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[Page I]

Book of Memory
To the Jewish Community Of Shebreshin

 

Published by the Association of Former Inhabitants of Shebreshin in Israel and the Diaspora

[Page II]

Members of the Editorial Board

Moshe Weinstock, Efraim Farber, Abraham Wolfson, Shimon Scher,
Zwi Traeger (Tal), Hanoch Becher, Chaya Schissel

Editor: Dov Shuval

Address:
Efraim Farber, 8a Jabotinski Street, 2900 Kiriat Yam

[Page III]

Preface

The Editorial Board

This book was written in commemoration of the Community of Shebreshin, one of more than a thousand Jewish communities annihilated in cities and town–lets of Poland, and it appears on the 42th anniversary of the massacre perpetrated there, 39 years after the fall of the Nazi rule and the end of World War II. Is this not somewhat late? Has not its day passed and its importance diminished? Has not all been told yet of the destruction of Polish Jewry? Was the subject not yet fully exhausted?

And yet, this dark period in the history of the people is not forgotten and all that was written until now does not exhaust the magnitude of the loss: the tragic end of the deep–rooted Jewry of Poland, the Jewry of a thousand years.

Many are the books of “Yiskor”, the memorial prayer, published in memory of annihilated communities, but it does not fill the need. Every one of the survivors of the Holocaust abreacts in memories of his past; everyone wants to see himself reflected in his book, his town and wants to perpetuate what is closest to him personally.

Each city and town–let was in a way a small world until itself; a Jewish world with all its signs and symbols, with its public institutions, political parties, organizations, synagogues and academies – a collective tradition are remembered and demand expression.

And such was Shebreshin, a township in the province of Zamosc, in the district of Lublin, counting 8000 inhabitants with about 3000 Jews among them before World War II.

Not only did many years pass since then, but revolutionary changes took place in many spheres: in social life, policies, conceptions varied, outlook altered, new values were created and the State of Israel was

[Page IV]

Founded. And yet, there is to a certain extent, a yearning for just the very period that knew full and perfect Jewish life, community life, that feeling of “togetherness”, to be one in sorrow and one in hope.

*

Much is to be told, therefore, of the problems involved in editing the book.

  1. Most of the material was written by survivors of the Holocaust: part of the incidents were yet noted down abroad, close to the time of their occurrence. Of course, therein lies an advantage as memories were still fresh. Most of these records were, therefore, made in Yiddish, either before or shortly after the arrival of the townsmen in the State of Israel; in other words, before these new immigrants were able to acquire sufficient knowledge of Hebrew to enable them to give expression to the feelings in their hearts in that language. Only a very few records were originally put to paper in Hebrew.
    So as to make it possible for the young generation, among them the children of survivors of the Holocaust, those born in Israel who are not conversant with the Yiddish language, to read the book thus not remaining strangers to, but sharing the experiences and feelings of their parents and realizing what this generation who suffered the pangs of hell went through, we translated part of the material into the Hebrew language. In consideration of those townspeople now living in the diaspora, we felt the need to publish a synopsis in the English language as well, in particular for the young generation in the United States of America and in Canada.
  2. No historians nor authors versed in the art of writing composed the book. Those who wrote it, each one from his point of view, described the experiences he went through – restrictions, persecution, degradation, life in days of calm, the vivacious and the many–hued way of life sprouting from deep roots, the will to live, the fight for survival. This again brought various disadvantages, such as partial lack of dates of occurrences. Of course, in the torrent of the nightmarish atrocities, it was neither feasible or did it occur to anyone to keep chronological order; only a very few, those with a feeling for history, thought at the time of committing reminiscences to paper so as to leave the memory of the horrible misdeeds to generations to come.
[Page V]
    Not every recording is a work of art and not every song is the perfect lyrical creation. Here, people who are neither writers nor composers, endeavoured to express in their own way their deepest emotions and recount the history of their lives during a period fraught with calamity and under certain conditions. But it is just the authentic description, the personal observation, the direct attempt that have special flavour and give documentary value to the written material.
  1. When collecting the material, no attention was given to division of subjects. T our regret, no guidance was given at the time to the contributors and each wrote at his own discretion, without planning. And so it came to pass that many wrote “about everything”; a few words on the way of life in the town–let, some sentences about the Holocaust period – on the escape and the wanderings, on the suffering and the destruction, but sometimes also some comments on characters and persons, etc., and all this blended together.
    Since each subject was in most cases only lightly touched upon, just a smattering and all in “one package”, that written does not, of course, fully exhaust the subject matter; such writing does not lend itself to give expression to any one subject whatsoever. Henceforth, there were repetitions, duplications and lack of coordination of the material submitted. It was, therefore, none too easy to sort the material and select that worthy of publication and to assemble the book.
    It should be mentioned, however, that there were also those who, with their own insight and understanding, brought memories and evaluations to paper in a detailed manner and on a suitable level.
  2. In the course of time, there were changes in the editorial staff of the book – a circumstance which made the work difficult and impaired its continuity. On the other hand, irregularity in collecting the material caused considerable time delay in dealing with it.
  3. Those participating in the book are scattered in various places in Israel and abroad. This presented difficulties when it became expedient to clarify one detail or another.
    However, in spite of all difficulties and limitations, we did our best to achieve perfection. We managed to overcome all these obstacles by careful selection, precise editing and made efforts to complement the
[Page VI]
    missing. We believe that we brought the book to a fitting level of expression.
*

The editorial staff took pains to ensure that the material remains true to its original form without changes being made but as far as possible, adhering to the version of the participants, albeit not in a distorted manner.

