[Page 258]

The Sendwitzer Family

by Mendel Goldstein, Rechovot


The Sendwitzer family was one of the most well known families in Demblin. All of the men were very pious and learned Jews and the Chelm Rabbi, Reb Gamliel, originated from the same family.

My father was called Gadlihu, my mother, Rashe. My brother, Hershel, was my twin. My sister, Devoshke, and a younger brother, Yitzhak. My father had a sister, Leah and her husband, Hershel. I had a grandmother, Raizel, and a grandfather, Hershel.

Among the other family members: The Rabbi Gamliel Hoffman, his brother, Sholem, and his wife Raizel, with their children, Maitel, Gamliel, Pesach and Tzviling Hershel and Fofi; Moshe with his wife and their sons, Gamliel and Yankel, a daughter Aidis. They had two sons, Yone and Yosel, who died in America. The other brother, Mordechai died in 1938.

From the whole family, there remained myself, the only one of Gadlihu's children, Yankel's wife Dovre, who lives in America with a son, Gamliel and a daughter, Naomi; Shlome's two daughters, Tovye and Leah; Moshe's two daughters, Elka and Rashke in America.




[Page 259]

Reb David Ben-Shmuen Zilberman (Fahkers)

by Moshe Wasserman


A religious, well to do Jew, who, with dignity and honesty, made his living from a store which sold food. He never refused to give alms to a Jew who needed it. He also provided foodstuffs for the Kojenitzer Rabbi. Being himself a Kojenitzer Hasid, he did business with the Hasidim who had traveled from afar, who were going to see the Rabbi for holidays, or just in a weekday.

His wife, Sureka, who took care of business while he was away, found time to help others, or to help the poorest of brides and never complained that it was too hard to do anything like that.

Although his children were drawn to a religious spirit, that did not stop them from being among the founders and being very active in Zionist organizations. True, the pious Reb David, did not look with great favor on the Zionist activity of his children, and would even say once and a while something like, “The Messiah is not going to bring you to Israel before the appropriate time. With all your little pennies you're dropping in your pushke there, you're not going to liberate Israel”. But, he didn't make any serious attempt to thwart their activities. When the youngest son, Benyomin, made aliya to Palestine in 1934, he sent for his father. And Reb David went to the Rabbi to get his advice and the Rabbi gave his blessing.

Walking around the streets of Tel Aviv, Reb David was astonished to see the Jewish workers who were building a factory in a new world. It was as if a new world was being revealed to him. The same young folks who, from the Jewish towns in Poland, here were creating and building their own land, working the fields, drying the swamps. He saw that he, like many Jews like him, with his upbringing and experience, had made a mistake.

His striving was to be with his children and to help his daughter, Leah, and her husband and her child, Surele, to emigrate to Israel, as well as to help his oldest son, Chaim, but unfortunately, all of these efforts were not successful. He traveled back to Poland in order to make all these arrangements for them, so that the whole family could travel together to Palestine, but, the outbreak of the Second World War brought all their dreams to nothing, and he was killed by the Nazis.

Honored be his memory!



[Pages 260-261]

The Road of her Life – only good Deeds

(to the memory of my unforgettable mother, Miriam Amitz)

by Zehava Amitz


In each place where the groan of a hungry person was heard or of the needy or of sick Jews, Miriam would show herself and truly bring comfort and help, a good word. On behalf of her good heart and selflessness to those people who were suffering, people would call her with a lot of affection, “Marmu”.

I remember blind Joseph with his family. My mother gave so much attention to then that we thought that they were actually part of our family. His children and wife were in our house day and night. When one of the children became sick, and that was fairly often because they weren't in great health, Marmu would bring with her Zalman Feltcher, and afterwards, his son, Yarmeyohu. She also spent a lot of time on recipes she would cook up, a spoonful of something that was good to eat for them.

Generally my mother would respond and pay attention to everybody who needed her help. But those sick and hungry who somehow she didn't know about would find her, knowing that this person would not disappoint them.

The War years came and the ghetto and with them the persecutions and the indescribable need. In that horrible epic, my mother lived for others. She would put together a big bag to fill with stuff, and from early in the morning she was off to the houses of people who still were doing fairly well and she'd beg there for food for the hungry and people who just couldn't take care of themselves.

She had to move my grandparents into the camp because they had been hidden for a whole week in a cellar in the deserted ghetto. Marmu was very broken up as a result of the beating of her husband during the deportation. Nevertheless she didn't let her parents get lost, she took good care of them, and was successful in bringing them into the ghetto, thanks to the efforts of my mother in persuading Polish workers who were employed at the airfield. She was, for a high price, able to save grandma and grandpa. Because of their age, they were not able to work and if you couldn't work, you didn't receive your portion of food, so my mother had to worry and figure out how, in the conditions that existed in the camp, to get them something to eat everyday. My sisters and I helped as well. Frequently we were able to bring in a little bit of potato or a little bit of greens.

