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[Page IV]

 

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Max Ratner
 
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I. Shmulewitz
 
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Izaak Rybal
 
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Sam Solasz

 

Editorial Committee
I.Shmulewitz Izaak Rybel Rabbi Lowell S. Kronick
 
Book Committee of the Bialystoker Centre in New York:
Max Ratner
Honorary Chairman
Sam Solasz
President
Izaak Rybal
General Secretary
 
Sam Solasz, Rubin Bindler, Abraham Mintz, Paul Schochet, Harold Talin, Diana Medvedev, Charles Schwecher, Yedidia L. Hamburg, Sol Krim, Mike Kremer, Jacob Beren, Dora Mintz, Morris Molosofsky, Harold Morrow, Raya Zak, Yehoshua Schachter and Rabbi Lowell S. Kronick.

 

The Bialystoker Memorial Book
Was published by
Empire Press
550 Empire Boulevard
Brooklyn, New York 11225
(212)756–1473

 


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To Our Bialystoker landsleit and Friends

At last, after arduous effort, we present our landsleit and friends with this Bialystoker Memorial Book to honour our once vibrant hometown and the brave resistance and ultimate destruction of its great Jewish community.

Our landsmanschaft was unable to publish this book earlier as planned. At the 1970 Bialystoker world convention in Israel, it was decided to issue a memorial book as soon as possible. In the following years our Centre in New York carried on negotiations with our counterparts in Israel to prepare and issue the book jointly. Regrettably, this attempt at collaboration failed.

Nevertheless, we were not discouraged and took it upon ourselves – as a sacred task – to publish the volume. We knew in advance the difficulties that lay ahead and that did, in fact, materialize.

The Bialystoker Memorial Book appears at a time of resurgent neo–Nazism, anti–Semitism and increasing worldwide opposition to the State of Israel from the political left and right. Furthermore, we have witnessed the spectacle of so–called “experts” – some respectable academicians among them – denying the Holocaust ever occurred and minimizing the extent of Jewish victimization. We can expect such denials to continue. This book contains eyewitness accounts of the brutality and suffering: Bialystok is an example of what went on in Europe during the late 1930's and 1940's. We hope we have made it harder for the falsifiers of history to do their work.

Although much has been written about the Jewish community of Bialystok, its destruction and the resistance, this volume has gathered scattered articles and documents into one anthology. It wasn't easy to organize them into a coherent unit.

We hope the Bialystoker Memorial Book will serve as a worthy monument of Jewish Bialystok, whose memory remains so precious to us. We have not been content to provide just the history of Bialystok, its development and, finally, its end in the Holocaust. We have also included the story of how surviving Bialystoker Jews tried to rebuild their community – to no avail – after the war. And we have traced to the present day the activities of landsleit in the United States, Israel, Argentina and France which demonstrate the unconquerable Bialystoker spirit.

Had this volume been published ten years ago it would have included the valuable perspectives of many who are no longer with us. Nevertheless, we believe we have faithfully presented a comprehensive and accurate picture.

Many thanks to our wonderful supporters who responded generously to the appeal of our Board of Governors for financial assistance. We wish to credit the following individuals whose participation in the project was indispensable: Max Ratner of Cleveland, our distinguished Bialystoker landsman and leading activist in the American Jewish community and the driving force behind this book; Izaak Rybal–Rybalowski, General Secretary of the Bialystoker Centre, Home and Infirmary for the Aged who invested much time and energy in the preparation of the volume; I. Shmulewitz, the well–known Yiddish journalist and specialist on Holocaust themes who edited the Yiddish manuscript of the volume; Rabbi Lowell S. Kronick who rendered the English translation making the book accessible to the children and grandchildren of survivors; Hirsh Gansbourg of Empire Press whose expertise as a printer guaranteed the quality of the production; Louis Evans, a master Yiddish proof–reader, whose attention to detail assured the accuracy of the Yiddish manuscript; and

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Ginger Bramson, a professional copy editor who made valuable stylistic suggestions for the English text.

