Bialystok was one of the few cities in Poland where a large number of Jewish children were saved miraculously from annihilation by the Nazi. Jakow Tobias, the wellknown teacher, saved more than eighty.
In September 1939, when Bialystok was under Russian rule, these eighty Jewish children spent their summer vacation in the Polish resort, Druskeniki. When the Nazi attacked Bialystok on June 22, 1941, these children were quickly evacuated deep inside the Soviet Union. Tobias, their devoted teacher and escort, went with them into the heart of the Urals. There the children were placed in a home together with youngsters from other countries.
Tobias took care of his charges lovingly and with devotion, just as a father would protect his own children. Shortly after the war, in the summer of 1946, he succeeded, after much effort, in bringing them back to Poland. Later, he took them to France and then to Palestine. Their entrance into Israel was illegal since the British forbade their admission and for a time, they were detained on Cyprus.
These children, mostly orphaned after their parents had perished in Bialystok, grew up to be prominent and useful Israeli citizens. Jakow Tobias eventually became the director of a government high school in Safed and played a major role in Israeli education. He passed away a short time ago in Israel.
He frequently pointed out that his eighty children were the only ones saved en masse among all Polish Jews during the Holocaust. The Bialystoker Centre in New York assisted them financially when Tobias brought them back from Russia to Poland while they were in France and finally, when they settled in Israel.
This is a partial list
Perpetuate the Hallowed
by Chana LinKizlsztejn Kiryat Bialystok, Israel
On June 22, 1941, some Jewish children from Bialystok were at the Druskeniki resort, a camp for youngsters. At five o'clock in the morning, our vacation turned into a nightmare. The skies darkened with German attack airplanes out to destroy us. We were besieged by bombs powerless, isolated and panicstricken. Our screams resonated throughout the camp, joining with the cries of three hundred children between the ages of eight and thirteen.
This tragedy continued for five years. At the end of our trial, we realized that we were orphans of war.
After twelve horrible days and nights of bombardment and hunger, we were able to wash ourselves and drink water. It was impossible for us to return home to our beloved families.
Our teacher, Jakow Tobias, fought for his life as we did for ours. His compassion for us was great and he did everything to assist and calm us. He saw in us parentless boys and girls who still believed at that time that we would be reunited with our families, a consolation for him.
The teacherhero who saved 80 Jewish Bialystoker children. During World War II from Druskieniki to Russia. After the War, he led the children to Israel where they now live. Jacob Tobias died in September, 1970.
He saved us from death as the bombs fell. Panic gripped us as we scattered in all directions following an air assault. Luck, however, was with us not one child was killed.
Arriving in the Urals in Russia, we became inseparable. Some tried to divide us at a time when we did not have the necessities of life, but their efforts came to naught. We stayed together as a group and were prepared to share the same fate.
At that time, Mr. Tobias initiated contact with Jews in Israel to whom he sent a list of our names. We all developed a love for the land of Israel. Moreover, we missed our parents and families very much. The nights seemed like an eternity. Many of us cried and felt abandoned. The bombings and the terror left us with deep emotional scars. The younger children sought warmth from the older ones who began fulfilling the function of surrogate parents.
In 1946, when the time came to repatriate Polish war refugees from Russia, our teachers had to convince us to return to Poland knowing full well that our parents had perished at the hands of the Nazi. Mr Tobias' objective, however, was to prepare us for emigration to Israel.
On July 2, 1946, a group consisting of fiftynine Jewish children and young adults, aged twelve to eighteen, set out for Aliyah to Israel from several points of embarkation. Our devoted principal, Mr. Szmuel Markowicz, assisted us in preparing for our journey. At great danger to himself, he escorted us to the RussianPolish border.
Once we arrived in Poland, Mr. Tobias assumed full responsibility. Previously, he had been in contact with the underground Zionist organization, Bricha, which was active inside Poland. Our newly formed kibbutz merged with the Kibbutz Dror. Living conditions were not bad and we were treated with Israeli warmth and concern. We learned Hebrew and other subjects pertaining to Israel in further preparation for Aliyah.
We continued on our way to Israel as part of the Kibbutz Dror. Many Jews from Bialystok financed our travel through Poland and all the way to Israel.
Following the 22nd Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, we were divided into two groups according to age and physical condition, and were about ready to go to Israel. A large part of our kibbutz departed on the ship ‘Theodor Herzl’. The rest of the kibbutz was taken to Cyprus. Those children who arrived in Israel by various routes and under different circumstances, united to help build the Jewish State.
On June 9, 1966, all the members of the kibbutz participated in a reunion marking 25 years since we had faced danger together at Druskeniki. We reminisced about the hard times a quarter of a century earlier. Many proudly described their accomplishments in education, work and family life.
Jakow Tobias continued as an educator in Israel, heading a school in Safed until his death in September, 1970. To the very end, he remained in close contact with those of us whom he shepherded to safety. We make every effort to remain in touch, getting together from timetotime and assisting each other when necessary.
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