The Hasidic Dance in Oswiecim
In Bergen-Belsen the greatest gathering point of the uncremated cinders of
the Nazi extermination camps where everyone had dragged along a whole sack
of wonders and miracles that had kept them alive, that noteworthy figure,
regarded by all with total amazement, was pointed out to me. The Dancing
Hasid, there he is.
I glanced at him, taking him in entirely, examined his stance and gait and
my amazement grew even more. Can it be? Is that the one who merited receiving
the epithet of the Dancing Hasid?
Here is his portrait, exactly as he is: a deeply bent, broken figure; his face
elongated and gloomy-looking; ash-colored, extinguished eyes; the hair of his
payesand youthful beard all matted; an emaciated, shrunken body that is compressed
within itself; in short, a perfect example of a doomed depressive!
Who claims the right to make fun of such a one? Is it but a malicious
prank? I asked, completely shocked.
No kidding around! That's really him, the Dancing Hasid! He, with his
Hasidic dance conquered the crematorium ovens of Auschwitz (Oswiecim)! He let
himself go in a singing gambol on the very threshold of the limekiln, and as a
result the camp
Kommandant, that devilish overseer of the extermination battalions, did not want to let
him be cremated under any circumstances! This young, fluttering, jigging,
bocher'lwas simply begging the murderer not to be separated from all the other Jews
and he, the
bocher'l, even tried to break through and jump into death, but the
Lagerkommandant opposed him with firm obstinacy. No, and again no!
If that is so, why then is he so drowned in sorrow and the sorrow
expressed in his entire existence? I found it hard to believe that which
my ears had heard.
That's it! His anguish is actually derived from that, that he was given
the gift of life by the greatest murderer, since he remained alive only against
I began to investigate this peculiar Dancing Hasid in order to learn the secret
of his soul. I tried to approach him and induce him to talk to me. I became
convinced of how deeply disturbed and agitated he became at the slightest hint
about that dance. Nevertheless, I was heartless and didn't let him off. My
heart told me that the holy secret of this Dancing Hasid is also the secret of
many, many others who jumped into the Nazi ovens with the greatest enthusiasm
and whose sacrifice was, in fact, accepted!
I was not able to get him to say even one word about the episode of the dance
at the crematorium oven. That experience was consciously sealed in the depths
of his soul, and every attempt to talk about it or describe it he considered as
the worst desecration. From the fragmentary sentences, delicate allusions, and
tiny hints I heard him utter, I was somehow able to reconstruct the actual
heroic saga of one of the youthful Hasidim in the ghettoes of Poland.
Dancing Hasid, tell me: how did you, out of the despondency in the
ghetto, ascend to such kind of a dance?
Not everyone in the ghetto surrendered to the rage of the torturers.
Subterraneously, a fighting spirit arose. These were the young Hasidic
bocherimwho stood in opposition to the Satan with the help of the old Jewish weapons:
contempt and mockery of the enemy and defiance of the might of wickedness; the
young Hasidim were rebels, and they did not accept any of the oppressor's
commands. The occupier decreed that every Jew 12 years of age and older was to
be drafted for forced labor for the benefit of the enemy. In order to enforce
the decree, a system was established in the ghetto whereby whoever did not have
a work card would not receive his meager portion of bread. The Hasidic
bocherim rebelled, hid in the cellars, and created a kind of Hasidic commune. They did
not report for forced labor, and they sought all kinds of stratagems to obtain
for themselves a little food to hold body and soul together. When things got
really bad and not a bite of bread was to be had without the stamped work card,
a number of the Hasidic rebels went out to do forced labor but brought back
their bread rations and shared them with the other
chaverim, who remained in the cellars on guard so that the light of the Holy Torah and
Hasidic ardor should not become extinguished!
Dancing Hasid, answer me, is it true that even in the dying ghetto the
Hasidic song was not disrupted?
Everything that the villains invented in the ghetto had only one
intention: to subjugate the Jews, to crush them. The Jew-badge with the
mogen Dovid, which every Jew from child to adult had to wear, was called by the
Schandzeichen [sign of shame]. But in that they made a great mistake, since many Jews wore
it with pride and joy. How many mitzvahs in the Torah were given only to
signify the Jew as Jew? Mezuzahs on the doors,
t'filin and tzitzis, and beard and payes, about which Hasidim were particularly scrupulous; and then the unique Jewish
form of dress, both on Shabbes and during the week, including men, women, and
children. All of these were to give witness that one was a Jew! The young
Hasidic rebels, therefore, specifically did not oppose the order to wear the
Jew-badge. On the contrary, they took this on as a new, great mitzvah and they
did everything to adorn and beautify it by wearing finely decorated badges.
When they put on the yellow patch for the first time, their ecstasy was
tremendous and they sang: How fortunate are we, how good is our
Dancing Hasid, tell me the truth. Did the very same ecstasy persist to
the very last hour?
