This chapter is in memory of my holy father, Rav Osher Anshel Halevi Yungreis,
may Hashem avenge his blood
In the year 1875 (I don't know the year or the month) a man came to inform my grandfather, Rav Avrohom Halevi, and his righteous and learned wife, who was named Esther, and who was the daughter of the great Gaon, the glory of the generation, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Glick, the Rov of Toltchove, Hungary, that a grandchild was born to them, and he was named Osher Anshel, after his grandfather, the Menuchas Osher.
He was holy from the time he was born, and as a child it was evident that he was destined for greatness. He was very meticulous in observance of all mitzvos, both those that are easy, or difficult to perform, and all his life he didn't once trespass any commandment. He excelled in his vast knowledge of the Torah and in the depth of his perception, and he learned day and night.
He was a student of the Geonim Rav Moshe Hirsh Fuchs Ztl, the Rov of Grossvardein, Rumania, and his uncle, the Gaon Rav Yehoshua Boruch Reinitz, the Rov of Tchechovitz. Then he learned in the Yeshiva of his grandfather in Toltchove, Hungary, and was appointed to be a Dayan (judge in a Rabbinical court) and a Maggid (one who gives lectures), from whose mouth emanated pearls of wisdom.
When his holy father Rav Avrohom Halevi Ztl passed away, he was crowned with the golden crown of the Rabbinate of Csenger, while the people of Csenger blessed Hashem for giving a son to Rav Avrohom Ztl that knew how to expound on and go down into the depths of the holy Torah, and was a person who spoke beautifully, and fulfilled everything he said in an outstanding manner. Everyone considered him to be very holy.
It says in Pirkei Ovos (Ovos 1:2) that the world exists on three things, which are, the Torah, Avoda (worship of Hashem or praying) and doing kindness. We have seen all these practiced by my holy father, may Hashem avenge his blood, that upheld all three principles at once. He learned Torah which was his occupation, and he occupied himself with the worship of Hashem, which was his Torah. Aside from all this he did many deeds of kindness, which were combined of both Torah and Avoda.
Whoever didn't witness his Torah and fear of Heaven which came together, had never seen a Talmid Chochom and a person who has fear of Heaven that is worthy of his title. As he learned Torah he visualized Hashem standing before him. He always lived with this holy thought before him, and this sustained him. His fear of Heaven was so great that it would cause his whole body to tremble, with every fiber of his being. Whoever didn't see him walking wrapped up in his thoughts cannot understand what it means to see a holy man who passes by our house (Melochim Bais 4:9 ) (This is the expression with which the Shunamis, a very distinguished woman, used to describe the prophet Elisha, when speaking to her husband about him. The prophet Elisha was a guest in their home. They were the parents of the prophet Chabakuk.) This was my holy father, and this was his Torah.
Herein is a partial description of his Avoda: When he prayed his soul came to the surface, and his body was completely forgotten about. Whoever didn't stand near him as he was saying Shmoneh Esreh, doesn't know the meaning of anyone standing before Hashem. Whoever didn't hear the melody that was outpouring from the depths of his soul, which was a result of his deep concentration, has never seen a living soul. The more he united with Hashem, the greater the flame of His fear surrounded him, and he would jump from his place, while his whole body was trembling. This was how he conducted himself when he stood before Hashem, and this was his manner of prayer.
Herein is a description of his greatness in doing kindness with others: His graciousness in helping people was a very significant part of his life. He felt that he wasn't doing kindness for others by helping them, but that he was thereby helping himself as it says גֹּמֵל נַפְשׁוֹ אִישׁ חָסֶד וְעֹכֵר שְׁאֵרוֹ אַכְזָרִי A person who does kindness helps his own soul (Mishlei 11:17). He sincerely believed that anyone he was helping didn't need his favors, since he has a Creator that created him, and who keeps him alive and sustains him. However, the Divine Providence felt that this person he was helping should have to receive help from human sources.
|Rav Osher Halevi Yungreis
May Hashem avenge his Blood,
the Rov of Csenger until 1944
When a person who does good with others is on such an exalted level, he doesn't take credit for himself for his good deeds, but feels that he is helping himself. He also feels that he is fulfilling a mission that Hashem wants him to do, thereby possessing love and respect for the person that Hashem sent him to help. This is even a higher level than welcoming the Divine Presence, as our Sages tell us that the poor man does more for his host than the host does for him.
