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[Page 300]

Ratners Will Always Be Ratners

by Zeev Grabov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Our sages have said, “In the future, the Land of Israel will spread throughout all the lands”. From here it would seem that even such a small town as Ratno can spread out and expand... Whoever has any doubt about this will be convinced from the following episodes -- all of which are true.

Once Moshe Droog, a Ratno native, was driving in his large car to an important meeting in an institution of which he was a director. When he approached Rishon Letzion, a policeman of the traffic division stopped him and said curtly and seriously, “Sir, you are driving at more than 100 kilometers per hour, give me your drivers license and all of your documentation. I am writing you a ticket.” Moshe Droog stuck his head out the window and began to explain something to the traffic policeman. However, when the traffic policeman looked at the driver, a smile came over his face and he said, “Is it possible? Moshe Droog, the son of Reb Avraham Droog of Ratno, would hold his life so cheaply? Would you have driven in Ratno with such a speed on a wagon hitched to a scrawny horse?”

Moshe Droog was astonished, and the policeman saw the need to add an explanation, “Do you not recognize me? It is not surprising, for when you made aliya, I was a child of about eight years old. A Ratno native finds it difficult to write a traffic ticket for a native of his own town, so here is your warning: Drive slowly and carefully!”

*

Here is a story about Shmulik Goldman who served as the secretary of the workers' council of Rishon Letzion. Shmulik was sitting in his office, pensive and sad. The work shortage in the moshava (at that time, Rishon Letzion was a moshava) was worsening, and today there was to be a workers' demonstration in front of the offices of the workers' council. The workers did not come to work and advised him as well not to be absent during the demonstration, but he was not prepared to accept such advice. He was prepared to negotiate with the workers. He had what to say to them, for he was not sparing any efforts in trying to minimize the work shortage.

As he was still immersed in his thoughts, he already heard the shouts of “bread and work” from the demonstrators who approached the building of the workers' council. Shmulik looked outside the window and saw the throngs of demonstrators, headed by a strong young man who was shouting directions and orders. Shmulik left his office and stood at the outside door, preparing to greet the demonstrators and tell them what he had to tell them. However, the leader of the demonstration started to talk first, and he specifically spoke in Yiddish. He asked the demonstrators to stop their shouts of “broit un arbeit” (bread and work), and gave a fiery speech

[Page 301]

about the tribulations of the new olim and the urgent necessity for action from the institutions to create sources of work. He spoke a sweet Volhynian Yiddish which was extremely recognizable to the secretary of the Rishon Letzion Workers' Council. Shmulik attempted to say his piece and advise that the demonstrators choose their delegation to discuss the measures that could be taken, however their spirits were afire, and the demonstrators did not want to hear his words. At that moment, an idea flashed through Shmulik's mind. He turned to the leader of the demonstrators, and said to him, “Listen to me comrade, your Yiddish reminds me very much of my hometown.”

“What town?” asked the leader of the demonstration.

“A small town in Volhynia, called Ratno,” answered Shmulik.

“You are from Ratno? Unbelievable.”

Shmulik responded calmly, “Yes I am from Ratno, the son of Shamai Goldman. Does that name mean anything to you.”

At the sound of those words, the head of the demonstrators approached Shmulik, hugged him, and then turned to the demonstrators, calling out, “Comrades, stop shouting! We have someone here with whom we can talk! Let us choose a delegation and sit together with the secretary of the council to discuss how we can solve the work shortage.”

While Shmulik was still standing in surprise over the sudden turn of events, the youth added, “I am from the village of Datyn, not far from Ratno. When I was still a child, I would often come to Ratno to visit the home of my uncle Woli Levant. During the war, I was a partisan and I fought against the Nazis. I want you to know that from now, you have reliable support from this community, and one can depend on people from Ratno!”

