[English page 11*] [Hebrew page 1]
Retyped by Genia Hollander
The flow of books dedicated to the memory of the Jewish communities obliterated in the Holocaust during World War II which began essentially in the nightmarish days when the mournful news started to reach the free world did not abate but grew stronger in the fifties and sixties of our century. And even today, nearly half a century after the War's end, the urgent desire of the survivors of those communities to erect a Yad Vashem (a memorial) to the martyred victims annihilated by the Nazi foe, may his name and memory be blotted out, has neither ceased nor weakened.
Actually gravestones cannot be erected on the mass fraternal graves thousands of kilometres from the State of Israel where the few survivors have basically concentrated. In most of the European Jewish communities, even the graveyards and their tombstones have disappeared, nor is there even place to erect a memorial for, in most instances, construction occurred at the Jewish cemetery sites streets were widened, homes were built or public gardens were planted.
After the war, a few of the brands plucked from the fire gathered in some of the Jewish towns, emerging from the camps and places of hiding refugees returning from the former Soviet Union and released prisoners-of-war. And they remained there until they fenced in the cemeteries and raised up the tombstone fragments the memorial stones. But after this holy work was done, the last remnants of the communities left where they had lived and scattered throughout the world. One may assume that these tombstones too, will not long survive, for who will guarantee us that these cemetery areas will not be used for additional construction needs. For, after all, these places no longer have Jewish communal bodies to worry about their maintenance.
Attempts were made after the war to erect memorial monuments not necessarily where the bodies or their ashes were interred. Gravestones were also put up for individual Jews cremated at Treblinka. Stone monuments for entire communities were set up in Israel and outside it by organizations of cooperating people who came from those communities. Our community's survivors in Israel as well have erected, in the cemetery near Holon, a memorial gravestone to the martyrs of Brody; it was consecrated on 19th Iyyar 5747 (1987).
However, this way of commemorating the communities has not been the sole answer; and the publication of memorial volumes dedicated to select communities that are no longer has become a more common phenomenon. It seems that symbols, stones, memorials and joint memorial monuments were an inadequate answer for the aching hearts, the burden-laden memories and the grief. The physically and emotionally stricken hearts sought relief by reducing to writing their oppressing thoughts, their impressions and their dark memories, and this outpouring of the soul brings a modicum of relief.
Therefore, among the remaining few, the new style has spread of perpetuating in writing the memory of the communities the cities, the towns and their surroundings that were destroyed during the German conquest. The surviving members of the communities have organized. They are continuing the existence of the communities as it were through a world of memories. It may be that this characteristic of people up in years, and the remaining few are such today. And they so long to return to their memories and find relief in writing memorial books that, occasionally, after an organization has published a memorial volume, it develops the desire to go further, to issue an additional volume, just so the thread of memories of days past not be torn, that the heart's ties to the holy and pure who were murdered by bestial human beings no be sundered.
These activities of perpetuation that have become a movement among the organizations of survivors of the destroyed communities have also revealed a variety of concomitant phenomena. It happens not infrequently that perpetuation activists voice their opinions loudly and try to influence without themselves being involved in the actual doing. On the other hand, there are in the Landsmanshaftn individuals devoted with all their might and energy to realizing the idea of perpetuating the memory of their community and its martyrs and do not turn the publication into an instrumentality for private gain. We are fortunate that we, too, among our Brody brethren, have such an extraordinary person about whose like Maimonides wrote: were it not for the obsessed, the world would remain desolate. The reference is to Joseph Parvari-Leiner, of blessed memory. He conceived the idea of perpetuating the community of Brody even before the guns of World War II were silenced, when the first bitter news began to arrive about the total destruction of the Jews of Europe. He dreamed of a monument that would withstand the ravages of time, a memorial that would be very long-lasting!
At the very outset of the process of organizing a committee of former Brody residents in Israel in the early fifties, various ideas were raised for perpetuating the memory of the destroyed community. Year-after-year, when the former residents of Brody in Israel gathered to honour their community
and honour the memory of its martyrs, the outstanding intellectuals of Brody: - Dov Sadan, Aryeh Tartakover and Medel Zinger, all of blessed memory continued to stress that a memorial-volume is the preferred response suited to the memory of The Jerusalem of Galicia. Already in 1953, at one of the first memorial ceremonies, Jacob Nethaneli-Rothman spoke of: the perpetuation of the Brody community.
