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by Reuven and Gershon Fleishfarb
We were a large extended family with branches all
over the area including Zbaraj and Skalat on the side of our father, Berel
Flieshfarb and his family, and our mother, Rivka Rachel Rosenblatt.
The house of our grandfather Motti Fleishfarb and
his wife, Charni, stood in the village of Madin in the county of Zbaraj.
Grandfather and Grandmother had five sons, the eldest being my father, Yitzhak
Dov, who everyone called Berel. My father was born in the 1880's.
My mother, Rivka Rachel, came to Madin from
Skalat at the beginning of the twentieth century. They had a family.
My father followed in his father's footsteps and
became a real estate agent. This was how he became a regular visitor to the
estate of Count Malachovsky, who owned most of the land in Madin.
At the time World War I broke out, the family
consisted of three brothers, Shmuel Reuven and Gershon, and one sister, Hinna.
This was a difficult time for us. The Russians
had taken over our village. Someone had informed on my father and he was
punished and deported to Russia.
Due to her fear and poverty, my mother fled with
us children to her parents' home in Skalat. During the 1920's, our father
returned from his captivity. We returned to our grandfather's house in Madin,
and my father resumed his work as a real estate broker. My father was an
easy-going man, a Hosiatin Hassid, who spoke German, Ukrainian and Polish.
This helped him greatly with his work. Our mother carefully obeyed the rules
of Kashrut and tradition and ran the household very wisely. She raised her
children with warmth and love, a real "Yiddishe Mama", radiating the
goodness from her heart to her entire family and those around her.
Friday nights, Sabbaths and Jewish festivals were
especially happy times. The psalms sung at the Friday night dinner table were
always passionate. The Jewish children, including us, studied at the local
school in the village. The students were mostly Ukrainians and Poles, with
just a few Jews.
The teachers were not friendly toward us, most of
them being anti-Semites. During the afternoon, we studied the Torah with
private tutors. One of the tutors was Eli Retzenstein. The students loved him.
Children from neighboring villages would crowd into his tiny home in Madin.
Eli the "Melamed" endowed us not only with a deep-rooted faith in the
Torah and its commandments, but also with a love of Eretz Israel and the
Zionist idea. One of his three children, Yisrael Retzenstein lived in
Podwolocyska for many years.
In time, our sister Hinna, married Yosef
Shaftzirer from Gazimlov. They had one daughter, Zelma. My brother, Shmuel,
married as well.Reuven was drafted. I, Gershon, remained at home helping my
father in his work and in maintaining the household. In time, I too, was
drafted and our parents remained alone.
In 1939, the Robentrop-Molotov Agreement called
for the division of Poland. We returned to Madin. Everything had changed
Our father fell ill and died a few months later.
We were all crestfallen. We wandered from Madin to Skalat, to our mother's
World War II broke out and Reuven and I, along
with all the other young men from the town, were drafted, this time into the
Our mother remained alone.
The memory of our final farewell from Mother
remains etched in my memory.
On Thursday morning, near our home, Mother gave
each son a small prayer book for us to keep as a charm against evil and from
which we could pray. That is how we said farewell forever.
The draftees wandered eastward fearfully fleeing
the Germans. For many weeks we marched day and night until they put us on a
train and we traveled for one month. We reached Nizny-Tagil near Svardlobsk
exhausted, in tatters, and worn out.
We were transferred to a work camp and that is
where Reuven and I spent the war years. Reuven worked in a brick factory and I
worked in a quarry. One day we bumped into Arye Rappaport in the market. This
made us all rejoice.
We waited for the war to end, hoping that we
would find someone from the family left alive. Fate had other plans.
In 1946, we were repatriated back to Poland.
In Podwolocyska, a stopover on our journey, we
found but a few survivors of the Holocaust. According to what they told us, my
brother Shmuel and his wife Hanna, along with my sister Hinna, her husband
Yosef, and their daughter Zelma, had joined my mother in Skalat by the time the
Germans entered the town. My brother Shmuel, his wife Hanna, and my
brother-in-law, Yosef were murdered by the Ukrainians. My mother was sent on
one of the transports to the death camp, Belzitz, where she perished along with
the other Jews of Skalat. My sister, Hinna, and her seven-year-old daughter
Zelma wandered about the surrounding villages until 1943. During that summer,
my sister died of hunger and disease in the wheat fields surrounding the town
where she was born. Zelma continued to wander for a few more days until a
murderous Ukrainian, maybe even someone from Madin, nabbed her and murdered her.
Our grief was overwhelming. We had nothing left
to seek on this cursed ground. We decided to continue on to Lvov, but not
before taking one last look at the house of David Meir Rosenblatt. This large
house was now a barracks.
Here are a few words about the families which
lived in the villages around Podwolocyska.
The villages were small, with mostly Ukrainian
and Polish inhabitants, with but a few Jewish families.
This village was known for its carp, which was
fished from the river which cut through the village. The village lay about 12
kilometers from Podwolocyska and about fifteen Jewish families lived
David Gavriel Fleishfarb had a family and settled
in Podwolocyska. He and his wife, Riva, had five children.
At some point the entire family moved to Karkov.
All of the children survived the Holocaust. Two daughters, Tzila and Salke,
came to Israel. In January 1988, Tzila passed away.
There was the family of Yosele Brauner, known as
Vienner because he once visited Vienna for medical reasons. Yosele and his
wife Hanch had six children. Of this entire large family only one
granddaughter remained alive, Rivak Singer. She lives on Kibbutz Ginosar.
There was Yisrael Rechel and his family. We
cannot remember the names of the other families.
There were about the same number of Jewish
families living here. There were Itzik and Hanya Delagatz and their five
children. Their son, Moshe Delegatz married a woman from the Schneiderman
family of Podwolocyska.
There was the family of Pinhas and Bat-Sheva
Shechter. Reb Pinhas performed the circumcisions and served as the kosher
butcher for the entire surrounding area. The Shecthers had six children. Of
the entire family only their son Nahum survived and lives in Israel. Reb
Pinhas, the kosher butcher, had the only synagogue in town at his house. The
families from the villages of Madin Skuriki, Pankovicz, and Kalimkovicz would
gather to pray there on Sabbaths and festivals.
There was the family of Fishel and Perele Marder.
There was Lippa Halperin and his wife and four children. Of this family, two
sons survived, one living in Israel and the other in France.
There were the families of the Rechel brothers
with many children. There were more families, but we cannot remember their
We can only remember the Bonis family. There were
four children, one of whom, Shmirel, survived. After the liberation he married
Clara Reichman. They moved to Israel and settled in Rehovot. They had a
daughter, Batya. Smirel died after a short illness in Rehovot. May his memory
Many names of families and individuals have been
erased from my memory over the years. For that we are sorry and regretful.
