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[Page 327]

Chapter 12

 

In Their Memories

 

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[Page 329]

A Testimony

Heinosz Krakowski (Henry Kay)

Edited by Toby Bird

My name is Henry Kay, and I live in Belle-Harbor, New York. When I was a boy, my name was Heinusz Krakowski, and I lived my parents- Aaron and Vietel, my sister Helka and brother Shlemek. We lived in Katowice, on number 12 Zabska street. My father was a watchmaker, and we owned a Jewelry store. My father died in 1938, and my mother and brother were murdered by the Nazis. My sister survived, and today she lives in Houston, Texas. I was a prisoner in several camps and was released from Buchenwald.

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Henry Kay (formerly Heinosz Krakowski) and Hela Hess at a Katowice
Émigrés meeting at Bet Sofer [Writer's House], Tel Aviv in 1985

 

In Katowice, I was a member of the Zionist Youth group. My counselor was Shlomo Zimmerman, and my best friends were Yosek Ulmer, Moniek Lublinski, Fela Frajlich, Kanter Ros-Rozenberg, Janek Cimerman, Halinka Zigrajch and Manus Djamant. Our neighbors were the Zajdman family. My uncle and aunt, Avraham and Gusta Blitz lived in Katowice with their daughters, Hela and Pola, and were murdered by the Nazis. The rest of our extended family- the families of Zweigenhaft, Mintzberg and Krakowski lived in Sosnowiec and were all murdered.

Today, I am married, and have 3 children and 8 grandchildren. I'm in the candy business. I am in regular contact with Rene Grzes, Fela Frajlich, Blima and Heinrich Frischer and Heiniek Kronenberg, all originally from Katowice.


[Page 330]

Eichner and Tichauer Families

Aaron and Menachem Elad

Edited by Toby Bird

We are twin brothers- Aaron and Menachem Elad, originally Eichner. We were born in Katowice in 1930, and lived there until the breaking out of the war in1939. Our parents' names were Meta and Erik Eichner. Our mother's parents- Bianka and Emanual Tichauer. They lived in a village near Katowice. Our mother had 4 sisters: Gita Abramowitz and Ruth Metzner, who were murdered with their families during the Holocaust, Mina Tichauer, who was murdered as well; and Aya Kingsley, who survived the camps.

Our father's parents were Sara and Markus Eichner. They lived on no. 9 Slowackiego Street, Katowice. Our father had 3 sisters: Rosa Davidowitz and Ruth Szeps, who were murdered, and Gretta Baumgart, who was in Russia during the war and today lives in Petach-Tiqwa, Israel.

We were used to attend the Joselewic elementary school in the mornings, and then the Jewish community school in the afternoons. Our teacher was Mr. Margulis. On Saturdays and in the holidays, we sang at the synagogue choir.

In 1939, we escaped from Katowice and moved to Krakow. After a few weeks we proceeded to the region that was conquered by the Russians, to Lwow. We lived there for almost a year until June 1940, when the Russians gathered all of the refugees and sent them to Siberia. We lived in the woods, in labor camps. Our parents did rough physical work, such as wood chopping.

In 1944 we were transferred to central Russia, to a village by the Volga in the area of Sartow. We lived there until early 1946 when we were finally allowed to return to Poland. Our father died in Russia in January, 1945. After we learned that our entire family was eliminated, we decided to go to Israel. We joined a “dror,” a children's group and crossed the Polish and Czech borders on our way to the Rosenheim and Indensdorf refugee camps in Germany. After spending two years in these camps, we were finally recruited to the “Hagana” Jewish defense force and came to Israel.

We became community members in Glil-Yam kibbutz, and were then recruited to the IDF. Both of us served as major officers until our retirement. Our mother lived in the kibbutz to her last day and died of a terminal disease in 1978. Both of us managed to raise our own families, and we continue to work and contribute to the public's welfare in our country. This was a short history of a once-branched family, that continues to live in Israel.


[Page 331]

Tzvi Getz z”l

Aaron Rimoni

Edited by Toby Bird

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At a Katowice Émigrés meeting at Bet Sofer [Writer's House], Tel Aviv in 1985
Tzvi Getz z”l(in the center), Avraham Sireto, Cila Katriel

 

Tzvi was born in 1923, in the Polish city of Lodz, but grew up in Katowice. As a boy, he was a member of a Zionist Youth group, and participated in its national summer camps. He was a refugee during the war, and through these rough times he still managed to publish Zionist propaganda and organize underground activists' groups, activity which was incredibly dangerous.

