|On the last journey
drawing by Icchak Belfer
by Mordechai Gotlib
Translated by Avi (Abraham) Stavsky
Dear Dąbrowa Children, what I wouldn't give to be able to speak today not about the Dąbrowa Jews but to them. [Unfortunately] it is apparently our singular despondency regarding our holy ones: that we're not able to speak with them and among them, but only about them.
With holy and deep emotional trembling far from the communal graves of our holy ones in Dąbrowa, we light today the memorial candle for those unforgettable dear ones. There once, once was the kehila of Dąbrowa, a city among cities, a community among communities, and it no longer exists, along with many [such] communities in Poland, and along with the six million of our brothers and sisters who perished in that terrible Holocaust.
Indeed there were kehilot in Dąbrowa The slash in our hearts and our open wounds continue to grow, as do the tears in our eyes, which look backward in time and see everything. The eye saw a city in which one third of the inhabitants were Jewish, and yet [now] only one daughter of Israel remains there, who has requested our assistance (in a letter to member Kalman Barkai) to immigrate to our Land. The eye sees the houses wherein Jews once lived but no longer. It sees the life which flourished there, the privates lives and public lives, the life of our holy kehila which is gone. It sees the shocked and suffering soul, [with] the million Jewish children of Poland; how many geniuses, how many great Torah scholars and how many scientists were there among them?
It sees the sweet and pure Jewish children who daily went to school; to cheder; to high school or to yeshiva. All gone. It sees the babies of Beit Raban, who were taken by their mothers to kindergartens, now vanished.
The eye sees the mother of the house, the Jewish woman, di yiddishe mameh, who prepared the Shabbat in the home. It sees the tortured despondency of the soul that emanated from the depth of the heart in every house as the mother of the family would light the candles, her eyes covered by her hands [as she recited the blessing]. This was one of the holiest moments of Dąbrowa Jewry.
The ear hears the sounds of the Netanei Tokef and Kol Nidre of Yom Kippur that came from the synagogues. She hears the beautiful sound of prayers from the chazan [cantor] as he approached the Ark. She hears the warm prayers from the shtibelach of the Radomsk, Gur, Alexander, Sochaczew and Kromołów chassidim.
She hears on festival evenings the poetry and songs coming from Jewish houses. She hears on Shabbat [i.e. Friday] evenings, the sounds of Shalom Aleichem, you angels of Shabbat. She hears and records and remembers everything that our holy ones asked of us: don't forget us!
And the hand records for the sake of knowledge and the sake of remembrance and we will not forget! So we collect the tears that pour from the loss of our community into the well of tears of the Israeli nation, to those afflicted homes which have no parallel among any other nation.
From the depths of our soul comes the curse: Pour out Thy wrath on the Goyim, pour on them your anger. From the depths of our souls and hearts we call upon the G-d of vengeance to avenge the honor of our holy martyrs, the honor of a mankind created in G-d's image who were subjugated; the honor of the world's foundation, all that is good in mankind, all the sensitive feelings which were wiped out by the Nazi scourge.
What desire is left for us from the nations of world who watched from a distance, who were silent and did not lift a finger for the millions of Jews imprisoned in the ghettos, concentration camps and gas chambers? What can we desire from a world where everyone was responsible, [and] that watched our suffering and [merely] mocked? There was never in history such a moral bankruptcy in all factors: morality, mercy, kindness and culture.
Our responsibility is not merely to remember, write and describe [what happened] for future generations about these bloody times. And as I said to write and describe, we are writing this Book of Remembrance as a literary monument to the story of the Jews of Dąbrowa.
In our remembrances on this Memorial Day of that which happened to our people,
we want to flee from humanity to the desert, to sit on one of the stones and
tear our hearts and shout loud and bitter cries at the greatest tragedy in
Jewish history, already rich in slaughter and pogroms.
And yet our hope is not lost [od lo avda tikvateinu]. It is upon us to continue with our lives and build our land, to settle there and to stand upon our souls, at all times, at all hours and all minutes. The Nazis killed our sisters and brothers through all kinds of [horrible] deaths, but there was one thing they could not take from us our belief. In their last hours they didn't refrain from: We believe with perfect faith. This faith, this hope strengthened us throughout our history in the Diaspora, and brought us [the realization of] our dream. From this we merited to see with our own eyes the creation of a Jewish state in the historic land of the Hebrew people.
There once, once was a community in Dąbrowa, [that] through blood and fire ascended to Heaven, and yet it lives within our hearts.
We have not forgotten; we will never forget; and it will never be said
they have forgotten!
The testimony of Ita Hajda
Translated by Avi (Abraham) Stavsky
I was born in Dąbrowa on 6 January, 1923. The city of Dąbrowa Górnicza had a population of about 50,000 inhabitants, among which were some 6,000 Jews. The city of Dąbrowa Górnicza was about 5 kilometers from nearby Będzin . Dąbrowa had a small number of Jews when compared to Będzin , [which was] one of the major Jewish centers of Poland.