- A Jewish Farmer
by Arye Rappaport
My father Zeev Shaul (known as Wolf) Rappaport
was born in 1875 in the city of Tarnopol. He spent his childhood in the home
of his well-to-do parents. He was educated in the Torah institutions in the
city. He was never attracted by the various trends of hassidism, as opposed to
the idea of Zionism, which he adopted during adolescence.
In 1902, he married Rachel Sass from
Podwolocyska. After his marriage, he built his home in this town and did well
trading wheat and wood. Next to his home, he built a small farm, where he grew
vegetables and raised livestock, foul and even bees. Here he acquired
experience of which he was able to make use later on.
In 1928, he decided to move to Eretz Israel. His
dream was slowly turning into reality, and reached the point of selling his
home and belongings so that he could move his household to Eretz Israel.
However, his departure was delayed after he heard rumors of large-scale Sabbath
desecration in Eretz Israel.
While he was deciding the issue, he was offered a
chance to rent the farm of Count Malachovsky in Pancaviza, about seven
kilometers from Podwolocyska. He accepted. The farm lay on 700 mors of land
and included a main house for the family, and stables, sties, warehouses, pens,
coops, and a flour mill. There were also residences for the farmhands. (The
Jewish Shapira family lived there but they did not work on the farm.)
The entire family contributed to the upkeep of
the farm. Wolf ran it skillfully and wisely. Rachel, his wife, ran the
household with the help of her eldest daughter, Esther. The sons, Zelig, Haim,
and Moshe, shared the work and responsibility and even the youngest son Arye,
the author of these lines, contributed his share. The farm also employed ten
permanent workers. This number swelled to one hundred during the busy season.
In a short time, the farm had become a thriving business.
When the Russians captured the area in 1939, Wolf
Rappaport was not turned in to the communists as a parasitic capitalist because
of the nature of his relationship with his workers. Of course it was one of
landlord to laborer, but still it was based on mutual respect, and so he was
not harmed by the communist authorities. Worthy of mention is an episode which
shows how proudly he acted as a Jew. Once he was involved in a civil suit
presided over by Judge Stern, a Jew who had converted to Catholicism. The
judge demanded that he remove his yarmulke. Wolf refused to do this and left
the court. After he lodged a complaint to the proper magistrate, the converted
judge was made to leave his position and return to Lvov.
Aside from Wolf's farm, there were other Jewish
farms in the area. There was the Greenberg farm in Warovyovka, the Weizman
farm in Shpilovka and more. These farmers met regularly to discuss business
matters and to meet socially.
The work schedule on the farm ran on the
agricultural clock. In this context I will mention two festivities that took
place on the farm. One was held at the end of the harvest, with a band playing
music and with dancing, food and drink provided generously by the owner. The
other was held for the secular New Year. During these festivities, Wolf and
his sons mingled with the laborers.
Wolf remained strictly religious, studying the
Talmud during the week and occasionally praying at the Babad family synagogue.
He prayed regularly at the kosher butcher Shechter's house in the neighboring
village of Skuriki. Since he had been blessed with a melodious voice, he also
served as a cantor, especially during holidays and on special occasions,
without remuneration, of course.
Jewish travelers were always invited to rest at
the farm and regain their strength at a family meal. He also treated his
livestock well. Our house was always buzzing with people. The farm was visited
regularly by the Zionist youth in the area. Often groups of
"pioneers" would visit the farm to be perfumed by the scent of the
land and taste its fruits. They were always welcomed warmly. And because
Wolf's sons were members of Betar, this group got to use the farm as a training
center for young people about to move to Eretz Israel. The group of trainees
numbered about forty youths. Their training period lasted from one year to a
year and a half during which time they were trained in all aspects of
agriculture. They lived in the family's house. They used a common kitchen to
prepare their meals during the week, but on Sabbath and festivals they ate with
the family. Of course the meal was conducted in compliance with all of the
commandments. This large meal was an experience for the entire family. Some of
the pioneers, who mastered the agricultural skills, were able to go live in
Eretz Israel, and thus escape from the impending Holocaust.
Let us not forget this point as well. The farm
also served as a meeting ground for "pioneers", and some young
couples, who are still among us today, remember fondly those nights on the farm.
The family of Wolf Rappaport was annihilated in
the Holocaust. Wolf, Rachel, Esther, Zelig, and Moshe and their families
perished along with all the other Jews of Podwolocyska. Only two sons
remained, Haim, who moved to Israel as a pioneer in 1936, and established his
household there, and the youngest brother, Arye, who is writing these words. I
was drafted into the Red Army and spent the years of the Holocaust wandering
through Russia until arrived in Israel and built my home here.
I will relate some of my memories of
Podwolocyska- my recollections of the town and of myself while I was living
My first memories are of being a five-year-old in
Yona the "Melamed"'s cheder (Hebrew school). He was a good Jew; he
never used a whip, but only a pointer which he used to point to the rows in the
Bible. Two pictures have remained etched in my memory from that time:
When the days became shorter during the late
autumn, we would return home from cheder carrying small lamps with candles
burning inside, so that we would not be afraid of our own shadows. The streets
of Podwolocyska did not have proper lighting. There were some lights along the
way, at Yosha Teiber's above the tavern, between the two steel bridges, near
Dr. Friedman, near Simha Kavakon, near our house, near Avrumche Gross, and in a
few other places. Afterward came gas lights, and towards the end, electric
The second picture is of Lag B'Omer. On this day,
Yona the Melamed would take us on a trip. We walked from the cheder, which was
located at the yeshiva, to Feitel's Mountain. Each child brought along a
boiled egg sandwich. That was the custom. We sat down on the green grass, we
rested, ate the egg sandwich, we "flew like birds", we sang, we
laughed, we were happy. As Fate would have it, this very mountain became the
grave of the Jews of Podwolocyska, and the merry voices of Yona the Melamed's
children became mixed with the sounds of the crying and sobbing of those who
were brought here to their deaths.
I remember the Mizrachi synagogue, when it was in
ruins. That was during World War I. We played hide and seek there. Afterward,
they decided to renovate it. Yisrael Weizman, the synagogue's caretaker,
supervised the construction. We had the honor of seeing him in Israel during
the first memorial service for the Jews of Podwolocyska. I remember the great
joy at the time the first Torah scroll was brought into the renovated Mizrahi
synagogue. The whole street, from Rabbi Babad's house up until the synagogue
was filled with people. Everyone was dressed in holiday garb, and was singing
and dancing. I will never forget this scene. Enoch Hellman conducted the
youth choir, which sang . "Su Sha'arey Rasheychem V'hinasu Pitchei
There was also a reform temple in Podwolocyska,
but no one ever prayed there. The temple was constructed before World War I,
but construction was interrupted during the war and never resumed. The
unfinished edifice remained, deteriorating slowly until the middle of the
1930's. Since Simha Fogelbaum was the head of the congregation, he undertook
its rebuilding. The congregation was asked to finance the effort. First a
Talmud Torah (Hebrew school) was built. Some of the money was given to a
charity fund and the rest used to rebuild the temple. Since Yankel Gang, the
city caretaker lived in an apartment in the corner of the building, they rented
another apartment for him so that they could begin construction.
