by Ya'akov Lieberman
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
My father, may his memory be blessed, R' Eliezer Yosef Lieberman, was a Husiatyn Hassid. A righteous man, loved by people and loving people, learned, scholar and observant of every commandment, minor or major. He devoted every available time to the Torah and to studying religious books.
Following World War I, any time the Husiatyn Rabbi would come from Vienna to visit his Hasidim in Galicia, my father would abandon all of his business affairs and would travel to see the Rabbi, usually to the city of Lvov. He would also put a lot of effort in convincing his older sons to accompany him. His sorrow was enormous when he succeeded to put in only one son, our brother Meir under the care of the Rabbi. My father and brother's trust in the Rabbi was absolute. It did not lessen even a bit, when the Rabbi's advice failed short of solving a problem, and there is a story about that and this is how it goes: When my brother Meir came of age, he was obliged to report for a medical check-up by the army. My father asked the Rabbi for a good advice about how to save his son from eating non-Kosher food, desecrating the Sabbath and other sins, unavoidable while serving in the army. The Rabbi hinted that Meir should steal the border and arrive in Vienna, where he would study in a Yeshiva until the danger would pass. However, my brother was captured at the Czech-Polish border, and after some jail time he was brought over to Brody and was released on bail until the scheduled medical checks held in Kamionka Strumilowa [a city in Lvov province. MK]. My father exchanged letters with the Rabbi again, but following the new advice and bribery extended to the members of the committee and its physicians, my brother was found fit to serve in the army. The postponement of his enlistment was due to the bribe paid annually, an event that lasted a few years. However, the trust of my father and brothers in the Rabbi did not wane.
My father's first priority was raising his sons according to the ways of the Torah, to keep the commandments, carry out good deeds, be honest and tell the truth. Nothing angered him more than hearing a lie. In addition to the secular education bestowed on his children as part of the compulsory elementary school education, my father made sure to supplement our secular knowledge by private teaching. In educating his sons, the emphasis was mainly placed on the religious education. He would wake up his older sons who helped him in his business, to go to the Kloiz and study Gemara for several hours in the morning. The same duty was imposed upon them in the evening. We were taught by R' Avraham-Menakhem-Mendel-Halevi-Shteinberg. My father would hold weekly exams for his sons about their studies in the Kloiz and the studies with the Rabbi during the week. My father was not fortunate to enjoy this privilege later in life, because the two younger sons separated from his pious ways before they reached the age in which they could study in the Kloiz. My father was tired of his effort to ensure that his sons would follow his ways, due to the examples set by his older sons and due to the diffusion of the new ways into almost every Hasidic house in the city.
My father was totally against high school. His sons had to acquire general education secretly if they wished to do so, and compliment their education after they left his home. The same was true about learning Hebrew to be able to converse and read its literature. The fact that his descendants strayed away from the road he sketched for them was a source of deep indescribable sorrow for him. Except for our brother Meir, he resented the way of life his other sons carved for themselves.
I recall his answer to one of his sons, who tried to calm him down after he became aware of the fact that my sister Miriam was caught by the Zionist bug. He responded: The Rabbi says that in a wedding the shkotzim run ahead of the procession (paraphrasing the Zionists who wish immigrate to Eretz Israel before the arrival of the Messiah). When he was notified that one of his sons speaks Hebrew in public and was active in a Zionist youth movement he remarked - It would be better if he would convert rather than follow Jeroboam ben Nevat.
I recall the events of one Thursday night when I came back home following a lesson with the city's Rabbi. I was surprised to see my mother baking, and my father wrapping and packaging of challahs in papers and piling them up on the table. When I asked for the meaning of this busy activity, my mother, may her memory be blessed, whispered in my ear, sighting: You do not know how deep the distress among our people, and how many are the needy these arduous days. A few minutes later, my father asked me to help him in his charity duty. He loaded a sack on my shoulder, shouldered a sack himself, twice as big, and we went out. After a short distance, he unloaded the sack off my shoulder, took out several packages and ordered me to stay put and guard the two sacks until he would come back. He disappeared in the darkness of an alley and came back empty-handed, a short while later. We shouldered the sacks again and continued to walk. These stops repeated until my sack was emptied out. This is when my father ordered me to return home and he continued on his way. Before parting ways, he asked me if I want to wake up later than usual to go to the Kloiz. I did not answer him, and he apparently decided to try me and wait until I woke up by myself. As I was always an enthusiastic morning-sleeper, I woke up quite late, almost late for the regular Morning Prayer. My father left a message for me with Mother, that I should not be in a hurry to come to help him after the prayer that day if the prayer would end late, and use the time to buy myself some cakes from the caretaker and stay at the Kloiz to finish the daily Talmud page.
When I came back home the day after our night strollig, I thought that my mother would be more open-hearted when my father was out, and reveal who were the needy people we visited. I was wrong. She replied - There are only a few grown-ups who know how to keep their mouth shut, and more so the teens. If one does not know he is not obligated to be tried not to reveal the secret.
My mother passed away in year 5686 (1925/6) when she was only forty-five years old. She was a very gentle woman, modest, charitable and good-hearted. She was an exemplary housewife and mother. A person from the town who hid with my father, in the same house, for a short while told me that my father was murdered on Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement. MK] in Toporov. During that holy day, it was impossible to stop my pious father from going out to synagogue and pray in public.
Just prior to the Holocaust, after the Husiatyn Rabbi settled in Eretz Israel, signs of his willingness to emigrate began to emerge in his letters, but the Holocaust put an end to his wishes.
by Berta Kalenberg (Margulies)
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
Strange and weird things occur during one's life. However, most of these occurrences are being forgotten quickly and they disappear from one's memory as if they never happened. On the other hand, there are things, which are etched in one's memory forever. Here I am in Brody at home, many years ago and the day is Friday. As usual, that was a day packed and filled with work and a hard day for me.
My mother went to the store and the burden was left on my shoulders. My father went to the synagogue and has not returned as of yet. I had to arrange everything in the house, dress up the little children and watch over the baking in the oven until he returned. The wonderful smell coming from the oven is indescribable. Here comes the time for taking the round and brown challahs and the black bread out of the oven. The taste of the bread is like the taste of heaven! After that, I had to store all of these foods in the cabinets, before my little students arrive. Only then, time has come to take care of myself, as I am a human too. After all of the running around and these activities, I deserved a little bit of care for myself. I had to wash my long hair in a large bowl. Even there, there was a waiting line, as eight heads were also waiting to be taken care of, one after the other and we had to hurry up before the Sabbath.
