing was planned according to rules and regulations. There was no free
time, as the preparation of additional fighting forces should be done in the
shortest possible time.
needed at the front. There were no ranks or orders. Every thing was done in a
relaxed non-formal fashion without ceremony, everything was based on mutual
esteem and understanding. That was the fundamental attitude in the Palmach and
it worked well because of the high motivation. In the Yona camp we met with many
Israeli born young people (Tsabars) who were about our own age. We
did not feel any difference between them and us. We immediately felt how well we
were adapted to the country and how much Sarid contributed to our adaptation. We
had no problem keeping up with the Israeli youth in all aspects. That is of
course a generalization. There were some exceptions – a few of our group’s
members claimed that the Tsabars were patronizing. It seemed that it was an
individual problem – how much one could deal with new and often changing
situations. I, personally, did not feel and did not meet any phenomenon of
trainings were very hard. We were told time and again that the better we were
trained and prepared the better our odds to survive the war and succeed would
be. We understood very well. Every day there was news from the front about
soldiers killed and wounded. The war was going on at all fronts. The Negev was
still besieged. What we called the Faluja Pocket (nowadays Lachish region) had
not yet been liberated; Beer Sheba was also not yet liberated. The police fort
of Iraq-Su’yidan (now Metzudat Yo’av) near Kibbutz Negba was in the hands of the
Egyptians. Eilat (then called Um-Rashrash) was still under Jordanian rule. The
war in the Galilee and in Jerusalem was still raging and the road to Jerusalem
was blocked. We knew that we would join the force in the south, the Negev
brigade whose commander was Nahum Sarig from Kibbutz Beit Hashita.
of the training days my right leg was severely wounded and I was taken to the
Ha’emek hospital in Afula (not far from Sarid). My whole leg was plastered. The
doctor said that my leg would have to be plastered for three weeks. Except for
the fact that I experienced severe pain, I was sorry about being separated from
my group and that I would not be able to go with them to the front. For me it
was a strong moral blow. I could not accept it. After two weeks I demanded to
have the plaster opened. I claimed that I had no more pains and that I could
walk freely without help. When the plaster was opened I was really scared. The
leg had shrunken and was thin as a toothpick. The doctors explained that it was
a common phenomenon, after a while the leg would return to its regular shape.
demanded to be released from the hospital and go back to the camp. The doctors
refused vehemently. They said that I should rest for an additional two weeks
either at the hospital or at home, and get the necessary treatment for
strengthening the leg.
Frieda, the “mother” of the group, came to the hospital with baskets and
packages loaded with the best of the land and said that she came with a car to
take me to Sarid for continuance of the treatment. Two days later I heard that
the group finished training and they were going to the front.
youth guides from Sarid were going to visit the group before they left Kfar Yona
camp. I insisted on joining them and they agreed. The moment I reached the camp
I decided that I would not leave the group. I would join them in whatever
situation, I would not return to Sarid. I had to argue strongly with the guides
in order to convince them to let me stay at the Kfar Yona camp. It was against
doctors’ orders and contrary to the regular procedure. The guides were in an
unpleasant and difficult situation because of me. I did not give up and remained
according to my own decision.
nature I am not an adventurer and I usually obey instructions or orders, but as
a very young man (not yet 20 years old) the will to be with my group at such a
critical moment overcame all other considerations. There was no way that I could
accept that all the members of the group would go to the front and I would stay
at the rear.
the group although my leg was not yet strong and healthy without reporting to
the commanders of my health situation and together we started our way southward
to the front. After a long tiring drive we arrived at night, in the darkness, at
Kibbutz Negba that was partly destroyed by Egyptian bombing. (The Kibbutz,
thanks to a last moment help from the Palmach, heroically beat off the Egyptian
delays and explanations we started marching into the night escorted by a
road-guide in order to join our forces that were besieged and cut off from other
parts of the country. At the beginning we progressed at a normal pace and were
not strictly forbidden to make noise or conversation. As we came approached the
enemy lines the pace slowed down and we were not allowed to say even one word.
After a distance of 200 meters we saw the Iraq-Su’yidan fort with all its lights
and fences. The Egyptian army still occupied as well as the area surrounding it.
It was a huge building, fortified, surrounded by watchtowers and the whole area
around it was mined.
dogs’ barking started accompanied by light grenades that lighted the whole area
like daylight. We understood that the Egyptian bloodhounds sensed us and that we
should be careful. From that moment the only choice was to advance crawling,
keeping connected with each other by code word.
hours we crawled on our bellies loaded with all of our equipment and holding
rifles in our hands. Our progress was very slow and very difficult. We used our
leftover strength in order not to give up. All of us were scratched and wounded
from the long crawling in a thorny field. I suffered hellish pains in my wounded
leg. I needed enormous mental strength during those hours in order to overcome
the effort and the pain. Only the will, the pride and the wish not to lag behind
the other members of the group gave me the power needed for keeping up. In that
difficult situation I understood how irresponsible I had been about myself and
about the group. If I failed, my friends would have had to take care of me,
there would have been a delay and the operation would have failed because the
force would not have reached its destination.
thoughts filled my mind throughout the crawling and that was why I fought the
pain and fear with the remnant of my strength. Again, I realized how much power
and will is hidden in a person when there is no alternative. After several hours
of crawling, when my body was almost paralyzed and the senses were numb we
managed to get far enough from the enemy lines, so we were instructed to stand
up and start walking. I could not get up. I had hellish pains in my wounded leg.
