(Regarding Jewish events and family annals)
by Pinchas Schwartz, Jerusalem
A vision, look from above at the spilling of the blood of the righteous and the pouring out of their blood. At the beginning of the writing of my memoirs, about the city of Halmeu, I offer my prayer:
Look from Your holy abode in the Heavens and avenge the spilled blood of the righteous. I am a member of the older generation, and when I bring the residents before the eyes of my spirit, I see before me only righteous people. If I attempt to once again describe and see the spectacular picture of the procession to the synagogues on the eve of Yom Kippur – men and women
wearing white, with the expression of an awakening to repentance on their face, as they waited with awe to bring in the Holy Day, I can state that even the simple people from among them appeared as complete Tzadikim.
Straw was spread on the floor of the synagogue, for no worshipper would dare to enter with shoes, and all of them would bow and prostrate themselves for korim with a broken and submissive heart. Long boxes of sand, a meter and a half in length, were placed on the window sills to hold the candle. The worshippers were hovered over their machzors [festival prayer books], enwrapped in their kittels [white robes] and tallises, reciting Tefilla Zaka with devotion. Only when Rabbi Eliahu Klein (the son of Reb Shmelke of Selish) ascended the bima and recited his prayer in silence, and when Reb Shlomo the shamash brought the lectern to him, did the congregation quiet down and wait impatiently for the Kol Nidre sermon. The rabbi began with the words Dear, warmhearted brothers, and immediately everyone felt the closeness and heartwarming brotherliness in his holy words. When he uttered out loud, bring forth tears, the words penetrated the depths of the souls, and even the hard-hearted people broke out in bitter weeping with an awaking for repentance and expression of regret on their faces. The sermon was delivered with a moving melody. The rabbi was already elderly at that time, and required a brief rest in the middle of the sermon, but even the breaks were to arouse repentance.
The rabbi of holy blessed memory led his flock in the ways of G-d and the commandments, such that almost no violator of the Sabbath could be found in town. Even when the physician Dr. Bleier had to travel on the Sabbath to go to a sick person outside the city, he sent his wagon outside the Sabbath boundary, and only then did he ascend his vehicle. The taverns and cigarette and tobacco shops, which officially had to be open on the Sabbath, were given over to the hands of gentiles, but there were barely any customers, aside from some farmer who might have come to Halmeu on the Sabbath… Thus, the atmosphere of the holiness of the Sabbath could be felt not only in the homes, but also on the streets. In one of his sermons, the rabbi said, Brothers, Halmeu is a miniature land of Israel. Make sure that it does not become a large Babylonia. Halmeu is considered to be a miniature Land of Israel, be careful to not destroy its good name! Only now can we see and understand its special status, in that the rule of Torah and religion could be felt in the entire town. The sounds of Torah could be heard from the walls of the Yeshiva. The attractive melodies of the study of Torah could also be heard in the streets, the Talmud Torahs [elementary Torah schools], and cheders.
There were other Torah giants in Halmeu aside from the rabbi. Among them were my three brothers-in-law, Reb Mordechai Rotstein, Reb Avraham Chaim and Reb Eliezer. During his lifetime, Reb Mordechai published his book Beit Vaad Lachachamim (A Gathering House for the Wise), and the book Shaarei Parnasah Tova (Gates to a Good Livelihood) on Psalms that was republished by his grandson Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Pinchas Moskovitz, the Rosh Yeshiva of Halmeu, with Rabbi Yaakov Shalom (today in Jerusalem). Rumor had it, as its name proves, that owning this book is a portent for a good livelihood. Both of them, Reb Mordechai and Reb Avraham
Chaim served as rabbinical judges in Halmeu. The first excelled in his fear of Heaven, whereas the second excelled in his scholarship.
Reb Eliezer was my grandfather. During his younger days, he was the shochet [ritual slaughterer] of Sharkiz Oilak. One day he issued a statement at home, From this day and onward, I will no longer take the shochet's knife in my hand. From then, he studied day and night. He slept for two hours at night and one hour during the day. I will describe a typical example of his greatness in Torah. When the Tzadik of Sanz came to Halmeu, they honored him by inviting him to give a sermon in the synagogue. He said, In the place where Rabbi Eliezer lives, I cannot say anything; let him give the sermon. When he took ill in 1916, the Rabbi of Dolina sat beside his bed all day, studying the manuscripts of his many compositions. He delivered words of eulogy at his funeral, saying that one can only know who Rabbi Eliezer was once his books are published… To my sorrow, these compositions were not published, and those that were already published in Szinervaraljá [Seini] were lost during the Holocaust years.
