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[Pages 74 - 78]

Ropshitz (Ropczyce)
During the Occupation (1939-1945)

by Yehoshua Gold

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

On the 5th day after the war broke out the Germans bombed the city and afterwards occupied it. The Jews suffered casualties during the bombing. When the Germans entered the city they saw the beautiful Bet Midrash, full of holy books, Gemarot, etc., and they decided to burn everything inside. In order to prevent the fire from spreading to the entire area the Germans ordered Jewish girls to pour water on the walls, but everything inside was burnt. The Bet Midrash had served the orthodox and the Belz, Zhikov and Bobov Chasidim. During the burning several German soldiers climbed up to the attic of the building to search for valuables, but since the ceiling was made of thin boards they fell with the ceiling directly into the fire and two of them were burned to death. Their fellow soldiers blamed the Rabbi of the congregation for the death and took vengeance by severely beating him and then, to humiliate him, they dragged him, as well as the Shamash, wounded and bleeding through the streets until they were dead.

The German command, which had located itself in “Plebania” (the grandiose home of the local priest), decided to further degrade the Jews in the eyes of the Christian residents and took all the men of the city to do humiliating work, and the girls to peel potatoes for the soldiers. They particularly chose the good looking girls for this work. The girls were required to sing while they worked, but the girls, members of the “Hashomer Hadati” and “Akiva” Movements, refused. They told the Germans that “if you are in the mood to sing, then you sing; we are not in such a mood”.

The Germans did not tolerate such audacity and told the girls that even when they finished the work they would not allow them to go home. The girls then got up and sang “Hatikvah”. My sister, Yehudit Gold, who was a leader in “Hashomer Hadati”, sang “Hatikvah” silently, but the Germans noticed this and punished her by making her shine their boots after the work. There is another story about Yehudit: My brother, Naphtali, who was very religious and a Belzer Chasid, wanted to eat in a Sukkah on the holiday of Sukkot, but since he lived in a Christian neighborhood he couldn't eat in the Sukkah at his house. When he went to eat in a Sukkah in the Jewish neighborhood he was grabbed by the Germans and sent to clean the windows of the school in which the German anti-aircraft unit was located. Several hours passed and since he had not returned home his family began to worry. When they found out where he was, Yehudit, a very independent and brave girl, volunteered to go to the school. There she told the German officer that she could do the work better. When she finished the water in the pail she turned to the officer and ordered him to bring her another pail of clean water. The officer was amazed by this audacity and he was curious to meet her family.The next day he came to the home of the family with several of his friends. On talking to the family, they discovered that they were familiar with the writings in the German press. A discussion arose between them about the German researcher of the Talmud, Fleischaker, who deliberately misquoted the Talmud and published it in the press. Her brother, Naftali,gave the correct quotations and proved that what was written in the press was a big lie. The officers were amazed to find intellectual people in this outlying place. They later asked to visit the family again and brought them food commodities which were scarce at that time. The officers then advised the family to flee but their advice was not taken because they were afraid of the difficulties of the journey; they could not imagine what the Germans would be capable of doing.

The difficulties increased from day to day, especially after war also broke out with Russia in 1941. In the beginning of 1942 the Jews were gathered in a ghetto in the Jewish street, together with the Jews of the surrounding villages. The crowding was terrible. The young men were taken out of the ghetto and sent to the “Pustkow”concentration camp, which before the war had been the largest industrial center in Poland called “COP”. From there only one young man out of thousands was saved, thanks to his technical talents. His name was Monis Dembitzer and he is now living in the United States.

Among those exterminated in Pustkow was my father, Ephraim Fishel Gold, and my brothers Naphtali, David, Yaakov and Yosef Mordechai.

On the10th of Av, 1942, the ghetto was emptied of the remaining women, children and old people.The young women were sent by train to the Belzec concentration camp. The train was carrying lime and all the women were poisoned. According to what the Christians told, none of them reached the camp alive. Among them were my two sisters, Yehudit and Esther.

The extermination of the Jews in the Belzec camp was carried out completely by Ukranians who were bloodthirsty for Jewish blood even more than their German commanders.

In 1967 I traveled to Poland with the “Hitachdut Olei Polin” (Association of Polish Jews in Israel) and visited the Belzec camp. The forest guard told me that in 1960 some of the Ukranian murderers who were caught by the Russians were brought by them to reconstruct their deeds before the trial.

