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[Page 300]

Ratners Will Always Be Ratners

by Zeev Grabov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Our sages have said, “In the future, the Land of Israel will spread throughout all the lands”. From here it would seem that even such a small town as Ratno can spread out and expand... Whoever has any doubt about this will be convinced from the following episodes -- all of which are true.

Once Moshe Droog, a Ratno native, was driving in his large car to an important meeting in an institution of which he was a director. When he approached Rishon Letzion, a policeman of the traffic division stopped him and said curtly and seriously, “Sir, you are driving at more than 100 kilometers per hour, give me your drivers license and all of your documentation. I am writing you a ticket.” Moshe Droog stuck his head out the window and began to explain something to the traffic policeman. However, when the traffic policeman looked at the driver, a smile came over his face and he said, “Is it possible? Moshe Droog, the son of Reb Avraham Droog of Ratno, would hold his life so cheaply? Would you have driven in Ratno with such a speed on a wagon hitched to a scrawny horse?”

Moshe Droog was astonished, and the policeman saw the need to add an explanation, “Do you not recognize me? It is not surprising, for when you made aliya, I was a child of about eight years old. A Ratno native finds it difficult to write a traffic ticket for a native of his own town, so here is your warning: Drive slowly and carefully!”


Here is a story about Shmulik Goldman who served as the secretary of the workers' council of Rishon Letzion. Shmulik was sitting in his office, pensive and sad. The work shortage in the moshava (at that time, Rishon Letzion was a moshava) was worsening, and today there was to be a workers' demonstration in front of the offices of the workers' council. The workers did not come to work and advised him as well not to be absent during the demonstration, but he was not prepared to accept such advice. He was prepared to negotiate with the workers. He had what to say to them, for he was not sparing any efforts in trying to minimize the work shortage.

As he was still immersed in his thoughts, he already heard the shouts of “bread and work” from the demonstrators who approached the building of the workers' council. Shmulik looked outside the window and saw the throngs of demonstrators, headed by a strong young man who was shouting directions and orders. Shmulik left his office and stood at the outside door, preparing to greet the demonstrators and tell them what he had to tell them. However, the leader of the demonstration started to talk first, and he specifically spoke in Yiddish. He asked the demonstrators to stop their shouts of “broit un arbeit” (bread and work), and gave a fiery speech

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about the tribulations of the new olim and the urgent necessity for action from the institutions to create sources of work. He spoke a sweet Volhynian Yiddish which was extremely recognizable to the secretary of the Rishon Letzion Workers' Council. Shmulik attempted to say his piece and advise that the demonstrators choose their delegation to discuss the measures that could be taken, however their spirits were afire, and the demonstrators did not want to hear his words. At that moment, an idea flashed through Shmulik's mind. He turned to the leader of the demonstrators, and said to him, “Listen to me comrade, your Yiddish reminds me very much of my hometown.”

“What town?” asked the leader of the demonstration.

“A small town in Volhynia, called Ratno,” answered Shmulik.

“You are from Ratno? Unbelievable.”

Shmulik responded calmly, “Yes I am from Ratno, the son of Shamai Goldman. Does that name mean anything to you.”

At the sound of those words, the head of the demonstrators approached Shmulik, hugged him, and then turned to the demonstrators, calling out, “Comrades, stop shouting! We have someone here with whom we can talk! Let us choose a delegation and sit together with the secretary of the council to discuss how we can solve the work shortage.”

While Shmulik was still standing in surprise over the sudden turn of events, the youth added, “I am from the village of Datyn, not far from Ratno. When I was still a child, I would often come to Ratno to visit the home of my uncle Woli Levant. During the war, I was a partisan and I fought against the Nazis. I want you to know that from now, you have reliable support from this community, and one can depend on people from Ratno!”


That morning, it was very crowded in the Kupat Cholim infirmary on Rothschild Street In Petach Tikva. An official was standing at the main entrance and greeting anyone who arrived with a smile and a good morning wish, in accordance with the new protocols instituted by the order keeper, a former Ratno native. Inside, next to the counter, Moshe Gutman, also a Ratno native, is sitting, supervising the distribution of notes to the doctors. Shouts from inside reached the ears of the order keeper or the supervisor. He went inside and saw that a muddied woman was standing next to Moshe Gutman's desk, and shouting, “I came especially from Moshav Nechalim. I must visit a woman's doctor. I have not yet milked the cows in the village, and there is a bus from Nechalim to Petach Tikva only twice a day. Give me a number for a woman's doctor.”

Gutman, who was dedicated to Kupat Cholim with heart and soul, told her that he had run out of numbers of the woman's doctors, and the doctor was refusing to accept patients beyond the established quota. However, his words did not convince the woman. When the argument reached a high pitch, the order keeper approached the woman and asked her to give him her membership booklet. When he looked at her booklet he said to her, “Wait a minute, we will try to see what can be done for you.”

He approached Gutman and said to him quietly. “Moshe, see, this woman is

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from Ratno. Give her a number reserved for the most urgent situations.” Moshe smiled upon hearing these words, and gave the woman a number for the women's doctor. He said to her, “Why did you not tell me that you are from Ratno? Who are you from Ratno?”

“What Ratno is in your head?” retorted the woman. “My name is Ratner, and that is all.”
“This time you put one over me,” said Moshe the Ratner to the order keeper, a native of Ratno. The woman with the number also smiled. She never imagined that there would be so much charm in her name.


Here is another episode, that I would not have believed had I not heard with my own ears, for the incident was indeed as follows.

Yaakov Wolonta, who had moved from Ratno to Denver, Colorado, USA, was turning over in his bed at night with a dream that recurred each night. He saw himself at sunrise in the vegetable garden of Melnik the tanner, picking ears of corn and hiding them in a bag. Suddenly he felt as if tongs were clasping his neck, and that strong blows were being administered to his back to the point “that he could see his grandmother”, as we used to say in Ratno. He turned his head and saw Shalom Melnik, who was two years older than him, ready to deliver one more blow, however he let up when he saw Yaakov's face turn yellow, and he said, “Do you desire our corn?” Yaakov escaped like an arrow from a bow, but when he was already a distance away from Melnik, he declared, “Wait, wait, one day I will settle my accounts with you. You will not come out clean from my hands, and I will never forget your blows!”

After this “vision” repeated itself for several nights, Yaakov decided, “This is nothing other than the finger of G-d.” He must complete his accounting with Melnik, who, as far as he knew, lived now in New York. He told his wife about his decision to travel to New York, and his American wife mocked him, “Have you gone crazy, to undertake a trip of this nature to 'conclude a matter' of more than sixty years ago. The spirit of foolishness has overtaken you!”

That night, he once again dreamed that dream, and he decided, “Let my wife's opinion be as it may.” He felt it necessary to travel. He booked a place on an airplane, and the next day, when the streets of New York were covered with snow up to the neck, he arrived at Shalom Melnik's door. Before he rang the doorbell he deliberated about whether he should extend his hand to Shalom as usual, or perhaps he should deliver a strong blow, the same type that he suffered from him 60 years ago in the vegetable garden in Ratno...”

He rang the doorbell, and a white-haired woman with a pleasant appearance opened the door. She was surprised by this morning visit on such a snowy day, and asked him what he wanted. Yankel answered, “I have come especially from Denver, Colorado to see your husband Shalom. I have an urgent matter to discuss with him.” His wife explained that her husband was not well, and was still sleeping. “Nevertheless,”

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said Yankel, “wake him up, for the issue cannot be put off. Tell him that a Jew from Ratno has come to see him.” After a few minutes, a bent-over Jew came out of his room, wearing winter slippers and a scarf on his neck. Yankel recognized him immediately. This was Shalom, who had beaten him in Ratno. He walked to greet him. They recognized each other, hugged and kissed each other. Then Yaakov tapped Shalom lightly on the back and said to him, “Here, I have paid you back. I told you then in Ratno that I will never forget the beating that you administered to me regarding the corn in your vegetable garden. Now the repeated dream will no longer afflict me.”

“I am happy to see you here in my house,” answered Shalom, and told his wife to serve the important guest from Denver, Colorado in an ample fashion. The surprised wife did what her husband wanted. With a good heart, and over cups of whiskey, Shalom explained to his wife the meaning of the “urgent matter” that brought the guest from Colorado to their home...

[Page 304]

{Photo page 304: Dvora and Avraham Berg at the monument in memory of the martyrs in Germany.

Translator's note: partial translation of the monument (not all of it is clear in the photograph):

Remember what the Nazis did with our people. They killed six million.
(next four lines are unclear)
May G-d Remember
And may their holy souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life
And may their blood be avenged
And let us say Amen.
May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life.

Ratno, 13 Elul 5702
August 25, 1942

[Page 305]

On the Communal Activities
of Ratno Natives in Argentina

by Zeev Grabov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The ordinary Jews of Argentina are likely to think that our Ratno is a large city whose Jewish population certainly reached into the tens of thousands. I have experienced this myself. I once met a Jew from Chaco, about 1,200 kilometers from the capital of Argentina. During our conversation, when I told him that I came from Ratno, he said to me, “What type of city is this Ratno, for this is almost no Jewish communal institution in Argentina in which Jews from Ratno are not involved!” This is the way things are in our times, but this is not the way it was decades ago. I myself arrived in Argentina in January 1937. Difficulties, doubts and many struggles accompanied my first steps. My struggles began even before I set foot on Argentinian soil: how would I get used to life without the Jews of Ratno, without the Hashomer Hatzair chapter, without the realities of our town that was an inseparable part of my essence? My brother who preceded me in immigrating to this country greeted me at the port. With the first hug, I knew that Ratno also existed here, that this was the embrace of Mother and Father, the embrace of a man who understands your soul and is prepared to help.

Isser Kamintzky was the first Ratner who I met. I did not know him previously, but when I heard that he was the son of Yitzchak and Dincha Kamintzky, I felt immediately that a “slice” of Ratno was before me. At that time, Isser was already a powerhouse who supported the Jewish National Fund, the League for the Working Land of Israel, and other areas of communal endeavor. His base was in Lanus, in the province of Buenos Aires. From there, his rays shined upon the capital city… Everyone knew that for Isser, communal matters were more important than issues of livelihood, that were apparently side affairs. As time went on, I met Yisrael Honik, Eliahu Cohen, Bertha Cohen, Shlomo Cohen, L. Buckler, David Goldin, Berla Fuchs, Yaakov Fuchs, Eliezer Feigelis, A. Y. Reif, Yehuda Konishter – all natives of Ratno who gathered in the city of Lanus, whose population was about half a million.

Moshe Honik arrived in Argentina in 1938, apparently directly from the Hachshara farm of Czestochowa, after he did not succeed in obtaining a certificate for the Land of Israel. He immediately immersed himself in the mighty waters of communal affairs. While we were searching for sources of livelihood for the body, we were also searching for sources of livelihood for the soul. Since we all knew that we left behind in Ratno family members who were waiting for our assistance, we dedicated time and energy to affairs not related to livelihood[1]. In Ratno we had worked with dedication for the Jewish National Fund – and we continued that in Lanus, with Isser Kamintzky as chairman, Eliahu Cohen the treasurer, and Zeev Grabov the secretary. Several other Ratners were active: M. Honik, D. Goldin, L. Buckler, A. Feigelis,

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and Tzvi and Yosef Buber. We left some place for natives of other towns… It was the same situation with the League for the Working Land of Israel. Natives of Ratno were the yeast in the dough, the living spirit, and the moving force. At their side were other new immigrants who had arrived from other cities in Volhyn and Pulisia.

