Table of Contents


English Summary of the Book

Typed up by Genia Hollander

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Forward

In profound awareness of the responsible nature of our task, we have undertaken to publish this Memorial Book, which is intended as a lament for our so tragically destroyed community and a headstone on the unknown graves of our martyred dear ones, whose ashes are strewn all over the fields and forests of Europe.

It is our sacred duty to remember, to carry our deep sorrow in our hearts and on our lips, together with an everlasting curse for the Nazi and their collaborators who so cruelly destroyed one third of our people.

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Writing and editing this book has not been an easy assignment. All the historical sources and archives were destroyed together with the town. Some of the survivors have not been able to recall the events or to put them down on paper. Only the strong consciousness of our responsibility for keeping the memory of our destroyed town and its martyrs alive has given us the courage and strength to bring the work to a conclusion. With enormous trouble, bit by bit, we have succeeded in reconstructing the material: it is a memorial which had, so-to-say, to be put together brick-by-brick. We have made every effort to create an objective image of the town; of its institutions, parties and organizations; of its rabbis, community leaders, personalities and figures; of its general life and the circumstances of its death and destruction – always with the intention of bringing out what was specific for Govorovo.

It should be kept in mind that the financial means at our disposal would either have been sufficient to pay for the services of a professional editor, or for the cost of paper, blocks, printing and binding; in other words, we had to do everything ourselves as well as we could, or remain without a book. The choice was obvious. Our purpose was to construct a monument that would keep the memory of our town alive – and that, we believe, we have done.

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While we have spared no time or effort to assure perfection, we are well aware that we are far from having achieved it. A large deal of documentary material and illustrations of social importance are lacking. In different descriptions, notes and lists, part of the names may well have been omitted or miss-spelled, and some of the dates mentioned may not correspond to the facts. To our regret, such blemishes are inevitable for a number of reasons, mainly because of the poor response and indifference of our compatriots who have not shown themselves sufficiently aware of the importance of this work. It should also not be forgotten that the whole enormous effort involved in publishing a book of this kind has fallen upon the shoulders of only two volunteers who undertook to edit the material, write a large part of it themselves and take care of all

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the technicalities from the beginning to the end. With the best of intentions, they may well have allowed errors to creep in which could have been avoided if there had been more collective cooperation. We apologize for any offence caused for this or other reasons.

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A summary of the book in English is provided for those who find it hard to read Yiddish and Hebrew. We want them, and particularly the younger generation, also to become acquainted, at least to some extent, with the town of their parents, its rabbis, prominent citizens and personalities, its parties, institutions and organizations, and above all, its tragic end which must never be forgotten.

The Editors

 

The Town

In the chapter: “A few Notes on History”, the authors describe Govorovo as a purely Jewish town in Congress Poland with a population of about 500 families. It lay on the railway line from Warsaw to Lomza, not far from the towns of Ostrolenka and Ostrow-Maz. It was part of the district of Ostrolenka and for many years of the Voivodate of Bialistok; a few years before the war, it was transferred to the Voivodate of Warsaw.

The only historical source available to the authors is “Slownik Geograficzny Krolewstwa Polskiego I Innych Krajow Slowianskich”, by Filip Sulimierski, Bronislaw Chlebowski and Wladislaw Waqleski, published in Warsaw in 1881. According to this work, Govorovo dates back at least to the 16th century. In 1821, it had 40 houses with 1485 inhabitants and the 'commune', i.e. the town together with its 14 surrounding villages, had 4747 inhabitants.

According to the tradition, there have been Jews among the population of Govorovo since its foundation. Old people still told stories about visits to Govorovo by Rabbi Abraham Danzig, the author of “Hayei Adam” (14-748-1820) and the famous Rabbi Akiba Eger of Poznan (1761-1837). Presumably, part of the Jewish population lived in the village of Wolky, on the other side of the “Hirsh” River. There is an old manuscript which bears out this assumption.

During the Polish revolts against the Czarist domination (1794 and 1863), the Jews contributes to the successful outcome of the insurrections at the risk of their lives.

In course of time, the Jewish community became deeply rooted in the town and their numbers grew continuously. There are encyclopaedias which give the size of the Jewish population at the end of the 19th century as 1844 out of a total of 2139. In 1921, there were only 1228 Jews out of a total population

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of 5299, probably because not all of them had returned after World War I.

During and immediately after World War I, the Jews suffered heavily: first from the retreating Russian army and the German army of occupation and later from the Polish revolutionary army and the German army of occupation, and later from the Polish revolutionary army, the so-called “Hallerczyki”. When the latter was in control, the Jews were subjected to a flood of oppressive decrees and persecutions, accompanies by forced levies, cutting off of beards and attacks.

In time, the situation improved somewhat. The Jewish population, which had fled when the town was burnt down in World War I, gradually returned and conditions became more stable.