Those who remained in the ghetto, women, children and old people, were driven on foot to the neighboring town of Sedziszow, 7 km. from Ropshitz, where they were all shot to death and buried in a common grave.

After the ghetto was liquidated, my mother, Gittel Leah Gold (nee Birnbaum) with my little sister Hindele, who was seven years old, were sent to ghetto Bovna, which existed for about another half a year. Their fate is unknown.

After the war, I learned about the following stories from a book “Cases of Resistance to the Germans”:

Chaim Hirsch attacked the Germans with a butcher's knife when they came to take his family away. The Germans shot him on the spot.

The son of Chaim Leiman was able to get a gun and he took vengeance on the Poles who had cooperated with the Germans. The Poles, in cooperation with the Germans, laid siege to him in his hiding place and he was finally killed while actively resisting.

Mayer Schnor was able to hide for some time, but the Poles constantly harassed him until he finally hung himself.

Yehoshua and Yechiel Borer, who were the owners of considerable property, forests and fields, hid with the man who guarded their forest. In the end they were killed by the guard himself. I learned this from an anonymous letter I received when I was in Poland in 1945.

The judge Kaufman, who was an assimilated Jew with hardly any connection to Judaism, preferred to go with what he called “my brothers' people”, and not to be saved by his gentile mistress.

This was the fate of the Jews of Ropshitz, a town with many Jewish institutions and community life run by exemplary volunteer work, a town of outstanding Torah scholars, intellectuals, University graduates and lecturers in well-known institutions, a town in which the youth were educated in both Torah and secular studies and engaged in a wide spectrum of Zionist activities.

The few who survived were the “Halutzim” (pioneers who came to the Land of Israel), and some of those who fled to Russia.


[Pages 81 - 85]

The Story of a Survivor
of the Second World War

by Yehoshua Gold

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

I don't know of many cases of bravery among the Jews of our town, which contributed to the revival of Poland in 1918. There also was no special reason for such acts because they were very satisfied with the rule of Franz Joseph of Austria. On the other hand, when Poland was reestablished the Jews began to suffer from plots against them on the part of non-Jews, and especially by soldiers of Heller's regiment (of ill fame).

Eventually, the young people who did not remember Franz Joseph's rule, began to believe that they had to fulfill all the civil obligations towards Poland. Therefore, when the time arrived to report for duty in the Polish army at the age of 21, the young people accepted this as their civil duty, except for the very religious yeshiva students who were afraid that the Poles would cut off their payot (long sideburns) and beards. Thus in the years 1936 to 1939 there were many young Jews in the Polish army. There we began to feel the discrimination against the Jewish soldiers, in spite of the fact that they were much better than the Christian soldiers. No Jew ever reached officers training school. We remained in companies which performed guard duty and training exercises. Understandably we counted the days until discharge. Our main aspiration was to go on Aliyah to the Land of Israel.

When the war broke out, the German spies saw to it that the lists of men in the army reserves were switched with the lists of men who had never served. That, understandably, resulted in great confusion and helped the Germans to take over the country without any chance for the army reserves to be mobilized.

When the war broke out I was in Lodz, and I waited there to be called up. I wanted to avert having to take leave from the family when I went into the army, so I didn't hurry to return home. During the first days I took shelter against the bombing with a friend, in his basement. After several sleepless nights, I decided to go to the apartment in order to get some sleep. When I left the apartment after the first night of sleep, the streets of Lodz were empty. I heard from an old Jewish woman that an order had been received for all the men to go to the east, in the direction of Warsaw the capital. I turned a pillow case into a knapsack for the essential items and I started out to catch up with those who had left before me. As I left the city I saw the victims of the German bombing. As I had learned in the army, I traveled through the fields instead of on the main roads until I reach the city of Gur. There I stayed until the Germans came in. I then crossed the road between two regiments, and ran in the direction of the Wisla River. There were other men on the banks of the river, and those who knew how to swim, including me, crossed the river with the help of several small boats which arrived from the other side to save us. I was left with nothing except my pants and coat. When we reached the other side I found a gun which had been thrown away by the Polish army in their flight. We threatened a Polish farmer with the gun and forced him to take us in his wagon to Warsaw where we reported to the army command and demanded to be inducted into the army. Because of the chaos, they didn't know what to do with us, and we were not inducted. The advised us to continue to flee to the east. They confiscated the gun we had. We continued by wagon and on foot until we reached Lublin. There I found out that Ropshitz had been bombed and I decided not to go any further until I found out what had become of my family. In the meantime the Germans captured Lublin too. They gathered all the Jewish men in one place and kept us there for three days, sitting without food or water and without any possibility of sleeping. After three days the Germans realized that the city was paralyzed without the Jewish workers, and they started to release the essential workers. I presented myself as a baker and was therefore allowed to leave. I fled and began to go by foot in the direction of Ropshitz. When I reached the town of Nisko it was Yom Kippur eve. I went to someone from my town who lived there, I washed myself and prayed “Kol Nidrei” with other refugees who were there. On the eve of the Sukkot holiday I arrived home and found my family all well. I stayed home for six weeks. Finally, I decided that I could no longer suffer the disgrace and the humiliation of the Germans and I decided to steal across the border to Russia.

