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[Page xi]

Foreword

Dr. Moses Einhorn

The first news that reached us at the end of the last [sic: Second] World War about the gruesome uprooting and extermination of millions of Jews in Europe, understandably, crushed each and every one of us, and at the same time dulled all of our senses. So great was the destruction, and so widespread was the wrath poured out upon our hapless brothers and sisters in the Old Country, that it literally left many among us speechless, and we were left as if paralyzed in our senses from the frightful and hellish suffering that our nearest and dearest were compelled to undergo, and in reaction to the terrifying cruelty that the German murderers, together with their accomplices from other nations, exhibited toward the defenseless and oppressed Jewish populace. But together with the profound sorrow that gripped us all regarding our national calamity – the extermination of a third of our nation's peoplehood – a personal pain began to emerge among many of us, a sorrow regarding the annihilation of our relatives and friends, and landsleit. A persistent longing was awakened in us, and a desire to discover all the details concerning the death of our loved ones, and the issues they had to deal with in their final years.

For me personally, this desire took on tangible form at the time of a trip I made to the Land of Israel at the earliest opportunity to visit – in the year 1945 – in order to receive from the handful of survivors from Volkovysk that had arrived in the Holy Land, authentic information and details concerning the fate of the Jewish population of Volkovysk in general, and about my family in particular. The news that I received [at that time] gave me my first overview of the course of those tragic events in Volkovysk – and shook me to the depths of my heart.

After returning to New York, I decided to memorialize what had been destroyed and of which there remained no trace, in the form of an appropriate book, [to be called] The Community of Volkovysk. But apart from the little bit of information that I had gotten on my trip to Israel, I had no material – no literary or historical background, and no pictures – which would be necessary to construct a living portrait of the old home city. I therefore got in touch with Volkovysker organizations and specific individuals around the world – Argentina, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Israel, Mexico, England, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Poland, etc. – who at my request, supplied me with authentic materials: recollections, historical writings, portraits, diaries, pictures, editions of the periodical “Volkovysker Leben,” etc.

I was greatly inspired by the heartfelt response that I received from our landsleit in all corners of the world. Every Volkovysker exerted himself to assist me in the attaining the important goal that I had set out for myself: whether it was those who sent in material, or those who provided new addresses of Volkovysker landsleit who might have been in possession of [additional] important material.

Apart from this I personally arranged, in New York and other American cities, meetings and interviews with many Volkovysker landsleit, and recorded a variety of episodes, facts, and the names of personalities and the active people in Volkovysk, lists of public servants, and the various political, community, cultural and social organizations, and the clubs in our beloved home town. A separate difficult task was to identify the names of the people in the group photographs that were sent to me. It was also necessary to review, organize and edit all the materials that were gathered. However, in general, the “Volkovysk Yizkor-Book” is a collective creation of our Volkovysk landsleit the world over.

Since Volkovysk [also] served as a cultural, economic, and community center for many small shtetlach in its vicinity, who also shared in its tragic and bitter fate, I found it necessary to create a special section in the book dedicated to several of these little towns, for whom it happened that I received authentic information about their way of life and tragic end. We know that, not only those landsleit from these towns, but also our Volkovysker
landsleit – who had strong ties to these surrounding towns, and had many relatives, friends and acquaintances there – are also deeply interested in knowing the details of the fate of these neighboring towns.

The portrait of the sorrowful events in Volkovysk takes up over four hundred fifty pages of the book, and gives an authentic overview of everything that happened in Volkovysk, beginning in the summer of 1939 until the frightening end.

Of separate greater meaning is the authentic account, which is presented in the book, regarding the fate of all the Jews of Volkovysk, families and individuals – organized by the street on which they lived. This account gives every Jew from Volkovysk the opportunity to precisely know not only the fate of his own family members, but of practically all the Jews of Volkovysk. Such an accounting is a rarity in the Holocaust literature of recent years. This accounting was put together by our dear and dedicated landsman, Yitzhak Tchopper, who was born in Volkovysk, and who lived there his entire life. He went through all of the suffering of our home town, and is one of the [very] few natives of Volkovysk to have survived the calamitous destruction.

The book also has an English Section in which a summarized overview of Volkovysk is given, its way of life, with a candid exposition of the tragic events in Volkovysk until it went under. This is done in order that those young, who are descended from Volkovysker antecedents, but lack a command of Yiddish, [also] have the possibility to acquaint themselves with the home town of their forbears.

The book contains nearly three hundred pictures, in which life all over the city [is portrayed] – almost all of the streets of Volkovysk, buildings of Volkovysk, organizations and institutions, [political] parties and schools – so much so, that anyone from Volkovysk will be able to find the house in which he was born, and many faces of those people nearest and dearest to him.

I cannot here set down the names of all those who helped me in putting this book together, because it would take up too much room. The number of such people is very large. Hundreds of Volkovysker landsleit from all parts of the world, did their share of this labor. Here, I send all of them my most sincere thanks for their cooperation and assistance in the creation of this “Yizkor-Book.”

Despite the fact that the Volkovysk Yizkor-Book is local in character, it nevertheless also reflects, in great measure, the life and times of hundreds of Eastern European cities and towns of the last two generations. In almost every Jewish community in Eastern Europe, there existed, or arose similar organizations, institutions and schools, to those that were found in Volkovysk. Therefore, the “Volkovysk Yizkor-Book” is of great interest to the general Jewish reading public, and for every Jew seeking to obtain an increased familiarity with the genuine Jewish way of life [in that area]. Also, the concerned Jewish Historian will be able to draw important material for his/her research concerning Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

I wish here especially to express my heartfelt thanks and recognition to the following people who were faithful to me in the preparation, review, assembly and editing of the “Volkovysker Yizkor Book.” Chaim Weiner – Well-known Hebrew-Yiddish writer, and Charles H. Cohen – Well-known English-Yiddish publicist. I also wish here to extend my congratulations to the talented artist, Nota Kozlowski for his fine illustrations throughout the book.

 

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