All the three principles which uphold the world, were combined in him, and he
upheld all three. It is in the merit of such a righteous person that the world
His fear of Heaven was so great that many times it was hard to stand near him. It was like a burning coal in his heart. On the other hand, his heart was full of love for Hashem, and contained an abundance of love for people. He was a friend for everyone who came to him. This love for people was expressed on his face, and brought people who were far from Judaism much closer. These traits of fear and love were combined in him in the form of a mixture. With fear and love he carried out his holy worship of the Creator, and this is especially true of the way he performed kindness.
He was not familiar with the slyness and trickery which is found among people, and it was his nature from birth on, to be very trusting of others. Yet, he was very clever in his dealings with people, and was aware of all their habits and ways of life.
He was very humble and shunned honor, as it says And what are we?(Shemos 16:8) (When the Jews were complaining to Moshe and Aharon about the lack of food in the desert, this is what Moshe answered them). The traits of conceit and haughtiness didn't exist in his realm at all.
He suffered from painful ailments most of his life. Many times he suffered greatly. The sicknesses that plagued him, almost always afflicted him. Yet, he overpowered them and didn't allow them to prevent his toiling in Torah. As a result of his intense concentration in learning, he became like a wellspring that increases in strength. For every Halachic question that was asked, he had many different answers. Therefore he had such a calm expression on his face that is not seen even on people that are in good health and have all their needs.
There are very few people that achieve glory and greatness in the study of Torah, and who merit to possess an abundance of love and fear of Hashem, and a kind heart for every person. He was one of the few that was crowned with all these attributes. He was familiar with all the different parts of the Torah, both in breadth and in depth. His mind concentrated day and night on the havayos of Abaye and Rovo (the queries of Talmudic topics by these two great sages). At the same time he was concerned how he would get money to meet the needs of anyone who came to him for financial help. His frail health didn't prevent him from approaching philanthropists while he was leaning on his cane, to obtain loans for people who needed them. He himself would guarantee payment of the loans. Most of the time he paid back these loans that he took for the benefit of others from his own pocket. He had to borrow money to do this. This was a steady responsibility.
He fulfilled what our Sages say Let your house be open wide and let the poor be the occupants of your dwelling (Pirkei Ovos 1:5), to a radical extent. People would come in all hours of the day. His door was open and his heart was equally open. In his house, there was grinding poverty. The largest part of his wages, and whatever money people gave him was used to pay up loans that were not his. The small balance that was left for his own needs was far from being adequate to cover the expenses of his household. His paying for debts that were not incurred by him was done many times when he returned the collateral to their owners, who didn't have the means to redeem the items on their own.
I remember when I was ten years old and my father wasn't home, I had returned to someone a very valuable ornament without receiving the payment that was required for it. (The items that were given as collateral for loans were not kept under lock and key). When my father came home and found out about it, he smiled. The items kept for collateral were only symbols, since they were always returned to the owners, regardless of whether they paid the loan or didn't.
Every year he would travel to the springs of Marienbad, Czechoslovakia in order to get relief from his suffering. The money for this came from special grants that the community gave to him for this purpose. A few days before he was planning to leave for Marienbad, one of the respected members of the town came to his home, and asked for his help, since the people he owed money to came to take away his belongings. He didn't hesitate for a moment, and after receiving a collateral, gave the man eight hundred gold coins that were his grant for the trip. A few days later, he returned him the collateral.
When his suffering due to his sickness became very hard to cope with, he asked the heads of the community to appoint my older brother, Rav Eliezer Aryeh Shlita, as the Rov of the city, since he was feeling the effects of old age. When his flock gathered from young to old, they crowned my brother to be the Rov, and called him the young Rov.
My father was the Rov of Csenger from the years 1904-1944. Forty years he led them peacefully, and with justice and kindness. He was a father to the orphans and the poor. All this was lost when he was killed on the fifteenth of the month of Sivan in the year 1944. We were orphaned, and no one is left to lead us in the paths of righteousness.
Even after many years will pass, his image and his upright ways will not leave our hearts, and the hearts of all those who knew him and benefited from his kindness. We are confident that just as during his life he was a pillar of generosity, so too, now, he is an advocate for us, and speaks well on our behalf. This strengthens us.
Let his pure soul be tied to the bond of Eternal Life. His memory is always living in our hearts, and we walk in the path which he illuminated for us.
And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan;
and Abraham came to mourn Sarah and to eulogize her
In the sixth of Tammuz, in the year 1942 the sun stood still and the moon stopped (Yehoshua 10:12 ) (This is telling us that when Yehoshua waged war with the Emoriim when he was conquering Eretz Yisroel, he asked the sun and moon to stand still, meaning that they shouldn't sing praises to Hashem. When they move they are singing praises the whole time. He asked them to stand still because he wanted to finish fighting the war before it got dark.) in the city of Csenger, when my mother's pure heart beat for the last time and she returned her holy soul, which is the candle of a person, to Hashem.