Two of my mates who were nearest to me succeeded to help me stand on my feet. At
the first moment I was very dizzy but it soon passed. The only alternative was
to get used to walking, although my leg was still hurting. With great efforts I
managed to catch up with the others. I reached our destination with the help of
my friends that supported me. We managed to infiltrate behind the enemy lines so
as to be able to attack from an unanticipated direction. Apparently it was the
right time to tell the commander about my physical state. Of course his reaction
was ambivalent: he understood my motives but on the other hand he was angry that
I had not discussed the options with him before we started our mission. He said
‘we shall deal with the problem in proper time’ and sent me to the Medicaid to
take care of the leg and rest as much as possible.
reached the fortified height that was our post where we met with the force that
had come before us and controlled a wide area. They were glad to receive
enforcement. The Medicaid bound my leg with an elastic bandage and with the
addition of tranquilizers he helped me to recover. Sometime later the road-guide
found time to ask how I was and he was shocked to see a fighting soldier with a
shrunken leg, thin, wounded and grinded from the crawling. He, also, was angry
with me and threatened to “take care” of me because of my irresponsible
about arriving at the destination with the whole group turned into depression
and guilty conscience. I was a burden on my mates, a soldier who was incompetent
of action. The commander encouraged me; he was not angry and did not threaten
me. My mates were also there for me, especially the Medicaid. The Medicaid was a
medicine student with more knowledge than a regular Medicaid. He ordered me to
walk as much as possible and gave me massages although we were in field
conditions. After several days my leg’s muscles strengthened and in a short time
my leg started to get back to its normal shape. There was nobody happier than
rid of the worries and fears and started functioning normally. I went out to do
guard duty and ambushes. In a short time the commander learned to know me and
saw my behavior in field and front conditions. Only then he asked me to forgive
him and promised to forget and not to tell his superiors about what I had done.
He said: ‘to be truthful I appreciated
your deed from the first moment’. We became friends along the way.
conditions at the post were difficult. The roads were blocked. As a result there
was no regular food supply, we received only what was smuggled through the
Egyptian guarded lines and that was very little. Drinking water was measured,
hygiene conditions were bad, and everything was improvised and temporary. We
waited for orders to come at any minute.
senses were sharpened, because the environment was hostile and the enemy was not
far away. Each side sent intelligence units to explore the area. At any moment
there was a chance of attacking or being attacked. We had to be at our posts all
the time without being seen by the enemy. The success of the operation was first
of all based on the element of surprise. The Egyptians were not allowed to know
that there was an Israeli force behind their lines.
several nights the Israelis succeeded in smuggling more forces behind the
Egyptian lines. At that time there were several attempts to take the
Iraq-Su’yidan fort but without success.
night when we were in our posts we were eyewitnesses to a bitter battle that
took place not far from us, it was the famous conquest of the village Hulikat.
Our forces used “gunners-torch”, (a burner that makes an enormous noise
accompanied by an enormous flame). That gadget threatened and frightened the
enemy. So, because of that psychological weapon the villagers started running
away. In spite of that, the battle was hard and bitter and many soldiers were
wounded or killed.
days later we broke through and opened the land-mined road and that enabled us
to send troops to continue the war. We continued and took part in the operation
of conquering Beer Sheba and then returned to our post to go on securing the
road and the occupied territories. Later we heard that the Negev brigade
together with other forces took over many other regions. In fact, we besieged
the Faluja pocket – the area around the Iraq-Su’yidan fort including the fort
itself. (Now the region’s is name is Plugot).
the liberation of the northern part of the Negev we were sent to the center of
Israel to an army camp near Beer Ya’akov. The whole group was sent on an
advanced communication course. We studied operating wireless, Morse alphabet,
flags and heliograph signaling. The subject matter was not easy and the physical
effort was not easy too, but compared to the conditions at the front the course
was enjoyable and refreshing.
contact with the Kibbutz was renewed. The guides came to visit and brought us
whatever we needed. The girls that had stayed in the rear when we were in the
front joined the course, and that was a chance to strengthen the social
relations in the group.
course took about a month and then we were sent to separate units in the brigade
to be the signalers. The posting was done according to the recommendations of
the course guides. The course graduates who attained a good ability in
deciphering Morse and ciphered messages were considered successful. In most
cases it was more a function of will and diligence than a function of
intelligence. As I had been honest and naïve and I had never demanded from
others what I had not done myself, so that time, too, I put in efforts to do
well in the course. I attained grades and was sent to be the signaler of the
Police station in Be'yt Jubrin
Palmach soldiers - my
friends and me
conquering the region of Be’yt Jubrin, including the police fort, the brigade
moved to secure that region. We settled in several posts in the region of Mount Hebron. Just as we took over the
posts we had to install a telephone line about 14 kilometers long from the
police fort through the village of Ka’ukba till the village of
Du’ema (now Amatzya). Several
members of our group, including a girl named Ruth and me were sent to do the
job. When we reached the outskirts of Ka’ukba Ruth suddenly shouted: ‘I saw
someone running among the buildings’. We decided to enter the village carefully,
walking beside the car with our guns loaded ready for action. We combed the
village carefully and did not find anything. We knew that Ruth had a very well
developed sense of orientation and exploration as a result of her long stay in
the forests with partisans in Poland in World War II, so we knew that what she
said should be examined carefully.
our wireless device to contact headquarters, which was located in the former
police fort. The answer was that we have to carefully comb the area and if we
did not find a hostile subject to go on with the job. We followed the orders,
finished the task and returned to our base.
that afternoon a lorry with supplies went to the Du’ema post. When the lorry
approached Ka’ukba it was attacked by Arabs that were ambushed and soldiers were
wounded and killed. After the incident a check and search were conducted there.
inquiry discovered about ten openings in a stone fence through which the Arabs
shot the lorry. We were sorry about the incident and every one praised Ruth for
her observation ability and how right she was.
region was very dangerous. Armed thieving Arabs were roaming around because they
were hungry and homeless, so they were ready to endanger themselves in order to
get food. They even succeeded to break into the food store of the headquarters
and take some supplies.
another painful incident in those days in the Be’yt Jubrin region. Three armed
units were sent on foot on a scouting mission. Each unit had a task. There was a
wireless connection between the units and with headquarters. The commander was a
brave guy, with a reputation of a daring fighter – his nickname was Penny, and I
do not remember his real name. The commander headed one of the units. During the
scouting of one of the dry riverbeds they ran into a grazing herd of sheep and
the commander saw the shepherd watching the herd from the top of the mountain.
The commander contacted headquarters and asked for instructions. I received the
massage from the commander on the wireless device and informed the regiment
commander – his answer was: ‘leave the shepherd alone and go on with the task’.
