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[Page 381]

Zenik the Partisan

by Yankel Lam

Translated by Moses Milstein

In 1946, in Ulm, Germany, I meet Zindl Reiber, known among the partisans as Zenik. He was the youngest son of Yosel and Feige Reiber, Yuske Kandel's daughter. With deep sadness, he revealed to me only a few drops of the well of tears filled with suffering and death that he was drowning in.

Hundreds of Jews fled to the forests, mostly to the Kasabader forest, with the frail hope of saving their lives. Among these were Zenik and his family.

He told me, “After days of hunger and thirst, we were forced to look for food in the nearest village. When we returned bringing food, we found all of our dearest ones, almost my entire family slaughtered, together with many other Jews. ”

“My brother and I, and some other young people, fled deeper into the woods. We acquired weapons—rifles and bullets, and began attacks against the murderers knowing full well that the game could not be won…We joined with other partisans and kept on attacking but our numbers kept diminishing. ”

“My brother and I avenged our parents…. After Mandza, Zeftl Reiber's daughter, fell in battle, my brother was wounded in the arm. Not wanting to fall into the hands of the murderers, he took his own life with his last bullet. ”

“I wandered in the never ending forests until Izbice, my only friend the rifle on my shoulders, under my coat. I got into the Izbice ghetto, and looked up the Pelz family. I encouraged them to leave, and guided them out, one by one, to the forest. As a result, twelve of them survived to the liberation.”

I spoke to him at length, trying to reawaken some hope in him. My gaze was concentrated on his characteristically good-natured face in which only some outlines of the blossoming youth that once was remained. I saw no trace of happiness anymore, no sign of a future.

The abnormal conditions of his life—nights without sleep, days without food—created medical complications in this, not yet mature, boy. In 1948, he underwent an operation, and at the age of twenty-two, he breathed his last.

Brooklyn, New York


[Page 386]

Hard work, beautiful manners

by Ephraim Farber

Translated by Moses Milstein

Everybody in the shtetl loved the Dreier family. The grandfather, Moishe Chaim, made a living as a carpenter. The grandmother, Machle, also worked, and brought help to the needy.

*

While it is still dark outside, and the only sounds are the crowing of the black crows on the church steeples, and a fine autumn rain is falling, Moishe Chaim hurries along with a talis and tefillin in hand to the first minyan. After davening, he can't afford the luxury of sitting around until late in the day like the batlonim. The need to make a living makes him hurry his davening.

He's also a member of the Chevrah Kedusha. He receives no money for this holy work. He does it “l'shem shamayim.” Someone, after all, has to look after graves going back 120 years. He will have something to complain about when he gets to the Bet din shel male and gives an accounting of his deeds in this sinful world.

*

Babe Machle wore a bonnet over her wig from which fringes appear giving her a coquettish appearance.

Hidden in the creases of her old face are the hard bygone days, the mother's care for her children, the sleepless nights.

Most of the time, she is occupied with her small stall in the large market hall. The stall contains: buttons, thread, needles, combs—in brief, a “haberdashery.” Most days of the week, she looks for customers, who rarely show themselves. The big “pidyon” is market day which takes place on Tuesdays.

On cold winter days, she warms herself with a pan of glowing coals which she keeps at her feet covered with her long petticoat. The pennies earned are an important contribution to the household.

Aside from her “big haberdashery business,” she is busy with her twelve children.

In her free time, she helps needy families and sick widows of which there are many in the shtetl.

*

Machle's daughter, Mattl, followed in her mother's footsteps. She was “goodness itself,” compassionate towards her fellow man and his suffering.

She would discreetly gather chales, and fish and other dishes from the better-off families. Quiet as an angel, she would slip into a house whose poverty glared from every corner, and with a mild, warm smile spread on her face she would put down the basket of goods. She was careful to do this so no one would see, in order not to shame those in need.

Her reward was the happiness in knowing that Shabes would not be spoiled here, and a family would enjoy the Oneg Shabbat.

*

One of Babe Machle's sons, David, dealt in fruits, which added a bit to their income.

Right after Purim, matzoh baking began. It was a supplement to carpentry. The kneading was done mostly by women and girls. It was hard, exhausting work. Also employed were a redler[1]. a baker, and a water-carrier. The work began at dawn and carried on until the middle of the night.

From the hard-earned money, they saved enough for a dress for someone, or a coat for the husband for yom-tov.

*

Only a small part of this extensive family survived the Hitler plague. Some immigrated to Eretz Israel before the war. Some fled the deluge for the Soviet Union. The rest were dispersed over the whole world: Austria, Canada, Argentina, and Israel.

May these simple words serve instead of a tombstone in the ruined cemetery in Shebreshin.

Kiryat Yam


Translator's Note

  1. Worker who perforates matzohs. Return

 

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