I remember Yankel Gang, a tall Jew with a black
beard, carrying a bridal canopy during the funeral of Brish the Cantor. I
remember him, also, when Rabbi Babad sent him out to gather Jews to come before
the rabbinical court. In the event of a disagreement, the Jews of Podwolocyska,
did not go to the civil courts, but rather to the rabbi in order to decide
their case. I remember him fixing the Sabbath Eruv, which the Poles called the
"Zydowski telefon", meaning the Jewish telephone.
All types of craftsmen were called upon to work
on the temple. The painters Avraham Feldman and his sons Binyamin and Hershel,
as well as Oxhorn and his son Ahrale, whose work it was to repaint the red
bricks around the temple. Roofers, carpenters, glaziers, and frame makers were
all employed. When the construction was nearly completed, World War II broke
out, the Russians captured the town and turned the temple into a noodle factory.
Enoch Hellman, who was mentioned above, was also
an avid Zionist and a considerable public speaker. He was also a good
theatrical director, who directed the theatrical presentations in the town.
When his daughter Tzippa moved to Israel, he hoped that in a short time he
would also get a certificate (visa) as did Rafael Weissman who moved to Israel
with his family and Shimon Bomza. But he was bitterly disappointed.
I learned a song from him, which I remember to
Mir zenen Yiddishe scouten
We are Jewish scouts/ With muscles strong and
healthy./ Neither heat nor frost will alarm us/ nor thunder nor storm./ We
march forward proudly toward a worthy goal/ To liberate the Jewish people from
the binds of the Diaspora/ To live as equals among all men/ Raise the blue and
white flag/ And call out loudly and clearly: (From the "Hatikva") We
have not yet lost our hope/ The nation of Israel lives!
Mir musklen shtark un gezunt
Es shreken unz nisht kein hitzen un kein kelten
Kein diener, kein shtrum-vind
Mirmarshirn faranigt tzu a
Tzu bfreien das folk Yisruel fun de galuskeiten
Tzu leiben gelich min leiten
Hoibt of de veis bloiye fan
Un mita leiten shtum git a geshrei:
Od lo uvda tikvateinu, am Yisrael Chai!
Freely translated it means:
That was in 1936. With these works Enoch Hilman
expressed his yearning for Eretz Israel and identified with the fate of the
We were under Soviet rule for two years, from
September 1939, until June 22, 1941. As the Germans approached, people became
afraid. They did not know what to do. The bombardment of Podwolocyska had
begun. The first bomb fell on an apartment building near the railroad station.
People began to flee to Russia. My parents traveled to Toki hoping that they
could hide there for a while until the Russians' expeditious return, and that
everything would work out okay. But unfortunately, this was not to be
. I, too, fled to Russia. What transpired in
Russia is a whole other story.
Only in 1944, while I was in Russia I became
aware of the fact that my brother. Munya, was badly wounded, but alive. He had
been drafted before the war broke out. Many young men had been drafted. Among
the fallen were: Hessyu Halperin, Shmuel Torn, Abba Heindel, Sello Shertz,
Bomza, the two Shenkel boys, Yanchi and Yozhe. When my brother was released
from the hospital, he came to me in Middle Asia, and together we planned to
return to Poland.
Shmuel Katz brought me the first word from
Podwolocyska in Opolla. He told me of the suffering which the Jews of
Podwolocyska had endured. As we know, the Jews of Podwolocyska were divided
into three groups. One group remained in Podwolocyska; the second was sent to
Skalat; the thrid to Zbaraj. My parents were sent to Zbaraj along with my
sister Toshka and her son Yankele and my other sister Rosa. My brother Shlomo
remained in Podwolocyska and worked in the quarry in Kamiunki.
I heard that there were signs of a passive revolt
among the Jews of Podwolocyska. Moshe Woltoch committed suicide when he
refused to serve in the Judenraat. My brother Shlomo slapped a Ukrainian
collaborator who struck him on his way to work in the quarry. The Ukrainian
shot him in the stomach and wounded him badly. When the German supervisor saw
my brother lying on the ground, my brother said to him, "Today he shot me,
tomorrow he will shoot you." The German took him to the hospital where he
recovered from his wound. But he was executed during the mass execution of the
Jews of Podwolocyska. This was told to me by Bronia's Shmerl, who worked in
the quarry as well and who fled from there later on. Shneiderman was a
policeman in Zbaraj who committed suicide because he refused to round up Jews
for execution. And Leibush Heilman smacked a German guard who stuck him. He
said, "Of course you are hero at my expense, let us see how you do in
Stalingrad!" Of course the German shot him on the spot.
The children in Zbraj were executed on April 15,
1943. When they came to take my sister Toshka's boy, Yankele, who was two years
old, she would not let the police take him. She took the beloved child in her
arms and marched out to the execution with him. He died in her arms.
My parents and sister Rosa were found in a bunker
during the Zbaraj executions. It was on Nissan 2 5703. They were in the
bunker with Reuven Weinstein's family and their daughter Noshka. But Noshka
had been saved a few days before they found the bunker. They had been hiding
in the bunker with another family which had spoken with a farmer who had agreed
to take their little boy. On the way to the farmer's home the little boy
remembered that he had forgotten something in the bunker and when they returned
there Reuven Weinstein begged the woman to take little Noshka as well. That is
how her life was saved.
Perhaps if there had been forests in our area,
like in White Russia or Lithuania, many Jews might have saved themselves by
hiding in the forests. But unfortunately, we were surrounded by forests of
hatred, and that made it difficult to hide.
During the time I worked for the
"Gordonia" movement in Lvov, it was my job to visit the different
branches of the Gordonia in different places. As part of my work, I had the
opportunity to compare the Zionist youth from all over Poland with that of
Podwolocyska. It was common knowledge that the residents of Podwolocyska
considered their town to be a sort of small version of Paris and they were not
particularly modest in their self-evaluation. But since I had the opportunity
to compare the youth from our town with that of others in Poland, I came to the
conclusion that this sentiment was justified. Not only was the youth very
active in collecting contributions for the Jewish National Fund and other
worthy causes, but it was also on a higher cultural plane than that of other
towns. I refer not only to the Gordonia youth but to all of the Jewish young
people in Podwolocyska.