*

That morning, it was very crowded in the Kupat Cholim infirmary on Rothschild Street In Petach Tikva. An official was standing at the main entrance and greeting anyone who arrived with a smile and a good morning wish, in accordance with the new protocols instituted by the order keeper, a former Ratno native. Inside, next to the counter, Moshe Gutman, also a Ratno native, is sitting, supervising the distribution of notes to the doctors. Shouts from inside reached the ears of the order keeper or the supervisor. He went inside and saw that a muddied woman was standing next to Moshe Gutman's desk, and shouting, “I came especially from Moshav Nechalim. I must visit a woman's doctor. I have not yet milked the cows in the village, and there is a bus from Nechalim to Petach Tikva only twice a day. Give me a number for a woman's doctor.”

Gutman, who was dedicated to Kupat Cholim with heart and soul, told her that he had run out of numbers of the woman's doctors, and the doctor was refusing to accept patients beyond the established quota. However, his words did not convince the woman. When the argument reached a high pitch, the order keeper approached the woman and asked her to give him her membership booklet. When he looked at her booklet he said to her, “Wait a minute, we will try to see what can be done for you.”

He approached Gutman and said to him quietly. “Moshe, see, this woman is

[Page 302]

from Ratno. Give her a number reserved for the most urgent situations.” Moshe smiled upon hearing these words, and gave the woman a number for the women's doctor. He said to her, “Why did you not tell me that you are from Ratno? Who are you from Ratno?”

“What Ratno is in your head?” retorted the woman. “My name is Ratner, and that is all.”
“This time you put one over me,” said Moshe the Ratner to the order keeper, a native of Ratno. The woman with the number also smiled. She never imagined that there would be so much charm in her name.

*

Here is another episode, that I would not have believed had I not heard with my own ears, for the incident was indeed as follows.

Yaakov Wolonta, who had moved from Ratno to Denver, Colorado, USA, was turning over in his bed at night with a dream that recurred each night. He saw himself at sunrise in the vegetable garden of Melnik the tanner, picking ears of corn and hiding them in a bag. Suddenly he felt as if tongs were clasping his neck, and that strong blows were being administered to his back to the point “that he could see his grandmother”, as we used to say in Ratno. He turned his head and saw Shalom Melnik, who was two years older than him, ready to deliver one more blow, however he let up when he saw Yaakov's face turn yellow, and he said, “Do you desire our corn?” Yaakov escaped like an arrow from a bow, but when he was already a distance away from Melnik, he declared, “Wait, wait, one day I will settle my accounts with you. You will not come out clean from my hands, and I will never forget your blows!”

After this “vision” repeated itself for several nights, Yaakov decided, “This is nothing other than the finger of G-d.” He must complete his accounting with Melnik, who, as far as he knew, lived now in New York. He told his wife about his decision to travel to New York, and his American wife mocked him, “Have you gone crazy, to undertake a trip of this nature to 'conclude a matter' of more than sixty years ago. The spirit of foolishness has overtaken you!”

That night, he once again dreamed that dream, and he decided, “Let my wife's opinion be as it may.” He felt it necessary to travel. He booked a place on an airplane, and the next day, when the streets of New York were covered with snow up to the neck, he arrived at Shalom Melnik's door. Before he rang the doorbell he deliberated about whether he should extend his hand to Shalom as usual, or perhaps he should deliver a strong blow, the same type that he suffered from him 60 years ago in the vegetable garden in Ratno...”

He rang the doorbell, and a white-haired woman with a pleasant appearance opened the door. She was surprised by this morning visit on such a snowy day, and asked him what he wanted. Yankel answered, “I have come especially from Denver, Colorado to see your husband Shalom. I have an urgent matter to discuss with him.” His wife explained that her husband was not well, and was still sleeping. “Nevertheless,”

[Page 303]

said Yankel, “wake him up, for the issue cannot be put off. Tell him that a Jew from Ratno has come to see him.” After a few minutes, a bent-over Jew came out of his room, wearing winter slippers and a scarf on his neck. Yankel recognized him immediately. This was Shalom, who had beaten him in Ratno. He walked to greet him. They recognized each other, hugged and kissed each other. Then Yaakov tapped Shalom lightly on the back and said to him, “Here, I have paid you back. I told you then in Ratno that I will never forget the beating that you administered to me regarding the corn in your vegetable garden. Now the repeated dream will no longer afflict me.”