The tombstones of my grandfather Rabbi Eliezer and my grandmother Yarcha are located in the Halmeu cemetery. The rabbinical judge Rabbi Yosef, the son-in-law of the elderly Rabbi Eliahu Klein, and who was later accepted as the rabbi and head of the rabbinical court in Királyháza, composed the text of the epitaph on my grandfather's grave. He prepared my grandfather's monument with his own hands in an artistic fashion and engraved the inscription. His son Chaim Yosef served as the Rosh Yeshiva with the Yetev Lev, and according to his words, chastised Rabbi Yoelish several times for his mischievousness. He married a wife from the city of Sighet and moved to Budapest, where he opened a large monument workshop with several branches. My grandfather Rabbi Eliezer died in 1916.
My grandmother Yarcha was also known in religious and communal life. She served as a reader in the women's section for women who did not know how to pray. She continued with this role also in her old age, when she could no longer see, but she knew all the Selichot [penitential prayers] and festival prayers by heart. All of the Yeshiva students went to her to eat breakfast. Every day, she prepared a large pot of beet soup, tzoikl or klobn borscht (types of soups). The lads would come en masse right after the morning services, and helped themselves to the tasty food to their hearts' content. Grandmother did not remain in the room so that they would not be embarrassed, and so that they would not have to thank her. It was not only the youth who benefited from this. She also provided this tasty food to the Jewish prisoners who were imprisoned in the jail opposite our house. A typical situation took place with respect to this when Bitros the jail keeper retired and the new jail keeper, Koncz, who replaced him, was unaware of this custom. When grandmother came with the food, he did not permit her to enter. She slapped the guard on the cheek, took the key by force and entered. The matter was brought before the chief judge Dietler (a Jew), who explained the situation to the jail keeper: In this unfortunate incident, we are guilty, for we did not tell you that the door of the jail is open to Grandmother Yarcha, and we beg her forgiveness! In the 1930s, when the Jews of Hungary
were forced to obtain their certificates of citizenship again in order to prevent deportation – when I was together with Moravy the district captain, he inquired about my origins. When I explained to him that I was the grandson of Grandmother Yarcha, he told me that that was sufficient.
My father of blessed memory, Reb Shmuel Mordechai Schwartz, was the son of the well-known scribe of Chust, the author of the book Nefesh Tova (A Good Soul). Father was also a scribe. He wrote five Torah scrolls in Halmeu, and died at the young age of 32 leaving behind five orphans. After I studied in the Yeshiva of Halmeu, I moved to my uncle in Budapest, with whom I studied the trade in which I work to this day, for I am the director of the monument cooperative of Jerusalem. I worked in the area of Jewish communal affairs in Budapest, and was a member of the Orthodox communal organization, the Chevra Kadisha [burial society], and the office of the Land of Israel. At the same time, I studied singing, and served as a cantor on the High Holy Days on the Zigmund Street Synagogue in Budapest, in Kiscsömöte, in Debrecin, and currently in the Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue in Jerusalem.
My sister Sara Leah married a scholarly, G-d fearing Jew Reb Yechiel Braun of Kökényesd. With the grace of G-d, they were the only couple, aside from the Zindel family, who returned to Halmeu after the war. My brother-in-law Yechiel died in Jerusalem at the age of 49. My brother Zeev Wolf was drafted to a labor camp, and endured the seven levels of hell there. After the liberation, he actively and successfully assisted many of those who returned to restore their livelihoods. He remained in Budapest until the latest revolution there in 1956, and immigrated to Canada, where he became a diamond wholesaler. He visits Israel as a tourist almost every year. The fourth brother Moshe studied in the Yeshiva of Reb Yoelish in Satmar, and was an enthusiastic Hassid. I was informed by witnesses that he participated in the revolt of the crematoria workers in Auschwitz, and was taken to be killed. My sister Rachel married Reb David Leib of Bábony. He was an eyewitness that my mother of blessed memory, my sister Rachel and her children were taken to the gas chambers. Today he lives in Antwerp, and is a devoted Hassid of the Satmar Rebbe.