Another important arena was education. There were two small Jewish schools in Lanus, each with several tens of students. We Ratners, former students of Kotzker, attempted to continue his path in a settlement that was 500x500x500 parasangs[2] from Ratno. Our first task was to make one large, serious school from the three small schools. We established a fine school named for Chaim Nachman Bialik, as well as a kindergarten named for Chana Senesh. For the sake of historical accuracy, and so as not to neglect the natives of other cities and towns, we will point out that it was not only Ratno natives who were active in this important arena. One of them was Konobka, the son–in–law of Yosef Buber. He was a native of Kobrin (which is known to be somewhat larger than Ratno). However, when people would ask him from where he came, he would always respond, “Ratno.” He wanted to attach himself to the large tree, to demonstrate how famous Ratno was in Argentina. A hall for all the Jewish youth was built in Lanus in 1938. Where was this set up, if not in the home of Duba Cohen of Ratno, the wife of the shochet Reb Avraham of Ratno who was murdered on the eve of Rosh Hashanah 1921 by the men of Bulak Balachowicz. The Ratners Isser Kamintzky, Noach Cohen, Leibel Buckler, Eliahu and Shlomo Cohen, Moshe and Yisrael Honik, Zeev Grabov, Eliezer Feigelis, David Goldin, Hershel Buber and five or six other people who were not Ratno natives gathered in her home. Thus was the Y. Ch. Brenner Hall (the name was proposed by Yisrael Honik) established in a fashion that served as an example also for other Jewish settlements in Argentina. The Ratners also helped set up the WIZO women's Zionist organization, as well as the mutual assistance committee, headed by our Duba Cohen.

In 1942, two Ratners (Moshe Honik and Zeev Grabov) founded the Hashomer Hatzair chapter in Lanus based on the principles and example of the chapter of Ratno. Moshe Honik later moved over to the Poale Zion party for a short time. He became one of the pillars of that party after some time, and we should note the publication of the Kiyum books toward which he invested great energy and saw great success.

A crisis afflicted the Jewish community in Lanus (Union Izraelita) in 1945. It served as the protector of the first immigrants, and did not look upon the greeners (the new immigrants) positively. The Ratners again came to help, and pushed through a change of guard. Who was chosen as president? None other than Moshe Honik of Ratno. From that time, the Union Izraelita became the representative of all the Jews, supported Zionist activities, and removed all conflict between the long–timers and the greeners. When candidates for the cantor of the synagogue had to be examined, we (Moshe Honik and the writer of these lines) also performed that task, even though we had no previous experience from Ratno in that area…

The activities of the Ratners in the Kovler Bank of Buenos Aires form a chapter unto itself.

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The bank was named after the city of Kowel, even though its central activists were natives of Ratno, who gave a great deal to firmly establish the institution and ensure its cooperative nature. This bank went from strength to strength, and earned great acclaim among Argentinian Jewry. We should especially note the dedication of Yaakov Tucker, Motel Telson, Yosef Buber, and A. Y. Reif. The latter headed the bank for a long time, and protected it as the apple of his eye.

{Photo page 307: Moshe Honik delivers introductory greetings from the community to Y. Zerubavel during his visit to Argentina.}

There were three centers of communal activities of the Ratners in Argentina: Buenos Aires, Lanus, and Resistencia (Chacho district). The golden chain of Ratno was continued in those three places. From among those active in the areas of education and culture, we should note Yaakov Rag (from among the first of Hatzofim of Ratno), Yoel Steinberg, the brothers Yaakov and Meir Tucker, Chaim Grabov, and Velvel Rajsky (in the leftist circles). The brothers Yosel and Asher Eides excelled in communal affairs in Resistencia. They established a school and library

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in the city that seemed to be a remote city to us. Later Manes and Tove Eilbaum, whose home was open to any new immigrant, came to their assistance, as did Meir and Beila Grabov, Zelig Bender, Wolf Blostein, and others. It is fitting to stress that many of the children of the Ratners continue in the tradition of their fathers, including Shmuel Eides the son of Yoel Eides (in the Aml”t Organization); the engineer and poet Eliahu Tucker, the son of Yaakov Tucker; the engineer Chaim–Leib Fuchs, the son of Berl Fuchs. There are certainly many others whose names I do not recall.

In summary, it can be said that Ratno natives were prominent in all central representative organization of Argentinian Jewry. In this manner it can be proved that the chain has not been severed, and that which the parents sowed in Ratno was reaped by the children in Argentina.

{Photo page 308: Uncaptioned. A menora.}

[Page 309]

{Photo page 309 top: A reception for Moshe Honik in Israel.}

{Photo page 309 bottom: Y. Konishter, his wife, and M. Honik with a guest from Israel –– Charna Givoni.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. This means that they took time away from their personal efforts to earn a livelihood to arrange assistance to their family members in Ratno.Return
  2. A parasang is an ancient unit of distance that appears in the Talmud. 500 parasangs is an expression for a considerable distance.Return

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Ratno Natives in Argentina

by Isser Kamintzky

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I arrived in Argentina in 1924, but the immigration from Ratno to Argentina began two years previously. When I arrived, there was already a community of Ratno Jews in that country. The desperate situation in Ratno and lack of means to find a direction in life forced them to immigrate to overseas countries. My family moved to Kowel in 1917, and it was natural that I would search for Kowel natives in my new country. I do not know why, but for some reason I was specifically attracted to Ratno natives: my cousin Noach Cohen and my friends Yaakov Rag, Yoel Richter, Chaim–Yosef Gutman, Yosef Rajsky, Sheptel Melnik, Yaakov Tucker, Mordechai Telson, Yoel Eides and others. Most of the Ratners lived in the capital city of Buenos Aires, but some

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made it as far as Resistencia. Almost all were lacking a trade. Having no option, they took hold of the only “trade” that was apparently open to everybody, and did not require any training –– the trade of peddling, or, as it was called in the local language “Cvantnikes.” This trade required a great deal of energy, for those occupied therein had to go from door to door selling merchandise at prices appropriate for villagers and small settlements.

I found my fellow natives in a depressed spirit. They had not yet “made America.” They lived in meager dwellings, with three or four people in a single room. However, these conditions did not keep them from fulfilling the commandment of mutual assistance. Any new immigrant that arrived was taken into their rooms and provided with all his needs until he was able to stand on his own and save up about 100 Pesos, which in those days amounted to a significant sum (a dollar was worth about 3–4 Pesos). The Ratners in Argentina observed this commandment with respect to their fellow natives in a manner that was traditional and ingrained in their blood, just as it had been ingrained in the blood of their parents. I recall that my father of blessed memory would not leave the synagogue on Sabbath eves until the last of the visitors who had arrived in town had found a host – that is a householder who invited the guest for the Sabbath meal and to stay over. The Ratno tradition was well recognized in another area in Argentina – in the relations between man and G–d. Even those of our townsfolk who had cut off all contact with the Master of the World while they were still supported at their parents' table in Ratno renewed connections with Divine Providence after arriving in Argentina. They would meticulously arise in the morning for the Shacharit prayer and to don tefillin before going to work. I recall one episode: when my cousin took me into his room in which four Ratners already lived, I found Chaim Yosef Gutman reciting the Shemone Esrei prayer. When I extended my hand in greeting, he only responded after he concluded his prayer and reached “Oseh Shalom Bimromav.” We set up places as synagogues for all the Jewish holidays. It seems to me that

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the decisive reason was: we wanted to feel the feelings of our home in Ratno from which we had been severed, and the feelings of Jewish tradition that were ingrained in us from our childhood.

A large network of Jewish activity and organization already existed in Argentina in the 1920s. Among these were noticeable activities conducted by circles that considered themselves as “progressive, ” which in truth were Yevsektsias[1] marked by the hatred of Zion, activities in support of Birobidzhan, and the like. It should be noted that the tendency toward the Yevsektsia was foreign to the vast majority of Ratno natives, even though there were some that were singed by their coals. We cannot forget that were it not for the limitation in the issuance of certificates for aliya to the Land of Israel, most of us would never have arrived in Argentina. However, once we did arrive, we wanted to nurture the values with which we were educated in our town of Ratno even in that country, including faithfulness to Zion with all the practical activities that such entails. It was not easy to plant these values in a foreign land under radically different conditions and realities, but it seems to me that I do not boast if I note that we did to the best of our ability preserve the values with which we were educated. My friends and I invested all our energy into activities on behalf of the various Zionist funds. We were represented in all the conventions and gatherings. We raised the flaming coal of Ratno to the expansive breadths of the Argentinian “Pampa.” Our process of becoming rooted in Argentina was not easy at all. We concerned ourselves with the spirit more than the body. At that time, there were several writers and people of the spirit in Argentina, and we made efforts to not miss even one important lecture or interesting article published in the Jewish newspapers from the fruits of pens of serious publicists such as Ragelsky, Botoshinsky, and others. The landsmanschafts were in full bloom, and we, natives of Ratno, took hold of the “east” in the organization of Kowel natives, and we worked toward the development of the loan and savings funds, which with the passage of time turned into an important banking institution. A serious struggle unfolded between

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the Zionists and the non–Zionists over control of that institution. The writer of these lines served as the first secretary of the fund. Noach Cohen was the vice president and Yaakov Rag was the treasurer.

After the concerns over livelihood eased, and we became somewhat settled, we began to concern ourselves with our families abroad, by providing financial assistance and permits for immigration to Argentina. This is an endeavor which is worthy of its own article, but I will not do so here and now.

Lanus, near the capital city, was an important center for the Ratno natives. This was primarily because Eliahu Messer, who himself was a native of Trisk near Kowel, immigrated there. His business was the supply of various products through peddlers, and he employed numerous Ratno natives. Thus did the direct trans–Atlantic Ratno–Lanus line begin. The home of our comrade Noach Cohen became the headquarters for Ratno natives. There, we planned various activities and made early efforts for communal activities, some of which are outlined in Zeev Grabov's article in this book. As time passed, Lanus became too constricted for us, and the first people to break through this constricted situation and transfer their activities to Buenos Aires were Moshe and Yisrael Honik, Zeev Grabov, and the writer of these lines. The serious and broad–ranging efforts of our comrade Moshe Honik, who served in various capacities such as secretary of the cultural activities of the Hebrew community in the capital, founder and director of the Kiyum publishing house under the auspices of the Labor Zionist Movement, which was the central point for the publication of the community yearbook, and other roles should be especially noted.

After the great victory of the Labor Movement in elections for the 20th Zionist Congress with the active participation of the emissary from the Land of Israel Nachman Tamir, two comrades from Ratno were added to the list of delegates to the congress: I as the representative of Lanus and Meir Grabov as the representative of Resistencia. Moshe Honik served as a delegate from Argentina in a different congress.

At the end of our outline we must state: Ratno did not let us down even in Argentina, and all the good that we received in Ratno remained with us throughout the time we lived in Argentina.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Jewish sections of the Soviet Communist party. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YevsektsiyaReturn

[Page 310]

Ratno Descendants in the United States

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 310, top: A group of Ratno natives in New York.}

{Photo page 310, bottom: Eliezer Ginzburg (Breindl's).}

In the memorial book that was published in Argentina, B. Kahn (Berl Chanech's) tells the following about the first steps of the Organization of Ratno Natives in the United States.

“On a Sabbath late afternoon in 1906, Ratno natives who lived in the Brownsville neighborhood of New York gathered in the home of Yisrael Kahn. In those days, Yisrael's house served as the center for Ratno natives, just as the house at the corner of Clinton and Rivington in Manhattan served as the center for Ratno natives in Manhattan. The prime motive of this meeting was to relieve slightly the loneliness of the Ratno natives in the big city. Some of those present read letters that they received from their relatives in Ratno and that warmed the heart a bit.

At that meeting, the idea of uniting the Ratno natives into a brotherhood and mutual assistance organization was first hatched. As I remember, those present at the meeting included Velvel Kirsch, Eliahu Klein, Hirsch-Leib Klein, Chaim Leib Peshinski from the village of Wydranica, Shemaya Schneider, Yoel and Yehuda Schneider, my father Yisrael, myself, and several other Ratners whose names I do not remember. Velvel Kirsch was elected as the chairman and I as the secretary. Each of those present paid one dollar and decided on a biweekly membership fee of 10 cents. When the Ratners of Manhattan (New York) joined our organization, it was necessary to rent a hall for our meetings. After some time, we used the money collected in the account of the organization to purchase land for a cemetery with

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regular payments, and also a house of worship on the fourth floor of a house on Firside[1] Street. From that time, we held our meetings in that location. Ratno natives from all parts of New York and also from outside of New York would come to our synagogue for the Hakafot on Simchat Torah, and the house would be too small to accommodate everyone. It is appropriate to note that Shalom Friedman, the son of Yudel the scribe from Kowel, was especially dedicated to our organization. To the best of his ability, he made sure that those in need would receive assistance. He also transferred money to Ratno to renovate the synagogue, cemetery and other institutions. Special subsidies were given by the organization to “Maot Chittin” (Passover charity) for those in need, to the local rabbi, and to the poor of the town. In its peak years, the membership reached 120, however this included some people who were not from Ratno. Hershel Shachna's (who had been a teacher in Ratno) served as the secretary of our organization until his death. Afterward, the chairman was David Sobol, and his son Max Sobol served as chairman.