Under the Polish Republic of the 20's and 30's, until World War II, Govorovo's Jewish population mostly belonged to the middle class: artisans and shopkeepers, with a few great merchants and landowners. All Jewish political parties were represented in the town which also had the usual institutions and organizations, banks, schools, Hassidic 'shtiblech' and so forth. All these will be described in detail.

Abraham Schwarzberg from Argentina writes about “Govorovo Half and Century Ago”. He describes the old religious way of life and the penetration of the Haskala movement among the younger generation, in which Benjamin Ginzburg played a considerable part.

In “Once Upon a Time…” Moshe Granat brings back memories from a later period. He writes about life in town in general, the 'cheders' and their 'melamdim', about life in the political parties and about the revolt of the younger generation who wanted a new dispensation.

“A Walk Through the Town” lists all those who lived there between the two wars. Starting with Welwel Blumstein, the “Walk” takes us past all the houses and through all the streets and lanes, down to the villages of Wolky and Paczeky, with a few words about everyone's occupation and habits.

 

Rabbis

This section (P.55), only describes the town's last three rabbis who are still remembered by the present generation.

Moshe Zinovicz writes about Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Klepfish, a great religious scholar and the author of a work named 'Beth Aharon' and whose brother, Rabbi Samuel Zeinwel Klepfish, was one of the Chief Rabbis of Warsaw. He officiated in Govorovo until his death in 1885.

From the same pen we have a note about the 'Old Rabbi', R. Jacob-Judah Cahana-Batshan, who became Rabbi of Govorovo after the death of Rabbi Klepfish. Rabbi Batshan came from a famous rabbinical family and wrote a book named: “Veshav Hacohen”. He held office until his death in 1911. A few

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characteristic episodes in Rabbi Batshan's life was described by Rabbi N. Talmud who was an associate of his for many years.

An essay: “The Last Rabbi” by A. Avinoam, describes the personality of Rabbi Alter Moshe Mordechai Burstin, Rabbi Batshan's successor. Govorovo's last rabbi was a Jewish scholar of note famous for his wisdom and acuity and a leader of the community in the best sense of the word. He was killed in Treblinka in 1943.

An appreciation of the Last Rabbi is contributed by Rabbi Pardes, editor of “Pardes” journal of Chicago, U.S.A.

 

Religious Life

This section (p.66) starts with an article on “Jewish Life in a Little Town by Joseph Gurka, which recalls the religious education of the younger generation, the good deeds of their pious elders and the general religious atmosphere of the town.

Abraham Levia presents us with a vivid description of R. Fishel Shapiro who later became Rabbi of Czervin, and of other Hassidic figures that spent their life studying Tora. We are told of such customs of the 'Meclave malka' meal at the end of the Sabbath, of the Hassidic habit of using every opportunity for 'making a lechayim', of playing on Hanukah and of presenting 'kvitlech'. The author makes us acquainted with a wide range of Hassidic personalities and has some amusing stories to tell about Hassidic life.

The next essay is Josef Givati's description of 'The Beth Midrash': weekday and Sabbath prayers, the gabbaim, hazanim and other religious functionaries, travelling preachers and the 'chevrot' or religious societies that used to meet for study between the afternoon and evening prayers.

Joseph Silberzahn writes about the Alexander shtibel, its founders and leaving members and about the people who used to travel regularly to the Alexander Rebbe.

A description of the Gerer shtibel, whose founders included Hassidim who had still visited the Old Rebbe of Gur, the author of 'Sfat Emet', is provided by Josef Gur who mentions several Hassidim of standing who were also active in the Jewish community in general.

Yet another Hassidic group, the Vorker shtibel, which was also attended by the followers of the Rebbe of Skernievicz and of the Rebbe of Amshinov, is described by Abraham Holzmen, who also portrays Hassidic types from the times when this shtibel was founded until the outbreak of war.

In Govorovo there was also a 'Progressive minyan' which was mostly attended by younger people of a Zionist trend of thinking. This is described by G. Joseph.

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Again from the pen of Joseph Gurka, we have a detailed description of 'Cheders and Melamdim' which mentions the melamdim who lived and worked in Gorovovo between the two wars and who were responsible for the religious education of the community's children until they grew up and, in some cases, went on to a yeshiva.

A curious aspect of Jewish life before World War I is mentioned by Jacob Gurka who tells us of 'kosher' cheders, which taught Russian for a couple of hours a day and 'treife' cheders which objected to 'goyish' subjects.

Joseph Gurka presents a number of students from Govorovo who attended different yeshivot in Poland; some of these became rabbis or principals of yeshivot. Bat-Yaacov Dov adds pen portraits of two more yeshiva students in “Two Brothers”.

Rabbi Yitzhak Shafran, one of the Jewish community leaders in Govorovo, writes about the Beth Yaacov girls' school, its founders, supporters and teachers. The author was one of the active leaders of the school in 1932.