My mother of blessed memory, who was known as Aunt Rivka or the Soferke (the wife of the scribe), was widowed at age 28. She educated her children with dedication from the hard work of directing the kitchen of the Yeshiva students. She was not willing to receive any support or assistance from her children when they grew up or from her brothers. In Budapest, I learned that she had ordered the monument for my father of blessed memory from my uncle and had already paid the entire amount from the money that she had earned from the work of her hands. I hereby bow my head in memory of this typical Yiddishe Mama. May her soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.
The second son-in-law of my grandfather, Reb Fishel Treiser, opened a fancy goods store opposite Dyush Street, and later rented Holtzer's store. He was known as Pirushka by the farmers, for he knew how to talk to them in their style. This uncle
was first an accountant in Sighet, and later went to study in the Yeshiva of Halmeu. Grandmother Yarcha watched out for him… Their older daughter Hentshe married in Vienna. She conducted her household there in a religious style. She and her family also perished in Auschwitz. Their son Yehuda Leib was a genius in the Yeshiva of Halmeu. He graduated from the rabbinical seminary of Vienna as well as from university, but did not receive his doctorate degree, for Hitler had already interfered with the situation. He was accepted as a rabbi in Bucharest. After the transfer of Transylvania to the Hungarians, he was examined by the rabbinical court of Budapest to be accepted as a rabbi there. The members of the rabbinical court were astonished with his great expertise, and noted in their recommendation that he was also familiar with the sources of Jewish law. He passed through the Holocaust era in a hospital in Budapest, where he worked as a Christian physician. After the war, I was astonished to hear him debate in Russian. He told me that we had been liberated by the Russians for five weeks already. He was an expert in languages, and was fluent in Yiddish, Hungarian, Romanian, French, Esperanto, German, and English. Yehuda Aryeh was one of the chief spokesmen at the world conference on Esperanto. After he returned to Vienna, his professor informed him that he had succeeded in safeguarding his dissertation work that he had written, and presented him with his certificate of doctorate. He was offered a position of lecturer in the university, but his wife (the daughter of Berger from Satmar) at first objected to living in the vale of murder. Only after he served as a lecturer in a university in Colombia did she agree that he accept the position in Vienna. He died of a heart attack on his way to a congress in Munich, where he had been sent as a delegate of the university.
His younger brother Chaim Mordechai settled in Budapest. He was reported to the government as a Romanian spy, and he escaped for some time to Vienna, where he opened a successful business. Later, he was forced to move to Chernovitz due to the pressure of Hitler, which reached there too. He made it to Russia. He continued his wanderings to Satmar, Budapest, and Belgium, until he finally reached Canada. There, he opened a confectionary factory. David had three other talented sons – Zeev, Eliezer, and Zelig – all of whom perished in the labor camps. After the war, his daughter Klara married Dr. Marksmer, the civic engineer of Satmar. They made aliya, where she recently died of a heart attack. The older of their two children is studying at the Technion at Haifa, and is considered to be one of the excellent students. His younger brother is a successful physicist.
The second son-in-law of my grandfather was Reb Eliahu Shapira. He was lacking in luck. All four of his children died before they reached the age of one, and his wife died as well when the fifth son was born. His material situation did not improve even after he remarried, and he remained a pauper. My uncle Fishel advised him to leave Halmeu, and even gave him an appropriate hint – the acronym of The poor will never cease from the land spells the letters of Halmeu. This was indeed the case; many families there were lacking in livelihood, and suffered from poverty and deprivation.
The Jeremias family was a well-known, honorable family in Halmeu. Reb Meir was the head of the family. He had a splendid countenance, was a scholar, owned estates and vineyards, and was a successful, honorable businessman. His sons, daughters, and grandchildren set up roots in the town. In fact, they were the most prominent family there. They did not wear streimels, but they tended toward Hassidism, and their children became leaders of Hassidism in Halmeu.
