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[Pages 41-43]

Our Home in Lanowitz

By Eliezer Zinberg [Nir David, Israel]

I am looking at a memorial headstone for the Lanowitz victims that were murdered by the Nazis. The memorial is the only thing left of our town, the rest is gone.

27 years have passed since our town was destroyed. To this day it is difficult for me to reconcile myself to the thought that a town that was full of life, where I had relatives and friends that I would meet daily, is no more. I can recall the town's image, how it looked when I departed 30 years ago. In my mind I see the town's narrow alleys, wooden sidewalks, and its main street leading to the river. I also recall the hay-fields surrounding the town, and the meadow where our youth would often meet.

Several large homes were located in the town's center. These were the dwellings of the large Holender family. My grandfather, Eliezer Zinberg lived in one of these houses. I was fortunate to live in the house of my grandmother Feige for several years. I remember her as a pleasant and quiet woman, who, at her old age, reminisced sometimes about the many wonderful accomplishments of her family. Having grown up in her home, I remember its appearance. It was similar to the other homes in our town.

My grandfather was primarily occupied with matters concerning his livelihood. However he was known in the community as a wise man, one having wide horizons and progressive views. He gave good advice, and was forthcoming to all who sought his help or advice. Jews and Gentiles sought him out.

Grandfather saw to it that his three sons and daughter (who died at a young age) received both a Jewish and secular education. He was duly proud of their accomplishments. His son Yisrael became a chemical engineer. He was one of the top students in his University class. During the Czarist regime he was accepted to a position in a weapons factory, Potilov, in St. Petersburg. It was not easy for a Jew to be accepted at such a work place. He was recognized as a talented employee, and proved himself in this factory. His after- hours he devoted to research of Jewish literature published in past Centuries. The result of his monumental effort was the publication of a 9 volume “History of Jewish Literature”; publish in Vilna in the Yiddish language. Three of his volumes were translated to Hebrew after his death. Yisrael Zinberg died in Vladivostok, USSR, in January 1939.

The second son, Shimon, was a pharmacist, well educated in both Jewish and secular subjects. He left Lanowitz after his wife died, to join his only son in Leningrad. He died there subsequently. The third son, Joseph, my father, became a physician. He was known as a warm-hearted Jew and an active Zionist. Dedicated to his profession, he would visit the sick day or night. He provided medical care to both Jews And Gentiles, including farmers of the area. He served his patients regardless of the weather. The needs of the sick were his priority.

I remember an episode that happened in our home. My grandmother was terminally ill. We knew that her days were numbered, so the family stayed at her bedside. On one of those days a farmer came to my father, seeking urgent help for a sick man in a distant village. Father was pondering whether he could leave his mother temporarily in her present terminal state. Somehow, grandmother heard of the dilemma and demanded that my father fulfill his obligation to visit the sick farmer, and drive to him as soon as possible. My father went to see the sick man, spending many hours on this journey. When he returned he found his mother in the last hours of her life. Such episodes, such responses to need were typical of attitude of people in our town.

I was always drawn to Lanowitz, even though I did not live there for many years. It was the town of my ancestors, the source of my spiritual guidance. While a small town, it had a rich cultural life. It included an amateur theatre and a significant public library. Periodic social gatherings were held to celebrate important events in Palestine. I still remember fondly my first Hebrew teacher, the late Mr. Siret.

Political organizations were active in our town, especially Zionist organizations. Most of our youth belonged to either "Hechalutz" [pioneers] or the "Zionist youth" movement. I acquired my first Zionist consciousness as a member of the Zionist youth movement.

Lanowitz Jews were noted for their Zionist orientation. Donations to Zionist funds were made regularly. Political activity and fund raising was in high gear prior to a Zionist Congress. My mother, Gitel, was actively involved in these fund raising efforts.

Following my joining the youth movement I attended Hachsharah [agricultural training] prior to my immigration to Palestine. My parents blessed my plans to immigrate. My heart grieves to this day that only I, out of my entire family, emigrated from Lanowitz and survived.

My parents' house was a meeting place for many Jews, a pattern similar to what took place in my grandfather's house. Those who came did not appear to be connected socially. My parents were the ones to connect them. These visitors would congregate in our house regularly, especially during the long winter evenings, enjoying the warm cultural atmosphere. I still recall the faces of some of these visitors. They devoted many hours in our house to further the Zionist cause. These men and women are no longer with us. Jews and Gentiles came to visit my parents, to seek advice, seek help when needed, or just exchange thoughts. My parents were available to all that came to our house.