“I am happy to see you here in my house,” answered Shalom, and told his wife to serve the important guest from Denver, Colorado in an ample fashion. The surprised wife did what her husband wanted. With a good heart, and over cups of whiskey, Shalom explained to his wife the meaning of the “urgent matter” that brought the guest from Colorado to their home...

[Page 304]

{Photo page 304: Dvora and Avraham Berg at the monument in memory of the martyrs in Germany.

Translator's note: partial translation of the monument (not all of it is clear in the photograph):

Remember what the Nazis did with our people. They killed six million.
(next four lines are unclear)
May G-d Remember
And may their holy souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life
And may their blood be avenged
And let us say Amen.
May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

Ratno, 13 Elul 5702
August 25, 1942
}


[Page 310]

Ratno Descendants in the United States

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 310, top: A group of Ratno natives in New York.}

{Photo page 310, bottom: Eliezer Ginzburg (Breindl's).}

In the memorial book that was published in Argentina, B. Kahn (Berl Chanech's) tells the following about the first steps of the Organization of Ratno Natives in the United States.

“On a Sabbath late afternoon in 1906, Ratno natives who lived in the Brownsville neighborhood of New York gathered in the home of Yisrael Kahn. In those days, Yisrael's house served as the center for Ratno natives, just as the house at the corner of Clinton and Rivington in Manhattan served as the center for Ratno natives in Manhattan. The prime motive of this meeting was to relieve slightly the loneliness of the Ratno natives in the big city. Some of those present read letters that they received from their relatives in Ratno and that warmed the heart a bit.

At that meeting, the idea of uniting the Ratno natives into a brotherhood and mutual assistance organization was first hatched. As I remember, those present at the meeting included Velvel Kirsch, Eliahu Klein, Hirsch-Leib Klein, Chaim Leib Peshinski from the village of Wydranica, Shemaya Schneider, Yoel and Yehuda Schneider, my father Yisrael, myself, and several other Ratners whose names I do not remember. Velvel Kirsch was elected as the chairman and I as the secretary. Each of those present paid one dollar and decided on a biweekly membership fee of 10 cents. When the Ratners of Manhattan (New York) joined our organization, it was necessary to rent a hall for our meetings. After some time, we used the money collected in the account of the organization to purchase land for a cemetery with

[Page 311]

regular payments, and also a house of worship on the fourth floor of a house on Firside[1] Street. From that time, we held our meetings in that location. Ratno natives from all parts of New York and also from outside of New York would come to our synagogue for the Hakafot on Simchat Torah, and the house would be too small to accommodate everyone. It is appropriate to note that Shalom Friedman, the son of Yudel the scribe from Kowel, was especially dedicated to our organization. To the best of his ability, he made sure that those in need would receive assistance. He also transferred money to Ratno to renovate the synagogue, cemetery and other institutions. Special subsidies were given by the organization to “Maot Chittin” (Passover charity) for those in need, to the local rabbi, and to the poor of the town. In its peak years, the membership reached 120, however this included some people who were not from Ratno. Hershel Shachna's (who had been a teacher in Ratno) served as the secretary of our organization until his death. Afterward, the chairman was David Sobol, and his son Max Sobol served as chairman.

The following regulations were included in the charter of the organization that was called “The sons of Rabbi Yosef, Natives of Ratno and Volhynia”:

-- The official languages of the organization for everything related to correspondence, accounting, etc. would be Yiddish.

-- The main purpose of the organization is philanthropic -- to provide assistance to the needy, and to assist the widow in the event of the passing of a member.

