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[Page 12]

The Memorial to the Fighters and Partisans of the Wolyn Jews

By A. Biber

Translated by Selwyn Rose

At the time of the Nazi attack on Soviet Russia (22 nd June 1941), there were about 250,000 Jews, in hundreds of small villages, towns and cities living in the Wolyn district (Ukraine). Jewish settlement, at that time, had been in existence for hundreds of years, even though many trials and tribulations in the form of decrees, riots and outright cruel pogroms were carried out against them throughout the centuries.

In compliance with the Nazi policy, as formulated at the Wannsee Conference, the Jews of Wolyn were systematically exterminated by the Germans in 1942 (mainly that summer), with the willing help of the Ukrainians.

They were led from the ghettos to the mass graves which had been prepared nearby in advance (by the local farmers), and there they were shot to death or buried alive.

In spite of the exterminations being carried out in 1942, when the Nazis were at the peak of their victories (from Stalingrad to el Alemain), some hundreds – perhaps even thousands - of young men and women decided not to suurender to their bitter fate. They secured a few small arms and raised the flag of defiance and resistance, either within the ghettos themselves or out in the forests. In the forests they joined the partisans where they fought with great heroism, many of them - estimated at some thousands – falling in battle.

With the end of the war many of them turned their faces towards the Land of Israel (by way of the refugee camps and Cyprus), and even managed to take part in the War of Independence and the Declaration of the State. Here they built their homes and established their families.

There were already several hundred families – immigrants from Wolyn – who had arrived as pioneers before the outbreak of World War Two.

The Association of Wolyn Jews was formed and, about forty years ago with the cooperation and active participation of Wolyn Jews in the U.S. and Canada, a memorial building was erected in Givata'im. The building was dedicated to, and intended to perpetuate the memory of, the Jewish communities of Wolyn which had perished in the Holocaust. Today the building is used by Yad-Vashem as a centrally-placed branch for Holocaust studies for the armed forces and high-school students.

About seven years ago, (1992), an idea was brought forward by two ex-partisans (Ze'ev Raveh and Zwiebel Ya'acov) to perpetuate the memory of Jewish partisans and fighters who fell in battle against the Nazis. The idea was supported by two other partisans: Shmuel-Abba lurmann, ZAL, and Yeshiahu Srutchki, ZAL, (both from Kamen-Koszyrski) and residents of the U.S. They undertook to provide financial support and even found another active partner – Aaron Sokol, ZAL., for the project.

The matter was brought before the management of the Wolyn Jews Association (under the chairmanship of the Lawyer, S. Zisskind). The management appointed two members to a Memorial Committee which would accompany the project to its completion – Ezra Nir and Yehuda Marin.

The place chosen for the memorial was located in a garden adjacent to the Association's building and approval granted by the Givata'im Council, under the chairmanship of Mr. Effi Shtanzler to both the site and the design. The monument is composed of three elements:

A marble wall, 4-meters high, with a carved figure of a partisan fighter. (Donated by the ex-partisan artist A. Bogen),

  1. A marble wall, 10-meters long, on which is carved the partisan “anthem”, in three languages: Hebrew, Yiddish and English.

  2. A glass wall in the entrance to the Association's building, on which are engraved about 900 names of partisans who fell in battle, or who subsequently passed away.

For various reasons the work dragged on and it was only in the summer of 1997 that we saw its completion. A pleasant and impressive ceremony marked the dedication in which more than a 1000 ex-Wolyn Jews (and their descendants), participated. The Mayor of Givata'im, Their Excellencies the Ambassadors of Poland and White Russsia and Ukraine and, of course, the chairman of the Association of Wolyn Jews in Israel, Mr. S. Zisskind, were all present.

A Wolyn magazine and an elegant brochure were published to mark the event. The monument was presented to the City of Givata'im as a cultural element – a heritage of the past for the benefit of the present and the future. Our hope is that the Municipality will care for it in a fitting manner.

The monumenmt is an integral part of the association building. It is considered that it has even created, of itself, a new, unique ambience, which will provide a center of inspiration and study for the coming generations.

On Heroes and Martyrs' Memorial Day (which falls on 27 th Nissan), a ceremony of identification with the memory of the Fallen took place. Hopefully this ceremony will take place annually in the future as an integral part of the Heroes and Martyrs' Memorial Day observances.

Sadly, the initiators of the scheme from the U.S. were unanble to be present at the ceremony marking the fulfilment of their dream. They will be forever remembered.

Finally, I find it appropriate to thank – in the name of the organizing committee – all those who donated their help and active participation throughout the entire period in bringing the project to its completion.

I would especially like to thank Ms. Zissel Klurmann, whose late husband, Shmuel-Abba ZAL, was the originator of the project, for her dedication, contribution and help to the project; she is deserving of the highest praise. May she be blessed.

May this monument be the memorial stone to the memory of the fighters in the ghettos and forests, who dared to raise the banner of resistance as early as 1942, and represent a source of meditation to all who look upon it.

May this memorial represent a “milestone” to future generations as a permanent witness to the daring and heroism demonstrated by our parents, brothers and sisters during the Holocaust, in the tragic hours of the Jewish People.

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