“Bar-Bi-Rav” tells us about the work of the Chevra Kadisha, the burial society, part of whose revenue was devoted to charity. He records the names of the society's presidents and describes its traditional annual dinner which was held on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Shvat. The author also recalls the famous Community Register which was kept by this Society.

 

Community Offices and Institutions

The functions and duties of the Town Council are the subject of an article by A. Bar-Even who relates how the Jews were tricked out of the office of Mayor even though the town was to all intents purely Jewish and how at certain times there were only a very few Jewish councillors. On the other hand, there was a stable Jewish Community Council. Bar-Even also tells how the police used to make trouble for the Jews.

The same writer describes the activities of the Jewish Community Board and the part it played in Jewish life and welfare activities. He lists part of the Board members from before World War I and nearly all from the years between the wars.

D. Baki presents an all-round paper on the Jewish schools and education system with its 7-year general elementary school and the private school of Alter Hochstem which taught in Yiddish and Hebrew in a Jewish national spirit. He recalls the teachers who came from other places to work in Govorovo and who taught Hebrew and Esperanto and conducted youth and adult courses. Finally, he tells of the unsuccessful efforts of some parties to establish kindergartens.

D. Ben-Yitzhak writes about the activities of the Merchants Association and

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Moshe Granat about the Artisans Association, their banks and their fight against the anti-Semitic boycott and the heavy tax assessments imposed on Jews. B. Alef describes the Gmilut Chessed small loans fund and the manner in which it provided help for the poor elements of the population.

The Hachnassat Orchim Society is described by B. Aviezer who tells how the Jewish community discharged its responsibility for poor transients, provided them with food, lodging and small amounts of money and assisted them in every way.

The voluntary principle was also the basis for provision for the sick. This was the task of the Bikkur Cholim and Linat Hatzedek Societies. A. Avi-Uriel describes how they used to mobilize the necessary medical instruments and equipment and even took care of night nursing.

 

Political Parties and Organizations

The general Zionist Organization, the oldest political organization in the town, is described by K. Ber (p.144) who tells how it was founded through the efforts of Benjamin Ginzburg. The young Zionists did not have an easy time: their orthodox parents made a good deal of trouble for them so that they could only work on a limited scale. Among the founders of the organization were: Bachman Tchechonover, Pessach Truchnovsky, Judith Rosen, Zlate Friedman, Haim Evron and Dinah Boines. Later, the 'Tze'irei Zion' group headed by Hershel and Simon Farba became active within the Zionist Organization. In the 20's, the leadership was taken over by Moshe Dranitza, Aaron Grodka and others. In 1927, the right-wing Poalei Zion split off. In the early 30's, the Organization joined the Revisionist movement.

Rachel Brestel, Gurka writes about 'Zukunft' and 'Bund' activities and recalls such Bund leaders as Leibel Kersch, Moshe Olek, Simcha Silberstein, Leizer Friedman and others, thanks to whose dedicated efforts the organization came to rank among the most important in the town. Mrs. Brestel mentions well-known national Bund leaders who came to Govorovo as visiting lecturers: Herlich, Alter, Patt, Shefner, Kruk, Malkin and others and concludes with a short list of dedicated members who fell during the war.

Moshe Granat writes about the 'Origins and Development of Poalei Zion Zionist-Socialists”, their work and activities and their secession from the Zionist Organization in 1927. He mentions their cooperation with Bund in the matter of school and cultural affairs; their 'Freiheit', 'Hechalutz' and Scouts youth movements; their theatrical and other performances. The movement had a large membership: its leaders were: Shafran, Wiroslav, Granat, Shron, Blumstein, Sanne, Holzman and others.

'The Revisionist Movement' is dealt with by B. Kossovsky. He describes

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how a Revisionist group called 'Haschachar' came into being within the Zionist Organization in the late 20's. it's founders were: Mates Mihsnayoth, Zadok Farba, Aviezer Shikora, Chava Burstin and the author. Later, the group took over the Zionist Organization. Its youth movement, 'Betar', was founded in 1931 with Judah Ritz at its head and whose place was later taken over by B. Kossovsky who continued to lead it until the outbreak of the war. The author describes the difficulties made by the Leftist element in the town when Betar founded its hachshara and writes about the first immigrants to Eretz Israel in the early 30's, work for the JNF and the 'Tel-Hai' Fund. Other outstanding leaders, in addition to those already mentioned included: Shabtai Friedman, Josef Drozd, Mordechai Ritz, Shlomo Apelboim, Josef Krolevicz, David Blumstein and others.

