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Melech Ravitch writes about Aryeh Merzer's
copper relief “Thou Shalt Not Kill”:

Translated by Yael Chaver

The constant image before our eyes is of a hammered sheet created by Aryeh Merzer, the painter, draftsman, and copper–relief artist, in Israel. This work of art is titled “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” As far as we're concerned, we would hang this work in our home, as the national work of art symbolizing the Third Destruction.[1]

The image depicts an Ark of the Torah in a poor synagogue. The gate of the Ark bears only one of the Ten Commandments… Thou Shalt Not Kill! A Torah Scroll is rolling down the steps of the Ark. A murdered Jewish family lies on the stairs, trying to find refuge from the murderers in the Ark, but even it could not save them. The husband lies dead, with his face inveighing against the Ark. His wife is dead, but their child, who has survived, is sucking the breast of the dead mother, whose face bears a smile because she feels, in death, that the child has survived. Yes, the writer would hang this symbolic work in his own home.

 

Copper relief by artist Aryeh Merzer (Safed), titled “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”:

 

Memorial gathering for the Kurow victims, in 1954, in Tel Aviv.
Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Rabinovich, formerly Rabbi in Kurow and currently Rabbi in Jerusalem, speaks about the notable men of Kurow

 

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Official documents concerning the extermination

(translated from Polish)

Translated by Yael Chaver

 

 

The original Polish document from the Kurow administration about the extermination of the Jews of Kurow and the material damages (sent by the New York Kurow association).

Appraisal document from the Kurow administration about the damages suffered by the local Jewish population

Message from the Kurow administration about the damages suffered by the local Jewish residents.

  1. Title and name: The Jewish population residing in the town of Kurow.
  2. Place of residence: Town of Kurow.
  3. Date of damage: September 8, 1939, when the town of Kurow was bombed by German planes.
    1. Burned–down homes, valued at 850,000 zloty
    2. Burned–down 130 business buildings, valued at 220,000 zloty
    3. Burned–down bath–house, house of study, synagogue, valued at 250,000 zloty
    4. Burned–up tools and merchandise in warehouses, valued at 350,000 zloty
    5. Burned–up home valuables, valued at 150,000 zloty
    6. Remaining Jewish property robbed by the Germans after the fire, valued at 50,000 zloty
  4. On April 6, 1942, the Germans expelled the entire Jewish population. During this operation, en route to Konskowola, 20 Jews were killed. The total number of Jews in Kurow was 2,800.
  5. On November 10, 1942, during the liquidation of the Kurow ghetto, 28 Jews were killed.
  6. The witnesses to these damages were: 1) Arn Rubinshteyn 2) Leybush Vaynbukh 3) Malka Shtern 4) Khasha Rozenblum.
Kurow, May 15, 1945

Witnesses:
Arn Rubinshteyn
Leybush Vaynbukh
Malka Shtern
Khasha Rozenblum

The authenticity of this copy from the original, which is located in the Kurow town administration, is attested by

Kurow, July 8, 1948
Francziszek Boleslawski
Kurow–Lubelski, Pulaski county


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Materials on Kurow in Encyclopedias and History Books

Translated by Yael Chaver

From the Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol 10: [2]

“A small town in the Pulawy area, Lublin province. Jews lived there as early as 1548. Many Jews died a martyr's death during the Czarniecki massacre of 1656.[3] When the stamp tax on Jewish holy books was instituted (1776), the one hundred Jews of Kurow possessed 1195 books.[4] The wooden synagogue burned down during the world war; it is mentioned as early as 1690 by the traveler Ulrich von Werdum.[5]

(The Jews of Kurow have no knowledge of this fact. The date of the synagogue burning – during the world war–is definitely not certain. [Editors of this Yizkor Book]) In 1765, 904 Jews in Kurow paid poll tax. In 1852, 1598 Jews lived there; in 1897 –2107 Jews (out of a population of 3980), and in 1921 –2230 Jews (out of a population of 3392). There was an elementary school run by the Tarbut organization.”[6]

Disparlimenten d. Warschauer jüd. Hauptarchivs. Kopfsteuer Finanzkommission Nr. 35, S. 204 (Warsch. Finanzarchiv). Bersohn Dyplomatarjusz Nr. 518.

Statistik d. Lubliner Woiwodeschaft in “Junger Historiker,” Nr. 7, E.R.

 

From the Yevreiskaya Entsiklopedia:[7]

“During the Polish Republic period, Kurow was a town in Lublin province. In 1656 the troops of Hetman Czarniecki attacked the local Jews, killing some of them.[8] In 1765 the Jewish population numbered 1092 poll–tax payers. Now (in the early years of the 20th century –the Editors of the Evreiskaya Entsiklopedia) it is an administrative unit of the Nowoaleksandrow area, Lublin Province. In 1856 1100 Christians and 1564 Jews lived there; in 1897 – 2107 Jews out of a total population of 3980.”