We should like to thank our landsleit in Argentina, Israel, Australia and other countries for their help in bringing this book to light. The Bialystokers in Argentina will translate this work into Spanish so their children can know their heritage.

We hope the readers of this volume will feel that the Jewish community in Bialystok has been effectively memorialized and we trust that those who survived the Nazi era and lost loved ones will be satisfied that their story has been properly told. May Bialystok remain a shining example of Eastern European Jewish life for generations to come.

The Bialystoker Memorial Book Committee
New York, December 1981

 

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Book Committee of the Bialystoker Center in New York
First row l–r: Diana Medvedev, Rubin Bindler, Sam Solasz, I. Shmulewitz, Raya Zak, Yedidia L. Hamburg
Second row: Yehoshua Schachter, Morris Molosofky, Paul Schochet, Dora Mintz, Abraham Mintz, Izaal Rybal
Third row: Sol Krim, Mike Kremer, Charles Schwecher, Rabbi Lowell S. Kronick, Jacob Beren, Harold Talin and Harold Morrow


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The Following have made major contributions to the Bialystok Memorial Volume in memory Of their loved ones:

In loving memory of Our Parents
Mojsze and Pesze Ratowcer
By Max and Betty Ratner.
In loving memory of Our Parents
Bejnusz & Frume Leja Fejgin
Szymon & Miriam Knyszinski

By Hirsz & Stela Fejgin
In loving memory of Our Parents
Abraham and Sophie Dane
By Mr. & Mrs. Maxwell Dane
In loving memory of Our Parents
Abraham & Minnie Podolsky
By Max & Tibby Podell
In loving memory of Our Father
Daniel Abelson
By Herman & Jane Abelson
Maurice & Lorraine Abraham
In loving memory of Our Parents
Jean & Hyman Goldberg

Dwejre & Meir Rybalowski

By Izaak & Molly Rybal
In loving memory of Our Parents
Szaja & Frieda Dobryman
Abraham & Judith Goldberg

By Joseph & Nettie Dobryman
In loving memory of Our Grandmother
Goldie Katz
and our family that perished in Bialystok
By Sonia Abelson & Diana Medvedev
In loving memory of Our Parents
Szamaj & Ester Solasz
By Rose & Sam Solasz
In loving memory of Our Husband and Father
George Gering
By Edith, Sheldon & Norman Gering
In loving memory of
Lazar Shabry (Szabrunski)
By Felicia Dresner and Karl Shabry
In loving memory of Our Brothers
Szlojme & Jankl Zylbersztein
And their families
by Abe & Dora Zylbersztein–Mintz.
In loving memory of My Grandparents
Louis & Mary Davis
By Michael Saperstein

 


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Foreword

While contemplating this volume, I recalled my gentle childhood days. Among my cherished memorabilia is a notebook from my fourth–grade class at the Bet Hasefer Haamimi Haivri Harishon in Bialystok, the forerunner of the Tarbut Schools. On the first page in Hebrew is a song titled: “The Promise” and on the next page; Hatikvah: “The Hope”. These two titles capsulize the meaning of this publication for me.

I visited Jewish cemeteries in many countries all over the world. I saw markers from almost every century of our dispersion. Occasionally, one observes an old synagogue or ruins. One finds reports by historians, government writers, quasi–professionals who try to bind bits of history together. Much is conjecture; the material is often theoretical and ambiguous. This sense became all the more pronounced when, on a trip to Israel in 1976, I stopped off to visit Bialystok, the city of my roots.

I read much of the Holocaust literature. I saw movies and spoke with fortunate survivors. But my birthplace's transformation shocked me beyond belief.

Jews lived in the land of Poland before there was a Poland. Over the course of a millennium, they created a remarkable civilization characterized by deep piety, rich cultural achievement and outstanding intellectual pursuits.