Grandpa died in the camp in the summer of 1943, however, grandma was fortunate enough to live to see the liberation. If she, just like I, remained alive, it was due in great measure to the energy and effort of my blessed mother. At that time my brother-in-law was sick from typhus. It was only thanks to the incredible efforts of my mother that he got back on his feet again.

After the War, fate paid her back for the years of suffering and pain. She settled in Vienna, and there, as well, she did not remain with her hands folded. She was active in most of the Jewish social organizations and institutions and also took care of Demblin Jews in Poland and in Israel, which land she visited twice.

She died in Vienna on the 6th of March, 1965 – and her whole life was a long chain of wonderful deeds.


[Page 262]

The Memory of
Alter and Bina-Rachel Friedman

by Chaya Goldfarb, Tel Aviv


Alter Friedman, the ritual slaughterer and his wife, my father's sister, Bina-Rachel, were people who's home was always open and they were very open hearted people. Their hearts were open to the poor a well as to the rich. A hungry person who stepped over their threshold would son leave having eaten well and feeling quite content. From his profession of killing animals in a kosher way, he did not make a lot of money. His wife helped out by sewing. This help wasn't only for their own family, but also for strangers and for the needy among Demblin's Jews.

She had 6 children, 5 sons and a daughter, and lots of grandchildren. Three sons took over their father's profession and became kosher butchers, the daughter, Royza-Mindel died before the outbreak of the War and left orphaned 2 children, Tova and Chaya. The oldest son Shmuel and also Yaacov, Berel and Motel were killed during the deportation. The youngest unmarried son, Yisrael, was taken to the Demblin ghetto where he worked until the last night before liberation. And then the Nazis took him to Germany and killed him there. That's how a whole family was destroyed.

Honored be their memory!




[Pages 263-264]

Reb Yaacov Apelhot

by Yitzhak Apelhot, Frankraich (France)


In the town we called him Yankel Serolishes (Yaacov son of Yisrael). He was quite a Talmudic scholar. Despite his attachment to more traditional religion he was well respected among circles of Jewish youth who had chosen a course that took them away from tradition. They respected him and they liked him because of his wisdom and because of his seriousness.

The young people who hung around the synagogue and studied there, who were influenced by his personality, called him “Baal Midot”. When he would meet with young people who were leaving the synagogue and the life of the synagogue, he would plead with them to “Just remember something to take with you from the synagogue on your new road”. The something was some kind of strength to draw upon in the face of disappointments out in the world.

His interest in the poor and suffering from all strata of society was well known.

On Sabbath before Passover of 1940, German soldiers shot his 17 year old daughter, Esther, quite a wonderful and pretty young girl, while she was taking a walk with her friend, the daughter of Yisrael-David Zusman. Her friend was wounded. Yaacov Apelhot worked with his sorrow by devoting greater activity for the poor and the unfortunate refugees from Warsaw and Pulaw, who had been brought to Demblin.

In 1942-1943 scores of Jews who had been trying to get out of other places, ended up at the Demblin train station, thinking that they could have some kind of a haven. They were murdered by the Germans. These were primarily people who were coming from Warsaw. Yaacov Apelhot was active in seeing to their burial.

In the beginning of 1942, Hersh Faiershtein was arrested because he wouldn't give a certain sum of money to the Jewish council, who demanded it of him. The next day the Germans shot him. This is, it seems, the first instance of the shooting of a Jew in the city at the instigation of the Jewish council.

At that point a meeting was called with 20 Jews, in the house of Yichzakel Rubenstein. A delegation was chosen with Yaacov Apelhot at its head and its mission was to go and deal with the chairman of the Jewish council. Reb Yaacov demanded from the Jewish council that they take into account the words of the Rambam, which are that Jewish leaders need to feel responsible and guilty when great sorrow comes to fellow Jews, and when they are able to somehow influence the disposition of the sentence.

He never showed any favoritism to rich or poor. He always treated people with respect. He was always a person who spoke the truth without fear.

Before the War, once a year, he would travel to the Rabbi in Sokolov (that Rabbi being a grandson of the old Kotzker Rabbi). Coming home he said, “I've looked after myself for a year, truly.”

The 6th of May, 1942, together with 4,000 Jews from our town, he was sent to Sobibor and there killed.



[Page 265]

Yarmeyohu Vanapol (Yarme)

by S. Perelmuter


He was a remnant of an earlier generation, but someone who looked forward with his socialist orientation, humanitarian, even to the point of great self sacrifice, who didn't demand even honor or pay for his work on behalf of the community.

Yarme was the son of Zalman Feldsher, who gave medical help to the population of Demblin for 50 years. He died in the 30's. At the funeral the whole Jewish population showed up from Demblin as well as many Christians who he had healed.