I believe that it was about 1927 or 1928 when we
began meet as a Zionist group in the town. Yanchi Berman was particularly
active in this. We discussed organizing the youth of Podwolocyska. I think
that the Gordonia was the first to organize officially. The other youth
movements followed. How did this happen? We were not people who were used to
organizing things and we really did not know how to begin. Then something
happened and one of the candidates for election to the Polish parliament came
to the town in order to campaign there. During a meeting with him, he told us
of a pioneer youth movement run by the "Federation", called Gordonia,
which had branches all over eastern Galicia and was spreading to western
Galicia as well. He gave us the address of the head office, which instructed
us on how to go about opening the branch.
I remember that in 1929, after Efraim Chizik was
killed in Hulda (in Israel) during the riots, we held a memorial for him in the
Sokol auditorium. An author from Israel, Yisrael Cohen, attended the service.
I remember that Yanchi prepared a play and in which he appeared and sang a
solo. He sang a "great" Zionist song which filled us with a feeling
In the aftermath of that evening, more and more
young people joined our group and we became an important branch. We were given
a clubhouse called "Plain Talk", if memory serves, and we held
activities there two or three times a week. The members paid symbolic dues so
that we could maintain the branch. We developed slowly, getting books and
journals that were sent from the head office. Some of our members went to
pioneer training centers and some later moved to Israel.
There were two factors working against us. The
town was too small and the people were religious. The people would not
tolerate any religious transgressions. Many parents were not pleased to see
Jewish youth meeting regularly at a non-religious organization which did not
keep the Torah commandments. But there were some adults who helped us. There
were quite a few, but I do not remember their names; yes, I remember Yitzhak
At this point I had to curtail my involvement in
the group because I had to stand before the draft board. Despite my efforts to
be exempted from military service, as was the custom of the time, I was
immediately assigned the letter "S" which meant I was fit for
military service. As was customary, all types of intermediaries offered their
services to intervene on my behalf in order to postpone or cancel my military
service, in exchange for remuneration, of course. Indeed I did have a
legitimate claim to be excused from military service because my parents had
become impoverished, or rather they were in worse shape than they had been
before World War I. But my military service limited my activity in the
Gordonia branch a bit. However, I was still active and was even considered to
be among the most active members of the Gordonia in Podwolocyska.
During one of the regional conventions for
hundreds of Gordonia youth from the area, I met someone from the Lunek central
office who brought me into the circle of regional leadership. In 1933, or
1934, I received a letter from him saying that his turn to move to Eretz Israel
had come, and that he was looking for someone to take his place in the
leadership of the group. He asked me to be that person, and to work at the
Gordonia leadership in Lvov.
To be honest, it was a bit difficult for me to
leave home. I was the only boy, my parents were no longer young, and my sisters
had already left home. Rivka and Zusia were married with Zusia living in
Zkovna, Yona had moved to Israel, and Pnina was a kindergarten teacher in
Brabaroska (she later attended the Maccabiah games and remained in Israel).
Bonka and Vishniak were already in Paris by then, and just Adelka, the youngest
sister, remained in Podwolocyska. Since I was a child I was told that I, the
only son, was the pillar which supported the entire family. I remember that
there were things that were set aside for me especially- this is for Avraham,
that is for Avraham. And I remember that my mother always prayed that she
would live to be at my wedding. When, later on, I was about to move to Israel
with my girlfriend Gina, all of these matters were set right by a rabbi in Lvov.
The pioneer Zionist movement had its own rabbis
who performed even fictitious ceremonies. As opposed to today, when the rabbis
are so strict, then the rabbis were of great help and did all they were asked
to do. They looked the other way and did it. Then I remembered my mother's
prayers, and I told Gina, that come what may, the wedding will take place at
As I said, it was difficult for me to leave home
in this situation. But at the same time, I realized, that this activity would
open up new horizons for me. From now on, my efforts would not be limited to a
local branch, but now I could be in the center of things, meet people and work
with them. During this period, I really did meet with many different
emissaries from many kibbutzes in Israel. Afterward, when I moved to Israel,
each of them tried to convince me to join his kibbutz.
During my years at the head office, I met with Pinhas Lavon, who was also a
kibbutz emissary. He was one of the first members of the Gordonia movement,
"Group A" which moved to Israel and settled first in Hadera, and
later in Hulda. He worked with me at the Gordonia center in Lvov. He was an
extraordinary personality, not only because of his great intelligence, but also
because he had vast personal experience. He had lived in Israel for a number of
years and had himself been a member of a youth organization. Working with him
was not only pleasant, but also productive, since I learned a lot from him. I
do not mean to detract from the value of the other emissaries and colleagues
who worked at the center in Lvov.
There is a lot to tell about my activities at the
head office, but this does not have too much to do with Podwolocyska.
Thereafter, the town became but one of the branches which I would visit to
supervise and organize.
Afterward, I was sent to work at the pioneering
center. I worked there along with representatives of all the other Zionist
movements, the Shomer Hatzair, Zionist youth, etc. Initially, the Betar
movement was represented there as well and was in touch with the office in
Eretz Israel regarding the distribution of visas. After Jabotinsky left the
Zionist movement, Betar, of course, left this framework. Here I would like to
relate an interesting story.
In those days I used to get together with Feike
Bilvitz because we were both from Podwolocyska and both alone in the big city
of Lvov. That is one thing.
Now for the other matter which pertains to the
first. I had a cousin who belonged to Betar, Moshe Barrer, who lives in Haifa
today. He was in the pioneer training program and his turn came for a visa
precisely at the time that Betar pulled out of the movement. But the Zionist
movement was boycotting the Betar movement by suspending the visas that were to
go to Betar members. Moshe Barrer was one of eight Betar pioneers whose turn
had come and they, of course, were unwilling to accept the situation because
they wanted to go to Israel. Jabotinsky's global politics did not interest them
too much. One must remember that Polish Jews had difficulty finding means of
support because they were not accepted into the Polish civil service, they
could not find work nor support themselves. Moving to Israel represented not
only a Zionist ideal but also a possible means of support. So, of course, they
rebelled and raised a ruckus at their head offices in Lvov.
Feike Bilbitz was a member of the Betar movement
and she worked as a secretary at the Betar offices in Lvov. When she heard the
name Barrer there, she asked him, "Where are you from?" and he
answered, "From Tarnopol." She asked, "Do you have any
relatives?" He thought a moment and answered, "I don't know of any.