J. Avi-Sarah writes about 'Mizrachi', 'Hechalutz Hamizrachi' and 'Hashomer Hadati'. We learn that the Mizrachi organization in Govorovo was founded in 1922 by Abraham Levin, Eli Grinberg, Yitzhak Tandeitchaz, Chanan Friedman, Israel Leib Kruk and Shmuel Zudiker. They set up their own minyan and Tora study-group and were active in the cultural field. We are also told of famous Mizrachi leaders who visited Govorovo, such as: Rabbi Hager, Rabbi Bronrot and others. In 1935, a 'Tzeirei Mizrachi' group was founded, headed by Yerachmiel Drozd, Josef Gurka, Josef Silberzahn and Meyer Werman. The founders of 'Hashomer Hadati' were: Jacob Kruk, Gedalia Zudiker, Mordechai Apelboim, Jacob Rosen, Shmuel Shmeltz znd others.

Next follows a description of the 'Tzeirei Agudat Israel” movement which was founded in the early 30's as a reaction against the secular youth movements. Its first committee consisted of Levy Warszawiak, Moshe Moses, Itshe Shafran and Haim Kossowsky. Tzeirei Agudat Israel later became an element of considerable strength in the town with two representatives of its own on the Jewish Community Board. It also established its own minyan where Rabbi Naftali Gemara taught midrash every Sabbath. The article concludes by commemorating Hershel Rubin and Haim Kossowsky who were killed by the Nazi and Leib Hersh Holzman who died in Russia.

Mrs. Rivka Rosenthal-Stettin tells of the founding of the 'Batya' and 'Bnot Agudat Israel' organizations in Govorovo. They recruited their members mainly from along the girls of the Beth Yaacov school. The first committee consisted of Rivka Stettin, Eidel Kshonshka and Miriam Herzberg. Much help was given by the teachers of the Beth Yaacov School, all of whom had come from elsewhere. The two organizations succeeded in striking root among the Jewish girls of the town.

The 'Hashomer Hatzair' organization which numbered 100 members immediately after being founded in 1927 is described by Eliezer Levin. Leaders of the organization included Hershke Granat, Moshe Levin, Feige Sheiniak,

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Neche Shechter, Rachel Weisbard and later also the author. The group developed an intensive activity, achieved a leading position in collecting for the JNF, produced plays, took part in summer camps and so forth. It remained in existence until about 1933.

Noah Karvat writes about 'Poalei Zion Left' at the head of which he stood since it was founded. Its committee included Abraham Weisbard, Tuvia Koss, Haya Weisbard, Alter Hochstein the teacher and others. It was a small party and conducted its activities in the homes of its members. National leaders of the party who visited Govorovo included Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, Jacob Zerubavel, Peterseil and others.

Abraham Hozman tells the story of the Brenner Library which was maintained by the Right Poalei Zion and how he, together with Hershel Krolevicz, Israel Kutner and Jacob Drozd one night took all the books of the Zionist Organization and put them in the Brenner Library – a 'literary robbery' which ended up in court.

In his report on the 'Falha' hachshara kibbutz in Czyrnia, Aaron Shron tells in great detail how the kibbutz was founded in 1925 by the central Hechalutz bureau in Warsaw and how eight boys from Govorovo, together with another 20 from Poznan, worked for half a year on the fields of the squire of Czyrnia in preparation for their immigration to Eretz Israel. The eight from Govorovo were: Bunem Shafran, Zelig Herzberg, Yitzhak Spitalewicz, Selig Raiczik, Moshe Sarne, Israel Kutner, Berl Zudiker and the author.

The hachshara of the Aguda in Paszeki is described by Levi Warszaviak, its founder and chairman. The twelve-man group performed concrete work for Meyer Wolf Tehilim. Its four members from Govorovo were: Levi Warszaviak, Moshe Moses, Josef Tehilim and Moshe Galant.

Abraham Hozman tells the story of the 'Dramatic circles' of Govorovo. The most important of these were two which were active on a regular basis: one affiliated to the right-wing Poalei Zion and one with the Bund. Over the years, they presented scores of plays such as: 'Blameless-Guilty”, 'The Father', 'God of Vengeance', 'On the Old Market', etc. Their performances were always highly successful. Dramatic circles associated with other parties also presented plays from time-to-time.

“Work for the National Funds” is the title of an article by A.S. Menahem on JNI and Keren Hayessod work in Govorovo.

 

Scholars, Community Workers and Well-Known Figures and Types

This chapter (p.206) starts with a fragment from J.J. Tronk's book: “Poland” entitled “Nosske of Govorovo” which describes one Nosske – Katz,

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was his family name – as an odd type who was always to be found among Hassidic circles in Lodz, worked at a number of different jobs and finally wound up as the sexton of a 'shtibel'.

This is followed by descriptions of leading Govorova citizens, people who were active in community or party life and interesting figures. Thus, Moshe Granat writes about Moshe Yehoshua Ginzburg; A. Basham about Abraham Mordechai Friedman; Eliyahu Bruchansky about his father the cantor-slaughterer and Josef Silberzahn about his father Jonathan.

B. Itshes writes of Matityahu Rosen; B. Kossovsky of his parents Yitzhak and Dinah and of scenes from their lives. A Bashan describes Moshe Tennenbaum, the President of the Jewish Community; Abraham Hozman about his father Menahem and S. Yitzhaki writes of Abraham Shafran.

