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[Page 11 - Hebrew] [Page 15 - Yiddish]

Forward

by the Editors

Translated by Moses Milstein

This Yizkor book of the Shebreshiner community, one of the more than one thousand Jewish communities in Poland destroyed, is published 42 years after the massacres in the shtetl, and 39 years after the defeat of the Nazi regime and the end of the Second World War. Is it not too late? Is it not in the sense of too little, too late? Has not everything already been written about the destruction of Jewish life in Poland? Has the material not already been exhausted?

Of course this sad chapter in the history of our people has not been forgotten, but everything which has been written up to now has not emphasized enough the extent of the loss: the tragic end of the life-giving, thousand year old Jewish existence in Poland.

Many yizkor books of the devastated communities have been published, but it is not sufficient. Every one of the survivors wants to cherish the memories of the past, everyone wants to see his own city and story in the book, wants to immortalize that which is most intimate to him. Every city and shtetl was a little world of its own, a Jewish world with social institutions, political parties, organizations, schools, and synagogues, and a shared tradition. It is all unforgettable and demands expression.

Such was also Shebreshin, a shtetl in the Zamosc area, Lublin province, which was populated by 8,000 people before the war, 3,000 of whom were Jews.

Since that time, not only have many years passed; an upheaval in life has also occurred. Changes have occurred in society and in politics, ideas have changed, the landscape has changed, new alliances have been made, the state of Israel has been founded. Nevertheless, there is still, to some extent, a longing for that era, when there was a full Jewish life, a communal life, a feeling of togetherness in suffering and hope.

*

There were no lack of problems in editing this book.

  1. Most of the material was written by the survivors of the catastrophe, the sharit haplita, in the early years after the war. Some was written abroad near the time when the events occurred, when memories were still fresh. Most of the articles were written in Yiddish, before aliyah to Israel or soon after aliyah. Few were written in Hebrew in the original version.

    In order for the younger generation–children of the survivors born in Israel for whom Yiddish is not their first language–to be able to read the book, so they will not be estranged from the work but will be able to share in the experiences and feelings of their parents and recognize the history that that generation endured , that went through hell, we have translated part of the material into Hebrew.

  2. This book was not written by historians or practiced writers. The contributors have presented the details of what they lived through–persecution, humiliation, repression, torture, mass murder, and also by contrast–personal life during peaceful times, deep, colorful, lively, the passion for life, the struggle to survive and prevail.

    As a result, there are a few problems such as a lack of consistency about dates of occurrences. Understandably, in the heat of the horrible events, it was not possible, nor did it occur to most, to concern themselves with chronological issues. Only a few with a historical bent had the notion of writing memoirs in order to document the horrifying events for future generations.

    Not everything dealt with in the book is the height of artistic creation, and not every poem pretends to be the best. Ordinary people, not authors or poets, tried to describe their feelings and what they lived through in that catastrophic era, with the skills they had. But it is precisely because of these authentic descriptions, personal events, and intimate experiences, that a documentary value is brought to the work.

  3. In collecting the material at the beginning, no attention was given to assigning topics. Unfortunately, no direction was given at the time, and every contributor wrote according to his understanding. As a result, many contributors wrote about “everything”–a few sentences about the way of life in shtetl, a few about the Holocaust, about flight and wandering, about suffering and death, at times about certain personalities, and all of it mixed together.

    Since any one topic was only touched upon, and everything was mixed together as one, no one point was completely elaborated. Such a treatment could not serve any one theme. Furthermore there were many duplications and repetitions which made the material unsuitable. It was not easy to sift through the material and choose what was appropriate to publish, and to supplement what was missing.

    In contrast, it is worth pointing out that there were other contributors who intuitively described their memories in a specific form and at the appropriate level.

  4. As time went by, the editors underwent personal changes which impeded the work and delayed publication. As well, the difficulty of collecting this unusual material took much time.
  5. The contributors are widely dispersed in Israel and abroad. Every revision or edit was therefore difficult.
Nevertheless, in spite of the difficulties and constraints, we did all we could to achieve completeness. We overcame the difficulties through strict selection of material, careful editing and efforts to supplement what was lacking. Hopefully, we brought the book to a worthy level.

The editors took no political position. If somewhere a sympathetic tone to a particular political position is perceived, it arises from the legitimate and natural inclinations of the writer, and it is his responsibility.

*

The editors took care that the material was true to the original, accurate, without obvious changes, and as far as possible, in the language of the writer.

We tried to improve the style but not to make it too lofty; correct it, but not embellish it or make it overly literary, or fit a prescribed form. We tried to avoid confusion, and to sort through, pick out and make the material clear and pertinent.

*

In the Yiddish section, we struggled with various expressions: Polish, Russian, German as well as Hebrew, and local words and idioms. We wanted to bring out the particular characteristics of the language of the writers, not to omit the local argot, but without inaccuracies, or illiteracies, or foreign designations. Sometimes it was not easy to decide.

*

The residents of the town were usually not known by their family names. Almost everyone had a nickname–sometimes after the name of the father or mother, sometimes according to a trade or business, and sometimes by external appearance, after a given event, or a humorous trait. These nicknames were so popular that omitting them would have made people hard to identify.

*

We thank all those who have helped us in this holy effort–the contributors as well as the sponsors without whose financial contribution it would not have been possible to publish this yizkor book.

A special heartfelt thanks goes to our comrade Mendl Boim, who spent years collecting the material in Israel and from abroad. He was the address for contacts from Israel, Poland, the United States, Canada, Argentina, and motivated them to write. He did all this voluntarily. The five journals he published–with contributions from our shtetl folk–were the predecessors that laid the foundation for the publication of our book.

*

Now, so long after the destruction of our shtetl, the former residents are ready to forgive it all its flaws and still long for it. People yearn for their childhood home, and look to it for the roots of their origins. But no, they do not want to return there, not even for a quick visit. They have no one there to visit. There, after all, was where their dear ones were murdered, and slaughtered, and the few survivors fled wherever their feet took them. That place will bring them no pleasure, only pain and grief.

The shtetl has probably changed in appearance with the passage of time. There are probably new houses built on the graves and ruins. But they, the former residents, carry its memory in their hearts as it once was, before the terrible events. The fabled town has become a symbol which draws them together as one family.

The landsleit are now spread far and wide, separated by continents, their souls split asunder. They are putting down roots in new homes spending their days and nights among family, at work, business, but they feel a greater bond with their childhood friends with whom they can share memories, their feelings, and hopes for the future, with whom they can discuss any subject better than with anyone else. The shared spiritual heritage is their common bond. Someone from New York, Montreal, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, feels closer to his landsman from Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem than to his present neighbor.

It is natural for the yizkor book to be published in Israel. It is not only because it is the center of the Jewish people, but also because here reside the greatest number of the sherit haplita of our shtetl.

May this book be a symbol and a witness to our shared fate and shared thoughts. Here the contributors brought their thoughts, their energy, their neshome yese'yre[1], in order to bring out their sense of community, the shared feelings that transcend geographical borders. It seems that in spite of the contradictions, the conflicts and struggles of the past, they find themselves again together, arm in arm, united in thought and feeling.

The Editors


Translator's Footnote

  1. Sabbath soul/joy Return

 

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