The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry
Edited and Translated by
Jack Kugelmass and Jonathan Bioyarin
With Geographical Index and Bibliography by
Zachary M. Baker
Published in association with the
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS
< http://www.indiana.edu/~iupress/ >
Bloomington and Indianapolis
[Pages 481 - 482]
Sefer Tarnogrod; le-zikaron ha-kehila ha-yehudit she-nehreva
Finding myself in Lublin when the war ended, I began to think about ways in which I, as a Jew, could travel to Tarnogrod, which entailed great dangers. At that time the Kelts pogrom also took place, costing the lives of forty Jews, and the anti-Semitic bands terrified every surviving Jew. Jews were warned not to ride trains until the hooliganism stopped.
But my heart was pained, and would not let me rest. Seeing the great catastrophe that had befallen the Jewish people, my desire to live was lost; but at the same time the Jew felt within himself the mission of continuing the lives of his slaughtered parents and relatives. Despite the most gruesome nightmares, he knew that he must continue living. To ride from Lublin to Tarnogrod with a beard like mine meant risking my life.
After considering all of the risks involved, I went to a barber and wept over my beard as it was cut off. I left long mustaches like those of a Polish peasant, put on peasant boots and a peasant cap, and set off for Tarnogrod at the end of May 1945.
I took the train as far as Zamoshtsh, where I met a few surviving Jews, slept at the home of a Jew, and set off on the train in the morning to Zvyezhinyets. From there I took the local train to Bilgoray.
It was hard for me to tell whether there was another Jew on the train. Perhaps he was disguised as a gentile, as I was. But all of the passengers were positive that there wasn't a single Jew on the train. It was hard to believe that a Jew would dare to travel on that line in those times.
When I arrived at Bilgoray, Polish coachmen stood in front of the station. They fell upon me, asking me where I was headed; each one wanted to take me. I stood mute for a while, searching with my eyes: perhaps Mendl Roshe's would appear, or Mendl Avel, or another of the Jewish coachmen of Tarnogrod, who used to drive to Bilgoray and back each day.
But my search was fruitless. None of them was left. Gentile wagons had taken their place. Having no other choice, I approached one of the Polish coachmen, and we settled on a fare to Tarnogrod. For a short while we both sat silently. He was the first to speak; I tried to answer as little as possible, so that he wouldn't realize I was a Jew. Then he pointed in front of himself with his whip and said:
See, on both sides of the road are buried Jews whom the Germans shot. Jews from Tarnogrod, Bilgoray, and the surrounding villages lie there. The Germans knew what they were doing when they shot all the Jews. It was a good thing they did, and we should be grateful to them for it.The gentile sat talking with his back to me, and I sat as if petrified. As I looked around I saw that the entire road from Bilgoray to Tarnogrod was the same as before. Nothing had changed: the same houses, the same gentiles, the same women drawing water from their wells, just as before. Only the coachman wasn't the same. I no longer heard the rich Yiddish tongue and the Yiddish Vyo, ferdelekh! Giddyap! I no longer heard the melody of the prayer, Let us give strength to the holiness of this day, which Yoysef Magid used to sing as he rode with his passengers to Bilgoray. Depressed, I thought to myself: Where am I going, and to whom? Is there really no one left? Is it possible that an entire city of Jews was slaughtered?
Frozen in these tragic thoughts I arrived in Tarnogrod. I didn't want to ride straight into town, and asked the coachman to let me off near the factory at the Bilgoray gate.
There I met Sore Magram. She stood on the porch of her house, and looked at me without recognizing me. Seeing her, a Jewish woman of Tarnogrod, joy flooded through me for a moment. I approached her, told her who I was, and saw how she, too, was filled with the same joy.
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