In our town, [Jewish] girls studied at the Bet Yaakov. The language of instruction was Yiddish. The Hebrew language was taught to us by a special teacher, Mrs. Szlomowicz, who had been brought to the school especially for this purpose from the town of Łomża.
Generally speaking, the Dąbrowa Jews dealt in commerce. My father was a dealer in unprocessed [animal] hides. Additionally, he was also a partner in a warehouse serving the municipal slaughterhouse.
At home we were nine children. I was the youngest daughter. On the day the war broke out I was 16. Before the war, our parents were successful in sending three children to Palestine: my sister Chana, who left Poland in 1935; and my brothers Mosze and Juda, who arrived there between 1934-1938. The three of them completed Hachshara [training farms for Jews who wished to settle in Palestine] in Poland and are still living here today.
Of the six of our family caught on Polish soil at the outbreak of the war, only my elder brother Izachar and I remained alive after the Holocaust. My brother wandered through the concentration camps on the German Amalekite soil and survived the Death Marches. He lost his wife and their three sons. He now lives in Israel. My father. Hersz-Dawid Hajda, my mother, Sara Gluzerman and my sister Dwora, who was then pregnant, were expelled from Dąbrowa during the Great Expulsion of 1942. They were all sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The expulsion to Auschwitz affected mainly the elderly and pregnant women. The remainder of Jewish deportees were sent to Kamionka and Środula, only a few kilometers from Dąbrowa. In Kamionka in previous years existed a kibbutz, Borochov, where Jewish youth underwent training prior to their departure for Palestine.
In the autumn of 1943, the Germans began emptying out Kamionka and expelling them to Auschwitz. One morning we heard the sound of gunfire from the kibbutz in measured resistance. As a reprisal consequence of this, the Germans stopped their sorting [of who to deport] and deported everyone to Auschwitz. This was their Final Solution imposed on the Jews. In this deportation was my brother-in-law, Lajzer Landau, Riwka's husband, and three of my brothers: Abram, Jechezkel and Cyna. It was the 23 of September, 1943, and none of them remained alive.
The war, which broke out in September, 1939, found me in Dąbrowa. I lived with my parents and family on Kościuszki Street, near the post office. At the end of August, when the Polish mobilization came, we were compelled to abandon our apartment.
When the war broke out, nearly all Jewish males escaped in an Easterly
direction, as they were afraid for their lives. However within a few days, many
began returning back to the city. At that time we began to hear stories of the
river that ran near the town of Sławków was filled day by day with
floating corpses. I don't remember the name of the river. It became
increasingly difficult to identify the bodies of those dear people who were
drowned. In the river also floated various belongings, i.e. silver
candlesticks, blankets and tefillin [phylacteries].
Later we learned that the Germans, who met groups of returning Jews, killed them and threw them into the river. In this manner Jozkowicz was killed, who was then 28, as well as Lewenberg, the owner of a shop for writing materials in Dąbrowa. I don't remember the names of the other people who were shot then.
In the spring of 1940, all Dąbrowa Jews had to sew a white band on their left arms. In the spring of 1941, the Jews were forced to move to only one street designated exclusively for them in the city. Here was erected the first ghetto in the city. The ghetto's streets were under stringent guard by the Germans. The Judenrat, established by the Germans already in the first days, found workers for German labor. Women were employed in kitchens and as cleaners. Men were chosen for snow removal and other heavy physical work. Many were also used to transport the dead to places of burning. From the beginning of the segregation of Jews [in the ghetto] curfews were established, and those who transgressed were severely punished.
From that time, etched in my memory are pictures of the Seder nights of that spring. I studied intensely those closest to me and felt I'd be leaving them very soon. From the first moments, I had a strange feeling that everyone would be lost. I fixed long glimpses on all those around me and resolved with all my strength to fix them in my memory. Even today I have a mental picture of them.
There was hunger in the ghetto. Whole nights long, we stood in lines for bread,
which at the end stopped being distributed. In order to acquire a bit of food,
I often sneaked out of the ghetto. I wrapped myself in a white cloak which hid
the band on my left arm and exited the ghetto. Since I don't have a typically
Semitic face, I wasn't terribly worried [about being caught]. We had one reward
in knowing a non-Jewish resident of Dąbrowa named Pietel. Already at the
beginning of the war he was determined to be volksdeutsch.
mother would make soap at home. She learned this craft from her father, who had
a candle making factory. Pietel would receive soap, and in exchange would
assist us in obtaining [extra] bread and other foodstuffs. In winter he would
also get us coal. I especially have good memories of him as we prepared in 1941
for the wedding of my sister Dwora to Lejzer Landau, the rabbinical student. He
was the son of Rabbi Aszer-Zelig from Ciężkowice. His father was the
head of the Oświęcim yeshiva before the war. My parents
were determined that the wedding should be as successful as was possible under
our present circumstances. Pietel brought us sugar and other commodities. In
exchange, he received from my mother not only soap but bleach, bedding and
|Jewish children in the Dąbrowa Ghetto|
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