His first son-in-law was Reb Baruch Hendler, the genius of the town. At times, we would witness the perplexity of the rabbi during his didactic lecture when he was asked a question by Reb Baruch. We also saw how he was careful not to impinge on the honor of the rabbi of the city. His son Reb Avraham Yechezkel almost reached the level of his father with his breadth of knowledge. His son Tzvi Hershel managed his father's wine cellar, whereas Yechezkel worked independently. Reb Yehoshua Wolf Greenfeld was his second son-in-law. He owned a wholesale grocery store, and was a zealous Hassid even though he did not wear a streimel. He would worship with exceptional devotion. His son Sheimz was the prime spokesman in issues of religion and community. He was very talented and managed to figure out any complex matter. One of his sons, Reb Moshe Avraham, served as an official of the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society] of Haifa. Two of his three daughters remained in the city after marriage, but they all met their deaths in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Reb Moshe Wieder, the son of Rabbi Menirad-Hazza, was his third son-in-law. He was a known scholar, an upright man, with fine talents and traits. For many years, he was a dedicated trustee of the Talmud Torah.
The oldest son of Reb Meir was Reb Shmelke, the owner of a grocery and metal goods store, was a good hearted man. His second son Reb Moshe served as the head of the community for many years. He led the community with great wisdom and a strong hand. The following incident is typical of him: The physician Dr. Bleier was removed from the synagogue by force by the police when he refused to remove his shoes on Yom Kippur. As a result of this, some of the members seceded and worshipped in a separate minyan. In his time, it was suspected that the issue would come to an actual schism if he would accept his disputants into the communal leadership. Sometimes, a dispute arose with the family of Reb Menachem Gotlieb in commercial affairs. That family was also a fine, well connected family, for both of them owned large businesses of lumber and wooden materials. Reb Meir had two sons, Avraham Yekutiel and Yechezel. His parents spoiled the latter too much. Their relatives were also well connected families – Rubinstein, Heinfeld, Rotstein, Salomon, Moskovitz, and Levi.
Reb Meir's birthday was on the Fast of Esther, when all of the relatives were
together for the Purim festivities. During the 1920s, I was the preparer and organizer of the Purim performances and games. We began the preparations immediately after the start of the winter, with two or three people helping me. The residents of the town were very curious about the victim who would be chosen for the Purim pranks.
Reb Peyish Weiss (Franz) was the most successful in writing verses in order to entertain the crowd. I liked them, and I was able to include them into the performance and use them to entertain the large crowd, for he was always able to find the weakness in the person who was fit to be the butt of the jokes. We put on this performance first and foremost in the home of Reb Meir Jeremias (I, of course added my own content). Reb Avraham Yitzchak Glik, the son of Reb Shlomo the Shamash, was a regular member of the troupe of actors. He would start with a special tune to begin the show. With his special talent, he succeeded in getting his audience to laugh to the point of tears.
I see these jolly days of Purim before my eyes. From the afternoon, we already began to run about with the Mishloach Manot [Purim food gifts to friends] in the full sense of the term, for we had not yet concluded our work by noon. We were especially desirous of the monetary recompense. At 2:00 p.m., the youths already began to go from house to house, putting on their Purim skits. Then the older youths performed their songs and rhymes. Toward evening, it was the turn of the Yeshiva lads to perform the fruits of their labor in specific homes. These verses of rhyme incorporate important events of the year. In general, the Chevra Kadisha feast that took place on the 7th of Adar served a good material for the Purim skits.
In 1926, the group of actors, including the Salomon brothers Dani and Libi, the teachers Reb Zanwil and Reb Meir Hirsch (the latter later served as the shochet of Kökényesd, and his son lives in Israel), Yehuda Leib Treiser, and I created a special fund to cover the costs. Dani Salomon and I traveled to the well-known jester Reb Hirsch Leib Gotlieb in Sighet, from whom we obtained the Egyptian Rabbi. His charming granddaughter taught us the tunes and songs for the play. We rented the corona. We set up an appropriate stage and also bought a book dealing with makeup. Everything succeeded as well as possible, other than that the three performances did not cover the expenditures.
