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[Page 392]

The Organization of Former Residents of Lida in Israel

Translated by Sara Mages

The immigrants from Lida scattered in all corners of Eretz Israel, in the city and in the village, in kibbutzim and moshavot[1], and the meetings of friends from “there,” friends from school, to the movement, or meetings of former neighbors or just acquaintances, always ignited the spark of closeness, because they have always been close. The veteran immigrants helped their friends, the new immigrants, quite a bit with encouragement, first arrangements, guidance and recommendation, and sometimes also with financial help. It never occurred to the Lidaim[2] to establish in Israel an organization of the members of the “old homeland,” “Landsmanshaft,” like in the United States. This was contrary to the ideology of the veteran Zionists, which required a merger within the general population, and not the creation of groups, groups, a “gathering,” as a kind of existence of the Diaspora in Eretz Israel. Until - the arrival of the terrible shock, which gave birth to the need, the mental necessity, to be together, to weep together for those who perished, to search together for the survivors and, if possible, to lend them a helping hand.

With the liberation of Lida from the Germans, a group of Lidaim in Tel Aviv arose to establish an organization of former residents of Lida in Israel. On 27 Av 5704 (16 August 1944), a general meeting of former residents of Lida was held in Tel Aviv. The purpose of the proposed organization, and its name, were determined, and an eleven member committee was elected to take immediate action. And these are the names of the first committee members (in alphabetical order): Moshe Chaim Boyarski, Baruch Berkovich, Yakov Gelfer, Yosef Darshan, Daniel Vinogradov, Shimshon Vinkovski, Ben-Zion Wallach, Abba Lando, Shlomo Podolski, Shaul Krasnoselsky and Yisrael Aharon Shelubski. An audit committee was also elected and its members were: Kalman Orzechovski, Avraham Polchik, Kaplan, and Mrs. Boyarski- Gintzberg.

The organization's first activity was to gather information on the fate of Lida's Jews and to discover the whereabouts of survivors. Telegrams were sent to the Soviet authorities in Lida and Minsk. At the same time, all immigrants from Lida were asked to bring to the committee any information that came to them. Shortly afterwards, the committee gathered clear information on the tragic fate of the Lida community, as well as a list of survivors' addresses who wandered across Russia, and all over Europe, in search of a way out to the free world - to Eretz Israel or to the American Continent.

One of the committee's first activities was to send food packages to the exiled survivors in need. The significance of such a package was not only in the addition of a portion of food (which was very limited in those years) but also - perhaps mainly - in the feeling of encouragement it brought with it. At that time the committee sent dozens of packages. It is worth noting, on this occasion, the dedicated work of the committee members who have since passed away, and they are: Yisrael Aharon Shelubski, Yosef Darshan and R' Shlomo Podolski, may the memory of the three be blessed.

When dozens of Lida's survivors begun to arrived in Eretz Israel, the idea came to establish a special fund for constructive assistance to the immigrant. It was decided to establish a charity fund to provide loans without interest to the needy, to be paid in small monthly installments. The annual tax, imposed by the committee on all the formers residents of Lida, who are members of the organization, was intended for this purpose. Several significant donations were added to it: from the aid committee to the Jews of Lida in the United States (”Lider Relief”), from Mrs. Tamima Yudlevich z”l (actress in “Habima Theatre”), from the Darshan family in Mexico, and others.

The fund provides loans to the needy Lida's immigrants in the amounts of 300-500 Israeli liras. These loans, for essential needs, are given according to a bill signed by the borrower and three good guarantors. It should be noted that in cases of payment difficulties, the committee has not exhausted the depth of the law with the borrower in relation to the repayment dates.

One of the tasks that the organization's committee has decided on since its inception, and saw as a sacred debt, is - commemorating of the destroyed Lida community and its martyrs who perished in its destruction. Several actions have been taken for this purpose:

A. In the “Forest of the Martyrs” in the Jerusalem Mountains, “Lida Grove” was planted inside the “Forest of Poland's Martyrs,” and in its center a monument to the city's

 

 

martyrs. To finance this project, a special fundraiser was held among the townspeople, who wanted, in this way, to commemorate their loved ones who perished, a tree to each soul, in their names. The donors were given a special memorial certificate from the Jewish National Fund. A special contribution for this project was also received from the “Lider Relief” in New York.

From time to time, on 21 Iyar, the day of remembrance for the martyrs of Lida, an ascent of the townspeople is taken place to the “Forest of the Martyrs” to commemorate the memory of the martyrs of Lida next to the tombstone erected among the trees planted in their name.

B. The soil of Majdanek was saturated with the blood of three thousand Jews from Lida, who were transferred there by the Nazi murderers on September 1941, and found their death there among tens of thousands of martyrs from other Jewish communities. A group of Lida's Jews, who passed through Poland on their way to Eretz Israel, saw it as their duty to visit the mass graves, and as a sacred symbolic relic brought with them ashes from Majdanek, to say: remember the ashes of our slain brothers, the ashes of the Jews of Lida. These ashes were brought for symbolic burial at the Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery, Tel Aviv, in an impressive ceremony. At the time of the writing of these lines, the committee is reviewing the proposals for the erection of a tombstone on this grave.

