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[Page 341]

Chapter Five

Images and Eulogies

 

Our Teacher Nachum Okser,
Brody's Janusz Korczak

By Joseph Parvari (Leiner)

Translated by Dov Biran

We all remember him, our dear teacher Nahum Okser. We met him in the twenties, at the Jewish Community School on Koznowski Street (opposite the Catholic Church). The Austrian Monarchy had fallen apart, and our town Brody, in the north of Galicia on the previous Russian border, had become a Polish city after 150 years of subjugation. But the city atmosphere was from the old days, and we felt this at school. Our first teachers, Wildholz and Okser, still clung to German culture, and their lessons were in that language.

Other teachers, such as Arnold Moscisker and his wife, and the school Headmaster, Philip Ashkenazi, already preferred Polish and even forbade [us] quite firmly to speak Yiddish.

The first to captivate our hearts was Mr. Nahum Okser--an elderly person, short, fattish, but with a beautiful face, pink cheeks with a little white pointed beard. Behind his gold-rimmed spectacles were his good, merry, smiling eyes. Such was our teacher for Scriptures and Hebrew (Loshen Kodesh). He used to start his lesson with a literal translation (from Hebrew to German) from Genesis: “ In the beginning God – Elohim – created – bara' – heaven – ha'shamaim – and earth – ha'aretz – “ and we, his little pupils, repeated after him word for word. In teaching Hebrew he also had a special method, with questions and answers, such as: “I am standing. What am I doing?” “You are standing.” This was followed by exercises in grammar, such as: “My book, your book,” etc. And indeed, the two basic subjects we learned from Mr. Okser were the Pentateuch and the Hebrew language.

Among the city's public institutions such as the Jewish community school, the people's kitchen, the old-age home, and the hospital, the Orphan Home was the most prominent. This was due to the management of its Director, Mr. Nahum Okser. For Mr. Okser was not only a teacher at the local school. His main activity was the Orphan Home at 25 Goldhaber Street. At noon, when school lessons ended, Okser would assemble his pupils and, just as he had brought them to school in the morning, he would take them back to the Orphan Home, at which he was both Director and educator.

I remember the Yiddishes Weisenhaus [Jewish Orphan Home] of Brody: A large building with a kitchen, a spacious dining-hall, two separate sleeping halls--one for the boys and one for the girls--the management office, and the living quarters of Mrs. Okser and the lovely Ms. Sarah Ehrenkranz. Sarah had grown up in that very same Home and remained as economic manager. Eventually, she married Mr. Okser when his first wife passed away. Although there was a great difference in age between them, they managed an exemplary family life and together were dedicated to their common goal, namely the education of the orphans, for whom they cared with much love just like the love parents give their own children.


[Page 343]

A Letter from Brody

by Heinrich Adler

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

Brody, August 20 1927*

The number of Jewish members elected to the municipal council exceeded significantly the number of their non-Jewish colleagues (30 vs. 18) and provided the elected Jewish members an upper hand in the voting. That's how they managed, during one of the first meetings of the council, to change the names of all the streets in the city. If the thirty representatives of more than three quarters of the city's population would have really wanted to exploit their numerical advantage over their 18 non-Jewish colleagues, according to the above-mentioned vote, I would have advised them to change the names of the streets—Slonchna (”Sunny” Str. in Polish, and how rare is the sun there!), Muzichna (”Music” Str. in Polish, what a ridicule of reality was in this name…) and others. I would have advised the use of such names as Dr. L. Artes Str., Rabbi Sh. Kluger Str., Dr. H. Schor Str., Nachman Kromchel Str. and many other names that would have connected to the history of the city and who played such a major role at the beginnings of the Jewish spiritual revival. Perhaps these prominent names would have reminded the local Jewish officials of the dissonant disharmony with the glorious past that deserved so much recognition. This is because it seems that in this city, where a handful seeds for the language revival and the initial literacy in Modern Hebrew were seeded, the sea of the cultural assimilation is swelling.

 

Let us Begin with the School

There is a school here, a so-called “Jewish Elementary School.” It is supported 50% by the state and the rest is financed by the Jewish community. This school could have been an exemplary institution, where the national Judaism of the children of the “almost fully Jewish” city is nourished. In reality this institution is a very strange creation where one teacher is translating the holy scriptures into a German-Yiddish mix, another teacher translates them into Polish, and the third—the only true educator in the teaching-house—teaches “Hebrew in Hebrew” … One cannot place the blame on the school principal, Mr. Ashkenazi, who, despite of his own views (he is an extreme assimilationist) values the educational work of the above-mentioned Hebrew teacher, who is a member of his teaching staff. The responsibility for this situation is placed at the Jewish community, which does not properly utilize its right to select the proper teachers whose salary they are financing—meaning selecting national Jews. In a city that lacks ideological assimilation, it is absurd to hand over the education of the young Jewish generation to “Poles of Jewish descent”, who are brought over for this purpose from all over Poland!

