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[Page 218]

In Memorium

 

Yehoshua Eshel[1]

by Avraham Dor (Dobroszklanka)

Translated by Allen Flusberg

Even back in our town, Dobrzyn, Yehoshua Eshel distinguished himself with his talents and his courage. Young and energetic, he decided to leave the town to broaden his horizons and acquire knowledge. And since he was already then a Zionist with every fiber of his being, he went off to the Land of Israel, where he was one of the first students at the Herzliya Gymnasia[2].

Although I was only a child then, I can still remember how he left the town for the Land of Israel. The town was in an uproar: was it a small matter that a young person, a member of a prosperous family, was leaving for a faraway country, Israel, on the other side of the sea? Many of the townspeople, astonished that his parents had agreed to this bold journey, kept pestering them with questions.

I saw him again a year later, when he came back for summer vacation after his classes had ended. That was about a year before World War I broke out. We were all jealous of him that he was living and studying in the Land of Israel.

When all ties with the East were severed during the war,[3] no one, of course, received any letters from him, which certainly must have worried his parents more than just a little. But once the war had ended they received a picture from him that turned into the talk of the town. It was a photograph of Yehoshua in the uniform of a sergeant of the Jewish Brigade[4]. Indeed, the picture of a Hebrew soldier, full of courage and valor, with an insignia inscribed with a menorah on his hat, was no small matter in the town. It was particularly impressive from our perspective, that of the young people who yearned to immigrate to the Land of Israel.

In the year 1921, when I was in Kutno[5], acquiring expertise in the rose farm that belonged to Katriel (Yehoshua's brother), a rumor was going around that Yehoshua Eshel was in Danzig[6] and that all of his family was getting ready to travel to see him. And indeed he was outside Israel then; he was evading the British forces that were trying to arrest him as well as other young Hebrews, the leaders of the Hagana[7]. He and his comrades had taken part in the defense of Jerusalem during the events of May, 1921.[8] Already then he was one of the main active members of the Hagana, and he had been forced to defend his brethren against Arabs who had been incited to riot. He stayed abroad for a while, waiting for the storm to pass. And once things calmed down, he hurried to return to the Land.

When we arrived in the Land, at the end of the year 1925, Yehoshua Eshel was already a well-known, prominent personality, one of the leaders of the Hagana, who had contributed to organizing and establishing it. From then until the end of his life, his days and nights were dedicated to defending his homeland and his people. During the War of Independence we would see him in the uniform of a lieutenant colonel, devotedly continuing his actions to keep the State secure.

After his brother Katriel arrived in the Land, in the beginning of the 1950s, we met him again at the yearly gathering of the Organization of Dobrzyners. As occupied and busy as he was, he paid attention to what was going on among those who hailed from his town; and when he heard about the preparations for the publication of a Yizkor Book, he encouraged those who were organizing it and promised to participate.

He did not live to see the publication of the book. During a memorial service for a comrade that took place in the Hagana Building, he collapsed just after he had delivered a eulogy. How characteristic indeed his death was in view of his lifelong path, a life of untiring activity and unending devotion to his people.

He carved out for himself a place of honor on the Eastern Wall[9] of the founders of the Hagana and those who shaped its image—among those who built up the Israeli Defense Forces and the elite of its officers, the individuals who dedicated their lives to building up and defending the homeland.

May his image be with us for all time!

