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[Pages 5-6]

Introduction

by Yehoshua Spiegel

Translated by Rabbi Mordecai Goldzweig

This book about the town of Rohatyn and its environs presents the historical documents, personal recollections, and testimony carefully preserved by each and every one of the people of our town who has remained alive. Once more, before our eyes, appear the events of the distant past and those that occurred more recently up to the tragic days of destruction of the Jewish community of Rohatyn and its surroundings. There almost all the Jews perished; only a few remained. I feel that it is my soul's desire to save those memories and the way of life that they portray in this memorial book.

Although hesitations existed at first because of problems regarding financial means and content, the initiators of the project began to act. Thanks to the strong resolution in their heart, they overcame the difficulties and the indifference of those who had it within their power to ease our task but did not respond. The goal to leave a memorial to our town is what helped us persevere.

We turned to past residents of Rohatyn in the country and abroad with a twofold request – to gather material and money. We became galvanized in the task of writing, and others responded and took an interest, some with written material and others with monetary aid. Every additional response encouraged us to continue. We wish to call attention especially to four past residents of Rohatyn who now live in America and did not content themselves only with their own personal contributions but also added new contributors: Dr. Golda Fisher, Dr. Yitzchak Lewenter, Engineer Dr. Yaakov Faust, and Mr. Sam Henna. May they be blessed and accept the heartfelt thanks of the initiating body and the Association of Immigrants of Rohatyn and its Surroundings in Israel.

We do not deny that gaps exist in the contents of the book, and we may assume that not everything found its full expression here, but the editors of the book did what they could with the material at hand. Undoubtedly, were it not for those who stood aside, we could have had more. You will have to forgive inaccuracies or certain duplications in the articles, as the writers are not professionals. And, after all, twenty years have passed since the time of the Holocaust, and some who wrote had already left Rohatyn thirty to forty years before. Nevertheless and despite all of these shortcomings, we are still of the opinion that the reader will feel a strong affinity and empathize with the thoughts, feelings, and memories presented here by writers who are stating facts on the pages of this book that are simple and forthright.

The book is divided into four sections:

  1. The early period – from the 16th century until and including World War I
  2. The interim between the two world wars (Times of Peace, Jewish life, Zionism, the development of Halutziut, etc.)
  3. World War II and the Holocaust
  4. A memorial to the martyrs and a list of their names

Most of the material was written in Hebrew, a part in Yiddish, and a part in English. Testimony about the period of the Holocaust was given in these three languages now spoken by survivors of Rohatyn. We have enhanced this book with a wealth of photographs that were gathered after a great deal of effort. All the sections together accurately reflect the life and destruction of the Jewish community of Rohatyn and its neighboring towns.

In conclusion, we wish to express our heartfelt thanks to the people of our town who lent a hand in this project, whether in content or in spirit, and thanks to them, we now have before us this memorial book. We also take this opportunity to thank those who took part in the creation of this book – the members of the organizing committee and the committee for the preparation of the book – who successfully worked to enable the publication of this book about the Jewish community of Rohatyn and its surroundings. We also wish to express our gratitude to all those who wrote articles, beginning with the historian Dr. N. M. Gelber to the editor and publisher, Mordechai Amitai, who worked primarily with the Hebrew materials; to David Stuckfish, the editor for Yiddish; and to Shmuel Bari, the editor for English.

Congratulations! It is our fervent hope that this book will act as a beacon to the coming younger generation to enable them to follow in our path in the future.

[Photo p. 6
(Caption states)

Organizing Committee of the Association of Immigrants of Rohatyn and its Surroundings in Israel:
Standing from the right: David Blauenstein, Zvi Fenster (Felker), Zvi Szkolnik, David Karten, Yehoshua Spiegel, Yosef Green, Dr. Avraham Stertzer, and Anshel Milstein.]


[Page 7]

Fire!

Mordechai Gebirtig

Fire, brothers, fire!
Our poor town's on fire!
Raging, winds so full of anger
Shatter, scatter, tear asunder
Fanning the flames ever wilder
Everything's on fire!