In an essay called 'Five Generations' Chava Bat-Yaacov Dov preserves the memory of a Govorovo family of long standing – the Blumsteins. Yitzhak Shafran writes about Meir Wolf Tehillim and Menucha Selzer about her father Haim Ber Grodka. Baruch Mintz, Jacob Hersh Wengrov and Feivel Brik are commemorated by A. Bashan, Meir Romaner by A. Inbar and A. Bar-Even describes the interesting figure of Yoelke the baker who sacrificed his life to feed masses of Jewish children when the Germans burnt down the town.

Haim Skornik perpetuates the memory of his father, Moshe Skornik. D. Yerushalmi writes about Rabbi Haim Mordechai Bronrot, the Rabbi of Czechonow who was the son-in-law of a citizen of Govorovo and Moshe Haim Galant – about his father, Rabbi Abraham Mendel Galant who was born in Govorovo.

Josef Silberzahn describes well-known Hassidic figures: Isaia Eisenberg, Yechiel Gerlitz, Neta Ritz, Abraham Yitzhak Galant, Bertshe Viroslav and Abba Lichtman. A. Bashan writes about Avremke Tzalke, the popular chief sexton. The old Govorovo family Rosenblum is depicted in an article in Hebrew by Yitzhak Vardi-Rosenblum. Jacob Gurka evokes his father Efraim Leib Boines. A Bashan writes of Velvel Blumstein and J. Ben-Hassid of Mordechai Leib Gurka.

There are descriptions by M. Rimmon of Hershel Glogeuer and Elhanan Friedman and by A. Inbar of Israel Yitzhak Shron and Haim David Shron. J. Avi-Sarah describes the cantor-slaughterer Haim Leib Mariansky and A. Bar-Even, the Samoszcer Rabbi in Lublin, Rabbi Zvi Oleiarsz who was born in Govorovo and related to several of the town's families.

A.Bashan writes of Jacob Stettin and Josef Gurka of Isaia Herzberg; B. Avi of Yidel Sheiniak; Chava Bernstein-Burstin of her mother Genendel, the Rabbi's wife; B.P. Miriam of Chana Papiersztik; Chava Bat-Yaacov Dov writes in Hebrew about two interesting women: Rachel Shmilkes and Channa Rivka.

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Baruch Kuperman is described by A. Beit; Asher Kutner by Abraham Alter Kutner, now rabbi in Lod, Israel. Ziporah Salzberg-Shachter writes of her grandfather Shlomo Leib Shacter and her father Chaim Shachter; G. Even writes about Gedalia Grinberg; Rivka Rosenberg-Shafran about her grandfather Jacob Shepsel Truchnovsky and A. Bashan about Yehoshua Rosen. J. Ben-Mordechai writes about Jacob Rosenberg; Rivka Vinderbaum-Praska about her home; H.S. Kashdan about Peshke Goldman and Chaya Shmeltz about her father-in-law Mordechai Shmeltz. Benjamin Ginsburg is described by Rivka Rosenberg-Shafran; Leibel Kersh by J.S. Herz and Feige Sheiniak and Hershke Granat by his brothers Moshe and Yitzhak. The list closes with Elhanan Kossovsky whose memory is perpetuated by D. Avi-Dani.

 

Scenes and Memories

This section starts on page 309 with an article entitled: “I Remember You..” by the veteran leader of the left-wing Poalei Zion – Ahdut Avodah J. Zerubavel who assures us that he has not forgotten the large and small Jewish towns and recalls his visit to Govorovo on the occasion of a rally of party member's from Govorovo and Roznan.

A.Reis describes Govorovo as “A Jewish Folk Town” and evokes memories of Poalei Zion Zionist Socialist party work in the town and of the high opinion in which the party was held on account of its activities.

In an essay entitled: “Govorovo”, Israel Ristov describes a pre-war visit to the town on behalf of Poalei Eion Z-S for a lecture on Eretz Israel.

“My comrades of Betar Govorovo” is the title of an article by Josef Chrost who describes the town, his meetings with fellow party members and particularly three of them with whom he was in close contact: Chava Burstin, Dov Kossovsky and Zadok Farba-Givner.

Nissan Moses, slaughterer of Govorovo writes of the visit to the town by the first rabbi of Amshinov, Rabbi Jacob David Kalish who came to settle a dispute between the slaughterers and tells how at the banquet in honour of the Rabbi, the Hassidim nearly ate 'treife”.

The story of a 'Cherem' from the beginning of the century is told by Yitzhak David Tehillim: Two householders took a dispute to the court of Rabbi Botshan who held office at the time and the one who lost the case lost his temper and spoke rudely to the rabbi. For this sin, he was excommunicated with all due forms and ceremonies; only after the sudden death of his wife did the rabbi forgive him.