When the situation in the ghetto began to decline, the Jews came to
understand that from then on their concern was to be not how to live but how to
die as Jews! The young Hasidim, who lived in hiding, began to make proper
preparations for that. They attracted to their circle a certain older Hasid,
thoroughly experienced and knowledgeable, in order to study the laws and proper
observance of the mitzvah of
kiddush Hashem. The old Hasid explained it to them in utter simplicity. In the quiet,
peaceful times, one teaches the young soldiers the entire lore of making war,
how to fight on the front, and all the other stratagems of battle, that is, the
arts and wiles of winning a war. When, however, the war with the enemy is at
its height and the mobilized soldiers march out to the raging battle, then one
makes preparations so that they know how to throw their lives into the very
fires, safeguard their flag, and fall with the greatest worth! With this, the
bocherimbecame hardened. They swore to each other that they would not, Heaven
forfend, succumb to mental weakness in the last moment, not be dismayed by the
raucous laughter of Satan, and not bring shame, Heaven forfend, in the hour of
the last ordeal. All of this was accomplished in the hidden cellars of the
Dancing Hasid, don't turn away from me, and tell me straight out: how did
you keep your oath?
The dancing Hasid shuddered and became totally silent. With his nervous,
fluttering glances he was shouting at me. How dare anyone approach with
mundane fingers the most sublime soul string, which is hidden so deeply?
A group of young Hasidic
bocherim, who led a rebellious lifestyle in the underground of the Lodz Ghetto and, in
so doing, managed to maintain their Jewish-Hasidic appearance without the
slightest change, were finally caught up in the final liquidation of the ghetto
and deported, along with the last Jews, in the last deportation train to
Oswiecim. During the entire journey, locked in the death train, the young
Hasidim did not stop singing with the greatest fervor. Singing, they were led
into the extermination camp and their hopping song accompanied them all the way
to the gas chambers. The moment that the crematoria ovens became visible, they
were caught up in the holy trance of the seekers after
kiddush Hashemof all the ages; with rapture they began to embrace each other and hop around
with each other, dancing together and singing the refrain: How fortunate
are we, how good is our portion, happy are we, how sweet is our lot, happy are
The Lagerkommandant, the overseer of the crematorium detail, whose eyes had seen so many and
varied spectacles during the reception process of the Jews marching to their
deaths, this time was amazed and shocked.
Who are they? What can this insane dance mean? he shouted out
These are young Hasidim! That is the Hasidic way! They are possessed of
the highest faith; there is no greater reward in the entire world than to be
burned in the ovens as a Jew, that means, for
kiddush Hashem! This was said by one of the Jewish slaves of the
in attempting to clarify the situation for the bewildered
These ones I will not exterminate for any money in the world! I will not
fulfill their innermost wish! he decided quickly.
Then, on the threshold of the crematorium, the following scene was played out.
On one side the yearning thirst of the dancing, singing Hasidim reached a
climax of uttermost ecstasy, and they begged the hangman himself, We want
to go into the ovens! Together with all the Jews! How fortunate are we, how
good is our portion!
Vey, vey, how good is our portion!
And on the other side stood the
Lagerkommandant, the chief hangman, confused and shocked, screaming with the greatest
savagery, No! I am not taking you to the ovens! That's all there is to
Then, at once, the dance was extinguished. The wellspring of the song was
interrupted. The Hasidic
bocherim, united in a singing circle, already on the other side of the ugly
materialistic world, were lost in despair and bitter disappointment, as if
someone had fallen from the deep blue, clear skies into the deep abyss.
The sacrifice of the heaven-enraptured Hasidic
bocherim was not accepted, and they were thrust back into the shameful, mundane
existence of the extermination camp. Several of the dancing troupe later found
their way to the ovens, and their lot was the same as that of many Jews. The
only one of the singing fraternity who was condemned to remain alive, the
Dancing Hasid, that is actually the one who stood there before me.
From Darkness into Light
I was in the camps for five years and suffered greatly. In May 1945 I was
liberated from the Nazi Murderer. I alone survived and did not know where to
turn. I began to search for family and relatives. My first stop was my
birthplace, Oswiecim. I came to the street where I had lived, formerly full of
life, populated by fellow Jews who came to the synagogues nearby, and I well
remember the sounds of their prayers; the beautiful festivals that they
celebrated together with all the townsmen, of which I especially remember
Simchas Torah, when all the city's Jews gathered at the synagogues and danced
and sang while holding the Torah scrolls, the little children holding flags and
joining in the singing and dancing, and the merriment continuing the whole of
the day. I also remember the Fridays, when my whole family my parents and
my two sisters, my brother, and I sang the Sabbath songs and were happy
that our family was united, and we had hoped that it would ever remain so. Our
hope, however, did not last for long, and with the conquest of Poland by the
Nazi oppressor we were sent to the camps.
My eyes became dim upon seeing the city that had been my birthplace and had
changed so much after the war.