The next year, I included in the Purim play incidents that I had discovered. A young dentist lived in Halmeu, and suddenly most of the girls were afflicted with bad toothaches. The dentist graced the daughter of Baruch Hendler with a kiss on the hands. A similar incident took place with Reb Avraham Chaim Dimand and his young bride. Pancakes were fried with fish oil at the home of the Greenfeld family, and the entire family got sick. Thus, I obtained appropriate and interesting material for the Purim performances. The echoes of the performance in the home of Reb Meir
stirred up the audience.
In return for 500 Lei, I acceded to the request of Reb Yidel Dimand to remove the incident of his brother the groom. With regard to the dentist, Branik the police sergeant came to me and warned me about performing it. There were also others who came to bribe me, and the money from don't wag your tongue enriched me more than the income from the performances.
by Tzvi Kahan of Bnei Brak
The image of my father Reb Aharon Kahane of blessed memory stands before me, with his splendid countenance and tall stature that evoked honor.
He was a scholar with a lofty spirit. He would get up at dawn to go to the Beis Midrash, where his listeners drank of his wisdom with thirst. There was an open Gemara all day on his desk at his office. Many would come to him for arbitration, and he would always find a path of compromise between a man and his fellow. Just like Aaron the Priest in his time, he pursued peace. He was particularly interested in the education of young children, and he was chosen as the president of the Talmud Torah committee. He concerned himself with obtaining proper resources for study. Despite his widespread business endeavors in the field of grocery and haberdashery wholesaling, he always found time to occupy himself with communal affairs. Thus, he left his mark on the city of Halmeu. His name was mentioned with honor on all lips, and the children on the streets would whisper in awe, Here goes Rabbi Aharon. Father of blessed memory always dreamed of the Land of Israel, but he did not succeed in actualizing his dream by making aliya to the Land. He sent my sister Vera, who has lived in the Land since 1935.
Father of blessed memory died a day after the Seventh Day of Passover in the year 5692 (1932). He suffered from his illness and lay on his sickbed for three years. My eyes fill with tears as I remember his request on the final Seder night as he was lying on his sickbed, that I read the Haggadah because he does not have the power to read it himself. I, his youngest son, the son of his old age, read it out loud as my soul was weeping. Yes! My father of blessed memory was a revered man, and his memory will never leave us. We will tell of his deeds from generation to generation, and a father will tell his son about Grandfather Aharon. Where are those wonderful people, where is that generation that went and is no more?
My mother, Malka Kahane of blessed memory, may G-d avenge her blood, bore 13 children, and I was the youngest. My mother of blessed memory was a woman of valor and a completely righteous person. Every Thursday, she would discreetly distribute food provisions for the Sabbath to needy families. As is
written, She arose while it was still night and provides portions for her maidens. From morning to night, she never stopped her activities. She was diligent, and demanded the same from her daughters. Indeed, the daughters were girls of valor like their mother.
Rosy is the eldest, may she live long. (She recently made aliya from Australia.) She was a prominent merchant, and was very active. She sustained her family. Her husband was known as a weak man, albeit a great scholar. She passed through all the levels of hell. After the war, her husband returned from the camps suffering from tuberculosis, and died after a short time.
Freda, may G-d avenge her blood. She was also diligent. She served as her father's bookkeeper and was expert in all matters of the office. In those days, it was exceptional that a woman from an Orthodox home such as ours worked as a clerk. Despite the exactitude of my father of blessed memories, his daughters studied general subjects in high school, although they were careful of all the commandments, both the easy and hard ones. Freda had two sons. The younger had a fine soul and demonstrated great talents, but he perished in the Holocaust. His name was Daniel, may G-d avenge his blood, and may his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life. Freda went with the women's transport and spent some time in the Auschwitz camp, but the hand of destruction fell upon her and she went along the eternal path.
Munchi, may G-d avenge her blood. She was refined, beautiful, and good hearted with no equal, but no trace remains of her. My soul weeps for her and for those pure souls who gave up their souls in purity without even a monument remaining – she, her husband, and their young daughter, and she was in the latter stages of pregnancy with her second child. Terror overtakes me as I recall this. May G-d avenge their blood.