-- The chairman (president) and vice president are obligated to visit the sick at least once a week.

-- Brotherhood and unity must pervade amongst all the members of the organization.

-- Only upright and dedicated men will be accepted as members. A person who has not married within the Jewish faith is not permitted to be a member.”

The aforementioned book by Leon Ginzburg, the son of Yosel and Breindel, writes the following about a later period and about the assistance committee of the Ratno neighbors:

“In January 1945, natives of Ratno in New York gathered in the home of Yaakov Kotler in order to organize the assistance for the Holocaust survivors of Ratno and its region. We did not have yet any definitive information about the fate of our dear ones in Ratno, but we were aware of the magnitude of the disaster. At the end of the war we learned that not a trace of Ratno Jewry remains. The following people participated in the first meeting: the brothers Zelig and Avigdor Marin, Pinchas Berg, Shalom Melnik, Yaakov Kotler, Hodel Goldstein, Harry Kirsch, and Leon Ginzburg.

Our first task was to forge a connection with the hundreds of Ratno natives who were scattered around greater New York and other cities in the United States, whose addresses we did not have. We decided to publish notices in the Jewish newspapers and the radio informing of the establishment of our assistance committee, and asking that all Ratno natives join with us. We chose a provisional committee that consisted of Pinchas Berg as chairman, Leon Ginzburg as secretary, Yaakov Kotler as treasurer, and Zelig and Avigdor Marin as auditors. Four months after we began our activities, we received a letter from Avraham Berg, one of the survivors, who was the brother of Pinchas Berg. The letter described details of the bitter fate of Ratno Jewry. This letter included the names of 29 survivors of Ratno Jewry.

[Page 312]

The Ratno natives in Canada offered us faithful assistance.

Avraham Berg later arrived in the United States, and became very active among the Ratno natives. He left 5,000 dollars in his will for the activities of the organization of Ratno natives. The Marantz brothers, Yitzchak Leib Kotler, Yosef Fisher, and the Anglo-Jewish poet A. M. Klein helped in particular[2]. Feisi Kreskar and the Kagan and Kirsch brothers participated from Chelsea in Boston. It is also worthwhile to note the contribution of Sam Bukler of Detroit (a native of the village of Chocieszow), and the brothers Avraham and Moshe Kamper of Toronto, Canada.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. I have not been able to identify this street in a modern map of the Brownsville area of Brooklyn. It is likely that street names have changed over the decades. The English spelling I used is transliterated from the Hebrew, and may not be exact.Return
  2. A Jewish Canadian poet, born in Ratno. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._M._KleinReturn


[Page 311-alt]

The Ratno Heritage in Cuba

by Levi Shapira

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 311: Levi Shapira.}

Information about the Book of Ratno that is to be published shortly reached me under particularly difficult circumstances. I am wheelchair-bound, and speaking and writing are difficult for me. However, I wanted to express, and not only in a few lines, my thoughts and feeling about receiving this information.

Fate led me to the country of Cuba in 1937. I, like many others, felt the lack of prospects in the lowly state of life in Ratno, and possibly already prophesied to my heart about the storm that was to come shortly. I found refuge in a country that was not a center of Jewish immigration, the State of Cuba, which was not yet under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Despite the fact that Cuba was not thriving economically at that time, I studied the trade of diamond polishing and earned enough from my livelihood and even more. After some time, I tried my hand in business, and I was successful in that realm as well. Our Ratno tradition accompanied me through all of the revolutions and changes that took place in Cuba. I felt duty bound to participate actively in the development of Jewish communal life in that country, that had a small Jewish community. What did we not do there?