The editors had no political approach when assembling the book. If here and there a sympathizing tendency with anyone political ideology emerges, this has its origin in the natural and legitimate inclination of the writer and is, of course, his responsibility.

We endeavoured to correct the style but took care not to beautify and polish unduly; not to impose too literary and flowery a form of expression but also not to present any material in a blemished style. We tried to avoid presenting confusion and disorder, tastelessness and leanness of form, but as far as possible, sifted and arranged clear and precise material.

We also took care to preserve the essence of concepts, the terms and expressions of the local people and the specific environment.

*

As is customary in town–lets, the people, in general, were not called by their surnames. Nearly everybody had a kind of nickname, a given name – whether after that of the father or the mother – sometimes after his profession or occupation, but also after his outer appearance, or in memory of an incident that happened but at times, also derisive and insulting. These nicknames were so popular as to make it difficult to identify the people without them, so that we did not omit them.

It was particularly difficult to “hebrewnize” these given names since in that guise they would not be recognizable. For that reason, some of these names were not translated but brought in their original Yiddish version.

*

Our gratitude is extended to all who assisted us in this sacred task – to those who contributed their writings and to those who donated funds, their generosity making the publication of the book possible.

[Page VII]

Special heartfelt thanks are deserved by our friend Mendel Boim, who, over many years, gave generously of his time and effort in collecting the material from contributors in Israel and abroad. He was the address for contacts with friends in Israel, Poland, U.S.A., Canada and Argentina, and encouraged them to write. He did all this voluntarily. The five brochures he published were the swallows that heralded the appearance of the book and laid the foundation to it.

*

Today, so long a time after the destruction of the town–let, its former inhabitants are prepared to forgive it all its shortcomings and omissions – and are longing for it. As is known, people tend to return to the place of their youth, to search for their roots. But no, Heaven forbid, no – they do not wish to return to the town–let not even for a short visit. There is no one for them to visit. It is there that their loved ones were killed and butchered and the few survivors escaped to wherever their legs could take them. No happiness could be found there, only pain and anguish. There are only a very few of the refugee–survivors who have the wish and courage to visit the place of desolation.

The town–let has certainly changed its appearance with time – no doubt new buildings have been erected on graves and ruins but they, the former townsmen carry its image in their hearts, as it was then, before those dreadful events. The imaginary town let has, therefore, become a symbol around which they gather as one family.

The townsmen, today, scattered and dispersed, live on various continents at great distance from one another. Their hearts are divided. There they are in their new homes, spending their days and nights with their families, at work, at business, but they feel a closer affinity with the friends of their youth with whom they can exchange reminiscences of the past, talk of the present and exchange hopes for the future, discuss many more subjects with them than with their close neighbours. It is the share heritage that creates a bond between them. The man from New York, Montreal, Buenos Aires or from San Paulo, feels closer to his fellow–townsman from Haifa, Tel–Aviv and Jerusalem than to his present–day next door neighbour.

[Page VIII]

It is natural for the book of memories to appear in the State of Israel. Not only because this is the centre of the Jewish people, but also because it is here that the largest number of survivors from our township are living.

May this book be a sign and symbol for shared fate, for shared meditation. Here the contributors gave their thoughts, their hopes, the abundance of their soul and they desire to draw from it the feeling of reciprocity, of “togetherness” beyond geographical boundaries. It would appear that, notwithstanding the contrasts, differences and disputes of the past – here they are once more standing together as one, hand–in–hand, united in feeling and in thought.

 

Szczebrezeszyn (Rus. Shchebreshin; Yid. Shebreshin), town in *Lublin province, E. Poland. An organized community existed there from the first half of the 16th century. The Jews in Szczebrzeszyn traded in spices and frequently did business at the Lublin fairs. In 1583 King Stephen *Bathory* renewed the rights formerly granted to the Jews there to trade in the Villages. In 1597 King Sigismund III Vasa prohibited the Jews from leasing tax collections. A magnificent synagogue, built in Renaissance style, was erected at the close of the 16th Century. (It was set on fire in 1939). The Jews of the town suffered, at the time of the *Chmielnicki massacres in 1648–49. Meir b. Samuel of Szczebrzeszyn, who escaped, gave an account of these events in his Zok ha–Ittim (Cracow 650). In 1701 a session of the *Council of the Four Lands was held in Szczebrzeszyn. There were 444 Jews living in Szczebrzeszyn in 1765. After 1815, when Szczebrzeszyn was incorporated within Congress Poland, there were no restrictions on Jewish settlement in the town. The Jewish population numbered 1.083 (31% of the total) in 1827: 1.605 (38%) in 1857: 2.449 (44%) in 1897 and 2.644 (42%) in 1921.

During the 19th Century, Hasidism had considerable influence in the community. The addik of Javorov, Elimelech Hurwitz, stayed there during the 1880's. The Hebrew scholar Jacob *Reifmann lived in Szczebrzeszyn in the first half of the 19th century.

In the municipal elections held in 1931, the General Zionists obtained three seats: Po'alei one, *Agudat Israel one and the *Bund five.

{Sh. L.K.}

 

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