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This situation is amazing in light of the fact that the head of the Jewish community is a prominent figure such as Leon Kalir—formerly the leader of the local assimilated Jewry, who is devoted to the Jewish-national ideology for years now (The son-in-law of Mr. Kalir is Dr. Kutin, who made Aliya to Eretz Israel, and who, while currently staying in Brody, gave an enthusiastic speech about Eretz Israel). The only true vehicle for the national education of the Jewish youth are the Hebrew courses, which are organized by the local branch of “Tarbut”[1] and are developing nicely thanks to the vigorous management of Mr. Naftali Lerner, Brody's enthusiastic pioneer of the Jewish culture and its language.

The courses are divided into five groups that attract 160 Hebrew learners taught by two teachers. Attached to the courses, there is an exemplary Jewish kindergarten. The thought of establishing a Jewish high school is not realistic in the current situation, although here is the place where one of the first Jewish high schools should have been established. Along with the only state high school in town, there is also a private high school, currently starting to grow, where 90% of the students are Jewish, and its principal is a Jewish teacher. However, one could not find any single inspiring teacher among the Jewish teaching staff (six altogether) who would dare to assume the task of heading a Jewish public high school. Therefore, it would be desirable that the central Jewish institutions in Lvov handle this matter. I strongly hope that the proposal of establishing a Jewish high school in Brody could be easily realized.

Our order of discussion now moves to the world of the adults. As I mentioned earlier, the organized life suffers of apathy. Names like “Beit HaAm”(“Community House”), “Tikvat Zion” (“Hope of Zion”) and “Hatkhyia” (“The Revival”-MK) and alike only arouse pleasant past memories. This state of apathy left its mark on the results of the elections to the Zionist Congress. In Brody, a city with about 10,000 of “subconscious” Zionists (almost the entire Jewish population), there were only 320 “shoklim” (electors)[2], of whom only 170 have casted their votes. They divided their votes among the “Tzionim Klaliyim,”[3] which received 35 votes, “Ha'Mizrakhi”[4]—53 votes and “Poalei Tzion”[5]—14 votes. Within the general atmosphere of inaction, the local branch of the “Hitakhdut”[6] shows the bulk of the action. Its members take an active role in the committees of the “Keren Ha'Yesod”[7], “Keren Kayemet”[8], and “Tarbut”. Thanks to the blessed initiative of Mr. Naftali Lerner, as well as his financial contribution, a library named after Ekhad Ha'Am[9] was established (replacing the wonderful library of the Community House that was destroyed). His library contains already, after only a short period of operation, 1200 volumes, 400 of which are Hebrew books, and has attracted sixty permanent readers. The library constitutes a cultural oasis in the city. The musical club nourishes the musical tradition of Brody under the conductor baton of Mr. Shkolnik, while the sport club “Ha'Koakh” (“The Force”-RM), looks after the physical health of the Jewish youth.

In the area of economic rehabilitation and recovery of the economic life among the Jewish population, the fiscal basis of which was destroyed during the First World War, the “Popular Jewish Bank” is making history. This is thanks to the blessed cooperation of the management team, headed by D. Y. Heller, and the efforts of the chair of the audit committee, Mr. Bloch and the head of the institution, Mr. Y. Goldwarm. The bank was established in the year 1900, by the JCA (Jewish Colonization Association), as a limited partnership, but changed to a cooperative in 1922. Despite going through a difficult crisis, the bank still exists today. It consists of 1032 members, most of whom, come from the layer of small businesses and craftsmen (meaning

[Page 345]

basically 60% of the Jewish population). The operating capital of the bank consists of 30,000 guldens from membership fees and reserves, 15,000 guldens from a loan by the PKO (Polska Kasa Oszczdnosi, i.e., Polish Universal Savings Bank), and 56,000 guldens of credit from the Zionist center. Its campaign for encouraging savings among the Jews, along with the 10% loan provision, increased its capital by 60,000 guldens coming from savings accounts. By providing loans to the impoverished Jewish society, the bank managed to curb the rampage of exorbitant interest rates. During the last few months, the bank extended 787 loans totaling 243,381 guldens. The vitality and popularity of the bank's commercial deals are evident by the financial turnover during the last seven months, totaling more than 3,000,000 guldens. The national character of the bank is symbolized by the continuous allocation of its excess income to Zionist and general Jewish funds.

The first task faced by the new municipal council is to cure some of the “wounds of war,” which are still causing pain in the city. Public opinion tends to support the election of Dr. Rittel as the mayor of the city. He can be credited with the development of the city while serving as a mayor before the war broke out. Let us hope that Dr. Rittel, formerly an assimilated Jew, would know how to treat the Jewish population based on its needs.

One of the first worries of the city officials should be the act of providing electricity to the city. The smoky kerosene lamps amplify the gloominess of the residents. A new light, light powered by electricity, which would illuminate Brody, would also have a symbolic value.