His son, Yarme, who could hardly be called a folk doctor, was well known for his medical work in the surrounding areas. I knew cases of when he was called by the military doctor, Major Peshegulinski. He was asked to help with medical problems when there were several doctors in Demblin, military and civilian. He enjoyed the greatest trust among the Jewish population as well as the Christian population because of his good heart, his devotion, his down to earth quality and substantial material for each needy, sick person.

Yarmeyohu Vanapol was an institution in himself. His caring for the sick, who's problems he paid attention to with the greatest seriousness, extended to the whole family of the sick person. All poor were his patients. Besides medical help they received money from him to buy prescriptions at the pharmacist. And not just once did he also give them a few dollars for a pair of shoes. If he was looking after a poor patient he never waited to be called back by that patient for another visit but the very next morning he would go himself to find out what the patient's condition was. He would take a sincere interest in the economic condition of the patient's family. If it was necessary he would give them money as well. In this way he cared for both Jews and Christians without any distinction. Big and small remembered his name with he greatest respect.

Shortly after the outbreak of the War, he was sent by the Polish regime to Kartuz-Bereza (concentration camp), apparently because someone had made an accusation about him that he was an adherent to Communism. And he never came back to Demblin.



[Page 266]

Avraham Abramowitz *
and Yosef-Nata Cholewinski

by Chaim Goldberg, Ramat-Aviv


Two Jewish lads, one a hat maker and the other the son of a shoemaker. Both of them grew up in homes of poor working people who had a lot of children and not very much to eat. Both of them worked very hard to help with the family's income. From a very young age both of them grew into the family of workers in Demblin. Both of them were quite familiar with the sorrows that people had to endure. Both dreamed of a better tomorrow, of socialist justice and peaceful coexistence among individuals and people.

With everything they had, they gave themselves to the fight with the struggle against the pre-war regime in Poland. Both of them in their youth belonged to the Communist movement. Both of them were the first to get arrested from our town. Both of them felt on their own skin the savagery of the home police in Pulaw and later in Lublin prison. Both of them were held in great affection by the workers of Demblin and the surrounding towns. Very often they had to hide and couldn't sleep at home in order to avoid arrest. These two fragile youths carried on their shoulders a great part of the professional and cultural work in the town. Neither of them lived to receive the most basic education. But with the great strength of spirit and great amount of mother wit and wisdom of life, they improved themselves in their command of language and became like two twin brothers. Their word was always listened to with the greatest attention and then very seriously and honored. Almost 20 years they lived and were active in our ranks.

At the outbreak of the second world war, Avram Avramowitz went to Russia and there he survived and came back to Lodz. In 1950 he died of a heart attack. He left his two sons. Yosef-Nata Cholewinski was killed by the Nazi wretches in Bialystok.

Honored be their memory!

[See PHOTO-B42 at the end of Section B]


* Note from Max Zinger: Avraham Abramowitz from Demblin was my uncle. My cousin Marek (Moshe) Elrom (Abramowitz) lives in NJ and Heniek (Haim) Elrom lives in Petach Tikva , Israel.
There is an error in the above. Uncle Avraham died in 1953 just before the death of Stalin (March 5, 1953). His wife Malka lived until recently in an old age home in Petah Tikva. She was 97 seven years young. Avraham , as an atheist, is buried in the municipal cemetery in Lodz and not in the Jewish cemetery.



[Pages 267-268]

In Memory of the Martyrs
of the Shtamler Family

by Yitzhak Shtamler, Tel Aviv


Until the 1 st of September, 1939, we were a big family in Demblin, a beautiful tree with many branches and twigs… Until, that is, the falling of the dark night of Nazism, when this tree was torn up by its roots. Just little bits of the broad branched family remains, thanks to the fact that in the year 1935, a portion of the family made aliya to Palestine. Others wandered overseas and in that way they were spared falling into the bestial German hands.

Our family consisted of parents and 7 children. Our father was called Yehusha Shtamler. But he was more familiarly known as Shayele Becker because our bakery was one of the oldest in town. There, my mother and sisters were also employed. Usually my father was occupied with community affairs and he was a leader in the community. He was also a member of the burial society and president of the free clinic and he worked in the credit union. He was the chairman of the small businessman's union. He was a Guerrer Hasid and he dreamed of Palestine.

My mother was called Blimele [little flower], she was truly a saint, a very pious woman, very devoted to her children and her husband and also to other people. She had a mental chart about all of her customers and this came in handy, especially on Fridays. She was able to make note of who came in for their bread and their challah on the Sabbath, and who didn't. If a customer didn't show up, she herself went to their house and brought them bread and challah, not wanting that any Jewish family, God forbid, should go hungry on the Sabbath. She knew that a Jew like that would be ashamed to come and ask her take it on credit or to have her write it down in her book. Frequently mother would send me to shy customers like that because she herself didn't always have the time to track everybody down. I want to emphasize that Jewish Demblin had many, many men and women who were like that.