Near the city of Oswiecim were the gigantic camps renowned for their cruelty,
where our Jewish brethren were exterminated as was my family, which
included my parents, Sara and Avraham, my brother Boruch, and my sister Mashke.
I started searching! Perhaps I would be one of the lucky ones who would find
his relatives in the city. I went into our store, which was on Kolejowa
Street. I found strangers there who ignored me and pretended not to recognize
me. I left in despair, anxious about what would become of me.
I decided to visit my house, which was on Berka Joselewica [Street]; but there,
too, I found strangers, though they treated me politely and asked
if I would consent to remain. I mulled it over and thought about my future
among these goyim who had always, throughout the generations, participated in
the pogroms against Jews.
I was extremely tired, in a state of utter exhaustion. I went out on the
street, hoping that perhaps a Jewish brother would take me in. I
sat down on the sidewalk and pondered.
Just then, a group of goyim passed by. They saw me sitting there, pale and
miserable, and said to me [in Polish]: What? So many of you
survived? And then I fainted.
It is interesting that for five years I held up in the camps but these few
words shattered me. Luckily, a Jewish doctor by the name of Dr. Chishin [?]
was passing by, and he took me along. When I came to, I found myself outside
of the city walls of Oswiecim.
Some time later, I learned that one sister, Zahava, had survived (Golda is now
living in Israel and is the mother of two children: Yona, who is 17, and
Na'ava, 11). We met and were content but would break out into loud weeping
when we remembered the fate of the rest of the family, who were exterminated
together with six million of our Jewish brethren who did not survive.
I remember the first words I said to my sister: Our place, as Jews, is
not among the goyim, and I am not willing to look at them anymore; our place is
only in Eretz Yisrael, where we can live in freedom and know that everyone
dedicates his life for his homeland, for only in Eretz Yisrael will the people
live a quiet life in the future, and we can fight for our independence.
After much effort, we had the possibility of coming to Eretz Yisrael, as
ma'apilim [blockade-runners] on a ship named
The trip was very hard; the ship was a cargo boat, not fit for transporting
people, but that was not the worst aspect. There was a heavy storm and the
ship almost foundered. We sang Hatikvah because we feared we would never reach
Eretz Yisrael at all, but miraculously the sea became calm. How happy we were
then, but the joy did not last long. At the borders of Eretz Yisrael (near the
port of Haifa), we were seized by British destroyers that blocked our way to
Eretz Yisrael. We were panic-stricken, and some of the people jumped into the
water to attempt to swim to shore.
The British demanded that we surrender, and when we refused they sprayed us
with tear gas. We resisted to the end, and when we realized that there was no
hope of disembarking, one of our men scuttled the ship so that the British
would not benefit.
All of us were then moved to a detention camp in Cyprus. There we waited
impatiently for our turn to come to Israel.
In 1948, with the declaration of the State, we came to Israel. Here I built my
home, and I am now the mother of two sons: Avraham, 18 (named after my father)
and Binyamin, 15 (named after my husband's father). It is my hope that the
Shoah we experienced during the Second World War will never return, and that we
will, indeed, be free in Israel and defend our borders against the aggression
of our enemies who want to exterminate us, and our hope is that our children
will never have to experience suffering.
My Days of Wandering
Chana Kaufman-Weichman, Bat Yam, Israel
From my earliest childhood, I was raised in a religious atmosphere. My father,
R Uri Kaufman, was a well-to-do Jew, virtuous, and charitable. He raised his
children, three daughters and four sons, in the same spirit, sent the boys to
learn in cheder, and always took them along to the prayers in the
bes medrish of the Chevre Mishnayes.
I remember that when they laid the cornerstone of the new
bes medrish of the Chevre Mishnayes, my father was the first to make his contribution of
200 zloty, and he was bestowed the honor of laying the foundation of the new
building. I, myself, would often go with my mother and grandmother to the
Great Synagogue for the Shabbes prayers. I loved to look at the beautiful
paintings of the artist Stankewicz that decorated the walls and ceiling of the
synagogue. I enjoyed the festive atmosphere, the silence of true devotion.
It seemed to me like the Holy Temple in Jerusalem before it was destroyed.
I can't forget a Purim holiday in our home. The tables were set with pastries
and drinks. My father, in his silken kaftan, sat at the head of the table with
a pocket full of money, which he distributed to everyone who opened the door:
Purim players, cheder boys,
shamoshim,andmishlo'ach mones carriers. My mother was also busy with charity. Every Thursday, she and
another neighbor woman would go out in the town to collect money and foodstuffs
for poor families to make their Shabbes.
When the children in our home became older, they spread out in various cities
to look for work. One brother went to Bilice, a second to Sosnowice. I myself
got a job in the Meisel-Guter textile shop in Oshpitzin.
On that tragic early morning of September 1st, 1939, the day the war broke out, while I was on the way to work, German
aircraft bombed the town, and a bomb fell quite near my workplace. At that
time, the daughter of the Enger family was killed along with others. It was
lucky that I had left a little later for work. The Germans marched into town
and right away began to seize people for labor. The bitter days had begun.
