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[Page 657]

The Brisker Landsmanschaft
in Australia

By Avraham Chani

Translated by Dr. Samuel Chani and Jenni Buch

Until 1938 there were almost no Briskers in Australia. In that year, as W.W. 2 neared 25 families arrived from Brest. The majority of these were artisans – it was very difficult at first to find employment for all of them, and only a small number managed to obtain employment. With the outbreak of war Australia experienced a shortage of manual labor and all the Brest migrants were able to find work. They organized themselves – 3 of the 25 families settled on farms away from Melbourne assisted by the Jewish Welfare Organization. The remainder remained in Melbourne, and lived in one neighbourhood. They all maintained close links with each other as one 'family'. They were also in constant contact with the relatives left behind in Brest.

When this contact was cut off we all went around in shock, and consequently we became even closer to each other – never did we miss a family event - celebration or tragedy, in the lives of our fellow Briskers. In 1942- 43 we received unsubstantiated and unbelievable news of the destruction that was occurring in Brest. We formed the idea to establish a Brisker Association in Melbourne with the aim of assisting our brethren in Brest at the first opportunity. In 1944 the news we received was clearer and more terrible. A meeting of all the Briskers was held on the 20th August 1944 at the home of A. Chani. An assistance fund was established to help any Briskers who would turn to us for help.

Our committee immediately sent letters to the Brisker Landmanschafts in NewYork, Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv. We informed them of our decisions and asked them for any news from Brest or about the Jews of Brest. Their replies contained no new information. We then sent letters to Moscow, to the offices of the “Unity” publication, and to the Council of Polish Jews. Alas, we never got a reply. But we did get a letter from a surviving Brest Jew, Asher Zisman, who described the destruction of Brest in detail, and how he and his wife had managed to save themselves. He also informed us about 14 other Brest Jews who had fled in various directions and survived. He himself was in Belgium. Letters began to arrive from other Brest survivors in Italy, Poland and Germany.

On the 30th July 1946, we received a collective letter from 12 Brest families who had returned from exile in Russia and were in a camp in Stettin Poland. They requested help and emigration permits for 7 families. From them we found out that dozens of Brest survivors were scattered in various towns throughout Poland. A committee was formed in Stettin, as this is where the largest group of Brest survivors was.

We immediately called an emergency meeting at the home of H. Rosenberg, and decided that the following Sunday every Brisker would bring food and clothing – the collection point was the factory of H.A. Woliniec. We packed and sent 24 parcels, each containing food, medicine and clothing. From then on this committee conducted a systematic and intensive assistance program. We received letters requesting help from survivors in various countries – not one request was unanswered.

Now that we knew the date of the massacre and liquidation of the town –15th October 1942 – we began to hold an annual commemoration ceremony. At the first memorial ceremony we published a bulletin about the fate of the Jews of Brest that appeared as a Yiddish supplement in the Australian Jewish News. This bulletin included a historical article about the Jews of Brest by A. Chani, as well as the letter from the survivor Asher Zisman, followed by an article “20 years in Brest” by L. Greenberg, “Brest without Jews” by Y. Feldman, “Eternal Sorrow” by M. Wabnik, and the “Road to the Grave” by R. Mandelzweig.

We regularly hold meetings to organize effective assistance for all Briskers, as well as the annual Yizkor memorial services.

It is also noteworthy that the Brest Landsmanschaft belongs to the Australian Federation of Landsmanchafts, and we are represented by our President, Mrs Grace (Gruzhevski), who is the treasurer of this Federation. Our members also represent us at other Jewish community organizations in which they hold important positions.

Sending Parcels to Stettin Poland

 

Yizkor Memorial 1948

 

Yizkor Memorial 1949

 

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