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[Page 285]

Miechów Survivors in Israel

 

Activities of the Miechów–Charsznica Association
in Israel from its Inception until its Foundation

by Shmuel Berger

Translated by Selwyn Rose

 

A. Activities from 1945 until 1963

Even before the termination of the Second World War worrying rumors were infiltrating and spreading in Palestine concerning the situation of survivors of the Holocaust scattered in various places throughout Europe, utterly destitute and without any hopes whatsoever of a future. The British Mandatory Authority had securely closed the gates in the face of the homeless Jewish refugees and prevented their brethren, already there, from welcoming them with open arms.

In that difficult hour, a great awakening arose among those already in Palestine, whose origins were the towns and villages of Poland, and they were constrained to stretch out a helping hand to their unfortunate brethren. At their head stood the politically active Zionists of all the parties who were still acting in their towns in exile. As was their habit, they were the first to act. Among those from our town were Sh. D. Yerushalmi (Z”L), Michael Kaiser (Z”L), and spared for a long life – Eliezer Lavie (Lipa Yaskirowitz), and Yehezkiel Dror (Friedrich). All four of them met at first in Mr. Lavie's apartment in Tel Aviv in order to plan a course of action to found a national Association of survivors from Miechów–Charsznica in Palestine.

On 4th September 1945 the founding committee of the Association met in the Community Hall in Yavneh Street, Tel Aviv. About one hundred people from all parts of the country arrived to take part in the event. The meeting opened with an address by Mr. Alter Bruckner, one of the first refugees from our town, who shocked those present with his description of the magnitude of the destruction that had visited the town. Afterwards a committee for the Association was chosen and they were: Sh. D. Yerushalmi (Z”L), Michael Kaiser (Z”L), A. L. Lavie and M. Goldkorn – treasurer, Yehezkiel Dror –organizing secretary. Following this, the meeting adopted the following resolusions:

  1. The Committee will organize a one–time delivery of food–parcels to the survivors who are still to be found in Miechów–Charsznica.

 

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From left to right: Honorary President Sh. D. Yerushalmi (Z”L); Chairman S. Berger (speaking); Yitzhak Pulaski, Mr. N. Blumenthal, A. Wolbromsky.

 

[Page 286]

Commemoration ceremony for the Martyrs of Miechów, 1966

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The Presidium

From left to right: Moshe Savitsky, Treasurer; A. L. Lavie, President; Sh. D. Yerushalmi (Z”L), Honorary President; Yitzhak Pulaski, speaking; Shmuel Berger, Chairman; Mr. N. Blumenthal; Avraham Wolbromsky, Moshe Spiegel

 


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Active workers

Sitting from left to right: Avraham Bryn, Meir Goldberg, Moshe Gerstenfeld, Yehuda Grynwal, Gershon Sarig, Shmuel Berger, Sarah Sukenik, Hannia Singerman, Hanna Zelikowitz, Sarah Rosenberg and Bella Weisbrod
Standing: Moshe Burstein, Avraham Goldkorn, Moshe Savitsky, Yitzhak Pulaski, Michael Sukenik, Benjamin Feigenbaum, Shlomo Weitzman, Yehezkiel Dror, Benjamin Zelikowitz, Moshe Spiegel, Avraham Wolbromsky

[Page 287]

Commemoration ceremony for the Martyrs of Miechów, 1966

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Standing on the presidential platform

From left to right: Moshe Savitsky, Treasurer; A. L. Lavie, President; Cantor Silberstein; Shmuel Brenner, Chairman; Avraham Wolbromsky; M. Sukenik, Secretary; Meyer Goldberg

 

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Active members

Sitting from left to right: Moshe Gerstenfeld, Julius Spokojny, Moshe Savitsky, A. L. Lavie, President; S. Berger, Chairman; A. Wolbromsky, M. Bornstein, A. Rogovski, Sarah Sukenik, Yehuda Grynwal
Standing: S. Weinrib, Moshe Koplewicz, Laybl Sosnowski, Frankel, A. Bryn. Shlomo Weitzman, Benjamin Feigenbaum, Sarah Rosenberg, Michael Sukenik, Paula Mahal, H. Grynbaum, Sarah Ilan, Ita Sherman, Meir Goldberg, Hendl Yaskirowitz, Yehezkiel Dror, Benjamin and Hanna Zelikowitz

[Page 288]