Translator's Notes

  1. “Tarbut”— (literally means “culture” in Hebrew) was a secular Zionist organization established in 1922 in Warsaw. It operated a network of Hebrew language schools in the Pale of Settlement. Most of its activities were during the period between the World Wars but some schools still operate today. Return
  2. Shokel—electorate or a member of the election committee was any person (18 years and older) who bought his/her membership by acquiring “Zionist Shekels” (used by the Zionist movement to calculate the annual membership tax). A member older than 24 years was entitled to present his/her own candidacy. The numbers of Shekels purchased at a certain region determined the number of delegates that the region was entitled to send to the Zionist Congress. Return
  3. Tzionim Klaliyim—General Zionists or the General Zionists Party—was a centrist secular liberal party that later joined the Revisionist party (Herut, “Freedom”) to form the center-right Likud party of today. Return
  4. Ha'Mizrakhi—acronym for Merkaz Ruḥani (“Spiritual Center”), which combines to mean “The Eastern” was a religious movement within the World Zionist Organization—the precursor to the National Religious Party of today. Return
  5. Poalei Tzion—literally meaning "Workers of Zion", was a movement of leftist-Zionist Jewish workers founded in various cities of Poland, Europe and the Russian Empire at about the turn of the 20th century. Return
  6. Hitahdut—Union, was a Zionist Labor party founded in 1920, merging HaPoel HaTzair (the Young Worker) party and Tzeirei Tzion (the “Youth of Zion”) party. Return
  7. Keren Ha'Yesod—literally "The Foundation Fund", founded in 1920 as the official fundraising organization of the Zionist movement and Israel (after 1948). Return
  8. Keren Kayement Le'Israel—KKL- A nonprofit fund and organization originally founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine (Later the British Mandate for Palestine, and subsequently Israel and the Palestinian territories) for Jewish settlement. Since its inception, the organization planted over 240 million trees in Israel, built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres of land and established more than 1,000 parks. Return
  9. Ekhad Ha'Am—literally “One of the Common People”—was the pen name of Asher-Zvi Ginzburg (1856–1927), who was a Russian-born Hebrew essayist and one of the most prominent thinkers of the Zionist movement. Return


Editor's Note

  1. This is the date of the actual letter that is reproduced here. Return


[Page 346]

Through the Window

by Hadassah Esther Nathan (Weiss)

Translated from the Hebrew by Beverly Shulster

My small window
Is my whole world here
Through the window I will look
and see the cherry blossom.

The world is bright with color.
Flowers fall from the tree
Becoming white. Green
the small blackberry bush.

In the morning the nightingale will sing
And towards my window he will cry
Oh, I'm sad, sad am I
About your sad and painful life.

The locust, the musician of May
On the glass will burst into song
Oh, my child, it will buzz,
The time of your youth has passed.


[Page 347]

Samuel Weiler
From Publications of the Partisan Fighters Museum,
Tel–Aviv, Tevet 5732 – December 1971

By Joseph Parvari (Leiner)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

One of the last commanders of the Beitar organization (In Hebrew the acronym for “The covenant of Yosef Trumpeldor”[1]) in Brody was Shmuel Weiler, of blessed memory, great–grandson and grandson to a Rabbinic dynasty, a graduate of the Polish Gymnasium, a handsome youth, brave and fearless, and limitlessly dedicated to the national movement.

In 1941 he was a resident of the ghetto. Here, in Brody, despite all of the suffering and the horrible conditions in the ghetto he dreamt about rescuing his nations' honor and about raising the flag of the struggle against the invader and the oppressor of the Jews.

He was one of the few who survived the war. Based on his written testimony[2] that he provided to the Jewish Historical Institute in Krakow, one can assemble a short review of the fight of the local youth against the Nazi regime.

Shmuel Weiler, the commander of Beitar, together with several friends, including Shlomo Halbershtadt, a former member of the “Hashomer Hatzair”[3] movement, Yaakov Linder, a member of the “Komsomol” (The Communist Youth Movement) and the teacher Adolf Klar, established a fighting organization in the ghetto by the name of ZOB (Zydowska Bojowa Organizacja = The Jewish Fighting (or Combat) Organization), headed by Shmuel Weiler, which was the nucleus of the local partisan movement. The Jewish fighters contacted the Polish fighters in Lvov and asked for their help; however, the Poles refused to accept them in their ranks, and to provide any weapons. Thus, the organization, which was isolated from the outside world, decided to secure the needed financial means on its own, and to acquire the necessary weapons by purchasing it or by force. Among the few who were willing to assist the organization, was the Ukrainian Communist activist, Yashko Buraczek, a friend of the Jews, who has meanwhile passed away. The organization received the first handgun from him.

