Table of Contents

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Forward

Elimelekh Szklar

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

For those who wish to read the history of the Zurominer Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] in Yiddish, I will write a certain fantasy in that language. As is known, gypsies, who were engaged in the making of brass containers, trickery and predicting the future by looking into a person's hand, visited this shtetl [town], Zuromin, from time to time.

I imagine a fantasy that one of the gypsy women asked to be taken to the president of the Jewish kehile, who at that time was Yeheil Mendelson. Someone was found who led her to Yeheil. The gypsy asked for his hand and predicted that in six months, that is, the 10th of November 1939, there would not be even one Jew in the shtetl. This prediction was spread in the shtetl and it should be understood, everyone laughed and did not believe the joke. Alas, this fantasy did come true. Only a few dozen, who escaped to Russia and from the concentration camps remained from the fantastic calamity.

With the help of the Dragon brothers, Mendl Braun and Yisroel, as well as Shlomoh Yitzhak Flatka in America, and with the material support of many Zurominers I erected a memorial matseyve [headstone] for those who perished. The matseyve stands in Holon group 15, area 4, 25th row and all of the family names are engraved on it. My hope is to realize the dream of removing the headstones that are paved into a courtyard near Reingewirc, and bring them back to the cemetery. I want to thank everyone who helped perpetuate the memory of those who perished, described their survival and also provided photographs of the past. I also thank my wife and children who helped me greatly in this venture, editing and published the brochure.


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Zuromin My Birthplace

Abraham Dragon

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section also appears in the English section, page 15. It appears in the Hebrew section as well, but was not retranslated there.}

I will first introduce our shtetl, Zuromin. The older ones know how it looked, but our children and grandchildren need to know how their parents experienced their lives. It was a shtetl in which almost half of the inhabitants were Jews; there was even a Jew who was the vice-mayor. The middle of the city was inhabited only by Jews, all of the businesses belonged to Jews and all of the tradesmen were Jews. It was a shtetl with culture in which there were all sorts of political parties, as in all of Poland, and everyone belonged to a party of his choice. In the end, a Peretz library was created to which everyone belonged who was concerned with culture, books, readings, theater and football [soccer]. There was a Talmud Torah kheder [religious elementary school for boys] and a kheder at which Hebrew was taught. In 1938 a milk fund was created that was supported by Zurominer landsleit [people from the same town] in America, from which every child received a glass of milk and a roll. There was also a bikur holim [committee to visit the sick], and gmiles khesed [interest-free loan] fund that gave help to the less prosperous people. The older people were engaged in selling, and were tradesmen: tailors, shoemakers and various other trades. It was difficult to earn a living; however, everyone lived honorably with what he had. This was until the outbreak of the Second World War. Then the calamities began. On the second day of the war, all of the young people were told to flee from the city and airplanes came over the roads and shot at us. Then the first Zurominer war victim fell. This was Dovid Goldack. After a short time, we came home. No Germans were in the city until erev [the eve of] Yom-Kippur. Then several Germans arrived and asked that a list be created of all of the Zurominer Jews and again they left the city. Then they came during the day of Shemini Atzeret [the eighth day of Succos, the Feast of Tabernacles] and ordered all the people to appear at the city hall and when they were all there, the Jews and the Christians were told to separate. The Jews were sent away to Lidzbark and the Christians were sent home. We were then given work to dig potatoes. The same night the Germans burned the synagogue and after a short time, all of the Jews in the city were sent to Warsaw. Yitzhak Lafka was shot on the same night. This was the first Zurominer Shoah victim. This was on the 26th of Cheshvan [November 8, 1939] and we decided to make the date the hazkore [memorial service for the deceased] of the Zurominer Jews. When we arrived in Warsaw, we did not have anywhere to stay, and we entered a synagogue with several other Zurominer Jews and we were together. The young people began to look for work in order to support their families. It was very cold and there was nothing to sleep on and nothing to wear. Then we took paper and lay it on the floor and on this we slept. In a short time the ghetto was closed and we did not have any work. We sneaked out of the ghetto and smuggled in grain and potatoes and sold this in order to have something to eat, until my brother, Shlomoh, and I

