Translated by David Rendelman
With an inner shiver we proceed to publish this Book of Remembrance by the survivors of the Wolbromer community in Israel and in the world.
The Pinkas contains – sacred pages of our suffering martyrs, memories and descriptions by those few remaining after the Holocaust.
This book depicts for us the close and the distant past of our town Wolbrom, the terrifying epoch of total destruction, of which only a small remnant has survived, spread around all corners of the world, and most in Israel.
Each page of the Pinkas is soaked with blood and suffering, the pages and memories impart personal, at times intimate, recollections which make shiver the heart, from childhood and its naivety, from the maturing days of youth, and all refresh and renew the sensations of an entire town which became erased from the world in the terrifying Holocaust. Each page from this book, every name and also every fact which are connected with childhood memories. A chill awakens by each of the remaining survivors of the town. From the old home. We have endeavored to relate not only about the death of Wolbromer Yiddishkeit, rather the meanings surrounding their wealthy and creative lives, the creative and worldly lives of thousands of Jews, Hasidim, Torah scholars, the progressive elements, parties and organizations and myriad types of lives which made up a composite of the general gallery of existence in every epoch of the Jewish society.
The Book of Remembrance is made up of a kaleidoscope: memories of the near and distant past, happenings and events, pictures and descriptions of Jewish lives in the city, those things which we still remember and those things which we heard as told to us. And at the end, the horrifying Holocaust which our town, as hundreds of cities and towns encountered, from Poland and Europe. Testimonies of living witnesses from who carry upon their shoulders the entire cup of suffering from the Nazi hell. About entire families, descendants and sprouts which were ripped out from the roots. You see pictures and photos which remind you how things were with your close buddies and friends who suffer no more. A lifetime of an entire community which existed almost 600 years, was suddenly torn from the roots and all that remains is only a haze of memories. That this should serve for a memorial in order that we should never forget,
Already in 1944, when caught up with us the first terrifying news, there was born in us the memory about immortalizing the memory of Wolbrom, and from families to events, we established a gravestone in Y'ar Hakodashim, and also in Martef Hashoah. And finally, the Yizkor-Book.
It is not easy for us to arrive to the publishing of the Pinkas. We encountered numerous obstacles and not once did we consider giving in, asking ourselves, will we be able to carry through with this important and historical task? Only the holy goal – to erect a memorial for community – encouraged us and in spite of all obstacles, we turned to Wolbromer Jews in and out of the country, not all responded, however there grew the circle of collectors, writers and assistants until we had prepared our and your goal.
We did all we were able to leave behind for the coming generations the true picture of our murdered town.
Great is the burden of several friends who took it upon themselves the difficult and responsible work of collecting, gathering together material and pictures, and finances for the project.
We express our strongest esteem for the efforts made with a deep respect. And we express our gratitude.
Yehiel Ben-Porat (Pultarak)
In the name of Ved Argon Yotsei Wolbrom, Israel
Translated by David Rendelman
Twenty years have passed since the days when the Yiddish community of Wolbrom was destroyed by the German Nazis and their assistants, Poles and Ukranians. However, the voices of blood scream out from the earth and demand from the remaining Jews, the final generation of those tragic years, to establish a memorial to those pure of soul. How could we oppose this very frightening demand, who can give a counting to the thousands whose lives were taken, and who will devote oneself to their names? The question to publish a Yizkor-Book bores in the mind of all those concerned from each city and town that was annihilated. And each is up against different hardships; and the answer is not an easy one, and depends on the willingness to make the sacrifice and on the perseverance of those standing in the position as the city-leaders, those accepting the responsibility, and their fellows. The task was born of a daydream, and we are fortunate to be amongst those worthy to see the fulfillment of the undertaking. And with the publication of "Our Wolbrom", our story, and the history of our town, may pass into the domain of "a book for all", not only for those born in our city, but also for any one who should be interested in learning, and remembering.