 

Yehoshua Eshel, one of the heads of the “Hagana”, and one of those who shaped its image[10]

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 218-220. Return
  2. Gymnasia = high school Return
  3. Dobrzyn was in the Russian Empire, which in World War I was at war with the Ottoman Turkish Empire that Palestine was part of. Return
  4. The Jewish Brigade, referred to in Hebrew as the Gedud Ivri = the Hebrew Brigade, was part of the British army in World War I. See the following Web pages (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Legion; http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0011_0_10141.html. Return
  5. Kutno is a city in Poland, located ~100km south of Dobrzyn Return
  6. Danzig = Gdansk, Poland, located on the Baltic coast, ~150km north of Dobrzyn. Return
  7. Hagana (= Defense), a Jewish paramilitary organization, established in 1920 as a defense force against Arab rioters. See the following Web page (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haganah Return
  8. See the article by Yehoshua Eshel, “The First Dobrzyners in Israel”, pp. 121-126 of this volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return
  9. The term “Eastern Wall" here indicates the highest and most desirable place of honor. In countries lying west of Israel (e.g. in Europe), Jews turned towards the eastern wall of the synagogue when they recited the amida, the silent prayer (to follow the practice of facing towards Jerusalem during this prayer). As a result, the eastern wall became a desirable location, and it was where the dignitaries usually sat. See the following Web site (retrieved September 2015): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizrah. Return
  10. From p. 220 of reference cited in Footnote 1. Return

 


[Pages 221-222]

Shoshana Vinkor (Offenbach)
of Blessed Memory
[1]

by Yisrael Lahav

Translated by Allen Flusberg

Shoshana is gone: what a shock this news has been to us. The heart refuses to believe it. It was just a short time ago that we met, albeit on her deathbed. However, her strong will to live and her desperate struggle to hang on to her family, her spouse, the kibbutz home: all these promised to put off the evil decree. But her luck did not hold out, and her fate has been determined.

I had known Shoshana for several decades, from a time when she was still young, one of those who managed the ken[2] of the Hashomer Hatzair Movement[3] in Dobrzyn, the town situated on the banks of the Dreventz River. In spite of the distractions, her bearing the burden of her family, she devoted all her time, energy and concern to organizing groups of young people; to changing their exilic way of life; to supporting the life of a youth movement that was preparing itself for the fulfilment of the dream of pioneering creativeness, of a new Jewish society in the long-awaited Land of Israel.

Shoshana was not only someone who preached to others: she was also one of the first members who imposed the duty of fulfilment on themselves. As the leader of an educational group, she knew how to reach the wavering younger generation. Modest and quiet, she did not like parading around or being conspicuous. But whoever looked at her during the ken evenings—during the youth dances; during the passionate singing filled with longing; on the winter hikes, filled with laughter and boisterousness, in the snowy mountains and the unending forests—would see how her eyes sparkled and glowed, how she was slowly but surely joining in the inordinate ardor of the young people.

I found myself in her home town just before the rise of Nazism. Anti-Semitism in Poland was growing, and the ground was burning under the feet of the Jews of Poland; but it had not yet sunk in to the minds of all the Jewish youth that it would be necessary for them to change their way of life. We knew that it was imperative for us to have a period in which we could organize ourselves to shift the young people away from exilic life and toward pioneer fulfilment. Shoshana, together with a handful of adult members, had decided to struggle against the complacency, and she was devoting all her energy and strength to organizing the ken of the Shomer Hachalutzi[4]. She set up an evening school in Hebrew and helped establish summer camps and ideological groups.

I remember how—just before I completed my mission in the town, when the local ken summer camp had ended—we marched in full scout ceremony, singing passionately. Shoshana marched at the very front in scout uniform, surrounded by a group of young members of the Shomer Hachalutzi. She whispered to me that these were the most beautiful and best years of her life. She evidently saw that what she was doing was working. But a concern gnawed at her heart: would it be possible to bring all of these young people to the shores of the homeland? Could we manage to take them away from their complacent families, and wouldn't they be scattered like chaff before the storm? Would we be able to bring them to hachshara[5] and Aliya? Yet she did indeed do it, for most of the members did reach the Land [of Israel]. And a significant number of them have continued on in communal life, scattered in every corner of the Land.