The following regulations were included in the charter of the organization that was called “The sons of Rabbi Yosef, Natives of Ratno and Volhynia”:

-- The official languages of the organization for everything related to correspondence, accounting, etc. would be Yiddish.

-- The main purpose of the organization is philanthropic -- to provide assistance to the needy, and to assist the widow in the event of the passing of a member.

-- The chairman (president) and vice president are obligated to visit the sick at least once a week.

-- Brotherhood and unity must pervade amongst all the members of the organization.

-- Only upright and dedicated men will be accepted as members. A person who has not married within the Jewish faith is not permitted to be a member.”

The aforementioned book by Leon Ginzburg, the son of Yosel and Breindel, writes the following about a later period and about the assistance committee of the Ratno neighbors:

“In January 1945, natives of Ratno in New York gathered in the home of Yaakov Kotler in order to organize the assistance for the Holocaust survivors of Ratno and its region. We did not have yet any definitive information about the fate of our dear ones in Ratno, but we were aware of the magnitude of the disaster. At the end of the war we learned that not a trace of Ratno Jewry remains. The following people participated in the first meeting: the brothers Zelig and Avigdor Marin, Pinchas Berg, Shalom Melnik, Yaakov Kotler, Hodel Goldstein, Harry Kirsch, and Leon Ginzburg.

Our first task was to forge a connection with the hundreds of Ratno natives who were scattered around greater New York and other cities in the United States, whose addresses we did not have. We decided to publish notices in the Jewish newspapers and the radio informing of the establishment of our assistance committee, and asking that all Ratno natives join with us. We chose a provisional committee that consisted of Pinchas Berg as chairman, Leon Ginzburg as secretary, Yaakov Kotler as treasurer, and Zelig and Avigdor Marin as auditors. Four months after we began our activities, we received a letter from Avraham Berg, one of the survivors, who was the brother of Pinchas Berg. The letter described details of the bitter fate of Ratno Jewry. This letter included the names of 29 survivors of Ratno Jewry.

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The Ratno natives in Canada offered us faithful assistance.

Avraham Berg later arrived in the United States, and became very active among the Ratno natives. He left 5,000 dollars in his will for the activities of the organization of Ratno natives. The Marantz brothers, Yitzchak Leib Kotler, Yosef Fisher, and the Anglo-Jewish poet A. M. Klein helped in particular[2]. Feisi Kreskar and the Kagan and Kirsch brothers participated from Chelsea in Boston. It is also worthwhile to note the contribution of Sam Bukler of Detroit (a native of the village of Chocieszow), and the brothers Avraham and Moshe Kamper of Toronto, Canada.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. I have not been able to identify this street in a modern map of the Brownsville area of Brooklyn. It is likely that street names have changed over the decades. The English spelling I used is transliterated from the Hebrew, and may not be exact.Return
  2. A Jewish Canadian poet, born in Ratno. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._M._KleinReturn

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The Ratno Heritage in Cuba

by Levi Shapira

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 311: Levi Shapira.}

Information about the Book of Ratno that is to be published shortly reached me under particularly difficult circumstances. I am wheelchair-bound, and speaking and writing are difficult for me. However, I wanted to express, and not only in a few lines, my thoughts and feeling about receiving this information.

Fate led me to the country of Cuba in 1937. I, like many others, felt the lack of prospects in the lowly state of life in Ratno, and possibly already prophesied to my heart about the storm that was to come shortly. I found refuge in a country that was not a center of Jewish immigration, the State of Cuba, which was not yet under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro. Despite the fact that Cuba was not thriving economically at that time, I studied the trade of diamond polishing and earned enough from my livelihood and even more. After some time, I tried my hand in business, and I was successful in that realm as well. Our Ratno tradition accompanied me through all of the revolutions and changes that took place in Cuba. I felt duty bound to participate actively in the development of Jewish communal life in that country, that had a small Jewish community. What did we not do there?

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We built Jewish schools, and set up a theater building, a communal library, and a cultural hall, etc. The Ratno heritage commanded me, even if it did not express itself literally, to participate in all national and Jewish activities. I felt this blinding obligation even more strongly after the tidings of Job regarding the extermination of the Jewish community of Ratno by the Nazis and Ukrainians reached us. Even after the Cuban revolution that brought the guerilla fighters, Fidel Castro and his cronies, to power, we continued to concern ourselves with the character of Jewish life in Cuba. At first, I too was among those who hoped for greatness and goodness from the Socialist guard. The majority of the Cuban Jews left the country. From the 15,000 Jews, only about 2,000 remained, but those who remained did not despair. We had to concern ourselves with a Jewish school for the approximately 150 Jewish children, a synagogue, and the Jewish community. The government permitted us to establish a synagogue, and even the non-religious saw a need to go there to worship. In this manner, they demonstrated the existence of a Jewish community. We concerned ourselves with a shochet (ritual slaughterer) mohel (circumcisor), and for matzo on Passover in order to celebrate the Holiday in accordance with its regulations. Even the library remained open, and we gathered there at set times for discussions on current events. When there was no teacher for the Jewish school, I volunteered to serve as a teacher even though I had no training for this. However, it seemed to me that I, as a Ratner who had received a Jewish-nationalistic education in the town, was commanded to worry about the future, and to ensure that the golden chain would not be severed. After a great deal of effort, I succeeded in receiving an exit permit from Cuba. The government authorities looked kindly upon me as someone who had been active in the revolution, and permitted me to travel to Israel. However, they denied me the right to take out my money and belongings. I left that country empty-handed, without one cent, but I thanked the Divine providence that I succeeded in seeing the State of Israel that had been established by generations of pioneers, including pioneers from Ratno. I felt very bad that I had not been among those myself. I attempted to build a life in strange countries, but had not built up my own country. Due to my serious illness, I have not had the opportunity to feast my eyes on all the charm of our Land.

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Ratners in Israel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Elboim, Emanuel (Manes), the son of Yitzchak and Miriam, was born in 1908. He immigrated to Argentina at the age of 20. Emanuel made aliya in 1963. He lives in Rishon LeZion. He worked as an agent for Tnuva in Rehovot. He married Tova (née Prigal). His children are Yitzchak and Rachel.

Ahal, Ruth, the daughter of David and Gittel Greenstein, was born in 1910. She was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair, and went through hachshara in the Tel Hai Kibbutz in Lida. She made aliya in 1934. She settled in Haifa and studied in a program for registered nurses. She was widowed from her husband Yaakov of blessed memory. Her occupation was a nurse. Her children are Oded (a chemical engineer) and Dalia (a clerk).

Balter, Tzipora, the daughter of Shimon and Sara Rosenberg, was born in 1915. She made aliya in 1935. She married Aryeh. Her children are Shlomit (a secretary) and Moshe (a lawyer). She is a housewife.

Bender, Yaakov, the son of Avraham and Frida, was born in 1922. He was a member of Beitar. He enlisted in the Russian army in 1941. He made aliya in 1943 with a unit of the Polish Army (Andrius). He is married to Bat–Sheva. Their children are Ehud, Aryeh and Aliza. He owns a carpentry shop in Rishon LeZion. He was a member of the Haganah and participated in the War of Independence and Kadesh Operation[1] at the rank of sergeant.

Blitz, Leah, the daughter of Yaakov and Ada Hochman, was born in 1940. She survived the Holocaust and made aliya with her mother and brother in 1946. She was educated in Kfar Batya. She is married to Yosef, and their children are Tzvi and Yaakov. She is a teacher.

Grabov, Zeev, the son of Pesach and Batya, was born in 1918. He was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He immigrated to Argentina in 1936 and was active there in the field of education, the united appeal, and Hashomer Hatzair. He made aliya in 1950. He married Pnina (née Buber). He works as a supervisor in Kupat Cholim in the Sharon Area directorate. He is active in the community, especially in representing the cities of Volhyn. His children are Avinoam, Yifat, and Gili.

Gotttesman, Yafa is the daughter of Avraham and Rivka Bronstein, was born in 1927. She survived the Holocaust as a member of the Diadia Petia partisan unit. She works in special education. She is married to Menachem, a native of Czechoslovakia.

Goldman, Sara, the daughter of Aharon and Henya Papir, was born in 1913. She was a student at the Tarbut Gymnasium of Kowel and a member of Hechalutz Hatzair. She went through hachshara in the Tel Hai Kibbutz in Bialystok and Lida. She made aliya in 1933 with her husband Shmuel Goldman. Their children are Aharon (a physics professor), Edna (a teacher), and Bruria (a journalist).

Grabov, Yaakov, the son of Pesach and Batya, was born in 1921. He was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He went through hachshara in Rovno. He is a Holocaust survivor who fought with the partisans in the forests and with the Red Army until the conquest of Berlin. He received various medals of excellence. He made aliya from Poland in 1960 with his wife Harriet and two sons: Arnon (who fell in the Six Day War), and Gavriel. His two daughters, Batya and Michal, were born in Israel. He owns a café.

Goizen, Henya, the daughter of Berl and Tova Karsh, was born in 1916, was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Bialystok. She made aliya in 1947. She is married to Reuven, and their children are Yona and Micha. She is a housewife.

Givoni, Charna, the daughter of Yitzchak and Golda Greenstein, was born in 1913. She was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair. She went through hachshara in the kibbutz in Bialystok and made aliya in 1935. She joined Kibbutz Naan, moved to Holon, and worked in the Ludzia factory. Her husband Aryeh was active in the trade union in Holon.

Gefen, Zelda, the daughter of Berl and Henya Feintuch, was born in 1913. She was a student of Tarbut and a prime activist in Hashomer Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Zamosc and made aliya in 1937. She married Mordechai Gefen, one of the first people to make aliya from Ratno. Formerly, she worked in their farm in Kfar Sirkin. Their children are Aviva (a high school teacher), Israel (a sports instructor) and Henya (a kindergarten teacher).

Greenstein (Belgalei), Yafa (Sheindel) , the daughter of Yosef and Chana of blessed memory, was born in 1914. She was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair and Hechalutz. She went through hachshara in Kosow, made aliya in 1939, and joined Kibbutz Ein Hayam. She married Abba Belgalei of blessed memory, and they set up their home in Kiryat Motzkin. Their children are Yossi and Mira.

Goldman, Shmuel, the son of Shamai and Breindel, was born in 1913. He was one of the founders of Hechalutz Hatzair in Ratno and an activist in the pioneering movement in Poland. He made aliya in 1933 and joined Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar along with his wife Sara. He served as a member of the city council of Rishon LeZion and as secretary of the workers council. He was an activist of the Mapai (Labor Party) and one of the heads of the cooperative center. He was a director of the Amron factory.

Gefen, Mordechai, the son of Israel and Yenta Weinstock, was born in 1910. He was a member of Hechalutz, and went through hachshara in Klesowa. He made aliya in 1929 as the first oleh from Ratno. He joined Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. He was a guard[2], a member of the Haganah and active in various areas. He was one of the first founders of Kfar Sirkin along with his wife Zelda Feintuch, a Ratno native.

Gendelsman, Tova, the daughter of Yehuda and Leah Bokser, was born in 1923. She was a member of Komsomol. She left

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Ratno in 1941, and was in the Soviet Union throughout the entire period of the war. She made aliya from Poland in 1957 and joined Kibbutz Ein Shemer. She is married to Yosef and their children are Leah and Pnina. She works on the kibbutz.

Gorodetzki, Zlata, the daughter of Mottle Klein, was born in 1900. During her youth, she belonged to the Poale Zion party. She was widowed from her husband Chaim of blessed memory, a civil engineer. She made aliya in 1978.

Droog, Moshe, the son of Avraham and Reizel, was born in 1908. He is a graduate of the Tarbut Gymnasium and was a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He made aliya in 1934. He is one of the heads of Hamashbir Hamerkazi and the consumers' cooperative. He is married to Bella, a nurse. Their children are Nitza M.A., Dan – an engineer, and Avraham, a practical engineer[3].

