Gone now are those little towns where the
shoemaker was a poet,
Gone now are those little towns where the wind
Gone now are those little towns, though the
Translated poem contributed by Pawel D. Dorman
A Few Words to Marek from
I got your message from the JewishGen Yizkor Book coordinator. As strange as
it is, I happened to build a cyber memorial to the Jews of your hometown,
I hope you will help me in this commemoration, a venture that never ends...
For two painful years I erect a memorial web page for
I am in constant contact with Dr. Jan Przedpelski and I have
Dr. Jan Przedpelski wrote a book about the history and martyrology of the Jews of Plock. You surly know about the book and read it. I talked Hebrew with him when visited. He said that in order to write a book about Jews he needs to speak their language... So he taught himself to read and write Hebrew... Quite incredible... A wonderful person! Please give him my greetings if you can. He showed me to a "Suka" (a small hut built in the Jewish holiday of Tabernacles) which still stands in
Thousands of people have stepped on the street beyond it during the past 60 years. But nobody knows what it was... what it is... what it means...
Now going back to your message ---
I must immediately advise you that I don't like (an understatement) the sentence where you wrote: " Hate isn't born from itself. It is born because of certain thoughtless actions from some narrow-minded Poles and Jews."
May I know what did "narrow-minded" Jews did to be hated so much by the Poles???
I believe you should be very careful as to the words you chose, in order not to be a prisoner yourself of old prejudices and anti-Semitic conceptions, just as your ancestors have been!
Regarding Jedwabne and the truth as was revealed recently - see JewishGen
web site: "Burning Alive" at
http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/jedwabne/yed999.html and the article of Andrzej Kaczynski, in which, for the first time, a Pole wrote something about the truth and the tragedy of Polish Jews and the role which the Poles played in the destruction of Polish Jewry.
WE REMEMBER JEDWABNE!
The picture of a Jewish soldier in the Polish army from Jedwabne, Leib Bromshtein hy"d, with two unidentified friends. Leib Bromshtein was killed together with other more than 1000 Jews of Jedwabne, burned alive by local Poles,
... Szmul ("Samuel") Waserstajn, an eyewitness to the tragic events in Jedwabne "With his own eyes" he saw the stoning of Jakub Kac ("Jacob Katz"); Eliasz Krawiecki was stabbed repeatedly with knives, then his eyes were gouged out and his tongue was cut off. He died an inhuman, agonizing, slow death that lasted 12 hours until he took his last breath. Descriptions of the murders of four other victims is included in the testimony of Rywka Fogel..."
...The Jews were ordered to gather in the town square. "Local hooligans armed with axes, clubs with nails, and other forms of weapons chased all Jews into the streets", testified Wasersztajn. They forced the Jews to scrub the square, then they toppled a statue of Lenin off its pedestal and ordered the Jews to carry it around the square while singing Soviet songs and chanting: "This war is our fault". According to different testimonies the Poles selected dozens of young Jewish men and ordered them to carry Lenin's statue over to a Jewish cemetery outside the town. There they forced them to dig a large pit and bury the statue in it. After that they murdered all the men and threw their bodies into the same pit. The rest of the Jews were kept in place at the town square all day under a scorching sun and without a drop of water. The Poles beat them and degraded them. They tortured the rabbi, Awigdor Bialystocki, and did not spare the women and the children. In the evening they marched the Jews, four in a row, toward the circuit. According to several witnesses, the rabbi was ordered to lead his people holding a red flag that the Poles had stuck in his hand. Then the Jews were forced into a barn, doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire. Icchak Neumark, a former citizen of Jedwabne testified that "a familiar Pole stood there with an ax in his hand ready to kill anyone who would try to escape. I stood there with my family. Luckily because we were among the last ones to be pushed into the barn we remained standing by the entrance when suddenly the flames reached the gate and it collapsed. The guard tried to hit me with his ax but I managed to grab it and then my sister and her five year-old daughter and I fled into the nearby cemetery. I saw my father going up in flames there".