I don't remember." She said to him, "Well, you have some. Maybe you
know Avraham Barrer?" "No," he answered. So Feike told him,
"Look, if there is anyone who can help you it is Avraham Barrer, and he
happens to be your relative. Go to him."
One day out of the blue this guy came up to me.
I did not recognize him. He came in and told me a story about how Feike
Bilbitz sent him andabout how he had this problem. Meantime, the political
party, representatives from Israel who were in the office, were getting ready
to shred the Betar visas. I did not like this because an ideological
disagreement between Jabotinsky and the Zionist movement is one thing, and
taking it out on young people who had trained hard in anticipation of moving to
Israel was something else. I did not like this. And then this guy came in.
His sudden appearance pushed me into doing something. In short, I got this guy
and his seven friends their visas. I remember that during the time that the
arrangements were being made, they used to come to me every day. There were
four offices in the suite and I worked in the last one, so that every day a
parade of Betar youth marched past the other offices on its way to me. My
colleagues all asked me, "What is this? Have you opened a branch of Betar
in the pioneer center!?"
After I moved to Israel, the chairman of the
worker's council of Petah Tikva, who I had met when he was an emissary, invited
me to a movie in his city. I remember that it was a movie theater with an open
roof so that as we watched the movie we could see the stars. It was an
innovation. When we walked out of the theater after the movie, there were
people waiting to get in for the second showing. Suddenly I see, among the
people, some of the guys from Betar whose visa I had arranged. When they saw me
they practically carried me off. Immediately they rounded up all of their
friends and gave me such a party that I remember it to this day.
But let's get back to Podwolocyska. Ours was a
Zionist home. It was not by coincidence that Yona moved to Israel back in
1924. We studied Hebrew. I don't remember the name of the teacher, just that
he was the son of one of the Torah readers from the Hosiatin synagogue where my
father and I prayed. He had three or four sons, but I don't remember their
names. I also studied under the rabbi of Podwolocyska, Rabbi Babad. He had a
small yeshiva for his children, and since I was related to him somehow, I
studied there with him. I wore sidelocks at that time anyway. I was about
fourteen or fifteen years old. And what I remember about religion is really
just what I learned as a child. I remember everything I learned 50 or 60 years
ago but I can't remember names.
Some time ago someone from Podwolocyska came up
to me - it was at the cemetery, I believe, and said to me, "What, you
don't recognize me?" So I told him what I always tell people under these
circumstances, the words of Rashi regarding the verse, "And Joseph
recognized his brothers but they did not recognize him." How could that
be? He was far above the crowd, sitting on a throne, and they did not
recognize him? And they were in a crowd of thousands of people who had come to
buy food and he was able to pick them out of the crowd? How could this be? So
Rashi came to the conclusion that the deciding factor here was their age. They
were already adults by the time that they sold Joseph because it said that they
already wore beards and side locks. However, Joseph had still been a boy who
developed into a man from the time they sold him until the time they went down
to Egypt, so they did not recognize him. It's the same with me when I meet
people. Besides, it's been over fifty years since I left completely, and that
amount of time takes its toll.
I learned Hebrew, first of all, from the
scriptures. Whoever studies Judaism, learns Hebrew. I had studied Judaism from
the age of three - so I had been told, and I remember a little bit. The
"Belfer" would come for me in the morning and carry me on his back to
"Cheder". I studied in the "Cheder" for many years. When I
got a little older I studied at the Polish school in the morning, because there
was no other school, and at the "Cheder" in the afternoon. That was
how it was for years.
Were there any propaganda lectures held in the
yeshiva? I, myself, do not remember working at any yeshiva. Just once , after
Bialik died, we held a big memorial service in the synagogue and I gave a
speech there. With respect to Zionist propaganda, I remember that I once
painted a sign with a poem that I wrote in Yiddish. I remember one line from
the poem: "Remember Jews of Podwolocyska, we should not have to say Yizkor
(prayer for the dead) for a way which has been lost." That was in 1932 or
As for outstanding personalities in the Zionist
movement of the town, there was Yitzhak Diamant who was in the
"Federation" and Pollack who was in the "Mizrahi"? I do
not recall. And Yaacov Berkenlau, he was my brother-in-law and he was in the
"Mizrahi" too. And I remember Woltoch. They used to call his father
"Kol Mikdash" (All Holy). His daughter, Leah, might become offended
if I mention this. They lived on the side near the municipal building. I
remember them well. However, their faces, all except for Yitzhak Diamant, who
happened to live in my building, I do not recall. Woltoch was a Hebrew
teacher. I was not really in touch with Dr. Rosensweig who was active in the
"General Zionists". I was in closer contact with Dr. Perchip. He
intervened on my behalf with the draft board that I had already mentioned
because he was a captain in the Polish army. He, of course, did this out of
friendship and our mutual interest in Zionism. He was not a member of the
Gordonia, but we did meet to discuss general Zionist issues. He volunteered to
help me with the draft board. My relationship with Rosensweig was more through
the family since he was our family physician. I remember that I once fell from
my bicycle and some dirt got into my eye and this developed into trachoma. I
needed to get "lapis" treatments. Every day I would be allowed to
leave school early so that he could put the drops in my eyes. Yes, his wife
was a physician as well. After the war they came to live in Israel, but
unfortunately, I never managed to meet up with him here. He was a radiologist
here in Kupat Holim.
During my four years in Lvov, I participated, of
course, in many conventions, and during this time I reached the conclusion that
the youth of Podwolocyska was on a different plane from the rest, even though
we, too, had simple folk who had not managed to receive an education. One must
remember that there was no high school in Podwolocyska and only a few who were
willing, or whose parents were willing for them to desecrate the Sabbath, could
study there because it meant traveling on Saturdays to Tarnopol. My father did
not allow me to travel on the Sabbath. There was a possibility for me to stay
at somebody's house in Tarnopol, but this presented a problem. I had an uncle
there, my mother's brother, but his family was extremely religious. When I
would go to his house, I had to prepare myself, keep all of the rules and
pretend that I was very religious. So it would not work out for me to have
stayed at his house so that I could go to a secular high school. Regarding
contact with non-Jews, in school we were registered according to the alphabet.
My name was Rottenberg. And why not Barrer? Because many Jews in Poland were
not officially married so that all the children who were born into such a
family were registered under their mother's maiden name. And my mother's
maiden name was Rottenberg. Even in Israel, until I changed my name to a
Hebrew one, I went by the name of Rottenberg.
And so, I remember the kids whose names began
with "R" Reich, Rotkowski, Rottenberg. That was the order. Reich
was a tall boy from a Polish colonial family which had settled in Ukrainia.