The time came, and Shoshana left her family nest and immigrated to the Land. We met again. She was now a member of Kibbutz Tel-Yosef[6], working in the agricultural branch, in the cowshed. I was surprised to see how a comrade who had never experienced physical labor had immersed herself in hard, backbreaking work with such zeal. The pains of her absorption into kibbutz life were difficult, engendering doubts that stayed with her until the end of her life. But below the layer of her troubles and the criticism that weighed down on her, you could find a warm heart with appreciation for the kibbutz that she was living in, the place where she had established her family nest. She was able to create for herself many companions and close friends; and on that bitter day that arrived so quickly they were orphaned from a comrade in life and in the struggle.

Shoshana not only knew how to maintain friendship with members of the kibbutz community, but also to keep her bonds of friendship with her trainees and friends, who are scattered throughout the entire Land.

With Shoshana's passing, we have been deprived of a comrade for life, for joy, for friendship and for difficult decisions. A vacuum has been left behind. The thread binding the community of dispersed comrades has been severed. For her family, for Eliezer and her children, who can find words of comfort?

We shall be able to preserve her beautiful comradely devotion, a bond of many years of friendship. We will bind her soul into the tradition of our lives, and we shall never forget her.

Yisrael Lahav, Mizra[7]

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 221-222. Return
  2. ken = literally nest, equivalent to a local branch of the Shomer Hatzair movement, where members got together for meetings and activities. Return
  3. Hashomer Hatzair = The Youth Guard or Young Guard, a socialist-Zionist movement. See the following link (retrieved September 2016): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashomer_Hatzair Return
  4. Shomer Hachalutzi = the Pioneer Guard Return
  5. hachshara = training (for labor, usually agricultural) Return
  6. Tel Yosef is located between Afula and Beit Shean, about 15km southeast of Afula. Return
  7. Mizra is a kibbutz in Northern Israel, about 5km north of Afula. Although there is some ambiguity and possibly a typesetting error at this point in the original Hebrew, the translator believes that the intention was to state that the author (Lahav) lived in Mizra. Return

 


[Pages 222-223]

Yehiel Bunim Granat-Rimon[1]

by his brother, Yaakov Rimon

Translated by Allen Flusberg

He was born in Dobrzyn on the Dreventz River to his father Ephraim Eliezer and his mother Esther Chava. He was educated in a cheder[2].

In the year 5669[3], at the age of 16, he came on Aliya to the Land of Israel together with his mother and his brother Yaakov y.b.l.ch.a.[4] When he arrived in Yafo [Jaffa] he studied in the Histadrut trade school “Hamizrachi” in Neve Shalom[5]. When my parents opened a grocery store on the main street of Neve Shalom, my mother worked behind the counter, and my brother Bunim helped her out in the store, while my father sat and studied Torah.

Like all the new immigrants of those days, all of us became ill with fever and malaria. In the year 1914, when the First World War broke out, they began seizing young men for the “ferer” (the forced draft into the Turkish army), and he, too was caught. With the last of his strength he went on foot with the army from Yafo to Jerusalem[6], carrying on his back a rucksack that contained tefillin, a siddur, and a book of Tehillim[7]. From there he was sent on a caravan with camels to the vicinity of Shechem and Jenin[8], over hills and through valleys, over desert sand that was hot by day and cold at night. For many months he tended the camels; and like all the Turkish soldiers of that time his clothing became ragged and patched, and he hungered for bread. And whenever he became very embittered he would make the camels lie down; he would then sit down and read Tehillim as tears fell from his eyes, and that would make him feel better. And sometimes he would recite a prayer of his own making, and he would feel that he was not alone in this world, for there was an Eye that saw and an Ear that heard his words.

After being in the army for a while he came down with dysentery. He kept walking behind his camels until he finally collapsed, helpless. And a miracle occurred: an Arab who was passing by on his donkey brought him to a Jerusalem hospital, where he lay sick for six months. After that the medical team released him for four months, but he never went back to the Turkish army.

Since the Turks had expelled the Jews from Yafo[9], he moved to Tel Aviv at the end of the war and opened a vegetable store there. And afterwards he built a house in the Montefiore neighborhood and moved into it, opening a vegetable shop in his house. He passed away in Tel Aviv at the age of 75, on the 4th of Shvat 5726[10].

