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In Memoriam (Introduction)

Yizkor Book Committee

Only a few of us have been spared from the hellfire unlashed by the Holocaust and no words can encompass the full extent of what we have irretrievably lost.

Memory grows dim with the passage of time, among those who have been left behind. We are becoming increasingly aware that an era is about to end, that this generation will have gone its way and sunk into oblivion.

We feel duty bound, however, to leave for posterity a record of the immense suffering and bereavement that have been our sad lot. We, the survivors of the town Wierzbnik, have therefore undertaken the solemn task of perpetuating the memory of our town's community and its martyrs who perished at the hands of the Nazi oppressor and his evil accomplices.

The community of Wierzbnik-Starachowitz never achieved any greatness, and its people did not gain positions of prominence or particular distinction. It just consisted of simple, decent Jewish folk who were happy to live and let live.

Looking back to the past, to the days of life in Wierzbnik we still remember the lively activity that went on there – the people rising at dawn for God's worship and the daily labour, workers and scholars alike, each going his own way.

Ever since the founding of the Wierzbnik community, the townspeople had built their life around Jewish devotion, study and honest work, righteousness and brotherly love.

On the Sabbath and holidays, the streets thronged with worshippers on their way to the synagogues, and the air was filled with the sound of song and prayer celebrating a life of goodness and peace.

And on normal weekdays, the down resounded with the noise of everyday toil and trade, the voices of merchants, porters and cart-drivers mingling in the Rynek square – the square which became under the Nazi oppression a last meeting place before transportation to the extermination camps.

Within the mainstream of this life there also grew the new Zionist generation, young people in youth movements and organizations, who prepared for the day when they would realize the age-long dream of the Jewish people: the rebuilding of their own homeland. While cherishing their hopes the Jews of Wierzbnik-Starachowitz kept up a productive activity in all walks of life. They largely contributed to the economic development of the town, built workshops and factories, and established a flourishing trade. Thus the close-knit Jewish community formed an integral part of the growing town.

Although Wierzbnik was not noted for its riches, everyone could make a living, and a spirit of mutual assistance prevailed.

For many generations of the Jews of Wierzbnik-Starachowitz lived in peace and harmony, tending to their affairs, each one with his hopes and dreams.

But all this peace and quiet was swept aside by a fury of bloodshed and violence unprecedented in the history of man or in the annals of the long persecuted Jewish people. All the dreams and hopes were shattered, all good deeds laid to waste.

The Holocaust had broken loose, and death came to claim a heavy toll.

* * *

This book tells the story of the persecution, deprivation and humiliation to which the Jews of Wierzbnik-Starachowitz were subjected, from the time the first bombs fell near the ammunitions plant of the town and up to the day of deportation to the deathcamps. A story of blood and tears, recounted by the scanty few who miraculously escaped destruction. The book also pays tribute to the courage of the men and groups who refused to resign themselves to their bitter fate and endeavored to oppose the monstrosities of the Nazi perpetrators.

Nearly all of these brave men forfeited their lives for any act of resistance, whether passive or active, against the oppressor. The sublime sacrifice they made in order to preserve the honour of their people, shall live in our memory forever.

The nightmare of the war was eventually over, and the world started rebuilding the damages and returning to normal life again.

Only people were left unable to arise from the ruins, for they had been dealt a blow beyond restoration.

Only an infinitesimal of the once great Polish Jewry survived, with injuries in body and soul that could heal no more. Among the survivors, there are a small number from the community, just a handful of them.

On the banks of Wierzbnik the voices of Jacob's children were stilled, never to be heard again.
Even today, after a long history of bloody persecution and suffering that culminated in the terrible Holocaust in Europe, even now in the state of Israel reborn, we have still not found peace.

This memorial volume has been conceived and put together at a time when Israel again faces the need to fight for its freedom – for its very existence, indeed – against enemies that greatly outnumber it. As in times past, we are once more we are confronted with forces of evil bent upon wiping us off the face of the earth. But how different our situation today, now that we stand secure in our own land, strong in body and in spirit; no longer a fragmented minority within a hostile environment meekly submitting to its fate, but a united nation that knows to fight back and win!

In order to display the profound change that the Jewish people have undergone, it is our duty to inform the younger generation of what the past was like. They must be made aware how insignificant the Jew felt in the Diaspora, how he was treated with contempt and despised as something to be eliminated.

Young Jewish people everywhere should know these things, in order to appreciate freedom that they have attained, and strive to preserve it in the face of adversity. This record is also dedicated to the thousands of innocent victims of Wierzbnik-Starachowitz, brutally murdered by the Nazi executioners together with the other millions of Jews. The pain and sorrow of their loss can never be assuaged.