My oldest brother Shmuel is today in Israel with his family. My second brother, Avrom, with his wife and three children were killed by the Nazis. My sister, Raizel, was the kind of the person who ran the household. She was a very good hearted woman. She has great capacity for work. She too died during the Hitler invasion. My sister Rachel as well, with her husband and child, died as martyrs. My brother, Binyomen, saved himself from the Demblin camp and today lives in Israel. My brother Yitzhak fled to Russia when the War broke out and for 3½ years he fought in the ranks of the Red Army against the Nazi beasts. He today is in Israel with is family.

The youngest of the Shtamler family was called Laibela. He was working in forced labor at the train station and a German threw him from a moving train car and he broke his leg. It's possible that if it were not for this tragic incident, he would still be alive.

Such a sorrowful account of the family of Yehoshe and Blume Shtamler and their seven children.

We will always remember our martyrs!



[Page 269]

Immortalizing my Parents,
Sisters and Brothers

by Avraham Shulman, Brazil, Belgiya (Belgium)


I, in my early childhood, left my hometown of Demblin-Modzjitz. Because of that I don't remember a lot about the social life of the town, the different parties, the different kinds of things that were going on. However, the memories of my parents, my mother less, because she died when I was very, very young and of my sisters and brothers, is deeply engraved in my memory.


[See PHOTO B-43 at the end of Section B]



My mother died when I was just a small child. But I remember her as being a very pretty woman and a very good hearted mother, good hearted not only to her children but also to strangers. My father wasn't a rich person but he was well respected and a very dignified man. He was very simple but he also had a lot of wit. He had an extraordinary sense of trust. He was a person who people had great faith in. He was extremely devoted to his children. He strove, so that his children always keep each other in mind and be devoted to one another.

After the death of my mother, he remained with 5 young children. But he didn't remarry. That's because he didn't want his little children to suffer from a stepmother. He often went to see the Modzjitzer Rabbi who he would discuss many questions with. I remember how once during the High Holidays, many Hasidim came to see the Modzjitzer Rabbi from other places, and my father sent us children to sleep with neighbors so that he could welcome into his house the Hasidim who had traveled from afar, and who were his friends.

My father had a very difficult time eking out a living, nevertheless, he never stopped thinking about other people. Even when he didn't have what we really needed for a proper Sabbath for ourselves, my father would invite a stranger to our table. His house was open to anybody. When he died the whole city of Jews showed up including the children from the religious school.

I remember a lot about my sisters and brothers. What I do remember is that my brother, Serolke (Yisrael), was a good and pious young man who gave my father a lot of satisfaction. From my sisters I remember the eldest well, Brocha, who became the person who raised me after the death of my mother. In general, the children were very devoted to each other. And in my memory their names are deeply engraved: Serolke, Rachel-Leah, Esther, Brocha, Miriam, Baila and her family.

Honored be the memory of these devoted, unforgettable martyrs!



 

In Defense of the Land of Israel



  [Page 270]

Alexander Kestenboim (Armon), Z”l

Al Hamishmar Daily (Newspaper)


Alex was born in Demblin, Poland, on March 31, 1941. The days were of the Second World War and Poland was being trampled under the Nazi boot. He spent the first three years of his childhood with his family in the camp. In 1945, his family left the camp and started rebuilding its life. In 1950 he made aliyah to Israel with his family. After several years in Tel Aviv, he joined the Ayalah group in the educational institution of Kibbutz Yad Shmuel.

After graduating from high school, he was conscripted to the Israel Defense Forces and served five years in the Air Force. After the service, he returned to his kibbutz and worked in the orchards.

He died in the skies of Sinai on the first day of the Six-Day War, June 5, 1967.

He is survived by his wife Ada and daughter Ofrit.

[See PHOTO-B44 at the end of Section B]


*


Gan Shmuel was his last stop, his home. He matured among trees. From the confines of the kibbutz he went outwards to the open, under its skies he made a dream, years before he fell, to spread his wings. The skies called him, and he came. A boy in an iron bird. His mighty wings protected the borders. His thundering whistle was its protecting wall. He would wander up there, playing with the stars and smiling at their bright blue color. Then the skies darkened and hung above in threat. When he received his orders, he flew forth. Silently. Riding in the sky, the wide skies of the land that arose to fight its battle. Breathing from the heavens, he broke through its borders to beat the enemy. He answered the call when it was still dawn, and by daylight he was still spitting fire. He asked no more than that. When he returned, his fate was already doomed. The desert sands sparkled white and a great sun was rising. For a moment the earth took him to her bosom, then covered him forever. His friends did not bury him. He joined his forefathers somewhere in the silent, bright open of Sinai.