There are no words that can adequately portray the greatness of our mother Sarah, or illustrate her love for Hashem and devotion to people. Her righteousness, humility and modesty were at the peak that any human being could possibly reach. The days of her life were filled with mitzvos and good deeds, and every day of her life was part of one big chain of kindness. She gave charity to such a great extent which is unbelievable. She was a guardian of the poor, and her good deeds benefited not only the living, but also those who were deceased.
כַּפָּהּ פָּרְשָׂה לֶעָנִי וְיָדֶיהָ שִׁלְּחָה לָאֶבְיוֹן She opened her hand to the poor and stretched out her hand to those that are destitute (Mishlei 31:20). She welcomed the unfortunate guests that came to her doorstep from far and near with the utmost pleasantness. She made them feel as if they were doing her a favor, by giving her the mitzvah of welcoming guests which is even greater than welcoming the Shechina (Divine Presence).
She parted with her expensive jewelry and treasured belongings in order to help the poor. If anyone became sick, she was always the first one to come to their aid. The sick people she visited would gain encouragement from her visits and thereby return to their full strength.
She would carry hot, cooked meals all by herself to the teachers who would rise in the early hours of the morning to teach the students. She cooked food for people who were sick and poor, and delivered it to their homes. All this was done without fanfare, and secretly, so that no one should be aware of it.
She acquired wool and cotton and spun them according to her capabilities (Mishlei 31:13). With her hands that were always quick to do mitzvos she sewed clothing for poor people. She performed kind deeds for the deceased by performing the tahara (purifying the body before burial) and by sewing the burial shrouds for them.
She attended to every detail regarding other people's welfare; details which no one would think of being concerned with.
While she was still a child, she distanced herself from all worldly pleasures.
|The righteous woman, the Rebbetzin Soroh Yungreis
of blessed memory
From the age of twelve she fasted every Monday and Thursday. After she was married to my holy father, she continued with her stringencies and with-holding worldly pleasures from herself. From her menu, which was poor as it was, meat was completely excluded. Before she left this world she revealed that since the day she matured she fasted three days in a row for ten years. It was very hard for her to do this when she started nursing babies. However, as time went on it became a matter of habit.
She was very careful with her speech, and very cautious with any type of speech that would be anywhere near Loshon Hora (derogatory speech). She said the whole Sefer Tehillim every day, after she got up in the middle of the night. Even while she was suffering greatly during her illness, she continued saying Tehillim. The sounds of the holy praises of Tehillim attached themselves to her pure soul, and she bore her pain with love.
It says in the Medrash Rabba on Kohelles (7:28) I have found one man out of one thousand- which speaks about Avrohom. Then Shlomo HaMelech goes on to say I have not found a woman among the thousand (meaning he hasn't found one righteous woman among all those) this refers to Sorah, meaning that she was one saintly woman among thousands of others in her generation according to the Medrash Rabba. Would our Sages say anything negative about our mother Sarah? They said that she was on a higher level than Avrohom in prophecy.
The Kol Yaakov explains that when Shlomo HaMelech says he found one man among a thousand, he is referring to Avrohom, meaning that if you take one thousand men and put them together, then you will find the aim of the man who is completely righteous, meaning Avrohom. However, if you gather together one thousand women, you will not find among them a righteous woman on the level of Sarah. Such a woman was my holy mother, Sorah.
She inherited her noble qualities from her father, the Gaon and tzaddik Rav Dov
Leib Zelcer Ztl, the Rov of Humeneh, Hungary, and from her grand-father Rav
Dovid Katz, the head of the Bais Din of Mattesdorf. Let her dear and
distinguished soul rest in peace, and we will merit to meet her when Moshiach
comes speedily in our days.
Now, I will write about the Kohain Godol (High Priest), the seventh candle in the Menorah. He is my uncle, the holy tzaddik Rav Yehoshua Hakohain Shatun, May Hashem avenge his blood. He was a very holy person, modest and humble, and his fear of Heaven was always evident, outwardly, as well as inward. He also had a very handsome appearance.
He owned a printing press, and worked very hard to support his family. As he was standing near the printing machine, he was learning and gaining more and more new insights into Talmudic topics. The Books of Life were always open before him and he delved into them day and night. Everyone liked him, and whoever came to him was always greeted by him first.