 

From Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego (1883)[9]

Kurow

A rural town, once a city, on the banks of the Kuruwka River, Nowo–Aleksander (Pulawy) county, Kurow municipality and parish. Located to the left of the Nadwysla (adjoining the Vistula) railroad line, 5 versts from the Klementowicz station, on the Pulawy–Lublin route.[10] Located between Konskowola and Markusza, 30 versts from Lublin, 16 versts from Pulawy, 125 versts from Warsaw. It contains a parish church, an old–age home, a synagogue, a city court, city offices, a savings bank, an elementary school, and a post office. In 1827 there were 248 houses; in 1860 – 2672 residents (1562 Jews); now (1883) 245 houses, 13 of them walled, 3393 residents (2035 Jews), a pharmacy, 48 warehouses, six fair days over the year.

The date when Kurow became a city is unknown. It had a wood church in the middle of the 15th century, bearing the name of Holy Jesu, founded by the nobleman Jan Zba֭ski L. Nalencz (Dlugacz, Vol. 2, p. 520 / Jan Dlugacz was a renowned Polish historian–Eds.) When the Zb֭skis adopted Calvinism, they replaced the church by a Calvinist house of prayer, which persisted from 1559 to 1630, when the family reverted to Catholicism. The new Catholic church that stands to this day was built in 1690. The traveller Werdum, who passed through Kurow at that time, termed it “a wretched village with a Jewish population (Liske, “Foreigners in Poland,” p. 76).[11]

Following the Zba֭skis, the nobles of Kurow were:

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Szczukows, Potockis, Kaczynskis, Zbyszewskis, Izsickis. For a while the parish priest of the church was Grzegorz Piramowicz, the then–renowned pedagogue and member of the royal education commission. To this day, there is a memorial to him, as well as to Stanislaw Zba֭ski (1585).

* * *

The parish of Kurow numbered 3420 people. The area of the district included:

Bartogo, Brzorzowa, Gocz, Choszczow, Chzachow, Chszadowek, Debo, Tonkacz, Wolka, Oleszyn, Paluchy, PÅ‚onka, Podbusz Sielce, Szumow, Nowodworek, Kurow.[12]

(In addition, the properties of Kurow, the farms, the amount of arable land and the amounts of pastureland, forests, unusable land overgrown with weeds, vacant acres. Six water mills, three windmills, one sawmill, one brickyard.

* * *

(From Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego, Warsaw, 1883, Vol. 4, p. 932)

 

From Dr. Raphael Mahler (Jerusalem) in Der Yunger Historiker [13]

… Here are the details for Kurow, from my study “Statistics of the Jews in the Duchy of Lublin, 1774–1765,” in Der Yunger Historiker vol. 2, Warsaw 1929, pp.67–108.

The Kurow Jewish community numbers 904, and 136 Jews in 20 surrounding villages. Jews in Mnichow who are part of the Kurow community number 52. The total number of the Kurow Jewish community is 1092 (over one year old. Those younger than one year are not obliged to pay poll tax and are therefore not included)

In Kurow: 420 men, 484 women. 1200 families, living in 100 houses (apartments?). The total in these houses is: in 53 houses – one family each. In 31 houses, two families each. In 19 houses, three families each. In three houses, four families each. In three houses, five families each. Total: 109 houses, one non–Jewish house.

Raphael Mahler, Jerusalem, Jan. 20 1955.

 

Dr. Joseph Kermish:

Lublin and Its Surroundings

In the last years of the Republic, 1788–1794. Published by the Lublin City Council in 1939, Vol. 1. (Lublin I Lubelskie w ostatnich latach Rzeczypoipolitej (1788–1794): Tom 1, W czasie Sejmu Wielkiego I wojny Polsko–Rozyjaklej, 1792 r. oraz pod czadama Targowicko–Grodzienskimi MCMXXXIX, wydawmici zarzadu miejaskiego w Lublinie).

p. 26: For fighting criminals and those committing violence in those years, the Special Committee in Lublin sought help from the garrison stationed in Kurow.

p. 138: The famous priest Grzegorz Piramowicz wrote: “Duke Jozef fortified his position in Kurow.”[14]

p. 139: The Polish military, which had left Kurow on July 27, set itself up in Pulawy, and was followed closely by the Russian army. On July 30 Duke Jozef crossed the Vistula, set up camp in Sieciechow, and moved to Kozienice the next day. The Russians, on the other hand, took Pulawy and its surroundings as early as July 27th, when the Polish forces left.