The commander of the scouts did not obey the orders of the brigade commander,
took over the herd and started leading it to the base. The shepherd called the
villagers from the nearest village from the other the side of the border to help
him. A big crowd came armed and easily took back the herd and killed all eleven
soldiers of the unit, including the commander. They not only shot them – they
slaughtered them. The soldiers were cut into pieces and brought back in sacks.
Among those who were killed was one of our friends from Mizra who survived the
horrors of the war and lost his whole family, just like me. He fell in a manner
that needed further clarification, which I do not know if was ever done. It
could be that it was a serious case of disobedience that cost human lives.
phenomenon of too much rashness and exaggerated self-confidence as well as scorn
of the fighting ability of the enemy, was typical to many young commanders in
those times. It could be the outcome of the era and the times. The shock in the
regiment from that massacre was great and it influenced us deeply.
of the grief we had to recover quickly and go back to the daily routine and go
on with our operational activities. We continued to go out on regular checks and
to secure an open telephone line. We had found more than once improvised
connections that were done with safety pins that the Arabs connected to our
lines in order to listen and follow-up our operations on for their intelligence.
region was very dangerous. It was the region of the Arabs of the Mount of Hebron
who have been known as a religious fanatic population that was always active in
murder operations against Jews even during the British rule. In 1929 the Jews in
Hebron were massacred and the few that managed to survive left the town and the
Arabs took all the Jewish property.
realized already then that although we had won the battle but the war was not
yet over. In the new situation there would be no less victims - might be even
more. After months of activity we were transferred to the Bilu camp, near
Rehovot, in the central zone of Israel, for reorganization and advanced
group was reunited and we felt better but to my sorrow, not for a long time.
Part of the group including me, were temporarily attached to regiment 7 of the
Palmach to help in the Uvda (a fact in Hebrew) operation to conquer Eilat. The
operation was physically very difficult; we had to walk a long way in hostile
desert conditions. The goal was to reach Um-Rashrash, a Jordanian police border
post on the beach of the Red Sea. The march was quick without any resistance of
the enemy and when we arrived we saw a yard in which there were three small clay
shacks and a cooking fire was still burning in the yard. That was evidence that
the Jordanian guards had fled recently in a hurry.
The police post was “conquered” without any Jordanian resistance on March
10th 1949. That operation established the southern border of Israel. We felt
that it was a real privilege to do so.
We started to get organized for a long stay in difficult desert conditions.
The difficulties were in the first weeks after reaching our destination,
because there was not a good road. It took sometime before the road was
prepared for lorries to go through.
On the way to Eialt ("Um
We were again disconnected, far from the inhabited part of the country,
without a regular supply of water, food or other necessary supplies. For
three months we had to do with dry biscuits and preserved orange juice. I
established the wireless communication station in the highest place which
was called then Ras-el-Nakeb and I managed to be in contact by Morse with
the headquarters of the brigade that was then in Hatzor camp. Of course my
station was the “nerve center” of the soldiers stationed in Eilat and was
full of people day and night.
Eilat ("Um Rashrash") on our
Later on, the whole regiment including all the other members of the group came
to the Negev, the southern part of Israel, and was stationed in posts from Beer
Sheba to Eilat. The connection between the members of the group was renewed by
telegrams and messages between wireless stations.
operation was the last one of the Independence War and also the last one of the
Palmach. Several months later Tsahal – I.D.F. (in Hebrew initials of
Israel Defense Forces) was established and the Palmach were dismantled. As a
result it was decided to send back all the recruited pioneer training groups to
the Kibbutzim. Indeed our group was immediately discharged after the last
battle. The Palmach soldiers were very angry – they felt offended and even sang:
‘the Moor has done his job, the Moor may go’. They thought at that time the
decision to dismantle the Palmach was more a political decision than a military
group was united with an Israeli group and together they were first in Sarid and
then in Kibbutz Dalya, not far from Mount Carmel, waiting to be sent to build a
new independent Kibbutz. The army did not release everyone; indispensable
soldiers had to go on serving in the army. To my sorrow I was among the few that
stayed in the army together with two other members.
was very sorry to be separated from my friends to whom I was very close. We went
through a lot together and we shared plans for the future. I tried to keep in
touch as much as was possible. The opportunities for visits were rare, short and
hurried. On one of the visits to Dalya I met Dikla, my dear wife all
along the way to this very day. Now I had another reason to visit the group
because I wanted to visit her. The separation and the distance had their
influence. The group changed, new members were added, and there were
developments and changes especially in the social aspect of the manner of life
of the group.
too, the situation changed. For the first time I was in a different reality from
the one I was used to. I was on my own and had to take care by myself of all my
needs. The longer the separation was many of my views and conventions were
changed. My self-confidence grew stronger and I started thinking about life
outside of the Kibbutz.
period was not an easy period for me. I debated with myself. For me the decision
to live outside of the Kibbutz was a matter of conscience, but, ironically, I
was “helped” by the movement’s institutions. They decided to combine our united
group with an already existing Kibbutz – Nachshonim. The dream to build a new
Kibbutz was erased. The disappointment was great and so was the anger. A wave of
leavings started, especially by the Israeli group. They had homes, families and
more opportunities and some of them planned to go on with their studies. I
followed from a distance the fears and debates in the group.