Dorner, Dvora, the daughter of Yitzchak and Susia Teitelbaum, was born in 1914. She was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hechalutz Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Krynki and Bialystok. She endured all the tribulations of the war in hiding places and forests with the partisans. She made aliya with her husband in 1948 in a Ha'apala[4] ship.

Drook, Leah, the daughter of Asher and Rivka, was born in 1911. She was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair and made aliya in 1939. She was the sole survivor of her family. She was a member of Kibbutz Alonim. Her son and two grandchildren live in Kibbutz Alonim.

Held, Eliezer, the son of Fishel and Rachel, was born in 1901. He was active in the General Zionist Youth and went through hachshara in the Kibbutz of the General Zionist pioneers in Opatów. He made aliya in 1938. He was a clerk at the Hamashbir Hamerkazi, and the Amizan Company. He is widowed from his wife Roza. He was a member of the Haganah. His daughter Dvora is married to Dan Naot, a lecturer in the Technion in Haifa.

Horwitz, Henya, the daughter of Yitzchak and Miriam Elboim, was born in 1915. She was a student of Tarbut, and was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Krynki and Bialystok, and made aliya in 1935. She is a counselor of a school for special needs children. She is married to Shlomo. Her children are Ilana, Amiram (an accountant), and Sharona (a bank clerk).

Hochman, Zeev, the son of Yaakov and Ada, was born in 1939. He survived the Holocaust with his mother and sister. They made aliya in 1946. He was educated in Kfar Batya. He works in the aviation industry. His children are Chagit and Yaakov.

Wiener, Avraham, the son of Eliahu, was born in 1900. He survived the Holocaust and made aliya in 1950. He is a member of a cooperative workers' settlement (moshav ovdim) in the south of Israel.

Wilk, Aryeh, the son of Chaim David (a shochet) and Chaya, was born in 1922. He escaped to Russia at the outbreak of the war, and served in the Russian Army. He made aliya in 1945 and settled in Rishon LeZion. He served in the police for 30 years. He is married to Ziva, and their children are Chaim and Dalia.

Waks, Batya, the daughter of Hershel and Esther Chana Miller, was born in 1914. She went through hachshara in the religious kibbutz in Otowochek [Otwock], and made aliya in 1934. She is a widow. Her children are Refael and Moshe. She lives with her son in Kibbutz Lavi.

Vernik, Shlomo, the son of Yehuda Leib and Rivka, was born in 1918. He was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He is a Holocaust survivor. He escaped from a labor camp, arrived in the forests, and joined the partisans. He served in the Russian Army under the command of generals Fedorov and Zhukov. He made aliya in 1947 and fought in the War of Independence. His is married to Nechama. He works as an accountant. His children are Avraham (an engineer), and Aryeh (a practical engineer).

Zandweis, Chaya, the daughter of Asher and Chasia Leker, was born in 1910. She was a member of Hechalutz, and went through hachshara in the Tel Hai Kibbutz of Bialystok. She made aliya in 1936. She is married in Tuvia. She worked for the General Kupat Cholim. Her daughter is Drora.

Zesak, Eliahu, the son of Chaim and Chava, was born in 1916, and was a student of the Tarbut School and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He went through hachshara in the Kibbutz in Tshenstochov [Częstochowa]. He worked as a technician in a cooperative in Emek Chefer. He fought with the partisans in the forests during the war. He made aliya in 1950. He participated in Operation Kadesh. His children are Chaim (a bank manager), and Yoav (a flight supervisor).

Chayat, Israel, the son of Yehoshua and Susia, was born in 1913. He was a member of the Haoved (working) movement. He survived the Holocaust. He was in the German labor camps and was even taken to be hanged. He jumped off a bridge into a frozen river to save himself. He fought together with the partisans and served in the Russian Army. He was active in the Bricha[5], lived in Argentina for some time, and made aliya to Israel in 1949. He worked as an accountant in a building materials company. He participated in the Operation Kadesh. He is married to Miriam, and their children are Yechezkel (a dentist), and Asya (a lawyer).

Ternblit, Shraga, the son of Wolf–Leib and Yocha, was born in 1915. He was a member of Hashomer Hatzair and went through hachshara in Vilna. He made aliya in 1935. He was a member of the Haganah and fought in the War of Independence. He is married to Shoshana. Their children are Zeev and Amiram. His occupation is a builder.

Trigobov, Chana, the daughter of Yosef and Rivka Avrech, was born in 1913. She was a member of Hechalutz and went through hachshara in Radzibilov. She made aliya in 1934 and worked in the Defense Ministry. Her husband is Yechhezkel.

Tikuchinsky, Miri (Papir), the daughter of Aharon and Henya, was born in 1928. She made aliya with her mother and the children in 1935, and moved to Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. She was a student of a nursing school and serves as the chief nurse in the Shaar Menashe Hospital. Her husband is Aharon. Their daughter Esther is a high school teacher in Beer Sheva.

Yarkoni, Baruch, the son of Chaim and Hinda Greengarten from the village of Zabolottya near Ratno, was born in 1911, immigrated to France in 1930, and later made aliya and settled in Kibbutz Naan.

Yarkoni, Mordechai, the son of Chaim and Hinda Greengarten. He was born in 1913, made aliya in 1938, and is a member of Kibbutz Naan.

Yonosovich, Chaya, the daughter of Yitzchak and Golda Grabov, was born in 1912. She was a member of Hashomer Hatzair and went through

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hachshara in Chelm and other places. She made aliya in 1939, and spent some time in Kibbutz Mesilot. She is married to Israel and their children are Rama and Yitzchak.

Cohen, Yehudit, the daughter of Yehuda–Leib and Malka Sandiuk, was born in 1914, was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Ludmir. She made aliya in 1935 and settled in Kibbutz Mesilot. She is widowed from her husband Moshe. Her children are Avishai, Rachel, and Eliahu.

Raf, Mordechai, the son of Noach and Malka, was born in 1915. He was a member of Hashomer Hatzair and went through hachshara in Baranovich. He made aliya in 1938. He enlisted in the Hebrew settlement's police force, and served as a communications officer in the Safed Police Force with the Jewish Agency dealing with “illegal” immigrants. He later became an X–ray technician. He was a member of the Haganah and was a defender of Mount Scopus during the time of the siege of Jerusalem. He participated in the War of Independence, Operation Kadesh and the Six Day War.

Kagan, Yehuda, the son of Nachum and Esther (Klara), was born in 1922. He was a member of Beitar. He is a Holocaust survivor. He fought in the partisan ranks and served in the Russian Army. He participated in the War of Independence and Operation Kadesh. He visited the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1970s. He was arrested there and sentenced to ten years of prison. He was formerly a construction worker and currently owns a vegetable store.

Liberman, Eliahu, the son of Yaakov and Bilha, was born in 1921. He was educated in the Tarbut School and was a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He was a student at a trade school in Brisk. At the time of the Russian conquest in 1939, he travelled to study in Russia and enlisted in the Red Army. After much wandering, he made aliya in 1948 with his wife Chaya. He worked in the Ha'Malachim Cooperative and currently works in military manufacturing. He served in the Israel Defense Forces. Their children are Bilha, Yael, and Leah.

Levidov, Elka, the daughter of Aharon and Henya Papir, was born in 1916, was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hechalutz Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Kosow and made aliya in 1935. She was a member of Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. She was married to her husband Moshe, an employee in the trade union of Tel Aviv, and is widowed. Her children are Aviva and Idit, both teachers.

Lavie, Simcha, the son of Asher and Chasia Leker, was born in 1913. He was a student of Tarbut and a member of Hechalutz Hatzair. He went through hachshara in Klesowa. He made aliya in 1932. He worked in agriculture and building, and later in manufacturing and marketing. He is married to Lilit. He served in the army and fulfilled various duties in the defense apparatus. Their children are Yigal (an aeronautical engineer), Asher (an electrical engineer), and Rachel.

Marin, Dov, the son of Pesach and Malka, was born in 1920. He was a student of Tarbut and a member of the Beitar movement. He made aliya in 1938. His wife is Nechama. He enlisted in the British Army at the beginning of the war, and served in the Israel Defense Forces as a Master Sergeant. He fought in the War of Independence and the Yom Kippur War. Their children are Ziva and Amitai.

Marin, Daniel, the son of Zusia and Sheindel, was born in 1909. He served in the Polish Army during the war and made aliya in 1945. He worked in the Moshav Beit Chanan and was active in the economic issues of the moshav. He was widowed from his wife Tzipora of blessed memory. His daughter is Nava.

Marder, Shmuel, the son of Binyamin and Chana, was born in 1913. He was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair and went through hachshara in Klesowa. He was one of the first olim from Ratno – in 1932. He worked in building and road paving. He was one of the founders of the Cooperative Kibbutz in Haifa and one of the promoters of the Hebrew workforce in the Port of Haifa. He was a member of the Haganah and participated in the War of Independence. Currently, he works as a clerk in the tax clearance office. His children are Binyamin, Avi, and Giora.

Nir, Avraham, the son of Aharon and Henya Papir, was born in 1923. He made aliya in 1935 with his mother, brother and sisters after their father was murdered in the forests of the Ratno area. He joined Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. He was sent to the Mikve Israel Agricultural School. He became an expert in the citrus division, and worked in growing citrus fruits. He is married to Zehava. He was a member of the Haganah and Palmach, and participated in the breaking of the siege of the Atlit Camp. He participated in the wars of Israel and served as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces. Their children are Ayala and Arik.

Arif, Dvora, the daughter of Yitzchak and Golda Grabov, was born in 1910. She was a member of Hashomer Hatzair and went through hachshara in Hrubieszow. She made aliya in 1935. She was a member of Kibbutz Mesilot. She is married to Nisan, and their children are Avraham, Aya, and Gideon.

Flanzman, Ethel, the daughter of Yaakov and Frida Gutman, was born in 1907. She made aliya in 1936. She is married to Avraham. His occupation is an X–ray technician. Their children are Yaakov and Dani.

Perlmutter, Shlomo, the son of Asher and Merida, was born in 1927. He was a student of the Tarbut School. He was a Holocaust survivor. He escaped to the forests and joined the partisans of General Feodorov. He studied in Moscow, and earned the acquaintanceship and friendship of the great Jewish writers there. He made aliya in a Ha'apala ship in 1946. He is a graduate of the University in Jerusalem. He was a high school principal and history teacher. He is married to Shoshana and their children are Miri, Dorit, and Oshrit.

Puchter, Bilha, the daughter of Itzel and Odel Ternblit, was born in 1906. She is a widow and bereaved mother. She spent the wartime years in the forests and in partisan units. She made aliya in 1948, and is a housewife.

Papir, Eliahu, the son of Aharon and Henya, was born in 1918. He made aliya with his family members to Ayelet Hashachar. He later moved to Kibbutz Gimel of Hashomer Hatzair. He worked in agriculture after he left the kibbutz. He was married to Tova of blessed memory. Their children are Drora (a teacher), Dalia (a medical research doctor), and Asher (a clerk).

Friedlander, Shimon, the son of Shlomo–Tuvia and Esther, studied in the Yeshivas of Brisk and Mir, and is an ordained rabbi. He made aliya in 1936. He serves as a rabbi in Tichon Beit/Gimel in Tel Aviv, as well as a vice principal of a school. He served as the rabbi of the Berdichevski Synagogue in Tel Aviv. He is married to Tzipora and their children are Yehuda (a professor of literature) and Esther (a teacher).

Feintuch, Eliahu, the son of Berl and Henya, was born in 1912. He was

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a member of Hechalutz Hatzair and went through hachshara in Baranovich. He made aliya in 1934 and worked in drilling water wells in the Mekor Hamayim cooperative in Herzliya. He enlisted in the Hebrew Brigade during the war and served for five years. He joined the Haganah. He is married to Herzlia and their children are Dov and Boaz.

Elboim, Tova, the daughter of David and Gitel Prigal, was born in 1907. She married Emanuel Elboim and immigrated to Argentina in 1922. She made aliya with her family in 1963. She is a housewife.

Kotler, Yechezkel, the son of Yitzchak Hirsh and Mindel, was born in 1922. He was a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He served in the Russian Army during the Second World War. He made aliya in 1948. He participated in the Kadesh Operation. He works as a truck owner. His children are Tzvi and Rachel.