After practicing for several years in Lanowitz, my father was appointed director of the hospital in Vyshnivits. We moved to this larger town but did not sever our ties to Lanowitz. Every summer we returned to our hometown to vacation there. My father needed this respite from his heavy responsibilities at the hospital. Here in Lanowitz he relaxed, caring for the fruit trees on our property. As a child I sensed his deep love for agricultural work and plants, and inherited this disposition. My father felt creative when he attended to the fruit trees and the bees, on the land he inherited from his father. In his enthusiasm for these tasks he showed his yearning for a more rooted life for Jews in Zion. It is likely that his example was that which pulled me towards agricultural training and eventually to life on a Kibbutz.

My father was murdered on the first day the Nazis occupied the town of Vyshnivits, and my mother was murdered shortly thereafter. Both were murdered by Ukrainians to whom my father often provided medical care.

[Pages 44-47]

Memories of My Family

By Beiril [Byya] Goldberg

My father was a registered resident of Pankowitz [a town on the Soviet side of the Polish/Soviet border of 1922 -1939]. Because of this fact, our family was denied Polish citizenship. Instead of an identity card, we were issued a Karta Pobito [residency permit], and were always regarded by the Polish authorities as suspect.

Pankowitz was a large village that changed hands several times in 1920s while the exact border location was being negotiated. In the final negotiations, the border was relocated from the Zbruch to the Horyn river. Pankowitz, with all its natural wealth, remained on the Soviet side of the border. The village was well known to a whole generation of Lanowitz residents.

The Pankowitz area was famous for its river, its many fish and its water-driven mill. David Berman owned the mill and expected to benefit from its output for the next generation. When the mill remained on the other side of the border he lost his property. His memoranda to the Polish president, and his petitions to a local politician, Graf Zamoisky, to regain the mill, were fruitless.

For us the village was a source of family pride, a subject for discussion around the hearth, but also the source of our troubles with the local authorities. My father left the village as a child. Nonetheless, on the birth certificate of each child born to my father was written: “To (my father), a farmer from the village of Pankowitz, a son/daughter was born whose name is ”

Our family legend explained the matter with the following story: Czar Alexander II was accustomed to dressing as a commoner and visiting the corners of his land occasionally, to learn what people were saying about his regime. When he came to Pankowitz, a village of several thousand residents, second only to nearby Sbiatetz, he learned from locals that a single Jewish family lived in this village. Surprised to hear that a family so isolated from its co-religionists kept its faith, he wanted to meet them. He desired to assess the attitude of this Jewish family to its neighbors in view of the prevailing opinion among the authorities that Jews have no regard for other citizens. According to my grandfather, the Czar came alone to our house, knocked on the door, and asked if he could obtain a meal. He claimed to have come from afar, and to have no more funds with which to buy bread. Grandmother, who had just finished preparing her “gefilte fish” for the Sabbath, fed him this delicious dish and warmed his heart with Russian tea until he was satiated.

When he finished his meal he said to her, “Dear grandma, what would you like to receive from me so you will remember me forever?” Surprised, she asked him, “Who are you that you can offer such promises?” The Czar identified himself. Her request to him was: that her sons and grandsons not be obligated to serve in his army, thereby forced to eat non-kosher food. He replied that he could not honor such a request, that army rules are what they are. Having her initial request turned down, she asked instead that he provide her with a document stating that she, and her descendants thereafter, are permitted to legally reside in her village. In those days Jews were not permitted to reside in villages. The Czar promised to fulfill her request, thanked her for hosting him, and left. After a week, official surveyors came to the village, made measurements and departed. Sometime later, the Czar's emissary brought grandmother a deed for 24 acres of agricultural land and 18 acres of grazing land, including a farmer's residency permit in this village forever. The residency permit was a large document, with golden letters and the Czar's seal at the top. This document gave the family an uplifting legend, but also never-ending troubles.

As mentioned above, our family was not relieved of army service. When my brother Shlomo's turn came to serve in the Czar's army, he decided to cross the nearby border at Zbaraz, to Austria-Hungary, and emigrate to America. He and five other young men from the town went to a certain village to see a Wagoner known as an experienced border smuggler. The six men negotiated a fee with the smuggler, and left to meet him again the following night. That night, under the cover of darkness, the smuggler led the group to a deep valley. All was quiet until the smuggler shouted, “Halt” in Russian. One of the group members remarked to their leader that it is not customary to shout when crossing a border illegally. He was puzzled that an experienced smuggler would behave in this manner. The group realized too late that they were trapped by robbers.