By the end of the war, he felt morally compelled to participate in the rescue operation of Jews in general, and specifically in the saving of Jewish children from Polish orphanages. With friends, he opened a Jewish orphanage for children refugees, in order to ultimately bring them to Israel and establish a kibbutz. They were transferred from Poland in secret, without any proper documentation, through Austria and Czechoslovakia, until they reached Italy through the Alpine passage.

A temporary home for these children was established in Monte-Mario, Rome with the aid of UNRA and the Joint. In this house, the children learned Hebrew and Jewish history. They were given professional courses in workshops Tzvi initiated, and received elementary education as well. Most of them had participated in Tzvi's funeral, with tears in their eyes.

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In Rome, Tzvi married Yehudit, and together they came to Israel in May, 1948. By that time, some of the children had already arrived and joined the Shvilim kibbutz, by the Beit-Oved settlement near Nes-Ziona. Tzvi and his family left the kibbutz in 1950 when most of the other members left. Tzvi helped all of them in resettling and finding jobs. He worked at the Jewish agency's housing department and helped with the accommodation of many newcomers.

Between 1954 and 1956, while he worked in this department, he was active in the founding of new settlements in Lakhish region. Then he was sent to Belgium with his family as a Zionist Youth messenger. His Zionist activity was fruitful, and some of his students came to Israel and joined the “Hasolelim” group.

When he returned from Belgium, Tzvi became a founder and a lively member of the “Centra” (organization of Middle-European Jews) and native-Silesian Jews organizations in Israel.

He completed his academic degrees in social science while working in insurance. He was among the founders of the social science and humanities academic union, and a member of the Katowice committee in Israel, who worked toward the publishing of this book.

He died in 1986.


A Testimony- Sara Sofer Schroeur (Majtlis) z”l

Edited by Toby Bird

Sara Sofer Schroeur (Majtlis) as born in Bielsko in 1925, and was a resident of Katowice from the age of two weeks. Her father, Yechiel Majtlis, made a trip to Israel in January 1939 in order to obtain passage certificates to Israel for the entire family. The certificates arrived on time, but due to the bureaucracy the family wasn't able to leave on time, and war broke out. After a few months in Lwow, the family was sent to a camp in central Russia, and was then sent Kazakhstan.

Young Sara worked in the woods, in tree chopping and then in carving. At the same time she somehow managed to complete her high school education, and then started studying architecture. After the war, the family came to Israel with the original certificates, thanks to their father, who stayed in Israel and got the documents' validity extended. They came to Israel after a long and troubled journey, through Persia, Iraq and the Caspian sea.

Sara completed her degree in architecture in Israel and started working as an architect. In 1947 she joined the “Hagana” defense force, and was recruited to IDF in 1948. She was one of the first women to finish the course and become a first lieutenant, and served as a company commander in the 208 and 209 regiments of the artillery corps.

She married lieutenant colonel Nathan Sofer in 1949, and had two daughters- Arielle and Naomi. She lived with her husband, who was sent as a military attaché, in London between 1956-1961. In London she learned sculpting. She's lived in Haifa since 1961, was widowed in 1971 and remarried in 1972 to Emanuel Schroeur, an accountant. She died of a terminal disease in November, 1993.


[Page 333]

A Testimony- Shmuel Grundman z”l

Nathan Grosswasser

Edited by Toby Bird

Born in 1924, Shmuel attended the Joselewic elementary school, where as a student he showed talent for arts and drawing. He drew most of the wall paintings in school. He was an enthusiastic Zionist, and joined Beitar as a boy.

After the war broke, he drew signs for the Germans in Sosnowiec and later in other places. The paintings he made while in a concentration camp impressed the camp chief commander, and after drawing a portrait of the commander's daughter he gained some appreciation, and a better treatment that kept him alive.

Shortly before the release he escaped from the camp with two friends and hid in a barn. They stayed in hiding for a long time because they didn't know the war has ended. Upon realizing he was a free man, he traveled to Belgium in search of surviving family members, and by the end of 1945 managed to come to Israel where he was welcomed by his cousins- Dr. Josef Kapri z”l, and Nathan Grosswasser. He soon became famous for his mirror paintings, but still dreamed of becoming a graphic artist. He received recommendations and started his course of studies at the “Betzalel” art institution.

While in school, he met his wife to-be, and they got married in 1950. Shortly after that, they traveled to London to continue their studies at the Royal Academy from which he graduated with excellence. After graduating, he returned to Israel and his talent was recognized- his works were presented in respected international projects, and were ordered by companies such as Agrexco Canada, the Yigal Alon Museum, the Museum of the Jewish People and the Air Show in Paris. Among others, he cooperated with Marcel Janco and Reuven Rubin.