Great difficulties were involved in preparing for print this memorial book of the Wierzbnik-Starachowitz community. Besides financial problems, we also encountered considerable trouble in gathering factual material on the past history of the community, as we lacked documentary evidence or library records of any sort. We often thought that the project would be beyond our means, but thanks to the unflagging efforts of the sponsors and compilers we managed to overcome the difficulties and finally got the book ready.

We would not claim, however, that we have done a perfect job. It can be expected that the book suffers from some omissions, inaccuracies, and other defects. These are inevitable in a book of this kind, specifically with the limitations on hand.

Nevertheless, we spared no effort in trying to uncover any available scrap of information, so as to present a balanced account of events and make the picture as complete as possible. We are very grateful to all members of our community, here and abroad, who rendered invaluable assistance in the compilation of this book.

We dedicate this book to them memory of our town and its victims. May our troubled past be superseded by a bright future of fulfillment.


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Introduction

Moshe Sali (Kerbel)

With care and awe, we, the survivors of the town of Wierzbnik (Kielce county), approached the task of publishing a Yizkor book for our community, a book about life and demise.

This community, where we were raised and nurtured, was cut down by the bane and no longer exists.

The notion of publishing a book commemorating the people of our town and its surrounding region was born from the need to leave behind an everlasting mark. This mark would take the form of a book that chronicles the town's history, its organizations and institutes, its everyday and holidays. It will also describe the Holocaust, the bravery and resolve of our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, our relatives and friends who have all fallen prey to the bloodthirsty Nazi beasts. It will depict the human scenery of the vibrant community life, the activities and social struggles of its residents, as well as the special milieu during times of mourning.

In this commemorative book we seek to remind of the forgotten past and immortalize it, for our sake and the sake of future generations. We will tell not only about the torment suffered by our innocent loved ones, who valiantly bore the suffering and torture, but also about their rich lives, which were filled with a deep Jewish awareness of Bnei Torah. We will tell of activists and laborers, commoners and intellectuals; of the glory days of our community and its tragic fall.

Years have passed since the idea of immortalizing our town in a Yizkor book born. Those who brought up the idea were greatly disappointed by the apathy of our townsmen in Israel and the Diaspora. The few requests made years ago failed to touch our former townsmen and resulted in no activity toward the realization of the noble design hidden in their hearts.

The turnaround took place merely three years ago, when the author joined this sacred enterprise, allowing regular, intensive work towards the realization of the idea. We have sent out dozens of memos and prospects and hundreds of letters explaining the importance of the enterprise. We established close bonds with our landsleit in Israel and abroad, and managed to interest and even excite former townsmen in Toronto and New York, finding a few “fanatics” who joined the project wholeheartedly. We formed special committees and over the years have received considerable donations that would fund the project. This positive reaction encouraged and pushed us to continue work with increased vigor.

We tried to include the full scope of society in this book and to express every political notions found in the Jewish community of Wierzbnik. The book focuses mainly on the terrible Holocaust that doomed the Jews of the town. This part was written mostly by the survivors of our town, who expressed their outcry, their anguish, their pain and their terrible experiences.

We were faced with great difficulties while carrying out this mission and at times we felt that it was beyond us, because the financial support and the help offered in gathering the materials was insufficient.

It was also difficult to gather certified, accurate information about the history of the community, because we had limited sources to draw on, whether libraries or archives. Therefore we completed the enterprise with what limited means and few people we had at our disposal, knowing how inadequate we were for this enormous task.

Finally, we are able to say our work is done and the book pays homage to our townsmen. We know that this work is neither complete nor perfect. There are certainly deficiencies here and there as well as many missing details about eras, people and institutes. Nevertheless, we must accept this for a fact, as the members of the editorial board and those of the book committee, did anything in their power to find the material, encourage people to tell their tale and put in writing, for eternal memory, everything that could be gleaned from the memories of survivors in Israel and the Diaspora.

We wish to offer our thanks to all those who provided us with articles, lists and pictures, all those who helped, assisted, offered their support and encouraged, and special thanks to the members of the board, who worked tirelessly to create the book and publish it.

We also wish to thank all townsmen, wherever they may be, for the financial support they provided and which allowed us to publish this book. We wish to thank in particular the members of the book committee in Toronto and New York, who excelled at raising funds to finance this esteemed publication.

May our town and its martyrs become a part of our new life in the renewed State of Israel, which serves as some small consolation for our great tragedy and a source of hope and encouragement for all of our brothers and sisters everywhere.

 

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