And then, the clock rang twelve and my students arrived Shimon, Frida, Yehoshua Leshnover, Khana Meizelsh and some other children from the first, second and third grades of the elementary school. They are glad and happy to come to my house, firstly because the warm and tasty cakes were delicious to their palate. Secondly, they come to me to learn how to read and write, so that they would be prepared for Sunday. I could not possibly visit them at their homes on Friday as the day was so short and the task was great.
The house is bursting with action. One student learns a song by heart; the other is having trouble with a solution to an arithmetic problem. I am running from one child to another and helping everybody. These were all good students and their grades were good and even excellent. However, their parents insisted that their grades should be all exceptional and this is why I had to invest a lot of effort in helping them. My monthly wage was between eight to ten golden coins per child [Zloty is golden in Polish and also a unit of money. MK]. I did not actually receive real money, but every child's family helped in supporting my large family. My mother received meat for the Sabbath from the butcher, who was the father of one student. In another store, she received shoes, and yet in another store she received fabrics for the holidays. We received every commodity our family needed in lieu of money.
After the students have left, the house is quieter. My parents and my sisters are preparing to welcome the Holy Sabbath. My mother spreads a pure white tablecloth over the table, lights the candles, and recites the blessing. She looks at each child to make sure that every detail of him or her clothing is in order.
I request to hurry up and finish the food, as I must hurry to the Gordonia youth movement in which I am member. However, here comes the opposition. My father, may his memory be blessed, opposed my way of life. He was pious and God-fearing and decided to protect me with all his might.
With the help of my brother, I managed to sneak out of the house and arrive at the club. However, when I arrived at the community house, my father caught me, and in front of everybody, hit me, and demanded that I come back home. My situation was very sorrowful.
I would never forget that night. I did not go to sleep at home. I went to sleep at my friend's Pnina Teketch. My mother was looking for me among my friends. In her hands, she held a small jug full of cocoa for me. She found me in the yard.
Tears streamed down of both of our eyes. However, I was confident of my feeling and the goal I had chosen. I did not return home. I decided to make Aliya to Eretz Israel. This was thirty years ago. That Friday would never be wiped out of my memory.
by Eliezer Tolmetz
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
I arrived in Eretz Israel in 1935 and reside today in Tel-Aviv with my wife Rachel. My daughter Edith, her husband Eli and children Asaf, Yuval and Gali reside in Haifa. My son Rami resides in Jerusalem.
My father, Avraham Landau, perished in Brody during the Holocaust. My mother Gitl, nee Tenenbaum, passed away in Brody before the war. My brothers Yanka'le and Zinda'le perished in the Holocaust.
My paternal grandfather, Yisrael Landau, passed away in Brody during the Russian rule.Additional relatives whom I recall:
My paternal grandmother Sheinda'le passed away before the war.
My maternal grandfather, Shalom Tenenbaum perished in the Holocaust.
My maternal grandmother, Reiza'le Tenenbaum passed away before the war.
My mother Gita'le passed away before the war
My maternal uncle, Avraham Tenenbaum and his wife perished in Brody during the Holocaust. My other maternal uncle Nakhman Tenenbaum arrived in Eretz Israel as a pioneer in 1925, passed away in Haifa in 1958. His wife Dora, their daughter Ra'aya Ilan and their son Yaakov Tene reside today in Jerusalem.
The children of my grandfather Shalom Tenenbaum's sister:
Munyo Pelver, arrived in Eretz Israel from Shanghai, after the World War, and passed away in Tel-Aviv. Khana Rot made Aliya to Eretz Israel in the 1920's and passed away in Tel-Aviv. Rozya Knopf, her husband and their children Milek, Gita'le and Kobush perished in the Holocaust. Liza Grinfeld, her husband and their children Dzhonek and Lusya perished in the Holocaust.
by Leah Shduel
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Rafael Manory
We were four generations of Brody natives in the Landau family: Grandmother, Father, us the children and the grandchildren. We were eight children in the house.
Grandmother Khaya Landau was the sister of Reiza'le Weintraub of Brody. She passed away many years ago.After the end of Second World War, when the war refugees started to show up in Eretz Israel, I was told by one of the family friends that my family were still alive, hidden in a bunker owned by a Christian family. A day or two before the end of the war, a Jewish youth from Brody showed the German Gestapo their hideout. This was their end.
My father passed away from grief during the Russian rule in our city.
My mother Sheinda'le passed away many years ago from a disease.
My eldest brother, Avraham Landau, his wife, nee Friedman from Busk, and their sons Yanka'le and Zinda'le were annihilated by the Germans.
Avraham's eldest son, Leizer Landau, from Avraham's first wife Gitla Tenenbaum, lives in Israel since 1935. His name today is Eliezer Tolmetz.
My brother Leib Landau, his wife Rachel, daughter of Undik Kamionka Strumiłowa, and their two childrenYosa'le and Sheinda'le were annihilated by the Germans.
My sister Keila, her husband Natan Katz and their daughter Sheinda'le became Hitler's victims.
My sister Pearl, her husband Leib Raht and their daughter Sheinda'le were murdered by the Germans.
My sister Ester passed away before the war.
My brother Milek Landau, his wife and their two daughters were murdered by the Germans.
My sister, Tzviya Landau, who was single, was annihilated by the Germans.
I, Lei'che Landau, the youngest daughterran away from home, against my entire family's will. I arrived in Eretz Israel, as a pioneer and a member of the youth movement Bnei Akiva. I was initially a member of Kvutzat Avraham, and later on a member of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion until 1948. I returned to Gush Etzion when it was liberated by our soldiers in the Six-Day War.
I never found out who was that Jewish traitor.
by Lola Rotenberg-Buchan
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Rafael Manory
To evoke the memory of our city Brody, my relatives and my dear ones, of whom I dream about endlessly, I have to go back to the roots of our family, a modest and ill-fated family that was also noble and cultural.
