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Preface

It is not by chance that the survivors in Jewish communities all over the world have chosen the commemorative volume as the proper perpetuation of their communities and loved ones in days past and of those annihilated by the Nazi arch enemy. In all its wanderings the Jewish people has carried along the Holy Bible and the books of law and commentary compiled in the course of generations, as a treasure trove from which it drew guidance, comfort and faith.

The books published to date contain a voluminous collection of historical data, events, folklore and much attestation, first hand and authentic, about the life, the struggle and the last days under Nazi occupation. In their totality these books add up to an important source whence students and authors will draw information and material for producing the chronicles of the Jewish world and the Jewish communities no longer in existence.

I have been privileged to witness the consolidation of the Rachov-Annopol volume, and the meticulous and diligent work of Mr. Shmuel Nitzan. Thanks to his work and that of many others, there has come forth a well-edited volume, which reflects the course of the community from its inception to the end. I have discovered that this tiny community, known by name only to those residing in its vicinity or those familiar with the history of Polish Jewry, had produced a unique type of Jew and recorded chapters worthy of note and remembrance.

The approach of many of the participants in this volume, in writing their memoirs and impressions, is not one of indulgence in nostalgia over the past. Many of them have charted new courses, built families and struck roots in new homes, in Israel and elsewhere, and are proud Jews and solid citizens. Their attitude toward the past is one of love and appreciation of days past. Far from feeling embarrassed by the history of their town, they are aware of the power and the grace embodied in the Jewish way of life, and have made it fertile soil for enriching the life of the individual.

In perusing the pages of this volume, one learns a lesson about the power concealed in that life, about the values and world outlook of simple Jewish folk, in whom Judaism and humanism found a common expression.

Dr. ISRAEL GUTMAN
Holocaust Research Center
Yad-Vashem, Jerusalem


[Page 13 - Hebrew] [Page 327 - Yiddish] [Page 5 - English]

Introduction

The title of this volume, TESTIMONY AND REMEMBRANCE, has reference to the two elements, which make up its contents:

  1. A compilation put together with diligence and devotion by the surviving remnants of the Holocaust, of documents, certifications and testimonies taken in the camps, close to liberation, either through questionnaires of uniform questions or through a free version of the witness. This material was gathered and catalogued by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and placed in its “Central Archives of Holocaust and Heroism”, which readily gave us all the information available about our community.
  2. Memoirs and accounts, recorded by the tellers (on tape or otherwise), about the time of the happenings described, or shortly thereafter. Here some difficulty was encountered in differentiating between facts and the transpiration of the events, as recalled by the teller, from whom one cannot expect complete objectivity. Since the two are to some extent intermingled, we exercised a certain amount of flexibility.
At the same time, it was necessary to check the information even if it stemmed from memory. The validity of every event, incident, names and dates had to be checked, whether through reference in some document or comparison with another account of the same incident. The choice between them, if there had to be one, was left to the judgment of the reader. Hopefully, people engaged in researching the Holocaust and the heroism, or students working on the theme, may yet reveal some facts at present unknown about this tragic period in the history of our people in the European diaspora.

 

Purposes and goals

The name of the book indicates its purpose and the direction of its goals. It is intended to serve as testimony to what happened to Rachov and its townspeople during that period on the cursed continent. The testimony was taken from eye-witnesses who themselves went through the tortures of body and soul or who had heard the accounts from eye-witnesses who later perished. However, much of the book is devoted to a collection of memoirs and stories about the life of our community during the centuries preceding the Holocaust, as well as to an account of the recovery made by Rachovers in Israel and the diaspora.

The main goal is to reach the generation of the Holocaust and those who came in its aftermath. It is important that we and they learn the vital historical lesson of not basking in the illusions of “the grace of the nations”, for, as we are told in Proverbs (14:34), “sin is the grace of nations”.

Even as we went through the material, we were impressed by its content, scope and form. Many items which were not intended to appear in print were found acceptable. Whatever deletions or abbreviations were made stemmed from budgetary limitations. We tried to make maximal use of all kinds of material, as it accommodated the purpose. It should be remembered that books of this nature are quite stereotyped, with little room or opportunity for innovation other than the choice of emphasis. We have therefore organized the material in chronological sequence, in three parts:

  1. The Rachov/Annopol community, from dawn to dusk, centuries of creative life;
  2. Annihilation: struggle and disaster;
  3. The survival of the remnants.
In addition to the budgetary limitations, we had to contend with a shortage in help, in handling the tremendous amount of the accumulated material. In our attempt to achieve authenticity, we established an order of priorities:
  1. accounts by participants and eye-witnesses,
  2. diaries in which events were noted down soon after their occurrence,
  3. accounts drawn from memory. In cases of doubt, the material was set aside for further study.
Detectable items of folklore and the like were deleted and names were changed to avoid misunderstanding. In other cases, several accounts of the same subject were combined, in order to give a better picture of the incident.

We trust that the reader will find the book and its contents worthy of the memory of our townspeople, whose martyrdom and remembrance this volume seeks to perpetuate.

The Editor

 

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