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[Page 188]

My Good Friends in America

by Ada Holtzman

I shall mention only three of them, who fascinate me with their stories and I long to be with them and revive the Shtetl in a conversation from heart to heart.

 

Channale Tajfeld (today: Hania Shane)

My oldest good friend is Chana'leh Tajfeld who lives in Michigan. Chana'leh survived the Holocaust and stayed alive. When I was still living in Kibbutz Evron, she visited me and Rywcia, with her sister Anna and another Gombiner friend.

We sat, me and Rywcia, overwhelmed, listening for hours and hours to the incomprehensive tales about the Shoah and what they suffered in the Nazi hell. May be she thought of immigrating to Israel, but the war caught her in Gombin where the borders were closed and life of grief and torture was their share.

I visited Chana'leh in her home at Detroit with my wife Lotka, in 1980. We spent some unforgettable days together at her home. Her husband was still alive and he tried his best to make our days as agreeable and nice as could be.

We traveled all through America in “Grey Hound” buses, from shore to shore. They waited for us in the station and brought us back to the station after a few days. It is interesting how both of them prepared a package of sweets, and gave us to sweeten our trip.

Chana'leh lost her husband a few years ago and in my last visit to America I was thrilled with the telephone conversations we had. The connection was renewed after years of silence, as I lost her address. The renewed relationship brought us joy and is important to both of us.

I remember her sister Anna and an elder sister who excelled in playing in the Yiddish Theater which the “Bund” founded in Gombin.

In regard to Chana, I dedicate a few words to her cousin Reuven Tajfeld who ahs been my good friend but who is no more alive for many years.

Reuven “Rivleh” as we called him, immigrated to Eretz Israel before the war and was the first person to have visited me and Rywcia in the British detention camp where we were arrested following our illegal immigration (“Haapalah”). He left us 20 Fiester, which were a day wages at those times. Reuven built his life in Haifa, continued the profession of Hair Cutting, his family's occupation in Gombin. He married a woman from Turkey, raised sons and changed his profession to become a clerk in the port of Haifa.

When I was a bachelor he accommodated me many times and I spent nights with him, listening to his stories and jokes. He always gave us notes of invitation so could enter the Port freely. During all my visits to Haifa I always met him. He was a charming person, amiable and popular in the society. I learned about his death by accident and was very sad of not being in his funeral and giving him my last respects.

Reuven had brothers: Duno Efraim who immigrated to South America; Ryrzo the eldest and a sister. His father, Szaja Tajfeld had a barber shop in town. He also knew about medicine and served as a nursing man. He was a good friend of my father and I remember, as a child, I used to listen to the talk of the two friends.

[Page 189]

Ben Guyer (Benjamin Chaja)

This is Benjamin, my old good friend who lives today in Florida. I knew him since childhood. I used to visit their home and his sister Ester of blessed memory was my first girlfriend at school and in Hashomer Hatzair. Benjamin had 3 brothers: Abraham, Josef and Moshe; and two sisters: Ester the eldest one and Rywcia (today “Rae”) who lives in Detroit. We had a very pleasant meeting when I visited Detroit with Lotka in the early 80s.

Benjamin's brother was Josef Chaja who was married to Cirel Sanicki, first cousin of my late wife Rywcia nee' Gostinski. He sent us to the Kibbutz two last departing letters during the war. The letters were transferred through the Red Cross and they are the last traces of Rywcia's family, before liquidation. Josef Chaja and his family all perished in the Holocaust.

Abraham Chaja was our “Madrich” (teacher and guide in the Youth Movement Hashomer Hatzair) and he used to accompany us tot he summer camps. Usually our parents objected the trip but finally they agreed. I remember my brothers came to say good bye before one of those trips to Sochopien. One of them, Yosef Lajb secretly gave me some zloty… Let it be…

We traveled in the ship (“statek” in Polish) on the Vistula River and the noise of the ship's machines was unbearable. We went to sleep on the deck in the evening. I secretly sneaked away and ordered a bottle of cold mint orangeade, which I extremely liked. Than all of a sudden appeared Abram Chaja… I was badly reprimanded by him and he later gathered us all and preached about the principle of “Shituf” - sharing everything, the value which later materialized in the shape of the Kibbutz in Eretz Israel… Thus were these days…

Mosze Chaja was a very good Yiddish Theater actor and he was the star in the plays of the Bund movement in Gombin.

While I visited America with Lotka in year 1980, Benjamin Guyer (Chaja) arranged for me a most moving and unforgettable Gombiner's gathering in New Jersey. I phoned him up there, where he resided at the time. I shall never forget this meeting and I cry even today, recalling it. Natan Weiss (Wojdeslawski) was present and his dear sister Czlova Beila who didn't stop crying to re-meet her “Madrich “ from Hashomer Hatzair in Gombin. Also her husband Boll from the nearby town of Ilow. Luszinski also from Ilow was also present.

After lunch developed a most interesting conversation. Everybody talked about his bitter and awful experiences in the Holocaust, and I talked about Israel and its problems after the rise of the right wing party “Halikud” to power. I heard some strange advises from the people present, mainly supporting Menachem begin z”l. In the end I said that if they have criticism about Israel, the Histadrut (the Union) and other institutions, better they make Aliya (immigration to Israel) and contribute themselves to the improvement of the society and change of the situation. The debate was in a very friendly and good spirit. It was one of the most fascinating conversations in my life.

I than, by the way, asked them why after the liberation from the concentration camps didn't they immigrate to Eretz Israel and not America.

They answered me a very sincere reply:

“We were shadows, not human beings. We were destroyed, dismantled of all mental powers. We couldn't have done anything with the lost ideals and dreams of Hashomer Hatzair. We centered only in re-building our families and homes.

I would add that now, 18 years later, tears come in to my eyes when I remember the Gombiners re-union of Ben Guyer. I felt shamed when confronting those dear friends of mine who suffered that hell during the Holocaust. When we flew back in the same very night, instead of joy due to the end of the trip I felt that may be we shall never know and understand what happened and that we owe the survivors so much and give them so much of our love which might help in curing the scars of the soul, so burning and painful.

 

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