Firstly, I recall my father, Zigmond [Zygmunt in Polish. MK], son of Yekhezkel Rotenberg, who was born in Kolomea (today Kolomyia, Ukraine-RM) in 1869. His mother Betty, was the daughter of Khayim Khayut, the son of a famed family in Brody who were the descendants of the Provence Hassids (Rabbi Tzvi Peretz the son of Shlomo Khayut, 18761926, came from the same family). My father's mother became a widow one year after the birth of her son, my father Zigmond. Despite the fact that she was still a young and beautiful woman, she did not remarry, because she wanted to devote her entire life to raising and educating her only son. With great difficulty, she sent her son to the Jewish school and to the high school in Brody, from which my father graduated in 1886 at the age of 17. He then began to work at the pharmacy owned by Mr. Kulak. From then on, my father specialized in pharmaceutical science. In 1889, he enrolled at Lvov University, and obtained his diploma in pharmaceutical science in 1892.
In 1893, he returned to Brody and worked in a pharmacy. Later on, he completed a year of compulsory service in the Austrian military while working at the same time, in pharmacies in the cities of Burshtyn (or Bursztyn-RM) and Ternopol [today Ternopil, Ukraine. MK]
In 1896, my father bought himself a pharmacy in the adjacent town of Olesko, and this was where he started his Jewish public service. He established a school named after Baron Hirsch, and took care of its growth. In 1911, he left Olesko, returned to Brody and opened his own pharmacy named Under G-d's Care. Initially the pharmacy was located on ground floor of Hotel Europa, in the corner of Lvov Street (Lemberger Gas, also called Mickiewicz St. during the Polish rule). Later on, he moved the pharmacy to the corner of Third of May and Farna (or Koscielna) streets, across from the Roikovka municipal park. The place on the lower floor of Hotel Europa was acquired by the restaurant of Mr. Zorne, a member of a famed family in Brody, from which only one Brody native survivedYitzkahk Zohar (Zorne) who now lives in Ramat Gan, Israel.
And so, there were four pharmacies in Brody: the one of Zigmond Rotenberg, the one owned by Mr. Sentcher, another one owned by Mr. Kalmus on Rynek B St. [Rynek means city square in Polish-MK] and the one owned by Leon Kalir on Rynek D St.
According to government regulations, Father had to leave the pharmacy open on holidays and Sabbaths (except during the Days of Awe of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). He did keep the Jewish tradition, but nevertheless he was an intellectual and a progressive man and married a woman who was worthy of him and he of her. His wifeSidonia, was the daughter of Stefanie (Fannie), the niece of the famed R' Yehoshua Schorr and great-granddaughter of R' Yekhezkel Landau (17141793) who was Av Beit Din in Brody, one of the scholars of Brody, Chief Rabbi of Prague and author of the renowned book Noda B'Yehuda [Known among the Jews-MK]. Sidonia's father was
Dr. Henrik Leiblinger, Brody's municipal physician, who died at the age of 51 after contracting typhus from a patient under his care.
My mother, Sidonia, received Jewish, as well as general-secular education at her parents' home and was highly educated. She played the piano beautifully and participated as a concert pianist in concerts held at the Music Association. She wrote beautiful stories and poems in the languages she was proficient inmainly Polish and German. In addition, she translated the book Quo Vadis' by Henryk Sienkiewicz, laureate of the Nobel Prize in literature, from Polish to German, and also started to translate the book Pharaoh by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus. However, her premature death cut her work short. She passed away at the age of 32.
My parents, who were both single children in their respective families, wanted to establish a large family, and indeed, they had five children: Paula, the wife of Henryk Muschisker, me, Henyu, Stefan and Zigfrid, who carried the name of his mother. She died just two weeks after he was born. His name Zigfrid comes from her name Sidonya-Zisya.
Father, who had to take care of five children, married again with Ernestina Rozwald (who worked in the pharmacy). A daughter was born to them. She is my little sister Mira (Lusya). His second wife did not live long either and passed away prematurely (she was 49 when she died). Mira sacrificed her life for Father; she could have been saved with her relatives, who survived the war. However, she chose to stay with Father.
by Pnina Hertzberg Lansky
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Rafael Manory
My parents, David and Tova and my brothers and sisters, of blessed memory, were born in Berestetchko near Brody. We lived and grew up in Berestetchko, until my father decided in 1922, because of his businesses, to move to Brody. In Brody, we resided on Kalir Street. At that time, my father was a crops trader and our situation was good. My parents were Zionists from their early youth years. The Hebrew language was close to their hearts, and they educated us according to that tradition. We attended the Tarbut [Culture. MK] school and talked Hebrew amongst ourselves. Already in our childhood we belonged to Zionist organizations. My brothers Arie and Benyamin were members of Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzair, my sister Khana was a member of Ha'Khalutz [The Pioneer. MK]. My younger sister Brandil was a student at the Jewish school in Brody and I was a member on Gordonia. We were all devoted to public service and worked for the Keren Kayemet Le'Israel (KKL), acted in Ezra [Help. MK] and helped pioneers to make Aliya to Eretz Israel. We also participated in all sorts of activities for the organization Eretz Israel Ha'Ovedet.
Our house was always filled with friends who came to consult and organize the work among the youth. A Zionist and pioneering atmosphere reigned in the house. I also recall pictures of Herzl, A. D. Gordon and Trumpeldor, as well as the blue money-box, decorating the walls of our house. My brother Arie was one of the first youths to attend Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzair and I was one of the founders of Gordonia's branch in Brody. We built an exemplary branch together with my friend Yitzkhak Ettinger and Yosef Leiner. We gathered tens of the city's youths and taught them Zionism, Hebrew and scouting, and prepared them towards being the builders of Eretz Israel in the future.
Our center was in the hall of the famed community center on Goldhaber Street, where the library was located. This is where most of the Zionist youth branches, such as Ha'Shomer Hatzir, Ha'Khalutz and Akhva were concentrated. Also concentrated there were the centers of the Ha'Hitakhdut party and the Zionist institutions like Ertez Israel Ha'Ovedet , Ezra and KKL.
