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[Page 523]

Bielsker Relief in America


Response from America after the Holocaust

by Eliyahu Samuels

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

New York–October 11, 1945

Dear Friend Chuna Tikotzky:

Your letter, which you sent to our prominent landslady Libe Elson, gave us very little pleasure. On the contrary, it disturbed the Bielsk landsmen to the very bones and minds…The letter was published as you can see from the enclosed copy in the Yiddish daily newspaper “Morgen Freiheit.” It will also be published in the “Forward,” “Tog,” and “Morgen Zhurnal.”

The writer of these lines is himself from Bielsk. I am the son of Avraham Yitzchak Shav, a”h[1] (the Horodenka shochet [ritual slaughterer]). I am married to the daughter of Shmuel Gurnianski, a”h, your former partner.

A little later in my letter I will ask you to do a favor for me. Now, however, I will speak of you and of the surviving Jews in our hometown of Bielsk.

We have here in New York a Bielsk aid organization in which all of the Jewish organizations are joined under the name “United Bielsk Relief” Our duty has been, since we became organized, already a long time, to collect funds and materials to help you who were rescued from the Nazi Gehenna so that you can once again stand on your own feet, so that you can rebuild everything that Hitler's murderers destroyed. The martyrs, the murdered ones, no one can help, but those of us who are here must help–and must continue to help–make up for the things that are lacking in Bielsk.

Also, during the war years it was difficult to learn what was happening in Bielsk, and in the thousands of other cities and towns where Jews lived. Even after the war, when the Nazis were defeated, our efforts to learn about you went without results. We went to the “Red Cross” and to Mr. Khavrutzki in Moscow, as well as to Dr. Emil Zamershteynm the head of the Central Committee in Warsaw, as well as to a delegate who had come here from Paris, one Avraham Reiski, who also had a connection with Bielsk–but to our greatest sorrow, everything was futile–as if the city had been obliterated (as it almost was)–until we received your letter and also one from Mr. Chrablowski.

Despite not having heard from you, we collected over six thousand pounds of used clothing–for men, women, and children, and we sent it (over eight months ago), through the local “Russian War Relief,” who assured us

[Page 524]

that the things would be sent to Bielsk. So far we have not heard anything about them.

We also conveyed to the “Joint Distribution Committee,” knowing that they had representatives in Poland, that we would stand together with you. With you now in Poland is one Dr. Schwartz–we gave him two hundred fifty dollars so that they could find out from their representatives who and what can be found in Bielsk and to tell us what is needed: clothing, food, medicine, etc. But again, the same thing–we have heard not a word!

The members of our relief organization, in which I have the honor of serving as secretary, feel despair–rightfully so–because even though correspondence is possible, we have received not even a letter. Nu, when your letter arrived, though we heard such dreadful news from you, at least we know that there are fifty or fifty-five Jews in the city.

Now, Mr. Tikotzky, I will tell you something:

We here, all the members of our relief organization, will do all that we can to help you with everything: if you need food, clothing, tools, and anything else. Just let us know and we will quickly fill your request.

We understand well what you and all the Jews have gone through in these last dark years; the sorrows and the pains and the dislocations and the killings–but I will tell you that you should not feel despair. The Jewish people have gone through many difficulties and sorrows. Truly, the current destruction towers over in every way the others in the history of our unfortunate people, but one must be strong! One must maintain the will to live, to exist–the Jewish people must remain alive!

My goal in writing to you now is to assure you that we, the landsmen of Bielsk, will never abandon you. We will help you and help you!

Here are two suggestions:

1. You, all Jews who are now in Bielsk, should hold a gathering and elect a committee of, say, eight or ten people, and the committee should be responsible for all that you decide. Send us a list of every Jew who is with you. They should sign that they have elected this committee. This will allow us to know that we are dealing with a responsible body that will deal fairly and properly with everyone.

[Page 525]

2. When you have elected such a committee, you should inquire from the “Joint” about Dr. Schwartz, who is now with you in Poland, in Warsaw, it seems, so that he can get together with you and give you the money that we gave to the “Joint Distribution Committee” in New York, either in coin or in goods, such as clothing, food, and other necessities.

It is entirely possible that he has already done so, because I spoke with a representative of the “Joint,” who told me that it is possible that Dr. Schwartz has already met with you. If that is so, we are very, very happy, because we can imagine how you feel, knowing that you are not alone, not abandoned, but that here, across the ocean, are your brothers and sisters whose hearts are full of fairness and sympathy.

So, dear Mr. Tikotzky: do as I ask, and do it soon! Don't put it off! Because the sooner you can make this connection, the better it will be for you!

We tell you again and again: Be strong! Have hope and faith, and you will see that Bielsk will be rebuilt, and the settlement of Bielsk with all of its institutions will live!

Now a personal request:

I had two sisters in Bielsk. The elder, Chaya Shemesh, her husband, Yechezkel Shemesh, and their two sons are in Tel Aviv in Palestine. She had not committed to leaving Poland , but the war broke out just as she was getting ready.

My second sister, Tzivia Zinger, with her husband Yankel Zinger and their children, lived in Bialowieza or later in Hajnowka. I don't know what has happened to them. Perhaps you know something about them, and I would be very grateful if you could give me any information. Do me this favor, because I am quite uneasy and despairing about them.

Be well and strong and greet all of our landsmen for us. Wish them better and quieter days and years.

Awaiting a rapid response from you!

In the name of the Bielsk Relief Committee.

Eliyahu Samuels
Corresponding Secretary

Editor's footnote

    This letter was a response to the letter from Chuna Tikotzky on page 445. Please see the footnote on that page for more details.

Translator's footnote

  1. An abbreviation for alav ha-shalom, an honorific for the dead meaning may peace be upon him. Return

[Page 526]

A Letter to Y. Kleszczelski

by Eliyahu Samuels

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

My valued friend Y. Kleszczelski!