Nachshonim was then a young Kibbutz. The debates and fears were about our
integration in the Kibbutz – would the group be allowed to take an equal part in
all the institutions and various kinds of work on the Kibbutz. Those debates and
fears were understandable. The members of the group that did not leave accepted
the movement decision and joined Nachshonim. I did my best to visit them and
Dikla and I saw how our members were unhappy there. In conversations I had
with my closest friends they told me that they wanted to leave or join another
Kibbutz because they and the Israeli group, too, did not have rapport with the
that after the disruptions that the group went through in those days my feelings
of kinship and fate sharing were not as strong as they used to be. I did not
blame the movement’s institutions. It might be that from their point of view
they wanted to help and save an existing young Kibbutz that was not faring very
well. But for us – a united pioneer group with fresh young eagerness and a
strong real wish to build an independent Kibbutz, the decision to join an
existing Kibbutz was a mistake and caused the crisis.
longer visit to Nachshonim is a story worth telling. After three months of
continuous army service I had a week’s leave. I decided to visit Dikla
and the other members of the group. It took me two days to arrive late at night
at Beer Sheba from Eilat (There was no regular transportation in those days). I
stayed to sleep there in accommodation supplied by the town major. On the next
day, it was Friday evening, I arrived to at the junction of Rosh Haa’yin (near
Petach Tikva) from which it was about 10 kilometers distance to Nachshonim
(about 6.6 miles). (It is in the central part of Israel but a bus to Nachshonim
was going only once a day in the afternoon and anyhow there is no bus service in
Israel from Friday evening till Saturday night even now according to the law
imposed by the religious parties of the Knesset).
in the junction, it was raining heavily and I did not have an umbrella or
anything else to cover my head and waited for a lift but no vehicle passed
there. I waited for about an hour and a half. I decided that I would reach
Nachshonim at any price and started walking. I walked for two hours wet to the
bone and reached the gate of the Kibbutz. All through the way no vehicle passed
and I did not meet anybody.
was locked. There was no guard and no communication appliance with which to
inform the people inside of my arrival. I was standing helpless waiting for the
guard to do a checking round but in vain. Disappointed and wet I decided to take
a risk and crawl under the fence. By lots of effort I managed to lift a little
the barbed wire and pushed myself with many body maneuvers and passed the fence
– my clothes ware torn and I was scratched.
arrived tired, wet and hungry but happy. Dikla was surprised and very
glad to see me. She dried my clothes and took care of all the other things. She
really was happy to see me. Later I was told that I took a great risk by walking
from the Junction to the Kibbutz. On the road in the village Kfar Tzedek were
army posts and I could easily be spotted and shot because Arabs from the
adjacent no-man land used to infiltrate Israel for stealing and killing. Luckily
it was raining and the soldiers probably were not in their posts. Another risk
was in my entering through the fence. The guards could definitely spot me and
shoot me as a suspicious character.
wrote, it was my first longer visit in Nachshonim. The Kibbutz in those days was
more like a neglected army camp. There were several shacks on a hill without
paths or roads. It was hard to go from one shack to the other because of the
waterlogged mud. There was a makeshift dining shack where the members had to
take their meager meals in three shifts – there was no running water in the
communal kitchen and in the communal shower. Water was brought once a week in a
container. There was no work on the Kibbutz. The men worked in the stone quarry
in Migdal Tzedek and the women worked in the makeshift babies’ hospital in Rosh
Haa’yin that was established for the babies of the new arrivers from Yemen. Part
of our group was still in Dalya and part of the Nachshonim members were still in
their former location near Ramat Hasharon. The Kibbutz was just in its
beginning. (Nachshonim is now a flourishing Kibbutz).
visit I put in several hard work days by laying road stones in the deep mud. I
contributed my part and did not eat bread of charity. After a while Dikla
left the Kibbutz in order to go on studying and started studying in the
teachers’ college in Giv’at Hashlosha.
still in the army but we decided to get married. The wedding was on March 30th
1950. (Dikla was 18 years old and I was almost 22 years old). At that
time I served near Jerusalem. We guarded the posts round Kibbutz Ramat Rachel
near the Jordanian border. I kept contact with Dikla by letters. She sent
her letters to her aunt Rachel in Jerusalem and I collected them when I came on
duty to the city (Many years passed before telephones were available to every
SIGN OF LIFE FROM THE FAMILY
day, Dikla’s cousin Benjamin, Rachel’s youngest son who was
16 years old, heard on the radio the broadcast of the Looking for Relatives
branch, which was very active in those days that someone was looking for
Ichak Weizman. By chance he noticed a letter that was lying on the desk with
my name on it. Benjamin wrote down all the details and sent them to Dikla.
out that a woman whose name was Tsipora Beckmeister was looking for
Ichac Weizman who was her relative. I was sure that she was Fela (Tsipora),
the sister of Shlomo (Shlamek). I remembered that I had a cousin
Fela Bol. I was sure that she was the one that stayed alive and was
looking for me.
left home and until that day I did not know anything about my big family in
Poland. I went to Tel Aviv to look for Tsipora Beckmeister. We, Dikla
and I, met with her and she told me that she was a cousin of Shlomo and
she came to Eretz Israel before the war. Shlomo asked her to look for me in
how I found out that Shlamek, my cousin was alive and had been living in
Paris. Shlamek found out about me from people that had met me in one of
the camps during the war. They told him that it was probable that I was alive
and went to Eretz Israel.
I was very happy that I found in
Israel a relative – a distant
relative but someone that was familiar with the
past. Tsipora told me that Shlamek was also the only survivor of
his immediate family. I wrote to Shlamek. After 4½ years since the end of
the war I received a first sign of life from a relative. Both of us could not
believe it. We both were doubtful that we really found each other. Only after I
received his first letter in which he wrote all the details of the family I was
convinced that he really was my cousin, son of my mother’s sister.
Shlamek was 11 years older than me and
remembered more then me details about the family. I felt as if I had a newly
born cousin. I was sure he felt the same. From family visits I remembered him as
a high school student dressed in gymnasium uniform, as was the custom then in
Poland. He remembered me as a small child sitting on his father’s knees. Each of
us carried the longings and the memories according to our relative ages when the
war began. Shlomo helped me to find more relatives from my father’s
family that immigrated to France before the war.
remembered vaguely that my father had a sister in France. Later I found out that
there was also a brother Moshe Aharon (Maurice) that also lived in
Paris. He immigrated as a 13-year-old boy, even before my aunt. That was
something I did not know. I had not much hope to find them because the Germans
also occupied France. I met Jews from France in Birkenau.
gave Shlamek the information I had (my aunt’s family name) and he started
to look for her. After a while he found my aunt with her family and also my
uncle with his family. For me it was a surprise that had a great strong
emotional meaning to me. The family was gathering and broadening. It connected
me again to my roots.
