Our People in the Land of Israel (cont.)
Only in late 1942, when Yaakov Kurtz was able miraculously to return to Palestine from Piotrkow (he went there for a visit right before the war started and was stuck), and gave first-hand reports about the systematic massacres of Polish Jewry, a meeting of our people took place, during which Kurtz gave a report about the annihilation of Piotrkow Jews, and a committee to rescue the remaining Jews of Piotrkow was organized on the spot. The first activity of the committee was to publish Kurtz's Sefer Edut (Book of Testimony), which was the first book to be published about the slaughter of Polish Jews. The book was published by Am Oved and shocked the Yishuv in the land of Israel.
|In the hills of Jerusalem, April 1953. A group of Piotrkower participate in the dedication
of the Yar Kedoshei Polania, the Forest of the Jewish Martyrs of Poland
The first committee of Piotrkow Jews in Israel was headed, of course, by Yaakov Maltz. The committee collected over 800 pounds (a huge sum in those days) to buy food, clothes, medicine, etc. When the word arrived at the end of the war that hundreds of survivors had returned to Piotrkow from the death camps, the bunkers and the Aryan side, large crates were sent via Teheran with provisions. Food packages were also sent by air to Piotrkow. The committee kept in touch through mail and messengers with the survivors in Piotrkow and in the UNNRA a nd Joint camps in Europe. Hundreds of replies were sent to inquiries about relatives, immigration, etc. Immigrants from our town who arrived in Israel were received warmly and were given help. The organization arranged loans for settlement and housing, and helped find work. (It should be mentioned that all the loans were repaid, which shows that our town's people were successfully settled.)
|The Matzeva at Yad Vashem, unveiled by Irgun Yotzei Piotrkow in 1963
Piotrkow Jews in Israel did not forget their town or their loved ones who perished in Europe. Each year, on the second of the month of Heshvan, the date of the final liquidation of the Piotrkow community, a memorial service is held for the Martyrs of Piotrkow, attended by a large crowd of our people.
|Our people in Jerusalem at the unveiling
The organization of Piotrkow Jews in Israel has established a number of commemorative enterprises to perpetuate the memory of the victims.
- As part of the Jewish National Fund forestation campaign in memory of the lost Jewish communities, in 1953, on Holocaust Memorial Day, 1,500 trees in memory of Piotrkow Jews were planted in the Martyrs Forest in Jerusalem, to which 200 members of our organization contributed.
- On Tisha BeAv 1963, at the Holocaust Cellar on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, a memorial was erected for the Piotrkow community which perished between 1939 and 1945.
- In February 1952 the committee of the Piotrkow Jews in Israel decided to publish a memorial book for Piotrkow and nearby villages. It took over 13 years to prepare the book. Yaakov Maltz, the driving force behind the book, along with his assistants headed by Naftali Lau-Lavie, issued the book as a living memorial to a major Jewish community. After years of strenuous work, they were able to collect invaluable historical material about Piotrkow and the Jewish communities around it, which resulted in a volume of both quantity and quality, which, in the opinion of experts, is one of the best if not the best Yiskor book of its kind. The hook had prompted hundreds of our people to contribute of their knowledge, memories and experience, to enrich the contents of the book. The result is truly a collective masterpiece of a surviving generation of Piotrkowers.
The Piotrkow Book is the most reliable source for any information about the town. It is the result of years of research which offers us and all future generations a living picture of Piotrkow Jewry in all its glory. On each page one can feel the loving hand that took care of every detail. It is the love of Yaakov Maltz for his town, Piotrkow, having invested his entire soul in it, along with his vast knowledge of Jewish Piotrkow, and the meticulous editing of Naftali Lau-Lavie, which gave birth to this monumental book. The book was published in 1965 and was warmly received by the press.
- Three years after the Piotrkow Book was published, the first issue of the Piotrkow Bulletin came out. For years it was edited by Yosef Goldberg, who felt that the book was not the last word, since there was so much to tell about Piotrkow before the Catastrophe, nor was the story of the Catastrophe fully told. (Is it within human power to even exhaust the subject of the Catastrophe?) The bulletin created a living bond between Piotrkow compatriots everywhere, and was enthusiastically received by our people, as can be seen in the letters to the editor.
|Elazar Prashker, the Editor-in-Chief of the periodical Heidim
- Before the memorial service on November 1974, the 11th edition of the bulletin was issued in a new format, edited by Elazar Prashker. The new creation was named Heidim (echoes), and was printed (its predecessor was stenciled). Heidim continued the bulletin tradition. It became a forum to all those who had something to tell about the Piotrkow community, its rich past, culture, folks, customs and the story of the destruction. Each issue of Heidim added a building block to the memorialization project of our community as a whole and of every individual member. Heidim is a source of information for the Piotrkower regarding all that might interest them about the common origin. The 14 issues of Heidim which have thus far appeared contain a great deal of interesting material about the Piotrkow community descriptions, memories, and anecdotes which, like pieces of a puzzle, add up to a picture of the unique Jewish culture that existed in that Polish town.
|The monument erected in memory of the Martyrs of Piotrkow
at the Holon, Israel cemetery in 1980
- Our compatriots in Israel had a special experience during April 5th to the 15th, 1980. During that time the second world convention of Piotrkow Jewry took place in Israel, and was attended by hundreds of our compatriots from around the world. The main event of the convention was the unveiling of the monument in memory of the Jews of Piotrkow and environs, erected at the cemetery in Holon. The monument, created by the Piotrkow-born painter and sculptor, Moshe Bromberg Baram, is a scale model of the main synagogue of Piotrkow going up in flames. Inside the monument, the ashes of Piotrkow Martyrs especially brought back from the valley of death were deposited. The unveiling took place on the Day of the Shoah and the Heroism, and was attended by a large crowd of Piotrkower from Israel and abroad. Rabbi Israel Lau spoke. The cantor chanted El Maleh Rahamim, and the assemblage said Kaddish. For a long time all stood silent, heads bent, before the small sanctuary of the Jews of Piotrkow, a monument to their world which was destroyed.