In the confusion that followed, my brother Shlomo hid in nearby bushes, while Mosheki, the son of the Lanowitz bathhouse owner, escaped. The rest, four youngsters, were caught by the robbers that surrounded them. The robbers searched the area for the two who escaped but did not find them. Shlomo heard one of the robbers express his fear that the escape of the two youngsters would lead to the discovery of their deed. As Shlomo tried to distance himself from the robbers, his movement was overheard. One of the robbers threw an iron bar into the thicket, injuring Shlomo's ankle. As he groaned in pain, the robber located him, grabbed his slacks and tore them off as Shlomo ran away. The money my parents had given to Shlomo for his journey was sewn into those slacks. When the robber felt the money as he held the torn slacks, he lost interest in pursuing him and let Shlomo escape.

Injured and in-pain, Shlomo ran to the only lit-up house in the nearby village of Vizeshrodok. It happened to be the home of a Jewish family. When he opened the door, the owner was at first shocked by Shlomo's appearance. However, after he heard Shlomo's tale in Yiddish, the owner let him into his house and decided to help him return to his family in Lanowitz. The second escapee, Mosheki, hailed the local sheriff in the meantime in an attempt to find the robbers and rescue his friends.

Shlomo was my half-brother. His mother died at childbirth. My father married his late wife's sister, my mother, subsequently. The night of the above-mentioned event my mother awoke from a frightful dream, shaking and crying. In her dream she saw her sister arise from her grave to tell her, “My son is in danger, encircled by robbers who want to kill him. You do not care about him because you have other children, so I will go to rescue him for he is my only son.” Father, skeptical of the veracity of her story, tried to calm his wife, and then fell asleep again. Mother remained restless and awakened my father a second time. Angry, he dismissed her dream as meaningless and asked her to let him sleep. My mother persisted, however, telling my father, “My sister appeared in my dream again, repeating her story. This time, however, she told me that her son has been saved, urging me to bring him home.” In her dream her sister said, “To prove to you that this is no mere dream, I shall stop the ticking of your grandfather clock.” To disprove her dream father lit a lamp, looked at their clock and was astounded to see that it had indeed stopped.

Shaken and sweating, father got dressed and asked his farmer friend, Dusi, to drive him quickly to Lanowitz in order to consult his Rabbi and other wise -men as to what to do. The day was Wednesday, market day in Lanowitz. Arriving early in the morning, my father entered a local tavern to await a more appropriate hour at which to visit the Rabbi. A Jew from Vizeshrodok, sitting next to him in this tavern, told my father that a young man came to their local sheriff informing him of six young men who tried to cross the border illegally etc. This young man ended his story telling the sheriff that four of the six were caught by the robbers, that he escaped and the smallest youngster vanished. My father fainted, realizing that his wife's dream was confirmed. When father recovered, he asked Itsik-Shmuel to drive him to Vizeshrodok. There he found his son and brought him home.

During the court proceedings against these robbers, the following details came out:

Mosheki alerted the local sheriff. The police team was led to the site of the crime. At the site they found Shlomo's torn slacks and the iron bar used to injure him. The police team went to the village looking for Vladimir, who was known locally as a “killer for hire.” Arriving at Vladimir's house, the sheriff found a five-year-old boy and an old woman sleeping on the hearth. The sheriff rested the iron bar on the hearth and asked the child, “Where is your father?” The child answered that his father had returned in the early morning hours, had awakened the household, placed a pile of money on the table and shouted, “We are rich.” Mother, angry, had demanded that he leave the house with other people's money. Father had left, intending to hide the loot outside, because of mother's anger. As the old woman got up from her resting place on the hearth, the sheriff pointed to the iron bar, as if he had just noticed it. He asked to borrow the iron bar, to use it to fix his broken wagon. The old woman was shaken by this request, replying that she could not agree lest her son, Vladimir, would kill her if his iron bar was found missing.

In the end, the iron bar and the torn slacks served as evidence to convict the robbers. They were sentenced to years of hard labor in Siberia.

[Pages 48-49]

My Shtetl and my Family

By Bluma Miller

I don't' know whether to write about Jewish Lanowitz, its traditional lifestyle, its wonderful social relations and beautiful youth. All were eliminated in a barbaric fashion, in a manner that defies expression. They were all slaughtered. Shall I write about a generation that failed us? I am at a loss for words to describe the tragedy that befell our town. Perhaps my family's saga will exemplify what life in Lanowitz was like.

My father was a learned man who saw value in secular studies. He was one of few men in town with progressive ideas, who saw value in secular learning in a changing society. My father, who taught Smulik der Rebizines and Shlomo Berman, recognized their study talents and thirst for knowledge. He urged them to continue their studies in larger towns. From his sons, my father demanded not only mechanical knowledge of a subject, but also a thorough understanding of the concepts involved.