Shlamek was all through the war in the
Lodz Ghetto with his family. The city of Lodz was formally annexed to the German
Reich. The Germans established in Lodz workshops for making cloths and shoes in
which the Jews were employed without pay but received meager food rations that
enabled them to stay alive. His father, my uncle Yaakov Bol died in the
Ghetto. His mother Rachel and his sister Fela were deported to
extermination when the Ghetto was liquidated towards the end of the war.
Shlamek was sent to work in Germany and that was how he stayed alive.
France, my aunt and my uncle with their families hid during the war in a village
with gentiles and paid lots of money and that was how they survived and were not
sent to extermination camps. The Germans in Lyon captured Anna’s son when
he was walking in the street, he was bored in the village and decided to visit
the city. It was just after a Résistance operation and the Germans captured
young men as hostages. Only after the war the family was informed that all the
hostages were shot on the same day they were captured. Her daughter Harriet
and her husband stayed with them in the village and survived. The whole family
was furriers and after the war when they returned to Paris. The government gave
them back the house, the business and the workshop and they renewed their
time after my aunt learned that I survived she made an effort, although she was
already an elderly woman, and came to visit me in Israel. My father-in-law,
Moshe, and I went to the Haifa port to welcome her. When the ship entered
the port hundreds of people were standing on the deck but I recognized her
immediately because she looked very much like my father. We made all the
arrangements for them to be our guests but, to my sorrow, she immediately left
with friends that were also waiting there and stayed with them with her husband.
I was angry and hurt. I was hurt in my most vulnerable spot. Dikla’s
parents also understood that she was wrong but they did not say anything. Just
the opposite - they tried to cheer me up. It is a pity that our first meeting
was mixed with anger and disappointment. Several days later she came with her
husband to visit us and she also had presents for us that she brought from
my aunt in one of my letters about the way I felt about her visit to Israel. Her
answer was that I was too sentimental and too sensitive. I noted down that
evaluation and it gave me material for thought. To do my aunt justice she
corresponded with me for many years, visited Israel again about ten years later
and we visited her in 1976 and all the members of the family in Paris were
years later another relative found me – Israel Magnes, my father’s cousin
and close friend. He told me about my father’s political past and gave me
several pictures. Israel Magnes and his wife Rivka had immigrated
to Argentina before the war
started. Their three children were born there and were members of the Hashomer
Hatsair. Later on they came to Israel and their parents followed them and
settled in Rishon-le-Zion. When they had come to Israel they did not know that I
survived. They heard about it only later and started searching for me and
discovered that I have been living in the same town in Israel. Of course all of
us were very happy about it.
My aunt, Anna Glowinski
My uncle Leon with his
wife and her sister in Chile
My uncle Maurice
with his wife (right) and
daughter Paulette (left)
My cousin Harriet (Anna's
daughter) with her husband Jacques Goldman
TO INDEPENDENT LIFE
Dikla finished her studies and I at
last finished my army service. During that time we lived with Dikla’s
parents in Rishon-le Zion. We decided to return to the Kibbutz. We wrote to
Nachshonim’s secretariat, told them our story and our connection with the
Ge’ulim group and the Israeli group. To our sorrow there was no answer to our
letter. We wrote to Kibbutz Yad-Mordechai in which already some of our friends
from the group were already members. Without any problems we were received first
for a trial period and then as members.
Our eldest daughter, Il-il, was born when we were in
Yad-Mordechai. Dikla was teaching and I was in charge of the installation
and plumbing branch. That branch dealt with the steam instillations for the
communal kitchen and the industry, maintenance of the water pumping
installations as well as yadinstalling a wide net of water pipe lines for the
fields that needed irrigation and maintenance of the Kibbutz’s plumbing system
including new buildings.
My aunt Anna Glowinski and
husband Israel visit in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai
It was a very responsible and difficult task that demanded dedication and
long working hours. There was almost no free time left for the family and
especially for my eldest daughter. That fact caused me sorrow later on. Then I
was young and did not understand what irreversible harm it to both of us. I also
did not understand that there was no need to be dedicated totally to work and
task and there were other important things in life like spouse and children,
especially young ones.
Ichac and Dikla
in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai (early 50's)
With our first born daughter
Il-il, 1 year old, in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai.
After two and a half years we left the Kibbutz. The main reason was the
differences of opinions between Dikla and the Kibbutz about the
educational needs of the youth group that was in her charge. We returned to
Rishon-le-Zion with a two years old child without any money, not even enough to
buy a loaf of bread. We were not desperate. I started working in a big workshop
in Tsrifin (a big army camp near Rishon-le-Zion) and soon afterwards Dikla
got a teaching job.
At that time there was a very big housing shortage. We rented a one-room
apartment – the bathroom was outside but with running water. To say that it was
inconvenient living conditions is an understatement. We could not get help from
anyone so we took a loan from the Workers Bank and started our independent life.
I worked in Tsrifin only for a short period. I liked the work and the
foremen liked it too. I brought to the work workshop ethics different from those
of most of the workers and I was also more skilled then most of them. Some of
the old timers did not like it and started badgering me by several means
including intentionally sabotaging equipment and machinery, which I used, in
order to show that I was an inefficient worker.
On the first chance that I found a new job I resigned. Some of the
managers tried to persuade me to stay. I was invited for a talk with the chief
foreman and later to the base commander but my decision was final. I explained
to them that I did not want to work with irresponsible people who commit acts on
the verge of criminality against a workmate. I could not change the attitude of
those workers. It was evident that my superiors knew about the hooliganism but
they probably had reasons to ignore it.
I left Tzrifin and started working in the cooperative factory Gavish that
produced glass articles. I started as an employee with special benefits. I was
in charge of the maintenance of the factory that was producing round the clock.
The work was done in three shifts. I had to take care of the machines so that
the production would go on without interruptions. It was especially important
that the glass melting furnaces would operate efficiently and constantly. They
had to keep 1500 Celsius degrees, otherwise the production would stop and there
would be economical loss. Officially I worked from 7.00 A.M. till 6.00 P.M. (8
hours work with breakfast and lunch breaks and 2 hours overtime which were paid
accordingly). The reality was different – I often had to stay longer. Also very
often I was summoned back from home because of a failure even if it was in the
middle of the night and if there was trouble with the furnaces, even on
Saturdays (the Sabbath) and holy days. All that was part of the job.