  1. Every new member joining the Association will pay a monthly membership–fee to finance the activities of the Association.
  2. Every effort will be made to locate and contact all survivors in Israel of our town and urge them to join the Association.
  3. A Branch will be opened in Haifa to encompass all the area of the north and the Galilee.
    One of the first projects of the new Committee was to arrange a Memorial Meeting to honor the fallen Martyrs from our town. The members of the Committee travelled to Haifa and met at the apartment of Mrs. Yocheved Blatt (Rosenblatt) with most of the survivors of our town living in Haifa and the north. At that same meeting a committee for the Haifa branch was elected independent of the central committee and its members were: L. Feigenbaum, Hannia Feigenbaum, (Singerman), Paula Feureisen (Mahal) and as secretary – Uri Lacki, the son of Gershon Lacki (Z”L). At the same meeting it was decided to arrange a similar memorial service in Haifa which will take place the day prior to the one in Tel–Aviv, with the participation of the distinguished members Michael Kaiser, Moshe Bryn and Yehezkiel Dror.
    The Memorial Meeting in Haifa took place in the “Beit Halutziot”, and the attendees donated significant sums for financing their activities.
    During the years 1945–1955 the committees functioned routinely. Throughout the period tens of Jewish survivors of our town came from their various places of exile and the Committee decided to organize the annual Memorial Day to take place on the known date of the final destruction of the Miechów ghetto, the “Aussiedlung” – the “resettlement”. Thus the activities of the Association entered a fixed agenda and the Memorials, in addition to the annual meetings of the Association, functioned as a vehicle for veteran survivors of the towns of Miechów and Charsznica to get together with the newly arrived immigrants.
    In 1956 Mr. Lavie resigned his position on the Committee for reasons accepted by the members. In 1958 Mr. Yehezkiel Dror was forced to resign his position as Secretary as the result of a road accident and in his place Mr. Avraham Bryn was elected.

 

B. Activities from 1963–1970

From 1962 a special committee, whose specific purpose was to bring to fruition the publication of a Memorial Book to the martyrs of our community, began to operate alongside the main committee. In 1963 a National committee was chosen and took upon itself the mission of publishing the Memorial Book and the earlier Committee was disbanded. The members of the National Committee were: Shmuel Berger – Chairman, Moshe Savitsky – Treasurer, Yehuda Grynwald – Secretary, Avraham Wolbromsky, and the Haifa delegates were Yitzhak Pulaski and Benjamin Feigenbaum. In time the secretary was changed and Michael Sukenik was elected to the post and an additional member co–opted – Moshe Spiegel.

Essentially, the burden of the work of bringing the Memorial Book forward for publication fell upon the shoulders of the respected Berger, Savitsky, Sukenik, Wolbromsky and Spiegel. The remainder of the members helped as best as they could and the members of the Association took part in special activities organized by the Committee and occasionally called for a plenary session of the whole Council to debate necessary elements requiring a broader–based action.

At the same time the Association continued to hold the annual Memorial Ceremonies and tried to improve their meaningfulness and content. They were no longer held in the open air, a suitable venue was rented – the “B'nei–Brit” building that spread a atmosphere of greater respect over the participants. Speakers were invited who were involved in various topics relating to the communities of our towns, and for special mention is Rabbi Yedidiah Frenkel, who made an impressive speech on the Holocaust in general and on his recent visit to Poland.

[Page 289]

As well as all those activities, the Committee started organizing Hanukah parties at which our members were happy to have the opportunity to meet each other in a less formal and freer context of a festive party. Throughout these years there were three such parties and the one which took place in 1968 will be particularly well remembered when the broadcaster, Hanna Rosen, and the Sosnowski couple from among our members, who appeared in a couple of humorous skits.

More modest gatherings also achieved notable success in a smaller venue over a cup of tea; at one of the parties Mr. Lavie gave a talk and at another the broadcaster Shamai Rosenblum who excited his audience with excerpts of readings which he presented both in Hebrew and Yiddish. Our members made sure that there was always a supply of light refreshments they prepared themselves and contributed significantly to the pleasant atmosphere.

The Committee also dealt with many other varied issues such as obtaining necessary authorization and documentary proofs of their claim to reparations from Germany and the discovery of documents and details for the investigation into Nazi war–crimes by the Israeli Police. The Committee also managed and organized the day–to–day administrative work, fees, treasury and correspondence, etc., and indeed achieved much progress in these activities during the period. Nevertheless, the main focus of the Association's effort was the production of the Book of Remembrance (see page 291).

 

C. The Benevolent Society named for Yehuda Zelmanowicz (Z”L)

Among the activities of the Association the establishment of a Benevolent Society in the name of Yehuda Zelmanowicz (Z”L), is worth noting.