You didn't have to wait for this article. You could just watch "SHOAH", the 8 hours documentary of Claude Lantzman and listen to the Poles talking now-a-days about the "punishment of the Jews" as they saw it.
Not only Jedwabne and not only
You could also just watch the TV documentary about Bransk, a 3 years odyssey
after one's roots from this town. It is about an American Jew who returns to
his home-town in
Or may be dear Marek, you come yourself to Israel and you talk to Eizik Noyman, my friend, about the AK ("Armia Karjowa") near Sosnowiec and Zarki, of which members killed in front of his own eyes aof about 19 Jews, Aizik's relati, in the wood, where they were led by the AK Polish member, after an akzia from which they fled?
Or may be you can have a chat with an American whose father from the small town of Kanczuga, saw his own brother's head cut off by Poles, after he came out of the woods, begging them for food… What does my friend, nephew of the victim is supposed to feel about the Poles??? Who else knows this story? How long we have, before all bearers of those testimonies will be gone and their memory be a memory in itself…
Or better may be you talk to my friend Jakob Flinker who, under false
Christian identity run away from the Piotrkow
Tribulanski ghetto, to hide in the small town of
Or may be you would like to chat with Benjamin Yaari (Wald), my friend, who, together with his father were given a shelter in a Polish barn, by a Polish young girl. In the night came the brother of the very same girl to the barn and tried to kill Benjamin and his father...
Or would you listen to
Or did you hear about Sobibor, the death camp in the
After the revolt, the camp was closed down, so it means this was the only successful revolt during WWII, although organized in the most impossible conditions in the death
Lejb Flehendler of Zolkiewka, one of the leader of the forgotten revolt in Sobibor. Killed by Poles, members of the A.K. , the Polish underground known by the name: Armia Krajowa. In his book: "Sobibor the Forgotten Revolt", Thomas Toivi Blatt writes about it more: Leon Feldhendler was killed in 1945 in Lublin by AK members, Czeslaw Rosinski, Romuald Szydelski, Francziszek Bujalski and Eugieniusz Jarosinski. Some of his murderers were later arrested and executed in
And I shall never forget the testimony of Itzhak Weitzman, a Gombiner like
my parents, who was a disciple of my father in Hashomer Hatzair of Gombin. He
remembers the Poles gathering in the early dawn, around the trucks where a few
hundreds of Gombin Jewish men were deported to slavery to the Czarkow Forced
Labor camp, on
So dear Marek, Jedwabne was not the only place where massacre made by Poles, and not by the Germans, before, during and after the Holocaust The event which took place in Jedwabne in the summer of 1942 was not unique. Yes, this is the cruel reality. Jedwabne was not the only place where the Poles murdered their helpless neighbors!
The words of Abe (Abram) Boll of Gombin still echo in my ears. His own father, wishing so much to see the friends and relatives who survived, came back to Gombin and Gostynin to be killed as well by Poles. Abe Boll is still alive, in NYC. Are you able to understand why he hates his old homeland?
Even in Plock(!) there was a forgotten murder of a
Jew who came back to
There is a most appalling testimony of a young boy, Ben Helfgott, survivor of the Holocaust from Piotrkow, who was sent to England after liberation, where he has lived ever since.
It is in the Sir Martin Gilbert's book: "The
Boys, Triumph over Adversity - The Story of 732 Young Concentration Camp
Material is published with special permission of the author, Sir Martin Gilbert. Book is available at Amazon.com
Sir Martin Gilbert "The Boys", photographs, after page 176
"Boys liberated by Czech partisans. Their train had been travelling from
Quotation from the Chapter: "Liberation", Page 263
Ben Helfgott has also gone back to
Ben Helfgott returned a second time to
Like so many of the flotsam and jetsam that was traversing Europe in over-crowded trains, returning to their respective homelands, I was travelling with my cousin to our home town, Piotrkow. I was fifteen years old and my cousin twelve. Both of us still looked emaciated and our hair was still conspicuously short. To the Czechs, we seemed more like an apparition than real people and they showered us with food, warmth and sympathy. We were greatly encouraged by this spontaneous reaction of brotherhood and friendship. Our faith in humanity, which, strangely enough, although bruised, we never lost, was being restored in a very manifest and palpable way.