We do not approach our book with the intent to praise the city and exalt her, rather only to tell, to describe, and to share. Wolbrom was not a "City of Israel" existing in the Polish State, rather one of her daughters, and of this daughter we wish to narrate. We offer – in different literary forms – the history of her Jews, the beginning of the community, her Torah Sages and Hasidim, the politics and social movements which sought to address the problems of her generations, about the social works that represented her. We portray and return to life her serious and yet ebulliently hopeful epoch of life, we relate her bitter end and show her destruction and the loss of her dear ones. The Jews were the principal builders of the city, and, with their flame and aptitude, they developed her commerce and connection. Wolbrom held special status, given her geographically advantageous position. The train- connection of Demblin-Dambrove-Vilna connected these cities with other towns, both close and distant; the highways extended to both frontiers of Poland, and by them, Wolbrom served as a center for different towns and villages close to her. Wolbrom did become a strategic point, a crossroads, for many towns in the vicinity. Wolbrom was a seating place for great Rabbis, many immortalized in books they wrote, in the question-answer-literature, the brilliant poskim, which they produced in their realms. In her, the Hasidic Rebbes did their work, Rebbe Yekutiel, the great Rebbe Haim and the Rabbinic dynasty of the Alter-Rebbe Rotenberg, a grandson of the great Rebbe Meirl of Apt, and of Rebbe Dodidl Leliver.
When we describe the Jewish settlement, we survey first the active life and the passive composition; and we keep in mind the older generations of the settlement. Wolbrom was counted amongst the older of the Jewish communities in Poland. She had an old cemetery with old tombstones, and the marks of a very old synagogue. Regardless of her age Wolbrom was not blessed with a monographic-historical literature, and what little there was – was all but lost. It was therefore necessary to undertake the efforts in the arduous task to gather together documents and testimonies about the communities and their leaders of earlier times, and to encourage people to relate from their memories, and talk about, for example, the different problems in the city. Wolbromers today can be found in Canada and America, as well as Australia and, of course, Israel. After much effort into this concern of the Yizkor-Book, we managed successfully to get numerous individuals to do much for the Yizkor-Book. Therefore, this book is a collective- work, and not the work effort of few participants, and in these chapters quivers the soul of her beloved Yiddish-folk, with her self-sacrifice and fairness, with her love for souls and for a people, with a flame of righteousness and truth which was her breath; her sufferings, her joys, and the tragedy together. We have tried to bring Wolbrom to life, once again, in this book, to list her institutions and organizations, personalities and parties which did her favors. Important material was collected drop by drop, with pain and tears, with great hardship, with unwaveringpatience, with great love and awe to the community and her Jews, to all our loved ones who were and are no more. The material in this book came, not by chance, but rather as a planned project, accordingly with determined subjects.
The Wolbromer Jews were Yiddin through and through. They had their own style and seal. It was truly a town of mentches, with strong and healthy bodies and spirits. They lived with a special Yiddish charm and a personable flavor, although the existent conditions were not good, and though they were presented with many spiritual challenges. As Jews they were betrothed to God in many different ways, with a natural Jewish love for, and striving for, both truth and redemption. And the essence of this very task, the quest for truth and redemption, they spread throughout Poland. The Wolbromer Jews excelled in the special quality of eliciting joy in their travels around Poland. The Wolbromer Jews had a love for the practice of "traveling and living ". They did not tend stay put within the four cubits of our city. They left en-masse and settled in each city and town in Poland and worked in different businesses and jobs. There was hardly a city or town in Poland that did not have Wolbromer Jews, and with their zest for life they built a good name for their home-town. We could even say that Wolbromer Jews were more often than not in other towns and cities than in Wolbrom itself. They could be seen in Warsaw and Lodz, Czestochowa and Lublin, and in all Zaglembie cities; and with the Polish occupation of Upper- Silesia, the Wolbromers managed to acquire certain standing in all the Silesia cities, with Katowice at the summit, and they procured solid economic standing. However, in Wolbrom itself it was felt that almost no-one ever really "left". On the contrary, those that had departed the city were a blessing unto the community; they helped build respectability and provided money for their relatives that remained in the city; in their new residences they were praised for their flame and their decency. That healthy and warm Wolbromer soil always issued good sprouts. The fat and fertile soil gave off a beautiful and natural earthy color. All these qualities of her Jews stemmed from her and from there stemmed the preparation for mutual help and the healthy popularity, the spiritual aristocracy, the kindness and the humility.