Since my tefilin had been lost when I crossed the Wisla river, when I took leave of my family, I borrowed the tefilin of my brother David to take with me. These tefilin are more dear to me than gold; they were with me during all the hardships of war and afterwards, and they are with me to this day in the sack which my sister Esther embroidered. Both David and Esther were killed, may G-d avenge their blood.

I left Ropshitz in October 1939, with a neighbor named Gedaliah Bilfeld, with the intention of stealing across the border to the part of Poland which was under Russian rule, according to the Ribentropf-Molotov pact. We intended to reach Gedaliah's sister Nehama, who lived in Sanok, on the San River. The opposite side of the San River was under Russian rule. We crossed the river at night, and with considerable hardship and with the help of bribery, we reached the city of Drohobitz where there were many Jews.

(I met Nehama in 1945 and she told me how she was saved by hiding in the hollow trunk of an old tree in the forest, where she hid with another woman for two years, during winter and summer. The non-Jews in the area brought them bread from time to time and did not inform the Germans about them.)

Some time later we went on to Lwow where we met others from Ropshitz. I particularly became friendly with Haim Moshe Parker. When the Russian authorities gathered all the Polish refugees in order to send them to work camps in Siberia, they took him too. I decided to go with him. In the end they sent him to a concentration camp, and sent me to Arkhangelsk to the Kotlas work camp near the North Pole. I worked there for a year and a half, until September 1941. We did back-breaking work, tying up wooden rafts and launching them on the river. In September 1941 I was released, in keeping with the Shikorski agreement. I was alone and I decided to try to go south in the direction of the Persian border, with the intention of reaching the Land of Israel. On the way I heard rumors about many who were killed trying to cross the Persian border, so I remained in Buchara. During my stay there, until the end of 1944, I suffered from the serious illnesses which afflicted the refugees and which cost the lives of many of them. I tried to make a living and to help others. The refugees in Buchara were able to live traditional Jewish lives. There was a synagogue (in a home), and even a Yiddish theater and other cultural activities.

When we heard on the radio that Warsaw had been liberated, I decided, together with two friends, Fink Gartner and David Shtokfish, to return to Poland at all cost. With the help of false documents which we bought in Samarkand (as if we were N.K.V.D. agents!), and after many adventures, we reached Lublin, which had already been liberated. It was there that we were terrified to hear of horrors the Jews had suffered at the hands of the Nazis. I must emphasize that all during the war I knew nothing about my family or about my home town. On the other hand, we had read in the Russian newspapers about the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto, but nothing was said about the reason for the uprising.

In April 1945 we reached Ropshitz. On the way, in the town of Mielec, where my grandfather was a shochet (ritual slaughterer), I met several survivors who gave me no hope of finding anyone alive. When I arrived in Ropshitz, I went to the house of one of our Polish neighbors to hear from her what had happened. Poles were living in our house, and my heart wouldn't let me go into the house. The neighbor told of all the horrors, but added that there was one survivor, Manes Dembitzer. He was the only one who survived the concentration camp, and he was living in the gymnasia building. I stayed in Ropshitz for several weeks, with Manes, until there was a blood libel against the Jews of Rzeszow (Reisha), accusing them of killing a Polish girl and taking her blood. There was a pogrom against the Jews who had survived the war and had returned to Poland. Threats were made against us and shots were fired at the place where we were living. Fortunately we were not there at the time. We then saw that our place was not here. We knew that Zvi Antwerpen had been discharged from the Polish army, had married, and was living in Baldenburg. We went to visit him. Sitting in a Polish restaurant, we sang Hebrew songs. An agent of the “Ichud” heard us and took us to organize and lead groups preparing for Aliyah to the Land of Israel. I started with a group of discharged soldiers, and when Jews started returning from Russia, I organized a group for adults, youth, and a children's house in Bilba, near Reichenbach. We sent the groups, illegally, to Germany, where they came under the auspices of the “Joint” and of UNRA.