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were about to be sent to a concentration camp. We escaped from Warsaw to Plonsk and had no one because our parents and sisters and brothers remained in Warsaw. We went to a village and worked for Christians for a small amount of food. During this time we sent a messenger to bring our family from Warsaw. Then our mother, a sister and a brother came. Our father became ill during this time and our oldest sister remained with him. Our father and sister perished in Warsaw. Our mother, a sister and a brother were sent to Auschwitz to the crematorium. I and my brother Shlomoh were in the Birkenau death camp with other Zurominers and we were all like brothers. We were there for over two years. Many of the Zurominers did not survive. We survived the entire gehenim [hell] and remained alive through luck and we are together today. Therefore, we and all of the Zurominer survivors wish to erect a memorial for all of the landsleit who did not survive to be with us, and to perpetuate their names on the monument.


The Fate of the Candlesticks of the Dragon Family
that were Brought to the Land by Shlomo

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This also appears in the English section. It appears in the Hebrew section as well, but was not retranslated there.}
The history of the candlesticks is literally unbelievable. The candlesticks were in “Exile Poland” for 49 years. They did not know of any blessing on the candles, of any Shabbos, yom-tov [holiday]; they were in exile. They wept at their fate. And so they passed days, weeks, months, years, waiting for the redemption, and the salvation did not come. A half century passed and the time of the yoyvl [round numbered anniversary] arrived and the candlesticks were ransomed from Christian exile. How many tears did our mother shed; how many prayers did our mother say near the candlesticks, when she lit the candles on Shabbos and yom-tov? With how much meaning did our mother recite the prayer, l'hadlik ner shel Shabbos [kindle the light of the Shabbat]? You stood for 49 years with the stranger, waiting for your liberation. And finally, you were freed and now you will again stand on a Jewish table on Shabbos and yom-tov.

And the Shabbos candles will again be lit on you. You will again lend beauty to the Shabbos table with light and sanctity.


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My Shtetele [Town] Zuromin

Mendl Braun

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section also appears in the English section, page 24, with minor differences. It appears in the Hebrew section as well, but was not retranslated there.}

Many years have passed since the catastrophe of the Jewish people in which a third perished at the hands of the Hitlerist beast. However, the old home, Zuromin, the shtetele of my birth, although an exile home, cannot be forgotten. After I experienced the concentration camps and miraculously survived, how alive the shtetele stands before my eyes and I see her in my long, sleepless nights as if she still existed.

The Jews of my shtetele lived there for several generations, each with his work and with his livelihood, some more and some less. However, there was satisfaction because everything was Jewish and with so much Jewish charm. Particularly etched in one's heart are the Jewish Shabbosim [Sabbaths]. Although the majority of the craftsmen worked an entire week, they were as happy as the rich men to have Shabbos, as were all Jews. God did not forsake the ten kaddishes [Translator's note: Kaddish is a prayer that is recited several times a day during the public prayer services. This latter sentence implies that the regular daily prayer services always took place].

The young people among whom I lived are especially remembered. Everyone belonged to some sort of party – I belonged to Mizrakhi [religious-Zionist party], as was the tradition in my house. In the times when our young people went to the secular library to read worldly books, I was occupied with studying Tanakh [the Hebrew Bible: the Five Books of Moses, The Writings and The Prophets], particularly in the early morning and in the evening, not forgetting to read the evening newspaper. Various lectures and gatherings took place at the secular library and the young had a place to discuss politics, everyone, it should be understood, in his own way and with his own beliefs. Beginning with Agudas [traditional orthodox religious party], to the Revisionists [Ze'ev Jabotinski's Revisionist Zionists] and others.

The political activity was expressed particularly during the party elections. The shtetl came to life and it cooked as in a kettle. The quarrels went to the very heavens. A trifle! Every one wanted to be victorious, to show that he was right and his party was the nicest and best.