Weiler managed to contact an ethnic Pole, a soldier who served in the 45th battalion of the German army infantry (there were Poles from Pomerania, Silesia and Poznan who served in the Wehrmacht). This Pole told Weiler about the huge defeat suffered by the German forces headed by von Paulus, during the winter of 1942/43 in Stalingrad. The organization published and disseminated this and other news via leaflets. The news helped in raising the morale among the Jews and in forging their will to survive. However, the organization was not satisfied with only this type of actions. It decided to start open struggle, get out of the ghetto, and run away to the surrounding forests. They planned to join the partisans and fight against the Germans.

The organization continued its activities by performing sabotage actions. Near the village of Sukolovka, its members blew up a tar factory. Tar was a needed raw material for producing ammunition. The forced labor camp at the Sasov quarry was attacked too in order to get hold of dynamite for the production of mines. An underground member, the engineer Fauerstein, invented a mine for blowing up railroad tracks. The mine was placed about 40 kilometers from Brody between Krasna and Kolkosh stations and caused the derailment

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of a train locomotive, the destruction of two boxcars full of weapons and ammunition, and the death of tens of German soldiers.

Despite the harsh conditions and the never–ending lurking dangers, at every moment the fighters were also keen at preserving their cultural life even while in the forest. They organized meetings on Saturdays and evenings, in which they gave lectures on current events. Moishe'le Shapira stood out in these meetings in which he read from his poems about the Jewish people, its enemy and the fight against it.

At about the same time, it was announced that the organization was accepted into the ranks of the GL–Gwardia Ludowa–organization, the “Elite People's Guard,” the Polish underground leftist resistance organization in Lvov. The GL organization promised to provide commanders, as well as non–Jewish partisans and weapons.

When its funds had dwindled, the organization decided to rob the national bank branch in Brody. Twelve people set off to carry out this undertaking on 13th of May 1943. At noontime, the members heard that the force encountered a German army unit. A battle ensued, in which two of the group members – Bunyo and Izyu Reinhold, were slightly wounded. The group was forced to retreat toward the forest. The German succeeded in capturing two of the fighters in the swamps and they handed them over to the city gendarmerie. While their clothing were being searched, the fighters managed to draw their guns, kill a policeman and run away to the ghetto. The house in which they were hiding, was surrounded by the police force and its residents were taken out and shot to death. When the fighters saw that they do not have any hope of escape, they committed suicide.

At that point, it was clear that the time had come for an uprising. The organization called for active resistance against the oppressor. They encouraged the Jews to follow the example of Ghetto Warsaw, which fought heroically against the Germans. They appealed the people to escape to the forest and join the partisans. Many abided by the appeal. In order to sustain themselves, groups of members attacked the farms of rich “volkdeutsches” and confiscated meat and flour. They left a note in every place they raided, acknowledging the confiscation of the produce, stamped by the organization logo.

On 17th May 1943, a force consisting of two German army companies, Ukrainian police and the gendarmerie attacked a group of the organization members. The ensued battle lasted the whole day. Unfortunately, the attackers had the upper hand. Thirty Jewish warriors died a heroic death. The survivors returned to the city and hid in the attic of the ruined synagogue. The police discovered their hiding place and they were captured. After that incident, the head of the Judenrat demanded that Shmuel Weiler sign a declaration that he would not incite the youths to fight against the Germans. Weiler refused. The Judenrat then demanded that Weiler's mother sign in his name and she refused as well.

During the night of May 20/21, 1943, the ghetto was surrounded by S.S. units that arrived from Lvov, headed by Major–General Katzman, may his name be damned, and Ukrainian police forces that were mobilized from throughout the environs joined them. They entered the ghetto and forced out people from their homes and hideouts. After robbing them of everything they owned, they loaded them up on trucks and transferred them to the train station. From there they transported them in crowded and sealed boxcars to the death camp of Majdanek (one of the survivors testified later that the train bypassed the Belzac camp). Many tried to jump off the moving train, but only three managed to survive.

Miraculously, Shmuel Weiler himself survived. After the liberation by the Red Army, he and his mother moved to Poland and from there to France. In France, he continued his work in the movement and became

[Page 349]

the secretary general of the right–wing Herut–Hatzohar Union party[4]. He served as a journalist for the party's newspaper, “Herut”, in Israel and acted on behalf of and for the benefit of the state of Israel. He played a major role in organizing the weapon shipment via the ship Altalena. He served as a delegate in the Zionist congresses and visited Israel.

The author would like to mention that a group of Jewish partisans from the neighboring city of Radzivilov, was also active in the area of Brody during the conquest years (see article by Yekhiel Porochovnik in the Yizkor book for the city of Radzivilov–Sefer Radzivilov, pp. 232–250[5]. Shmuel Weiler did not mention the group in his testimony since most of their activities occurred after the extermination of the ghetto. Most of the members of this group later joined Russian units and fought in the ranks of the Red Army.

Shmuel Weiler passed away in Paris in 1962, at the age of 48, after suffering from a malignant disease. His mother, Adela Weiler transferred his body in December 1962 to Israel, and he was buried in Kiryat Shaul cemetery [near Tel Aviv. M.K]. Adela Weiler passed away in October 1971. She was a public figure and an industrious Zionist leader in Brody. She was buried near her son.