When the War of Liberation broke in 1948, part of the group reached the Land of Israel on the ship “Exodus”, and the remainder were organized in the framework of “Gachal” (“Giyus Chutz La'aretz”), an organization preparing for illegal immigration. All of us participated in the War of Liberation, in one action or another. To our sorrow, some of them fell in battle. They gave their lives for the rebirth of the nation and people.

When I was discharged from the Israeli Defense Forces, I met with those who had come from Ropshitz, and we joined the Organization of Polish Immigrants. Among those who were most active, Winiger (Ganor) and his wife Sarah, Zehava Reich and Dr. Eichenholz will be remembered for a blessing.

Here in the Land of Israel I finally reached “m'nuchah v'nachalah” (a resting place and heritage), and here I established my home and raised my family.


[Page 86]

Data obtained from Poland

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

Population distribution by year:

Year Overall
population
Jews
1880 3,676 1,165
1890 3,644 1,071
1900 3,578 1,054
1910 3,339 1,069
1921 3,002 840 (28%)
1939 1,200  

Dates of annihilation of the Jews of the shtetl:

June 1942 operation: 150 men sent to Postkow camp
July 1942 operation: Old people and children shot on the spot.
Those able to work sent to Sedziszow and
from there to Belzec
July 1942: Sent to Belzec, some via Debica


[Pages 87 - 88]

The Attempts of the Priest
Dr. Jan Zewiz to Save Jews

by Bogdan Novick

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

The following is a translation of an article in Polish which appeared on July 3, 1982 in the newspaper “Volks Shtime”.

Ropshitz, located on the Wielopolka River in Western Galicia, is now a city of about 5,000 inhabitants and is a rather poor agricultural center. It is here that the priest Jan Zewiz was a teacher in elementary schools during the Second World War. He was lover of mankind, in accordance with his Christian belief.

This is how he describes the situation during the rule of sub-human hatred:

The Nazis organized the annihilation of the Jews by sending them to the Postkow concentration camp. We tried to protect these Jews in the schools. We gave jobs to many of the Jews in order to save them, but they were sent to the camp in spite of that. I then went to the German regional commander, Schuter, and I tricked him by saying that they we could not do without them. Unfortunately this only worked for a short time. The tragic day arrived when none of our efforts helped. I will never forget, however, the gratitude of those whom we were able to free, even for a short time, from the hell of the camp.

Once, a Jew named Eiden came to me in sorrow, telling me that he had a sick boy who must be sent to the hospital in Tarnow. Again I went to the same commander and I tricked him into letting me use his car for an administrative purpose. Of course he didn't know that a German car would be used for a sick Jewish boy.

I also succeeded in obtaining the release of young Jews, whom the Germans were using for all kinds of degrading jobs, and gave them jobs in the agricultural gymnasia, although this was only for a short time.

Dr. Jan Zewiz saw all men as creatures of G-d, and especially children of persecuted Jews.


[Pages 89 - 91]

Description of the Last Days
of Some of the Jews of Ropshitz

by Sarah Avraham (Gold)

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

An excerpt from a letter written by Dr. Eichenholtz to people in America from his city:
….what happened immediately after the Nazis invaded the town, when most of the Jews were still there to witness it:

The Germans dragged the Rabbi of Ropshitz, Rabbi Yitzchak Liberman, battered and bleeding, through the streets of the town to his death, but he, in the greatness of his saintly tortured soul, laughed in the faces of the murderers…. With the words “Sh'maYisrael” on his lips, a hail of bullets put an end to his pure tortured soul.

Afterwards, the terror continued, in “fire and pillars of smoke”. The Jews of Ropshitz, in despair, went to their bitter end. They were lead by the leader of the community, our beloved Aharon Zeiden of blessed memory, with his long flowing white beard and patriarchal appearance.