Kamintzky, Shmuel, the son of Aharon–Yosef and Bella, was born in 1888. He was the only survivor of his family, thanks to his Ukrainian friends who gave him refuge. He made aliya in 1949, and lives in Petach Tikva. Until his retirement, he worked at sharpening work tools.

Kamintzky, Ben–Zion, the son of Herzl and Chasia, was born in 1927. He was a student of the Tarbut School and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. He found a hiding place with Ukrainians during the war years. He made aliya in 1949. He is a teacher. He studied at university in Jerusalem. He is married to Pnina, and their children are Reuven and Asaf. He fought in Operation Kadesh and the Yom Kippur War.

Karsh, Pnina, the daughter of Yehuda Leib and Rivka Vernik, was born in 1912. She went through all the tribulations of the war. She is widowed from her husband Yitzchak Shapira, who fell during the war as a soldier in the Red Army. She made aliya in 1947 with her daughter Raya. She remarried Ben–Zion Karsh and their son is Yehuda.

Kamintzky, Isser, the son of Yitzchak and Dintza, was born in 1908. He lived in Argentina from 1924 and was active in the appeals, the funds, and the Poale Zion party. He made aliya in 1973, and works in the Amron Factory in Herzliya. He is married to Fanny, and their children are Yitzchak and Eliezer.

Kabashnik, Isser, the son of Yitzchak–Yosef and Henya, was born in 1912. He was a member of Hechalutz and went through hachshara in Dombrowica. He made aliya in 1932, and always lived in Haifa. He was a member of the Haganah and served in the Israel Defense Forces during the War of Independence. He is married to Frida, and their children are Yitzchak and Nava.

Rozen, Chaya, the daughter of David and Hanche, was born in 1917. She was a student of the Tarbut School and a member of Hashomer Hatzair. She went through hachshara in Czestochowa and made aliya in 1938. She is married to Moshe. The family business is flower growing. Their children are Pinchas, Charna, and Nitza.

Stoltzman, Rivka (Melnik) was born in 1913. She was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair and went through hachshara. She made aliya in 1939, and is a member of Kibbutz Maayan Tzvi.

Schwartz, Sara, the daughter of Yosef and Breindel Ginzburg, was born in 1913. She was a member of Hechalutz and went through hachshara in Klesowa. She made aliya in 1935. She is married to Yehuda and their children are Dalia (a high school teacher) and Yosef (a librarian).

Steingarten, Elchanan, the son of Yaakov and Bat–Sheva, was born in 1926. He was a student of the Tarbut School. His brother Aryeh was murdered by the Nazis at the beginning of the Nazi occupation, and the rest of his family made aliya in 1947 on a Ha'apala ship. He was active in Etz”el and participated in all of Israel's wars. He is a captain. He is married to Batya, and their children are Yitzchak and Aryeh Ben–Zion. His work is with a shoe shop in Kiryat Ono.

Shkolnik, Ada, the daughter of Herzl and Chasia Kamintzky, survived the Holocaust with her two children on account of the protection she found with Ukrainians in the villages of the region. Her children Zeev and Leah were part of the Youth aliya in Kfar Batya. Her husband Yaakov Hochman from Ratno perished in the Holocaust. She remarried in Italy, and her husband died.

Shechter, Charna, the daughter of Chaim Topolovsky, was born in 1914. She was a member of Hechalutz Hatzair and went through hachshara. She made aliya in 1938 and lives in Haifa.

Stern, Moshe, the son of Isser and Rachel, was born in 1909. He was a member of Hechalutz and went through hachshara in Klesowa. He made aliya in 1930. He was a foreman in Solel Boneh, and one of the first residents of Kfar Sirkin. He served in the Hebrew Hashomrim police force in the village for four years. He was active in the Haganah. Their children are Avi, Dvora, and Israel.

Shapira, Levi, was born in 1910. He immigrated from Ratno to Cuba and made aliya to Israel in 1980.

Breshchinski, Yafa, the daughter of Zusia and Esther Geller, was born in 1919. She was a member of Hechalutz and went through hachshara in Vilna. She passed the war years in the Vilna Ghetto. She made aliya on a Ha'apala ship in 1945. Her husband is Yaakov and their children are Aviv and Esther.

Mokotov, Malka, the daughter of Zusia and Esther Geller, was born in 1917. She was a member of Hechalutz and went through hachshara. She made aliya in 1938. She is widowed from her husband Tzadok. Her son is Yuval.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A term for the 1956 Sinai Campaign. See http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/History/Pages/The%20Sinai%20Campaign%20–%201956.aspx Return
  2. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notrim Return
  3. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Practical_engineer Return
  4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/aliyah_Bet Return
  5. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bricha Return

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Ratners who Died in Israel

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Avrech, Yosef and Rivka, the parents of Aryeh and Alter of blessed memory, and, may she live, Chana Trigobov. They made aliya at the request of their son Aryeh of Kibbutz Yagur in 1936, and lived there with their son.

Avrech, Aryeh, the son of Yosef and Rivka, was born in 1909. He was a member of the Hechalutz headquarters in Warsaw. He made aliya in 1932 and joined Kibbutz Yagur. He was killed in a work accident on the kibbutz in 1948.

Avrech, Alter, the son of Yosef and Rivka, was born in 1924. He made aliya with his parents in 1936, and joined Kibbutz Yotvata. He was killed in a work accident at the Dead Sea in 1948.

Brustein, Pnina, the daughter of Reizel and Avraham Droog, was born in 1913, made aliya in 1936, and joined Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. She died of cancer in 1969. Her son Hillel lives on Kibbutz Hagoshrim and her daughter Shoshana lives in Givat Hashlosha.

Gutman, Moshe, the son of Yaakov and Freida, was born in 1909 and made aliya in 1932. He was one of the founders of Kfar Sirkin, and was active in the Organization of Ratners and Yad Labanim. He died in 1981.

Goldstein, Batya, survived the Holocaust and died in 1981.

Grabov, Avraham, the son of Yitzchak and Golda, was one of the activists of the Pioneering Movement. He made aliya in 1936, joined Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh, and was murdered in 1939.

Grabov, Refael, the son of Pesach, immigrated to Argentina, and made aliya to Israel from there. He died in 1980.

Greenstein, Moshe, the son of Yosef, was born in 1915. He made aliya in 1935 and joined Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. He died in 1979.

Drezner, Pnina, the daughter of Malka and Pesach Marin was born in 1912 and made aliya in 1935. She was a member of Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha and later moved to Haifa. She died of cancer in 1980.

Held, Roza, (née Rivlin), the wife of Eliezer Held died in 1969.

Weintraub, Chaya, the daughter of Mendel, was born in 1913. She was a member of Hashomer Hatzair. She lived in Ramle.

Weinstock (Gefen), Yenta, was born in 1880. She made aliya in 1935 and helped her son Mordechai set up the farm in Kfar Sirkin. She died in 1947.

Taub, Feiga, the daughter of Sheindel and Zusia Marin, was born in 1913. She made aliya in 1938 and joined Kibbutz Mesilot. She died in 1947.

Yanover, Mordechai, the son of Bracha and Israel, was born in 1910. He was one of the founders of Hechalutz Hatzair in Ratno. He made aliya in 1935, and was a member of Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. He moved to Ramat Gan after his marriage. He died in 1979.

Cohen, Yaakov, was the son of Avraham the shochet.

Lifschitz, Pnina, the daughter of Sheindel and Zusia Marin, was born in 1915, and made aliya in 1939. She ran a Magen David Adom station. She was killed in an automobile accident in 1964.

Lifschitz, Avraham, the son of Pnina and Mordechai, was born in 1945. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1964.

Feiglis, Chana and Eliezer, died in Argentina and were buried in Israel.

Papir, Henya, made aliya after her husband was murdered by a robber in the forest in the region of Ratno. She lived with her eldest daughter Sara in Ayelet Hashachar and later in Rishon LeZion. She died in 1947.

Kamintzky, Herzl and Chasia were Holocaust survivors. They made aliya in 1949.

Rozen, Fishel, the son of Berl, was born in 1915, and made aliya in 1937. He was a member of Kibbutz Shefayim. He was lost track of in 1938, and we do not know what his fate was.

Rozen, Pinchas, the son of Moshe and Chaya, was born in 1938. He was killed in an accident.

Rosenthal, Pnina, the daughter of Itzel and Odel Ternblit, was born in 1913, and made aliya in 1938.

Schwartz, Hershel, was born in 1900. He was a Holocaust survivor. He made aliya in 1950, and died in 1981.

Shoshani, Miriam, the daughter of Israel and Yenta Weinstock, was born in 1916. She was one of the founders of Hechalutz Hatzair. She made aliya in 1935 and died on August 24, 1983.

Steingarten, Yaakov and Bat–Sheva, were the parents of Leibel who was one of the first Nazi victims in Ratno. They were Holocaust survivors. They made aliya in 1947. Yaakov died in 5742 (1982) and Bat Sheva in 5741 (1981).

Steingarten, Israel, the son of Yaakov and Bat–Sheva, was born in 1923. He was a Holocaust survivor. He served as a captain in the Israel Defense forces. He died in 1969. He was married to Annette, and his daughters are Ariella and Eti.

Steingarten, Israel, the son of David and Matel, was born in 1911. He was educated in the Tarbut Gymnasium in Kowel. He was exiled to Russia. He made aliya in 1949. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University. He died in Jerusalem in 1976. He was married to Misia, and his children are David and Meira.

[Page 318]

Avraham Grabov

by Moshe Kliger

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 318: Avraham Grabov at training as member of the Haganah.}

Avraham was born in the Ukrainian village of Rokita in Volhyn (Poland)[1]. His parents moved to the nearby town of Ratno when he was four years old. It had two rows of houses, and one could see the second row from the first row. With a few steps, you would be standing on the bridge over the Pripyat outside the town, and from there, one would enter the fields. The town endured a wave of disturbances when Avraham was a child. During his childhood, he saw the sights of blood and fire: Jews being murdered, frightened Jews fleeing for their lives through meadows and forests to find refuge from the hooligans. His oldest sister took her life in her hands to save her father and her family members. These were days of confusion and perplexity. The gentile working at the train harassed her and threatened her life, and she stood up for her honor and her life. She jumped off the train as it was moving and escaped into the forest. The deed of the sister was a childhood experience that accompanied him all his life, like a burning pain that planted the seeds of revenge. It was a command and an oath – to Jewish might and pride.

He was the youngest child of a large, wealthy family in the town. Warmth, love, generosity, and relative calm was the atmosphere of the house. He was the youngest child and beloved by everybody.

[Page 319]

The world of the town was small. Its people were few. It had few stores, and the merchandise in the stores was meager. “Grey skies and muddy puddles.” “The shreds of blue skies, clear, so painful.” – However, the world of “I” is large and broad. The questions of reality, essence and purpose, life and death. The questions were many. One came after the next. There was no solution. From where is the energy to bear all this? Sadness and pain. The uncertainty consumes all the good parts of the soul. At times complacency celebrates its victory: “Liberation cessation.” However, the strong, fine youth, in whose image there was somewhat of the village gentile – with flowing youthfulness, and with the spring–like living spirit. Deep inside, he deliberated over the philosophy of nihilism and meaninglessness of life. Life has so many colors! Avraham had a youthful spirit, with a tendency toward mischief and games. If some amount had been taken from him, much still remained: laughter, sunlight, and joy. All of this was with a full breath.

Who can tell what the words – the Land of Israel, the pioneer, Klosowa – meant to a Jewish child in the towns of Volhyn? Is there any expression for the love bound up in them? With great longing, a daydream, the whisper of these names was like the whisper of Mother or the name of a beloved girl. With the tearful prayers of Mother and Father, the crystal tears also came to the eyes of the child. The number of prayers and the Bible inculcated the desire and longing for the Land. The Hebrew pioneers who left the town and their parents' homes with revolutionary songs and “Choliastra nihilism” continued the dream and forged the way. Klosowa was the wonderful island in a remote corner of Poland, next to the border. Its land was rocky. The Jews worked there like gentiles, sang songs of storms and revolutions, mocking the young ones, and the “orderly” life, for they were taken by songs of tomorrow, for the Hebrew revolution.