There were queues to obtain the piece of bread, seizures for forced labor, fear
and anxiety. Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with deadly fright.
The Germans hauled my two older brothers to the Brzezinska village to clean out
the barracks of the Polish military stationed there. They certainly could not
have imagined that that location would later become famous as the symbol of
Jewish pain and suffering, the sadly notorious Birkenau. Later, the Germans
dragged my two brothers to the Annaberg camp, where they suffered hunger and
cold; they perished in 1943 at Berek camp.
Our family was deported from Oshpitzin to Modrzejow, near Sosnowice, at the
beginning of 1941. The local
kehillaallo cated us an apartment in a former shop on Czechen [?] Street. I found
work in a shoe store belonging to the Lendner family of Sosnowice, and I had to
make the daily six-kilometer trip on foot. I turned all my earnings over to my
In February 1942, the Jewish police came for me in the middle of the night and
brought me to an assembly point for girls in Dekerta [?] Street, and in the
morning [we were brought] to Dulag [?] Sosnowice. There the SS took charge of
us and sent us to Lager Burkenheim [?] near Katowice. At that time I would
still receive a letter from my parents every two weeks. Suddenly the letters
stopped, and some time later a woman from Modrzejow told me that my parents
were deported once more and no one knew where.
My wandering days began. Every five or six weeks I was transferred from one
camp to another until I arrived at my last camp, Lager Langenblau, and there I
was liberated by the Russian army on May 8, 1945.
With much sorrow and anguish I found out that not a single one of my family
Living in Sorrow
I was born in Oswiecim. I spent my early years in that little
shtetl, happy and calmly together with all my loved ones. I went to school and
studied very diligently. I had just turned 13 when the war broke out, which
ruined the serenity of all mankind. Right at the beginning we fled from the
Germans. For four weeks we trudged through the fields and forests without food
or drink, just to save ourselves from the murderers. After great suffering and
distress we had to return home, where we found ruins and an empty town without
Jews. I will never forget the images of that time as long as I live.
Nevertheless, we stayed home for two years, working hard for the Germans.
Quite often the people were brought home from work having been beaten for no
reason. In 1941, our town became a hell for millions of people, especially
for Jews, a concentration camp to which millions of people were brought from
all over the world, where they were gruesomely exterminated. The Germans
transferred us to another town. There my hard times began. Soon my brother
was taken from us, and from then on I never heard from him again. I started to
work in a shop and despite working hard I was soon taken to forced labor.
From that time on, I did not have a minute's rest. I had to leave home and
live with strangers. Where I slept one night I was not permitted to sleep the
next. After several months of harrowing experiences there was a deportation,
my parents were sent away, and I was sent to a camp. That day I became an
During my internment I lived as in a prison, without a kind word or gentle
glance that could maintain one's soul. Entire days were spent at the machine,
working hard. At night my cushion was wet with tears. My only prayer was to
be able to meet my loved ones. I felt that the sun would never again shine for
After three difficult years, however, the end of my suffering approached. One
fine morning, work at the factories stopped and a totally different attitude
The Red Army came closer and the happy moment came. They freed us from the
German kidnappers. I immediately made my way home, [to] my hometown, although
it was a cemetery. My only hope was to be able to meet my loved ones. There a
ray of sunshine shone for me. I met my dear brother, the only one who survived
from my entire family.
We soon realized that Eretz Yisrael was the only solution for us and we joined
A Memorial to the Pioneers
I sense a holy responsibility to remember and memorialize the first of the
Chalutzim from Oshpitzin who, with providential inspiration, as if by command of
the guardian angel of Israel, foresaw what was to be, the realization of the
Zionist idea and the approaching Shoah coming in its all encompassing horror –
and they went and made Aliyah to a waste and desolate land, to make it fruitful
and to rebuild its ruins. Thus they paved the way for the Aliyah of the
multitudes and the building of the state. Most of these Oshpitzin Chalutzim who
made Aliyah before the others to build the land, have already passed on, and it
is our duty to remember them:
He was born in Polanka in 1902. Orphaned in his childhood, he was
raised and educated by his aunt in Frydek Mistek. As a student at the
Bilice high school he befriended students from Oshpitzin who studied there, and
he was active in the Zionist movement and Hechalutz that was founded in our
city. In November 1919, he quietly ran away from home, having no passport or
money, and after many adventures, smuggling over borders, sitting in various
jails, he reached the Land together with Yechezkel Harding [?] (Wachsberg)
in January 1920. These were the first of our townsmen to step on the Holy Land.
After arriving he worked in various places, was active in guard duty and
defense. He was among the first of the settlers in Kfar Yehoshua and was
considered one of the most diligent, and outstanding people in that settlement.