My family members contributed significantly to the activities of these organizations. We were all among the leaders of the Jewish youth, and we all had one single aspiration. At the same time, I participated in a Hakhshara camp and made Aliya to Ertez Israel. I was a member of a kibbutz from the first day. The other members of my family prepared to make Aliya to Eretz Israel as well. However, the gates at Palestine were locked and they did not manage to immigrate. That is when the bitter fate came and put an end to everything. Second World War broke, the Nazi oppressor captured Poland and the western part of the Soviet Union, which included our city of Brody. All the members of my family were transferred to the ghetto, and when the day came, they were all murdered among the six million of our people. Since then, I remained alone, and my heart weeps bitterly about the terrible loss.
May their memory be forever bound in the bundle of the living.
by Hadassah Esther Nathan (Weiss)
Translated by Moshe Kutten
My memories reach my childhood days. My home will always be engraved in my memory as a Zionist home, in which the love for the Jewish people bordered with zealotry. I do not recall the age when I started to speak Hebrew, but I found a picture of me at the age of two years in my grandmother's house in Haifa with the following words written on its back side: Hadassah, is two years old, speaking Hebrew and knows already many words, such as bread, home, dog, mosquito etc.
My school's first Hebrew writing teacher was Mr. Lerner, who, at that time, managed the public library in the Community House. My knowledge of Hebrew was farther enriched at home by Mrs. Shoshana Weiser. Mr. Likhtman who came from Berstechko replaced her, after she made Aliya to Eretz Israel. He was a self-taught, shy bachelor and a brilliant scholar of the Hebrew language. I studied in the Jewish school, in which the teaching language was Polish, until the fifth grade. However, there were some scheduled lessons taught in Hebrew. From the first grade, I was taught by some of the senior teachers, among them Mr. Nakhum Okser, who later on managed a Jewish orphanage until his death. The orphanage was destroyed during the Holocaust, his head and all of his students were slaughtered. The image of the dedicated teacher Okser reminds me the image of Janusz Korczak.
The first principal of the Jewish school was Mr. Ashkenazi, an assimilated Jew who did not have a strong connection to Jews or Judaism. Mr. Muschisker, who portrayed a much more ethnic and Jewish image, replaced him later on. As a teacher, he was an exceptional educator, but also strict. His wife was my home-room teacher for five years. Not many Jewish children were fortunate to have such a famed educator as a teacher. She was a very enlightened woman who bestowed a broad life foundation onto her students - rich and poor alike. She taught us to understand not only what is written in books, but also everything around us. I would never forget the pleasant craft lessons during which, while we worked she read us stories from the children magazine Plomik. She would later lend us the magazine to take home, with clear instructions to strictly guard and preserve the shape of the booklet.
I was also taught Hebrew in school by a young teacher by the name of Kahana. She made Aliya to Eretz Israel a short while later. Her emigration affected me greatly. I recall the day of her departure when I sang the Ha'Tikva' so enthusiastically, that several teachers made an observation about that to me.
One of the delightful things in our school was the children chorus under the conduction of teacher Harnik, who also managed a symphony orchestra in Brody called Ha'Zamir [The Nightingale], which was the only one of its kind in our city. At the sounds of another orchestra, a military one of wind instruments,
we used to march in parades celebrating the national holidays of Poland. The Jewish school gave us the ability to sense the social Jewish autonomy, taught a little Hebrew and religion, but educated us to be loyal citizens of the Polish government.
One of the events that were important to me at school at that time, was the visit of an author from Eretz Israel by the name of Moshe Stavsky who wrote children stories. Our school would organize celebrations and parties, such as a Hannukah party, but these did not leave any special memories. On the other hand, I actively participated in similar celebrations in the Community House, organized and executed under the guidance of my father. I will never forget how I recited the poem Ken Latzipor [The Bird's Nest. MK] by the poet Khayim Nakhman Bialik, in the yard of the Community House. I was only seven years old at the time.
Another lively image in that house was Mrs. Weiler, whose endless vigor had a major effect and contributed to the success of the parties.
Since I remember myself, my father always served as the chairman of something. He was the chairman of the Keren Kayemet Le'Israel, Hit'akhdut Poalei Tzion or the Community House (which was used by all Zionist movements, and where all Zionist activities were concentrated).
A big Zionist event in our city, where my father almost always played a major role, was the 21 of Tammuz the memorial day for Herzl and Bialik. On that day, almost every year, my father would give a speech in the Big Synagogue, during a festive gathering, in their honor and memory. Jewish youths would go around the city holding the Blue Money-Box of the Keren Kayemet Le'Israel.
A great joy always swept the city on Purim. The needy people were especially joyful. They would dress up in costumes, sing and dance and collect pocket money. Activists of the Keren Kayemet Le'Israel took advantage of that day to collect contributions.
Mr. David Hamerman and Mrs. Adela Weiler assisted Father in all Zionist activities. My father often neglected his business and professional occupation for these activities.
There was a pioneering Hakhshara in our city, whose members lived a life of poverty, because they did not have adequate employment (they cut trees in the winter and worked in small industries in the summer). My father used to look for work and employment for them and served as their patron. I recall that sadly most of the rich industrialists employed them unwillingly.
The local radical religious people exhibited strong resistance to Zionism, but the youths among them were slowly waking up to Zionism and some joined the Mizrakhi ranks.
The inability of finding employment pushed the Jewish youth toward the Zionist movement, as they found in it solutions for their problems. Many of those who eventually perished in the Holocaust, waited for their turn of making Aliya to Eretz Israel, and progressing on that waiting line was not very easy. These were wonderful young people, who came mostly from low income homes. Intelligent, mostly self-educated, they conducted a cultural life in the evenings at the branches of the Zionist movements, often on an empty stomach. The youths who attended high schools participated less in this activity, but the counselors in the Zionist groups came from among their ranks. I recall the movements of Ha'Shomer Ha'Tzair and Gordonia as centers of vibrant youth with a strong ideological foundation.
Academic youth concentrated around the movement of Academian Akhva [Academic Brotherhood. MK] called later Young Akhva [Young Brotherhood. MK] whose objective was to attract Jewish college students and bring them to closer to the Zionist movement.
