(Potok Górny, Poland)
Moshe Sprung, Tel Aviv
Translated by Chesky Wertman
Mr. Wertman has dedicated this translation to
The Knochen and Wertman Families
who lived in Potok-Gorny until the end of the war and whose
members perished during the liquidation of Tarnogrod.
Potok-Gorny! I want to extol you and lament you. I want you to remain eternal, so that you will never be forgotten! May the future generations who read these words know, that once there were villagers, who provided for themselves as merchants and laborers, as honest and hard workers. Twenty Jewish families lived among thousands of Poles and Ukrainians and they did not loose their Tzelem Elokim [G-dly image], they maintained their Judaism transmitting it from parent to child. The life style of our homes in the village was infused with Judaism.
It was, and now, there is nothing that remains. Reb Shmuel Peretz Sprung, a Jew whose entire being was piety is no more. He is a "remnant", a sincere leader of prayer, and a reader of the Torah, who also served as the rabbi. He did not only rule on simple issues, but he also accepted the yolk of guiding the Jews of his village, advising them on how to improve and enhance their adherence to Jewish customs and traditions, and how to help themselves during a difficult time, and all followed his advice.
Yisrael Silberzweig, who clung to the tenets of his conviction, a pious Jew, who was vested with good character traits and integrity is gone. No more Aharon Brick, the only Kohen [a descendant of the biblical high priest Aaron] in our village, who blessed us when he recited the blessings of the kohanim [pl.], during the holidays.
Actually, the minyan [minimum gathering of 10 people necessary for a communal religious service] took place in our home. On Shabbos [Jewish Sabbath] and holidays all the Jews from Potok, and also from other close villages where some Jewish families lived would get together.
The heder, the school for the Jewish children from the village was also in our home. The teachers, who were brought in from Tarnogrod, would always stay with us in our home; they had a comfortable place and they ate with my parents. The teachers focused on the development of the students. The sound of Reb David Mantel, is engraved in the memories of the more advanced students. He had learned with us Gemara [Talmud] and told us beautiful stories, about G-d's kindness and wonders. He would tell us the wonderful tales from the aggadah [stories presented in the Talmud], and treat us with something from a midrash, or from the Bible. He taught us in a well explained manner, his words seemed to simply flow from his tongue.
At that time, I am not sure, that we completely understood everything, but the words alone, the Rabbi's exceptional countenance, the sweetness of his voice, warmed our hearts, providing us with much inner pleasure.
Our home was open to every wayfarer or traveler to distant lands, who would search for a place to comfort their heart and relax their weary legs. Summer and Winter, in pouring rain, and blizzards, they would always come to us, knowing that they would find a warm spot, something cooked, and lodging.
My darling dear mother! I see the softness of your clever eyes, your attentiveness warmed every entering guest, greeting him with a good word, a light meal. Your life was not easy, my poor mother, day and night you labored, washing and cleaning so that every corner sparkled with purity and perfection.
My father, Reb Yisrael Isser, was not only loved by the Jews of the village but also by those from Tarnogrod, and my father felt a bond and connection with them. His cleverness and integrity made him popular also among the peasants of the village. Our home was a model of a modest and pure life. Until today, my righteous mother and father, you stand before my eyes as a tower of light, shining with the pure, beautiful light of my childhood years, the image calming me during my turbulent bitter times.
The village Potok-Gorny was 12 kilometers from Tarnogrod and the 20 Jewish families that lived there, were connected to the Tarnogrod Jewish community. They shared each other's joys and sorrow, as one large family.
The people from Potok-Gorny were good, warm people. They were involved in trade and were laborers. Amongst them was a tailor, a shoemaker, and a miller, who provided their services to the rural dwellers.
Amongst them there were those who were the second and third generation in the village and they also maintained a connection with Tarnogrod. They learned from the Tarnogroders and their Tarnogroder teachers exalted and pleasant Jewish attributes and love for their fellow Jew.
Potok-Gorny was indeed a large village. Approximately 2,000 Poles and over 1,000 Ukrainians lived there. They had there own Gmina [Rural Administrative District] and even an independent koza [prison] where they kept the arrested. My mother and father would watch the prison, perhaps a Jew from a distant village was brought there. They were concerned that he should not remain there over Shabbos without the customary Shabbos food. My brother and I had the task to bring the food there -- the cholent, the kugel. I can still see that scene from the past, the thrill those Jews had when they would see us coming with the Shabbos food, which for them was as if they had just received a greeting from their Shabbos table at home.
Oh my father and mother, the memories of your lives, and of your magnificent deeds accompanied me through all my journeys.
As Hitler's onslaught began to descend, I was away from the house, and I was virtually deprived of your blessing. I did not want to consider the notion of separation, you, dear mother, did not know that I was arrested on the other side of the border, and during every meal time placed on the table a plate also for me.
So much longing, longing and sorrow, such incredible love which went beyond any country's border. After all of this I now come wordless, with memories of what once was. No words could adequately express my pain, and there is not a thing in the world that could be similar to your holy cry of distress from pain.
When that horrendous day in 1942 arrived, when the murderer took you away to Krasow, to be slaughtered. My beloved brother, Shimon Meir heard, that our other brother Shlomo, hid in the village and had returned. The Poles searched for him in the forest. They pursued him for a kilo of sugar, the reward the Germans gave to the Poles for the Jews that they caught and turned in. They caught him and brought him to the field in Potok, and from there they took him along with 27 other Jews that were caught, packed in a wagon, to the forest, towards Jedlinki and in a field near the forest they were all shot.
Later the peasants came, and tore off their clothing, and left them there. Many days later the corpses, continued to lay without a burial in the field.
My heart does not listen to the crying within me, saintly Mother and Father, Brother and Sister, good genuine Jews from the Polish village Potok-Gorny!
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