[Pages 271-275]

The Martyred Child Alek Kestenboim

by Hadassa Eichenbrenner, Ramat Gan


Among the ninety or so children, who in that dark and savage time were kept in the Dembliner camp, were found Dr. Kestenboim's three little children. The youngest of them, Alek, was three years old then. The first time I saw the child was in the summer of 1943, during the fourth year of the War.

Our horrific camp became worse and more hopeless. The news that reached us was terrifying and filled us with horror. The two big camps, Travnek and Poniatow were liquidated together with thousands of Jews who on certain days were murdered in the most savage way. As usual at a time like that, one's heart never stopped beating with fear. We already knew then that all the Jews were destined to be killed. Fear of death was so great that each moment seemed it was just about now, now, and our camp would be surrounded and we would be liquidated. When we went back at the end of the day after work, feeling very desperate, along the wire fence that was along the side of the camp, inside I used to see little Alek. He would always stick his little head through the barbed wire. Very carefully we pushed his little head back inside, without getting him caught in the sharp barbs, and then we would continue on our way. But as soon as we took a couple more steps, we noticed that there he was his head stuck out, through the barbed wire, sticking out the other side of it.

The second time that I saw little Alek was in July 1944 when the Red Army had made its way across the river Bug, and with nothing stopping it, chased the retreating Nazi German forces who were in great chaos. They wanted to make it to the other bank of the Vistula river. The Russians had taken Lublin and were approaching Koriv, 35 kilometers from our camp. It's impossible to tell you the anticipation we felt. It just electrified the whole camp. We thought we were going to be saved any minute. The majority of us simply couldn't sleep at night. We waited for the great moment when the Russians would come in and liberate us. Around two in the morning, though, we heard shooting. And then it became quiet. The whole night and the next day, almost the whole day, a strange quietness and silence prevailed. And them, around five in the afternoon, the sounds of artillery began again. In a great, great hurry, the Germans started to drive all of the Jews from our camp into rail cars, under the strictest supervision. Never the less, 70 people managed to escape. But after a hunt carried out by the Polish Nationalist A. K. army, only four people remained of the 70. Some of them had been chopped up with hatchets.

Because of the condition of the train tracks, our particular train had to remain in the train station for a very long time. We were in half open rail cars, packed together, in an unbelievable way, very tightly. When it began to rain, we were soaked through to the bone. The whole way we were very, very closely guarded by soldiers. Although they had told us in Demblin, they would take us to work in Czenstechov, we were terrified they were going to take us to Auschwitz. At night our train stopped again at a big, unlit station which was packed with lots of military people and civilians who were evacuating in great fear of the Russians. Almost the whole night we remained on the tracks without moving from where we were. In order that it shouldn't be discovered that this particular transport was made up of Jews, we had to stay very, very quiet for hours, packed in together in the rail cars, until we fell asleep beneath a thick rain shower. We woke up seeing the light of lanterns that somebody held over our heads. In the weak shine of the lantern, in the half darkness, I saw that a Polish railroad worker stood over us.

“Jews?” he asked quietly, as if he was afraid that somebody might hear him.

“Yes” – we responded in the same hushed voice.

“From where?'

“Demblin”, we responded.

“I see. You still have children with you.” He said, surprised. “Apparently it didn't go so bad for you people in Demblin”, he said in a very biting way. He lowered the lantern and said, “Well, got to go, this train car you're on is going to start moving out pretty soon.”

“How do you know that?” I asked him.

“How do I know? Because I'm the engineer of the train.”

Now I caught his meaning. “Maybe you can tell us where we're going.”

“You're going to Czenstechov”, he answered.

It's really, really difficult to convey the joy that we felt when we heard that word Czenstechov. We became more hopeful. A woman who sat on the floor, wrapped up in a blanket, asked him if he knew if they were going to take us to work in a factory there, what kind of factory.

The engineer asked us in turn in a very surprised way, “You think really they're taking you people to go to work? They're taking you to kill you, to a cemetery, that's where you're going”.

“What do you mean we're going to a cemetery.”

“They're going to take you there to make hamburgers out of you.” The engineer said and went away.

For the rest of the journey the collective terror we felt didn't let up for a moment. Our train slowly traveled to Czenstechov and remained among the long rows of Ukrainians with drawn rifles, ready to shoot, from both sides of the tracks. That was enough for us to understand the nature of the new hell we had fallen into.

We heard a brutal scream, “Get down!” And immediately there was a stampede. The biggest part of our numbers who had brought a few little items with them, left everything in the cars. They drove us immediately through a gate of a high stone wall with sharp, iron spikes on top of it. To one side a broad river flowed. Inside we saw Ukrainians with machine guns, on the roofs, aiming at us. In the square, where they packed us all in together, the police began to sort us out, to make fun of us and to beat us up. Families were quickly separated. People begged they should leave them on one side or the other side, the side with their relatives, but they got smacked with rifle butts for their trouble.