When the Germans came to Csenger, and the men, women, and children of Csenger were forced to go to the Ghetto of Mátészalka, he was ordered to print proclamations and orders for the wicked Germans. When he finished working for them, they also banished him from his home, and made him go to the Ghetto of Mátészalka. In the Ghetto, he refused to eat and drink. He closed himself up in a attic, and eventually took sick. All efforts to rescue him didn't help. His holy soul ascended upward, and he was from the few people who merited to be buried according to Halacha during the war. He was laid to rest in Mátészalka, and until today many people visit his holy resting place.
Now I will go to the valley of tears and continue to relate about the tragedies that befell the family of the Rov, one at a time. My older brother, Rav Shlomo Tzvi, May Hashem avenge his blood, was a very pleasant person whose life was bereft with tragedy from his youth onward.
When the Hungarian Jews were taken to forced labor in the work camps (Slave labor camps is a better description.) our mother was very sick. He accompanied her to Budapest, where he took her to a hospital. Before he left for the labor camps he wrote fifty postcards, and asked people to keep sending them to his mother one after the other, so that she shouldn't be aware of his unfortunate plight. When he returned home from his terrible ordeal with worn out clothing and whatever was left of his torn shoes, our mother was no longer alive. A short time later, he was taken on his last road when he offered up his life as a sacrifice to Hashem.
My distinguished and modest sister, the righteous Perel, with her beloved and sweet children, who were so much adored during their lifetime and were not separated in death. They were the child Avrohom, his brother Yonasan, and sister Esther, who were killed sanctifying the name of Hashem. When Perel's husband Rav Yitzchok, May Hashem avenge his blood, was taken to the concentration camps, she remained alone with her children, without any means of support. She worked day and night sewing clothing to support the children, all the while hoping for the return of her husband. She didn't think that he was no longer among the living. She was still hoping to see him when she and her children were led to their deaths.
My holy sister, Rosa, was a very modest young girl, and extremely righteous. She worked very hard to buy religious articles for her future husband, which unfortunately, she didn't live to marry. Her hopes for marriage and the gifts that she prepared for the husband she was hoping for, such as an original Shas from Vilna, and other holy books, were destroyed, when she returned her soul Heavenward.
My brother-in-law and my cousin, Rav Yitzchok Hakohen Shatun, May Hashem avenge his blood. He was very learned, and a Dayan and Posek (one who renders Halachic decisions) in the city of Csenger. He had a very pure soul inside of him, and his outward appearance was pleasant to behold. He spoke very wisely and pleasantly, and throngs of people would gather around him, many of whom were learned, and many who didn't have much knowledge of Torah. With all of these he had a common language. He was considered a shining star with a very bright future. When he married my sister, the righteous Perel, my father appointed him to be a Dayan and Posek in Csenger. He was very well liked by the whole community who displayed their respect and admiration for him at every opportunity. He was among those who was taken to slave labor, and whose whereabouts are unknown. May Hashem avenge his pure and innocent blood.
His older brother, Rav Osher Anshel Hakohen Shatun, May Hashem avenge his blood, was a Dayan and Posek in the city of Ujhely, Hungary, and a member of the Bais Din (Rabbinical Court) of the Rov of Ujhely.
Rav Tzvi Dik Ztl. Rav Oshe Anshel was murdered together with his wife and
children. (The details of his last days are unknown).
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה כְּתֹב זֹאת זִכָּרוֹן בַּסֵּפֶר וְשִׂים בְּאָזְנֵי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ כִּי מָחֹה אֶמְחֶה אֶת זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם
And the LORD said unto Moses: Write this for a memorial in the book, and
rehearse it in the ears of Joshua:
for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
(Hashem is commanding Moshe to record the fact that Amalek was the first nation to attack the Jews upon their exodus from Egypt. See Rashi on this possuk for a detailed explanation. The wicked Germans are considered to be the descendants of Amalek. The Vilna Gaon Ztl testified to this).
When we come to relate the suffering of the Hungarian Jews, among whom were the martyrs of Csenger, during the Holocaust, the parchment on which we write is too small in size to record all the atrocities inflicted upon them, and all the seas of tears that accompanied them until they were murdered.
Let this, which is only a fraction of what took place, be recorded until the last generation. I will use these words from the Song of Akdomos (said on Shavuous) in order to express my feelings.
(The above words were written by the author Rav Meyer Shatz Ztl to say that we could never adequately describe all the great deeds of the Al-mighty).
If all the waters of the world would be gathered together, and all the people
of the world would be scribes, it would still be impossible to record all the
horrors and suffering inflicted upon our people during the Second World War.