 

Yehiel Bunim Granat (Rimon)

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 222-23. Return
  2. cheder = Jewish school for young boys, where religious subjects were taught and secular learning was usually marginal. Return
  3. Jewish year 5669 corresponds to the secular years 1908-1909. Return
  4. y.b.l.ch.a. is an acronym for yibadel lechaim arukim = may he live a long life (literally, may he be distinct with a long life), a phrase that is appended by some to the name of a living person who has been mentioned in the same sentence as one who passed away. In this case the mentioned living brother is the author himself. Return
  5. Neve Shalom, established in 1890, was the second neighborhood that was settled by Jews just outside the walls of Yafo. Return
  6. The distance from Yafo to Jerusalem is ~65km (almost totally uphill), a total walking time of ~15 hrs. Return
  7. tefillin = phylacteries; siddur = prayer book; and Tehillim = Psalms. Return
  8. Shechem (Nablus) is located ~70km north of Jerusalem, while Jenin is ~30km north of Shechem. Return
  9. While Turkey was at war with Russia, Jews of Yafo who had emigrated from the Russian Empire in Eastern Europe were considered enemy nationals by Turkey and were expelled from Yafo. See Rimon,“R. Ephraim Eliezer Granat (Rimon)”, pp. 176-179 in this volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return
  10. 4 Shvat 5726 = 25 January 1966. Return

 


[Page 224]

Tova Shivek,
of Blessed Memory
[1]

by Shmuel Shivek

Translated by Allen Flusberg

She was born in Dobrzyn on the Dreventz River to her father R.[2] Wolff Lipka and her mother, z.l.[3]

Her father, R. Wolff z.l., was a grain merchant in Dobrzyn, an enthusiastic Zionist and a community functionary. The love for the Land of Israel burned fiercely in him, and he was dedicated, heart and soul, to affairs of the Land. He supported the Zionist funds with kindness and generosity.

In her father's house, Tova Shivek a.h.[4] was brought up on love for the Land of Israel. She married R. Shmuel Shivek y.b.l.ch.a.[5] of Lipno[6]. She was endowed with a kind heart filled with human compassion, and she performed charitable acts with an open hand.

After her marriage she lived in Lipno, where her home was a gathering place for Zionist leaders from all over Poland, as well as for members of “Maccabee”[7], since her husband served as vice-chairman of the “Maccabee” board in Lipno.

She immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1936, together with her husband and daughter. Their absorption was a difficult and painful adjustment.

In 1952 she passed away in Tel Aviv, on the 13th day of Tevet, 5713[8].

Her daughter Miriam is married to Arye Simchoni of Ashdod.

Her grandchildren are named Yafa and Dalia.

 

Tova Shivek z.l.[9]

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), p. 224. Return
  2. “R”. is an abbreviation for Reb, an honorific similar to the English “Mr”. Return
  3. z.l. is an abbreviation for zichronam/zichrono/zichrona livracha = of blessed memory Return
  4. a.h. is an acronym for aleha/alav hashalom = peace be upon her/him, equivalent to “may she/he rest in peace". Return
  5. y.b.l.ch.a. is an acronym for yibadel lechaim arukim = may he differ with a long life, appended to the name of a living person who is mentioned in the same sentence as people who have died. In this case the author himself is the living person. Return
  6. The city of Lipno, Poland is located about 30km south of Dobrzyn. Return
  7. “Maccabee" was a Zionist sports organization Return
  8. Corresponding to December 31, 1952. Return
  9. From p. 224 of this volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return

 


[Pages 224-226]

My Father's House[1]

by Shoshana Vinkor (Offenbach)

Translated by Allen Flusberg

When I try to recall memories of my parents' home, I have trouble, not knowing where to begin. My father's house! And who did not know our house and our parents? Who did not know my energetic father, and my mother who was active in many various spheres?

