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[Pages 291-292]

English Summary at end of Book


About the Book

Kartuz-Breze was a small town on the eastern border of the State of Poland. Till 1920, it had been part of Greater Russia, but between 1920 and 1939 it was ruled by Poland. At the end of World War II it reverted to Russian rule, and today it is part of Belorussia. Thousands of similar towns – some bigger and some smaller – were in that area, as well as in Eastern and Central Europe. It was the concentration camp which the Polish government established there between the two World Wars for her political opponents – mostly Communists – which brought fame to Kartuz-Breze.

Before the Second World War, about 4,500 Jews lived in and around Kartuz-Breze. These were Jews of all kinds: a small number were wealthy, but most were ordinary folk, who struggled day by day and hour by hour – each at the work or vocation which was his fate – to eke out a living.

Kartuz-Breze had all the earmarks of a Jewish town in Eastern Europe: synagogues, a Hassidic "shtibel", a bath house and mikve, an organization dealing with charity and good deeds, and also, of course, beggars, Torah students, pious and charitable people, and many righteous women... to these were added all the accoutrements of modernity and 'Haskala" such as political parties (both Zionist and non-Zionist), youth movements, communal activities, as well as a Yiddish school and even a Hebrew school, "Tarbut".

And nothing is left of all this. It was all laid waste. Everything was destroyed.

In the forest of Bruno-Gora, where the members of the Zionist youth groups used to celebrate Lag B'Omer with bows and arrows, the Germans amassed more than 100,000 Jews from the area – and among these were almost all the Jews of Kartuz-Breze – and there they shot and killed them, men, women and children. Earth, do not conceal their blood!

In Kartuz-Breze there is no sign of the vigorous Jewish life which flourished there. Even in the forest of Bruno-Gora where these Jews perished there is no sign.

Less than a handful of Jews from Kartuz-Breze remained alive. Of these, some came to Israel, and others migrated elsewhere before the Shoah, and there were those few who passed the war years in Europe, mostly in concentration camps (among these were partisans and soldiers of the Red Army). All the rest are no longer.

So it was decided: we would memorialize our town, and commemorate the lives of our parents, our brothers and sisters, and our friends who were killed; that we would publish their names, as well as something of what we remember from the life there, of what we saw there: the people, our own life experiences, and some of the history of the Jewish community in Kartuz-Breze in general.

We approached this hallowed work with trepidation; two editorial committees, one larger and one smaller, spare no efforts on this labor of love:

Enlarged Committee:

1. Zipporah Brenner, decd.
2. Moshe Bernstein
3. Simha Nosatsky, decd.
4. Baruch Fisher
5. Noah Paniel
6. Penioa Rabb

Abridged Committee:

7. Moshe Tuchman
8. Shmuel Tinari
9. Chaim Ben Israel, co-ordinator

The material in this book was taken from encyclopedias and Memorial Volumes, from books published by survivors of neighboring towns, from a book published in Yiddish by survivors of Kartuz-Breze in Argentina, and especially from the essays and personal memorandum writen by the people of Kartuz-Breze in Israel.

We ask that the reader be mindful of the fact that personal memories are by their very nature subjective, as they describe the writer's personal impression, and it may well be that others see the same things differently. Therefore small variations between versions are inevitable.

I would like to express my gratitude both to the former residents of Kartuz-Breze and their children, in and outside of Israel, who contributed the fund that made this book possible, and to those who were kind enough to write, despite all the difficulties involved. I particularly wish to thank Mr. Ephraim Even, former chariman of the Zionist General Council, who edited this book.

We present the fruit of our labor – the book of Kartuz-Breze – to the reader. May this book serve as a candle light in the memory of the community of pure and holy Jews who lived in Kartuz-Breze and as a command of the highest order to our sons, grandsons, great-grandsons and to all our generations to strengthen the state of Israel and to fortify it that the Jewish people will never again know a Shoah.

Chaim Ben Israel
Chairman, Organizations of survivors of Kartuz-Breze
Co-Ordinating Editor
Tel-Aviv, July 1993
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