[Page 312-alt]

We built Jewish schools, and set up a theater building, a communal library, and a cultural hall, etc. The Ratno heritage commanded me, even if it did not express itself literally, to participate in all national and Jewish activities. I felt this blinding obligation even more strongly after the tidings of Job regarding the extermination of the Jewish community of Ratno by the Nazis and Ukrainians reached us. Even after the Cuban revolution that brought the guerilla fighters, Fidel Castro and his cronies, to power, we continued to concern ourselves with the character of Jewish life in Cuba. At first, I too was among those who hoped for greatness and goodness from the Socialist guard. The majority of the Cuban Jews left the country. From the 15,000 Jews, only about 2,000 remained, but those who remained did not despair. We had to concern ourselves with a Jewish school for the approximately 150 Jewish children, a synagogue, and the Jewish community. The government permitted us to establish a synagogue, and even the non-religious saw a need to go there to worship. In this manner, they demonstrated the existence of a Jewish community. We concerned ourselves with a shochet (ritual slaughterer) mohel (circumcisor), and for matzo on Passover in order to celebrate the Holiday in accordance with its regulations. Even the library remained open, and we gathered there at set times for discussions on current events. When there was no teacher for the Jewish school, I volunteered to serve as a teacher even though I had no training for this. However, it seemed to me that I, as a Ratner who had received a Jewish-nationalistic education in the town, was commanded to worry about the future, and to ensure that the golden chain would not be severed. After a great deal of effort, I succeeded in receiving an exit permit from Cuba. The government authorities looked kindly upon me as someone who had been active in the revolution, and permitted me to travel to Israel. However, they denied me the right to take out my money and belongings. I left that country empty-handed, without one cent, but I thanked the Divine providence that I succeeded in seeing the State of Israel that had been established by generations of pioneers, including pioneers from Ratno. I felt very bad that I had not been among those myself. I attempted to build a life in strange countries, but had not built up my own country. Due to my serious illness, I have not had the opportunity to feast my eyes on all the charm of our Land.


[Page 330]

Moshe Gutman of blessed memory

by S. Lavie and M. Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 330 top: Moshe Gutman of blessed memory.}

{Photo page 331 bottom: Yoram Gutman of blessed memory, the son of Moshe and Tzipora}

The memory of my friend Moshe Gutman is connected with the early days of the Herzliya Moshava. Herzliya then consisted of low, white houses that appeared as glistening pearls in the background of scenery that included the sea, vegetation, and sand dunes. With my first steps on the ground of Herzliya, I said in my heart: I am bound to you forever. Later, when I met four friends who were natives of Ratno (Mordechai Gefen, Moshe Stern, Shmuel Marder, and Moshe Gutman) who preceded me in aliya to the Land, I was full of praise for Herzliya that embraced me as a mother and a sister.

It seems that all of these praises did not fall upon deaf ears. On a cloudless morning, or perhaps it was an evening after work, Moshe Gutman appeared in my room with a heavy bundle, and declared mischievously, “I have come to partake of your Garden of Eden.”

We lived and worked together for a period of time. Moshe was a few years older than me. He had richer life experiences than I had, and he also knew the Israeli reality better than I did. He was a friend and brother to me, eased the difficulties of my acclimation significantly, and even helped assuage the feelings of loneliness that tend to afflict a person in a strange environment. Various circumstances caused our paths to diverge after that. Moshe returned to Petach Tikva, to his three friends and to the way of life that he followed for approximately 50 years: founding a building company, volunteering for the guard brigade on the railway line, building Kfar Sirkin and Hitnachalut, and establishing a family.

Moshe became ill with a malignant disease and fought it. When he found out that I had been hospitalized due to a heart attack, he got in touch with my household, took interest in my situation, and even expressed interest in visiting me. The news of his death reached me when I was still bound to my sickbed. I was saddened that I could not perform the final good deed of escorting him to his eternal rest, but I will always remember him positively.

