By Moshe Rosenberg
Our town Lanowitz is registered deep in our soul. If we want to know why, we only need to look backwards. There we discover a familiar world, a Shtetl that has all the attributes that provide everlasting happiness. There are a number of such places.
At first glance, from Shalom Aley'chem's perspective it was a dirty town. Yet it had an honest society, pleasant summer days, a Blote (pond), the Zwinterberg, seven springs, neighboring lakes and villages. All these lifted our spirits.
Lanowitz appealed to our older residents by virtue of its synagogues and Steebles (small, private synagogues). The Shtetl provided them with a livelihood. It also provided them the opportunity to socialize with other congregants and together to converse with the Almighty.
For us children, the Shtetl had a particular meaning on the holidays, the high holidays and on Simkhat Torah. We experienced the uplifting feeling and joy of accounting for our deeds on the high holidays.
Lanowitz had a tendency to strive for greatness. Our library for example was the largest in the surrounding area. This library gave us a larger literary perspective on our world. We strove through reading to attain a wider intellectual horizon.
We had a TARBUT school and Kheders with good teachers and a good staff. It is hard to find a pedagogue as good as Motel Melamed, the TARBUT school principal teacher. We need not forget the other good teachers we had. I remember them as better than the typical angry teachers I encountered elsewhere. I encountered a loving atmosphere in our Kheders with teachers who somehow tolerated us onerous students.
Our town had no shortage of pious women, who did good deeds and tried hard to minimize the suffering of others. We had no beggars in Lanowitz. We took care of such needs. Our people saw luck in most situations.
This was so until 1940
In 1940 the Soviets arrived, introducing their concept of order. Instead of normal values they introduced fear. They inverted existing society's norms. In the Soviet period I came to appreciate the Sabbath as it was. Our daily life became tragically serious. With gnashed teeth we waited for the regime's demise.
I spent the war years in Russia. Part of the time I spent with Pessy Weitzman, Yosel Viner and Israel and Yaffa Kusiles. Later we separated. While in the Red Army we experienced a strong anti-Semitism. From time to time we heard rumors that Jews occupied Tashkent (Uzbekistan), that Jews were responsible for the war, etc. When the Soviet Radio broadcast anti-Semitic statements, our Ukrainian brothers enjoyed the remarks. At times the going was difficult but the thought of again meeting fellow Lanowitzers and returning to our town eventually gave me hope. In 1944 the Soviet radio indicated that the enemy is vanquished, giving up one town after another, among them Lanowitz.
I soon wrote a letter to my family in Lanowitz, but received no reply. Several months later I received a reply from Ita Kreper . She wrote that she is the only (Jewish) survivor in Lanowitz. I wrestled with impatience until 1946 when I was demobilized. I resolved to return to Lanowitz, in the hope that some of my relatives survived..
On the train from Moscow westward I met Hayim Nathan Gitelman and Shalom Segal. On nearing LanowitzI we could see from afar the destruction of my hometown. Local Gentiles met me, expressing wonder that I survived. They told me that my mother Feiga Silen and Laizer Katz were found in a cellar after the Ghettos liquidation. Both were shot. The last to be liquidated were Tuvia and Aharon Millman, Hayim Pinhas and Avraham Mateses.
I went to our cemetery and found it in disarray with gravestones turned over and laid in ruin. Cattle had been grazing there soiling the cemetery ground.
In the meantime Yosel Marder, Mendel Brimmer and Tzvi Mail arrived. We worked together on this important project. With the initiative of some of us, we erected a fence around the cemetery. This is the only thing we could do for our dear (dead) brethren. Ours was a wonderful Shtetl- what remains is a cemetery. Who knows what will become of it (the cemetery) in the future.
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