I am writing to you in the name of the local United Bielsker Relief Committee, of which I am the secretary.

Your relatives here in America, members of our organization, the important Crystal family, have also asked that I correspond with you, and I do so with pleasure.

Surely you know, friend Kleszczelski, that our organization has helped our several score surviving landsmen in our hometown of Bielsk in whatever ways are possible. We have sent them hundreds of packages of food and clothing as well as certain sums of money. We have all thought that they would be able to rebuild their lives and gradually organize and rebuild what the bloody Nazis have destroyed. To our regret, it has not happened as we thought or wanted. The facts speak for themselves. It is not enough that they have lost everything, their dear ones, their beloved ones, even whole families–the situation there is horrible, so terrible that they cannot be certain they will survive a day or a night…

I believe, friend Kleszczelski, that you know this as well as I do here. You also read the newspapers, and you also get actual reports about the true conditions there.

Our landsmen in Bielsk have reached out to us with one plea, with one desire–we should rescue them! We should extract them from this bloody new Gehenna that is now called Poland. We have given them courage and hope that we will do whatever we can to help.

So, now I come to the point of my writing to you.

You surely know that the local “American Federation for Polish Jews,” led by Dr. Joseph Tenenbaum, is trying to get from the French government transit visas for ten thousand Jews. As soon as we learned about this, we got in touch with the organization and we paid for transit visas to France for 22 people. A visa costs us a hundred dollars. We sent visas not only to Bielskers in Bielsk but also to our landsmen in other cities in Poland, such as Stettin (Szczecin), Wroclaw, Bialystok, Warsaw, etc.

[Page 527]

We have received letters from them, and almost everyone who wrote to us mentioned their good fortune. They are thankful that we have saved their lives from doom.

We have received news from the organization that a delegation has already come in mid-November to make needed arrangements for their journey, and that they have received a notice to be prepared for the trip.

It is possible that as I am writing this letter to you, they are already en route, although I personally believe that it will be some days–and perhaps weeks–before they have the good fortune to arrive in France.

In any case, dear friend Kleszczelski, I have a request for you, and knowing your previous record, which we regard highly, I feel that you will not refuse us, the relief agency. On the contrary, you will do as quickly as possible everything possible to help these lonely and embittered people, not with money or with material things–we can do that part best. We only desire that you befriend them, since they are also your landsmen. They belong to you as well. Be good and encouraging toward them. See that they are treated like human beings and Jews, with calmness and respect, and especially–that they be allowed to stay together!

Especially important are words of consolation, a warm, human feeling for such unfortunates. And this is our request to you, and to our landsman and friend–the prominent editor of Paris' “New Free Press”–Y. Raiski, and to the other Bielsk landsmen who are now in Paris.

We hope that you will carry out the request of our relief organization and this obligation toward our several rescued ones.

Hearty greetings from your relatives–the Crystals. They are very genuine and friendly people, and they are active in the work of our relief organization.

With best wishes,

Eliyahu Samuels
Sec., United Bielsker Relief

[Page 528]

Report from the Regular Meeting of April 20, 1947

by Eliyahu Samuels

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

A regular meeting of the United Bielsker Relief was held on Sunday during the daytime on April 20 in Academy Hall, Broadway and 14th Street, New York, Charles Greenberg, chairman.

The financial report shows the following:

Savings account   $3,279.80
Checking account   $2,206.64
Total                     $5,486. 50

A report was made about the card party. It made a clear profit of about $500.

The chairman thanked the chairwoman, Mrs. Appelbaum, and the whole committee, who worked so diligently to sell tickets and to arrange a splendid evening, and–and especially for such great success.

It was also decided to send another eight packages of food through CARE to our landsmen who had sought aid (this is aside from the 12 packages that the relief organization sent several weeks ago directly to Bielsk).

Mrs. Samuels also reported that several packages of clothing had been sent to landsmen in a variety of cities in Europe.

A receipt was also presented for the funds that we had instructed to be paid to children in the orphan home in France.

The corresponding secretary, A. Samuels, read several letters that had been received from our landsmen, and also copies of letters that he had sent to Paris, France, and to Poland.

The tone of our landsmen is at a higher level than several weeks ago. Now, they write, they are certain that it will not be long before they are freed from their woes.

A motion was made that we should hold meetings only once a month. The motion was approved.

There was also a motion that we should find a larger hall for our meetings. A committee was formed to handle this matter.

With that, the meeting was concluded.

Next meeting will be May 18, in the same place.

A. Samuels,
Substituting for
Benny Hoffman

[Page 529]

United Bielsker Relief of New York
Presents an Ambulance to Magen David Adom

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Members of the United Bielsker Relief of New York recently presented an ambulance to Magen David Adom completely equipped with all the latest apparatus.

The United Bielsker Relief of New York, which was founded particularly to aid the state of Israel, has conducted the ambulance project under the leadership of Mr. I. Semiat[i].

Speaking in the name of the Bielsk organization, Mr. Semiat said: The members of the group feel that Magen David Adom Services are very important and necessary for the existence of Israel. Not only have we contributed a fully equipped ambulance to Israel's wonderful Red Cross but we have also helped the American Red Magen David's efforts to enlarge and scientifically establish the Colonel David Marcus Blood Bank and Transfusion Center in Jaffa.

The Magen David Adom also holds underground shelter clinics at 73 first-aid stations throughout the State of Israel administered by Israel's only emergency ambulance service and volunteer auxiliary medical body. They maintain the national blood program and form Israel's second line of defense in war and in happier times.

Editor's footnote

  1. I. Semiat authored the chapter “Shabbot in a Small Town in Russia” on page 40 of the English section. Return


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