In the middle of the square, the murderer, Bartelshlagger, stood on kind of a podium, and in a very loud voice ordered, “All crafts people step out”. Four hundred men stepped out in a separate row to be sent away. Each time the murderer drank something from a silver beaker which a Jewish policeman, who stood next to him, would refill from a flask and hand to him again.

Suddenly the whole square was transformed into an even worse and more terrifying hell than before, women went into convulsions, wept, tore their hair and their own faces. One of them threw herself on the earth and beat herself in the face and the head with her fists.

“What's happening?” I asked Moshe Ekheiser, who stood near me looking extremely desperate and wringing his hands.

“You haven't heard about the tragedy?” Almost crying, he screamed, “The children, they're going to take all the children away and shoot them. The twenty children from the first transport, which they brought here a week ago from Demblin aren't going to live much longer. Go ahead, you'll see, they're already taken all of Dr. Kestenboim's children away. There they are, they're sitting over there!” And he pointed in their direction with his hand.

When I was able to make my way through the desperate and packed in crowd, I saw Dr. Kestenboim rush by me, his face flushed, almost crazy. I asked him if everything that Ekheiser had told me was true, and he couldn't even answer me. He just looked at me with his tearful eyes and pointed with his glance to the ground and ran away. On the ground, on a spread out blanket, I saw little Alek, who looked like a young, naked little bird. He was curled up with his hands held downward like little wings that were hanging down and hadn't had a chance to grow. He sat on the ground with his older brother and sister, all three of them, left there ready to be taken away. They understood exactly what was going to happen and they sat there trembling with the fear of death.

On the same day they took me to a second camp. I learned later that afterwards, Alek, with the other children in our transport, were separated out from their parents and held up in a barracks for several days. Afterwards, they were led to the cemetery, but as in the time of great terrifying crimes, there were unbelievable miracles. With a huge amount of money and gems of their rich parents, it was possible to save them by bribing the murderer Bartelshlagger. Alek, with the other children, were brought back to their parents at the camp, and there they were liberated at the end of the War.

*



The third time that I saw Alek was 20 years later, in 1965, in Ramat-Gan.

Once I rang the doorbell of the residence of Dr. Kestenboim, who opened the door of his house, I saw a young, handsome and sympathetic looking officer of the Israeli air force. Some very strange emotion crept over me and remained, and I couldn't take my eyes from the young officer. “Isn't this one of the Doctor's sons?” I thought to myself. The Doctor who noticed my uncertainty said to me:

“Yes, that's my Alek.”

“Alek, a flyer?” I was astounded and I blurted it out.

“Yes, yes” the Doctor answered. “That's what he wanted to do.”

As always, when we former Katzetnik [inmates] who went through that experience get together, we began to talk about those dark times. Alek sat by quietly without a word, but very attentive, and listened to each word. And as we were talking about things, it seemed as if he were reliving things. I noticed this because I'd see the slightest kind of change in his facial expression, and the color in his face change. Afterwards I knew, that was the last time I'd ever see him.

Two years later, in 1967, the Arab nations, under the leadership of Egypt, wanted to annihilate Israel and wipe it of the face of the earth.

Alek, who, since his childhood, had been filled with hatred for those who would annihilate his people, that early morning on the 5th of June, 1967, took off in his airplane, he flew over the enemies' territory, took part in the most dangerous combat and wiped out several snake nests.

Almost in the last minute of the Six Day War, when the enemy lay shattered, the Kestenboim family received terrible news. Returning after carrying out one of the most important missions of the War, Alek's plane crashed somewhere and was destroyed.

And thus, Alek, the little child in the concentration camp, was sacrificed 22 years later. He sacrificed his young life in defending the Jewish land and he died a heroic death.



[Page 276]

The Paratrooper
Shmaiye Shayevitch, Z”l



[See PHOTO-B45 at the end of Section B]


Born on April 18, 1948. Fell in battle during an action in the Beit She'an Valley on September 19, 1968. He was graduated with honors from Tet High School of Yad Eliyahu, Tel Aviv. He fought in the Six Day War, in the Karame operation and in other first-class military operations. In the IDF, as in his studies, he excelled, being devoted and responsible.

As a fifth-grader, he wrote several compositions. One of them was about Channah Senesh. As an award, he received a free pass from Habimah Theater for a year.