Her memory and the memory of her son would be forever bound in the bundle of the living among all of Israel heroes.

Translator's Notes

  1. Beitar–A Revisionist Zionist youth organization founded in Riga, Latvia, by Zeev Jabotinski (the leader of the Revisionist Movement, linked to the right wing Herut Party. The organization was named after the leader of Jewish settlers in Tel–Hai, Yosef Trumpeldor, who was killed in defense of the settlement. Return
  2. Shmuel Weiler's testimony was taken from the collection “Underground Movements in the Ghettoes and the Camps,” edited by Betty Eisenstein, 1946, published by the War Archives, the Jewish Committee in Krakow (in Polish). The testimony also appears in Brody Yizkor Book, pp. 170–174: (http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/brody/bro170.html) Return
  3. Hashomer Hatzair–Translated literally as “The Young Guard” is a leftist Marxist Zionist youth movement affiliated with a party by the name of Hashomer Hatzair–Workers Party of Palestine (later unified with other movements to form the leftist Mapam and Meretz parties). The organization was established in Galitzia in 1913. The movement is active today in Israel and internationally. Return
  4. Likud Party – Literally translated as “consolidation”, is a union of center–right wing parties formed by Menahem Begin. The senior party in the Likud is Herut (translated literally as “Freedom”) which was formed in 1948 as a successor to the Revisionist Irgun militant underground organization. The first union was formed in 1965 between Herut and the centrist Liberals party. Several other small parties joined in 1988. Return
  5. Radzivilov's Yizkor book: http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Radzivilov/rad251.html Return


[Page 350]

Fanya Zorne:
The Polish woman with whom I hid told me about an “Aktsia” (Action) against children aged 3-5 in Radziwilov (near Brody). All the children were thrown in sacks and the Germans shot into the sacks, after which they were buried in the ground. The ground continued to move for a while thereafter.

Alas, German Mothers

by Fanya Zorne

Translated from Polish to Hebrew by Zvi Natan

Translated from the Hebrew by Beverly Shulster

Alas, German Mothers
Who so love their children
They give not a sword
But bread with butter.
They fill their bellies
While our children die--
Not even a slice of bread
Like cats sick with hunger,
In ditches, in ghettos of death
to fill quotas.
With no excitement
You hear this news,
No twinge in your heart.

If were taken from you
Your beloved children
Your blonde-headed children . . .

Apparently, here have returned
The days of the Tartars!
If you could hear the screams go up
And then see the piles of bodies;
If you could feel the pain of the mothers
Torn from their babies--
Would that in strange lands,
In camps, in ghettos
Burning with longing
You'd die at forced labor
In poverty, misery.

Alas, German mothers,
You cannot feel.
Your hearts are stone.

April, 1943


[Page 352]

The Brody “Klezmers”

By Samuel Lamm

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

In the middle of the last century, there was a family of klezmers [1] headed by Rabbi Shmuel Weintraub, may his memory be blessed, who were nicknamed “the Chortkover”[2]. They were famed artists and their reputation reached the most remote corners of Galicia. The granddaughter of R' Shmuel was my mother, may her memory be blessed. She told me that R' Shmuel, whom I am named after, was a fountain of music. The band was also famous through the fact that R' Shmuel played notes that sounded, in one instance, like a nightingale, and in another like a lion's roar. R' Shmuel was able to play a “deer hunt”, including how deer is being shot and how they fall down.

One could not decide upon a date for a wedding without consulting first with the Chertkover.

R' Shmuel came from a very pious family. My mother told me that he and his brother played once at a ball where boys and girls danced together. When the news about that ball reached their parents, they excommunicated the two boys and sat Shiva as if they were dead.

In the band of R' Shmuel two of his sons, R' Yoshe Vev (Yosef Zeev) and Moshe, stood out. R' Shmuel's grandchildren scattered about in Austria and Germany. One of them played at the court of the emperor Franz Joseph the First.

During the 1930's my brother visited a remote place in Galicia by the name of Mendenice—larger than a village but also not quite a town, and stopped by the synagogue. An elderly Jewish person approached him and asked who he was and where did he come from? He answered in Yiddish “I am the Chortkover's grandson”. The old man got a satisfactory answer to his question.

Translator's Notes

  1. Klezmer—literally “musical instrument” in Hebrew, is a Yiddish term that originated in Eastern Europe for professional musicians who played Jewish folk music (usually on violin). Return
  2. Chortkov—a city in Galicia, about 38 miles SSE of Ternopil (Tarnopol). At the end of the 19th century the Jewish population in the city was more than 2000 people. Return


[Page 353]

In Memory of My Parents Simcha and Yasse Weiser

by Shoshana Weiser

Translated by Shmuel Herold

Donated by Brian Blitz

A picture of the new synagogue in which my parents had worshipped all their lives, and where my late father had served as beadle, provoked in me a strange reaction.