          While you stand there, looking on
          With folded hand.
          While you stand there, looking on
          At the fire brand.

Fire, brothers, fire!
Our poor town's on fire!
The whole town's already devoured
By flaming tongues of force and power
And the wild wind howls and churns
As our shtetl burns.

          While you stand there, looking on …

Fire, brothers, fire!
The dreaded moment may soon come
When the town with us included
Will be turned to flames and ashes
As after battle a city falls,
With empty, blackened walls.

          While you stand there, looking on …

Fire, brothers, fire!
It all turns to you.
If you love your town,
Take pails, put out the fire,
Quench it with your own blood too.
Show what you can do!

          Don't look and stand
          With folded hand.
          Brothers, don't stand around, put out the fire!
          Our shtetl burns!

_______________________________________________________
1936 (Hebrew: H a'Ayarah Bo'eret ; Yiddish: Es brennt!)
Translation by David G. Roskies
Reprinted from The Literature of Destruction (p. 371), Jewish Responses to Catastrophe Jewish Publication
Society, 1988


[Page 8]

From the Publisher

by Mordecai Amitai

Translated by Rabbi Mordechai Goldzweig

The Jewish communities of the Diaspora – an open ledger lay before them. On page after page, they inscribed their histories and the deeds of the Jewish people in exile who, even when transplanted to foreign soil, still preserved their roots well enough to infuse a vibrant life both into the individual and into the community. Their children are occupied in both their day-to-day existence and in the study of the Torah; their synagogues and schools bustle, as do their fairs. Just as they never lose touch with their daily worldly affairs, so do they also turn their hearts to their Heavenly Father and keep Jerusalem before them on a pinnacle during their festive occasions.

The Jewish communities of Poland in Eastern Europe have disappeared, and their record books are also gone. It therefore behooves those who remain to return and gather up the pages of their history and accomplishments – never again to be written on that soil which has been drenched in their blood but to be written here in the Jewish land of redemption – to leave a memorial to those who were exterminated and to pass it on to posterity.

One can say that this memorial book to the community of Rohatyn in Malopolska (southeastern Poland) will pass unnoticed, being inundated, as it were, by the many memorial books that are now being printed and are of no interest to anyone except the survivors of only that community. But this is not true. The essence of a drop of water is the same as that which is found in a whole sea. The story of one community teaches the history of many, in all of Poland, in all of Eastern Europe. Wherever Jews are exiled, the Shechina (spirit of God on earth) follows them. Perhaps that place is Rohatyn; perhaps it has another name. It is the same way of life, the same people, the same course of events, the same trends. It is the same story of suppression and revival – the battle for existence, the struggle for emancipation and equal rights, evil decrees and misfortunes at the hands of man and the Alm-ty, and again awakening and revival. And thus we have the dichotomy – the overtones of destruction on one side and the intimations of redemption on the other, also introduced by suffering.

We find in this book the history of a Jewish community whose beginnings emerge from the midst of the Middle Ages at the mercy of kings and nobility. Yet it continues to gain strength despite its enemies. Standing at the edge of oblivion during World War I, it returned and was regenerated during the period between the two world wars. A rich gallery of figures and personalities – merchants and craftsmen, religious school teachers, rabbis and judges on one side – bartenders and butchers on the other. Admorim (respected leaders) and their followers on one side, nationalist intelligentsia and assimilationists on the other. No national and social movement passed it by – Sabbatians and Frankists, Haskalah and Hassidism, Assimilationism and Zionism. At the pinnacle were the pioneering youth movements, the realization that opened the road to redemption and paved the way for its survivors.

One may well ask, "Where did they find the power to continue to exist? Where did they obtain this viability, during their many gyrations, to return and to reappear in those Jewish communities generation after generation?" To this there is only one answer – belief, faith in all its manifestations. The belief that the Messiah will come although he tarries. Thus it had been sustained among our parents and their parents, especially the belief in deeds that promote redemption, as viewed by the pioneering movements. If there is something to be learned from a memorial book, it is this.