From the “Wilna Book” (1918), we reprint a story by S.L. Zitron from the times of the Russian occupation of Govorovo in World War I, relating how the Russian authorities arrested Rabbi Alter Moshe Mordechai Burstin

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with several householders for making an 'eruv' in the town which they believed to be a secret telephone line for communicating with the enemy. Upon the intervention of Rabbi Rubinstein of Wilna, they were set free and the charges were withdrawn.

In 'Once upon a Saturday Night', A. Bar-Even describes the traditional Saturday night teas at Isaia Eisenberg's home. He gives us a vivid portrait of the steady 'tea drinkers' with their talk about politics and their anecdotes.

From the pen of Joseph Silberzahn, we have a description of 'An Early Sabbath Morning in Winter”: the whole town is still fast asleep, only those who are in the habit of attending early prayers are already on their way to the Beth Midrash to study a page of gemara or a chapter of Mishna. A humorous note is provided by a picture of people exchanging the latest news from the fair in between prayers.

Feige Sheiniak contributes a poetic evocation of Sabbath in the old home: 'everything clean and orderly, the tables covered with all that is good and father saying Kiddush.

'Youth Memories' way back from World War I are evoked by Sarah Zimmerman-Romaner who tells of home, of girl friends and acquaintances, of her teacher Alter Hochstein and of party life.

Rabbi Menachem Belfer, son-in-law of Nathan Farba, describes his four years in the town until its destruction and that terrible Sabbath of September 9, 1939 when the Germans arrested him with hundreds of other Jews and took them away to a camp in Germany.

Jacob Katz from Dlugoszodlo, recalls the young men from Govorovo who were his fellow-students at several yeshivot: Feivel Lubelsky, Fishel Krolevicz, David Shron, Yitzhak Shafran, Rabbi Eviezer Burstein and Nathan and Deborah Shron.

Rabbi Zvi A. Slushcz, the great-grandson-in-law of Rabbi Botshan of Govorovo writes of what he knows about the town by hearsay and about the duty to keep the memory of the Jewish towns alive.

'My Way to Eretz Israel' is described by Sarah Blumstein-Skornik. She describes her childhood among non-Jewish school children, anti-Semitism, joining 'Hechalutz', work for the JNF and immigration to Eretz Israel in 1932.

In 'With the Rabbi's Permission', Yitzhak Blumstein tells how, before he left for Eretz Israel, his father made a journey to the Rabbi of Gur to ask whether he should allow his son to settle in the Holy Land and took the Rabbi's answer: “And if you say no, will it be any use?” to mean consent.

'A Jew goes to Eretz Israel' is the title of Aaron Shron's memories from his visit to Palestine in 1932 on the occasion of the Maccabiah Games. He tells about looking for a day's work, of living in wooden huts, and how he found

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employment in the building trade and gradually made his way. The writer makes mention of immigrants from Govorovo who arrived before the outbreak of the war and tells how he managed to obtain a 'certificate' (immigration permit) for his sister-in-law by passing her off as his fiancée.

Cantor Nathan Stolnitz from Canada tells how he used to visit Govorovo in his boyhood where he had relations. The title of his contribution is: “Govorovo as I Saw It”.

“A Story of Chometz on Pessach” by A.B. Shoshani tells of an incident which occurred in the days of Passover 1931 and led to an acrimonious battle between two newspapers: “Hajnt” and the Aguda organ “Tagblat”. In a feuilleton, “Hajnt” contributor Jeushson-Itchele had called for the abolition of the “second holiday” and specifically, the last day of Passover in the Diaspora. Some of Govorovo's pranksters sent a letter to the “Tagblat” claiming that on the strength of this proposal, the Zionist Organization had immediately arranged a dinner on the eighth day of Passover with chametz food and beer which gave the “Tagblat” the opportunity for a six-column spread: “Last Passover Day Abolished in Govorovo”. The result was a newspaper duel between “Hajnt” and “Tagblat” with denials and explanations galore to the great excitement and entertainment of the good people of Govorovo.

H. Justus son of the journalist referred to in the previous paragraph and himself an editor of the Israeli evening paper “Maariv”, writes under the heading: “Remarks on an Article” that his father was a strictly religious man who had no impious intentions whatsoever when he wrote his piece on: “The Second Holiday”. In his articles in “Hajnt”, he always used to preach the Zionist cause which displeased his opponents on the “Tagblat”.

In “Nadliczbowy”, B. Dines tells of his experiences when he tried to bribe his way out of the Polish military service with the help of a broker. The broker used to take money in the hope that, by some miracle, his client would be exempted because the contingent was full. Needless to add that the writer had to serve his full year and a half.

A.Govorover writers of the tricks the jokers of Govorovo used to play on the good townspeople. One of his stories relates to how Israel-Shepsel, the “Kadishsayer”, filled the pipe of Yankel the butcher with gunpowder and how the resulting explosion caused a false air raid alarm.