In front of me, I saw this sanctuary in 1918 after the First World War. It stood out as a tombstone, a sort of monument, surrounded by its four walls, its broken windows looking out to the horizon, without a roof, thistles growing between its walls, pasture for the goats.

The [fortress] synagogue had served as a stable for the horses of an enemy at a time when the war raged on both sides of the town, and invasions of two enemies had turned it into a desolate wilderness. Desolate too was the “new synagogue” [a study house], and just a few Torah scrolls survived and remained in the Jewish district.

As soon as we returned to the town, before we had a roof over our heads, my late father decided to restore the former glory of the [fortress] synagogue. Repair of the roof and the removal of weeds were his first actions. Despite the poverty of the population, the donors did not disappoint and contributed generously. The synagogue was rebuilt, the restoration of the holy ark and the eastern wall were carried out by a renowned craftsman without payment, and the Polish government dispatched a special group of people from Warsaw to see the wonderful work of his hands.

Shortly before the High Holy days, when the synagogue had already been completed, a wrinkled lady arrived dressed in tatters with a donation. She [was a woman who] used to sell candy at the entrance of a building in the street by the station. Her name was Rosa. She had just one request – that her 14-year-old son should act as cantor on Simchat Torah. “He sings beautifully,” said the woman. “He is very talented.”

The mother hadn't exaggerated. This wonder-boy was Jonah Furman of blessed memory. This was his first public appearance. He continued to be the cantor there for many years.


[Page 354]

Two Episodes

by Shoshana Weiser

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

  1. “The Rope that did not follow the bucket”[1]

    The porters of Brody were not as rude and vulgar like porters in other cities. Their curses were not as dangerous. They were simpletons who would not be the cause of any world calamity. They loved scholarly students and appreciated anybody who studied anything.

    One of the porters in the city had a son, and the father decided that his son would not be a porter… He sent him to high school and after the matriculation exams, that son went to Vienna to study medicine. He excelled in his studies, received a doctor degree and was accepted as a lecturer in the faculty he studied in.

    One day, the docent arrived at his parents for a visit. The porter invited all of Brody's porters to his house to welcome the professor, the porter son. My attempt to sneak in and see how the professor reacts to the reception of the porters has failed—entry was only allowed for porters.

  2. Small talk of scholarly students

    The House of the Music Society in Brody served as a club for the Jewish intelligentsia, as well as a venue for art shows such as concerts and theater shows.

    In the evenings before the shows, we—the youth, gathered in the corridor waiting for the opportunity to gain a free or discounted ticket, as in “fix yourself in the corridor before entering the lounge.”[2] Among the people who walked the corridor was a small man, a man in miniature. The only thing that was big by him were his glasses. He amazed people with his stories and jokes, and the more he talked, the bigger his circle of listeners became. He was not nicely clothed, and the books, which I never saw him without, were not bound by garnished covers but were mostly pamphlets and notebooks that were worn-out from use.

    To this day, fifty years later, the memory of these evenings was not erased from my heart, although I do not remember even one word from these stories.

    Who would imagine that this person, so small (in body) would be so big (in spirit). Today he is well known in the Hebrew and general literature worlds. The number of prizes that were distributed based on his recommendation and judgement is greater than the number of years he has lived. He is, of course, the tenured professor of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dov Sadan.

Translator's Notes
  1. “The rope followed the bucket” (Genesis 44:19), as in the rope following the bucket that drops into the well. A phrase used to describe a situation when a result follows the cause or one thing follows another (son follows his father, one problem follows the other, etc…) Return
  2. A phrase originating from the Mishna, which basically means “behave yourself in this world if you want to enter paradise in the next world”, or a person needs to prove oneself first in order to receive a recognition or a benefit. Return


[Page 355]

In Memory of Our Father Yaakov Unreich of blessed memory

by Rivka Matsuhewicz née Unreich

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

Two years ago [two years before the book was published in 1994. MK] we lost a dear man, two years ago, a native of Brody, a proud Jew, who foresaw the Holocaust approaching and imminent even before the breakout of the Second World War.

At the age of 20 he enlisted in the Polish army and served in the army for three years. One day during his service, he saw gentiles burning a doll in the image of a Jewish person. At that moment, he understood the meaning of antisemitism and decided to immigrate to Eretz Yisrael.

After his military service he became a member of “Brit Ha'Khayal”[1], bought a ticket for a ship and departed for Warsaw.

He said good-bye to his family that was very wealthy, to his father, a good-hearted man by the name of Elimelekh, who was a famous philanthropist in his city, to his mother Sara and his brothers. He took a pillow, and hit the road on his own to Eretz Yisrael.

He boarded the ship “Parita,”[2] which was built to carry cattle. After long weeks of wandering under hard physical conditions, the ship ran aground on the beach of Tel Aviv in [August of] 1939. The British were waiting for them. They arrested them and jailed them in a detention camp for some time.

