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[Pages 5–7]


by Moshe Bejski[1]

Translation taken from English section pp. 3–6
Edited by Fay and Julian Bussgang

...”And I will take you one of a city and two of a family”... Jeremiah (3:14)

But for our town, even this macabre saying did not materialize. When the Holocaust subsided and its surviving remnants had been traced throughout Europe, it was discovered that in a few families, a lone survivor remained. In most, no one had been left alive; the whole branch had simply been wiped out, leaving nobody.

It is doubtful whether after the Holocaust someone could harbor the notion of resuming life anew on the ruins of Jewish Działoszyce. If a few rescued “embers,” drawing upon the last of their strength returned, deluded into hoping that perhaps some of their dear ones might be still alive and that here was the natural meeting-place for a gathering of this sort, they met with the refusal of the anti-Semitic Polish population to accept the idea that such Jews intended staying longer – until they could recover. The Poles resolved that not a single one of these wretches would cross the gates of the town. With a pogrom, they finished off the work of the Germans. Those who were able to escape the axe or the gun fled in the thick of darkness, so long as body and soul held together. Broken, exhausted and ill, the few survivors dispersed in all directions, facing every evening the recurring problem of finding that night a stone upon which to lay their head.

And the town of Działoszyce remained without any Jews – this time forever!

One generation and more went by. Most of us who chanced to be saved from the hellish Nazi horror have concentrated here in the State of Israel where, within the framework of national resurrection, we built our homes, set up families, and begot children. Others among us dispersed to the four corners of the globe, wherever relatives and kinsmen abroad helped them to emigrate and strike new roots in a foreign land. And although but a few of us were left after the Nazi sword had decimated us, the biological processes did their part, and our fellow townsmen also went the way of all flesh. At the early commemoration ceremonies we hold here to bemoan our sacred dead, we call up the memory of those among us who in that same year passed away – and who, to our great sorrow, are many – and when this present generation will come to pass – this generation born, grown, brought up and who lived in the town of Działoszyce – then the memory of that sacred community may, Heaven forbid, vanish altogether, as did most of the Jewish population.

Our children were born in this country. With their mothers' milk, they did not suck the tradition of the small Jewish town in the Diaspora. Not only are they unable to enunciate the name of their fathers' native town, but, moreover, they tend to reject the customs, the traditions that nurtured their parents. Under ordinary circumstances, this is the natural phenomenon of the clashing respective cultures of fathers and sons – which, in view of the changes that affected the people of Israel in its homeland, are here all the more so. It is the same with our fellow townsmens' children who were educated in alien countries, where assimilation draws the young generation further apart from the traditions of its parents.

Maybe our town Działoszyce was not very different from hundreds and thousands of other Jewish communities in eastern Europe. It is true that the special character of many of the small Jewish towns was common to most such settlements – similar ways of life, institutions of the community, livelihood, and even poverty. In each small town, there were the usual associations for visits to the sick, provision of dowry to needy brides, deeds of charity, and the like. The besmedresh, the shtiblekh – synagogue houses of learning – the yeshivas, differed only on the outside. Inside, in their contents and the spirit that permeated them, they were as one, to the point that sometimes even the prayer melody and study came forth from one rabbinical court.

It is not necessary to search for the distinctive traits of our town Działoszyce in order to justify in this Yizkor book the chapters of reminiscences and way of life, because although to all intents and purposes our town may have looked like numerous other communities, and although it is not within our hands to glorify and extol it and sing paeans to its unique greatness – it was our town that was and is no more!

For hundreds of years it throbbed with a bustling Jewish life, one generation passing on to the next the flame of Jewish tradition and the yearning for salvation and deliverance. Except for us, nobody can tell about its sages and rabbis, about the ordinary, humble Jews who, for six days of the week, ran hither and thither among the peasants but, on Friday, hastened to their homes to await in reverence and awe the Shabes Queen; about the porters who all day long stood in the marketplace, murmuring one hundred and fifty psalms while waiting (often in vain) for the half złoty [Polish currency] payment for unloading a crate, so that they might be able to purchase a loaf of bread; about the yeshiva students who spent their nights as days over their Talmud but did not always manage to provide for their fare at the table of the rich.

And who, except us, will remember the terrible days of the Holocaust when, despite the inhuman suffering and persecution, faith did not waver nor hope falter, even when the townsfolk were driven to the unknown, on the way from which there was no return. Most of our martyred townsmen had not even a Jewish burial, and their place of interment is unknown. The old cemetery was completely destroyed by our Polish neighbours, intent to erase memory and vestige of Jewish Działoszyce. And we cannot even place a tombstone over our fathers' graves.

Although to all appearances, we the surviving remnants are living our renewed life – we are nonetheless bound with the innermost fibers of our souls and heart to all that is dear to us from our childhood and dour past. And so that no town and mother might be forgotten in Israel, so that a memorial might be erected to the sacred community and its martyred members, to these ends are the chapters of this Yizkor – In Memoriam – book dedicated.

Unfortunately, and most sorrowfully, we are but a pitiful few. And because of the Jewish town's destruction down to its very foundations – and the destruction of all that was connected with the Jewish community – sources and material are scarce. Were they to be found, they could have enabled an extensive picture of the community. This is why we must restrict ourselves to these chapters of memories and events, as they were recorded and evoked by those who chose to put them in writing.

Be they blessed, the friends – particularly Mr. Dov Bejski – who saw it as their sacred duty to work for the perpetuation of the memory of our community and ceaselessly laboured until they attained their aim.

M. B.

Editors' Footnotes

  1. Dr. Moshe Bejski, whose life was saved by Oskar Shindler, became a prominent citizen in Israel after the war. He was a Supreme Court justice and also chairman (197095) of the Commission of the Righteous, established by Yad Vashem. Return

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