After the area was annexed by Poland after World War I, there was the problem
of a large Ukrainian population. (We have the same problem in the territoris
of Judea and Samaria in Israel today.) In order to encourage Poles to settle
in Ukraine the government gave them land and special benefits (a solution that
we have used as well). The Reich family had come to our area under these
circumstances. I remember the nickname they had given this boy. The called
him "Chapale" because he was tall and thin like a stork. In short,
years later I was walking in Lvov with the girlfriend of one of the emissaries.
I think we were looking for an apartment for them. We happened upon a violent
demonstration. At that time the Polish government would put down
demonstrations with force, especially that of leftists. All of a sudden, we
found ourselves in a great mob, with the army and policemen with batons all
around us and a policeman came up to me with his baton raised and then I said
"Chapale!" Immediately he recognized me and asked me what we were
doing there. When I told him, he led us right out and even took us around to
see some apartments that he knew were for rent.
I never had much of an interest in sports. Once
the team from Vilna came to play against the "Fugon" from Lvov. And
another "sports" activity: Until I moved to Israel, I was living with
an emissary from Israel in an apartment not far from the Polytechnic Institute
in Lvov. The students of the institute excelled in their anti-Semitism and
they would abuse Jews on a regular basis. So we would walk around with sticks
hidden under our coats. One day the emissary said to me, "Look, there is
a doctor around here, his name is Shoiner, and he instructs the police in Lvov
in Judo. Let's go take judo lessons!" I said,"You go." And he
went, but he practiced on me at home. So I learned a bit of judo from him.
That was the extent of my involvement in sports. I remember that in school my
report card was filled with "very goods" except for two
"goods" which I got in sports and in singing.
It is a well known fact that the British used to
search the Jews for weapons during the period of their mandate in Palestine.
One clear day they decided to search Kibbutz Hulda. Many soldiers encircled
the kibbutz and they began their search. They discovered machine guns which
were being produced by the partisan military industry. They then summoned the
executive committee of the kibbutz, myself included, to the police station. The
Hagana lawyers said that we had no reason to fear because we would just be
reprimanded and that nothing would happen to us. But happen it did. The
moment we made our appearance at the police station we were arrested and
court-martialed. We each received prison terms. I got two years for having
illegal weapons. The court had a difficult legal problem to resolve. What is
a kibbutz? If it is a municipality, then you cannot arrest the municipal
leadership because illegal arms were found in its confines. However, if a
kibbutz is a communal home where all the members live, then the executive
committee represents the owners of the property on which the weapons were
found, and that is what they decided.
I was in prison from October 1943 to April or May
1945.This was around the time that the war ended, and my friends who were
sentenced to longer prison terms were pardoned as part of the celebrations, and
they too were released. This came too late for me... We bore the status of
prisoners of war so that we were not required to do hard labor or wear prison
uniforms. We got our food from the cooperative restaurant in Jerusalem because
we were held in the prison at the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. They also
allowed us to study English and Arabic and even provided special teachers for
us. We were able to read newspapers and family members who could make it, were
allowed to visit once a week. Although we kept busy studying English and
Hebrew, we also worked with olivewood, and incorporated pictures of our
relatives in what we made. The photographs were sent to us from home, and
until this day I have some photos that are missing a face here and there.
Speaking of photographs, once my niece Nili, my
sister Susia's daughter came to visit me. Today she lives in Paris. She did
not have one photograph of her parents and their home, so she took some
pictures from me and even cut out parts of others. The lines where she cut are
still visible. To hear the story of how she was saved during World War II
would take an entire program.
She was born in 1932 or 1933.Her parents lived in
Zkopna. There were not many Jews there and the family had quite a few Polish
acquaintances. When the expulsions began, they placed their daughter with a
Polish woman who kept here for two years. Then it became dangerous because the
Germans were punishing the Poles for hiding Jews. So the woman took the girl to
Krakow and left here in the city. She was forced to wander about from place to
place and endure all sorts of adventures until, towards the end of the war, she
hid out in a monastery, where she was known by the name of Elizabeth
Kowalovska, or something like that. But what happened? Her mother had hung a
locket around her neck with a hidden note inside, which read, "Yona
Suslik, Tel Aviv".
After the war, a local journalist by the name of
Gideon Summitt traveled to displaced persons camps in Poland. He visited the
monasteries as well and in one of them he found her, and the note hidden in the
locket she wore. Imagine that one day we read in the "Haaretz"
newspaper that Gideon Summitt found a girl with a Polish name in one of the
monasteries with a note which stated "Yona Suslik, Tel Aviv". Yona
immediately phoned Bonke and Adelke in Paris. They had fled to Switzerland
during the war, and returned to Paris afterward. Aaron, who worked for
"Oza", phoned up the institution and they brought here to Paris,
where she remained.
When she visited us in Israel, she saw the
pictures, which did not mean much to her because she barely remembered here
parents after all she had been through. However, she did remember something of
her childhood for she was already seven or eight in 1939. Anyway, when she saw
the pictures, she took most of them with her and cut out people from other
photographs, and took it all back with her. She wanted to have some sort of
In my Lvov days, I used to visit Sussia in Zkopne
twice a year. The Polish government was very interested in developing tourism
to Zkopne and so it issued discounted train tickets. I would travel to Zkopne
for pennies. They figured that I would stay at a hotel so they would make
money off of me there, but I stayed with my sister. There was a cable car in
Zkopne. Once there was a problem with it and they had to bring down the
passengers through the floor by a rope. Since then my sister forbade me to go
on the cable car. But her husband, my brother-in-law once said to me, "We
are going on a trip! We went on the cable car and immortalized the event in
When I traveled to Zkopne for the first time, I
took the train from Krakow. The engine labored because the train had to be
pulled over the mountains to a great height and the journey was slow. There
were many people in the car, some tourists, and some were residents of Zkopne.
I sat quietly by myself and eavesdropped on their conversations. The tourists
complained about how the local hicks in Zkopne take advantage of them.
Everything is expensive and must be bargained down. I sat there and listened,
as if their words concerened only tourists, but not me.
At midnight we reached Zkopne. I got off the
train and I did not know where to turn. There were sleds there, because it was
winter and snow covered the mountain. I approached one of the drivers and
asked if he was familiar with my sister's address. He answered that her house
was very far away and that he could drive me there. How much would it cost?
He told me, and I bargained with him as I had overheard in the train, we agreed
on a price, and we set off. To this day I cannot forget that sleigh ride: the
ringing of the bell around the horse's neck, the crisp mountain air, the
whiteness of the snow all around me, the beautiful homes... like in a fairy
tale. I enjoyed it so much, until the sled stopped in front of a house and I
was sorry that this wonderful journey had ended. But end it did so I got off,
entered the house and saw my sister. We were very happy.