My father was a merchant in Israel. He was a very smart man, full of stories about Brody and Galitzia. His entire family perished in the Holocaust.

He married Ahuva, née Fishkin, from Rubizhevitch and they established a glorious family with many grandchildren.

Translator's Notes

  1. “Brit Ha'khyal” (“The Soldier Alliance”) was a rightist-Revisionist Zionist association of Jewish adult reservists in the Polish Army formed in December 1932 in Radom, Poland by Zeev Jabotinski. Its principles included militarism, discipline, ceremony, ritual, honor and loyalty The goal was prepare a cadre of loyalists in preparation for the establishment of a Jewish state on the two banks of the Jordan River. Return
  2. Parita was an “illegal immigrant” ship acquired by the Revisionist movement, which set sail from Constantza, Romania, on the Black Sea on July 12, 1939, carrying 857 Beitar youth movement and Brith Hakhayal members from Germany, Austria, Poland and Romania who had fled Europe. The ship ran aground on the beach of Tel Aviv on 22 August 1939 after a 42-day sail filled with hardships and struggles. The immigrants were arrested by the British Army but were released shortly thereafter and allowed to stay in Eretz Yisrael. Return


[Page 356]

My Father's House (a poem)

by Fanya Zorne

Translated from Polish into Hebrew by Moshe Shlomi

Translated from Hebrew by Moshe Kutten Edited by Rafael Manory

On a lowly hill in a not-so-big a village
a deserted house stands, with a railing in front of it,
adorned with a scarf made of vine—intertwining,
ascending up and up to the edge of the roof
of the gloomy house.
A veteran of storms,
It is the only one who is fearless -
why would it care?
Surrounding the house, rose bushes,
planted by an amateur
are rising up to the sun above
as if waiting for someone miraculous.
Neglect is everywhere—in the garden, the house and the orchard.
Who deserted it and for whom they were left?
Sunrays had once pushed through the window
and from there a reply came swiftly
youthful girls' laughter—
with a hoe and a mattock
they hurried, running to bring order
in the flowerbeds.
Today nobody casts a glance at them.

From the soiled windows
Naked walls are seen,
Only one thing is watching –
a flower standing on the window sill.
It survived and saw everything,

[Page 357]

one mute witness,
but only it knows the gloomy history–
the parents' farewell to their nurtured girl
the last in the line.
It saw and shared their pain
In its flowery brotherly heart,
It saw how, when the girl left,
Her mother fainted collapsing at the door,
and the father looking with a tearing eye, not knowing
whether to care for the mother, or run after the other
as long as his legs can carry him.

About a week later,
villains came and ordered them to go
to the ghetto, to the wanderings.
It saw how, with tearing eyes,
they said farewell to their daughter
leaving toward their cruel fate of misery and hardships
it saw the last glance
from the train car

Here, at the garden and house and the orchard…
Oh My G-d, how mysterious are your judgements!

Would they perish, or perhaps their world would emerge and return?
The silent house remains—
It has passed through the winter,
and today, spring is here
and the buds are sharing their fragrance,
But only inside the house
there is no clue or sign of life.
You—the fiery daffodils
are calling in vain.
You—rose bush—are rising up in vain
to face the expanding world.

[Page 358]

There is nobody—they are not at home—
an evil and cruel world took them from here.
Would they come back? You would certainly ask me.
I wouldn't know.

I would only know this—before the sun would rise
The dew would sting the eyes.
Lonely, the house is standing,
on a hill, in a not-so-big a village.
Why are you so silent?
Why is it that you are reflecting
so much worry,
grief and sorrow?

Are you longing for me?
Is it so bad for you without me?
Know that I am sending you my soul
and all of my thoughts,
regardless of whether we would come back to you or would never return.


[Page 359]

Profiles from Brody

by Joseph Kahana

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

Every city has its own character(s).