My father, the ardent Zionist, educated us and everyone around us in the spirit of Zionism. Community leaders, members of the movement and anyone who had ties to the Land of Israel stayed over in our house as honored guests. My father's life was not so easy, for he toiled, together with his children, to make a living for the family; but he dedicated the main part of his energy and time to the Zionist program. And whenever there was some money available at home, we would first donate some of it to the Jewish National Fund, to Keren HaYesod[2], and to other funds.

I remember that when I was still a child how much my father would travel, disappearing from home on various missions for the town. They used to tell me that even on the day that I came into this world my father was not at home, but rather, on one of his usual trips. He was then traveling to Plock[3] to take care of erecting a large fence around the Jewish cemetery of the town.

This was the way we grew up, with our father devoting most of his time to the general good. Yet our lives were very interesting, since our home was a meeting place for community leaders and guests. Many meetings took place in our house, and we were always listening to stories about the Land [of Israel].

I remember with what excitement my father accompanied the first groups that immigrated to the Land. I don't remember everything, since his extensive activity began even before I was born. But we grew up in this atmosphere of Zionist-nationalist activism. And from it we also drew the force of will to continue in the Land.

My father took care of everything. I remember the Sabbath Eves [Friday nights] in our home. All members of the family are seated around the table, with some guest always there, as well: the kindergarten teacher who worked in the culture kindergarten of the town, or some emissary from the movement, who is recounting what is going on in the Diaspora. Sometimes, when he [my father] was reading a Hebrew-language newspaper, he would quickly translate into Yiddish for us, since we were not yet fluent in Hebrew.

I remember especially the atmosphere of freedom in the house. We could always meet with whomever we pleased, or bring home our friends. My mother and father received them with open arms, making an effort to make them feel at home.

Every single event that took place in the Land was close to my father's heart. I remember how emotional he became when we became aware of the events that took place in the Land in 1929[4]. Every Jew in our town was filled with anxiety about the Yishuv[5]. We already had so many friends living in the Land, many of them close friends. In the morning, once the newspapers arrived, a protest meeting against the pogrom was held right away.

We gathered in the synagogue. The congregation was standing, waiting expectantly. My father hadn't yet arrived. My mother was ill and so he had been delayed, but he was supposed to speak. And then he came in and gave his speech. Imagine the pain…the feeling of a common destiny…He spoke with emotion and excitement. Suddenly he became speechless and could not continue. He burst out crying and fainted. I remember this as if it happened yesterday. With great effort they brought him home.

Indeed, I could easily tell much more about my father's devotion to the Land of Israel. I believe that many Jews, among those who are now in the Land, immigrated here thanks to the seed of Zionism that he planted in their hearts; yet he himself did not live to immigrate. When I immigrated to the Land with my brother I went to a kibbutz, where I continue to live to this very day. At first all my thoughts were about my family: I tried to bring them here, but my father didn't make it.

I will never forget how proud he was when I told him about the cows that I was milking. People wrote to me that he used to tell every Gentile who happened to come into his store how much milk his daughter was milking.

About half a year after we had come to the Land the tragedy occurred: my father passed away. The blow was hard; but we then decided that we had to do everything to rescue our mother and our two younger brothers—and we were successful. Our mother lived to spend many years with us in the Land, but the rest of the family members and the sisters did not manage to leave. Hitler's cruel hand reached them.

And our mother: how happy she was in the Land. She lived the rest of her life here in the kibbutz. She was full of enthusiasm, seeing all that was taking place. She was proud and happy the first time she went to vote for the Knesset. She was proud that she had lived to merit this day.

Yes, many lovely, beautiful things took place in our house. I believe that this was the correct path, one that was right for all of us.

May these words be a small memorial to all those that did not live to reach the Land.