The memorial the synagogue of the Jews of Piotrkow going up in flames, now stands in the holy land on the sacred soil of the cemetery in the holy community of Holon, and for generations to come it will serve as a center for the Jews of Piotrkow and their descendants to come and commune with the memory of the holy Martyrs. Here one must mention Henia Grinberg, who for the past 15 years headed the organization of the Piotrkow Jews in Israel and who, through her energy, faith and enthusiasm was able to motivate others and make the monument a reality. Henia Grinberg is also responsible for two other memorialization undertakings of great importance the Piotrkow archives and the scroll of the Martyrs of Piotrkow at Yad Vashem, in Heichal Hashemoth.
|Henia Grinberg, the Honorary President of the
Irgun Yotzei Peiotrkow. She headed the organization
for the past 15 years until 1989 when she was succeeded
by Yechezkel Gideoni
- Yaakov Maltz collected during his entire life every shred of document and every photograph which remained from rich heritage of Jewish Piotrkow. All this material which was preserved under adverse conditions, was handed to the director, of the archives of the Institute for the Study of the Diaspora at Tel Aviv University, Professor Yoel Raba, who, along with his assistants, have sorted out the material and catalogued it. The Institute's report for 1982-4983 mentions. the historical collection of the Piotrkow community in the list of archival collections of Tel Aviv University, recognized by historical archives throughout the world. The archive is kept for the moment at Tel Aviv University, but according to an agreement between the University and the organization of Piotrkow Jews in Israel, the archive can be transferred to the Piotrkow House when it is completed. Part of the archive had been exhibited in the building for the research of the Catastrophe of the university under the title The Community that Was and Is No More.
- The second thing perhaps the most important one which was brought to fruition, was the enterprise of memorializing the victims of our community at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem . On November 17, 1985 the annual memorial service for the Martyrs took place at the Yizkor Tent in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and the unveiling of the parchment scroll containing the names of our Martyrs took place. An enlarged photograph of the scroll was hanging on the wall of the Sanctuary of Names at Yad Vashem, and a multitude of people from our town crowded at the wall to look for names of their loved ones. Order was perfect. Catalogues had been prepared with alphabetized names of each victim, with a number referencing the scroll, so that each person could easily find the names of his relatives recorded in the scroll.
The scroll itself, made of specially prepared parchment, was fashioned by an artist to look like a Torah scroll, and a Torah scribe entered the names of the Martyrs. It was placed at the Sanctuary of Names at a special place planned by an architect in coordination with Yad Vashem. Thus we eternalized at Yad Vashem the memory of those most dear to us who were lost in the Catastrophe. It should be mentioned that the Piotrkow community is the only one that was memorialized in this manner at Yad Vashem. The event was widely echoed among the public in Israel, and on June 5, 1985, Israeli television presented the traditional speech of our rabbi, Rabbi Israel Lau, dedicated to the Day of Remembrance of the Catastrophe and the Heroism, against the backdrop of the parchment scroll of the Piotrkow Martyrs at Sanctuary of Names of Yad Vashem, and the main topic of the speech was the scroll.
- In 1987, the 45th anniversary of the final liquidation of the Piotrkow community was observed. The Organization of Piotrkow Jews in Israel proclaimed it the year of the memorial scroll of the people of Piotrkow, and a world convention was organized (the third). It took place in Israel during the first week of May, 1987, between the Day of Memory and Israel's Independence Day. At the convention it was decided in the name of all the survivors of our community to take the scroll under our patronage and to make a commitment to locate the thousands of names of those who perished and were yet to be found, and exhort our town's people to fill the pages with the names of their relatives, friends, and neighbors who were lost, so that not a single name would be missing from the scroll. A particularly moving moment occurred during the convention when, after the ceremony at the Yad Vashem auditorium ended, the large crowd moved to the Sanctuary of Names where, in the presence of all, Rabbi Israel Lau handed the scroll to Henia Grinberg who, in the name of all the Jews of Piotrkow gave the scroll with the names of our Martyrs to the director of Yad Vashem, Dr. Yitzhak Arad, for perpetual safekeeping at the Sanctuary of Names on the Memorial Mountain in Jerusalem.
This is not the place to mention all those who stood by Henia Grinberg's side in accomplishing all those tasks, but one should at least mention the contribution of Yitzchak Goldfried, Shaya Pudlowsky, and Moshe Ish-Horowicz. Goldfried in helping to erect the monument in Holon. Pudlowsky in establishing the archive and preparing the memorial pages for the scroll, and Moshe Ish-Horowicz, who together with Naftali Lau-Lavie, Rabbi Israel Lau, and Elazar Prashker helped Henia Grinberg persuade Yad Vashem to agree to place the scroll of the Piotrkow Martyrs at the Sanctuary of Names at Yad Vashem, and labored hard and long to make the idea a reality.
This, then, is a brief summary of the link between the community of Piotrkow and its sons and daughters in Israel.
Jerusalem April 1991
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