For those who are near, this may be the only memorial to their dear ones and all that was destroyed. For the distant, this is an overwhelming chapter in the history of the Jews in exile. The publisher, who is one of the latter, can only express his happiness at being privileged to aid in this holy work and bring it to its conclusion. If he did it well, and this only the reader can judge, this will be his reward.


[Page 9]

And Their Blood Will I Never Cleanse… (Joel 4:21)

by Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Nurok

Translated by Rabbi Mordechai Goldzweig

It is now almost twenty years after the terrible Holocaust, and the further we move away from it, the closer we are drawn to our noble and holy ones and the desire to perpetuate their memories and present them to the Jewish world in a manner that befits them.

Every Jew has his memorial days, when he reunites with the memories of his dear ones and friends who have passed away. This holds true for average memorial days. At least we know how and when they left us. We ourselves brought them to burial, and we are able to visit their graves and pour out our tears on both happy and sad occasions.

To our sorrow, we are now in a period that is characterized by an entirely different type of memorial, not at all of the usual type. We do not even know when and where their holy souls were taken from them. We do not know where their ashes are spread. To paraphrase what is written in the Torah – “And no one knows their place of burial to the present day.” For this reason, the people of Rohatyn took a very important step when they decided to publish this memorial book about their community and its holy martyrs.

Unfortunately, there are many among us, especially among our dear young people, who can be classified as “a generation that did not know Joseph.” Therefore, they are relatively unaffected by this terrible calamity, the likes of which our people has not known, even though its history is soaked in blood and tears.

The trial of Eichmann, that German oppressor, which took place in our holy eternal city of Jerusalem, comes under the category of what the Bible terms, “And the redeemers will climb Mount Zion to judge the hill of Esau.” The trial has brought about a noticeable change in this trend and helped to instill greater recognition of the evil that was done to us, in the hearts of all who heard what happened. It has also caused a renewal in the search for war criminals who still pass as “democrats” all over the world (included among them is Hans Krieger, the murderer of the Jews of Rohatyn, about whose capture we have only recently heard). The truth is, if we really want to honor the memories of our martyrs, it behooves us to stay away from this murderous people and their culture, for we need to know that it is not only the “Führer” (the name of the wicked shall rot!) and his whole gang who carry the blame for our misfortune, but the whole German people.

I have had to force myself on two occasions to speak with so called “good Germans.” The first time was at the international parliamentary convention in Constantinople where I was approached by a former acquaintance, the last chairman of the Reichstag, Paul Laba. The second time was when I met with the head of the socialists of West Germany, Adenauer , who came to Haifa for the meeting of the Socialist International. I demanded of him then that he make an effort to extend the statute of limitations with regard to war criminals. This was of course a form of mitzva haba-ah be-aveira – doing a meritorious deed via illegal means. I asked these “nice Germans,” "Where were you?" Where were those millions of Germans who still voted for the socialists and communists in that last election to the Reichstag in March, 1933? They did not raise a finger; they made no proclamations and did not even utter a sound of protest from the Underground.

I have been privileged to initiate the law for establishing Yom Hashoah, Holocaust and Martyrs' Day, as well as the law for bringing the Nazis and their cohorts to justice, the law under which Eichmann was judged. But even that is not enough.

Maintaining a friendly relationship with murderers, whose hands are covered with the blood of Jews, violates the memory of our martyrs whose voices seem to be arising at memorial gatherings and from memorial books saying, “Who asked you to trample my courtyard?” Who needs all of this?

May the memory of our martyrs bring merit to the survivors who were privileged to see with their own eyes the Beginning of the Redemption, the realization of the goals of those who set Zion at the head of their banners.

And we say to the community of Rohatyn as Jonathan said to David, “You are missed because your place is empty.” You will not be forgotten because your place in world Judaism cannot be filled!

May their memory be blessed!

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