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This book had its origins in the 1980s when Edward Kopówka, a Christian Polish teacher, decided to study the history of the Jews of Siedlce while pursuing his master's degree. In investigating the subject, he developed a relationship with Izaak Halber, the last Jewish resident of Siedlce, who, after surviving the Holocaust, continued to live in Siedlce with his wife. As Kopówka progressed in his research, he consulted with Halber to learn more about the Jewish community of Siedlce from the Jewish point of view. After Izaak Halber died in 2000, Kopówka turned to Izaak's son, Michael Halber, who at that point was living in Canada and who assisted Kopówka in obtaining additional materials for his PhD research. The Polish version of the dissertation, ¯ydzi w Siedlcach 1850–1945, was published in Siedlce in 2009.

Isabel Cymerman can trace her ancestry in Siedlce to Rabbi Pinkas Zukierman (born in Siedlce, 1837) and to the Grynberg and Grynfarb families. The Grynfarbs were cap-makers as far back as the 1700s. Image 49 of the current book shows a cap-insignia of her grandfather's business. When Isabel learned of the publication of Kopówka's book, she approached JewishGen to inquire if the book could be translated into English. This initiative of hers was the first step in launching the translation project.

When Lance Ackerfeld, general coordinator of the translation projects of JewishGen, received Isabel's request, he turned to Dobochna Fire, who had already served as Polish-language consultant and translator in a different project. Dosia tells of her motivation to engage in such work: “My parents endured World War II in Poland: my mother a righteous gentile; my father one of the Jews whom she helped to survive. This heritage of mine, which encompasses, as I see it, two parts of the Polish soul, the ethnically Polish and the ethnically Jewish, gives me a certain perspective on the events described in this book that I hope enable me to translate not only the words of the book but also its spirit.” The narrative of the struggle for survival of the young Jews of Staszów, aided by the gentile Poles of Czajków, to which Dosia refers, is found in the Staszów Yizkor Book, translated by Jewish Gen.

Leonard Levin, a Judaics scholar who became the coordinator of this project, is married to Dosia's cousin Margareta Freeman, also descended of the Jews of Staszów. In the course of the translation phase of the project, Dosia and Lenny reached out to Michael Halber, who provided valuable assistance as historical and linguistic consultant. Thus all members of the team that put this work together can be said to have roots in pre-war Jewish Poland generally, and some more specifically in Siedlce itself.


by Dobrochna Fire

A translator has the privilege of dwelling within the work that is being translated. In this case, I had the honor of being a resident of the Jewish community in Siedlce and of coming to know its people and its life. Although my father's family is from Staszów, not Siedlce, many names are the same, and much of the history is similar. I felt as though I were recreating my own family's past in making the lives of these people available to the English-speaking world.

Because there are so many variants in the spellings of Jewish names, I chose to leave the spellings of all the names of natives of Poland (as opposed to those of Russia or elsewhere) as they were in the original rather than to anglicize them. As for Jewish surnames, please refer to the translator's note to Appendix 3.

The reader might find an explanation of the naming of Polish streets helpful. Most streets in Poland are adjectives, thus describing “what kind of” street it is (długa [long], targowa [market], etc.). And since the word “street” in Polish is feminine (ulica), these street names more often than not end in the letter “-a.” I have left the street names in this inflected feminine form. If a street is named after a person, that person's name is in the genitive case, thus meaning “someone's” street (named after the person). For these streets, I have used the nominative form of the name in English. Thus ulica Piłsudskiego in Polish would be Piłsudski Street; ulica Orzeszkowej would be Orzeszkowa Street; and so forth.

The Polish school system changed several times during the century examined in this book. In spite of these changes, the general structure remained the same: The most basic schooling was the primary school (szkoła powszechna or szkoła podstawowa), which lasted from 4 or 5 to 7 years. A child's education could then be followed, at various times during the past 150 years, by 7 years of what was either just secondary school (gimnazjum) or both secondary and preparatory school (gimnazjum followed by liceum), similar to middle and high school in the United States. My choice of translations for these levels of schooling will hopefully alleviate confusion.



The author was aided in the preparation of the Polish publication by Aneta Abramowicz, Łukasz Biedka, Zofia Czapska, Abraham Gome, Maria Halber, Michael Halber, Andrzej Dąbrowski, Beate Stollberg (Trägerkreis Shoah-Gedenkstätten in Verbindung beim Kirchengreis Bielefeld), Tadeusz Kaźmierak, Helen Yomtov-Herman, Witold Duniłłowicz, Isabel Cymerman, Bogusław Mitura, Witold Bobryk

Additional help with the preparation of the English edition was received from Julian Dunwill, Maria Galas, Tali Geva, Al Stein, Amalia Strosberg.

The following contributed financially to underwriting the English translation: Isabel Cymerman, Margareta and Sarah Freeman, Lauren Lebowitz, Leonard Levin, Sara Mages, David A. Mink, Maurice Stein Potache, Ika Shneor, Rena Sonshine, Julia W. Tossell, Arleen Winkler, and Kol Zarember. An additional contribution for the preparation of the printed edition was received from an anonymous donor.


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