We have it at last!* This English translation is the wish fulfillment for us, Rohatyn area descendants, who are not fluent in Hebrew or Yiddish.
As one of the lone children surviving in Rohatyn, I was driven by the desire to get in-depth information about my town and yearned to read the Yizkor Book from cover to cover but the Hebrew and Yiddish were too difficult. The original 62-page English section of the Yizkor Book, while excellent, was incomplete. This English translation of the upwards of 300 pages of the Hebrew and Yiddish sections started as my quest and project. Mr. Jacob Hornstein soon joined me. His dedication to keeping alive the story of his beloved family and the lost Rohatyn community is unequalled. His contributions, both monetary and spiritual, were pivotal to the realization of this dream. He paid for more than half the translation and infused the work on this project with the passion of his commitment. Herman Skolnick, who acted as link between Rohatyner, put me in touch with Michael Bohnen, who has been a moving spirit in this project. He has checked the translation from the Hebrew and Yiddish against the original throughout the process. Dr. Julian Bussgang at the outset edited my translation of the Polish footnotes. Freda Perl of Tel Aviv helped edit my translation of German text Editors Fay and Julian Bussgang set rigorous standards for editing both the text and footnotes. They have given unstintingly of their time and effort. Having done extensive research into authentic nomenclature and in historical sources, they have ensured that we have a document, which is a reliable reference to the geographical locale and to the original text.
Our professional translators Rabbi Goldzweig and Benjamin Weiner, drawing on their knowledge of language and history, rendered us an invaluable service. In translating from Hebrew or Yiddish into English, they were particularly attentive to the correct religious and technical term, the feelings of the author, the flavor of the Hebrew or Yiddish idiom and syntax.
In fundraising we reached out to Rohatyn area descendants, the Rohatyn genealogical (virtual) community, the Independent Rohatyner Young Men's Benevolent Association, Holocaust survivors and their children in North America. People with deep roots in the area lent their support to this effort, including those whose family names appear prominently in the text. Contributors of sizeable as well as modest donations collectively made the completion of this project possible.
Just before leaving Rohatyn in 1945, I resolved to keep fresh in memory the images and history of the people I knew in order to `bring them to life' in the future. Alas, without occasions for reminiscing, the memories of neighbors and friends who perished became attenuated over time. All I can do now is visualize walking beside their houses along Slowackiego, the route my parents and I took from our home toward the rynek (town square) and past it to Kolejowka - Rohatyn's chestnut tree-shaded promenade. The Yizkor Book alone transports us to that Rohatyn and its surrounding community, to its people, its heyday, and to its tragedy.
The North American contingent of survivors was energized by the knowledge that the story of the town they lost will become an accessible legacy to their English-speaking offspring. At a meeting held at the Skolnicks in August 1999 the decision was reached to accept Mr. Bohnen's suggestion to put the translation on the Internet
This English language edition is our homage to those who in 1962 gave us this powerful, informative memoir. The Rohatyn Association in Israel published the Yizkor Book, which was financed by Rohatyn area people around the world. According to the information provided by the Society, the three main figures involved in the preparation of the book were Mr. Yehoshua Spiegel, Mr. Zvi Fenster and, for a short while, Mr. Yehiel Ben Nun (son of Yoel Fisher).
The Yizkor Book is a treasure and the translation gives it wider currency. The survivors of Rohatyn and its surrounding communities in North America suddenly realized that the translation would open its pages to their offspring and bridge the divide between the two worlds of the generations. Messrs. Halpern and Skolnick were heartened by this prospect and endorsed our effort with persuasive enthusiasm. Their passage last year diminishes our number and leaves us feeling orphaned, therefore, we wish to dedicate this edition to the memory of Mr. William Halpern and Mr. Herman Skolnick, Z/L (Zichronam L'Vracha/of Blessed Memory). They would have rejoiced to see this translation completed.
My task of coordinating this project from advocacy to fundraising to completion has been demanding, but the promises are now fulfilled. Both the promise made to Rohatyn area friends, as well as my long-standing promise to Yehoshua Spiegel, the Yizkor Book editor, have now been fulfilled. (Among the unanticipated delays: one translator of Yiddish withdrew, unable to copy with an article about the ghetto.) This English edition is the result of a collaborative effort with an extraordinary, distinguished team. In the name of those who have been waiting, I give special thanks to Jacob Hornstein, Michael Bohnen, Fay Bussgang and Julian Bussgang. These dedicated individuals, with deep roots in the Rohatyn district, labor steadfastly to preserve, record and disseminate the history of Jews of our area. Fay and Julian Bussgang's contributions also extend beyond Galicia to publishing material on the history of Polish Jewry.
We thank all who have been waiting anxiously for the translation of the Yizkor Book for their patience and encouragement.
Donia Gold Shwarzstein, March 2001
* The entire translation will appear on the Internet when the editing is completed. Back
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