The following is a passage from his composition “The Devotee is Not for Self-Pity”, which was published in Volume 32 of Ha'aretz Shelanu [a weekly magazine for the youth] in 1960:

A passerby walks by the yeshiva and sees a devoted student. He thinks: why would this young boy, in his childhood, have to work his mind so hard studying Torah? Most people think like him. But the devoted student does not think so. He praises himself for learning so willingly, does not see the secular life around him, and does not hear what is said about him. The devoted student sees the letters of the Torah sparkle before his eyes, attracting him in magic. He is happy with what he has; he looks forward to completing his studies and returning to his home wearing the crown of Torah.
By Shmaiye Shayevitch, Sixth grade, Zvi Shapira School


Pages 277-278

Our Son Shmaiye Shayevitch

The Suffering Parents Michael and Sarah-Leah
and the Sister Dinela Shayevitch


My dear little boy Shmaiyela was born on the 18th of April, 1948, in Tel Aviv, in a time of the combat battles in Yafu.

Our dear son lived until he was 20 ½ years. The 19th of September, 1968, he went off on a mission in the neighborhood of Bayit-Shan. That resulted in a tragedy for the whole family.

Our Shmaiyela was a very wonderful child. He was tall and very handsome. Everybody wondered at his attributes. We had tremendous satisfaction from him. He was an excellent student, one of the best. When a new school opened in our neighborhood, our darling child recited and welcomed the teacher with the other children. When there were various kinds of performances and presentations in the school, our Shmaiyela always played the most important role.

When our Shmaiyela went to Class H, he wrote an article for the newspaper for which he received an entrance pass to the theater for the whole year. From the ministry of education he received a thank you letter with great words of praise for our wonderful child. And now we write about all this, now that it's all in the past.

When Shmaiyela was 13 years old, we made a Bar-Mitzvah for him in a hall with an orchestra. There were a lot of people there. Shmaiyela gave a little talk and he sang beautifully. After our son said the Haftorah in the synagogue, one of the men who prayed there frequently, came up to him and said that he has three sons, that each of them had their Bar-Mitzvah's in the synagogue, but, none of them had said the Haftorah as beautifully as our son.

When our child finished elementary school, he entered high school with marks of only 5 and 2 outstanding.

When he entered high school, he would help out other students with his allowance money, if they needed help.

In 1962 our son entered a Tikun T, Yad-Aliyahu [a technical school], in Tel Aviv. He finished high school and he began to read with great interest about military service. All he wanted was to join the army.

Our son spent 2 years in the military. He participated in the 6-Day War. He was in Eku when there was a major explosion there. The watch on his hand was scorched, but, he remained alive. He took part in the Charama action and he survived that as well. He also took part in other combat.

In the summer of 1968 our child, almost every Saturday, and also in the middle of the week sometimes, would come home. The last time he was at home was the 16th of September, 1968, early on a Tuesday morning. Who could have imagined that we'd never see him again?

On Thursday, the 19th of September 1968, in the afternoon, when my husband, Michael, myself, and our daughter Dinela, were at home, suddenly, two officials from the army brought us the terrible news about Shmaiyela.

Our whole world went black, we fainted. I remember that for a long time we were dazed and confused.

May our sorrow and suffering and our longing not last long.

We simply can't live without our dear Shmaiyela.

We live in great suffering and pain. May the situation only change for the better and may there be peace. That is our desire.


[Pages 279-280]

“Faster than an Eagle, stronger than a Lion”
In memory of the Parachutist Shmaiye Shayevitch

by Tzvi Eichenbrenner, Ramat-Gan


I met Shmaiye when he was still a child in school. Afterwards, he studied in high school with my younger son. Shmaiye often showed up at our house, the handsome, slim young man with his quiet bearing, always seeming to be thoughtful and sympathetic. He had a very pleasing face with refined features. He left the best impression on everybody. People noticed him.

His pals always praised him and called him “the guy with a good head on his shoulders”. He was successful in speaking publicly at the events which took place at school. He distinguished himself. He belonged to the boy scout organization.

After finishing high school, he got drafted into the defense forces, and he became one of the best soldiers. With the outbreak of the Six Day War, he was sent to the Syrian front an he took part in the hardest fighting to liberate Ramat-HaGolen. As soon as the War was over, Shmaiye joined up again, voluntarily, to be a parachutist.

The new military detachment gave him an opportunity to take part in various battles and counter attacks against the Arab villains who came from the other side of the border to murder Israeli women and children. He took part in the famous attack of the Israeli forces on the Jordanian town of Kerame, the most important base of the Arab terrorists an murderers.

After ending his parachutists course, they wanted to put him to work at a desk, but Shmaiye wouldn't hear of it and he demanded that he be able to remain in a combat unit, the one that he'd been operating in. As a result of that, he took part in a lot of the combat against the terrorists on the other side of the border and also on this side of the Jordan river.

About his patriotism I can quote what the father of Shmaiye, Michael Shayevitch, a man who was greatly broken up and felt very orphaned by the death of his son, said: “Once when Shmaiye came home on a leave, as was his habit, he came to bed very worn out. But they often use to wake him up very, very early in the morning. In the middle of the night I heard a tremendous noise in his room. I got out of bed and went into his room. I saw him there half asleep, he grabbed his rifle, just as if he wanted to run out the door with it and go someplace. I understood immediately what was happening and grabbed him with both hands and calmed him down. When he woke up to what was happening he went back to sleep again.”