Another story by the same author tells of a trick played on one of the householders of the town whom the young people disliked because he interfered with their Zionist activities. By way of revenge, they printed fictitious invitations to the wedding of the man's daughter, hired the town bands of Ostrolenka and Viskow and professional entertainers and invited a host of guests. When everyone arrived in Govorovo, they realized that they had been tricked but had no choice

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but to stay over the Sabbath as guests of the pretended “father of the bride”.

Jacob Gurka tells “Two True Stories”. One is of the library which he and a few other young people founded in 1920 and which became a meeting place for boys and girls. The Orthodox element was far from pleased and matters came to the stage where the opponents of the library took away the doors and windows in midwinter. At last, the matter was taken to the Rabbi and a compromise was reached: the girls were permitted to exchange books but not to stay, and on Friday, the lights had to be lit before the beginning of the Sabbath. In the second story, the writer recalls how he taught a drunken hooligan a lesson when he started a quarrel with some Jews.

“Satan's Work” by Moshe Sarne is the true story of a town quarrel which occurred before World War I. It tells how one Jacob-Shlomo fell out with his neighbour Masha Leah over the buying of a load of hay. The families on both sides became involved in the fight and there were wounded on both sides. The end was that Masha Leah was found dead and Jacob-Shlomo's sons disappeared to America.

Two “Odd Stories” are told by Hannah Weisbard: How the 'dead' caught the wife of Shmielke Cheisaks by her clothes when she stayed too late in the graveyard collecting herbs and how Israel Hersh recited the psalms one Simhat Torah with a 'miraculous' tune. Finally, S.Z. recalls yet another 'odd story'; how he once found Benjamin Ginzburg in the middle of the night washing his clothes in the pond.

Who in Gorovovo did not know Shlomo Akiva, the town fool and water carrier? A.B. Shoshani evokes memories of this colourful type and tells of some of his tricks and quips.

M. Rimmon contributes some notes on local folklore in an essay on nicknames and family names among the people of Govorovo – by trade, family, place of origin and physical particularities.

The section ends with reprints of two contributions to Hatzefira which appeared first in 1887.

 

Death and Destruction

This chapter begins (p.381) with a poem by Binem Heller: “In Polish Fields”.

Next comes a Hebrew article by Dr. Arye Leon Kubovy, President of “Yad Vashem”, entitled: “Though Condemned to Death, We Did Not Lose God's Image”. Dr. Kubovy writes about the activities of Dr. E. Ringelblum and his friends in the Warsaw ghetto.

“I Seek My Brother” is the title of an article by Rabbi Yedidia Frenkel, who writes of his visit to Poland on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of

[Page XIV]

the revolt of the Warsaw ghetto and concludes with the words: “May the cry of those who cannot cry be heard in the Book of Govorovo”.

In “That Is How It Began”, Yitzhak Romaner recalls the events of the first days of the war and the entrance of the German troops in Govorovo.

Jacob Gurka's “Diary of an Enlisted Man” tells how he was called up for war service in the Polish army, how his unit was consistently pursued by the Germans and wandered all over Poland until he deserted in the midst of total confusion and managed to return to his family in Govorovo which was already under German occupation.

A detailed report on the destruction of Govorovo is presented by Moshe Malovany who described the first days of the German occupation, the killings, and the deportation of the Jews of the town to a camp in Germany, their liberation and how they eventually ended up on the Russian side.

“A Month With the German Beasts” is the title of a supplementary report by Shmuel Dranica who tells of the strafing of the town by German planes, of the entry of the German troops, of the first Jewish victims and of the time when the Germans drove all the Jews into the synagogue and were about to set fire to the building; miraculously, they were set free again and those who were of military age were taken prisoner.

In “Looking Backward”, Pessach Czerewin describes the last market day in Govorovo with its war mood; a walk through the town – later, after it had already been burnt down – and the melancholic thoughts it aroused; and finally, how he and his family left Govorovo forever.

“The Last Kol Nidrei Night” is a dramatic description by Chava Bernstin-Burstin of the occasion when the Germans took the few Jews who had met in Neta Ritz' house for the “Kol-Nidrei” prayer, together with her father the Rabbi, lined them up against a wall and pointed a machine gun at them. As the Jews were saying their last prayers, the Germans took a film of them and then shot their machine gun off in the air and disappeared.

In “That You May Remember”, Rabbi Yitzhak Shafran describes his experiences during the first days of the war which found him with his family in Ostrov-Maz. After reaching the ghetto of Shanghai in China, he eventually made his way to America. Rabbi Shafran concludes by expressing his gratitude for the fact that so many of the old comrades and the girls of “Bnot” had been spared.

An “Elegy” by A. Ben-Ir is followed by “In the Oven of the Crematorium” by Joseph Perlstein – a powerful description of “the shovel of death pushing the skeletons along like loaves of bread”.