Since then, for thirty eight years, the concept of a memorial-volume was caught up in the tangle of rhetoric. Mendel Zinger sought to advance the implementation of the perpetuation concept and Dov Sadan, at the start of 1955, responded: .and if you are talking (apart from the volume written by Nathan Michael Gelber, Brody: A History of the Jews of Brody 1584-1943, 1955) of another volume, larger, more comprehensive, more varied and primarily more lively, in which one could sense the city's air which we breathed I will join you wholeheartedly.
Thereafter, there were another number of attempts to breathe a fresh spirit into the work of perpetuation, but in vain. The years passed and the dreamers seemed to be moving farther from publishing the volume. The last push to pave the way and recruit all those Brody-ites prepared to make a supreme effort to advance the publication of the Brody Memorial volume was made by Joseph Leiner, who issued an impassioned call through the pages of Brody A 'Mother-City' of the Jewish People, (Av 5729). Here is what he wrote: Dear Brody-ites, Let us get straight to the point. We are the last generation who come from Brody a 'mother-city' of the Jewish people, which enriched our people with scholars and famous Rabbis; with pioneers of the Enlightenment and the early shoots of our national rebirth: with renewers of the Hebrew language and with the best of the builders of this country; and it is our duty to establish a monument to the martyrs who perished there in the days of the Nazi conquest. If we do not do this for ourselves, for our children, for the following generations and history, no one else will do it and the memory of the city will be erased forever! His words were written with great emotion and sacred awe at the magnitude of the undertaking which he saw as his life's work and the fulfilment of his mission (see his sons' comments, pp.360-361). But because of insignificant matters, it never succeeded. In the meantime, Joseph Parvari-Leiner was summoned to the Court on high and never saw his dream realized.
Incidentally, these were difficult and trying times for the concerned Brody-ites in the country who were left with only a gleam of hope and an unquestioned faith that the matter would indeed come to pass. The connection that had been established between Yitzhak Zorne and Hayyim-Szmusz-
kin led to a meeting of the Brody-ites in the winter of 1987 in the home of Berta Klenberg-Margulies. Those present declared their desire to become part of the effort and assist in preparing the volume for print. But from then till now, another six years elapsed in which the ranks of the workers dwindled and those who remained felt a moral obligation to prepared the testimonies, the memoirs and the impressions that had been gathered over the long years and to publish them in a memorial volume worthy of the community's glorious past and the memory of its martyrs.
Joseph Leiner's zealousness to continue the project of perpetuating the community of Brody was justified, but the struggles of writing, editing and publishing books in general and memorial books in particular are difficult. How great were the troubles and the confrontations! The sages of Rome have already said: habent sua fata libelli, i.e. Books have their own fate. This was said of books that saw the light of day, how much the more so books that are in the process of preparation, of coming into being. And with Joseph's death, his words took on even greater strength, the strength of a last will and testament which made it incumbent upon us, the lone survivors who, like him, had been miraculously saved, to continue that sublime goal of his labour, to perpetuate the memory of the community's martyrs murdered by the Nazi. And indeed, the perpetuation project was not interrupted and, behold, the volume is in our hands.
This volume relates the deeds of the Jews of Brody through the nearly four hundred years of its existence; the transformations it underwent; its days of prosperity and glory, of depression and poverty; and the ways the Jews of Brody earned it the title of the Jerusalem of Galicia.
The first part of the volume was written by Dr. Nathan Michael Gelber, of blessed memory, a historian of repute among the scholars of the history of Zionism in Galicia and its communities. He described the history of the city of Brody and its Jewish community from the day of its establishment to that of its destruction (1588-1943).
The period between the two World Wars (1918-1939) received a comprehensive and in-depth study and Dr. Gelber used most of the primary sources at his disposal to the fullest. A description of this period from the various aspects of the continuous history of our community occupies the second part of the volume before us. It is actually a portrait of a city and its community on the threshold of World War II, that is, on the eve of the Holocaust.