The next day I went out onto the porch with my
brother-in-law and he showed me the area. On this side was the
"Rathaus", meaning the municipal building, on the other was the
school and high school and over there was the train station. Just a couple of
hundred meters away. That was where I had come from the night before, and the
driver had taken me through all the streets of the city just to make it seem as
though it was a far drive. He had pulled one over on me because as it turns
out, I could have walked.
We did not have a thorough understanding of the
intricate differences among the ideologies of the different movements. Joining
one movement or another had more to do with social motivations. For example,
the simpler folk joined the Gordonia, while the students opted more for Beitar,
as far as I remember. When I worked in the center in Lvov, I noticed that the
ideological differences among the various groups was very fine and that the
members did not necessarily join for ideological reasons. Membership was the
result of a number of local factors. However, afterward, as a result of
education and activities in the movement, everyone became loyal to his
ideology, as if to justify the fact that he had chosen to join that specific
movement. The unification of the movements were a testimony to these fine
differences. In Poland the Gordonia united with the Boselia, whereas in
Israel, the Gordonia united with the youth movement of the Liberal Party.
There were all kinds of unifications because everyone came to the conclusion
that there was but one goal.
I came to Kibbutz Hulda in 1938. By 1940, I had
been elected to the executive and became kibbutz treasurer. The kibbutz then
was based on small agriculture because we did not have enough water to develop
more intense agriculture. And of course, we were surrounded by Arabs.
Then I was arrested and sat in prison for two years. After the War of
Independence the local municipalities sprouted in Israel. They came to the
conclusion that not every small town justified a municipality so thirty or
forty towns were joined together into one municipal entity that provided
In our area, the Gezer municipality was
established and I was elected to run it. I was head of the Gezer municipality
for three years. This was the time of the great influx of immigrants. Before
the War of Independence, our settlement and been a small unit in the midst of a
sea of Arabs. After the war, many immigrants were directed to our area in
order to settle the abandoned lands. I had to take in these people, get them
settled, solve their social and economic, and even political problems. It was
not an easy job.
A few years later, when someone was found who was
willing to take my place, and the kibbutz was looking for a proper treasurer, I
felt that I could contribute more on the kibbutz and I left my job as head of
What did we, in Israel, feel during World War II?
We didn't really know about it. There was one radio on Kibbutz Hulda. There
were no radios in the room. I remember that I would do guard duty at night and
that I would listen to the BBC on the radio in the dining room during the
beginning of the war when Hitler went from victory to victory. Until 1943, we
didn't know anything. Afterward I was in prison so I was cut off from what was
going on in Israel. I could only follow what was written in the press, but no
more, because I was not in contact with other people. By the time of my
release in 1945, everyone already knew about the great tragedy of European
Jewry in general and Polish Jewry in particular.
I remember that in the beginning of the war we
had a period of fear when Rommel was making his way across North Africa and we
were afraid that he would capture Egypt and then go on to us. The Arabs were
certain to help him because there were already revolutionary activities against
the British in Iraq. That was the fear. the Jewish leadership did its best to
quiet the fears and the local press did not mention it too much. We are just
now discovering the extent of the fear of the Jewish leadership for the fate of
the Jewish community living in Israel.
Benny Vilner was the first to reach me. He told
me about my father who was in the camp in Zbaraj, because there was a
large-scale execution there on Shavuot in 1942. My mother had the
"privilege" of dying on her bed at home and receiving a proper Jewish
burial in 1938. I was already at Hulda and it was there that I received the
news of my mother's death. The feelings of my youth were rekindled and I felt
again, as the only boy in the family, that I was the "Kaddish" in the
house. That is what they used to call me, the "Kaddish". That was
how I grew up. When I heard about my mother's death, I felt that if I did not
recite the Kaddish prayer for the dead, that I would carry the sin against
their memory forever. So I took a month off and went to my sister Pnina's
house in Petah Tikva - she ran a preschool at her home there- and each morning
and evening I prayed in the synagogue and said Kaddish. By the way, this
synagogue was rebuilt later on and Shaul and Pnina donated something and today
a visitor in the synagogue can find where it says, "In memory of Rivka and
Yaacov Bernklau, in memory of Zeev Bernklau, and in memory of Yehuda and Miriam
Barrer." I was there and I saw it.
In response to the claim that in Israel we knew
about what was happening to the Jews in Europe and we did nothing, and "in
Dizengoff they were partying"- it is difficult to say that they were
partying. The most prevalent feeling here was one of helplessness. What could
we, a small Jewish community of a few hundred thousand do against a giant who
was winning all the wars? And lest we forget that we had terrible security
problems here. One may say that a war was fought here from 1936-1939. People
were killed here every day. And these were local problems distanced us from
problems that were occurring far away. As the proverb sates, "Out of
sight out of mind". In addition, everyone was concerned with his own
family. I remember it about myself. I was most concerned with my own family.
What happened to my father? He was about to come to Israel right as the
war broke out. Yona had decided to bring him and had made all the necessary
preparations. It was easy to bring my father, because anyone who could prove
visible means of support could get a certificate of entry. If the war would
have broken out a few months later, my father would have made it to Israel.
Yes, everyone was thinking of his own family and not of all of European Jewry.
Regarding the concerns of the Jewish community here as a whole, now the issue
is being studied. There are complaints and so forth. I was not in the center
of things but I don't think that people were not concerned. Let us remember
the emissaries who parachuted into Europe at that time. They were a kind of
injection of encouragement, and did not give up. But what could they do
against the Nazi force which had taken over all of Europe?
Afterward, when the war was finished, the focal
point became the War of Independence in Israel, preparing for the war. We knew
that the struggle for determining the fate of Palestine was at hand. There
were political struggles and military preparations. And really when
Ben-Gurions announced the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the
next day the state was in existence, with an army and all its institutions,
including economic and organizational. Everything had been prepared. It did
not come about within moments, it had all been in the making for years. Yes,
the government had gotten underway and did not do things frivolously. At that
time America was not yet a friend. The Jewish community was not well developed
and there were very serious problems. The Kibbutzim were living on rations.
We ate only bread and olives. Forget clothes. We lived in tents, even during
the winter. There were no roads, we drowned in mud. During those first years in
Hulda it was so difficult that many people left, people who couldn't take it.
No one blamed them, like they do today. I remember the first attempt to raise
some money - "Settlement Ransom". Nobody had any money, but everyone
had a gold pin or earring. I remember that my wife removed her gold wedding
band and contributed it for the "Settlement Ransom". Would you be
able to find that kind of a group effort today? We went through hard times but
we got our rewards.