One of the important events in our city, which left its mark on the entire area, were the elections to the Polish Sejm. The Zionist movement was interested in the success of a Zionist candidate, such as Dr. Heller from Lvov. The Zionist conducted a vigorous campaign in our city, and they even banded with the Ukrainian minority in order to achieve majority. Our house hummed like a hive during the day of the election.
My father, who was a physician, dealt also with linguistics and wrote poems. He knew many languages including Arabic. I remember the impression and amazement of Mr. Naftali Ziegel, a famed publisher from Lvov, who visited our city as a delegate of the Zionist movement, when he noticed my father's scholarship.
My father was a warm-hearted Jew, crazy about Zionism, a bit nervous but good-hearted. He would often take me, during the Sabbath morning round, to visit the sick among the poor. We would distribute all sorts of pastries and sweets among them. He also forced me to bring one of my poor Jewish school classmate friends home for lunch daily.
The holiday of Hanukkah was a big celebration in our house. I always had a big Hanukkah menorah, which my father weaved with his own hands from willow branches. I used to invite my girlfriends, even Christian ones to the lighting of the candles. Under the lights of the candles, my father told everybody stories about the Israelites' heroism. Father authored a specially decorated booklet for each of the Jewish holidays (I kept one of the booklets - the one about Hanukkah, with me until today as a memorial). In all of these booklets, my father emphasized the connection between religion and nationality.
Another important holiday in our house was the holiday of Passover - the holiday of the liberation from slavery. We obviously also celebrated the holidays of Lag Ba'Omer and TU Bi'Shvat according to tradition. I also remember feeding the birds on Shabbat Shirah.
Besides Zionism, my father loved nature. He would take me to walks in the forests around our city, trips that lasted an entire day and sometimes in the mornings before the start of the schooldays. On the way, he would buy me raisins and almonds, and tell me about vineyards and citrus orchards so that I would not forget Eretz Israel during these trips.
I do not remember the details, but I recall that every pioneer had to undergo a medical check-up by my father before making Aliyah to Eretz Israel and my father gave them a medical certificate. Many people in Israel possess such a certificate. It goes without saying that he never charged money for the check-up.
Only a few people of Brody's working intellectuals were Zionist activists. I recall two of them Dr. Meles and Dr. Glasberg. Both were lawyers, learned and honest people. Only a very few Jews in our city were fully assimilated.
My father always educated and prepared me towards our Aliya to Eretz Israel. Besides Hebrew, he also taught me Arabic in my youth, since he believed in peace with the Arabs and cooperation with them in the future. He developed in me a strong national pride, which often helped me during the Nazi conquest, when I was among the gentiles.
The period I have described here was full of light and hope compared to the horrible days that followed it.
Those are the Jews I remember: the porters who worked in the market, those with the Feyertopim (fire-caldrons hats) and their burkes [cloaks. MK], the Hasidim with their white socks
and the shtreimels [round fur hats. MK]; I remember all the female and male beggars, all the insane and the mentally ill people who wandered around the streets of our city, also the esteemed home owners, the merchants rich and poor, and the paunchy pharmacy owners as well as the thin ones. I remember the shoemakers, tinsmiths, plumbers, tailors and patch fixers, poultry sellers and butchers, ice-cream sellers with their carts, sellers of Kvasnitza (pickled apples) who carried the ware in their buckets, Jewish cart owners with their carriages, bakers and beigel peddlers.
I remember the houses of the poor, whose windows reached the floor, on Shilgass, Labetgase, Leshniovska Lvovska, Shpitalna and Zlota streets and also in Roikuvka (the municipal park) with the statue of Koz'niovsky and the clock tower. I remember Vali, Leswhniovska and Zamek forest, Stara-Brody with its Maccabi team who played soccer with the gentiles, the train station where people used to ride a carriage to reach it although it was not too far away.
I remember the Jewish physicians, the lawyers and their flaunting dressed up wives, the school children in their uniforms, the Palass [Palace. MK] movie house and my beloved alleys.
When I reminisce about all that good and bad, everything seems like a dream that evaporated and disappeared.
Brody was a Jewish town with all of its plights, but it was a happy town that was destroyed. When I write these words, tears streaming down from my eyes, a sharp pain nips my heart, my lips are trembling, and I ask: should all of that have had to happen?
And here I recall a horrendous scene a religious man - Moishe'le Gliner, standing in our yard after the killing (the Aktsia), lifting his arms toward Heavens and crying: Ribbono Shel Olam [Master of the Universe. MK] you are a robber and a murderer why did you allow all of this to happen?...
and nothing happened after that the sky shone, the birds flew freely, the trees stood erect, and only Moishe'le stood there, straddle-legged, with a hoarse throat, tears streaming down his cheeks, his beard covered by a kerchief , and his arms raised towards heaven
by Tziporah Rom
Translated by Moshe Kutten
Edited by Rafael Manory
My name is Tziporah Rom. I was reborn at the age of eighteen when I made Aliya to Eretz Israel, but my real birthplace was the city of Brody. I was then called Nionia Spodekthe only daughter of Yehuda Spodek and Khana née Steiner.
In 1991, my work brought me to the city of Lvov, and from there, I looked for a way to visit my birthplace of Brody, which I left after the murder of my parents in March 1944.
Anatoly, whom I used to drive me around during the day came at 9 o'clock in the morning. It was raining outside, but the rain stopped when we left Lvov and turned east. The road was in fine condition with no potholes, as this is the main road leading to Kiev. This is the major highway between two large cities, Kiev, the capital East Ukraine and Lvov, the capital of Western Ukraine.
In the beginning of our journey, I do not recognize the names, but things start slowly to become familiar, as if they are being pulled from the depths of a forgotten past. First, a town by the name of Busk and then Olesko, with its large mansion on the top of the hill, which is called, even today, the palace of Olesko. On the opposite hill, the Soviets built a frightening statue depicting galloping horses that seem to jump over the road, in honor of Soviet General Budoni and his soldiers who reached that spot during the First World War.
I remembered the area as very flat, but it turned out to be hilly. We also encountered forests, gloomy colorless villages and crowds of people at every intersection going to Easter Masses.
We approach the intersection of the road leading to Zlochov [Zlochiv-MK] and arrive at the entrance to the city of Brody. A station of the road-traffic police is located at the wide grass-covered intersection at the entrance. There is also a very tall pole containing a sign, which says Brody. At the top of the pole, the year 1084 is indicated as the year when the city was first established. IndeedI was born in a very old city.
