Rabbi Isaac Leibes from New York encouraged me and expressed his trust in me to take upon myself to perpetuate our martyrs. Rabbi Leibes saw Griding in its destruction. On the initiative of Rabbi Leibes a grave was fenced off which contained the last two thousand Jews that were killed on the day of liquidation of the ghetto in Griding on the 3. 2. 1943. The place of the grave is on the way to the village Artishov.
Like the representative of the congregation who stands fearfully at the pulpit, praying in the synagogue on the High Holidays I approach to this perpetual work. As an individual it is not in my power to describe everything in full. I haven't the strength to express everything I have to say about Griding. Therefore I apologize for what is lacking and not complete in my book. I see it as a debt to render in short to the descendants in English speaking countries something about the past of our congregation. In 1975 1 was a guest at my sister in law and brother in New York and then I tried to get in touch with the organization of the people of Griding. To my sorrow that organization was liquidated. I got in touch with the foreign secretary of the Griding organization in order to study the archives of our city. I am sorry my request was not granted as the secretary was old and ill.
From 1890 people in Griding began to talk and dream about America. Exaggerated stories were told about America. The landlords and Chasidim didn't get excited over the stories about America. Only workers and youth began to immigrate to America. If a person couldn't allow himself to buy a ticket to go on ship, household objects were sold from the house, or they got a loan. A few years passed and finally tickets to go to U.S.A. were sent on payments to Griding.
People from America sent Rabbi Kliger money to Grodek every year to distribute the money among the people who were in need for Pessach. My teacher Meir Shtriche always helped the Rabbi in this task. My mothers brother Chaim Glanz immigrated to America. Since ' World War one he has not been heard of any more. My grandfather's daughter Sara who was born in Bukovina immigrated to America. Her children visited us in Griding but after the first world war we lost trace of them.
The city Griding (Grodek Jagiellonski) is called after the great Latvian Prince Wladyslaw Jagiello. The Prince married Yadviga the Queen of Poland. He was crowned King of Poland in the year 1386. The couple spent their time in the summer in the Palace in Griding and the twitter of birds was heard from the forest. A statue was set in the middle of the market describing W. Jagiello in official uniform and a sword at his side. The Nazis destroyed the statue in the second world war.
According to the Historian Dr. Shiper, Jews lived in Griding in 1444. In 1452-54 Natko the Jew was appointed tax collector in Griding. The Polish King Zigmond August gave rights in 1550 to the Jews in Griding. In 1662 the city was burnt by Tartarians. In 1680 the Mayor Y. Geninskie rebuilt Griding anew and allowed a greater number of Jews to settle in the city near the river Vereshitza. The city was fortified and the people were ready to protect themselves. There were 62 houses in the Jewish city at that time. The Jews called the neighborhood Genin.
In the list of Rabbis and leaders that participated in the debate with the Frankists in 1757 were Rabbi Yehuda Ben Natan and Reb David Ben Natan.from Griding. The Frankists made a false charge saying that it's written in the Talmud that it's an obligation for the Jews to kill Christians and eat their blood on matza on Pessach holiday. In the year 1765 two grammar books appeared in Zolkva. The writer Aron Moshe the son of Zvi Hirsh Issaks from Griding went to Amsterdam and brought letters to print the books. In the year 1765 we found in the fortified city Griding 798 Jews.
In the year 1772 Galicia was annexed to Austria. Our city Griding appears in the list of the ghettos. The Queen of Austria Maria Theresia gave her authority over to her son Joseph the second. In the year 1782 special regulations were issued. In 1810 at the time of the Napoleonic war Russia received the district Tarnepol including our city Griding, (Book Tarnepol page 43). In the Vienna Congress, Austria received back the district Tarnepol and Griding in general. In the days of the revolution 1848 a national council was established in Galizia. The aspirations of the Polish and Rutenians clashed. Galizia took part in elections for parliament la Vienna. In 1850 seven Jews were admitted to the chamber of commerce.
One of them was called Weinberg, from Griding. In 1860 a Jewish German school was built in Griding. The German culture had influence on the intellectual Jews and they founded an organization by the name of "Shomer Israel" in the year 1867-1868.