Many are the points of view and great is the importance of the chapters presented in the memorial volume, which covers the history of our community in the distant past and in the brief twenty-year period under the rule of an independent Poland. But first and foremost, the book is to be seen as a
memorial monument, a book of testimonies and remembrances which are the original and complementary data of the history of the community in the days of its tragic and brutal decline in the Holocaust period. Every refugee and survivor who managed to escape this danger that was lying in ambush to take his life, everyone who fled his pursuers, those who emerged from the forests and left while there was still time before the deeds of hatred and annihilation burst forth against them and every researcher and person of ordinary intelligence who will open the memorial book, will find comfort in its perusal.
Let us say a few words about the nature of this special literature the Landschaften literature which has already acquired its place among other genres of history books. We must point out at once that the attitude of the professional critics of memorial volumes is not unambiguous. There are those who are sceptical about this sort of literature and even this is sometimes an understatement. This is not to say that their attitude to it is absolutely negative, but they indicate its lacks, the greatest of which is that the memorial volumes do not depend upon official documents or printed books and periodicals but primarily upon the memory of the writers.
But from this point of view, an important advantage of the memorial volumes accused of not being scientific should be emphasized: their importance lies precisely in the fact that their authors are not professional historians who must use the proper jargon in their work and follow the scientific regimen to handle the topic along set lines and include a long list of bibliographical and other notes. On the other hand, the memorial volumes have a particular charm lacking in the scientific history books: their form is simple, their language and style less severe and pedantic and sometimes, they are not free of distortions of various sorts but this is precisely what assures the writer's naiveté and honesty. More than other volumes, the memorial books contain an abundance of information that helps one understand the spirit of the nation and its characteristics, information whose significance is unquestioned: but in spite of this, their echo is weak and unheard in the professional literature.
There remains only one aspect that can clarify the difference between our community and the great majority of the communities in which our brothers were annihilated. The Holocaust was not the first destruction in the history of our people but while most of the persecutions of the past were connected in our memory with the sanctification of the Name, i.e. with martyrdom, the circumstances of this destruction caused the prevailing opinion about it to be of a phenomenon in which an entire nation was seized with an enormous paralyzing fear. The truth, however, is that no one of the other nations con-
quered, ruled and persecuted by the Nazi was there greater display of heroism than among the Jewish people.
Who has not heard of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; the Bialystok Ghetto uprising? But only a few know of resistance movements in the other small ghettos across conquered Poland. Alongside the terrible Holocaust chapters in our city the seven fires of Gehenna, the tortures of Tophet, starvation, plagues, killing and throttling chapters have been recorded of awesome heroism; the glory of some of Brody's youth who did not hesitate to take up arms and use them against the best of prey. The friends of our youth: Joseph Berger, Shlomo Halberstadt, Shmuel Weiler, Yaakov Linder, the engineer Feuerstein (a relative newcomer), Arthur Klepper and others, of blessed memory, fought at the risk of their lives in the forests and as part of the guerrilla (partisan) warfare, not in order to be victorious for the difference between the forces allowed no such hope but to save the honour of their depressed and demeaned people. They simply did not want their armed force to be missing from the field of battle against the Nazi legions.
Dr. Joseph Karmish deals with this important topic in the last chapter of his study: The Holocaust of the Jews of Galicia (Heb), (in Pirkei Galicia [chapters on Galicia] in the Dr. Abraham Zilberstein Memorial Volume, edited by Israel Cohen and Dov Sadan, Tel-Aviv, Am Oved, 1957). It becomes clear that in the small far-flung places, a desire beat in the breasts of the Jewish youth to rebel and strike at the Nazi foe. The rebels knew that they had no chance of success but their desire was strong to at least die with honour. In his description of these resistance movements in the ghettos and outside them, the author balances the Jewish and German sources on the one hand, the testimony gathered from the Holocaust survivors and, on the other hand, the official German documents. A comparison of the information on the resistance movements of the Jewish youth in the city of Brody transmitted by Shmuel Weiler, one of the members of The Battling Jewish organization in our city, (see: The Underground Movement in the Ghettos and Camps, Material and Documents [in Polish], 1948, edited by Betty Ajzensztajn), with the report of the murderer, Katzmann, on the extermination of the gang members in the Jerusalem of Galicia, is an example of balancing the historical sources. It also indicates how the memorial volume literature can be of assistance along with documentation.