With that, he was active in public affairs and instructed the settlers of
Moshavim who started and founded settlements, he trained the youth of Aliyat
No'ar and several of them were educated in his home. He was straightforward and
pleasant-mannered, secure in his chosen path, influencing others with his
I will quote some lines from the letters he sent me. In January 1920, he wrote:
When I internalized the Zionist vision I made Aliyah. The motto
“Self-realization” penetrated deeply and when the thunder of cannons was
heard we hurried to get on our way… In January 1920, he wrote: Only here can
we find the font of renewal, to be transformed to become productive people, to
return to agriculture. In January 1927 he wrote: This is the founding day of
Kfar Yehoshua. We live because we strive. When we stop striving, it is a sign
that we are not alive, therefore we will continue to strive.
He died on Ellul 3 5730 [Sept. 4, 1970]
He was born in 1899. He was somewhat of an eccentric. He gave one the
impression that he was always at odds with himself. To everyone's surprise he
made Aliyah through the port of Beirut. He trudged on foot through all of
Lebanon and reached Eretz Yisrael via Metulla without organizational affiliation
of any kind. At about the same time, his brother also made Aliyah. From the very
beginning he worked at guard duty and in agriculture for the farmers of Bat
Shlomo, and later settled in Karkur. Suddenly, and again to everyone's surprise,
he left to return to Poland. During the Shoah period he fled to Russia, and
after liberation he made Aliyah once more when the state was declared. He was a
Hasid of Sondz [Sacz] and Radomsko. He died in Jerusalem in 1972.
Shlomo Better Achiezer
He was born in 1903. At the age of 15 he was already a member of the
first Chalutz group and one of the founders of the Hashomer Hatza'ir branch. He
financed a major part of the travel expenses of the “Schlein” Kvutza of
Krakow with his own funds. He made Aliyah in May 1920. He worked for the farmers
of Kfar Tavor and was one of the group, which rebuilt Tel Chai and Kfar Giladi.
He later settled in Afula and was one of the first transportation workers in the
region, which later grew into the “Egged” cooperative. He was a good friend,
devoted, liked by all, and always prepared to lend a hand to anyone requesting
Eliezer and Tzila Gleitzman
Eliezer was one of the heads and leaders of the Zionist movement in
town. He served as the chairman of the “Reading Club”. He, together with his
wife, made Aliyah with the first Chalutz Kvutza in August 1920. He worked for
the farmers of Menachmia, paved roads, and together with his Chaverim of
Hashomer Hatzair drained the swamps at Nahalal. His wife was one of the
activists and an instructor of the “Bnot Zion”. She was the first girl from
a Hasidic home to dare to leave her home and make Aliyah despite the opposition
of her parents. In order to finance her travel expenses she cut off her long
braids and sold her hair. She, too, worked at building roads for “P. I. C.
A” in Shomron. Later she moved with her husband to Bnei Brak. She was active
in “Mizrachi Women” and its institutions.
He was born in 1902 and made Aliyah in August 1920. During his first
years in the Land he suffered from chronic fever, and, despite medical advice he
refused to leave the Land. By dint of his iron will he finally overcame his
illness and regained his health. He was among the first members of the G'dud
Ha'avoda [The Work Brigade] and a founder of Ein Harod. He worked at cultivating
the fields and helped to build up the Kibbutz. There he shaped his personal
philosophy and began his public activities. At the end of the twenties he left
the Kibbutz and moved to Herzlia, which was just then beginning to sprout, and
when Kfar Vitkin was founded, he moved there to become one of its first
settlers. He was the representative of the village in the Moshav movement and
their delegate at the national offices of the Histadrut. He was a member of the
“Tnuva” Central, “Mekorot” Central, active in the citrus-growers
association, the Agricultural Central, and the secretary of the Settlement
Department, the right hand of Avraham Hertzfeld.
Following are some of the remarks made by Hertzfeld in a eulogy at his burial:
“Beneath his rigid, and at times rough exterior, beyond the strict and
abrasive style of his interchange with his surroundings there lay within, a
sensitive soul and a warm heart, seeking social intimacy and fellowship. He
himself would have sought this intimacy but he didn't know how. The key to his
locked heart was always in the hands of another. Whoever knew and wanted to
activate it at the right place and time was more than amply rewarded.
Avraham didn't look for the path of least resistance. He will be remembered as a
meticulous person who demanded much from others, and most of all, from himself.
He was a faithful public servant, loyal and devoted to his constituency to the
Among the former Oshpitziners, Avraham is remembered as a pleasant man whose
life was rich in content and who always carried out his responsibilities
completely, one of our giants. He was active in the association and did much to
promote it. He was privileged, during his last illness, to hear the great news
of Jerusalem's liberation. He died in the month of Sivan 5727 [June] 1967.
Mordechai (Mottel) Better
His parents were R Shmuel and Zisel. He made Aliyah in 1920. Like the
other Chalutzim of that period he covered the length and breadth of the Land,
participating in its renewal, working in the villages and orchards, draining
swamps, and building roads. After contracting malaria he moved to “Little”
Tel Aviv of that era and was one of the builders of the “Herzlia” Gymnasia,
both as laborer and sentry at the building site. For many years the Gymnasia was
his home and address. He was one of the original founders of the well-known
Trask Company, and, as such, never missed being present at all the major public
occasions at that time.