When the Jewish youth began to attend Polish schools, the Polish assimilation overcame that of the Germans. The religious Jews founded an organization by the name of "Machzikay Dat" and became partners with the Polish. In the elections for the parliament in Vienna in 1873 the friends of "Shomray Israel" formed an alliance with the Rutenians against the Polish people and elected four Jewish delegates. Echoes we find in the Hebrew newspaper "lveri Anochi" that appeared in the city Brody on the 26. 9. 1873. The Rabbi preacher Issachar Levinshtein was to be chosen to the parliament in Vienna. This Rabbi and the editor of the newspaper "Israeltie" Mr. Yolis and the author N. Semueli came together to Griding. Rabbi Levinshtein spoke in the big synagogue. A Polish communal worker that was also a candidate for the parliament organized drunkards that planned to attack and throw stones on the delegation that came to the city. The Jews in Griding advised the Rabbi and his friends to leave the city in secret but the Rabbi didn't agree and said he wanted to see who would dare to do them harm. The next day the Rabbi left the city with no fear.
At the beginning of this century a newspaper "Hamitzpe" appeared in Hebrew in Krakow. We read in the newspaper that national religious young youth from Griding, full of life, Shneid and S. Z. Vise wrote reportages in Hebrew. We found in the newspaper "Hamitzpe" about life of intelligent young boys from Griding. We also found greetings, congratulations to the boys in Griding in honor of their engagements and marriages. In 1904 a reading hall was organized by Jewish assimilators. In the regulations of the Reading Hall there was a paragraph to forbid to change it to a zionist hall. But the young readers had influence on the manager of the reading hall to sign on a Hebrew Newspaper. In the year 6. 1. 1905 there were Shneid's articles about elections in the community committee, Chasiday Belz won.
In those days young boys that ran away from Russia wandered on the mountains of Galicia in hard conditions. They also reached our city Griding. The fine young boys who read the "Mitzpe" organized an organization in order to support the Russian refugees. We read about the pogrom on Jews by the army who lived in Griding. It was stopped by the head of the community Israel Eichman who pleaded with the army commander.
In the newspaper "Mitzpe" of 2. 6. 1905 we were informed about the death of Rabbi Yehoshua Kliger. He was the fourth generation Rabbi in Griding. His son Yoseph was nominated as Rabbi in his father's place, and his brother Rabbi Meir as a judge.
In the year 1908 there were thirteen banks in Griding. Ten banks belonged to Jews. In the year 1909 a trade school for girls was founded. Fifty-two pupils learned in that school. In the year 1910 the government certified the organization "Safa Brura". The aim of the organization was to pay attention to the Hebrew culture and the Hebrew language. In the year 1913 the heads of the community were Y. Eichman, M. Shif, Anshel Frenkel and M. Blazzer. The secretary was Y. L. Tiser. The community budget was 31,400 Austrian crowns. When the first world war in 1914 broke out many Jews ran away from Griding. Those who were left suffered greatly under the Russian rule for about two years.
In the year 1918 the Jews of Griding suffered from the Polish Okrainy war. Y. Shneid describes in the newspaper "Yideshe Vort" in Chile that. he returned from a visit to his old mother in Griding. His mother told him that streets disappeared, cousins were killed and died in a plague and about corpses that weren't even buried. Shneid comforted himself that he saw the first pioneers from Griding, leaving for Israel.
Two zionist organizations were founded in Griding. A limited group of youth united in "Hatzfira". The second organization was the "Zeiray Yehuda". It was a popular organization for all classes. At the time of the conference at San Remo in 1920 the Balfour Declaration received international legality and the mandate of Erez Israel was given to Britain and she was to help build a national home. At that time two zionist organizations marched to the great synagogue of the city Griding and a festive ceremony took place in honor of the event. From the year 1920 the best of youth from Griding came to Israel. There were youth organizations such as "Hachalutz", "Hashomer Hazair", "Zeiray and Chalutz Misrachi".
Because of the immigration of the best youth from Griding the zionist powers decreased, therefore two Zionist organizations merged into a new organization called "Tarbut". Its aim was zionist activity and culture. Cultural meetings were organized, there was also a big library for the service of the whole city. Dr. Margolis and the lawyer Kronenberg were the head of the organization. In "Tarbut" a group of speakers of Hebrew was organized. A Hebrew school existed all the time and their teachers were Tichberg, Shiloney, Kategrotzky, Shtemberg. This organization carried on zionist cultural activities till the second world war broke. There were also active movements such as "Bnei Akiva", "The Zionist youth movement" and the "Agudat Israer'. Likewise there was a sport organization called "Hapoel". The twelve synagogues that existed in Griding had great influence. The last years Belzer Kloiz was more distinguished. The youth that studied Talmud and Poskim spent their best time there. The non-Zionist Jews were also active in things concerning Israel. In 1939 the number of donators for Meir Bat-Hanes reached 243. They donated 1,185 Polish zlotes. The managers of Meir Bal-Hanes were Chaim Shwitzer, Mendel Zukerkandel. An important helper that collected money in the houses was Shimshale Bret.