We crossed the Polish-Czech border
with bated breath, full of excitement and expectation for a brave new world.
The train stopped in Czes, wfor its pilgrims to Jasna Gora, the most sacred of
"The streets were deserted in the prevailing darkness, as there was still a curfew after , and street lighting had not been restored yet. My cousin and I were getting tired, as we carried our cases which contained clothing we had received from the Red Cross. Casually I asked "Where is the police station? It seems o far." The reply was devastating and shattering. "Shut your f.... mouth you f.... Jew!!!!!!"
I was stunned, hardly believing what I had just heard. How could I have been so naive, so gullible? The Nazi cancer was removed but its tentacles were widespread and deeply rooted. How I had lulled myself into a false sense of security. I believed what I wanted to believe. I had experienced and witnessed so much cruelty and bestiality, yet I refused to accept that man can be so wicked. I was grown up in so many ways, yet I was still a child dreaming of a beautiful world. Here I was inn the middle of nowhere, with no one to turn to for help. My thoughts were racing, my heart was throbbing faster and faster. On the one hand, I was castigating myself for allowing myself to be lured into this seemingly hopeless situation. On the other hand, I was scheming about how to extricate ourselves from a clearly dangerous situation. The Russians were still well in control and I was hoping against hope that if I were to see a Russian sentry, I would shout for help. Alas! There was no Russian to be seen!
'At last we stopped at a house where one of the officers knocked at a gate which was opened by a young Polish woman. We entered a room which was dimly lit by paraffin lamp, and we were ordered to open our suitcases. They took most of the clothing and announced that they would now take us to the police station. It seemed inconceivable to me that this was their real intention, but we had no choice and we had to follow events as they unfolded. As we walked in the dark, deserted streets, I tried desperately to renew conversation so as to restore personal and human touch, but it was to no avail. I tried hard to conceal and ignore my true feelings and innermost thoughts, pretending to believe that they were acting in the name of the law, but they became strangely uncommunicative. After what seemed an eternity, we arrived at a place which looked frightening and full of foreboding. The buildings were derelict and abandoned; there was no sign of human habitation; all one could hear was the howling of the wind, the barking of the dogs and the mating calls of cats.
'The two officers menacingly extracted the pistols from their holsters, and ordered us to walk to the nearest wall. Both my cousin and I felt rooted to the ground, unable to move. When at last I recovered my composure, I emitted a torrent of desperate appeals and entreaties. I pleaded with them: Haven't we suffered enough? Haven't the Nazis caused enough destruction and devastation to all of us? Our common enemy is destroyed and the future is ours. We have survived against all odds and why are you intent on promoting the heinous crimes that the Nazis have unleashed? Don't we speak the same language as you?"
'I went on in the same vein, speaking agitatedly for some time. Eventually one of the officers succumbed to my pleas and said, "Let's leave them. They are, after all, still young boys. As they put away their pistols, they made a remark which still rings loud in my ears. "You can consider yourselves very lucky. We have killed many of your kind. You are the first ones we have left alive." With this comment they disappeared into the night.
'My cousin and I looked at each other, unable to comprehend what had
transpired. We were trembling and completely shattered by this experience.
Racing through our minds was the realization that we had been nearer death in a
free and liberated
Ben Helfgott often reflected on
this terrifying moment of his life when, after being so close to death at every
turn for so many years, he came face to face with death again. 'We were indeed
fortunate to have escaped this fate at the hands of the Poles', he later wrote.
However, I cannot help thinking of the many survivors who returned to
41 - Ben
Helfgott, in conversation with the author.
42 -Ben Helfgott, "My welcome to
These are but few words, written from my heart to you. The young generation
should be encouraged. You are the future. I love and hate your country and
people in the same time. I have very good friends who help me with all their heart
in all the memorial projects I do in
Short time before he died he translated a letter written by a mother from
Gombin to her son who immigrated to
I only wished to draw your attention to some cases pointing to the guilt of the Poles in the deeply rooted Anti-Semitism of the Polish people, their persecutions of the Jews during hundreds of years of common life, and their role in the 20th century Jewish tragedy which took place on Polish soil.