That is how my shtetele, Zuromin, lived, quietly, full of Jewish charm, until… 1939. Jewish life in the shtetl fell into a panic before the war that drew closer as a specter and spread out like a devouring animal over the street and alley, over the Jewish houses.

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It was known on the 1st of September in the year 1939, at two o'clock in the afternoon that war had broken out. Many Polish soldiers were in the salon of the city hall and the majority of the population was evacuated from the front on Shabbos. An order came that everyone between the ages of 18 to 50 had to leave the city and go to the military. However, on the road, the first German airplanes flew in and Dovid Goldack fell as the first victim of the German bombing. My brother and I went as far as Biezun and others went in the direction of Plotzk [Plock] – Warsaw. However, on Wednesday we returned home and encountered large groups of Germans who had occupied the area.

The troubles began as soon as the Germans marched in. The Poles pointed out every Jew and in addition began robbing and beating Jews. Jewish victims fell, to the delight of the Poles, among whom there was no lack of anti-Semites and enemies of the Jews.

I remember the fear with which Jews gathered in the synagogue and asked God to bring salvation. However, alas, salvation did not come. Instead, the Germans ordered all of the Jews to appear at the city hall fence. My father believed we should go to the outskirts of the city and then we would see what would be. And thus my brother and I went to the cemetery until it got dark. Meanwhile, we learned that the other Jews who had appeared at the city hall had been sent to work. Following the advice of my father, at mid-day we went to hide in the attic. This was Simkhas Torah [a joy-filled holiday at which the yearly reading of the Torah is completed and a new start of the reading begins]. However, there was no joy as in other years. Instead of the joy of Simkhas Torah, it became known that at 11 o'clock at night the Germans had set fire to the synagogue, which had burned completely with the holy books. The rabbi, Mendl Grynberg, asked the Jews to sit shiva [eight days of mourning] for the burned synagogue.

The troubles worsened. An order came that a Jew had to wear a mark on his lapel that indicated he was a Jew and he was not permitted to walk on the sidewalk, only in the road where the carts went. When the Germans caught a Jew with a beard, they cut the beard in ridicule and the first victim of this was the city's khazan [cantor].

Now we were afraid to go out in the street. However, after a special committee was created, we were forced to go out to work, in as much as it was learned at the first meeting that we had not been there and did not go to work.

The work consisted of clearing out the storehouses in which Jewish goods were found and loading them on wagons that were sent to Germany. Murderous blows were not lacking during the work supervised by the Germans and their Polish assistants.

On the 8th of November of the same year we were sent out at around 3 o'clock and shoved into the city hall under heavy blows and from there forced to go to Sierpc and from there to

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Warsaw by train. In Warsaw we received the name, “the expelled,” and because of the shortage of places to live, we were jammed into the prayer houses. After everything was taken from us, severe hunger, need and pain began. People became sick with typhus and other diseases and there was no help. People died every day and it was impossible to bury them. If this was not enough, we had to go to hard labor in Warsaw, in as much as the “Warsawer [the residents of Warsaw],” who were concerned with this, made use of the opportunity that we were the so-called “homeless” and sent us in their place to the most terrible work.

It is worth noting that there were young people who understood the situation and began to scatter to wherever they could. Some went to Russia and others to various ghettos where the Jews also lived in fear of the exterminations that had not yet taken place there. My brother, Eliezer, and I left for Mlawa, but new trouble began there that chased after us wherever we went.

In the Mlawa ghetto, where hunger and need reigned, 50 people were taken out, among them some from my shtetl, and they were shot. My landsman [person from the same town], Zalman Borukh Mandersztajn, of blessed memory, asked God that he be punished for all of the Jews and the Reboyne Sheloylem [the Almighty] should send salvation now – however, salvation did not come. From the Mlawa ghetto came the deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the so-called new planet of trouble.