About fifty years two generations from the day the ghetto was annihilated and the approximately 3,000 last Jews of Brody were taken on their last road, the Brody Community Memorial Volume is appearing, the last wish of the survivors of the city's Jewish community that had numbered
almost 20,000 souls; of the survivors of the Jews of the surrounding area who had lived in the towns of Lopatyn, Leszniow, Podkamien, Bialy Kamien, Olesko, Sasow and the villages of the entire region; and of the survivors of the considerable number of Jewish refugees from western Poland who had fled to Brody from September 1939 on, ahead of the Nazi hordes.
The city of Brody, a mother city in Israel, is no longer. In the city of Brody, the lights have gone out. The holy and pure of our city, along with the rest of the masses of Jews in conquered Europe, also trod that blood-soaked course through the fires of the Nazi Hell to their horrible, tragic end.
How the people of Brody were murdered; to how many horrifying tortures they were subjected; by what strange deaths they were killed these are what the brands rescued from the flames recounted, and these things are what have been recorded in blood in the memorial volume and the scroll of lamentations that is before us.
Joseph Parvari-Leiner, of blessed memory, by his deeds in paving the way to realizing the publication of this volume, earned the right to head the list of those who brought the command of our dear ones, of blessed memory, to bring this book to press. And may he who continued his work, Joseph Ettinger, be remembered for good the keeper of the archives of the Committee of Brody-ites in Israel. Both, to our great distress, departed this life before seeing the fulfilment of this exalted goal of the highest order; to establish a memorial to the city of our birth and its martyrs, may their memory be a blessing!
Our thanks and appreciation to the members of the Editorial Board, may they have a long life, which gave of their time and effort to realize the perpetuation idea and assisted in bringing the book's manuscript to press. Dr. Sarah Szmuszkin-Rubinstein's pioneering labour of classifying and sifting the testimonies and the memories contributed very greatly to the first crystallization of the volume and its design, and she accompanied the different stages of its preparation for printing. The Committee Chairman, our dear friend Dov Pestes, took upon himself the heavy burden of being the liaison person providing the contact between the Brody-ites in Israel and thus assuring the maximum cooperation of all of us in advancing the book and bringing it to satisfactory conclusion. Thanks to his patience and his pleasant manner, a pleasant atmosphere was assured, making it possible for the work, devotion and meticulousness to prepare the infrastructure for the table of names of our dear ones who perished where they dwelt or were sent to extermination camps. Shmuel Stoianover, one snatched from the
fire, the last Mohican from Brody, just recently made Aliyah with his household. Thanks to his marvellous memory and expertise in the household groupings of the Jews of Brody and their origin, he tripled the number of names of the deceased included in the Memorial Table that appears in this volume.
In addition, the Editorial Board considers it to be its pleasant duty to extol the manifold activities of Yitzchak Zohar-Zorne, Naftali Harash, and Alexander Olek Podmerner, Joseph Leiner's colleague in bearing the administrative burden of the Organization, Zipora Rom-Spodek, Raphael-Fulu Shalev-Shlinger and Hayyim Szmuszkin on behalf of the community of those in Israel who came from Brody.
And last but very far from least that deserves thanks, Dr. Aviv Meltzer, who, with a sense of mission laboured diligently and bestowed a language of grace upon the collective creativity of the remnant of the Brody Diaspora.
In conclusion, many thanks to all those and the list is long! who, by deed and with material, assisted the members of the Memorial Volume Committee and the Editorial Board in the various stages of preparing the book and readying it for the press, and especially for their complete faith that the awaited volume would indeed see the light of day, thus tangibly realizing the perpetuation process begun about fifty years ago.
Yehoshu'a-Shiko, son of Shina and Gershon Mandel
Israel, in straits, between 17th Tammuz and 9th Ab 5753.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 25 May 2017 by LA