My father was one of the few men in Lanowitz who saw the Russian revolution as the wave of the future. Actually, I remember little about him personally. My memories of my father are based on what I absorbed from what was said about him at home.

My brother Eli was 17 when my father died. His dream was to become a writer, but with father's passing, he was needed to help support the family. He became a shokhet's apprentice.

In later discussions, my brother confided in me his inner struggle between his obligation to his mother and his desire to escape from home and study instead. He opted to support the family. He married, and had 5 children. Both he and my father died a natural death. However his wife, children and my mother were not so lucky.

My mother was a sensitive woman who suffered a great deal as a result of the loss of her husband. With the limited means at her disposal, she not only raised her children; she also supported several families of lesser means. Every Friday she would send me to several families, to deliver Chalah and meat items. (To be honest I did not make these deliveries willingly). Mother delivered food to several families herself to assure that we children remained ignorant of their identity.

I remember mother's loneliness as her children moved out, and I left the house to immigrate to Palestine. I recall our conversations. She did not dwell on her loneliness, asking instead if I had any idea of what it would be like to do menial labor in Palestine.

She wondered whether I could live under such conditions, hence preferred that I wait for an opportunity to work at a forthcoming trade fair to be held in Palestine. She was able to raise the funds for this project, ignoring her own financial needs. Her primary concerns were the welfare of her children.

I can recall with pleasure our celebration of holidays, the Sabbath, and Passover. One day, the Rabbi from Trisk came to our house, while I was still a child. I remember my father's joy when he met this famous Rabbi. I can still feel our inner satisfaction and pleasure, walking together as a family to the synagogue. I am at a loss for words to describe those feelings.

It was not accidental that our community and its institutions raised a generation of young men that sought a new path to perpetuate our existence as a people. Towns such as Lanowitz provided the Zionist movement their best sons and daughters. These young men and women immigrated to Palestine, joined Kibbutzim, and, in general, helped prepare an infrastructure that was later was able to absorb Holocaust survivors. This same generation of dedicated Jews was the source of heroic mothers that chose to send their sons to the army to protect our homeland, so that we shall never again be slaughtered like cattle.

Our land brought forth heroic young men whose contribution to our future was greater than the contribution of the maccabees. Our community's contribution to the defense of our country was not insignificant.

[Pages 50-51]

About Your Lanowitz and
My Aunt Elka Wolf Koifsitz

By Bonia Stein Spitzer

The town was very picturesque. To reach the town it was necessary to climb from any one of the directions one came. The town's many trees gave it a green appearance, surrounded lakes and rivers. The town had a special charm. I do not know why I was so drawn to it. To this day I feel its beauty.

I came to Lanowitz to live with my aunt Elka Wolf Koifsitz, to help her overcome the sadness of her terrible fate. She had lost all her children, one after another; only she survived. Her financial condition was satisfactory, but she worked hard to maintain it. She baked bread for local residents and specially braided challahs for Gentile weddings. She was well known in the area for her skill in baking this specialty item. I was truly impressed with her courage and determination to carry on her economic struggle despite her past tragedies. I believe I discovered what inspired her. It was the social atmosphere she found in Lanowitz, its good-natured people. They were the ones that provided the impetus and gave her the inner strength to carry on. I came to this observation when I became better acquainted with its residents.

I visited Lanowitz numerous times. Each time, when I returned home, I yearned to return to Lanowitz. I enjoyed the company of its people, fell in love with its youth, and thrived in its atmosphere. Lanowitz offered all of these attributes. For me the town was like a garden in which wonderful people grew. The residents interacted like members of a large family. They cared for each other and participated in celebrating one's joyous moments. I visited various towns, and each one was different. To this day I feel a deep attachment to your home town. It seems to me that I only need to be among you Lanowitzers, to again experience the uplifting I felt while being in your midst. Unfortunately, Lanowitz is no more and all the attributes that characterized its residents are lost forever.

[Pages 52- 55]

This Event Happened in Lanowitz

By Shlomo Pacht

I met both girls at the local “Hechalutz” clubhouse. Their names were Havaziah and Reisele. I fell in love with both the moment I saw them. I was stunned by the realization that I got know two of the best choices among the girls of our town. Reisele was beautiful and sensual, while Havaziah was smart and pleasant. One day Reisele came to my house carrying a bag of cherries. I felt hot; blushing I thanked her. We exchanged a few words, and then she left. My father came over to me after she departed and said, “What is Reisele doing in our house? Remember you are a son of a tailor. Find your friends within your class. Do not push yourself into the elite circles. They will ridicule you and destroy you. Be careful when dealing with members of the elite.” His admonition drove us underground. Our meetings were secretive and glowing; our love bloomed. Sometimes I would meet each of them separately, other times I met both together. Both girls wanted to run away from their parents' homes, to escape to a world that had no lineage rules nor strong parental will.