His entire family was talented and artistic, mostly in the fields of singing and drawing. His father Aaron-Pinchas, for example, was an outstanding cantor. Shmuel died in 1980 after a long illness, at the relatively young age of 58. He had 3 children- two of them from his first marriage; and a wife, Claude, who still runs his businesses.

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7th grade, 1937, Joselewic elementary school

Shmuel Grundman is sitting third from the left, in the first row. The teacher Shapira is sitting the first on the left, in the second row.
Standing at the top: Yosef Steiner, Michal Goldman-Gilad, Ziberstajn, Szlemik Krakowski, Perlmuter, Karviczik, Peni Buchner, Eva Szikman, Rozka Kaufmanm Mara Wajszniwski,Pepi Sziowicz, Sonja Olmer, Lutka Zinger, Yezi Wajnrib

 

[Page 334]

Yehudit Meir (Pilcer) z”l

The Meir Family

Edited by Toby Bird

Yehudit was born in 1928, as the fourth daughter in a native Katowicer family. Yehudit, who had the nickname Itka, had a happy childhood with her family- her parents and four sisters. Her joyful childhood was interrupted by the rise of the Nazi beast.

The Holocaust time was unbearable for her, yet she managed to look forward with hope and not give up. Nonetheless, the trauma of losing a mother and a younger sister at such a young age scarred her for life, a wound that remained open to her last day.

Yehudit came to Israel in 1950, thus fulfilling her Zionist dream of making aliyah, a dream she had as a girl and a young member of the Zionist Youth group. While raising her own family and working as a goldsmith, she decided she wanted to participate in the perpetuation of the memory of the community in her home city of Katowice, and specially the memory of her mother and sister.

The devoted education she gave to her children always included memorializing the Holocaust of our people, and the importance of teaching its grave history to the next generations.

She visited Katowice for the first time after the war in the late 1970's, when visits to Poland were still rather rare, and presented to the city council her idea of building a monument in memory of the city's Jewish community and Holocaust victims.

Ever since, Yehudit had worked relentlessly for that cause, through her trademark grace and modesty and with endless persistency, together with her sisters and a small group of friends. After a decade of hard work, her efforts finally bore fruit. In June 1989, in an exciting ceremony in which her family participated, survivors from Israel and the United States, and Katowice city council representatives, the monument was unveiled.

It was located where the city's great synagogue stood in the past, and has become an eternal memorial for the Katowice Jewish community's Holocaust victims, with a clear message to last for following generations: never forget!

In the letter she wrote to her children before her death, Yehudit wrote about the things that had been the greatest joys of her life: the founding of the state of Israel, life with her beloved family, and the fulfillment of her dream- building the memorial in Katowice.

Yehudit died of a terminal disease in March, 1993, at the age of 64.

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Yehudit Meir (Pilcer) removing the cover from the Katowice Community Memorial

(Written by the family, in her memory)


[Page 335]

Aleksander Czerski (Tzirer) z”l

Sara Diller

Edited by Toby Bird

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Aleksander Czerski (Tzirer)

Aleksander passed away on June the 3rd, 1986. He was born and bred in Katowice. The second world war drove him to Russia, to a labor camp in Siberia. After many tribulations he returned to Szlezia, started a family and worked in the mines, where he was promoted to a manager's position. In 1954 a disaster happened- he lost his eyesight while on shift at the coalmines. In spite of the good conditions he was offered by the Polish government, he made up his mind to move to Israel with his family, and did so in 1957.

He learned the Hebrew language rather quickly, and soon began to publish newspaper columns and short stories, which then became books. He published ten of them, in which he dealt mostly with the Holocaust and with life in the land of Israel. His work soon became recognized, and he was invited to lecture in the United States, in Switzerland, France and Germany. His visits were covered by local media, radio and television: he traveled to 22 countries, and 260 pieces and interviews with him were published.

In 1960, he won the “Dishon” award alongside Uri Tzvi Greenberg and Chaim Hazaz. A couple of years later he won the Jewish brail institution award, which was awarded to him on a compilation of 33 short stories on the subject of the Holocaust. In 1985 he was awarded a sign of Excellency from the German ambassador in Israel. He became a cultural ambassador for Israel in his public appearances and interviews worldwide, and most of all in Germany. He had many more plans, which were interrupted by his sudden death.

 

From the Press

“Aleksander Ceski spent the last 10 months in Germany, months in which the Israeli writer gave up to 30 lectures, was interviewed in 6 radio shows, and participated in many public debates. There's no need to stress that the subject of these conversations, lectures and debates was one- Israel. Ever since he came to Israel, this energetic man took it upon himself to spread the word of “Israel-ology”. He states that Israel and the Jewish people have no-one but themselves to rely on, and this notion made him the devoted and efficient spokesman he is.