There were important and famous Rabbis in Grodek. Rabbi Yosef Kliger witnessed two world wars and suffered very much. It didn't enter his mind to leave his city just like a captain of a ship who doesn't want to leave his drowning ship. Rabbi Yoseph Kliger was murdered in November 20, 1941 in very tragic circumstances, may his blood be revenged. The daughter of Rabbi Meshulim Kliger Mrs. Esther, the remnant of the holocaust was privileged that her husband Rabbi Isaac Leibes who was born in Griding saved himself by being hidden in the woods about two years. Rabbi Isac Leibes served as the last Rabbi in Griding.
The famous folk jester Efraim Gridinger didn't let Griding be forgotten. The long winter nights in the Beit Hamidrash in Griding the scholars enjoyed his jokes while learning Talmud at the long table benches and the simple people sat around the heated stove and told Efraim Gridinger's jokes. My teacher Meyer Shtriche mobilized volunteers to lift up again the tombstones that had sunk in the old cemetery near the railroad station. The volunteers were aggravated when they couldn't find Efraim Gridinger's gravestone. His admirers had no peace of mind till they found out that the family Ber from Griding came from the same origin as Efraim Gridinger. Once while I came by bus near the gates of Jerusalem in a conversation with an old grey-haired man from Zfat, he declared for sure that he had the honor to bury Efraim Gridinger in the cemetery on the Mountain of Olives. The old man from Zfat got angry at me when I doubted his words. That saint of Zfat continued to web the legend and ended it by saying that he brought Efraim Gridinger with his own hands to his resting place.
Ten years after the Holocaust only two murderers were sentenced to death. The two were Roman and Wladimer Shvitenko, a father and his son. They participated in liquidating the Jews in Griding. The woman Z. Feder was the only witness against the two murderers. Tne first liquidation of the Jews of Griding was on the 7. 5. 1942. At that time two thousand Jews were killed. Then on 19. 8. 1942 there was a great expulsion of the Jews of Griding. Three thousand of them were brought to the concentration camp in Belzitz for liquidation. The two Shvitenko themselves killed Jews in the market. They also murdered Jewish children. They always revealed to the Nazi Germans where Jews were hiding. After the war the two Shvitenko ran away to West Germany. Remnants of Jews from Griding recognized them in Munich. The Polish government demanded to extradite the Shvitenko in order to put them on trial. Izchak Mandel was the main person that was active in giving the names of the murderers in Poland. He applied to the American high commissar McClay who ruled in Germany and the commissar ordered to put the murderers Shvitenko on trial in Poland. Roman and Wladimer Shvitenko were sentenced to death.
I, Yitzhak Yehuda Margel, son of Shlomo Zalman, am standing here excited and scared, questioning whether I am worthy and honest enough to bring forth this memorial for the martyrs of our city of Grayding.
My passion for the town of my birth is great and powerful. Her sons forgot her, and did not commemorate her in libraries in Israel and the Diaspora. That is why I decided to proceed myself with the holy commemoration work.
I collected the dry bones of my family members and town, within which I sat until the day I moved to Israel in storm. The work that needs to be done is great, and is beyond my abilities. I took on myself a task that should be completed by a team of people. Therefore, even if I achieved only a small part of what could be done, I am content.
I prayed that obstacles would be removed from my path. I have undertaken this work not because I was asked, or for the purpose of a hidden agenda.
I turned to many people in order to receive a helping hand, and to my sadness did not receive a reply. I also sent a request in the Russian language to the city council of the town of graves, Hrodok (Grayding), to send us historical material or photos of headstones and other remains from our city. I did not receive a reply. Listen now, in vain you will attempt to hide the traces of our creation and past in Griding.
I ask forgiveness of you, the martyrs of our city, for what is lacking and not complete in my work. And you, my friends, the survivors from Griding, as long as we are still among the living, please, bring your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and go through this memorial book. Read it to them, and complete that which is incomplete.
The tragedy of our people is not over and done yet. And he who tells more of it, the better it is. Our enemies are still walking amongst the peoples of the world.
I would like to convey my gratitude to my wife Rivka, my sister-in-law Rivka, and my brother Dov, that helped in the publication of this work. Special appreciation and thanks to my friend Avraham Heftler on his help. Thanks to the honourable Rabbi Y. A. Liabas, who motivated me to create this work for the martyrs of Griding.
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