Movement And Bnei Akiva
by Sara Rajman (Charna)
Among the ultra-orthodox and Hassidic sects of
the local population the Mizrahi movement and the youth who joined it,
represented a pillar of Zionism and revolution. This movement included a large
portion of the Jewish population of the town- adults, youth, and children.
Its main activities were aimed at proliferating
the Zionist idea through Hebrew language instruction and spinning a dream of a
future in Israel. The activities usually took place on the Shabbat and most
evenings in the movement's meeting rooms, as well as in synagogues and schools.
The movement established a school of Hebrew language Bible and Talmud
instruction. It was called the "Matat" School (named for the Hebrew
"Torah will come forth from Zion"). Dozens of perfect Hebrew speakers
graduated from this institution. The Jewish Agency and Jewish Fund also served
as focal points for the Mizrahi, Mizrahi Youth and Bnei Akiva movements.
Athletic activities were also regularly included in the movement's activities.
Most social activities revolved around charity
and mutual aid in the form of caring for the sick and needy.
The movement also provided training courses for
pioneers coming from near and far as preparation for their move to Israel.
Since the Mizrahi was the largest Zionist
movement in the town, its influence on the non-Zionist sects like "Agudat
Israel" and other Hassidic circles, was also apparent.
These people were active in the movement in the
Hinkam, Yitzhak Luckman, Zeev Valedniger, Yehuda
Drimmer, Haim Weingart, Haim Weissman and Moshe Goldstein.
Those active in the Mizrahi Youth Movement were
Isaac Pollack, Nathan Shperling and Feibush Luckman, the brothers Pinhas and
Motti Epstein, Nahum disher and Hershel Weitman Leiner, S. Bomze, the Zvi
borthers, Nahum and Nachman Rechel.
Those active in the Benie Akiva movement were
Yosef Luckman, Zvi Rechel, Nahum Dishel, L. Fishbein, Matzia Dishel. Yosef
Luckman was the head of the the "Shahal" group whereas Zvi Rechel was
the head of the "Devorah" group. Zila Hershklau was the head of the
adult women's group.
Youth Movement In Podwolocyska
In 1933, there were already a number of Zionist
groups active in Podwolocyska such as the "Shomer Hatzair",
"Gordonia", "Akiva", and the "Brotherhood (Ahva)
" Zionist youth. That year, Dr. Ahatkel came over from Tarnopol and
established a fledgling Beitar branch in our town, in a room which the lawyer
Gabus Finkelstein allowed us to use in his home.
Once the movement was established, the flow of
young people. Some were already members of other movements and some were
unaffiliated. Soon afterward Beitar became the largest and strongest movement
in the town. The small room no longer held all the members who would come to
the various activities, so a house near the temple was rented from the Shimshon
Biller family. This was a larger place, with a number of rooms in it. Some
members of the Biller family, including Leizer and Rosa Vitka were members of
In the new spacious facilities, regular and
varied activities took place which focused upon learning about the Land of
Israel. Through conversations and lectures we learned about new settlements in
Israel and their security and economic status. These topics interested all of
the Zionist youth, but especially the Beitar. The thirst for any information
regarding Eretz Israel was common to all who came.
I will mention the lecturers and leaders: Faike
Bilbitz, a graduate of the Hebrew seminary in Vilna, Nussia Weinstein, Tonche
Mernitz, Gizia Altman and the Kozmer sisters. The adult group featured Vilu
(Yaakov) Gilson, an outstanding lecturer on the subjects of Dubonov, Belben,
Sokolov and others.
Feike Bilbitz also ran a training seminar for
local youth who were to become group leaders. Sopme of the participants in the
seminar whom I recall were: Selu Shartz, Shiko Shneiderman, Shiko Rothsetien
and Gintzia Fishbein and Gintzia Silberman.
Rosa Hopperichter and Gizia Altman ran the branch
library. The library housed volumes which interested youth in Polish, Yiddish
and even Hebrew. It contained newspapers as well including:
Chwilla, Mament, Letzte Nayis, Opinia, and
Litereishe Blette. The last was the most popular among the youth.
Sometimes movement activists from Tarnopol and
Lvov would come to give lectures. These included Yosef Krust, Dr. Robin, David
Boiko and Kaufman. I particularly remember the lectures given by the lawyer
Dr. Saul Greenberg on politics and current event.
After a festive ceremony at the Beitar club, they
would appear in public halls, mostly in the central synagogue or the Mizrahi
Synagogue, in front of all the Jews in the town. Meetings, balls and parties
were held on holidays and special occasions as well.
There were disagreements and dissension in the
Podwolocyska branch based on what was happening in the Zionist movement as a
whole. Dolek Migden and some of his friends, who supported Meir Grossman in
his disagreement with Jabotinsky, were forced to leave Beitar and form the
Grossman group in Levinzeft's house.
I neglected to mention an important aspect of our
activities which included para-military training for young men and women as
well as hikes. Veterans of the Polish army led this group. I remember Fimik
Liebling, Vilu Wallach, Hesyou Tunkel, and Srulchu Kahane. We would go on
weekend hikes to far away towns such as Strumichizne and Skuriki. Sometimes we
would go and visit the Pinkuvze training center which was held at the farm of
Wolf Rappaport and his sons. The visit included a tour of the farm, horseback
riding and a meal at the end. Everyone especially enjoyed the yogurt that was
brought up from the basement in clay pots. It was made from milk which curdled
so that it could be cut with a knife. The meal included crusty black bread as
well. I can still taste it all as I recall it. Anyhow, such a visit served as
a topic of conversation for a long time afterward.
The heads of the Beitar Movement in Podwolocyska
were (in chronological order):
A. Hugo Morgenstern (later Ben-Shahar) who worked
with Munyu Rappaport (who moved to Israel before WWII broke out and who died
there in 1987),Michael Kermer and Getzel Eldis.
B.Yonik Teiber along with Leizer Biller and Vilu
C.Feike Bilbitz along with Nussia Weinstain,
Biller and Hofrichter.
D.Yehuda Levinson along with Melos Kozmer and
I cannot conclude this piece without mentioning
Beitar member, Bumik Feffer, who was an unusual character and the moving spirit
throughout the span of the Beitar movement. He excelled in his organizational
abilities and was responsible for organizing all the events: the parties, the
trips, and the most important his painstaking care of the soccer team. No one
knew, nor did they ask, where he found the stores of energy and finances to
make the Podwolocyska Beitar movement work the way it did.
I dedicate these pages to him.
We are the cry of pain, the cry which lasts so long
That the far-off subsequent generations will hear it.
We are the requiem, the cry of agony
We are the chorus chanting the prayer for the dead bitterly
Over the grave,
Whose echo will resound through the generations-
We are Polish Jewry.
by Julian Tovim
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