About Moshe of blessed memory by Mordechai Gefen

I was a friend and neighbor of Moshe for more than 60 years. This began in Ratno, in the cheder of Yudel the teacher, continued in the Tarbut School, in the pioneering movement, and later in Kfar Sirkin, where we both were among the founders of the village. It can be said that we were both nurtured by the same roots, and even saw the same visions of disaster and torment that overtook the Jews of Ratno. There was an incident where the Ukrainians made slanderous accusations to the Russians about Moshe's father, claiming that he was a profiteer. He was sentenced to hanging, but the rope attached to his neck tore twice. The hangmen regarded this as the hand of fate, and let him be. Many people left their stamp on Moshe and they brought him to the realization that there was no future for the Jews of Poland, and that the only way to ensure a different life was aliya to the Land of Israel and joining the labor movement. He went out to pioneering hachshara and made aliya to the Land of Israel in 1931.

He worked for some time at the Mekor Hamayim Company that drilled wells in Herzliya. This work was considered dangerous in those days, when the bore went down 40 meters or more. Later, he worked in the orchards of the Sharon. In a later period, he studied the building trade and joined the Solel Boneh building company in Petach Tikva. In 1936, he joined the first group that settled Kfar Sirkin. This was the stormy period in Moshe's life. He built farms without limit, working during the day on the scaffolding of buildings, and performing guiding and defense tasks at night. Moshe was active in all the institutions of the village, and when the first survivors of Ratno began to arrive after the Holocaust, he acted to the best of his ability to offer help to the survivors and to establish the organization of Ratno Natives - work that he continued until his last day.


[Page 331]

Pnina Drezner of blessed memory

by Nechama Meril

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 331 right: Miriam Shoshani (Weinstock) of blessed memory.}

{Photo page 331 left: Pnina Drezner}

She was born in Ratno into the home of a faithful Zionist. From her early youth, she was active in the ranks of the youth, and when she got older, she went out to hachshara in Klesowa, where she became known for all of her fine traits, and earned general appreciation. She made aliya in 1935. Her first stop in the land was Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. During the disturbances of 1936, she volunteered to help Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh, and was very active in the Haganah. One of her aims in life was to bring her family members to the Land. Among others, her brother Dov, my current husband, made aliya through her efforts. Pnina tried to impart the feeling of a warm home and literally acted as a mother to the Holocaust survivors. Her assistance to her fellowman was one of the values in which she immersed herself as well as her family. She was very alert to the suffering of her fellowman, and did everything she could to help. She would help without saying anything. When she got sick with a severe, malignant disease, she bore herself with strength and privacy, as she fought her illness. She was not subdued even when on her sick bed. She continued her tasks to the best of her ability, showed interest in everything happening in Israel, and attempted to not speak about her suffering and illness. Our sages stated that a person can be understood from his pocket, his cup, and his anger[1]. I will add an additional feature to this list: also through a person's illness. Anyone who did not know Pnina when she was well was able to know her and testify to her goodness even during the time of her illness. It is about people such as this that Bialik based his well-known poem: “Let my lot be with you.” Translator's Footnotes

  1. In Hebrew, the three words sound similar: kiso, koso, kaaso. It refers to how a person relates to money, how a person acts when under the influence of alcohol, and how a person controls his anger.Return


[Page 331]

Miriam Shoshani (Weinstock) of blessed memory

by Mordechai Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

During the early 1930s, a young girl stood out in the arena of Zionist and pioneering activity in the town. She was quiet, introverted, and had pleasant mannerisms. Along with this, however, she was a dynamo who was prepared to do everything for the movement to which she belonged - Hechalutz Hatzair.

Indeed, she was bothered when I decided to make aliya to the land and did not heed the pleas of my mother to remain in Ratno and continue to help with the family livelihood after my father died. I knew in my heart that it was possible to depend on my younger sisters, and especially Miriam, who was graced with a business sense. Indeed, that is the way it happened. I made aliya in the midst of the disturbances of 1929. My heart was concerned for what was going on with my family in Ratno, but from the letters I received, I found out that Miriam was carrying on to the best of her ability.