In 1941 the Nazi invaded Poland and within four years, they put to death three million Jewish men, women and children and destroyed all that had been created over the course of a thousand years.

In 1900, Bialystok was the third largest industrial city in Russia. Of 65,000 persons, the Jews represented 64%. In 1913 the population was 91,000 of whom 60,000 were Jewish. Over 350,000 Jews resided in Bialystok and its provinces.

The Jewish community had adjusted as diaspora life and the Cezar's whims permitted. It drew on an inner creative strength to overcome assimilation; neither did it stagnate. At the beginning of the Haskalah movement, the Jews of Bialystok knew Torah and also participated in the wider cultural and educational life of this cosmopolitan community. They fought for civil liberties and established health–care and welfare networks. Cooperative effort and unity enabled them to survive with honour and dignity. They established homes for the aged, orphanages, theatres, libraries, schools, social clubs, youth groups, Zionist organizations and labour unions.

The Bialystok Jewish community produced doctors of national prominence, historians, writers, scientists and professors. There was pride in this exhilarating city.

Bialystok's Jewry was active in the rebirth of Israel before Zionism was formally established by Dr. Herzl in 1897. In the early 1880's, a group known as “BILU” (House of Israel Go Forth) was formed in Russia with offices in Bialystok. The first group left for Israel in 1882 and founded Rishon Lezion (with the help of the Rothschilds). My parents married in 1889. They wanted to join the second group but were refused permission to leave by the Russian government. In the ensuing years, immigrants continuously flowed from Bialystok to Israel. From my class in 1920, 14 out of 29 left for Israel by 1935.

I still remember my first day of school when I was three, in 1910; the first electrified weaving loom in our factory in 1911 that illuminated my house on Czysta Street; the 300th anniversary parade of the Russian Kingdom of Peter the Great; Czar Nicholas' visit to Bialystok in 1913; the beginning of World War I in 1914 when three hundred children on the way to school were killed by bombs dropped from German warplanes; a celebration of the Balfour

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Declaration in 1917 when my mother donated her gold earrings to the Zionist cause. I have vivid recollections of attending the first school in which Hebrew was the language of instruction which opened in 1918, one day after the end of the German occupation and the creation of the new independent B(Poland. I remember my first membership in a Zionist club at our school. I treasure the notebooks of my history and geography courses and my Hebrew songbook.

The well–known teachers Lejb Fajans and Mojsze Lewin were translating Russian books into Hebrew since there were no Hebrew texts. In 1920, during the war between Poland and Communist Russia, my brother Kalman (Charles) while still in U.S. Army uniform, came to Bialystok and luckily we followed his advice and arrived at Ellis Island in N.Y. on January 1, 1921. In my later years, in the 1960's and 70's, I visited Israel and met teachers and many students of our class who had emigrated there.

I wish to impart a message and an appeal to the younger English readers of this memorial volume: You, the second generation, children of Bialystoker parents, are our link to the future. We invested much time and effort to enable you to read about the heritage of our beloved birthplace in your own language.

There is much in these pages that will inspire you; affect the way you think and feel for the rest of your lives. You will acquire an enhanced sense of your origins and thereby a richer concept of your identity. I hope you will have a clearer view of the direction your lives will take as you embark upon the 21st century. That is my message.

I also appeal to you to serve as the vehicle for your parents' immortality. There is much in our experience, particularly as Bialystokers that will have meaning for you. Don't let apathy finish what Hitler started – to eradicate the history and culture of our Jewish people. Let Bialystok and all that it meant to us live on through you and your children.

Bialystok now has over 268,000 inhabitants – seven are Jews. Its historical significance to Jewish life has come to an end. It is now just another page of our people's history. You will find Bialystokers in every corner of the world continuing in the spirit of their birthplace. This book represents my promise and hope for future generations to be mindful of their loss and proud of their heritage.

Max Ratner
Cleveland, Ohio

 

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