Arzi (Esther) of blessed memory. I remember her. She was beautiful. To her great sorrow, G-d closed her womb and she had no children. Perhaps it is better for a person to not have been born than to have been born…
The sons studied in Yeshivas. My older brother Daniel of blessed memory, may G-d avenge his blood, was a scholar and the representative of a large firm. He was very talented, with a polished style. His mannerisms were pleasant; he had a broad heart, and good logic. In the camps, during the most difficult times, he abstained from eating non-kosher food. He preferred to go hungry rather than to violate a prohibition of the Torah. Only a few dozen kilometers separated between him and freedom, but his strength ran out and he was unable to continue on foot. He stumbled and fell. He was a victim of the Holocaust as were many of our unfortunate brethren, may G-d avenge their blood. No remnant remains of him, for his two small, wonderful daughters also perished. His wife survived, but did not live long after the war, as she died from a malignant illness.
My brother Mordechai (Marton) of blessed memory
He went very far in his studies. He reached Frankfurt, Germany, where he studied in a Yeshiva and completed a degree in secular studies. He had broad horizons, and was known as a talented agent fluent in several languages. After the war, he was found without any strength by the allied forces. They put him into a hospital. He lay there for an entire year, with his bones concealing skin and flesh. He weighed 48 kilograms, and was literally a skeleton when he was found. He had been a tall, strong man during his good years. He later succeeded in making aliya to the Land, and was active among the immigrants from Hungary in his city of Hadera. He assisted everyone who had a depressed spirit and who was in need. Everyone honored him, and wept bitterly and eulogized him after he died, for they had lost a brother and a friend, the likes of which will not come again. May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life.
My brother Chaim, may he live long
He lost his wife and children in the Holocaust. With his own eyes, he saw their wagon transporting them to the train cars for extermination. At that time, he worked several meters from the road laying railway tracks as a forced laborer in the camp. His soul went out to them. They waved to him with their hands, and he never saw them again. May G-d avenge their blood.
Who can enumerate and evaluate the magnitude of the terrible tragedy that befell our nation. All the rivers of the earth and all the waters of the seas cannot wipe away this horrible iniquity. It will be an eternal disgrace, and a cause of weeping for all generations.
by Yehudit Reichberger (Landau) of Bnei Brak
In a few lines, I will attempt to establish a memorial for our family, and for the Jewish residents in the entire village who were for the most part related to us. I am speaking of Bătarci near Halmeu, and of the Landau and Libi families.
My grandfathers were Reb Leibish Leb and Reb Yisrael Landau. They were the ones who, in its time, organized the settlement of Jews in the village. At the time of the Holocaust, about 45 families lived there. Of them, only a few individuals returned.
The economic situation of the Jews was comfortable. Everyone had his own house, as well as the land needed for his livelihood. There were Jews who were grocers
and butchers, grain and lumber merchants, owners of taverns, owners of liquor distilleries, tailors, and shoemakers. The main thing was that there was a strong measure of love of one's fellow Jew, fitting with their zealously religious way of life.
Even the simplest Jews did not withhold their money, and they educated their children in Yeshivas. No Jewish person was a boor or an ignoramus. The result was that 70 percent of the residents wore streimels.
A small Yeshiva functioned in the village, headed by the shochet and rabbinical judge Rabbi Yosef of blessed memory, a well-known scholar and fearer of Heaven. My grandfather was a great scholar and a very wealthy man who owned estates. His son Reb Yaakov Hirsch Libi was a pleasant man, engaged in many activities, and served as the head of the community. He, his wife Bryna, and his children perished in Auschwitz. His son David perished in a work camp. Aunt Pesia and her family, Aunt Rivka Gitel and her family were captured in an ambulance in which they were trying to escape. Reb Yoelish the Satmar Rebbe was also there. They were taken to Auschwitz.
Grandmother's brother Reb Izak Shalom Leb of blessed memory owned a flour mill behind the bridge in Satmar. Yisrael Leib Weiss, his wife Shprintza, and their children Miriam, Shimon, Rivka, Yechiel, Perl, Malka, Menashe, Chana, and their families were all murdered in sanctification of the Divine Name.
Uncle Reb Yisrael Leb loved to help everyone in need, and everyone who turned to him. He was known as a man who liked to save and preserve every small item. He was a great expert in the fowl industry, especially in fattening ducks.