His public service was hampered by the illnesses he suffered. His malaria and
severe lung problems weakened him, the Italian bombardment in 1943 destroyed his
home, but his spirit remained constant as before. He accepted everything with
love, and he never complained. His constitution weakened, and walking was
difficult for him. The young, happy-go-lucky fellow turned into a serious and
reclusive man. He died in Tel Aviv on the 19thof Shvat 5732
[February 4, 1972]
Yosef Nechushtai Kuperman
He was born in 1902. He studied in “Cheder” and was considered an
excellent student, with a quick mind, and the best Melamdim in town praised him.
He acquired his general education through self-study. Being rather tall, quite
knowledgeable, and sharp-witted, he spent much time with older friends, thus
broadening his horizons. He was particularly fond of Tanach and its
commentaries. That book was never out of his hands, and he knew it thoroughly.
When he traveled to the Land, and after his arrival, he studied several chapters
every day, and when he married and raised his children, he continued to study
and cherished Tanach at home as well. His grandfather, R Nosen Kuperman and his
mother Ruchale were counted among the few Jewish families who owned tracts of
land and cultivated them with their own hands. From them he absorbed the love of
the land, and when he became a Zionist, he understood it in its essence: To make
Aliyah and to engage in agriculture. He was one of the first founders of the
Chalutz movement in town, and made Aliyah in August 1920. Being delicate, weak,
and pampered from birth, he had a difficult time in acclimating to the local
conditions and suffered from frequent illnesses. His mother implored him to
return home, but his spirit was unbroken, and he insisted on striking his roots
in his homeland, and succeeded. He worked at road building, for P.I.C.A. in the
Shomron, and was one of the first settlers of Tel Yosef. Together with a large
group that had despaired of Kibbutz life, he left Tel Yosef and was one of the
first settlers of Kfar Vitkin. He was active in cultural affairs in the village,
and after the Shoah he was sent overseas on a mission by the Hagana to organize
and gather the scattered survivors and to bring them to the Land. He was a
gentle and sensitive person. He fell ill and passed away in mid-age on Sivan 12,
5720 1950 [5720 = 1960?].
She made Aliyah in August 1920 together with her sister Lea. She was a
diligent and devoted worker, faithful to Zionist ideals. She settled in Ein
Harod. She died childless in 1973.
He worked in the settlements of the Galilee and Shomron and later moved
to Karkur where he raised his family. From his deathbed he saw the War of
Independence but did not live to see the establishment of the state. He died in
He was born in 1900 and made Aliyah from Vienna in September 1920.
Contrary to the accepted practice of the Chalutzim who went out to work in the
outlying areas, Mordechai worked in Tel Aviv and lived there his entire life. He
was active in the defense of Tel Aviv during the riots of 1921 and afterwards.
He was the only one who brought his parents and entire family soon after his
arrival. His home became a magnet for former Oshpitziner. Every Oleh was
welcomed by him with affection, and he helped them to get started. Justifiably,
he was given the nickname “The Consul of Oshpitzin” and took pride in it.
He was born in 1903 and made Aliyah in 1921. He was one of the founders
of the city's Hashomer Hatzair branch. He was always gay and happy, and full of
good cheer. He willingly carried out the tasks that were assigned to him. He
worked in various places. He was a Chaver of the G'dud Ha'avoda at Tel Yosef and
from there moved to Jerusalem, where he worked in construction. He was also
active in the Haganah. He fell at his post in the heinous explosion on Ben
Yehuda Street on February 22, 1948.
Sara Herdung [?] Jakubowicz
She was born in 1901 and made Aliyah with the second Chalutz Kvutza in
1925. She had been Dr. Goldberg's secretary in Oshpitzin. Immediately on arrival
she settled with her husband, Yechezkel, in the Karkur Moshava. This was an
extraordinary settlement, since Karkur was a Moshava inside a Moshava, and if
other settlements received sparse outside allocations, Karkur received far less.
Obviously the living conditions under such circumstances were unbearable. In
spite of the hardships, the Herdung house was open to all wayfarers. The little
food Sara had she shared with others. All sufferers found a haven in her. She
bore up quietly under her burden without letting anyone sense it. She was active
in the Working Mother's Association and was known for her generosity and
kindness in all the surrounding settlements. One may say of her that she was one
of the pearls of Oshpitzin's youth. After the establishment of the state her
economic circumstances improved. Her children had grown and she could have
breathed easily but she fell ill and died while yet relatively young in 1953.