C. A plaque, dedicated to the memory of the martyrs of Lida, was placed in the Chamber of the Holocaust on Mount Zion.

D. A chapter in itself is the “Lida Book,” which is meant to erect a monument to the community of Lida and to tell its history, from its inception until its destruction.

[Page 393]

The mass grave
(behind the barracks near “Borovka” forest)

 

The idea of publishing this book already came to mind from the very beginning of the organization's operation, but it was a long time before the necessary tools were found for it, (by the way, the difficulty in this is evidenced by the fact that our townspeople in the United States also conceived the same idea, but after a good start in this direction, they were forced to cancel this plan). The difficulties were different: A. the difficulty of collecting historical material, if possible documentary, about a small Jewish community, which in the beginning was not very famous and has almost no place in the books of Jewish history. B. a similar difficulty in relation to recent generations, which required the collection of scattered material, a little here and little there, in dozens of old journals, religious books and various historical sources. C. and it is the main one - the difficulty of bringing our townspeople living with us today, especially the elderly among them, may they live until 120, to speak and write from their memories and experiences, which can be used as material for the history of the city and the description of its special way of life. D. collecting illustrative material, pictures, manuscripts, etc. that are of interest to the book. If we add that most of the work (except for a small part) was done voluntarily by people whose day is devoted to caring for their livelihood, we will also understand the slowness with which the material was collected and printed.

With satisfaction it can be noted, that there were no difficulties in financing this program, thanks to the kind help of our brothers in the United States and the response of Lida's people in Israel who willingly added their contributions to this cause.

E. The day of remembrance for the martyrs of Lida was set by the organization committee after the news of the destruction of the Lida community reached us. According to the Hebrew date, 21 Iyar, the day the terrible massacre of the Jews of our city took place. On the eve of this day the committee holds the annual memorial service in one of the cities where most of the townspeople live, so far the memorials have been held in Tel Aviv or Haifa. The memorial evenings always attract hundreds of Lida members, who come to unite with the memory of their martyrs and say Kaddish in public. The meetings help to strengthen the feeling of brotherhood and friendship between the survivors who are partners in mourning and bereavement.

It is worth noting the feeling of brotherhood that united the exiles of Lida in various corners of Europe, to which they arrived in their wanderings after the Holocaust, and convened for memorial gatherings held spontaneously on the day of their common mourning. We bring here some photographs from these memorial gatherings in the refugee camps in Germany.

In addition to the actions taken in this direction by the Committee of the Organization of Former Residents of Lida, we bring here the copies of the photographs that our townsman, Mr. Yitzhak Rubinovich, brought with him from the burial place of the 5670 martyrs in Lida: 1.the appearance of the place before the erection of the tombstone; 2. the tombstone that was finally erected in 1966 against the background of the environment; 3. Finally - the inscription on the tombstone (in Russian only) and this is its wording in Hebrew translation:

Here were shot on 8 May 1948[3] by the German executioners and buried in two mass graves 5670 of the residents of the city of Lida.

“Residents of the city of Lida”- there is no mention of their Judaism, neither in the language of the inscription nor in its content.

 

[Page 394]

The funeral of the ashes of the martyrs of Lida that was brought from Majdanek for burial in Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery (Tel Aviv 1947)

In the center from right to left: Mordechai Kaleko z”l, Tzvi HaLevi (Dzimiterovski). HaRav Shlomo Podolski z”l, Yosef Darshan z”l, HaRav Yakov Neumann, Yakov Gelfer

 

The tombstone that was erected in 1964 on the mass grave in Lida at the initiative of Yitzhak Rubinovich after a lot of pleas before the local authorities.
In the photo Yitzhak Rubinovich next to the tombstone.

 

 

[Page 395]

The former residents of Lida in the United State commemorate the memory of the martyrs

 

New York
(May 1958)

 

 
The speaker Dr. Broina Kivelewitz

Seated right to left: HaRav Cypersztein, K. Orzechovski, L Katliar z”l
 
The speaker Dr. Chaim Noah Miasnik (Mason)

 

 
The speaker Kalman Orzechovski

Seated right to left: The cantor Faynerman, Leib Katliar z”l, unidentified, Mrs. Rachel Mendelson
 
A memorial service for the martyrs of Lida in New York

[Page 396]

Surviving Jews from Lida in Bad Gastein camp, Germany, in a memorial service (5607)

 

 
Holocaust survivors from Lida in Föhrenwald camp, Germany (summer 1946) at a memorial service for the Holocaust victims
  A memorial service in Föhrenwald camp, Germany (1947)

 

A memorial service for Lida 's martyrs in Föhrenwald camp, Germany (1947)

[Page 397]

Former Residents of Lida in Israel
Communion with the memory of the martyrs of Lida in Israel

 

 

Right to left: Moshe Yitzchak Darshan z”l (from Mexico), Zalman Berkovich, Mrs. Gintzberg (Boyarski), Mr. Miriam Darshan, Eliyahu Damesek, Chanan Kaminetzki, Chanoch Reuveni, Baruch Kaplan, Zerach Arlok, the judge Zalman Yehudai

 

A meeting of Lida's survivors in Germany

 

Translator's Footnotes
  1. Moshava (lit. “Colony”), pl. moshavot, is a form of rural settlement in Israel. Return
  2. Natives of Lida. Return
  3. The correct date is 8 May 1942 Return

 

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