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 224-226. Return
  2. Keren HaYesod = The “Foundation Fund”, a Zionist fundraising organization, established in 1920, to support the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. See the following link (retrieved September, 2016): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keren_Hayesod#The_pre-state_era Return
  3. Plock (pronounced “Plotzk”), Poland, is a town on the Vistula River, about 100 km southeast of Dobrzyn. Return
  4. The reference is to the Arab massacre of the Jews of Hebron in 1929. See the following Web site (retrieved September 2016): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre. Return
  5. Yishuv = the Jewish population of the Land of Israel Return

 


[Page 226]

A Man's Path[1]

by Tzadok Tzvi Florman

(In Memory of Tzvi Zudkevitz)

Translated by Allen Flusberg

A hill overlooks the Dreventz River, a tributary of the Vistula. The river flows across the region of Pomerania, cradle of the Crusaders. The northern side is in Prussia; the southern part is land belonging to Czar Nikolai II, ruler of Greater Russia. The town of Dobrzyn is ancient, mentioned in chronicles of the Polish people from the period of the Crusader Wars. On the other side of the river lies Golub, a typical provincial Prussian town with narrow streets and ancient houses. In the distance, a 13th-century Crusader castle rises on an opposite hill.

The house of our common grandfather, Tzadok Hirsh Zudkevitz, was located on the hill of Dobrzyn. A traditional Jewish home, it radiated warmth to everything nearby. Children grew up in it, boys and girls. The head of the household was a skilled furrier and tailor. Among his customers were Polish nobles, owners of nearby estates, members of the local administration and even the priest. Two of his sons and a daughter immigrated to the distant land of America.

One of the sons, Avraham, was diligent in both religious and secular studies. He also spent several years in a yeshiva[2]. He served in the Czar's army for three years. I recall the picture of Avraham Zudkevitz and Moshe Sperling, Yitzhak's father, in Russian army uniforms. They served in the same battalion in the 1890s. Avraham married a woman who was from Brodnica, on the other side of the border[3]. He settled down as a man of prominence and took up his father's profession. He developed a reputation as an honest, intelligent man, becoming one of the community leaders. His home was wide open not only to members of his extended family, but also to anyone in need. During the First World War he served as mayor. The residents, both Jewish and Christian, treated him with respect. He built himself a large house in the center of town.

[Page 227]

Childhood and Adolescence

Tzvi spent his childhood in his parents' affluent home during the First World War. He studied in a cheder[4]. He absorbed the tradition of his father's house. The calm atmosphere, the peaceful, untroubled way of life had a great influence on him. As a child he was favorably disposed toward religion. Even while attending a secular public school he would put tefillin[5] on every day, and we considered him a boy who was bound up with religious values. We liked him for his integrity.

During his adolescent years, like most of the boys who came from traditional homes, he found himself at a crossroads between the past and the allure of the present. He read a great deal and became familiar with the classic works in the Yiddish language. Enamored of the progressive world, and searching for truth and justice, he skipped over even the Zionist youth movement and became a leftist. And just as much as he had been a faithful believer in religion in his childhood, he now devoted himself passionately to Communist ideology.

But this was just at first sight. Whoever knew Tzvi well knew that within this young man there beat a warm, Jewish heart. In the Capital [Warsaw], the fellow thirstily drank up whatever was available to learn and become familiar with. With great reverence he would go over to the Writers' Association that was located on Tłomackie Street. He would listen to lectures and follow public debates between writers. He greatly extended his knowledge. He was very well liked in society. He could sing Yiddish songs well.

[Page 228]

At the Decisive Moment

He settled in Dobrzyn and served in the army. His battalion was camped in Pomerania. He was a good, disciplined soldier, well-liked by his comrades in arms.

Echoes of the changes that had taken place in Germany with Hitler's rise to power made their mark on Poland[6]. Anti-Semitism intensified. The anti-Jewish laws, and later the pogroms against the Jews of Germany, unleashed the Poles' enmity towards the Jews. The Jews suffered, but they accepted these occurrences as something that would run its course. People did not believe that Hitler would dare attack Poland.