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pp. 154–155: (Lublin and the surrounding towns suffered at the hands of the Russian merchants, who were protected by the Russian military, and transported meat through the towns without paying the government consumer tax that was obligatory for the Polish meat businesses. On September 23, 1732, the government tax collector in Lublin, Franczisek Miotelski, also complained about the Jewish butcher Moshke Kulman, who placed himself under Russian protection and refused to pay the consumer tax. In Kurow, for example, where the Ofszeran regiment had been stationed on October 25, 1792, the market vendors sold meat in plain view, with the approval of the Kurow city office. Contributed by the Kurow Jewish community.)

… In the name of the Kurow Jewish community, the lease–holders of this tax (for an auction payment of 6700 zloty), Kopel Oyserovitsh and Hershek Mordekovitsh, requested a reduction in their memorandum of January 22, 1793. A similar request, supported by the request of the Kurow municipality, was submitted the following year by Jewish community members Itzek Michalovitsh and Hershek Mordekovitsh.

p. 161: …The Ofszeran regiment command arrived in Kurow on October 35, and remained there until the very last days of the Nativity Fast (Financial archive, 38–43).[15]

 

Trzawska, Ewert, and Michalski

Only 2–3 lines appear in this encyclopedia about Kurow, noting that the town is located near the Kurowka river.

 

Memorial Book Committee

Seated, from right: Gitl Trudler, Binyomin Vaynrib (Secretary), Liftshe Vaynrib, Moyshe Grossman (Chairman), Dovid Korsman
Standing: Aryeh Rozenson, Meir Zaltzman, Shimen Vaynberg, Pinches Shildkoyt (Auditing committee), Yekutiel Vachman, Levi Grossman (Treasurer)
Missing from picture: Nechemye Vurman (Auditing committee. Rabbi Rapoport was overwhelmingly elected Honorary Chairman a year ago

 


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Artists Speak About the Kurow Synagogue

Translated by Yael Chaver

 

This picture, in the Kurow synagogue

Includes, from right: Oyzer Melamed. Hersh Fentster, Yoske Khazn, Alter Shnayder, Pinches Mondravski, the painter Yankl Montshik, Arn Akerman (the son of Yoske Khazn), and a boy

 

The well–known painter Yankl Montshik had been in Paris since 1937. In 1937, when the Germans were already burning down Jewish synagogues in Germany, people began thinking that it was important to go to Poland in order to paint and photograph its famous synagogues before they were destroyed –God forbid – especially those of architectural–artistic value. Montshik suggested that writer Hersh Fentster accompany him to Poland. He, Montshik, would paint the synagogues, and Fentster would describe them. Montshik, like most of the Jewish artists in France, was murdered by the Nazis. In 1951, Hersh Fentster published a wonderful monumental work in Paris, titled Our Tormented Artists, with a foreword by Marc Chagall.

“…When we entered the synagogue, we were immediately impressed by the beautifully carved Ark, the lectern and Torah stand, which we immediately photographed for their beauty. We were no less impressed, however, with Reb Yoske Soyfer, the cantor of the synagogue, with his handsome face and discreet, aristocratic bearing.”


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. Ravitch is continuing the time-honored tradition in which the Babylonian destruction of the First Jerusalem Temple (586 BCE) is termed the First Destruction, and the Roman destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) is termed the Second Destruction. Return
  2. No citation is given. Return
  3. A reference to events of the Swedish-Polish war (1656). Czarniecki commanded the Polish forces, who massacred Jews in April 1656. I found no specific reference to a massacre in Kurow. Return
  4. In 1775 the Polish parliament imposed a special duty on books written in Hebrew and Yiddish, requiring each book to be stamped by the municipality Return
  5. The war referred to is the First World War. Von Werdum was a German 17thcentury traveller. Return
  6. A network of secular Zionist educational institutions that functioned in Poland in the interwar period; the language of instruction was Hebrew. Return
  7. A Jewish encyclopedia in Russian, published in St. Petersburg, 1908-1913 Return
  8. Hetmans were the main commanders of the Polish army. Return
  9. Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom is a Polish gazetteer, published in 1880–1902 in Warsaw. Return
  10. verst is a Russian unit of measure, 0.66 miles. Return
  11. I found no reference to this book Return
  12. The place names Chzachow, Chszadowek, Debo, Tonkacz, Oleszyn, Nowodworek have been transliterated into Polish from the Yiddish. I was unable to find the original Polish names of these locations, listed in the 1883 encyclopedia but available to me only in the Yiddish. Return
  13. The periodical of the “Circle of Young Historians” in Warsaw, founded in 1928. Return
  14. A renowned 18th century Polish Catholic priest, educator, writer, and philosopher. Return
  15. The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus on December 25; meat and poultry are prohibited during this period. Return

 

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