  1. Who in Brody didn't know Dr. Oifrecht? He was the physician of the Sick Fund organization (Kupat Holim). He was an older bachelor whose hair was gray and his beard was black. When he was asked “How come you have gray hair but a black beard?” he would answer simply: “When my beard started to grow I was already eighteen years old, therefore my beard is eighteen years younger than my hair”.
  2. I remember the Messer family who used to live in a single house built on the “Valles” (the dirt embankments). Mr. Messer was a sign painter who spoke German. One night his wife left the house without him sensing it. He locked the door as a habit and went to sleep. When the wife came back, the door was locked and she had to wait at the door for a long time until her husband woke up from her knockings on the door. From that day on, Mr. Messer would ask his wife every evening: 'Regina, are you home?”. After he getting a positive answer, he would go and take a peek at the mirror and ask seriously: “Am I here?” and he would answer: “yes”. He would then go and lock the door.
  3. There was a carriage driver in Brody and his name was Moshe the “Krumer” because of his wooden leg. He was a big joker and liked jokes and singing. He owned a cart with rubber wheels and a splendid pair of horses. One day, he carried in his cart a woman who went to invite her deceased husband to the wedding of their daughter. He waited for her at the gate of the cemetery until she came back. When he saw her, her face seemed very worried. He asked her: “What happened?” She answered: “I forgot to mention to my husband that Passover is approaching, and that I do not have any money left.” (It was forbidden for her to reenter the cemetery according to the Jewish law”). Moshe had pity on her and asked her to point out for him the location of her husband's grave from afar, so that he could go to him and tell him about her wish. When he came back Moshe told her: “I told your deceased husband everything; however, he said, he was very sorry that her wish came too late, and that there was nothing he could do about it, except that he invites you to spend Passover with him”.
  4. There were many water drawers in Brody, and Moshe “Wasser Tregger” [Yiddish for “the water carrier”] was one of them. He was a young man and not necessarily too smart. In addition to drawing and carrying water, he worked as a night-guard at Mr. Sapir's shop in the market. When he was asked how is it to be working as a night guard for Mr. Sapir he would answer: “Sapir thinks that he is smart, and in exchange for dinner, he wants me to sleep in his shop. However, what do I do? I enter the shop every night and do not close my eyes until morning. Of course, Mr. Sapir thinks that I slept the whole night.”


[Page 360]

Our Father Joseph Parvari,
of blessed memory

by Uri and Elazar Parvari

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

When we were small children, our father used to tell us about his native city. He told us about how he started, at the age of four, to study in a “Kheder[1]. He told us about the students' newspaper in school and the soccer games with the Poles. His father, Uri, spent his time in Beit Ha'Midrash [2], studying Kabbalah[3] and his mother Rivka was the breadwinner for eight souls working at her grocery store. When our father was six years old, his father died at the age of 72 from a typhus epidemic, which raged in the city. His mother was left with her five daughters and him, the youngest child born to older parents. After graduating from high school, he left the city and worked as a book-keeper in Krakow and was an activist in the “Gordonia”[4] pioneering youth organization.

When he was 26 years old, the World War broke out. The Germans invaded Poland and advanced eastward. As he was an athlete he decided to escape on a bicycle. He travelled long distances between villages and rundown roads, procuring food and fixing many flat tires, until he reached the Soviets. He managed to convince them that he is sympathizer of the Communist regime and that is how he was accepted into the Red Army.

The following five years passed by him getting involved in blood-shedding battles, including the battle of Stalingrad, until he was fortunate to rejoice over the victory over the German army and participate in the liberation of Poland, Romania and Hungary. However, when he was discharged from the army and returned to Brody, everything was already lost. His 67 years old mother, his five sisters Rachel, Pepka, Sara, Tzila, and Etka, along with their six children and their husbands were gone. They were all taken to Treblinka and murdered.

Our father did not stay quiet since. He devoted most of his efforts to the perpetuation of the memory of his city's Jewish people. The people of Brody became for him a substitute for the family that perished. Those who came to Israel after its establishment, he took care of finding them a job. If someone was unskilled in any profession, he would ask his place of work to hire that person on a temporary basis as a helper. He would employ that person and teach him basic accounting (he would compete any overflow at home himself), and then he would find the person a permanent place of work.

During Sabbaths and holidays, it would have been difficult to find Father during a moment of leisure. He would sit at his desk, copy the material for the Brody Yizkor book and correspond with ex-Brody residents all over the world. We carefully preserve copies of all this correspondence, a good part of which is written in Yiddish and Polish. They fill many thick folders. The destroyed world of Brody continued to live in his heart. He remembered, phenomenally, almost every Jewish person in Brody, their address and their occupation. He remembered every street and every house. During the years, he collected so much information about the city, in order to be able to embed any missing part into this world that lived in his imagination, while continuously coping with the ever-increasing time distance and the fear of oblivion. His life dream was to immortalize that world that was gone and only existed in his memory in a “Brody Yizkor Book”.

To our sorrow, he was not fortunate to see the book published. He collapsed while continuously laboring over the work and died after several weeks of terrible suffering. The world of Brody as it was imaged in his memory disappeared with him.

We see the publication of this book as the fulfillment of his life dream.

May his memory be blessed.

Translator's Notes

  1. Kheder – a traditional religious school for small kids. Return
  2. Beit Midrash – literally means “A house of learning” was a study hall or a school for religious studies, usually in or adjacent to a synagogue or a Yeshiva. It is also a word used to describe the level of studies below the academic level of a yeshiva. Return
  3. Kabbalah - originally developed within the realm of Jewish tradition in the seventeenth century French region of Provence, France, Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal, and mysterious infinity and the mortal and finite universe (God's creation). Return
  4. Gordonia - the movement's doctrines were based on the beliefs of Aharon David Gordon, i.e. - the salvation of Eretz Yisrael and the Jewish People would come through manual labor and the revival of the Hebrew language. Return

 

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