The Salomon family came to Oshpitzin as part of the wave of refugees in
the wake of the Russian invasion of Galicia during the First World War. They
came from Dukla and remained to live in town. Shmuel was then about 13, a
mischievous youth but very bright, having a phenomenal memory. He decided to
study and prepare himself for acceptance in the Rabbinical College. On his own,
he passed the entrance exams. He devoted himself to the study of philology and
by self-study he attained full fluency in the following languages: Latin,
Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic. He profoundly studied the books of the Prophets,
Maimonides' The Guide to the Perplexed, and of the profound teacher of the
period, Nathan Krochmal. He was fully conversant with them all. Due to his broad
knowledge and being most articulate, he became the spokesman of the Zionist
movement in town, despite his youth. He taught Hebrew and lectured on Tanach and
Aggada. They thirstily drank in his every word. When a public assembly was
convened in honor of the San Remo Declaration by the Allies, Shmuel, then 18,
was the principal speaker. He spoke in impeccable Hebrew with the S'fardi
pronunciation. In the autumn of 1918, he moved to Lwow to pursue his studies,
but was caught up in the whirlpool of the war then raging between the Ukrainians
and the Polish army in the wake of the disintegration of Austria. As is well
known, the Poles celebrated their independence with pogroms against the Jews.
Shmuel joined the Jewish self defense against the rioters. When the members of
the self defense were arrested and charged with treason against the state,
Shmuel was able to disguise his identity and escaped secretly, returning to
From there he went on to Germany and studied Eastern languages, specializing
particularly in Arabic at the Universities of Breslau, Cologne, and Berlin.
In 1927 he was invited by Dr. Lehman to teach at the famous Jewish Home for
Orphans at Kovno, and in 1928 he made Aliyah with a group of children from that
institution, coming to Ben Shemen, which was to become their future home.
His first years in the Land he spent as a teacher and instructor, and as one of
the molders and shapers of child education in the Kibbutzim of Heftziba, Kfar
Giladi, and Beit Alpha. After further study for a year at the University of
Cairo, he moved to Kibbutz Genigar where he stayed until 1946. In 1947 he moved
to the Teachers' and Kindergarten Teachers' Seminary in Givat Hashlosha and the
regional school of the Center for Education.
After the formation of the state he was called upon to participate in founding
the Department for Arab Education at the Ministry of Education. First he
organized a Teacher's Seminary for Arab teachers in Jaffa, and later he served
for many years as the head of the Education Department for the education of
Arabs and minorities in Israel. He, at the same time continued to teach the
geography of Israel, his beloved second profession, at seminars of the Kibbutz
movement of Youth Aliyah of the Jewish Agency. When the government ministries
moved to Jerusalem, he, too, made his home in the capital city.
Only a few years remained after his retirement in 1968, and his wish to publish
two compendia on Jewish Thought in Arabic translation, and Islamic Thought in
Hebrew translation was interrupted by a long illness, which ended his life in
Yakov Better, OBM
He was born in Oshpitzin to a family that had lived there for many
generations. He was raised and educated in a Hasidic home, excelled in his
Jewish studies and through self-study acquired a broad general education. He
studied accounting and attained a senior position in the first Jewish bank in
He belonged to a generation of contrasts and upheaval, the likes of which were
rare in human history and the Jewish people, one which chanced to be situated
between hope and despair, between life and extinction, between extermination and
redemption, but with all that he was not broken and knew how to rise above the
depths of the abyss to unusual heights.
Yakov was a modest man, and quite shy, and it would probably discomfit him to
tell his praises, but we, his townsmen, owe him so much, that the very fact of
our being here is due largely to Yakov. He was among the first to espouse
Zionism in Oshpitzin.
Yakov was a Talmid Chacham and a Maskil, the perfect example of a Talmid Chacham
of the old generation dressed in modern garb. For us, the youth, he served as a
guide for the perplexed, a teacher of Hebrew, a guide in attaining a general
education, and as a model for emulation. He was not among the orators or seekers
after honors, but every activity of the Zionist movement in town was arranged
with his planning and instruction, and all quietly and modestly. He was the
representative of the Jewish National Fund and reached all of the different
factions in carrying out that responsibility. He knew all the people in town and
their family lineage. He was a veritable, living encyclopedia of Oshpitzin
Jewry. He was a true friend to everyone, because God granted him a good heart.
He was banished in the midst of the Friday evening service from the Kloiz of the
Admor R Elazar, where he prayed, because of his Zionist activity. In his usual
style, he did not respond to the insults nor did he bear a grudge; he was truly
a Tzadik. When the Rebbe came to the Land, he went to visit him with a
“Kvittel” and a monetary gift, and supported him as far as possible.
He died suddenly on Tishri 7 5732 [September 6, 1971]. All who knew him, and
especially his townsmen, cherish his memory.
We wish to express our gratitude and congratulations to the honorable
editors of the memorial book of our city Oshpitzin: R Meir Shimon Geshuri,
Rabbi Aviezer Bursztyn, and Chaim Wolnerman, who devoted their time and energy,
who voluntarily toiled and exerted efforts, and brought their project to a
blessed conclusion in erecting a lasting monument and memorial for our town,
devastated by the cursed Nazis.