When they realized that their bitter end was near, a bottle of whiskey miraculously appeared and at once everyone wished each other “L'chaim”. This magically created a joyous atmosphere, beyond understanding, reminiscent of the Simchat Torah Festival….

Thus, on the very threshold of death, on the edge of the abyss, they came to their end as holy martyrs, sanctifying His Holy Name.

EL MALAY RACHAMIM…. (O G-D, FULL OF MERCY, WHO DWELLS ON HIGH, GRANT PROPER REST ON THE WINGS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE, IN THE LOFTY LEVELS OF THE HOLY AND PURE ONES….)
When it is said by our children that our people went like sheep to the slaughter, my entire being rebels against such talk. I would better describe the way they went as like going to the biblical “Binding of Isaac”. I have the impression and belief that our People had been prepared for self-sacrifice ever since The Lord had mercy on Abraham and provided a sacrifice in the place of Isaac. This also has another meaning. If Isaac had really been sacrificed, there would be no People of Israel and there would have been no one to declare at Mt. Sinai “na'ase v'nishma” (we will do and we will obey). This declaration by the Jewish people, indicating that they will do what G-d commands, even if they do not fully understand why, is the basic preparation for willingness for self sacrifice when needed.

Today, mathematicians can calculate how many generations would have to be born before the Nazi holocaust in order for one to be equal to six million.

I still remember, from the time when I used to play in the sand, that when I saw Jews clad in black hurrying to the afternoon and evening prayers, I would feel a twinge in my heart and I would shed a tear without knowing why. It is as if I knew then what was to happen to them.

The Jewish child was never really happy or laughing. When one spoke of “Jewish eyes”, what was meant was sad eyes. The Jewish child lived in fear, be it for the punishment of Hell, or the fear of the Gentiles, or the feeling that he is not excelling enough. And of course there was the fear of demons, and all kinds of superstitions.

For generations the Jewish People have been taught that this world is just a corridor leading to the World-to-Come. Generations grew up with the belief that excessive material pleasures and joy-making in this world are not fitting for our People. Those who fasted every Monday and Thursday were considered praiseworthy. Is this not the preparation of a People for self sacrifice?

Please, O G-d, find a lofty place for them among all the holy martyrs who have been sacrificed.

Everything around us was as if it was prepared for this rite: the murderers and also the Polish People who brought the People of Israel to the sacrifice. We, who loved the Polish People, who loved their land and thought of ourselves as citizens of that country and adopted for ourselves the history of that land, were delivered by them into the hands of the murderers.

THESE WORDS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN IN MEMORY OF MANY FAMILIES:

Berger; Lev; Spielman; Betail; Isler; Franzblau; Beigel Yaakov, his wife Esther, their daughter Elka, her husband Anshel Hershlag and their son; Berger Leib and his wife, their three daughters and their families and their son Yitzchak; Borer Sarah and her sons Yehoshua and Yechiel; Goldner Elazar and Esther and families, Asher and his family and Yaakov and his family; Avraham Gold and his wife Rivka and families, their daughters Malka and Sheindel, and their son Haim Noach. AND ALL THOSE WHOSE NAMES I DO NOT REMEMBER, WHO WENT TO BE SACRIFICED AND NEVER ASKED “WHERE IS THE SHEEP FOR THE ALTAR”?

MAY THEY BE OF BLESSED MEMORY.


[Pages 92 - 95]

Impressions from a
Trip to Poland in 1967

by Yehoshua Gold

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

The Polish government organized a memorial service to mark 22 years since the liberation of the concentration camps in Auschwitz, and invited a delegation from the Organization of Immigrants from Poland. I joined the delegation as a representative of the Organization of Immigrants from Ropshitz.

Seventy people arrived in Warsaw in April, 1967, led by Anshel Reiss, the president of the organization. I took advantage of the time that we had before the memorial service, to go to visit Ropshitz. I traveled by train to Krakow, and from there went by bus in order to better see the scenery which I remembered so well. All the towns were still there, but the Jews who had added so much color to the places, were gone, and it all looked to me so gray and lifeless.