Co–workers of the Association had for some time been contemplating the idea of founding a benevolent society in order to assist members in their hour of need with small loans at no interest. They recalled the example that had existed when they were active in our communities in the period between the two World Wars. The drive to give action to the idea became practicable in 1964 when a donation of $1,000 was received from the Association of Miechów Survivors in America. The donors expressed the wish to commemorate the name of their member, Yehuda Zelmanowicz (Z”L), by naming the fund after him. And indeed at the annual General Meeting of 1965 it was decided to name the Society after Yehuda Zelmanowicz. The family of the departed, his friends and work–colleagues from “Koor” donated additional amounts to the fund and thus the society came into being.

On 28th February, 1966 there was a celebratory party at Koor Industry's meeting hall and a Founding Scroll of the Benevolent Society was read and signed (see photograph).

Signatories to the Scroll were members of the Association's Presidium, representatives of the Association's members and colleagues from Koor and family members and friends of the departed.

From that day until today the Society has functioned according to the mandate outlined in the Scroll. The amount standing to the Society's credit at this time is above 7000 N.I.S.

Details of donations made to the Benevolent Society:

Donated by the members of the Society in the U.S.A. 2936.– N.I.S.
Donated by work colleagues 2781.– “
Donated by family members of the departed 700.– “
Donated by an Association member 500.– “
Interest from investments and Bank interest 244.– “
Total 7161.– N.I.S.

From 1964 until 1970 26 loans were dispensed totaling approximately 16,170 N.I.S.

[Page 290]

 

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The Association of Immigrants from Miechów, Charsznica and Ksiaz in Israel
Yehuda Zelmanowicz Benevolent Society
Founding Scroll of Incorporation

We, the Undersigned, Members of the National Council and Committee of the Association of Immigrants from Miechów, Charsznica and Ksiaz in Israel, work–colleagues from Solkoor, His Family Members and Friends from his Youth, have Gathered here today in the Company Meeting Room of the Koor Building in Tel Aviv and hereby Solemnly Declare and Celebrate the Founding of :

The Yehuda Zelmanowicz Benevolent Society of the Organization of the Association of Immigrants from Miechów, Charsznica and Ksiaz in Israel.

And that in Accordance with the Decision taken at the Annual General Meeting of the Association which took place on the Morning of 23rd (Twenty–Third) of August 1964, has Established the above Association and that the funds of the Society Donated by the Survivors of our Towns Residing in The United States of America, Work Colleagues of Solkoor, Family Members of the Deceased and his Friends; it being understood that any such Monies that may be Accrued in the Future by the Society will be used to Assist Members of the Association under Stress at no Interest, under Conditions Decided upon from time to time by the Council managing the Fund, which will be Constituted by Members of the National Council, or Person or Persons holding Authorized Power of Attorney under the Auspices of Solkoor Workers. The Fund will be managed according to the Protocols received from the Managing Council. The Managing Council will be Responsible for the correct functioning and operation of the Fund According to its Protocols and Constitution.

The Noble Spirit and Qualities of Yehuda Zelmanowicz (Z”L), whose name the Fund bears, to come to the Assistance of the individual in need, will be a Guiding Lamp for the Members who will stand at its Head, in the hope that the Fund will Fulfill its Objectives Faithfully and will stand Purposefully at the Right Hand of the Needy and Distressed.

We, the undersigned, give our hand in Witness on 28th February 1966.
(36 {Thirty–six} Illegible hand–written signatures in Hebrew script)


[Page 291]

The Process of Publishing the Memorial Book
of the Miechów, Charsznica, Ksiaz Communities

by Shmuel Berger

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Our Association was constituted immediately with the cessation of the Second World War that is in 1945, and from its inception had, within its very soul, as a guiding “pillar of fire”, the goal to memorialize the fallen of our communities in a Memorial Book. Nevertheless the project did not come to fruition until 1962. During that period hundreds of Memorial Books by community survivors' committees and organizations were published, most of them found in Israel and indeed, the name of our Association was to be found among them.

Although on several occasions at our Annual General Memorial Meetings the project was raised and spoken of we never got to the stage of translating the idea into a practical result and eventually we ceased discussing it. There was a real danger that the matter would be completely forgotten and a Memorial Book not materialize.