We also wish to thank the authors of the reports and articles, organizers,
fund-raisers and donors, the members of the publication committee, the activists
of the association, and to all who lent a helping hand in its publication:
||All from Israel
|Shmuel and Malka Bochner
|Shimon Yoav Silbiger
|Elimelech Haufstein, Yehuda Kinderman, and Dan Ringer
In the U. S. A.
Messrs. Yakov Feuer, Yehuda Nachshoni, the editor of “She'arim”, and Shaul
Rapaport who tendered valuable advice and helped us to prepare the book for
printing. We extend them our heartfelt thanks.
The original founders of our organization, members of the committee and
administration, the members of the publication committee who established,
worked, and expanded the organization's activities for the benefit of the
|Eliezer Gleitzman, OBM, the former Chairman
of the organization, and his wife Cilla
|Dr. Iro Druks, OBM, the former
Deputy-Chairman and Secretary
|Yakov Better, OBM, the former Secretary
|Moshe David Holzer, OBM
||Avraham Chaviv Lieblich, OBM
|Alter Chaim Henig, OBM
||Michael Vogel Singer, OBM
|Dov and D'vora Weinheber, OBM
||David Kuperman, OBM
|David Wachsman, OBM
The Organization of Former Residents of Oshpitzin-Oswiecim in Israel
He stood alone. He looked up: White horizons, cold, all around –
The gate is open. No one comes out. There is no one here.
The Planet Auschwitz the fireball inside raging crouching is now
extinguished, cold, and he stood there alone. Only he –
The earth lies before him as if covering its petrified heart, dead.
Once more no one breathes any breath of life here. God forsook this land, and
Satan, too, has left it.
The blocks stretch far and wide dead rocks.
Inside the blocks, between the piles of heaped skeletons on the ground, here and
there a forgotten Muselman stirs. Silently, very slowly, speechless, he moves
his upper torso, twists out from between the cadavers a remnant of life from
a world that lived here once.
An entire world!
Now a dead emptiness extends here. As if the sea had frozen in its rage.
All of the gates in all the camps stand wide open. No one enters them, and no
one comes out. There is nobody here.
The white horizons lie petrified at the gates.
He wants to shout: Deliverance. Freedom has come!
Where is it, the deliverance?
Like the remainder of a broken doorway, where you cannot determine which of its
sides served as the entrance and which as exit so, also, you don't know on
which of the two sides he stands, the Liberation. You stand here, at the foot of
a mountain of ashes, as if you had returned to the hearth of your family. Behind
your back lies Auschwitz dead. Petrified. Desolate.
Don't expect to find anyone there. You won't. All of them, everyone is here!
Here, in the heap of ashes! Here, in this spot you will find them. Day and night
you pined for them. They were your entire hope. They tore you away from them –
and now, once more, you stand near them. You are face to face here they are,
all of them, everyone. You have found them, because liberation has come.
Where is it, the deliverance? On which side of the open gate?
The crematorium is deserted. Petrified. The iron doors of the oven are wide
open, cold. The long, iron shovel rests dreamily near the dark hole of the
crematorium. Just a short time ago everything was boiling hot with the
inferno-of-Auschwitz. Like an ocean furious with mountainous hurricane waves so
did the breakers of fear engulf you and shatter you day and night. Now
everything is dormant. The long steel shovel, like an opium spoon, rest
idyllically near the oven; the crematorium oven doors mute metal,
The strips of air between the rows of barbed wire are silent in their chill.
Those lines of wire that were electrified. Now you can touch them with your
hands both from inside and out. They no longer imprison anyone. They no
longer free anyone. There is no one inside, and no one is outside. They are all
here now in the heap of ashes.
My beloved! Deliverance has come!
He threw himself on them. He embraced them in his arms. He drew them to him. He
lay on the heap and his arms dipped deep, deep into the ashes.
My beloved! Deliverance has come!
Auschwitz lay behind his back silent like stone. He screamed. Heard a voice.
Afraid to turn around: It was his own voice echoing back from the distant camps.
He rose from the ashes. He looked all around: He was the only one in all of this
place who could originate an echo. He knew: Inside the pupil of his eyes the
Planet Auschwitz remained frozen as it was before it was petrified. And to him,
alone in this entire place, was it given to take out those pupils with him.
The gates of the camp stood open.
And the silent blocks of Auschwitz and the heaps of Musulmen in them went
with him; the wide open mustering areas were deserted, and the walls of barbed
wire all around –
And the mountain of ashes went before him to lead him on his way*.
He went –
With him went the horizons of Auschwitz and the echo of his vow reverberating
from all sides:
With your ashes, embraced in my arms, I swear to be your voice; to you and
the mute, consumed Kazet. I will not cease to tell of you until my last breath.
So help me God. Amen.
- [Tr. note: The play on words may be lost in
translation. Cf. Exodus 13:21: “…went before them by day in a pillar of
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