In the “Hechalutz “ clubhouse our meetings were quasi-legal. There we were not alone. However, in our feelings we were detached from the other youths of the club. One evening Asher Briliant [Reisele's father] came to the club, pulled Reisele by her hair, beat her, called her disgraceful names and dragged her home. Ziporah [Havaziah's mother] reacted in a similar manner.

A year passed, and we continued to take walks in secret locations. We read a little and dreamed a lot; we tried to mature and find our freedom. The pressure from our parents did not deter us; going underground increased our resolve to continue to develop our relationship until we were redeemed.

On a glorious Sabbath morning, Havaziah and I sat alone near the seven springs, far from town. Life felt full of content, and we were at its epicenter. Suddenly an image appeared on the horizon. My heart raced, though I did not know who it was. Havaziah recognized the image, left me and ran toward her mother. Ziporah pulled her daughter's hair, beat her and shouted, “Better to fall into the arms of a Gentile boy than into the arms of a tailor.” The next day Havaziah told me that she received additional beatings at home. This episode was the talk of the town the next day. My father reminded me again that a tailor needs to socialize within his class. I replied that I started to lease land parcels, and to trade in a manner similar to what Shmuel Bachtel had done successfully. My father went to Shmuel Nuskiss, Havaziah's grandfather, asking him to admonish me for my desire to betray my class. Shmuel responded to my father's request in a manner of an objective person dealing with an issue unfamiliar to him, for which he only had a general opinion, “Remain a cobbler and stick to your last.” He said, “You are not the type to be a rich trader. Do not strive high, and be happy with your lot.”

The above advice did not help me. I felt comfortable among my good friends Zuniah Rabin and Motil Buchstein. They respected me. While I socialized outside my class, I respected and loved those of my class, especially my hard-working and honest father.
The two girls decided to escape from their homes. Reisel told me that in a wardrobe of their home were three jars full of gold, paper-money and jewels. She wanted to steal them and run away. I did not let her do this. Instead I advised her to take along only a sum of money needed for her initial expenses.

The two girls left by train for Lvov on the first day of the month of Av [August]. In the letters they left for their parents they stated, “We have no ill feelings towards you. We want to learn a trade. Leave us be and think well of us.” The next day both parents came to my father's house in search of the bandit [me]. They asked my father, “What does he want from our daughters?” My father distanced himself from the affair, claiming that he had no interest in seeing his son marry above his station; he begged them to leave him alone.

The girls studied in a girls' school located on Olovek Street 14, Lvov. I used to visit them every Sabbath. The school happened to be located next to the large house of Asher Scheinberg, a doctor from our town. This doctor was a specialist for kidney diseases, who later died in the house next to the sanatorium of Chanah Kesselman, to whom he referred his patients.

Ziporah appeared one Sabbath at her daughter's room for the first time. I have no idea how Ziporah discovered her daughter's address. Both girls and I froze in our place when we saw her. There was a moment of silence, and I left the room. Ziporah attacked her daughter in the presence of her friend, shouting, “My father knows his grandfather, a tailor the son of tailors. How shameful. I prefer to see you marry a convert, but not him.”

Reisel returned to her home and married.

Havaziah and I continued our relationship for another two years. At the end of that period, as Havaziah was about to finish her trade-school studies, we decided to reveal all to her mother. There was plenty to reveal.

Yoske Guberman, our good friend, provided cover for our correspondence. Havaziah addressed all her letters to me “Dear Yosele.” All her needs were arranged by Yoske. Havaziah's mother relented and started to send her money and the items she needed. It was agreed between us to send her mother a letter, in which we informed her that we intended to get married. We further stated that if she did not approve of our decision, we intended to travel to Warsaw, join a Hachsharah {pioneer training] and immigrate to Palestine. In the letter we explained that Havaziah's letters to Yoske were meant for me. It was Yoske's task to wait for the postman to deliver this letter to Ziporah and slowly explain to her the entire complication.

Ziporah reconsidered the situation. She suddenly remembered that she herself married a man against the wishes of her parents; that she was against dividing society into more and less fortunate classes. She agreed to our match. We were about to wed when I was called up to serve in the Russian army. As the first recruit from Lanowitz, called to serve in far and dangerous areas, I was accompanied to the railroad station by the entire community including Ziporah. She cried, kissed me like a mother and said, “I like you, I wanted to test you. Do not forget Havaziah. She will not be able to live without the assurance that you remember her.”

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