The matter touched me deeply and my conscience gave me no rest. Although I was not active in the work of the Association I decided to do something to bring idea of the book to fruition. At the Annual General Meeting that took place on 19th October 1962, when I saw that there was no mention brought to the table concerning a Memorial Book, I asked for the floor and from the rostrum I pled vigorously on behalf of the martyrs of our communities for a Memorial Book to be given consideration. – “To what have we come,” I asked, “that the memory of our parents, our brothers and sisters and all our perished Brethren, should be forgotten? Is all the past history of our community, in which we ourselves grew up and lived, to be forgotten? Not many years will pass and there will be no one left to write about our community especially since we ourselves have little or no documentation; everything will come from our memory. Who will carry the burden of the responsibility of that outcome if not we, ourselves, now?”

My fervent and impassioned plea to the gathered members bore fruit and a Committee was instantly formed on whom fell the burden of carrying the idea forward to its early fruition and its members were: Shmuel Berger, Avraham Bryn, Moshe Spiegel and Ya'acov Wolbromsky.

With the election of the committee I left the meeting much encouraged in the hope that eventually we would have our own Memorial Book. And indeed the committee immediately began to work actively towards that end and with our first meeting which took place in my house with all three members, including a guest from America – Mr. Mitzenmacher, a member of the Association of Miechów Survivors in America. It was decided to send out a circular to all the members in Israel and abroad, outlining in general terms the proposed contents and to call everyone in the Association to harness themselves to the project. The circular was published early in November 1962.

The circular said, among other things: “…Every single survivor of our above communities should see himself as a partner in the general wish and a mutual obligation in erecting a Memorial to our beloved ones, our Martyrs (May G–d avenge their blood), and everyone fulfill this obligation, encourage and urge his friends and relations to fulfill this Holy Mitzvah…” After sending out the circular we began to receive a stream of material of all sorts – lists of names, articles and photographs. I can say with real happiness that we made contact for the first time with members of our community abroad, especially in America, something that had not happened until then. The entire Association came to life and a new spirit began to move within it. The majority of the members joined the sacred project – production of a Memorial Book.

Nevertheless, a mountain of problems now began to pile up and accumulate, mainly, however, two: the problem of editing the book and preparing it for publication, and financing the entire project as a whole. The financial problem solved itself slowly but

[Page 292]

surely with donations from abroad and members of the Association, each according to his possibilities. More problematic was the editing of the book and its readiness for publication. We had no one qualified or of a professional standard for such work and also everyone was engaged in their own day–to–day occupations. We thought originally, that perhaps we could engage a known editor or historian but the idea was abandoned as soon as we became aware of the cost. We decided, therefore, to approach Yad Va–Shem who took upon themselves the cost. In February 1964 there was the first meeting with representatives of the Institution and after several contacts during which questions concerning editing and printing the book were debated, an agreement was signed between the Association and Yad Va–Shem and in December 1965. The editing was assigned to Mr. N. Blumenthal.

Nevertheless, the problems did not cease with the signing of the agreement. The collection and sorting of all the additional material coming to hand was more than we had anticipated and most of the burden fell on me, together with a small group of friends who gave as much assistance as they could. Also the management and organization of the cash–donations that were coming to hand still had no final arrangement and continued to take up our time and energies. But we didn't despair and continued with our efforts to fulfill the task we had taken upon ourselves.

We produced further circulars to members in Israel and abroad with a combined request and demand to fill a questionnaire, to search out material and to make every effort so that we could publish the book as soon as possible.

Our efforts bore fruit and again material began to arrive until in the end we were forced to shorten some material because of budgetary concerns and to further sort material to prevent unnecessary repetitiveness. Most of that critical work was performed by the late Mr. Yerushalmi who worked on the material assiduously and made many important and constructive observations.

Now is the time to mark the most welcome work of our President Mr. Eliezer Lavie (Yaskirowitz), who composed a comprehensive article on the Jewish community of Miechów and its different institutions and also described the activities of the people who strove for the public welfare. Our heartfelt thanks go to him with the deepest gratitude for the time and effort he devoted to the article.

After much toil and effort most of the material and photographs came to hand and we passed it all on to Yad Va–Shem. At that stage Yad Va–Shem passed the material to Mrs. Aviva Ben–Azar to assist in editing the material in readiness for publication. From that point on, things moved quickly. Mrs. Ben–Azar re–assessed all the material most of which was incomplete and un–worked, styling and preparing it for printing.

May this book be a continuation of the hundreds of Memorial Books already before the public which together constitute an everlasting memorial to the thousands of communities of the Children of Israel in their countries of dispersion and exile, extinguished by the hand of the oppressor.

 

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