On the day the war broke out, the entire area near the border was overrun by Hitler's troops. Although Tzvi had been conscripted he did not get to fight very much. The lines of defense of the Polish army quickly collapsed. The Nazi conqueror imposed himself with harshness on the Polish populace, especially on the Jews. The entire northern and western parts of Poland were annexed to Germany. The Jews were served with a first course of persecution and humiliation. They were not permitted to walk along sidewalks, but rather had to walk along the edges of the streets and take off their hats before every German they passed. Bearded men were taken out of their homes to toil cleaning streets and clearing trash, work that was accompanied by curses and blows.

After a few weeks had passed, expulsion orders were issued. From cities and towns, human caravans made their way to the center of the country. These people left behind homes with all their possessions, the product of generations of toil. Tzvi observed all of this with his own eyes.

Tens of thousands of Jews fled eastward, to Russia. Among them were Tzvi and my brother Mordechai Yisrael y.b.l.ch[7]. They reached the city of Vileyka[8], somehow establishing themselves there. Tzvi worked and, being among family members, was satisfied with the place. However his yearning for the town he was born in and his concern for the fate of his family, now displaced from Dobrzyn, bothered him. Once permission was granted to submit requests to return to Poland in order to bring family members to Vileyka, Tzvi applied to the local authorities, just as many other Jews were doing. But permission to make these requests was a hidden trap: All applicants for the trip to Poland were arrested, convicted of attempting to leave Russia for the purpose of espionage, and sent to labor camps.

[Page 229]

In the Distant Russian North

Tzvi was in one of the camps in the distant Russian north. Camps like it were scattered over vast areas. Within them, hundreds of thousands of exhausted people from many nationalities were wandering around, dressed in rags. Living conditions were terrible. They worked clearing land and felling trees in forests. Scant clothing, limited food, and arduous work twelve hours a day; frost in winter down to [minus] 50 degrees; living in wretched shacks. Tzvi's resistance steadily weakened. He lost his strength and lost weight. He became thin and frail.

And then one day, in the year 1942, he was suddenly freed without any advance notice, together with a large group of Polish citizens. General Sikorski had reached an agreement with Stalin, according to which they had to release all the Polish citizens from the camps[9]. Permission was granted to establish a Polish army in Russia.

 

In the Polish Army in Exile

Tzvi volunteered in the army that had been established by the Polish general Anders[10]. In the barracks that had been provided he quickly recovered. The army was trained by Polish officers and sergeants. At that point echoes of what had been transpiring in Poland reached them. They knew about sealed Jewish ghettos and about inhuman persecution by the Nazis. All the conscripts, and particularly the Jews among them, waited impatiently for the great moment when they would be able to stand up to the Nazi enemy. According to the agreement, this army was supposed to fight on the southern front, North Africa and Italy.

The troops climbed onto trains that were going south. One battalion after another, the Polish army left Russian soil and made its way to Persia, Iraq and to other countries of the Near East. Tzvi was in Baghdad for several weeks. It was during the autumn of 1942. There were a considerable number of Jews in the Anders army. During the holidays the Jewish soldiers streamed into the synagogues. Tzvi led the services. The education he had received in his father's house served him well in distant Baghdad. The young men from Poland and Lithuania prayed according to the Ashkenazi custom, following the ways of their ancestors[11].

[Page 230]

The New Life

When he reached Tel Aviv he sought out old friends. He found friends and even relatives. Only then did he find out about the great calamity that had been visited upon the Jews of Poland. His emotion and yearning knew no bound. His world had gone dark. He suffered a mental breakdown. He realized that for a Jew life has value only on the soil of the Land of Israel. He decided not to continue on, and so remained in Israel.

Zvi's life from that point onward is known to all his friends. He was known as an affable person, serious mannered, at peace with his new way of life. He knew how to laugh and joke around. He was a likable person, a good husband and a devoted father.