No Jew will again be embarrassed by work, and no Jewish young man or daughter of Israel will be embarrassed by wearing rags on their body and rubber boots on their feet. The Klosowa group raised the face of the towns of Volhyn. The Land of Israel, the pioneers, Klosowa – made the soul grow wings. The way was exposed. There is a way.

Avraham, the 15–year–old youth, “flew” to Gruschew. However, the small agricultural farm was calm. In the winter, his friends returned to their parents' homes, and only few remained. The calm was great. Everything was narrow – this was not the song that enchanted him. This is not the song that summoned him to leave his parents' home and to go. Avraham returned to his town, and set out to Klosowa after a few months – to the difficulties, and to the large, noisy group.

He was attracted to the hard work. Through it, he saw a redemption from the bountiful powers of the body and the soul. He had a great desire to struggle with the “strong ones,” to see with his flesh that which was frightening and holy with the birth of the new reality; to see the hands that were injured and wounded; to enlist the energy, all the energy. The “light” work did not attract his heart. Quarrying rocks, working alongside “nature” in the sawmill, in paving roads in the Land – this was his way.

In the Hechalutz seminar in 1930 – he was quiet, and turned inwardly, due to the younger people who were among the participants. The Hechalutz Hatzair group

[Page 320]

at the seminar was caught up with clarifications of the questions of the movement. Experiences were forged in meetings, in conversations among friends, in evenings of song – exciting and engaging. The Hechalutz Hatzair newspaper appeared near the end of the seminar. The driving force behind its renewal was the group of youths of the movement at the seminar. They also participated in it in a significant fashion. The attention of both the members and the counsellors captured Avraham's spirit. He, who was quiet in conversations and introverted, suddenly shone before everyone, surprising them. The poet was exposed. He published an internal newspaper for the chapter, called “Bituyim,” even before he went on hachshara. Some of his articles were copied in “Lehavot”, the newspaper of Hanoar Hachalutzi His language was that of a visionary. Even the abstract was tangible. His expression was clear, pure, and independent and forged from his “heart and rock.” His written expression, like his oral expression (they were very similar), was always forged with internal content. All the pain and creative angst, with enthusiasm around every word and faithful to human reality, always came through in his words. His language – the language of poetry – was not borrowed. He was always original.

From that time on, Avraham more than anyone else was the person who lived the realities of the movement, always wandering around from city to town, and from town to a remote village, with his strong, oppressed journeys. Every step was strong, and every step was deliberate. An abundance of love transported him to children, to the masses of youth of our nation, abandoned and left to the street and emptiness. He organized, collected, and attracted people with the warmth of his personality, with his fire of internal truth. He easily broke down the barriers between himself, the stranger, the guest, between children and the youth groups, being close to them, loving them. He radiated and imbued his environment, sang with devotion, fascinated people with his strong, masculine voice. We were all the same age, but he, Avraham, had youth in his makeup. Throughout all the years of his activity in the movement, in hachshara, and also in the Land, he earned warmth, great love, and open and hidden reverence.

(From the booklet in memory of Avraham)

{Photo page 320: Right to left: Aryeh Avrech, Moshe Kliger, and A. Grabov.}

“Love strong as a stone of Klosowa, and as a stone quarried from Jerusalem, to which I will eventually cleave.”

“To weep secretly, alone but not to veer off this path.”

Translator's Footnote

  1. Currently Ukraine.Return

[Page 319–alt]

Our Brother Avraham

by Chaya

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Avraham was the youngest brother in the family, but he was also the splendor of the family. We were blessed through him, and we were proud of him. It seems to me that all of Jewish Ratno was blessed through him. His praise was in the mouths of everybody. He was an autodidact. He was able to sit for many hours and peruse books that interested him, just as he was able, along with his close friend Avrech, to deliberate and debate important issues of the day for hours. He did not make his peace with the existing society, with its means of operation, and with the modus operandi of many Ratno natives. I remember that he once asked me in a letter from Warsaw, “What is new with you? You are certainly by now already wearing high heels!”… For him, high heels were a symbol of rootlessness,

[Page 320–alt]

the Philostratus[1] of youth, the pursuing of style.

I will never forget the bitter day when the news of his murder reached us after a delay. I found no comfort at home. It was Friday, and I felt the need to be together with friends. I went to the chapter of Hashomer Hatzair at night, even though at that time (after three years of hachshara, when I came home only to wait for the certificate or information about the confirming of my “illegal” aliya), I did not visit the chapter frequently, because people of my age were no longer active in it. I recall very well Golda Droog, who was the head of the chapter at that time. She was a talented youth with great energy, and everybody related to her with great esteem. Golda understood my soul at that time. She did not leave me for even one minute. She attempted to encourage me, to free me from my terrible mood, and to be with me. I felt a certain easing of my mood when I was with her.

I remember that the news of the murder of Avraham was published in Heint, but they tried to keep it from us for some time. Father went to the post office to receive a letter sent by one of Avraham's friends, containing details about what had taken place. A Tisha Be'Av[2] atmosphere of despair settled upon the house. We all waited for greatness from this youngest member of the family. Who had imagined that this would be his end?

Translator's Footnotes

  1. A reference to the philosopher http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PhilostratusReturn
  2. A major summer fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temples as well as other tragedies throughout the centuries.Return

[Page 321]


by Aryeh Pialkov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 321 right: Aryeh Avrech and his family in Yagur.}

{Photo page 321 left: Alter Avrech, Aryeh's brother, who was killed in a work accident.}

He was born in the year 5669 – 1909 in Ratno. He arrived in the Land on the 15th of Tammuz, 5691 – June 1931. He was a graduate of the pioneering movement, and one of the best of its actualizers and builders. He was a man of culture who loved books. He was dedicated with enthusiasm and diligence to every job and task that he took upon himself. His hands were expert in every type of work. He worked in the sheep flock for many years, and spent many hours a day shepherding, milking, and shearing. Even then, he did not leave behind a good book. For a time, he worked at counselling youth who had made aliya. Later he edited the diary of the Yagur farm, and imbued it with the best of his style and broad knowledge. He worked in a deciduous forest during his latter years. He was crushed and seriously injured while dismantling a new sprayer. He died a few hours later. About him it is said: If the legend of the 36[1] is accurate – he is one of them. The library building in Kibbutz Yagur is called Beit Avrech in his name.


About his Personality

In the book “Sefer Klosowa,” Aryeh Fialkov tells about four emissaries from Klosowa who visited the town. The third one was Aryeh Avrech.

The impression of the first two visitors in the town and in the chapter was noticeable for a long time. Those in the know whispered: this time the man of the book, the man of the spirit, the man of culture of Klosowa, is coming. Thus, Avrech was perceived even before he came, but the matter was still not grasped appropriately: What does it mean? He won't speak? He won't respond to questions and issues?

Then he arrived, with his simple garb, his modest demeanor, and his quiet manner of speaking. They surrounded him, as usual. But he – was not usual. He minimized his speaking.

[Page 322]

He listened a great deal. His conversation exuded warmth, and he smiled goodheartedly. During the first break, the group tried to direct him as they did with those who came before him. First he was to speak, then he would respond to questions, which were so many and bothersome, and who can respond to them and straighten things out if not for the emissary of Klosowa? Indeed, Avrech tried to do so, but he immediately realized that this was not within his power. His responses and explanations were terse and to the point. It seemed as if he was trying to hurry to exit from these complexities, in order to start to deal with issues that were closer to him. There was indeed a certain disappointment in the audience of members: what would happen to the irksome questions? Apparently, Avrech did not perceive this. He was in his own element. He took out a book, “Masada” by Lamdan[2], and read from it. He took out a second book, “BaGalgal” by Shlonski[3], and also read and explained it. The youths were a bit surprised. They were not prepared for this. However, Avrech continued with his reading in proper taste, with emphasis, with explaining sentences and ideas with emotional but restrained enthusiasm – he had intended specifically this. This was the main thing – in the work of “we have a small hand with five fingers,” with the stubbornness of the maapilim [illegal immigrants] of “Masada” and with the pioneering creativity in the Land.

This is how it was throughout the time of the visit. There were few discussions devoted to ideology, and more about literature on life, on work, and on the dedication that exists in the Land. He read from a memorial book on chalutzim who fell while on guard duty in the Land. Incidentally, he talked about the complex journeys over seas and lands through which the chalutzim carried out their immigration.

The esteem and relationship grew after a few discussions. Many connected with him in love and reverence. His visit had a special value. He directed the attention more inwardly, and the means for this was Hebrew poetry.

{Photo page 322: Yosef Avrech with his son Alter and wife at Kibbutz Yagur.}

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The legend that there are 36 hidden tzadikim (holy men) in every generation.Return
  2. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yitzhak_LamdanReturn
  3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avraham_ShlonskyReturn

[Page 321–alt]

My Native Land

by A. Avrech

Translated by Jerrold Landau

And I am a prayer, my native land, my native land!
Please accept my meager offering –
I will bring myself to you,
To wet and fertilize with my sweat and blood
The clods of your earth, dried from the heatwaves.

I will fall down as a servant before your locked gates,
Let me put as a yoke on my neck –
To go with the plow on the dewy morning,
And to return along with the sheep in the evening.

Like Jacob when he crossed the Jordan
I will come to you and plead:
Please take me in, do not spit me out
Oh Mother Earth!

(Written on the day of his Aliya to the Land of Israel, 16 Tammuz 5691 – 1931)

[Page 323]

Pnina Brustin (nee Droog) of blessed memory

by Mordechai Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 323: Pnina Droog in Givat Hasheloshah.}

Pnina was born in Ratno in 1913 to a Zionist family with many children, the Droog family. The Jews of Ratno were unable to permit themselves to send their children to the high school in the district city of Kowel, but the Droog family was an exception from this perspective. They sent Amalia and her brother Moshe, may he live long, to Kowel to continue their studies at the gymnasium. The home of the Droog family in Ratno was a sort of meeting place for the studying youth in the town. The mother succeeded in creating a warm family atmosphere in the house, and made sure that none of her children would venture far from the bosom of her family. The path for pioneering actualization was forged during the 1930s by isolated pioneers in Ratno. It was not easy to uproot oneself from the patriarchal family life of a small town. The parents were indeed enthusiastic Zionists who educated their children in the path of Zionism. However, they simultaneously guarded the integrity of the family. Many people thought that the first to make aliya to the Land of Israel would be from among the poor folk who had nothing to lose. This was not the reality. The first to break through the fence were specifically people from well-off families. They are the ones who were beacons for actualization in the youth movements of the town. Pnina was the pioneer from the Droog family who went out to hachshara and made aliya to Kibbutz Givat Hashelosha in 1934.

When I visited her in Givat, she told me about the difficulties that she encountered, and stressed to me that being separated from her family in Ratno caused her great suffering. Despite this, she participated enthusiastically in kibbutz life, and her dedication to the kibbutz society knew no bounds. She also conducted an investigation into why I had left the kibbutz. I visited her often, and I was proud of her and her path when I saw how she had become rooted in kibbutz life, for we were relatives.

I recall my visit to her after she had become ill and undergone surgery. She had become very weak, and I chastised her for neglecting her own wellbeing and working hard despite her weakness. She answered me with simplicity: “Mottle, it is possible that you are correct, but you will not change me. This is how I am and this is how I will remain for all the days of my life.”

[Page 323–alt]

The Image of Pnina

Translated by Jerrold Landau

We were neighbors in the town and I knew her from the Tarbut School. The large house of the Droog family was always a visiting place for any passer-by from Hechalutz and Hashomer Hatzair, where any visitor would be received pleasantly. Pnina had gone through Hechalutz Hatzair, whereas her brothers and sisters had gone through Hashomer Hatzair. Pnina was always concerned with all the household needs, and played her part in receiving guests. She hosted the guests of the family politely and with a smile, winning over the hearts of everyone. Even her young sisters obeyed her. I remember her always laughing in the Hechalutz chapter. At times, her laughter disrupted the activities of the chapter, but they always forgave Pnina for they appreciated her naturalness and simplicity. When she made aliya to the Land and arrived in Givat Hashelosha, she became serious: she accepted kibbutz life as something natural, about which one does not complain. She was always concerned that she was not doing enough for the kibbutz and that perhaps there was something else with which she could fill her daily quota of work, in her role in

[Page 324–alt]

Haganah (defense) or in other areas of communal and social activity on the farm. In conversations with her about various problems of the group, I always felt that everything that Pnina said came from the heart and from concern for others. Pnina took ill. In one of my last visits to her, I sat next to her, and we discussed all types of problems. The parting was difficult. I did not want Pnina to sense that I knew about her bitter fate. I talked with the nurses and personnel workers of the division. They all valued her and her refined character. Despite her great suffering, she did not make their work more difficult. Therefore, she received the best care from the workers. Some praised her for her honesty, conscience, dedication and love for her fellowman.