I arrived in Ropshitz in the evening. There were very few people moving in the streets, people I did not know. One non-Jew did know me. “Yehoshua, you are alive!!?”, I heard behind me. It was a classmate from the Polish school with whom I used to play soccer. His name is Kozop. I went together with him in the direction of our house, hoping to find a place to sleep over with one of the previous neighbors. Our neighbor, the seamstress (who now sews cloths for the new aristocrats – the high ranking communists), received me with open arms and invited me to stay with her as long as necessary. All the old neighbors gathered in her home and we talked till the middle of the night. Among them was the secretary of the town's mayor and he promised to arrange a meeting with him.

The next day I wanted to go to the Jewish cemetery to visit the graves. To my sorrow, not a single gravestone remained, and even the fence had been destroyed. Even the old cemetery, in which were buried, over the centuries, many Rabbis and righteous sages, among them my great grandfather Shmuel Zanvel Birnbaum, who was the right hand man of the famous Rabbi Naphtali, was razed to the ground, and on its place were built housing projects.

I had already known in 1945 that in the attic of the home of the Christian named Novski, there was a large collection of sacred books which he had taken from the Bet Midrash (study hall). When the war was over I was unable to take those books with me. I returned there now to ask for them. The new occupant told me that the Ministry of Culture had removed the books, as well as gravestones which had been used on the sidewalks during the occupation, and had taken all of it to the city of Tarnow.

The next day I decided to visit the Belzec concentration camp, where, I assumed, my sisters had been killed together with all the girls of the town. I reached Belzec by taxi in the afternoon. The camp was on a hill, bordered on one side by a forest, and on the other side were railroad tracks which the Germans had built for transporting their victims. The Poles had, very respectfully, turned the camp into a museum, but without any mention of the fact that all the victims were Jews. I photographed what I could, lit candles, and recited the “Kaddish” prayer by the central building. In the basement there were many human bones. I took one bone with me back to Israel, and it is buried beneath the memorial for our shtetl which we erected in the cemetery in Holon.

While I was praying, the Polish taxi driver, an emotional Christian, photographed me. He listened with tears in his eyes when I told him that among those bones were the bones of my sisters.

The forest keeper saw me on the trip and invited me to his house for a cup of coffee. He saw in me a representative of all Galician Jewry who had been killed in that place.

On the way back, I went to the common grave in Sedziszow where all the old people and the youth of Ropshitz, Sedziszow and Wielopole had been killed. There too, I lit candles and recited the “Kaddish”.

In the evening I returned to Ropshitz and told my hosts all I had seen and done that day. They also were very moved and they cried when I mentioned my family, and especially my little sister Hindele whom they loved very much.

The next day I went to meet the mayor to talk to him about fencing off the cemetery. He had not known the Jews of Ropshitz because he was not originally from there. In spite of that he received me warmly and listened to me attentively, but said that he did not have the budget for fencing off the place. I answered him that from the interest on the property that the Jews had left here one could build fences around a lot of cemeteries. Unfortunately my efforts were of no avail, because shortly after I returned to Israel the Six Day War Broke out and Poland broke off relations with Israel.

The same day I also visited the Postkow concentration camp, which is not far from Ropshitz. There all the young men found their death. I went there accompanied by the two Kozop brothers who told me what they had seen with their very eyes during the war when they were working in the camp as free citizens. Here also there was a monument which did not mention that the victims were Jews. The Kozop brothers told me about the method of the murders: The S.S. received orders to send a certain number of Jews to work every day, but to return a limited number. They themselves invented the reasons for depleting the numbers. Thus, for instance, Leiman was killed because he picked a strawberry on the way in the forest. The survivors brought back the bodies themselves and burned them in the crematorium which is still standing today. The torture shack, where the headquarters was, is also still standing. From there were heard the screams of the holy martyrs.

Among the victims in that shack was Eliezer Fimshtein, a qualified engineer and a gifted musician, who used to send for the latest song books from Palestine and then teach us in the youth movements the newest songs. Others who were killed in that shack were Shmuel Friedman, a qualified lawyer, and his friend, Eliezer Goldner, a very learned Jew, Yissachar Heznkopf, a highly educated young man with literary talent, Yehoshua Issler, a leader in “Hashomer Hadati” movement, Haim Liberman, who was active in the “Akiva” movement, and many others whom we will never forget. Their aspirations to go up to the Land of Israel and participate in its rebuilding were not fulfilled.

When I returned to Ropshitz I was told that a teacher in the gymnasia had an old Hebrew book. I went there and saw that it was a copy of the tractate “Bava Batra” of the Talmud, printed in Wilna in 1900, bound in leather, and I immediately identified it as one of the volumes of the Talmud belonging to my grandfather. The man demanded $100 for it, which, unfortunately I did not have after all my expenses.