We enter the city through Lvovska St. Small one-story houses surrounded by gardens are lining the beginning of the street. This is the neighborhood of Satro-Brody [Old-Brody-MK]. One of the major city streets led from here to the center of town. We continue on Lvovska St. and cross the railroad tracks, the main track that runs from Lvov eastward. There was a relatively large train station in Brody at the time. On the left side, I see an open lot through which the Sokhobolka stream used to cross, but now, there is no stream. Instead, there is sewer canal full of trash. Beyond this open lot, there is a small mound with railroad tracks on it. This is where waiting trains or waiting train cars used to stop. Train cars, full of people who were fleeing Germany, stopped here in June 1940 and were captured by the Soviets and were taken to forced-labor camps in Russia. When these cars stood here in June 1940,
we, the kids, ran to bring the people in the train-cars food and drinks. On the right side of the street, stood the Jewish cemetery, which was very old. Nothing remained of it, and in its place, and in place of the local power station that was adjacent to the cemetery, there is now a wide and spacious soccer field. Here the street should have turned right, but there is no entry for vehicles in that direction and we had to continue straight. We enter through Zyblikiewicz St.; we cross Kolejowa St., i.e., the Train Road, which led to a relatively large and beautiful station that was restored to its original formand here we are, next to the old synagogue of the city. This synagogue was the place of prayer of Rabbi Yisrael Ba'al Shem Tov. The local Ukrainians and the intellectuals of the area consider Ba'al Shem Tov as part of their heritage, and this is the reason they have an interest, at least a declared one, to care for the restoration of this synagogue. The walls of the synagogue are partly ruined, although some of the large Hebrew inscriptions were preserved. There are struts around the building, as if repair works are taking place, but by talking to people I found out that the place looks like that for years and that nobody has been working here for several years. The place attracts foreigners and casual Jewish tourists who come to the city, albite very rarely.
The road ahead should have lead us, through Shpiltana St. to where the ghetto was located, however, we turn right and stop at the center of townat the Rynek (the market), opposite the building of the Central Post Office. A large building called Soukyenitsa (The Shops) once stood on this square, until the Germans' invasion in June 1941. This building was constructed to serve as a mall. It had four sides and the shops were located on the inner side, with a covered walkway between the shops and the street and with beautiful arched openings. This allowed convenient access to the shops o market days even when it rained or snowed outside. Most of the shops were owned by the city Jews who traded in textiles, ready-made clothes and shoes, as well as all sorts of artisans. The fabric store of Moshe Merder's family was there and so was Ira Lessniovera's shop and the shop of my aunt Shulamit née Steiner, whose two daughters Tzila and Dozya now reside in Florida, US. There was also the store of my uncle, Shmil Steiner who perished along with his entire familyhis wife Dinah and his daughters Vitah and Rinya, when one of the Ukrainians handed them over to the Gestapo in order to take over their house and property.
During the invasion, the Germans bombed the city and the Soukyenitsa building suffered a direct hit and burned completely. Frightened and curious we watched the fire, from the house of Zuzya Shekhter that was located across the road from the building. We were children then, and for us, this was more of a peculiar and thrilling type of an event rather than a frightening one. The fear and anxiety developed only later on during the Nazi conquest. Stalls were placed in the open lot following the destruction of the building. After the liberation, the Soviets built a shabby one-story building that was used as a local grocery shop. Several concrete cubes that were meant to serve as pots for plants and flowers, were now full of mud, and only here and there, patches of a fresh spring grass managed to sprout despite the neglect. Several elderly men, who were sitting in one of the corners smoking watched us for a minute, but quickly returned to attend to their own matters, because neither Anatoly's car nor us did not seem to be interesting enough for them.
The Post Office building, is still standing, and like it, the alley and the house behind it, which was once owned by the Merder family and where I played with their younger daughter Rozya. Their entire family perished,
except for the oldest daughter Zushka who now lives in Paris, and her cousins Frida and Regina Lesshiover, who made Aliya as students and settled in Haifa, where they have lived until their death. The next house was owned by the Rotenbergsthe tea sellers. This is the family home of Tushka Latchki, now in Haifa. The two-story house had an inner yard into which I escaped from my piano lessons. My mother thought that a girl from a good home should play the piano, and sent me to a teacher by the name of Lutka Sapir who lived in this house. The lessons were supposed to be held at a certain time but sometimes, the previous lessons would last a bit longer and I won a few minutes of a ball game, instead of piano practice.
We parked the car and started to walk. By now I was very familiar with my surroundings. Everything came back to me, and I could easily find my way around in any direction. We continued to walk toward the corner of what used to be Rynek D St., near the house where my cousin, Shmilek Mikolintzer, worked at a fur shop. Across from us is Zlota St., now called Lenin St., (a name that will probably be changed again). This was a major street, and the most popular destination of anybody who had free time during weekdays. During the Sabbaths, this street was the place for families who wished to walk around, leisurely. All the beautiful stores, with the most modern kinds of merchandise were once located on Zlota St. I recall the store for men's shirts with replaceable collars and Goldinstein's store for women's underwear. Up on the street parallel to Zlota, a street named after Kozheniowski [a Polish author and poet-MK] (Farna St. by the people), there was the large shoe store of the Metches family, from which only one daughter survived the Holocaust. She married a man from Radzivilov and they now live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The second shoe store was owned by the Bukhbinder family. My aunt Frida, the widow of my uncle Kalman, was managing it. Her elderly father used to sit down at the entrance and watch the people passing by.
Tzukra St. crosses Zlota St. exactly in the middle. Tzukra St. leads to Czerkiewna St., where Bertzia Landgewirtz and my cousins Vita and Rernia Steiner once resided. Hotel Bristol, the only hotel in the city, is still standing here in the corner of Zlota St. Its strange shape is entirely unlike any other buildings in the center of the city even though other two-story buildings already stood here, even those, which were built with terraces. My family leased Hotel Bristol when the Soviet arrived in 1939, in order to be able to declare that they are working people rather than merchants. At that time, a merchant could have assumed, with high degree of probability, that he or she would be deported to Siberia. Opposite Hotel Bristol stood the ice-cream store of Black Papka, a place we were always yearning for. When we behaved as we should, our parents, mine and the parents of my friend, Zozia, would invite us to eat Ice cream at Papka's. We would then eat the ice cream elegantly at a table, served on beautiful dishes and spoons and not just like by licking it off a cone that one buys from a mobile stand. There are no such stores in that street now. Instead of Papka's, a residential apartment is standing.