We, the natives of the town, were always proud of Pnina. In our eyes, she symbolized the goodness of the town, both in the Kibbutz and in the society. She left behind a vacuum. We will always remember her.

{Photo page 324: Pnina Droog as a tractor driver in Givat Hashelosha (1937).}

[Page 324]

Moshe Greenstein of blessed memory

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Moshe was born on the 17th of Adar 5675 (March 10, 1915) in Ratno. His father Yosef was a merchant of forestry products. He was a Hassid of Karlin – one of those who saw in Hassidism salvation for the longings of the soul and desire for redemption. He joined the Hechalutz Hatzair youth movement and found his home in that movement. He joined the ranks of the kibbutz movement with dedication and faithfulness. He was active in the chapter, in the summer camp, and in hachshara. He finally succeeded in realizing his dream – he made aliya to the Land of Israel and joined Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar, which took in the members of the Tel Chai Hachshara Kibbutz of Poland, whose members set their goal, while still in the Diaspora, to settle the Upper Galilee. How great was my joy when I met Moshe on that Kibbutz after a separation of several years.

We were like dreamers in our new home. We breathed the experience of returning to our homeland, to our soil. We were enchanted by the landscape that unfolded before our eyes. If there is an expression to the feeling of absorption of aliya, it is expressed in its full glory here in Ayelet Hashachar.

Moshe was absorbed nicely into the work. He was blessed with expert hands and diligence. He took to the work and camaraderie in the new social group, as if he had grown up within it. He was a quiet man, pleasant to his fellowman, good hearted, and attentive to everybody. He always searched for the good and the positive, and he found such. He was content with himself and with the path of his life. He loved the kibbutz, and his heart rejoiced with every advancement he made. He loved his friends and his friends loved him.

In our final meeting, when I saw him sitting outside next to his house, full of pain and sickness, in a tone of satisfaction as his eyes were widening and sparkling, , he told me about the dedication and concern expressed by the members of the kibbutz to him, and he offered praise and appreciation for the Kibbutz society.

He fulfilled his way in his Kibbutz home for 46 years. He will be missed by me and by very many members of the Kibbutz.

He died on the 17th of Shevat, 5739 – February 14, 1979.

[Page 325]

Yisrael (Srulik) Steingarten

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Yisrael Steingarten, the brother of Elchanan, went through the same tribulations as did his parents and brother. After the liberation, he was prominent in the underground activities in Italy. Chaim Lazar discussed this in one of the publications of the Museum of Fighters and Partisans (booklet 10).

“At the end of the winter of 1942, the Banderowches also organized themselves, and set up their camp in the forests. These were nationalist Ukrainians who were fed up with the German promises to establish an independent Ukraine. They fought the Germans, Russians, and Poles. First and foremost, however, they poured out their wrath upon the Jews who were hiding in the forests or other places. The Banderowches began to track the steps of the partisans. They were forced to move their location every few days. One night, the partisans went out for an activity to obtain food, and they noticed that the farmers were more brazen than usual. They quickly discovered that the Banderowches were in the village. As they were preparing to retreat, Yisrael's three friends with their hands raised and guns pointed at them, were already being guarded by two Banderowches,. When they noticed Yisrael leaving one of the houses, they started to shoot at him. Yisraelik lay down next to the fence and shot toward them. One of them fell dead, and the other fell down from fear. Yisraelik's friends took advantage of the confusion, jumped on their horses, and began to gallop toward their base. Yisraelik also began to flee, lying down on the ground on occasion and shooting backward toward his pursuers who were firing at him. When the Banderowches gave up on catching up with him, Yisrael found himself alone in an unknown area. After a bit of sleep, he entered the home of one of the farmers and forced the farmer to take him to the area where his base was located. The partisans who reached the base before him had told everyone that Yisraelik had fallen in battle, and one other partisan was wounded. To everyone's surprise, Yisraelik appeared in the camp with his weapons. From that time, masses of Jewish fighters began to join the partisan camp.

Yisrael volunteered to be a guerrilla. First of all, he wanted to strike at the enemy. Second, he wanted to provide backing for his family, and justify their existence among the partisans. There was no guerrilla action or battle in which he did not participate. Even on the threshold of liberation, he did not respond to the urging of his father to hold back somewhat and take more care.

–– –– –– On January 7, 1944, they met up with the Red Army. Yisrael's parents remained in a town near the city of Rovno, whereas Yisrael and his brother Elchanan, along with the entire partisan brigade, continued to participate in all types of actions and battles. After some time, his parents set out for Kiev, where the head partisan and Ukrainian command was located, so that they could receive news on their son. The fragments of information that arrived contradicted each other, until his brother Elchanan finally succeeded in tracking him down. The mother traveled to the town of Terszow, where

[Page 326]

rumor had it that Yisrael was located. She met her son and succeeded in persuading him to move to Kiev, where the family was located at that time. In the meantime, news began to arrive in Kiev about the possibility of aliya to the Land via Romania. Under pressure from his family, Yisrael agreed to take on a position of train inspector. In this task, he greatly helped with the escapes that were starting at that time.

In February 1945, the Steingarten family reached Lublin as partisans, and were brought to the “escape depot.” They remained in Romania for several months, and then in Hungary and Austria, with their destination being Italy. Once in Italy, they were sent to the south of the country, to the Santa Cesarea Camp. There, the Steingarten family, including their father Yaakov, joined a pod of the Beitar organization, and a chapter of the Revisionist party.

Chaim Lazar relates that Yisraelik quickly became one of the pillars of Beitar in Southern Italy, with its many camps. When the first representatives of Etz'el (Irgun Tzvai Leumi) arrived in Italy, Yisralik became one of the activists. Then he was appointed as the Etz'el commander for the entire district of northern Italy. He was sent to Belgium in 1947, as responsible for the Etz'el activities there. A chapter of Etz'el activists existed in Belgium under the leadership of a young woman Annette, who was appointed to this position by the representative of the organization in Europe. When Yisraelik arrived in Belgium , he began to develop activities that spilled over the borders of that country. He set up additional cells of Etz'el in Antwerp and Liege. He collected money, amassed weapons, developed activities, conducted publicity through posters, forged connections with newspapers, etc. He also visited other European countries and established connections with all the Etz'el centers in Europe. After a year of living in Belgium, the police tracked his path, and he received an order from the authorities to leave Belgium. After spending several months in France, he returned to Belgium with a forged passport in order to gather his people and bring them to the Altalena ship. Annette, who was later to marry him in Israel, was among them. After he made aliya aboard the Altalena, Yisrael joined the Israel Defense Forces. He participated in the War of Independence as a captain, and served as vice commander of a brigade.

After he was released from the army, he began working at the Remet building company. He died of a heart attack in 1969.

{Photo page 326: Yisrael Steingarten.}

[Page 327]

Mordechai Yanover of blessed memory

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He was the elder in the group of youths – the first ones of Hechalutz Hatzair. His spiritual leanings, his relationships of friendship that he nurtured, and his love of the youth – with all these traits, he became a counselor and educator of the movement at its outset. His personality is reminiscent of the “Matmid” of Bialik.

He learned and read without stop, and he then tried to impart to his charges everything that he had learned on his own. Through him, we became familiar with the classicists of Hebrew Literature. He also succeeded in drawing us near to authors such as Brenner, A. D. Gordon, Yitzchak Lamdan, and others. He especially loved the “Masada” work of Lamdan, and our group was named after that work.

From his early youth, Mordechai bound himself with the pioneering movement, through which he saw the solution to the problems that were bothering us. Therefore, to the best of his ability, he imparted the pioneering values into the Hechalutz and Hechalutz Hatzair movements. Among other things, he was the force behind the publication of an internal newspaper called “Bituyim.” He ensured that many children would have their writing published in that newspaper, so that they could express the feelings and desires of their hearts. I recall the words of farewell that he said to the members who went out to Hachshara. He encouraged us and served as an important force in our journey. Despite his physical weakness, he too went to Hachshara and prepared himself for aliya.

When he reached the Land, he joined the Ayelet Hashachar Kibbutz. Since I came to that kibbutz some time before him, I was able to follow his absorption into the kibbutz from the first day that he was there. I saw him more than once returning from work with wounded hands, but he never complained or asked for easier work. He fulfilled every task given to him by the Kibbutz in the best possible way. His chief aspiration was to be a worker of the land, rooted in the soil. He was among the volunteers for external work in helping other kibbutzim. He was not weakened by the difficulties of acclimatization in his work in the kibbutz in the Jordan valley. Our paths separated with the passage of time. We each went to our own work path, and our meetings were rare.

His work outside the confines of the Kibbutz was not easy, when he was burdened with the yoke of a family. However, he succeeded in serving as an accounting director in a Histadrut institution, and he earned great respect as a person of a high cultural level, who knew how to maintain proper human relationships with everyone with whom he lived and worked.

Those of us who went through the Hechalutz Hatzair movement will always guard his memory as someone who shone and influenced our path and our development during the time of our youth.

[Page 328]

Arnon–David Grabov Writes to his Mother

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 328: Arnon David Grabov of blessed memory.}

Mother, don't be surprised that I am writing to you this time in Polish[1]. I know that Father has been drafted and there will be nobody to read this letter to you, and you will have to wait for the arrival of Uncle Zeev. There is another reason for this: I want you to understand every word that I am writing to you with the light of a pocket flashlight.

Father and Gabi[2], as I have said, have been drafted. Father knows what a war is: three years with the partisans and two years in the Red Army weakened his character. How great is my pride to be his son! Gabi too has already tasted the taste of tension when he jumped out of an airplane for the first time. After I met him at my base he said to me, “At first, when you are floating between heaven and earth, you forget completely that you exist. It is not you who is jumping, but rather someone else. However, from the moment that the parachute begins to open, the fear dissipates, and the only thought that you think is “mother earth.” How secure is a person when his foot treads upon the ground that perhaps he might soon have to defend with all his might…”

I also went through my first immersion in fire when I participated in the Samua action[3]. You recall, Mother, when I came home in the middle of the darkness of night, and the first thing that I asked you, before I kissed you, was, “Mother, I need a bath!” I had to wash everything off me… I did not speak much at that time, but I felt that you knew what I endured. At night I dreamed that I was alone in a room, with only one candle burning. Suddenly, the candle started to flicker, and then it went out. Endless darkness and quiet pervaded. I woke up and recalled that a bomb fell upon my commander, injured his head, and he slowly weakened. We returned from Samua, and I managed to visit you for several hours. That was the night that you were very worried that I had not spoken much to Grandfather, Grandmother, and you. You noticed the sadness on my face. The next day, you read in the newspaper about the raid on Samua, in which the death of the captain was described. Then you understood the meaning of the silence.

It has now been several weeks since I have been at home. How are you?

I met Gabi a few days ago, and he is satisfied. It is too bad that I did not meet with Father, and see him in his Israel Defense Forces uniform. I feel that I am in a good situation. We receive many good things from various people, as well as letters from young children who encourage us to protect them. My heart aches when I read these letters. I know what will happen to these children if, Heaven forbid, our enemies win. But such a thing will not happen and will not be! Every one of us is prepared to give everything for the honor of the homeland… You remember when I was six years old: I attended the Polish school and was the only Jew there. Once, a child called me a dirty Zyd. I knew that I was a Jew. You and Father told me that. As a reaction to the shame, I threw onto his face

[Page 329]

the piece of bread with jam that I loved so much. How great at that time was the sacrifice that I gave to protect the honor of my nation, since as a punishment I did not receive another piece. Is it not true, Mommy, that this is funny? But now, when I read the letters of the children, I am prepared to give my life and my great love for them. However there is one thing that I ask, do not mourn or weep over me. Be strong!