My grandfather Reb Yisrael Landau was well known in his generation as a scholar, a fearer of Heaven, a Hassid, as well as a giver of charity. He had good connections with the authorities, to the point where the regional commander came to him for advice one Sabbath and he was forced to push off the discussion with him because he was in the middle of giving his class in the synagogue.
He was dedicated to redeeming prisoners under the pretext that he was in need of farming help. He would dress them in Hassidic garb. One Jew who was a Misnaged of Lithuanian ancestry who had been imprisoned said that, Having no other choice, I too am a Hassid. He died long before the Holocaust and is buried in the cemetery of Satmar. On the other hand, his righteous wife, my grandmother Chaya Bluma, perished in Auschwitz at the age of 85 along with her children.
Our dear father Reb Menachem Mendel Landau was the son-in-law of the head of the rabbinical court of Tymon (near Pressburg). His wife, our dear mother, was the pride of our family. Father was a genius, who was great in Torah. He studied in the most famous Yeshivas in the upper district of Hungary and Germany, where he also obtained secular education. He always inspired us with his melody of Gemara study. We had fields, and also had our own house in Halmeu. The
third Sabbath meal would take place every Sabbath in our house, as would the Mincha and Maariv services on winter nights. During those times, the conversation would revolve around a new tune that we had succeeded in bringing from the outside, and also whose turn it was to lead the invocation to the Grace After Meals. Of course, the decider was my father of blessed memory.
Unforgettable memories remain with me regarding the gathering of communal members at our home for the Counting of the Omer on the second day of Passover, when they sang and danced until daybreak, and concluded with Next Year in Jerusalem. However, who from among them merited thus? To our great sorrow, almost all of them went up as burnt offerings in Auschwitz, including my father Menachem Mendel of blessed memory, my mother Sara, my brothers Libi, Mordechai, Meir, and Berl, and my sister Gila who disappeared immediately after the liberation. Can I ever forget them, especially my dear mother who offered assistance and advice during times of trouble to all people of the town who turned to her? May her memory be a blessing!
My uncle, my father's brother Menashe Wolf (Shindor) of blessed memory was the son-in-law of the genius (Gaon) of Saint Mihai. He was a well-known scholar, wore a streimel, and dedicated all of his free time solely to the study of Torah. He had his own Beis Midrash, and a special room to entertain guests. He owned a flour mill as well as estates. Only one of his nine children survived. The rest perished in the Holocaust – his wife Rivka and his children Sara, Pesia, Esther, Tovia, Yeta, Yisrael Yuda, Avraham, and Reizel, may G-d avenge their blood.
Vibrant Jews lived in the village. The joyous days of Purim left a special impression upon me, as did Simchat Torah, when people gathered in our house and then went into every Jewish house on the way to my uncle Menashe Wolf Landau, where they danced until after midnight. They would conclude the celebration of the holiday with the Shacharit service at dawn at the home of my other uncle, Reb Yaakov Hirsh Libi, who was generally in a good spirit, and was an expert in Jewish song and dance, along with Meir Green of blessed memory.
Reb Alter Landau, my father's brother was also a scholar, the owner of tavern and well-known hotel. He also perished in the Holocaust along with his family and children – Feiga and her husband Avraham Wieder, Helen and her husband Yaakov Green, Iren and his family, Otto, and Zalman, Tova Katz and her husband Avraham Katz the head of the rabbinical court of Nemşa the brother of the rabbi of Risk and who now serves as the rabbi of the Satmar neighborhood of Bnei Brak along with his family members Mendel and Bat Sheva, Dov and his family, Sima Yeta and Yosef and their family, Esther Elenboigen and her husband Naftali and their children Yisrael, Menachem, and Perl, Chana Feier and her husband, Yitzchak Menachem and his family, Menashe and his family, Yuda Leib, Berl, Luli, Leichu and her children from Satmar. Uncle Meir Roiz and his children, Yona and Yisrael Weiss – all of them perished and were murdered in sanctification of the Divine name. They worked and toiled all their lives in order to attain a better future and to seek a new homeland once the evil would end in the world. However, to our sorrow, they did not merit such, and they did not even have a Jewish burial.
It is our wish in these lines to establish a monument for them and to wish that their great merit will stand for us and for the Holocaust survivors for a life of calm and peace in our free country, and that we will all merit to witness the complete redemption, speedily and in our days, Amen.
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