I saw before my eyes the death chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau and how thousands of Jews were gassed and burned. We slept 10-12 people to a plank bed. We lay one on top of the other and if one of us wanted to turn around, everyone had to do the same thing because the space was so crowded.

Then the appell [muster] began. We ran from the plank beds. There one always ran. We were taken to a barn. The barn was opened and we saw there many dead bodies. We were told to hurl them up on an automobile and take them to a deep pit where the dead bodies were burned. This barn was located around four meters from our barracks. We were stood five to a row at the appell. At four o'clock in the morning, we were again woken by shouting and again the same work. According to the German “order,” an “inmate” had to “empty himself” in a “toilet” that consisted of a long pit and around a thousand camp inmates occupied the pit and everyone had to “empty themselves” together. Understand, that when space ran out, a kapo* or unterkapo* would throw someone in the pit that was full of filth and sat himself in his spot. That inmate disappeared in the excrement and was pulled out and burned.

*[Translator's note: a kapo was a prisoner who worked in a concentration camp in lower administrative positions; unterkapos were the subordinates of the kapos.]

In this way the days, weeks and months passed. People were gassed; half dead bodies were taken back to the burning pits. Others who were half alive were hurled to death. It is difficult to depict with words or describe the savagery of

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“man to man” that an animal would not do to another of the same kind…take half living people and let them go up in smoke. One's conscience does not rest observing the bestial work of the S.S. members and their assistants. A person becomes frozen, powerless, thinks about how to survive this gehenom [hell]; in normal times, the human imagination would be incapable of devising such cruelty. However, the unbelievable in Auschwitz-Birkenau was a fact. I was a witness, a silent witness observing what happened on this “planet.”

New transports arrived from Sosnowiec or from Bedzin. They were brought in cattle cars. The people were barely breathing. Broken old people, children, the sick, and the “angel of death” Mengele stood with his stick and commanded only: “Right, left” – who to work and who to the gas chamber. One even shudders at the thought.

I worked in the “cleanup command.” Every two inmates took the dead bodies and loaded them on a death wagon that was taken to the burning pits. My brother, Eliezer, was with me. My entire family perished and only he, my brother, was left for me. Alas, after the liberation, arriving in the country [Translator's note: most likely Eretz-Yisroel – Palestine], he died at the age of 61 and was buried. May he have a likhtikn Gan Eden [an easy time in Paradise], my dear brother, who survived the hell of Auschwitz-Birkenau with me, survived the entire road of agony with me.

I will here relate a horrible fact from those days that left me with a terrible impression and gives me no rest today.

One day a transport arrived with living ghetto Jews for extermination, among them a six or seven year old pretty, blond girl. The kapo Heinz, a Jew from Austria, went over to the S.S. officer, who received the transport and asked that he not shoot the girl, who, understanding her condition and where she had been brought, began to hide near the “death wagon.” However, this girl was put up on the wagon with the dead bodies and when the wagon came to the pit, the “flap” opened and she was burned alive with the dead bodies. Although years have passed, the image of the girl does not leave my eyes. I see her alive in my dreams and awake in sweat and fear. Her image follows me. She comes to me constantly in my dreams and I wake up in hallucinations.

In the course of my being in Auschwitz-Birkenau, I tried to save families that were brought with children in their arms and were designated to go straight to their deaths. Alas, I was not always successful.

There is no longer a Jewish shtetl of Zuromin. There are no synagogues, no young Jews. Jewish prayers are no longer heard in the synagogues. No Jewish weddings. Everything is overgrown with graves, a dead witness that there was once Jewish life here that pulsed with joy and hope. There are no more Jewish parties there. No Hasidic shtiblekh [small rooms used for prayers] where

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the prayer melodies of the Hasidim floated in the air. There are no longer the many scholars who were found in the shtetl. Now the Zuromin remnant will erect a headstone for our perished Jewish shtetl. This will be the eternal memorial that it was a Jewish city, a shtetl that will never be again.