However, deep within him there remained a wound that did not heal until the end of his life. When he spoke about the Holocaust of the Jews of Poland and Lithuania his face would become serious; grief and pain could be seen in his eyes. Who knew the secrets of his heart as well as I did…His parents, two brothers and two sisters had been residing in the Warsaw Ghetto together with their families. His father died of a stroke in the summer of 1942. All the rest of his family perished in the crematoria of Treblinka.

I had seen him in Warsaw in November, 1939. He was all set to cross the border into Russia in the vicinity of Bialystok[12], hopeful that the war would end quickly. And back then we were simply wearing white ribbons with blue Stars of David on our right arms. No one had yet thought about setting up ghettos. Crematoria and gas chambers did not occur to anyone, not even to the bleakest prophets of doom.

When we met again in the year 1950, it was a different Tzvi from the one from 1939. This man had been swept up in a maelstrom of powerful forces that had picked him up and carried him all the way here, to a safe harbor.

Tzvi has left us, the last of his family household: one of the few who saw the war in its savage ferocity and yet remained whole and honest in every way.

It is hard to get used to the thought that Tzvi is no longer with us, for we spoke to him only two days before his death; it was just now that he was still walking among us. And whenever memories came back to him, he would launch an inexhaustible spring of stories about the past. It was with pleasure that he visited relatives who lived in cities. He drew work colleagues close to him through his good conduct and unblemished integrity.

How can it be within my power to tuck his rich life, full of hardship, into a few pages? May these words of mine therefore serve as a clod of earth, saturated with tears, on his fresh grave.

To the bereaved Sarah, Chava, David and Avraham, may you never again experience grief and sorrow.

 

Tzvi Tzadok Zudkevitz[13]

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. From My Town: In Memory of the Communities Dobrzyn-Gollob, edited by M. Harpaz, (published by the Dobrzyn-Golub Society, Israel, 1969), pp. 226-230. Return
  2. Yeshiva = Jewish religious school for older boys Return
  3. Brodnica is located 30km northeast of Dobrzyn. Before 1920 it was part of Prussia. Return
  4. cheder = a Jewish elementary school for boys, where religious studies were taught intensively, while secular subjects were usually marginalized. Return
  5. tefillin = phylacteries, worn on the arm and head during weekday morning prayers Return
  6. See the autobiographical account by Tzvi Zudkevitz, “In the Tempest of the War”, pp. 130–136 of this volume (reference cited in Footnote 1). Return
  7. y.b.l.ch. is an acronym for yibadel lechaim = may he differ with life, a phrase that is appended by some to the name of a living person who has been mentioned in the same sentence as one who passed away. Apparently the author's brother was still living. Return
  8. The city of Vileyka (in Belarus) lies 300km northeast of Bialystok, Poland. Return
  9. Władysław Sikorski (1881-1943) was a Polish military and political leader. In 1941 he was the prime minister of the Polish Government in Exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. After the German army invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin, who in 1939 had allied the USSR with Germany and presided over the Soviet invasion of Poland, chose to make an alliance with the Polish Government in Exile. See the following link (retrieved July, 2016): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Sikorski.. Return
  10. The Anders army, named after its commander, Władysław Anders, was the “Polish Armed Forces in the East" that was organized within the Soviet Union after the Germans invaded it. After filling its ranks with former Polish prisoners of war, the Anders army made its way to Palestine via Iran and Iraq. See the following link (retrieved July, 2016): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders%27_Army. Return
  11. The Ashkenazi (European) Jewish versions of prayer differ somewhat from those of the Jews of Middle Eastern countries in pronunciation, wording and style, sufficiently for Ashkenazi Jews unacquainted with the prayer services of Middle Eastern Jewry to feel uncomfortable and find themselves unable to follow. Return
  12. The city of Bialystok, Poland lies about 300km due east of Dobrzyn. The border between German-occupied and USSR-occupied Poland was about 50km due east of Bialystok. Return
  13. From p. 227 of reference cited in Footnote 1. Return

 

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