It is painful for me to write you this, but the reality has been painful...
The first step in reconciliation is that the Poles will speak, read and
write freely about the truth of theirn past. And this is the good sign derived
from the Jedwabne case. They were not only victims, as the Polish history books
like to present when describing the history of the
I shall quote from the foreword of David Flinke to his book "
"... Only a few
years have gone by and the name of
ruins have remained, the mute and silent ruinof 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
was a city, where each street and each house bore witness to the past glory of
.... 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.
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
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....
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
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? ...
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
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
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...
1) "Arim Ve'Imahot Be'Israel", 3rd Volume, edited by
Rabbi Y. L. Ha'Kohen Fyszman:
In this context I must add that we should not forget the Righteous Among the Nations (Khasidei Umot Olam), those zadikim
who risked their life or sacrified them, in order to save one soul of
It is my plan to post in my web page the list of those Polish Righteous Among the Nations, for whom the whole Jewish people is eternally grateful... They were the rays of light in the hollow darkness of those times...
Would you help me in this project???
Marek never responded to the challenge. I have appealed to other Poles during the past 2 years but nobody wanted to help in this project. I am still hoping to find one Pole who will collaborate with me and we shall erect together this important memorial web site.
I found out that there is already a web site for those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust in
http://pages.infinit.net/varsovie/index.htm (no more valid – changed to http://savingjews.info/ )
It is my hope to conclude it and have all the names shining for ever in
my web site, to remember the rayons of hope who shone
to humanity in its darkest days.
27 February 2003
A Pole name Jan has just contacted me and drew my attention to the fact that now all the names of the known Righteous Among the Nations, Polish Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust are posted in the same web site:
POLISH RIGHTEOUS: http://savingjews.info/ (December 26th, 2003)
I am very thankful to Jan and to A. Poray who made this web site, to
remember also the good Polish human beings who helped my people during Shoah.
Their number according to Yad Vashem records on
"Those Who Helped - Polish rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, The Main Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against the Polish Nation of the Institute of National Memory, Warsaw 1993, ISBN 83-900573-6-0
In my last trip to
"A COUNTRY WHO HAD
I took a picture. It brought me new hope...
"Joyce Field wrote:
Thank you very much for writing this message to the Yizkor Book Help Desk. I am impressed with your ideas and your efforts to come to terms with Jewish history in
Yizkor Book Project Manager
The message from Marek,
I have just read your material and decided to write a few words to you. I am a young Pole (29) and I have been interested in the Jedwabne tragedy for a few weeks. The very first thing I came across about Jedwabne was a huge article published by a Polish daily newspaper "GAZETA" in November.
It was a kind of public response after publishing a book by Gross (I haven't read it yet). I have to admit that the Jedwabne tragedy really shocked me. It is extremely painful for me for two reasons. The first one is that I can't believe that such things had happened (though I am not doubtful at all) and the second is that almost nothing is being done to "reconcile" the two nations. All those murders should have been punished many years ago. I totally support your efforts towards revealing the truth about this mass murder. I often ask myself why it is so hard to understand, accept and respect, why it is far easier to hate, ignore and underestimate.
I am a young man and I am trying to be as far
objective as I can. I adore Isaac B. Singer literature and I find a lot about
Jewish customs, living and history through reading his books. Nobody has ever
forced me to do that. There are a lot of young people like me and of course
many others who could be described as anti-Semitic. Hate isn't born from
itself. It is born because of certain thoughtless actions from some
narrow-minded Poles and Jews. I think that the truth about Jedwabne must come
to light and that light should be seen by everyone. At the same time I would
really wish Jewish communities (especially in the
I am writing this on Christmas Eve - one of the greatest holidays of Christianity and I think that it might shed a ray of hope and light on our relationships. These are just a few words that I wanted to say. They don't bring anything important but ...
With respect, understanding and hope for better future