It is difficult to describe everything, as is stated in akdomes [song sung on the festival of Shavuos]: “If all the rivers were ink and all of the heavens parchment, there would not be enough to write about what happened in our century.” The Jewish people were annihilated at the first opportunity by the cruel hand of a people that considered itself cultured and voted to bring a murderer to power. He did not survive. The Jewish people live as our sages, of blessed memory, said: Netzach Israel lo yishaker [Translator's note: I Samuel 15:29 – the Eternal One of Israel does not lie and does not relent.]

Do not waste time on things past!
God will avenge the saintly blood that was spilled!


My Grandfather's Well

Mendl Braun

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section is unique to the Yiddish section.}

50 years after leaving my shtetl, Zuromin, because the Germans drove us out, I stand now again by the well that my grandfather, Yeshayahu Drabiner (Prusak), had dug. We drew water from it every day; I draw water and say a brukha [blessing] with my mouth. I hear the way the well says “Viftakh adonai et pi hamayim [“And God will open the source of water”]” and asks me, why do I deserve such a punishment? Have I not given enough water to the city's Jews?

The Jews, who made up half the city, drank water from me; everyone said a brukha over me and I was satisfied. As soon as a Jew woke up, he immediately washed his hands when he said Asher Yatzar [prayer said on awakening and becoming conscious of one's body and its functions]. Then he went to pray and to eat, to saying the blessings, to Minkhah [afternoon prayers], to Ma'ariv [evening prayers] and to sleep. How many blessings were made over me every day?

And when Passover arrived, I was protected so that I would not become khometzdik [not kosher for Passover]. Erev Pesakh [on the eve of Passover], Hallel [Psalms 113-118, which are recited on various Jewish holidays] was sung near me and I gave water for everyone and blessings were made over me. In the old times, I complained to you because everyone said that my water was like wine and you made the blessing, Sheh'hakol ni'heyeh bidvaro [through Whose words all things were called into being]. This is why I weep; that the family said this is water and you made the blessing, borei pri hagafen [Who creates the fruit of the wine], and not the opposite. I accepted everything because of love. Jews drank as much as they wished of my water. Now, 50 years have passed and no one comes to me to get water to make a blessing and to hear a Yiddish word. Now when you did come to take water and to make a blessing, you forgot to make a

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shehekheyanu* as you have not drunk my water for 50 years, you could make a shehekheyanu. And now how many anniversary years will I wait until a Jew will come to take water from me and make a blessing. I was the Jewish well. I weep and strangers drink my tears and they do not know that they are drinking tear-water. God, why have You punished me and Your people, Israel thus.

*[Translator's note: Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, Who has granted us life and sustained us and brought us to this moment. Blessing said when experiencing something for the first time.]


A Din Torah [legal proceeding
in a rabbinical court] with God

Mendl Braun

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section also appears in the English section, page 28. It appears in the Hebrew section as well, but was not retranslated there.}

I, Mendl ben [son of] Yitzhak Moshe, want to have a Din Torah with God.

Why did You annihilate six million Jews together with our shtetl, Zuromin? What did You see that was bad in Your Jews? Wherever You went, You saw Yiddishkeit [Jewishness, connoting an emotional connection to Judaism and/or to the Jewish people and their history, beliefs and customs], everywhere You went, there were synagogues, yeshivos [religious schools]. The air was saturated with Yiddishkeit. The non-Jews knew it was Shabbos, Shavous, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos. When it was Shabbos, yom tov [a religious holiday] You saw the blessing of the Shabbos candles and the non-Jews knew it was Shabbos for the Jews. Now no one knows about Shabbos and yom tov. You made storehouses of Your synagogues; You made a shame and a joke of the houses of Your holy books and no one knows about Yiddishkeit. Everything is forgotten. God, You, too, make mistakes. You made a flood of water. Then You saw the mistake You had made. You made the rainbow so that You would remember, so that You would not bring any more floods. You are a great diplomat and omnipotent and You made fire and burned six million Jews who were saying the words, Shema Yisroel.* You saw the mistake that You made and You wanted to compensate and You gave us the State of Israel. And now You do not let us live in peace. Every day you give us new troubles. Why? Given that we hold fast to you.