We approach the Roikovkathe central city park. During our childhood, we used to play around its walkways and trees. The Roikovka is where we established friendship bonds that we would remember better than any other social ties that we would tie later throughout our lives. I approach the corner of the park and expect to see the clock tower appearing in front of me, but it is not there anymore. It was probably destroyed. The garden itself seems to have been shrunken and converted into a small garden, with neither form nor comeliness. Even the statue of Yozef Kuzhniowski
a Polish author and poet and Brody nativeis missing. I was told that the Ukrainians took it down and gave it as a gift to the Poles who were expelled from the city. Indeed, the city is now Ukrainian, not Polish, and, G-d forbid, not Jewish like it was until 1939. It is worthwhile to note that there were 22,000 people in Brody then, 18,000 of whom were Jewish and the rest Poles and Ukrainians.
On the left side of the park, stands the Brigade building; this was once one of the most beautiful houses in the city. Built in French style, covered entirely by green marble, the house had a slanted greenish roof, decorated with plaster ornamental moldings and statues positioned above the window ledges. The building still stands, but it lost its grandeurthe roof is rusted, the walls are dirty and the window ledges are broken. Beyond the park stands the Koszarythe Barrackswhere the Germans gathered the last of the Jews before they left the city in the spring of 1944. At the end, the corner house is standing with its front still somewhat protruding into the street. Shevlok's store, where non-Kosher sausages were sold, occupied this house. For us, children, the store was the embodiment of treif [non-Kosher-MK], which was forbidden for us as Jews, as well as repulsive. The house is still there and this store was also converted into an apartment.
I turn right from Zlota St. at the end of the park. Nothing changed in this part of the street. The same houses are standing as they were once, only the people have changed. Greta Shvadron lived in the second house, along with her mother, her little brother, and her grandfather, who was rich once. Her mother used to always sit by the window, move the curtain, lean on a pillow that covered the windowsill and look outside. I look curiously at that window; there are white curtains in the window, the same as then, but there is another family living there now. The Shvadrons were murdered by the Germans. Only Greta survived and she now lives in New York. Adjacent to the Shvadrons' house, a refugees' family from Germany with two sons, Max and Nathan, lived. The boys used to also sit down by the window and look outside at the children who play in the park. We, the girls, used to sneak some glances towards them, because we were intrigued by their language, clothing and behavior. That family was deported to Russia in 1940.
The next house was once a club of the city's merchants intended for prominent and wealthy men, something like a local Rotary club. The club was called the Municipal UnionVita and my father was a member of that club. As women were not allowed inside, our mothers used to walk with us around the park and along Zlota St., until they were fed up with it, and then they would send us inside to call our fathers out from the club to go home. We were very curious to know what they are doing in there, since even we could only reach as far as the checkroom door. This went on until one day, when the Cerberus (the dog that watched the entrance; by dog I mean the gatekeeper who was guarding the gate to hell) was not standing by the door and we managed to get in. We then discover the big secretthe men were sitting around small tables playing cards or playing pool around a large pool table. Some sat down at a bar and chattedwhat a big deal! Now I walked into the yard to look around and find that the place is now an apartment and the yard is filthy. In the house before the near corner lived my friend, Milah Hirt, whose father was a dentist and it was rumored that he had a piece of platinum in his skull. The second floor served as a dental laboratory and we loved to stay there and create figurines from plaster. A big house stands in the corner. This was the public elementary school. The building now serves as a municipal library. This is the corner of Kochanowskigo St.called after the same author whose statue was removed from the park, along with all other signs of
Polish culture. And in the Polish church that stood in the same street, the Ukrainians established a municipal warehouse. The municipal administrationThe Magistratis now occupying a new building, since the old one was destroyed in the war, along with all the documents related to the censuses, and ownership of assets.
Opposite the Polish church, a house stands near the Jewish school, in which the stationary shop of Kutzian was located. It is now a grocery shop almost empty of merchandise. At this Jewish school we learned to think, read and write. We acquired our learning practices and also buds of our worldview. This is where I studied since the first grade, and so did my best friends and cousins. This school was considered the best and the most disciplined school in the city. The best teachers were employed by the school. The principal, during my time was Mr. Muschisker. Here, in the in the yard of this building, whose arched entrance was preserved as I remember it, I spent my most meaningful childhood years. Here I learned how to read. Here I tied social connections, which are still intact today, such as the one with Tushka Klatchki. Here I learned a chapter in the structure of society and its motives through observing the behavior of our teachers and disciplinarian principal, whose treatment of children of low income parents was very stringent. The school building remained the same as it was, however, but it is now divided into individual apartments, and laundry hanged on cloth-lines in the yard. The two-story Shekhters' house with its terrace stills stands in the right corner of the street, but without the wild vine bushes, which climbed on it and covered it with green-reddish leaves.
After circling around the city center, we arrive again at the Rynek. Here we turn right onto what used to be called the Goldhaber St. and is now Ivan Franko St., after a Ukrainian writer. On this street, my grandmother, Mirka-Leah Steiner, lived in a little house at no. 43, and my grandmother Dvora Spudek, my father Yehuda, whose name in Polish was Yulius, but his friends called him Yidle, my mother Khan'tche (Anna in Polish) née Steiner and I lived in the house at no. 74. I was born in that house, and remained the only child to my parents. In summer of 1941, it was very clear that all of the Jews would have to move to the ghetto. This was a horrible threat, and anyone who could tried to escape from that fate. Everybody tried to find a place to hide, to avoid being caged in that frightening and sealed ghetto. My parents looked for such a place for us as well; we had a good chance to find one due to our large circle of acquaintances, and due to the small size of our family, just three souls. Indeed, in the beginning of the fall, a Ukrainian family, who lived in Folwarki Maleh [a village near the Jewish cemetery-MK], was found, who agreed to take us in. The head of that family, Vladek Sidorchuk, and my father designed the hideout together, so that it could stand the foreseen hardships waiting for us. First, it had to hold three people comfortably for an unspecified duration, since the victory over the Germans was not even on the horizon. Second, the place had to be secure and hidden from any curious eyes, particularly those of hostile and envious neighbors, as well as from searches by the local militia and the Germans. Sidorchuk dug a large pit in one of the corners of the wheat barn and converted it into a small compartment. He reinforced it with wood logs, opened a vent and covered it from above with strong and compacted timbers. He spread straw and stubble above the entire structure. The place was quite shallow and enabled us only to lie down or sit down. There was room for three sleeping pads, on which we slept, and on which we sat during the day. One would enter this small compartment only by squeezing through an opening below the rabbit cage that was attached to the barn.
