[Page 5 Hebrew] [Page 7 Yiddish]
by Jehoszua ELBAUM
Vicepresident Society of Former Residents
of Kutno and Surroundings in Israel
Translated from Hebrew by Monique Charbonnel
My hand shakes and my eyes fill with tears while writing this introduction to the Book of Kutno and Surroundings. This book reflects hundreds of years of life in this important Jewish cultural centre, the town of the Gaon and Tsadik Reb Jehosziele of Kutno, and of the great writer Szalom Asz, a town full of piety, scholarship, schools, houses of study, oratories, where the Torah, wisdom and faith reigned; a place of intense social and cultural activity in the political parties' offices, in clubs, sports associations and professional unions. Altogether, Kutno represented the rich ferment of the intellectual life of a Jewish community, until the Nazi slaughterer undertook its annihilation, along with six million brothers and sisters.
For Jewish survivors of Kutno, it was clear that it was necessary to immortalize the martyrs and their homes, institutions and organizations, where so much faith and idealism had prevailed, and for this, the only appropriate memorial for the Jewish community of Kutno was a Yizkor Book that would remind the survivors of the past and would be an example for generations to come to think about. With the active collaboration of all their fellow citizens scattered around the world, the children of Kutno who now live in Israel, with a holy reverence, undertook the task of collecting photos and other documents to revive the city's joys and sorrows, to resurrect the Jewish life on the Jewish holidays as well as work days. They also wanted to mention the part played by the children of Kutno in the building the Jewish state, both as pioneers and as combatants on the various fronts of the Independence War. Throughout six years, stone after stone, they built this monument: a memorial book of 600 pages, dozens of articles, hundreds of photos and documents that relate the birth, development and disappearance of the Jewish community of Kutno.
We know that this book, despite its thickness and the richness of its content in both text and illustrations, does not contain everything that constituted Jewish life in Kutno, does not show all of its elements as it should, that in such a book it is not possible to respect the relative importance of events, parties, organizations and personalities, that it is difficult to find one's way in the thematic dispersion of the material without jeopardizing the timeline, that it is not easy to share out appropriately the abundant pictures to match the articles, memories and descriptions to illustrate. Countless are the problems and difficulties which necessarily go with the publication of this kind of miniature encyclopaedia in Yiddish and Hebrew, dedicated to the annihilation of a Jewish town in Poland. The committee and the editing staff have done everything in their power to ensure that our citizens submitted written contributions for this book, no input has been rejected, and if there is a lack or inadequacy of representation of an association, institution or individual, the fault lies with those who did not write. Similarly, if we write a little too much about a party, organization or personality, it is also the result of an excessive fondness for writing or ineradicable attachment to a party on the part of some former Kutners. But ultimately, our book was born thanks to them. The faithful and attentive reader will judge for himself whether the Book of Kutno and Surroundings has fulfilled the task that was set at its inception.
Our Yizkor Book also commemorates three other prominent Jewish towns neighbouring Kutno: Lęcyca, Krośniewice and Dąbrowice. Their inhabitants suffered the same tragic fate as the Jews of the city of Kutno, their larger neighbour disappearance; they also went through a tumultuous period of growth and development of intellectual life and association between the two world wars.
To keep a certain order and organize the articles and illustrations, which can be grouped either by date or by subject, we separated the Book of Kutno and Surroundings into nine parts:
This feat was made possible thanks to the unwavering former residents of Kutno in Israel and the Diaspora, who have taken responsibility and did everything with their pens, their contributions and dedication for the publication of our Yizkor Book.
We express our gratitude and heartfelt thanks to the editor of the book, David Sztokfisz for his painstaking, precise and meticulous work. He gathered, selected, prepared all the documents and composed the book; to Abraham Canaani for his valuable contributions and translations into Hebrew; to our fellow historian Yeszaya Trunk, from New York, for her tireless research work on Kutno, from its birth to its annihilation. We also want to thank the Orly printing company and its workers who contributed with all their experience and expertise to the quality and beauty of our book. And last, but not least, our thanks and appreciation to all the children of Kutno whose names are not mentioned here but have played a vital role in the creation of our book.
It remains for me to express a wish: that the Book of Kutno and Surroundings be read by all the former residents of Kutno and their children, to revitalize the city and its inhabitants, to unite them in remembering the martyrs, their childhood and youth, and that through the prism and regrets for the past, they will understand the present better and regard the future with more optimism and hope.
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