*[Translator's note: “Hear O Israel,” the opening words of the central prayer recited at waking in the morning and going to sleep at night, during prayers of praise and entreaties. It is the first prayer a child is taught to say and the last words a Jew says before death.]

Look at us, how we keep Your Shabbos and yom tov. Take a walk erev Shabbos [Friday night], You will see how the Shabbos candles are lit in every house. Your Jews go to the synagogue to pray and Shabbos, yom tov is felt over everything, everything is Shabbosdik [filled with the spirit of Shabbos]. The air is sanctified by Shabbos. One even feels pity for the Jew who keeps his business open on Shabbos. He thinks: Oy God, why have You punished me with such difficulty in earning a living so that I must remain in my business to take care of my children. I, also, want to be at the Shabbosdike table and eat with my family. God what do You want from us; how long are we obliged to suffer for You? An end must come and if You do not want us anymore, then make another flood and erase us from the earth, combine us with all of the nations. There will no longer be a “Thou has chosen us [Translator's note: reference to Jews as God's Chosen People].” Then You will again have regret. However, it will then be too late. No one will be left to

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say “Shema Yisroel.” Therefore, make an end to our troubles and let us live in peace in the Land of Israel. We will hold fast to You and You will be a God for us.


Childhood Memories

Tirtzah Listopad

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section also appears in the English section, page 32. It appears in the Hebrew section as well, but was not retranslated there.}

Zuromin was a small shtetl where over 300 Jewish families lived. The majority were pious, with all kinds of rabbis. My father, of blessed memory, was a great follower of the Alekander Rebbe. It was difficult for us to tear ourselves away from our environment and freely join a movement. The first who came together were a group of amateurs who studied the art of theater performance in harmony with Peretz Gutberg and the Rakower brothers. Nusen Neigurk, Leizer Dragon, Yocheved Listopad, Hene Szklar, Hana Eidl Ceitak and so on also took part. They presented us with distinguished plays such as Ansky's Dybbuk, Strindberg's The Father, Sholem Aleichem's The Great Winnings and many others. Zuromin did not have an appropriate auditorium; performances were held temporarily in the premises of the firemen. There was an approach to it that was filthy. However, masses of visitors came who thanked those taking part with warm applause. When the Peretz Library was opened, the Borokov Club and various party groups, such as the Bund, Zionists right and left, instituted activities. We as a group decided not to carry on any kind of political activity. We organized ourselves in the open air during the morning hours of six or seven. As is known, many fruit trees grew in our shtetl and we read all kinds of newspapers among them in order to have an idea about life in our country and abroad. Everyone took part in the discussions. Our representatives were Aryeih Kendzer, Yisroel Moshe Listopad, F. Ustrabic, and so on. We also discussed books we had read. Later, a number of our friends went abroad and others joined party clubs. The young in our shtetl had interesting times culturally. The library organized meetings with distinguished lecturers, such as Zrubbel of Left Poale Zion; literarily: Szneiderman, Malkin and so on. On Friday evenings various meetings took place, evenings with a variety of speakers and writers presenting their ideas, designed for people with little education, and even dances. The young people in our shtetl lived cheerful and interesting lives. The young people of Hashomer Hatzair [Translator's note: Young Guard – founded as scouting group] and Hashomer Halomi [National Guard] were cheerful as the danced the hora. Even the religious circles organized the publication of their own newspaper. In 1939, when the Hitler murderers arrived, there came a great misfortune and chaos in our unforgettable shtetl, Zuromin, for us Jews. My family was very widespread; hardly anyone survived.