“In fact, I'm not a spokesman. I merely tell the truth about our country, and explain its position and achievements” says the man who met three generations of Germans during his last visit. “It isn't easy to speak to them, specially not in this complicated time, after the war in Lebanon. The public's anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli spirits, which are in fact plain anti-Semitism, are on the rise, and they are strong and concerning. It is needed to make any effort to show and explain the real Israel.”

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There were more features planned, but he decided to cancel them. “ I just missed Israel,” he says, “and besides, I have already seen all there was to see.” While he uses the verb “to see,” we may forget the fact that this man has lost his sight many years ago, yet he functions as if nothing had happened. “Why should I let my ill fate conquer me?” he asks.

His disaster drove him to devote himself to writing, his hobby. Ever since he lost his sight, he wrote 7 books and hundreds of short stories, as well as a screenplay for the original movie “Sabina.” His books discuss the Holocaust, the fraud of Polish socialism and the revival of the Jewish people in Israel. Among them are “The Immortals” (published in Polish), “Colors in the Fog,” “Smoke and Ashes” and “A Detour”- a trilogy that was published in Germany. His latest novel, “A Spark of freedom,” was published in Paris and was accepted with enthusiasm.”

(Yediot Acharonot daily newspaper, 21.1.1983)


A Distinguished Writer

Cila Katriel

Edited by Toby Bird

Aleksander Czerski loved to chat with me. We met many times. Our last conversation took place shortly before he passed away. In the beginning, he said he wasn't feeling very well and moaned with pain, but the conversation grew longer. We talked about the past, and reminisced: memories from home, from the schul, his father pinching my cheek with affection, and calling me “tzwei Berishalach”- as I looked very much like my brother. Aleksander, a beautiful and tall young man, would observe and smile at us. During the conversation, he forgot about the pain, and it felt like I drew him back into his best time, to which he yearned in his writings.

On another time, when he visited me at home with his wife, we talked about the serenade he mentions in his book, “Tango Notturno.” I loved that serenade, and thus I began to sing. He asked me to continue, and I felt that he listened with attention, as though he was able to catch sounds from the past and keep them in his mind, the mind of a distinguished writer.


Amir Zidner

The Zidner family

Edited by Toby Bird

Amir is a descendant of the Zidner family from Katowice, a grandson of Ernest and Chana and son of Michael and Naomi, who live in Mozza Illit. Amir, a soldier in IDF's armoured corps was killed in his tank at the age of 19, in southern Lebanon. They hit a mine- he and another friend died, and two other soldiers got thrown in the air by the explosion, and survived.

Amir was born in Zurich. His parents ran a Travel agency's office there. A few years later, the family moved to London, and after nine years abroad moved back to Israel and settled near Jerusalem. Amir was a lively young man, a diligent student who excelled in his finals. As a soldier, he was deeply appreciated by his friends and commanders. His young death was much mourned by his family and friends.

A living monument to Amir was built in 1989: A Children's garden and playground in Mozza Illit – “Amir's garden”.


[Page 337]

Boaz Kerby (Bruno Krawczyk) z”l

Krawczyk family

Edited by Toby Bird

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Boaz Kerby

Boaz was born in Katowice, Polish Silesia, in the year 1936 into a workers' family. His parents moved to Israel in the 1920's and tried to settle down there, but weren't all that fortunate. Due to illness they were forced to return to Poland. Boaz was only two years old when the war broke out and since then, for 9 years, he went through a lifetime of suffering and wandering, hunger and orphanhood.

The family's long and troubled journey had many stops: conquered Poland, refugee convoys in Russia, the faraway Siberia, mines in Ural, Kazakhastan and Poland again- and then, on the way back to Israel- Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and refugee camps.

Boaz was 8 years old when his sisters and brother decided to illegally travel to Israel, despite their father's objection. The boy was meant to stay with his father, but the hardships of the war made him older than his years, and the anti-Semitism in post-war Poland only emphasized his Jewish feelings. He demanded to go with his sisters, and without their father's knowing, he was taken with them to cross the border. He was put in an orphanage to wait for an Aliyah certificate, while his brother and sisters proceeded on their journey to Israel.

He arrived to Israel in 1948, and joined his sisters in Kibbutz Afek. He started the 3rd grade and graduated just before he was recruited to the IDF. As a child, he was notable for his good virtues, his kindness, honesty and devotion. The boy soon became a young man, and life seemed promising. He was determined to outgrow any weakness. He died on his post on 11/19/1957, at 12:30.

 

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