Within the Book
History of Jewish Settlement in Kremenets
Chapters in the History of Kremenets Jewry
Zionism, Pioneering, Immigration
Education and Culture
Memories and Lifestyles
Characters and Personalities
Kremenets Exiles in Israel
The Destruction of Kremenets
[Translator's Notes: The main north/south street is Sheroka, which means Broad.
[Page 7 Hebrew] [Page 277 Yiddish]
The Editors (Tel Aviv)
English Translation by Thia Persoff
The Jewish community of Kremenets was completely annihilated by the hand of the Nazi enemy along with the rest of the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine. Between 1 and 10 Elul 5702 [1942 CE], close to 14,000 of the city's Jews were slaughtered. Only 14, who hid in caves and among the rocky crags, managed to escape. The extermination was accomplished with a satanic cunning: the first to be slaughtered were the heads of the community, its leaders and intellectuals. Then the young people were deported, never to return, killed in the labor detachments. The rest were locked in the ghetto, tortured, humiliated, and oppressed without pity. Stripped of strength of spirit and ability to carry on, their national and human pride fell prey to unimaginable tortures and when the bitter day arrived, they were defeated and slaughtered without even trying to mount an active, organized defense. The Jewish young people, brave and proud, were plundered by the hands of evildoers.
So was destroyed and exterminated a magnificent community, capable and devoted, that wove its thread of existence for 500 years in an area that was a land of contention among Tatars, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Russians. Amid all the political perversities, the Jewish community persevered, shaped and strengthened its way of life, lived through times of highs and lows, wrote brilliant pages in the history of Jewish Vohlin, and produced leaders and Torah greats, writers and intellectuals.
But maybe its main greatness and value is in its spirited, folksy life in the character of the laboring Jew who is content in spirit and soul, and full of the joy of life; who has deep emotional ties to Judaism and all its vivid creative forces, the campaigners and builders among them: Hasidim and Mitnagdim, Orthodox and intellectuals, pioneers of Love of Zion and Zionism, advocates of Hebrew and Yiddish culture, of socialism and the movement of those who work the Land of Israel, of pioneering and immigration in all of those, the Jews of Kremenets took an active part, in body and soul and devotion.
[Translator's Notes: Mitnagdim, meaning opponents, were Orthodox Jews who were opposed to Hasidism. Love of Zion (in Hebrew, Chibat Tsion) was a 19th-century Zionist movement to rebuild the homeland of Israel.]
One day, this kind of life was cut down.
Fate left a remnant of fugitives from the town people who had left it at different times in Israel and the USA, in Argentina, and in small communities in other lands. In their hearts they carry the memories of their birthplace and their youth. These people have come together to commemorate it. Though the community was cut down, its name and remembrance will be perpetuated in a book. The difficult mission of publishing Pinkas Kremenets was taken up by the people who left Kremenets and now are living in Israel, with help and contributions from those living in other countries. After four years of labor, we present this book as a small contribution to Holocaust literature and to Jewish historiography in general.
The book is the result of a collective effort by dozens of writers and the editors; each one told his memories and thoughts, and the chapters intertwine and join into a true mirror.
Some of the articles were dictated to members of the editorial board. Some material was translated. We also used important material about times past from the newspaper Kremenitser Shtime to memorialize those who have passed away. Blessed are the young scientists, Sh. Etinger and Ch. Shmeruk of the University in Jerusalem, who wrote the historical monograph of the history of the Kremenets Jewish community a work based on original sources.
Valuable material about Jewish daily life was contributed in the tales from our comrades in America, particularly Chanokh Gilernt and others. Two of the Holocaust survivors, Betsalel Shvarts and Tova Teper, contributed a chapter on the annihilation. We thankfully acknowledge all of them.
A son of our town living in the USA, Mr. Yitschak Vakman, helped us materially and spiritually. Our thanks are given to him here.
The material was collected according to a plan. We wanted the book to reflect and encompass the town's daily life and all its colorful variety of public, social, and intellectual activities. To our disappointment, we did not fully achieve our goal. And the book may be lacking. For example, surveys of the Jewish merchants associations, the Joint's activities, the cooperative movement, the cemeteries and their ancient gravestones, and even the Zionist movement and all its factions were not described properly (missing are descriptions of the Mizrachi, Betar, and others).
[Translation Editor's Note: The Joint is a nickname for the Joint Distribution Committee, a worldwide Jewish relief organization. Mizrachi is a religious Zionist movement.]
But we did not want to postpone publication of the book for another year in an effort to complete it and decided under pressure from many of our members to publish it without any more delays and not to endanger its appearance.
Also, it was decided to publish the book in Yiddish, too, for our brethren in foreign countries and new immigrants in Israel. This has spread its readership but damaged its completeness a bit, increasing our budgetary struggles. For this reason, except for the opening historical chapter, the book was not translated from the Hebrew to Yiddish, and vice versa. The reader who reads both parts of the book will get a complete picture of Jewish Kremenets and life there. Much effort was invested in collecting the photographs, some of which have historical and artistic value.
Finally, we give our thanks to the editor, the writer A. Sh. Stein, who helped, led, and directed our work and designed the appearance of the book.
In the 12th year since the annihilation of the Kremenets community 1 Elul 5714 (1953/1954) we present to you, the reader, Pinkas Kremenets as a memorial to the last generation.
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