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There are many descriptions in Yiddish literature of the arbitrariness of Hitler against Jews, but I just want to set down a fact that I cannot forget. When the murderers looted our business, rumors spread that city hall was paying for the goods with a receipt. My mother asked of one of the Hitler Germans that he give her a receipt. “Jawohl [Yes, sir/madam],” he said, and gave her a receipt. My mother came home satisfied with the paper in her hand. In the end, what was written on it was payable in Palestine. Accursed yeke,* how did you know that in Israel and not Palestine one of your great murderers, Eichmann, would pay with his dog-like life. Life in Israel is full of love for the heart and soul, while life in Zuromin was difficult. Yet the memories of children and young people cannot be forgotten. It remains, alas, only memories. May its memory be blessed.

*[Translator's note: German Jew, derogatory name derived from the word zhaket, a short jacket usually worn by German Jews as opposed to the longer kapote worn by Eastern European Jews. There is no clue as to why the writer of these words has used a term applied to German Jews when speaking about a non-Jewish German.]


Memories

Nikhtshe Kirszenboum Szwarcwart

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section also appears in the Hebrew section, page 65.}

I do not remember too much about Zuromin because I was still very young when I left Poland. However, episodes that will accompany me my entire life still remain with me. The library, the organizations, where we would all meet and enjoy ourselves. It was communal life according to the concepts of that time. The hostile attitude of the Polish population in relation to the Jews is also engraved in my mind. The boycotting of Jewish businesses. Beating the Jews when they came from the synagogue, tearing their beards.

One episode that remains in my memory is when the director of the school gave a speech on the 3rd of May at the market square and, among the various phrases that he spoke, said that we were suffocating in every corner; Jews had to leave Poland. In 1936 my sister, Rywka, joined our father in Uruguay; in 1937 my brother, Avraham, and I also traveled from Poland to Uruguay to our father, Zts'l, and sister, Rywka. Our mother, Hene Blima, and our brother, Binyamin remained in Zuromin.

They had met the requirements. However, alas, despite all efforts, they did not receive permission to leave. All doors were closed for Jews.

When we left Poland, we had already seen the dark clouds that embraced the Polish Jews; anti-Semitism and the agitation was felt at every turn and wherever one turned. When we arrived in Uruguay, in the city of Montevideo, we found a new world, a different life in all respects from that in Zuromin

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that we had not been able to know. A good relationship of person to person, good conditions, cultural and free, a nice life in all spheres. We received letters from our family and acquaintances the entire time. In the last letter they wrote that they had not received permission to leave. Our hearts were saddened; they were caught by the war. Just a short time after the outbreak of the war, we received letters from them and later we no longer heard from them. And they perished with everyone at the hands of the murderers. Our cousins, Chaya Sura and Berl Kurcman and Chaya Feyga and Tovya Ferda with their families perished with them. I will also specially remember our neighbor, Yakov Moshe Mogla, a Jew, a talmid khokhem [Torah scholar] who was very much loved by our family. There is nowhere to place a flower for them.

Our hearts ached and became empty and vacant when we learned that no trace remained of anyone, that we had to get accustomed to the sorrowful realities. A great deal has already been written about the annihilation of Jewry. However, an artist has not arisen who can express the pain and hurt that we survivors feel.

Now we stand here observing the yahrzeit [yearly anniversary] of the annihilation of the Zuromin Jews and with the deep belief that the era cannot be forgotten.

And in the sacred memory of the annihilated martyrs, that which happened cannot be repeated.

Today we are in Israel with our families.


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Yizkor [Prayer commemorating the dead] Words
at the memorial service in New York 1990

Yakov Braf

Translated from Yiddish by Gloria Freund Berkenstadt

{Note from Jerrold Landau: This section also appears in the Hebrew section, but was not retranslated there.}

At this turbulent time, when the world is united against the terror from Baghdad which threatens to annihilate Israel; in this wonderful time when thousands of Jews from Russia have immigrated to Israel:

We come together in longing and sorrow to remember those closest to us who were horribly annihilated by the Germans, yemakh-shmom [May their names be erased]. We, who are full of miracles, and the greatest miracle, that the horrible Holocaust did not disturb our love and belief in life. We are full of joy that there is a Jewish land where Jews can come home and be welcomed with love as sisters and brothers. We remember when ships with Jews, who saved themselves from the German hangmen, wandered over the seas and no country allowed them in. We remember when 200 orphans entreated the great English government to allow them in and save them from the German hangmen. They were answered that there was no place for them and when the young London rabbi begged that he would arrange a place for them in his private home, they came to measure whether there was room for everyone, so that not one child would burden the government. A great Hebrew writer lived in Jerusalem, who received the Nobel Prize for his wonderful stories about his birthplace, Buczacz. Agnon marvels that it says in the gemara, “There is no joy without meat.” The majority of the Jews of Buczacz, like those from Zuromin, did not have meat and, sometimes, there was also no bread. But there was a great deal of ebullient joy. Sana's and Hene Pesa's daughter, Rywka'le, was four years old. She danced and sang Yiddish songs and made the house full of joy. When rehearsals of Leiwek's Keytn [Chains] and Pinsker's Der Oyster [The Treasure] were carried out at Sana's house, the child knew all of the heroes and sang the songs.

And when she saw through the window the grandfather who longed for his grandson, she shouted: “Comrades, put on your hats, the grandfather is coming.” And the dear Jewish children were the first to perish at the hands of the German butchers. And the murderers want us to forgive them, we should celebrate their unification. The punishment for their crimes has not yet come.

All of the Jews from the shtetl were close to each other. We studied together in kheder. We spent many days and night in the synagogue; some studied with Reb Avraham Leib Krul, with Rabbi Ben-Tzion Avraham Blumberg. They will be remembered. I think about them a great deal. My oldest brother, Haim-Mordekhai, remained with our parents and my sister Tsivia in Warsaw. Yeheil Indar wrote to me: “Your brother was a tzadik [righteous man] who did everything for your father.” I can barely explain the dangers

[Page 14 - Yiddish]

he went through in searching for a piece of bread, a hiding place during those horrible days.

I remember Rajczyk, the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer]. When Pinya Rajczyk married Sara Tajtelbaum, the shoykhet wanted to have a close relationship with my father as is proper for an in-law. He repeated the words of his Amshinower [Mszczonow] rebbe: “Try not to abandon the Levi for he has no land of his own.” [Translator's note: reference to the descendants of the tribe of Levi, which did not receive any land when the land of Canaan was divided among the 12 tribes]. Ensure that you are on familiar terms, if you should be apart.”

Reb Haim-Leib worked hard with an axe and with a hammer, with a plane and a saw. And the saw was played like a fiddle in his hands, “My son, Yehoshua, is growing up to be a rabbi, growing up to be a rabbi.” Reb. Yitzhak Kalman carried heavy bundles from the village to earn a livelihood, but his feet were light: “My son, Zalman, is a scholar”…

There was a love of learning among many Zurominer Jews.

We had Jewish scholars who rejoiced in a page of gemara, tradesmen who were happy with a Yiddish song… My brother, Nataniel, loved to sing the song: “Tell me from where does one get the strength of the past to go into fire and from there praise God?” Mendl Braun, who was with Sana in Auschwitz, told me that before he was killed, Sana got off his plank bed and prayed the afternoon prayer… Where did he get the strength to go into the fire and there praise God?

Our Zurominer Jews perished wherever the German hangmen placed their assassin's feet, in all of the death camps and also in Ponar [located outside of Vilna] and Babi-Yar [a ravine near Kiev].

Shabtai, who always studied in the synagogue, became a shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] in a shtetl; he asked one of my acquaintances that if he survived and met a Zurominer, he should explain how he had perished.

We remember them all with great respect, with longing and grief.

 

Ben-Zion Avraham Blumberg
the former rabbi of the community of Zuromin

 

The monument in memory of the martyrs or Zuromin that stands
in the Holon cemetery, New Gate, block 15, section D, row 25

 

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