In the year 1938, during nine o'clock one Shabbos morning, people could be seen gathering together near the big market place. Everyone was running in one direction. People kept asking each other what happened, and kept running and coming together. I was also standing there, and in the middle of the crowd was a man with black glasses (probably binoculars) who kept passing them around in the crowd, and people kept looking upward, toward the sky. They claimed that they saw two suns, one near the next. The old men in the community said that a thing like this is a symbol of bad tidings, and is foretelling the advent of a new war. They remembered that before the First World War, in the year l9l4 they had also witnessed the same thing. They claimed that since a thing like this is taking place on Shabbos, the world is coming to an end. People stopped commenting about this, and the crowd slowly left.
The next day in the morning, when people started reading the newspapers, they were surprised to read that Germany and Austria made a treaty with each other, and the German army entered Vienna, the capital of Austria. Everyone was speaking about the fact that Hitler was gaining power, and conquering more land as time went on. One day he annexed Austria, and the next day whose turn would come?
The influence of Germany's power was felt in Hungary in the years l938-1943, at the time that three laws were passed limiting the rights of the Jews. These were called The Laws of the Jews. They were not allowed to study in Universities, and eventually all the rights that any citizen of Hungary was entitled to were taken away from them.
In the year 1939 a law was passed compelling the Jews to do military service outside of the Hungarian army. There were special slave labor battalions especially for Jews. They had to build railroads and shelters for the Hungarian government, because this was after all, a time of war. On the left sleeves of their jackets they wore a yellow patch, five centimeters wide, so that it should be known that they were Jewish slave laborers. In Hungarian, they were called Munka Salgalet.
At the beginning they were made to do heavy labor within the Hungarian borders. The commanders of the battalions were cruel, anti-Semitic Hungarian military officers, who were famous for their mean nature, even before they were chosen for this position. Their job was to enslave the Jews with the heaviest types of labor, thereby employing an iron discipline which was even worse. These officers would compete with each other to see who could be the cruelest in the treatment of the unfortunate Jews, in the event they would break any rule.
|Jewish boys of Csenger while at work in 1942
in a place called Laventa
Even if the Jews did not break any rule at all, they made sure to see to it that they would not escape any type of punishment and torture. The main purpose of this was to degrade and oppress the Jews. They took men ages 20-50 to these forced labor battalions, in order that their families would be bereft of their providers. This way, they felt, they could destroy the lives of the Jews.
From the year l941 and onward, while the Germans were gaining strength, these unfortunate Jews were sent outside of the Hungarian borders, mainly to Siberia, where tens of thousands of them perished from hunger and the bitter cold.
Most of the Jews who lived in Csenger and the surrounding areas, who were drafted to these forced labor battalions, never saw their families again, and died in Russia. The German army made sure to take them along with them when they went to war, and when the Germans backed out of Russia, they made sure that the Jews would not return to their homes.
Even the boys between ages twelve and twenty who were not old enough to be drafted had to report for military training. This was called Levanta in Hungarian. The Jews who did report for this training were not really given preparations for military training. They were also taken for forced labor during the hours that they had to report for service. They had to clean the streets and public lawns, and plant gardens, or take care of them. During this time they also had to wear the yellow patch.
Because of these humiliating experiences, the young boys became very depressed, and developed an inferiority complex. They were reminded every time of the day that they are second or third class citizens, and are of a lower class than their neighbors who are their age, just because they were Jewish. Because of this they were denied the same rights of all other citizens, and not worthy of being taken to the military. They had to be happy with the fact that they were allowed to live.
After years of humiliation and oppression, between the years 1938-1944, at the time that the Jewish minority was persecuted by the Jewish Laws enacted against them, it is easy to understand how come in the Hungarian Ghettos there were no instances of rebellion by the Hungarian Jewish youth. The Jews were led like sheep's to their slaughter to the trains taking them to the Concentration camps and to their deaths.
I would like to answer all these people who are accusing the Jews of being
docile, and of not displaying any opposition towards their executioners. First
of all, it is important to realize that when the Jews were herded into the
Ghettos, all the men from age twenty and above, were already in the forced
labor battalions. Many were taken to Siberia, and to the various labor camps
that were spread over the different war zones. The only ones left were women,
children and old people above age sixty. Who among those could rebel or take
arms? Who would dare to raise his voice when twelve year old boys were
subjected to treatment that caused them to be depressed and belittled? How were
the women and old people supposed to get ammunition? Who was going to supply
them with any help even in a hidden manner? Would it be the Hungarian neighbors
who were only too happy to see Jews killed? They were eagerly awaiting the time
that they could rob the Jews of their homes and belongings, as they proclaimed,
when they saw the Jews being herded into the Ghettos.
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