“Each time that he would come home for a day, he would be in a hurry all the time, he wanted to get back to his unit, he never had any time”, his mother, Sarah-Leah, described about him, with a restrained calmness.

“Once I asked him why he was always in a hurry to get back, “You just got here”, I would say to him. And his response was a very evasive one, “I just came to see you for a moment and to say hello.” His trembling, mother didn't really understand then, that her son was ready at any moment to give his young life for his people and land. She didn't understand just how prepared Shmaiye was to sacrifice himself in the alter.

On the 16th of September, 1968, Shmaiye parted with all his family members and went to his unit. The next day, on the radio news at 10 o'clock at night, the announcer of Shidury Yisrael added that there was a military incident with terrorists and 6 soldiers had been killed.

Two days later we read in the newspapers the following:
Yesterday in the military cemetery in Tel Aviv were buried three young fresh victims, three parachutists, who fought shoulder to shoulder, who attacked together and fell together. At the funeral, where thousands of people attended, many high ranking officers of the Israeli defense forces, were among them.
In one of those graves the unforgettable Shmaiye Shayewitz found his eternal rest, someone about whom we were able to say the proverb: “They were lighter than eagles an bolder than lions.”


[Pages 281-282]

Arye Agassi, Z”l



[See PHOTO-B46 at the end of Section B]


Born on Kibbutz Gvat on the seventh day of Passover 1947 to his parents Channah and Elimelech Agassi (Rozenberg) of Demblim-Modzjitz. Studied first grade until moving to Kibbutz Yif'at. In Yif'at completed twelve years of studies in the regional school of the Western Valley.

Upon completing his studies, he went to be a leader at the Working Youth Movement's chapter of Kefar Sava. Several months later, he went to lead in the movement's chapter of Kiriat Borochov of Ramat Gan. He fulfilled these roles for a year and led dozens of graduates. Some of them went to settle in Grofit [in the Arava dessert] and others are a training group in Yiftah and are intended to complete the membership of Mishmar David.

Two and a half years ago, after completing his year of youth leadership, he was conscripted to the IDF. From the beginning he volunteered in the paratroopers' field reconnaissance unit. A year later, he graduated from a section-leaders course. Thereafter he participated with his unit in several operations (Karame raid, ambushes and hot pursuits) as a sergeant.

On leaves in the kibbutz, he worked in the orchards, as he did since childhood.

During a hot pursuit after a gang of terrorists, at 2 p.m. on June 11, 1969, he entered with his solders and commanding officers into a battle, in which he fell. He was twenty two years old.

From Ma'ariv daily, Friday June 13, 1969:
More details became known yesterday about the pursuit in the Jordan Valley in which three IDF soldiers died and eight terrorists were killed. The pursuit was conducted in a ravine with thick bushes, some 22 kilometers from the river. The contact with the terrorists was established at 2 P. M., in ranges of six to ten meters.

Sergent Arye Agassi was the first one to see the terrorists. He shouted: “Careful, friends, Fatahim. Take your positions!” At that time the Fatah terrorists spotted our people and a fire fight developed in close range, as both our soldiers and he terrorists threw grenades.

The three victims were the closest ones to the Fatah men. They conducted a short fight. Lietenant Shahrabani, who was severely injured, continued to fight. According to the investigation, it turned out that he managed to throw two hand grenades at the terrorists that were closest to him. These grenades caused the death of three or four terrorists.


From words said by Arye Agassi's commander over the grave:

You came to us from another unit to assume the commanding roles. I knew that you were careful of taking these roles. I talked to you much about it. Here, before all those assembled near you, I can tell you that you fulfilled every mission assigned to you with devotion and success. You showed resourcefulness and bravery in all tests and clashes. I remember your good hearted smile and I can promise you here that we will continue from where you stopped.

We are bidding farewell to you and we shall continue to walk in the ways we walked together.



Farewell over the Grave of Sergeant Arye Agassi, Z”l

My dear Arye Agassi,

You arrived at a glorious unit. Following a short training session, you were appointed section leader. I remember your hesitations upon receiving the appointment. I can tell you now that everything that you did was done the best way possible. You brought your soldiers to exemplary achievements. You understood your soldiers and were resourceful. You stayed cool under fire and taught us all what it means to be in control of yourself and in pursuit of your mission. In all your actions you were high spirited and always had a smile on your face.

In this last pursuit you were at the spearhead unit. As an excellent fielder, you managed to detect the enemy despite the difficult terrain. You warned us, and therefore saved other lives. But you did not save your own life.

Today, on your grave, I say good-bye to you on behalf of the unit's commanders and soldiers, with agony and with pride.

Major Yishai Yizhar, deputy battalion commanding officer.

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