Of course I was paid overtime for each summon, still it was very hard for
the family and myself. Work conditions were very hard. The heat was terrible
because of the furnaces that were not isolated from the machinery, the noise was
much above the regulations and there was dust allover from the mixture that was
put into the furnaces. Nowadays the Labor and Ecology Ministries would not allow
those conditions. To our sorrow in the fifties there was not yet enough
awareness about workers’ health. Later on most of the workers suffered from
respiratory problems and/or total or partial deafness.
As I became more involved in the cooperative it was suggested that I
should become a member. I liked the idea because I thought that I could increase
my income. I received a substantial sum of compensation money for forced labor
in the German camps. Dikla sensibly thought that we ought to buy our own
apartment because the raise in my income would not be enough to enable us to
save for an apartment, and as a vital worker I did not have to worry about being
fired. I thought that first we had to have economic safety and only then an
apartment. As since 1955 we have been living in a rented three-room apartment in
the same street with Dikla’s parents, I did not think that buying an
apartment was a first rate priority (In 1961 we also had three children, two
girls and a boy). Dikla did not insist because she understood that I felt
that it was important for me to be a member in the cooperative from a
professional and social point of view. She also thought that as it was my
compensation money, I was entitled to do with it whatever I chose.
I bought a membership share with the compensation money and part of my
pension fund. After I had become a member I was elected to the management. Only
then was I informed about the real problems of the cooperative. It was in really
bad shape – there was no future - we were too late. We did not succeed in
bringing new technology that would have enabled us to compete with glass import
that just then was allowed to come into the country. It was the fault of the old
management that had seen the writing on the wall but chose to ignore it. My
economic state did not improve. I lost a sum of money equal to the cost of an
apartment and what was even worse – I was about to lose my job because it was
just a matter of time before the cooperative would be bankrupt.
I was then in my mid thirties, a father of three children. Still, I did
not give up. I learned a good lesson. I made the best of a bad bargain. I
decided that I had to study. I understood that it was the best way to ensure our
family’s future. As I had to start all over again I would do it according to an
organized plan and get a professional formal certificate (By that time we
already had our apartment, which we bought with compensation money that we had
received from the owner of the rented one but we also had to pay for mortgage).
At the age of 36 I enrolled in the technological college Yad Singalovsky
in Tel Aviv in order to get a teacher of technology certificate. At the same
time Dikla studied educational counseling at Bar-Ilan University.
To return to school after so many years was not an easy task, especially
as I lacked the required knowledge in physics and mathematics. With great
efforts I succeeded to catch up. We studied for four evenings a week from 5.00
P.M. till 10.00 P.M. I came to the college after a long workday without a rest,
a break or a meal. It was an enormous physical and mental strain to concentrate
in order to learn. In spite of the difficulties I enjoyed my return to school
and got good marks. I had a good status in the class in which most of the
students were younger than me and had a past of more regular studies then mine.
In addition I had to do homework. I did it in the early morning before I
left for work – Dikla woke me up at 5.00 or 6.00 A.M. (sometimes I hade
to take two pills for my headache). In a sleepy and blurred state I did my
homework. That was how I finished successfully two years of college and received
a qualified mechanics teacher’s diploma. For the first time in my life I could
show a professional formal certificate.
At that time in spite of the difficulties I went on working in the
cooperative. I finished my studies in 1967 just before the Six Days War. In the
war I fought with the armored force that took over Um-Katef in the south. I
returned home several days after the war ended (I was recruited three weeks
before the war started).
Towards the end of the school year I applied to several high schools for
a teacher’s post. I chose Comprehensive School A in Ashdod. The reason was that
the school was in its first stages. Everything had to be done from the beginning
and it appealed to me. It was a big educational challenge. I was given a free
hand to organize the mechanics and draftsmanship departments.
Weizman's family in 1963
Dikla's parents: Leah and Moshe Yeffet, Dikla
and I with our three children: Il-il, Henat and Hemy
From the beginning of my teaching career I had to teach theoretical
subjects as well as practical ones. The theoretical subjects were not in my
college curriculum so I decided to study in the same college for an additional
two years so as to get a higher-level certificate and a higher qualification.
Those studies were also in the evenings and I received the higher-level
certificate that also entitled me to a raise in my salary. About the same time
Dikla studied mathematics in the University of Tel Aviv, Il-il
studied mathematics and philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and
Henat studied in a private high school in Tel Aviv, so although Dikla
had a government scholarship we still had to pay quite a high sum of tuition
money (Hemy was still in the 6th grade but later on he studied
in the same high school but by then the law was changed and high schools were
In those times there was a severe lack of teachers for technical
subjects, especially in the south. For 27 years with the help of much
autodidactic study and lots of in-training studies I managed to send my
department graduates (12th graders) to the state’s tests and in most
cases the results were above the state’s average.
In 1983 I received a prize and was chosen as the city’s most outstanding
teacher. There was a ceremony in which the Minister of Education, the city’s
Mayor the school principal and the teachers participated. The management chose
me as the teacher entitled to that prestigious certificate. As I had written, I
did not reach that status easily. For many years I devoted myself to my work,
day and night and even on Saturdays and on holidays – preparing my lessons and
correcting students’ papers. So I still did not spend enough time with my
Most of the students in the technological department of a comprehensive
high school are low achievers, still they have to learn a trade, get a formal
certificate and sometimes even pass some of the higher general theoretical
tests. It is not an easy Most of the technological department’s students do not
like school. They feel rejected and useless because they have been classified as
second grade students that are not fit for the theoretical departments whose
diplomas are needed for studying in the universities. They are angry, rebellious
and frustrated, so they turn all those negative emotions towards the technology
There is a daily confrontation with the class and with individual
students. The teacher in this department has to deal with the curriculum but
first of all he or she has to try to change the thought patterns of the students
and make them understand that studying technological subjects is respectable and
is a good opening for a productive life.