Today I received a package with all sorts of sweets as well as a letter in Yiddish. I read it with difficulty, with the help of some of my friends. In the letter, the woman writes that she is very afraid. She had been in Auschwitz, and her four children along with her husband were murdered. She arrived in the Land after many tribulations and succeeded in building a family. She has young children. She trusts the Israel Defense Forces, and prays for our wellbeing every evening. Tears flowed from the eyes of all the armed men. Mother, is this not enough to give us enough strength to fight with all our might against those who rise up against us?

Dear mother! You must be strong. What will happen will happen. Know that I am going to protect and fight for something that is just, the likes of which does not exist in the world. The seven years that I have been in the Land seem to me like 70. I connected with the Land so much! When I return from the army, I will take you with me so that you can get to know all the wonderful places where I fought. I never thought that our small Land is so beautiful and wonderful. We go out every day to protect this Land. We have no other place in the world! How does Grandmother say it? At times one must pay a very high price in order to merit to live in honor. This time, who knows what fate will bring. Be strong. Lots of kisses to all of you.

To you with love,

Translator's Footnotes

  1. There is a footnote in the text as follows: Written originally in Polish.Return
  2. There is a footnote in the text as follows: The name of his younger brother.Return
  3. Samua is a village in the southern West Bank. It was under Jordanian control prior to the Six Day War in 1967.Return

[Page 328–alt]

Arnon–David Grabov

Translated by Jerrold Landau

He made Aliya to Israel with his parents in the year 1960 when he was 12 years old. He studied in a school in the Neveh Oz neighborhood next to Petah Tikva, and excelled as a good student and an excellent sportsman. He was drafted into the army when he was 18 years old and volunteered for a paratrooper unit. He graduated with a course in communications and endured his first battle next to the Jordanian town of Samua. He spoke to his mother by telephone a day before the outbreak of the Six Day War and asked her to be appropriately strong should something happen to him that night. Among other things, he told her , “I am going out to protect my Land regarding a matter of justice and propriety, for we have no other place in the world other than this land of ours.”

He fell in battle next to Gaza at the age of 19 on the first day of the Six Day War, June 5, 1967. In a conversation between Arnon–David's father Yaakov and Major Yechiel Amsalem of blessed memory (Arnon–David's commander who fell in battle along with him), the commander told him that he was proud to be the commander of a battalion that included soldiers such as Arnon–David, and that his father too should be proud of such a son.

[Page 330]

Moshe Gutman of blessed memory

by S. Lavie and M. Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 330 top: Moshe Gutman of blessed memory.}

{Photo page 331 bottom: Yoram Gutman of blessed memory, the son of Moshe and Tzipora}

The memory of my friend Moshe Gutman is connected with the early days of the Herzliya Moshava. Herzliya then consisted of low, white houses that appeared as glistening pearls in the background of scenery that included the sea, vegetation, and sand dunes. With my first steps on the ground of Herzliya, I said in my heart: I am bound to you forever. Later, when I met four friends who were natives of Ratno (Mordechai Gefen, Moshe Stern, Shmuel Marder, and Moshe Gutman) who preceded me in aliya to the Land, I was full of praise for Herzliya that embraced me as a mother and a sister.

It seems that all of these praises did not fall upon deaf ears. On a cloudless morning, or perhaps it was an evening after work, Moshe Gutman appeared in my room with a heavy bundle, and declared mischievously, “I have come to partake of your Garden of Eden.”

We lived and worked together for a period of time. Moshe was a few years older than me. He had richer life experiences than I had, and he also knew the Israeli reality better than I did. He was a friend and brother to me, eased the difficulties of my acclimation significantly, and even helped assuage the feelings of loneliness that tend to afflict a person in a strange environment. Various circumstances caused our paths to diverge after that. Moshe returned to Petach Tikva, to his three friends and to the way of life that he followed for approximately 50 years: founding a building company, volunteering for the guard brigade on the railway line, building Kfar Sirkin and Hitnachalut, and establishing a family.

Moshe became ill with a malignant disease and fought it. When he found out that I had been hospitalized due to a heart attack, he got in touch with my household, took interest in my situation, and even expressed interest in visiting me. The news of his death reached me when I was still bound to my sickbed. I was saddened that I could not perform the final good deed of escorting him to his eternal rest, but I will always remember him positively.


About Moshe of blessed memory by Mordechai Gefen

I was a friend and neighbor of Moshe for more than 60 years. This began in Ratno, in the cheder of Yudel the teacher, continued in the Tarbut School, in the pioneering movement, and later in Kfar Sirkin, where we both were among the founders of the village. It can be said that we were both nurtured by the same roots, and even saw the same visions of disaster and torment that overtook the Jews of Ratno. There was an incident where the Ukrainians made slanderous accusations to the Russians about Moshe's father, claiming that he was a profiteer. He was sentenced to hanging, but the rope attached to his neck tore twice. The hangmen regarded this as the hand of fate, and let him be. Many people left their stamp on Moshe and they brought him to the realization that there was no future for the Jews of Poland, and that the only way to ensure a different life was aliya to the Land of Israel and joining the labor movement. He went out to pioneering hachshara and made aliya to the Land of Israel in 1931.

He worked for some time at the Mekor Hamayim Company that drilled wells in Herzliya. This work was considered dangerous in those days, when the bore went down 40 meters or more. Later, he worked in the orchards of the Sharon. In a later period, he studied the building trade and joined the Solel Boneh building company in Petach Tikva. In 1936, he joined the first group that settled Kfar Sirkin. This was the stormy period in Moshe's life. He built farms without limit, working during the day on the scaffolding of buildings, and performing guiding and defense tasks at night. Moshe was active in all the institutions of the village, and when the first survivors of Ratno began to arrive after the Holocaust, he acted to the best of his ability to offer help to the survivors and to establish the organization of Ratno Natives - work that he continued until his last day.

[Page 331]

Pnina Drezner of blessed memory

by Nechama Meril

Translated by Jerrold Landau

{Photo page 331 right: Miriam Shoshani (Weinstock) of blessed memory.}

{Photo page 331 left: Pnina Drezner}

She was born in Ratno into the home of a faithful Zionist. From her early youth, she was active in the ranks of the youth, and when she got older, she went out to hachshara in Klesowa, where she became known for all of her fine traits, and earned general appreciation. She made aliya in 1935. Her first stop in the land was Kibbutz Givat Hashlosha. During the disturbances of 1936, she volunteered to help Kibbutz Ramat Hakovesh, and was very active in the Haganah. One of her aims in life was to bring her family members to the Land. Among others, her brother Dov, my current husband, made aliya through her efforts. Pnina tried to impart the feeling of a warm home and literally acted as a mother to the Holocaust survivors. Her assistance to her fellowman was one of the values in which she immersed herself as well as her family. She was very alert to the suffering of her fellowman, and did everything she could to help. She would help without saying anything. When she got sick with a severe, malignant disease, she bore herself with strength and privacy, as she fought her illness. She was not subdued even when on her sick bed. She continued her tasks to the best of her ability, showed interest in everything happening in Israel, and attempted to not speak about her suffering and illness. Our sages stated that a person can be understood from his pocket, his cup, and his anger[1]. I will add an additional feature to this list: also through a person's illness. Anyone who did not know Pnina when she was well was able to know her and testify to her goodness even during the time of her illness. It is about people such as this that Bialik based his well-known poem: “Let my lot be with you.”

Translator's Footnote

  1. In Hebrew, the three words sound similar: kiso, koso, kaaso. It refers to how a person relates to money, how a person acts when under the influence of alcohol, and how a person controls his anger.Return

[Page 331]

Miriam Shoshani (Weinstock) of blessed memory

by Mordechai Gefen

Translated by Jerrold Landau

During the early 1930s, a young girl stood out in the arena of Zionist and pioneering activity in the town. She was quiet, introverted, and had pleasant mannerisms. Along with this, however, she was a dynamo who was prepared to do everything for the movement to which she belonged - Hechalutz Hatzair.

Indeed, she was bothered when I decided to make aliya to the land and did not heed the pleas of my mother to remain in Ratno and continue to help with the family livelihood after my father died. I knew in my heart that it was possible to depend on my younger sisters, and especially Miriam, who was graced with a business sense. Indeed, that is the way it happened. I made aliya in the midst of the disturbances of 1929. My heart was concerned for what was going on with my family in Ratno, but from the letters I received, I found out that Miriam was carrying on to the best of her ability.

In 1935, I brought my late mother and my sister Miriam to the Land of Israel. She established a warm household in Afula, and along with her husband, may he live long, she did everything to educate her son and daughter and to ensure their future. I am certain that Yisrael and Batya appreciate everything that their mother did and sacrificed for them.

On her gravestone in Kfar Tavor, it was fitting to engrave the words of the poet Ch. N. Bialik, “Let my lot be with you, the modest ones of the world, the discreet ones, who live their lives in secret, modest in their thoughts and adventures -- -- -- they call out, and you - and it was not told to you, oh prominent ones - and you did not know.”

[Page 331]

In Memory[1]

by Shmuel Goldman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In memory of my father Shamai, my mother Breindel, my brother Aharon and my sister Sheindel who were murdered by the Nazis

Where is the burial place of my dear mother and father? On which of the terrible days of killing was the thread of their lives cut short? Where were they killed - in the Krymno Ghetto or in some other killing field? Who will reveal this terrible, holy place to my eyes? My soul and my spirit are bound to it, where is it?...

My brother and sister were killed in the thick forests of Zabrodze. I was told that they were seen walking in those fields armed with weapons - my strong, brave, brother who was 23-years-old at the time he was murdered; and my sister, the youngest child of my parents, flowering in her beauty, who was 17-years-old at the time she was murdered. Oh G-d of vengeance, tell me, did they take revenge on their murderers before they gave up their pure souls, how did they fall, where are they buried, and on what day did their souls ascend - will I never know these answers?...

We were five, and I alone survived. I am bereaved of my father, mother, brother and sister. I am the sole survivor of a large family of many roots - a family of those who studied Torah and fulfilled its commandments. They were Hassidim of Karlin, faithful to the Rebbe. They were rooted in their Hassidism, believing and faithful to its values and essence. They were a wonderful blend of Jewish scholars, who were also attuned to the ways of the world. They absorbed into their essence the good and beautiful aspects of the changing ways of the world brought with them, and exerted their influence. Everything was uprooted and is no more, could this be?...

I saw them for the last time on October 23, 1933. I took leave of them as I set out on my journey to the Land of Israel. I hoped that we would be reunited in our Land. We exchanged many letters on that topic. However, the circumstances of the times, of poor health, and of other such matters disrupted the realization of their desire to make aliya to the Land, and pushed it off to when circumstances would improve for them. Could anyone have imagined that the end of Polish Jewry was approaching, and that the fire was already consuming the ground upon which they were walking?...

… Thus, we were suddenly placed against the horror in its full cruelty. Terrible waves of murder also enveloped and flooded the holy community of Ratno. Everything was destroyed, uprooted and annihilated, and the masses of our martyrs were tortured and murdered in the light of the day, in the view of the shining sun…

“The sun shone, the acacia blossomed, and the slaughterer slaughtered.”[2] … The survivors were only very few, distraught in their loss and bereavement, wandering along with us in the darkness of the days and asking why and for what reason?

… My dear, good father, refined in soul and noble of spirit, with a sharp mind and clear way of thinking. Your quiet, calming voice has been silenced. Your heartwarming, engaging gaze has been shut. How do I regret that I parted from you so young, and did not drink sufficiently of your wonderful wellsprings.

… I will never again see the noble face of my mother, etched with furrows of sorrow over her children who died while still in their youth. Her tall, thin stature was bent with worry and fear over those who remained alive, with their illnesses and travails of growing up… How strong was your desire to make aliya to the Land and be together with us here. Did you yet sense the knife fluttering above their heads?...

My dear brother and sister, you were the faithful support of our parents at the time of their old age. You were dedicated to them and concerned about them, and for this, I always blessed you. You are dear, innocent souls, and my soul and spirit are bound to you forever.

Tel Aviv, October 1952

Translator's Footnotes

  1. “This article is not in the original Yizkor Book, and was added in to the online translation at the request of Dr. Goldman.”Return
  2. This is a line from the Hebrew poem “In the City of Slaughter” by Chaim Nachman Bialik.Return

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