The Ukrainian family took care of handing us water, food and even newspapers. We took a more thorough wash at the family's residence up at their house, every few weeks, after a careful logistic planning and strict security arrangements. Yad VaShem (the central authority for Holocaust commemoration in IsraelRM) recognized the Sidorchuk family members as Righteous among the Nations because of their actions.
My parents were killed during the German retreat in spring of 1944, after spending 16 months in the bunker, when there was already hope that the liberation would arrive. I am staring at the places where our house and the house of my grandmother stood. Instead of houses, there are now two-story apartment buildings, drab and repulsive. I am obviously biased. Was our house more attractive? I cannot remember, and it really does not matter, as so many memories of happiness are associated in my mind with that house.
During my time, Goldhaber St. was lined on both sides with luffa trees; on the right, the trees were all the way to the house of the Mushtzinski, the Pole who owned an excellent bakery and also the first private car in the city. Just in before his house was the turn toward Vali, an artificial mound that was erected as part of the city defenses in past centuries. Trees grew up during the years and the place became a pleasant promenade avenue, and a meeting place for young couples. I see the hill's curves curling from afar, but the trees, most of which were chestnut trees with their elegant white flowers just about ready to bloom, were still standing bare without their leaves. On the left side of Goldhaber St., the linden trees are still standing, beautify trimmed, waiting for the spring and the summer.
In place of the Pompa (the public water pump) and the surrounding houses, there is now a small public park with a statue commemorating the war's fallen. There is not even one Jewish name among the engraved names on the statue. We proceed down the street and discover part of the Kharash familiy's house. When I was a child, I considered it to be big and impressive, but now it looks low and shriveled, as if it has aged and sunk into the ground. We arrive at the Rugatka, the Y-shape intersection of the roads leading to villages around BrodyRadzivlon [Radyvyliv-MK], Leszniov [Leshniv-MK] , and Boldory [Bovdory-MK]. These villages were known to have one or two Jewish families each. We continue to go straight ahead though. On the right side of the road lies what was once the Polish cemetery of the city. The statue of Holy Jan that once stood at the turn to the cemetery is not there now. The walkway and the fence are neglected, and so is the cemetery itself, which was once very well looked after. We are approaching the Jewish Cemetery, which lies on the left side of the road, just at the entrance to Leszniovski Forest. I see the gray gravestones from afar. Large stones crowded together. There are some, which stand upright, and there are those who lean on each other, as if they draw strength from the one another. The stones are impressive in their splendor and even in their neglect. They are crammed together and their rows seem like guarding the past. Most of the gravestones that were made of a simple local stone remained standing, whereas the luxurious ones made of marble, were all stolen from the cemetery. Most of the inscriptions on the gravestones are eroded, however, one can still decipher, here and there, a portion of a name or the year of death. There are quite a few gravestones, standing there for tens and hundreds of years, like soldiers who guard the secret of the greatness of the Jewish community that once thrived in this place, and a community from which nothing was left except this cemetery.
We drove to see the ravine of death, the place that marked the end of the road for many of Brody's Jews who were murdered here. At the beginning of 1941, when the Jews were still unaware of the methods
used by the Nazis, and came to the gathering of the respected people of the community at the invitation of the Germans. It turned out that the gathering was planned so that they would become an easy prey for the Nazis. They were all shot here, in this ravine of death. This is how the Jewish community lost its leaders at once, early in the beginning of the Nazi conquest.
The ravine of death was used again in May 1943 when the ghetto was annihilated. We, my parents and I, sat in the bunker of Sidorchuk family in Plwarky Maleh , at that time, and could clearly hear the roar of the engines of the vehicles that were carrying the victims on their last journey, and then the horrible rattle of the machine guns.
There is no memorial for the victims here. There isn't even a remnant or trace to what happened here, and there are not many witnesses who could testify about these horrors. There are also no people left who would be interested in preserving the memory of this cursed place.
We return to the city through a street that leads back from the east, from the direction of the villages Yazlovtchik [Yazlivchyk-MK], Konyushkov [Konyushkyv-MK], Berlyn and Boldury [Bovdury-MK]. The road leads back towards the place where the flourmill of the Landgvirtz family was located. We pass near the the tartakthe largest lumber mill, within the boundaries of which my father had the warehouses of wheat and beans he traded with. The most beautiful chestnut trees were located there. Located near the tartak was once also a Jewish nursing home. It is obviously not there anymore, however, the house with the verandathe glass-covered terrace, where the local priest used to live, is still standing in the corner of Ogrodnitza St. Even a portion of Landau's big house, in the yard of which the branch of the Ha'Somer Ha'Tzair youth movement used to be, is still standing.
We arrive at the corner of Sloneczna St., turn right onto Kalir St. to get back at the Rynek. New houses were built along Sloneczna St., but Kalir St.remained the same as it once was. It is just sparser as no new houses were built to replace the ones that were destroyed.
It is time to say goodbye to the city and the past. We drove along Lvovska St., going west this time. Down the road, we encounter a religious procession celebrating the end of the Easter holiday. We bypass the procession by going over to the main road. From there over a high hill, I can see the entire city stretching below. I do not fill any longing, sadness, or any other feeling toward this place.
I was born here, and this is where I spent my childhood years. However, this is the place where I lost my parents, my family and my friends. I could not find any emotional tie to this place in myself any longer.
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