In another case involving a teacher, I was presented with a Hanukah menorah which his son, when he was a small boy, had found in the ruins of the Bet Hamidrash. This menorah had been used to light the Hanukah candles in the Bet Hamidrash. The teacher gave it to me as a gift, saying “it is a Jewish object and it belongs to you”. I brought the menorah home.

The next morning I traveled back to Krakow where I met the rest of our group at the airport, and from there we went to Auschwitz.


[Pages 98 - 101]

The Home of the Rabbi

by Sarah Avraham (Gold)

Translated by Aryeh Wanderman

The Rabbi's house was located next to the Bet Midrash (study hall) and the Shul (synagogue). Its appearance reflected its true character: a house open on both ends.

From about 1925 to 1930, the Rabbi was Rabbi Shimon Horowitz, a warm Jew, open to all who came to him. I will tell about the house and all who lived there in those years, when I was closely associated with them.

The Rabbi lived in the house with his wife, who married him at an advanced age when she came from the United States. With them lived the Rabbi's daughter Mirele, whose husband was formerly in Vienna and after that emigrated to the United States, where, as a descendent of the Sanz (Halberstam) dynasty, he lived for many years, and where Mirele arrived in the years before the war after her two sons married and established families in Poland. She was a very tolerant and wise woman, in addition to being very religious. I remember, in the 1920's, when Halutzim (pioneers) were going to the Lad of Israel, Rabbi Shimon Issler, a very well-to-do person, came to her to ask her advice about what to do about his rebellious son who also wanted, “G-d forbid”, to go to the Land of Israel. She told him: “Shimon, go out and buy all the best things for your son, as if he were getting married, and help him with everything as if he were getting settled here, because if you don't do this he will not consider you his parents, and even a letter you won't get from him. And if you do as I advise, perhaps G-d will help, and when the time comes, he will return to you.” One must know that at that time there was great opposition among the very religious to any form of Zionism, and in spite of that, this was her advice.

Off the same corridor lived Haya, whose husband Yitzchak Liberman inherited the rabbinate of Ropshitz after the death of Rabbi Shimon. Rabbi Yitzchak was the first victim of the Nazis. He was a handsome man, learned in Torah and science.

Another daughter of Rabbi Shimon, Hanna Mindel, and his only son, lived in Vienna. The granddaughter, Leah, used to come from Vienna on vacations, and loved the place very much. I believe she survived and lives in the United States.

Another daughter, Rivka, was a Rabanit (“Rebetzin”, Rabbi's wife) in Dobitzk (?), and Beila was a Rabanit in Yanow (?).

In the northern corner, off the second corridor, opposite the Bet Midrash, lived the daughter Sarah'le. Her husband, Rabbi Yitzchak Rubin (Merils) went to the United States to serve there as a Rabbi. Sarah'le also joined him there. They had a son and three daughters. One of the daughters, Leah, later became a Rabanit in Magirow (?). Another daughter, Eidel, who was my dear friend, married a rabbi from the Babad (?) family and became a Rabanit in Niemirow(?). She had three sons and led a happy life. She was a very good looking, well educated woman, and worked as a supervisor. Eidel was very proud of her Jewishness. I remember once in school the Polish principal asked, jokingly, if the Jews also had any small newspapers. Eidel answered her with audacity that we have big newspapers, as well as literature and culture that would put the Poles to shame. The third daughter, Devorah, was with her parents in the United States, and several months before the war was sent back by them to Ropshitz to find a “shiduch” (a mate). Thus it happened that they were all killed by the Nazis.

In 1950 Rabbi Yitzchak Rubin arrived in Jerusalem. I visited him with my husband. The Rabbi told us that when he learned of the extent of his terrible loss, his wife Sarah'le asked him to divorce her, because she could no longer give him children, and to marry another woman who would be able to provide him with an heir. He, of course, refused to listen to her, and she died in sorrow in the United States.

Rabbi Yitzchak was a noble person. When he saw that both my brother and I had, thank G-d, families in Israel, he said that he was very happy that at least his friend (my father Fishel) had the privilege of perpetuity of his offspring here in Israel. The Rabbi passed away here in Israel. May his memory be blessed.

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