In “Shma Yisrael” (in Hebrew), Rachel Auerbach recalls the terrible experiences of the Jews under the rule of the Nazi and the cruel treatment

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which every single Jew had to expect from the German murderers who were helped by the local non-Jewish population. The writer also refers to the gas chambers.

K. Noach writes of “Self-Sacrifice during the Deportation” to the Russian camps where he and other Jews from Govorovo landed in the course of their wanderings. He tells of Itshe Reitzik who was persecuted by the camp commander for observing Jewish customs and eventually sent him to prison where he died

“Govorovo without Jews” is a description from the pen of Mordechai Govorczyk of Govorovo after its destruction. The author, who has visited Govorovo several times, mentions the names of non-Jews who have built houses and opened stores and workshops on plots which belonged to Jews. He describes the surrounding hamlets, which were not burnt down, the present occupations of the farmers, market day and the like.

Under the title “Yitgadal Veyitkadash”, Rabbi Moshe Bernstein, son-in-law of the Rabbi of Govorovo, contributes passages from an address given by him at a memorial meeting for Govorovo in Israel.

The section closes with the psalm: “Michtam Ledavid”, especially set to music for the occasion by A.J. Bruchansky.

 

We Remember

After the traditional prayer for the dead, “El Malei Rachamim” (p.434) follows a list of more than 800 Jews from Govorovo who died in the ghettos and camps, on transport or as refugees during the war. The chapter concludes with a series of obituaries.

 

Landsmanschaften

The last pages of the book contain reports of the activities of former residents of Govorovo in other parts of the world.

Aaron Shron reports on the “Irgun Yotzei Govorovo in Yisrael”. Starting from the arrival of the first Govorovers as “illegal” immigrants in the early 30's, he tells how the Irgun was founded in 1949; mentions its annual meetings to commemorate the martyrs of Govorovo and reviews its general activities up to the present. Mention is made of the project for a “Govorovo House” in the neighbourhood of Tel-Aviv which is designed to accommodate the Irgun's secretariat, its small loans fund and a synagogue and to provide a place for its functions.

The Irgun's Small Loans Fund (Gmilut Chessed) is described by Abraham Levin who reports that the Fund was founded in 1955 on the occasion of

[Page XVI]

a visit to Israel by his son Moshe and his wife who donated a large sum for the Fund and which bears the name of their late son Zvi. The fund provides loans up to IL500, repayable in monthly instalments to former Govorovers.

“The Govorover Societies in America” is the title of a report by Yitzhak Shafran. The report starts with a description of conditions in America 60 and 70 years ago when the first of these Societies was founded under the name of “Chevras Bnai Aharon Shlomo Tehillim Anshei Govorovo”. A second Society, “Govorover Young Men's Society” was established in 1909. Later, this was followed by a Ladies Auxiliary. The three organizations joined forces to form a Relief Committee with the purpose of helping new arrivals to America and sending assistance back to Govorovo for the local poor.

After the war, the Relief Committee also sent parcels and money for the surviving Govorovers. The present committee members of the Relief Committee are: Jacob Zemlovits, Chairman; Sam Epstein, Finance secretary; Harry Miller, Recording secretary; Joseph Bressler, Treasurer; Harry Berliner; Moshe Izdova and Yitzhak David Tehillim, Trustees. Mr. Tehillim is also chairman of the Executive Board. Committee members of the older Society are: Naftali Cooperman, President; Moshe Dan, Vice President; Baruch Marcovitz, Trustee and Jacob Moses, Recording secretary. Chairman of the Ladies Auxiliary is Mrs. Hannah Rachel Cooperman.

A.Ben-Meir reports on the Govorover “Landsmanshaftn” in Canada which, before its present intensive work in connection with the Govorovo Memorial Book, had no organized activities. Its Committee consists of: Rivka Rosenberg, President; Abraham Romaner, Secretary; Leib Gemara; Godel Teller; Hershel Zamek; Meir Schmelz; Israel Shafran; Samuel Stettin and Samuel Rosenberg.

In conclusion, there is a note about “Govorovo in other Countries”.

At the end of the book, the Irgun Yotzei Govorovo acknowledges the contribution made by the editors, Rabbi Aviezer Burstin and Dov Kossovsky who gave their best efforts and time in order to create this monumental memorial for the Jewish born in Govorovo.

The Irgun also acknowledges the contributions of Rivka and Shmuel Rosenberg from Canada; of Kalman Blumstein; Sarah and Yitzhak Blumstein; Yitzhak David Tehillim; Naftali Copperman and Yitzhak Shafran, all from the United States and of all those others without whose efforts the word could not have been published.

*

The book is illustrated with a wealth of photographs of Govorovo, events in its social and political life, portraits of leading members of the community and of writers, facsimiles, sketches and drawings and with more than a hundred photographs of Govorovo's martyrs and war victims in the memorial section.

 

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