A teacher’s work never ends. There is constant communication with the
students. You have to prepare lessons and check papers everyday. You have to
teach, to test and to evaluate. The student is a person with wishes,
sensitivities and demands that develop constantly. Not only does the school
influence the students, they are more influenced by their home environment,
friends, neighborhood, and television etc. Those influences cannot be ignored
and that is also one of the reasons why teaching is so grinding and tiring. With
the passing of time the work became harder and harder for me.
From 1976, during the summer vacations, we went abroad several times.
Dikla insisted on it. She said: ‘there is a big world out there and it is
time for us to see some of it and both of us need to forget about work even if
it is for a short while’. We really enjoyed our trips. We visited many countries
in Europe, Britain and North America but never in Poland, Germany and
Austria. I did not want to see the mass grave of my people.
At the age of 63 I retired and went on teaching in a half time job but I
had to teach the 11th and 12th grades and prepare them for
theirs finals, so I still had to deal with all the problems.
At the age of 65 I retired completely after 27 working years without even
one Sabbatical. I could not afford a Sabbatical because I knew that I would not
get a full pension so I kept the two Sabbatical funds for my retirement.
It was not easy for me to stop working. I was worried that I would miss
work but as it turned out, I have not longed to go back to work. My decision to
stop working was right. I gave my best and enough was enough.
Our eight grandchildren on my 70th
birthday (1998) (photograph taken in Kibbutz Zikim)
From left to right: Michael (Miki) Burde, Dan Burde, Shay
Burde, Tom Landsberg and Rotem Weizman, Yoseph (Sefi)
Landsberg, Amir Weizman and No'am Burde.
Now is the first time since World War
II that I am able to sum up my thoughts and memories and fulfill the request of
my children and grandchildren to tell them what happened to me.
I never told my children and of course neither my grandchildren about
what happened to me. I did not want them to be connected with the terrible
tragedy of my family and myself that happened in the Holocaust.
My children started in the last few years to wish to know and understand
the past. Now they are adults who can understand, assess and ask the right
questions, as much as is possible for those who were not there.
My three children are university graduates who can make a rational
historical analysis of the complex of reasons that caused the disaster that
happened to the Jewish people and my family among others. With my wife, Dikla,
I never had a problem with understanding and analyzing historical processes. She
has a deep understanding in that field.
Now the time has come for my grandchildren to start asking questions and
search their roots. My eldest grandson, Dan, the eldest of the four sons
of Il-il, my eldest daughter, was the first to be interested in the
subject and later her second son, Miki, followed him. In most schools in
Israel 7th ‘s grade students do a research project of their family
roots in preparation for their Bar Mitzvah, so they not only heard my story but
also included its abstract in the papers they submitted to school. Those
research papers are in fact books including sources and pictures.
I was glad that the wish to know and understand came from my children and
grandchildren. There is no doubt that it helped me mentally to open up more
Although 50 years have passed I cannot forget and of course I cannot
forgive. Especially as the Nazis in Germany lift their heads again. The heirs of
the German company that built the gas chambers and crematoriums in Auschwitz and
other extermination camps dare to demand to get back the ownership of the sites.
The company is J.A. Topf und Sohne (Topf and sons). It seems that
the German insensitivity has not changed (and that is an understatement). The
formal German stupidity allowed that company to get after the war patent’s
approval for building crematoriums like those that the company built for the use
of the S.S.
The formal patent’s document is called: ‘A process and facility
for cremating skeletons, bodies and bodies parts’.
It is impossible to stay indifferent, not to revolt and not to want to
tell the world what the Nazi ideology did.
50 years have passed. Most of the Germans that lived then died or are
old. The Germans nowadays are their children and grandchildren but our account
with them is not yet settled. “The Jewish Genetic Code” remembers and does not
forget the gas chambers, the crematoriums, the abuse and humiliations as human
beings and as Jews.
50 years have passed and yet the Germans and their helpers are for me,
and I suppose many others like me, a hated nation. Could the “Genetic Code”
which holds inside it all the anxieties and hatred of the past ever change? Is
it possible that the Christian belief about the “Jewish treachery” that is so
deeply rooted could ever be changed? Is it ever possible to change the
suspiciousness that is so deeply imbedded in many Holocaust survivors that lead
us to the feeling that any gentile, just by being gentile, is against us and
should not be trusted?
Will I ever be or will we ever be able to forget and forgive? Will we
ever be able to settle the account when we are dealing with subjects that cut in
the living flesh? Does the passing of time heal or does it only blur and
Those are, allegedly, thoughts of no consequence but the answers are
related to our personal fate on also the fate of our future here in Israel, the
country that should be open and safe for Jews wherever they are.
I was born in an interesting and stormy and horrible era. I had the good
fortune to stay alive and I won the war. I survived. I am not a hero and I did
not want to be a hero, I just wanted to stay alive. I saw the establishment of
the State of Israel. I fought in almost all the wars of Israel. My life in
Israel was not easy but I made an honest living for my family and myself,
together with Dikla who has been working and has not yet retired. I have
lived as a free proud person without ignoring the past events that were deeply
rooted in my whole being. If I succeeded that is for my family, my friends and
relatives to judge – did I go as “cattle to slaughter” or fought in horrible
conditions the fight for survival and won.
On May 5th 1997, 27 Nissan
5757 of the Hebrew calendar (Memorial Day for Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes) when
I returned home from a school where I had lectured about the Holocaust the phone
rang. The caller was a woman who said she was Ada Holtzman. With an
apologizing tone she said: ‘for a long time I hesitated to call you, but because
today is Memorial Day I decided to call’.
When I heard the name Holtzman I immediately remembered
Meyer Holtzman, the youth guide in the
Hashomer Hatzayir movement in Gombin in which I was also a member. I asked
her if she was his daughter and she said she was. Of course the joy was great
and the excitement was mutual. Ada told me that Meyer was still alive and
was living in Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet that he joined when he married again after
the death of his first wife, Ada’s mother. Before that he was a member of
Kibbutz Evron since before the war began. Ada’s mother was also a
Gombiner from the Gostynski family and Ada said that there was a
distant family relationship with my family.