The more than three hundred photographs enlighten us with images of parents with their children, grandparents and grandchildren, in synagogue, at school, in different houses of study, Torah and cultural institutions; entire generations of people and their traditions with the flavor of Shivat Tsion, Return to Zion. We were concerned that this book should embrace the essential quality of this Yiddishkeit with all her layers, with all her depth, with all her movements and trends, from traditional and Hasidic Wolbrom to the "Bund", the socialist movement, and from the time of the foundations and life of the community until its destruction. We also took care that each survey, review, or detail should be authentic. Prior to printing we were looking at about 400 pages. At printing time we received more material. More than 10 sections were in the book, and separately the sections dealing with the Holocaust took more than 270 pages, almost a book in itself. In the Holocaust articles one clearly sees the brotherly-ties that united the brothers-in-pain in the best and worst of times, how they mutually supported each other and did their best to survive with what they were able. We offer blessings in gratitude to those who risktheir lives to help the Wolbromer survivors. To our surprise, the Yizkor-Book now contains over 900 pages. And one enormous accomplishment deserves special mention, we managed to collect over two thousand names for the memorial listing of names of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Not few will ask me, the editor, what connection I have to Wolbrom and to her book. I am a writer who has been involved in dozens of Yizkor- Books involving different subjects. But the most important factor is that Jewish Wolbrom was the home of my parents and my grandparent's generation (I was the only one born in Zaglembie). Together with my father R. Eliezer Brukner, a Wolbromer from birth, I, in my younger years, frequently visited the city and knew all my relatives, and thus I had the opportunity to learn about the city. And this is the reason that soon after the business of the book they turned to me with the offer to take over as editor of the book. I quickly accepted, without looking at other offers for other books that waited for my decision. I soon proceeded to rummage through the archives and libraries to find material about Wolbrom. Regretfully I had to assert that in the Jewish historical records Wolbrom is hardly ever mentioned. However, I was successful in locating enough material which served as a base to write the history of Jewish Wolbrom. I am certain that even the Wolbromers themselves will find in the book parts that will for them be unknown. I, descendant of the Wolbromer Bruckner family, know to value the good deeds of the extraordinary efforts of Wolbromers in Israel to publish the Book of Remembrance. The city has become a memorial and praiseworthy are all who contributed and helped to publish this book.
As editor of the book, I feel myself obliged to mention the love and devotion of Yehiel Ben-Porat and Moshe Lubling, his brother-in-law in the task to publish the Book of Remembrance for Wolbrom. Both of them were not only the initiators and alarm clocks of the work, they didn't stop at any obstacle, working tirelessly through thick and thin to carry this project out. And I may say that the skepticism of some of their city- fellows did not weaken their energy. On the contrary, they became even more determined in their minds to continue with the deed, to search for material and find the ways to gather special articles which they could join to the Holocaust they had survived. I thank you also to our friend Binyamin C''Ts for his assistance in their tougher times. He provided both material and money. A special thank to the Wolbromers in Israel and Australia for their devotion in seeing that this book be a light for the world. Separate thanks to our friends Yehiel Hocherman, Alter Nunberg, D.M. Tsukerman and Yosef Yisroel Velner in America for their help with articles and finances. Given the opportunity I would like to thank Dr. Shlomo Bikl, essayist and man of letters, in New York, for his redacting the Yiddish articles of the Wolbromers in America according to the Yiddish ortography of America. Also a great yesher-coakh to the directors of "Yad Vashem", the National Library of the Hebrew University, and the Zionist Archive of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem for their permitting us to look through different newspapers, books, and documents and allowing us to use them for the book.
The "Wolbrom of death" no longer exists. But her escapees who are found in Israel and are continuing to give their part to our culture and future, to our struggle everywhere – their face is always turned to Jewish Wolbrom as an everlasting candle to past generations and to those who perished in the Holocaust. The Wolbromers who live far from their brother- graves of the Wolbromer martyrs will never forget their city, their childhood. Amongst the different memorials which men erect in the world to remember those martyrs, those murdered by the Nazis, this book will serve as a fitting expression to memorialize the Wolbromer martyrs, and will take its place amongst the other Yizkor books of the era and in the historical literature of today.
We merited to complete this project with the publication of this Yizkor-Book for the Wolbromer Jewish community. A thanks to those who supported the idea, those distancing from the viewpoint that it is inappropriate to publish a book about the old Wolbrom, we pray this should serve as a literary and historical gravestone for generations. When the historian comes to write the history of Jewish communities in Europe he will not have to begin from the ground up, rather he will be helped by the important material gathered together in this, and other, Yizkor books. And with this we give this book to the Yotsei Wolbrom in Israel, and to the Jewish world, being convinced that we have done our best to faithfully present an accurate picture of the Wolbrom community and to immortalize her with her personalities, institutions, and her sincere Jews, and with the hope that their pure lives, and the Holy One, and Israel, by their death will engrave forever in our memory and serve us all as an everlasting light.
Let their memory be a blessing!
M. Sh. Geshuri (Brukner) B"H, Jerusalem, Elul 5722
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