In 1935, I brought my late mother and my sister Miriam to the Land of Israel. She established a warm household in Afula, and along with her husband, may he live long, she did everything to educate her son and daughter and to ensure their future. I am certain that Yisrael and Batya appreciate everything that their mother did and sacrificed for them.

On her gravestone in Kfar Tavor, it was fitting to engrave the words of the poet Ch. N. Bialik, “Let my lot be with you, the modest ones of the world, the discreet ones, who live their lives in secret, modest in their thoughts and adventures -- -- -- they call out, and you - and it was not told to you, oh prominent ones - and you did not know.”


[Page 331]

In Memory[1]

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In memory of my father Shamai, my mother Breindel, my brother Aharon and my sister Sheindel who were murdered by the Nazis

Where is the burial place of my dear mother and father? On which of the terrible days of killing was the thread of their lives cut short? Where were they killed - in the Krymno Ghetto or in some other killing field? Who will reveal this terrible, holy place to my eyes? My soul and my spirit are bound to it, where is it?...

My brother and sister were killed in the thick forests of Zabrodze. I was told that they were seen walking in those fields armed with weapons - my strong, brave, brother who was 23-years-old at the time he was murdered; and my sister, the youngest child of my parents, flowering in her beauty, who was 17-years-old at the time she was murdered. Oh G-d of vengeance, tell me, did they take revenge on their murderers before they gave up their pure souls, how did they fall, where are they buried, and on what day did their souls ascend - will I never know these answers?...

We were five, and I alone survived. I am bereaved of my father, mother, brother and sister. I am the sole survivor of a large family of many roots - a family of those who studied Torah and fulfilled its commandments. They were Hassidim of Karlin, faithful to the Rebbe. They were rooted in their Hassidism, believing and faithful to its values and essence. They were a wonderful blend of Jewish scholars, who were also attuned to the ways of the world. They absorbed into their essence the good and beautiful aspects of the changing ways of the world brought with them, and exerted their influence. Everything was uprooted and is no more, could this be?...

I saw them for the last time on October 23, 1933. I took leave of them as I set out on my journey to the Land of Israel. I hoped that we would be reunited in our Land. We exchanged many letters on that topic. However, the circumstances of the times, of poor health, and of other such matters disrupted the realization of their desire to make aliya to the Land, and pushed it off to when circumstances would improve for them. Could anyone have imagined that the end of Polish Jewry was approaching, and that the fire was already consuming the ground upon which they were walking?...

… Thus, we were suddenly placed against the horror in its full cruelty. Terrible waves of murder also enveloped and flooded the holy community of Ratno. Everything was destroyed, uprooted and annihilated, and the masses of our martyrs were tortured and murdered in the light of the day, in the view of the shining sun…

“The sun shone, the acacia blossomed, and the slaughterer slaughtered.”[2] … The survivors were only very few, distraught in their loss and bereavement, wandering along with us in the darkness of the days and asking why and for what reason?

… My dear, good father, refined in soul and noble of spirit, with a sharp mind and clear way of thinking. Your quiet, calming voice has been silenced. Your heartwarming, engaging gaze has been shut. How do I regret that I parted from you so young, and did not drink sufficiently of your wonderful wellsprings.

… I will never again see the noble face of my mother, etched with furrows of sorrow over her children who died while still in their youth. Her tall, thin stature was bent with worry and fear over those who remained alive, with their illnesses and travails of growing up… How strong was your desire to make aliya to the Land and be together with us here. Did you yet sense the knife fluttering above their heads?...

My dear brother and sister, you were the faithful support of our parents at the time of their old age. You were dedicated to them and concerned about them, and for this, I always blessed you. You are dear, innocent souls, and my soul and spirit are bound to you forever.

Tel Aviv, October 1952

Translator's Footnotes

  1. “This article is not in the original Yizkor Book, and was added in to the online translation at the request of Dr. Goldman.”Return
  2. This is a line from the Hebrew poem “In the City of Slaughter” by Chaim Nachman Bialik.Return

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