From Ada I learned more about the fate of
Gombin’s Jews. Ada is really a human encyclopedia about this subject. She
has been interested in the subject, written, traveled, taken pictures and has
collected testimonies from Gombiners that are still alive. Ada was not born in
Gombin, she was born in Israel in Kibbutz Evron, she has never lived in Diaspora
and her parents are not Holocaust survivors but they lost their families there.
For Ada the perpetuation of Gombin’s Jewry is a lifetime job and she has
devoted much time and energy to registering and documentation. She visited
Gombin many times and was active in the renovation of the old Jewish cemetery in
Gombin. She found my testimony in
Yad Vashem archives (Yad Va’shem - monument and name in Hebrew) has had my
written testimony and also a videotape of my verbal testimony.
Several days later Ada sent me copies of documents – testimonies
of many Gombiners who have been living in America from before the war and after
it and also from Gombiners who have been living in Israel since before the war
or after it.
I found out that a girl named Dzunia Wolfowicz survived. She and
her sister got false papers and lived almost throughout the war in Warsaw as
Poles. I remembered Dzunia well. She had light hair and skin and her
Polish was fluent and without an accent. We sat together on the same bench in
primary school. Now her name is Ada Rakocz, she has seven grandchildren
and lives in Israel in the city of Hedera.
About a childhood friend Hershl (Hershek) Swarcz who
was my neighbor I found out that on the same night that we were brought to the
Firemen Hall in the town for selection and transportation to a forced labor camp
Hershl was also there. I did not see him because of the tumult in the
Hall. He was sent home because he was too young. He was probably happy but that
determined his fate. Later on he was sent with the rest of his family and the
other Jews that were still in the town to extermination in
Almost all the brothers of the Swarcz amily (Hershel’s
uncles) stayed alive and that is relatively much more compared to the other
Jewish families in Gombin. I remember that just before the war one of Hersh’s
uncles immigrated to Panama with his wife and two young sons – the eldest’s name
was Welwek, he was about my age and a good friend of mine. Ada told me
that he has been living in the United States and gave me his address.
Ada also informed me about the three Gombiners that were liberated
with me –Mendel Wrubel, Zalman Tatrarka
and Lajzer Bocjan – Lajzer
that was the youngest already died. He had two daughters, one of his own and the
other one adopted.
Ada gave me Mendel’s address, I wrote him and he answered. We had
a phone conversation and he was so exited that he almost cried. He also got the
news about me through Ada in the Internet. He promised to get Zalman
Tatarka’s address so that we would be able again to be in touch.
Ada informed me also about the three Frenkel brothers. We were
together in Konin work camp. Later on they were sent to another destination and
I met the two younger brothers in Italy. They were about to leave immediately to
Eretz Israel but then they heard a rumor that their eldest brother was alive in
Germany. They canceled the Aliya plans and had gone to Germany to look
for their lost brother and they found him. All the three brothers immigrated to
America and have been living there with their families.
In 1997 I went for the first time to a memorial service that was held in
Tel Aviv for the Gombiners that were slaughtered in the Holocaust and killed in
the wars. I was amazed to hear in that Avraham Neidorf’s daughter has
been living in the country since 1932; she came with a delegation to the
Macabiya (The Jewish Olympics) and did not return to Poland. Her name now is
Dora Makow. She lives in Haifa. She is now in her late eighties, an
intellectual – a graduate of the Languages department of the Warsaw University
and still lucid.
About the heroic deed of her father, brother and her brother- in- law I
wrote in the chapter about the
Konin camp. I talked with Dora on the phone but I have not met her
yet so I have not told her the full story. In our phone conversation I told her
that she should be proud to be the daughter of a proud brave Jewish family.
Ada Holtzman near the
memorial monument of Gombin in Chełmno
Up to now my two daughters,
Il-il and Henat, who have been high school teachers, visited
Poland with their students. Four out of my eight grandchildren also visited
Poland: Dan, Miki and Shay – three out of Il-il’s
four sons, and Tom, Henat’s eldest daughter.
Those visits are part of the curriculum of 11th grades in most of the schools of
Israel. I have been sorry that Gombin was not included in those visits. My other
four grandchildren are still too young, when they are 11th grade students they
will probably also visit Poland (Two out of the four youngest grandchildren,
like the four older ones, already wrote their roots papers, when they were 7th
grade students, including extract of my story and submitted them to their
Dikla during my 75th birthday celebration. Sitting to my left: Rotem
Weizman, one of my granddaughters.
Tom and Shay, when they were in Auschwitz, each of them
with her or his own class, read aloud chosen paragraphs from what I had written
about that horrible hell and their classmates listened very attentively. Shay
also wrote a short journey journal in which he also expressed his thoughts and
My son Mena’hem (Hemy) who is not a teacher (he is a
lawyer) has not yet visited Poland. He tried many times to persuade me to go
with him and also visit Gombin but to no avail. He will have his chance to go as
an escort parent when his children go and also ask Gombin to be included in the
I am still faithful to my oath – I will never go back to Poland but I am
glad that they were there and saw at least a bare minimum of the past.
In the last few years I have been one of the lecturers sent by Yad
Va’shem to schools and young army soldiers, women and men (mostly those who will
be army officers). In those meetings the participants show a very strong wish to
know more and more about the Holocaust and I feel that those meetings are a
small contribution to the understanding and knowledge of the younger generations
of what had happened, from their point of view in the far away past, and maybe
also to the understanding that now, when we have our own state such a Holocaust
cannot happen again.
Our eight grandchildren on my 75th
Leaning on the balcony railing from right to left: Dan Burde, Rotem
Weizman, No'am Burde (his nose injured in a soccer game), Tom
Landsberg, Michael (Miki) Burde, Shay Burde, Sefi Landsberg.
In front: Amir Weizman.
The picture was taken on a balcony at the promenade of the Mediterranean beach
Tsabar is the nickname of the Israeli
born and raised because they are like a Middle Eastern cactus whose fruits
are thorny on the outside and sweet on the inside.
It is not a mistake –
Tom is a girl, not a boy. Tom in Hebrew means innocence – so it
can be a name for both girls and boys.
Last updated March 24th,